36-Suratu’sh-Shura (Consultation)

وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ خَلْقُ ٱلسَّمَاوَاتِ وَٱلأَرْضِ وَمَا بَثَّ فِيهِمَا مِن دَآبَّةٍ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ جَمْعِهِمْ إِذَا يَشَآءُ قَدِيرٌ

Among His manifest signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living creatures He has dispersed in both (the heavens and the earth). And He has full power to gather them together when He wills.

(Ash-Shura 42:29)

Since the earliest times, this verse has been taken as a proof for the view that there are living creatures, whether resembling human beings or not, in the places other than the earth. This view may be true. The second part of the verse, “He has full power to gather them together when He wills,” has been understood that these creatures and human beings will possibly come together either in this world or in that of the other creatures.

The original of the word translated as “living creatures” is dabbah. Indeed, the word dabbah, which is derived from dabib (moving), means “something moving.” Even though this word may also be used to refer to the jinn, angels, and spirits, what has usually been meant by it in the language of the Shari’ah is earthly creatures, including human beings. For this reason, it can be asserted that there are creatures in the heavens or other places that resemble human beings or other earthly creatures, and God Almighty is certainly able to bring them together whenever He wills. Just as He will resurrect all beings in the other world, if He wills, He certainly can bring together the creatures that supposedly exist in other corners of the universe with human beings.

Some interpreters have opined that “the living creatures” referred to in this verse are birds; this interpretation does not have a meaning worthy of consideration. As birds live on the earth, eating earthly food and living almost together with human beings and other earthly creatures, there is no miracle or an element of reference to God’s Power and His Unity in bringing them together with human beings. Therefore, as Mujahid, one of the earliest interpreters of the Qur’an, asserted, it is more reasonable and closer to the meaning of the verse to accept the existence of creatures in other places close or far from the earth that resemble earthly creatures.

Referring the determination of the truth of the matter to the believing researchers of the future, we will end the discussion by emphasizing the possibility that there may be earth-like globes in the heaven where creatures resembling earthly ones live.

God knows the best.

وَمَآ أَصَابَكُمْ مِّن مُّصِيبَةٍ فَبِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِيكُمْ وَيَعْفُواْ عَن كَثِيرٍ

Whatever affliction befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned, and yet He overlooks many (of the wrongs you do).

(Ash-Shura 42:30)

It does not contradict with the essentials of Islam that an affliction which befalls us is a punishment for a sin or evil we have committed. However, if we were punished for every sin we commit in this world, we would never be free from afflictions. We would be punished for every action in our everyday life that is displeasing to God Almighty, and we would never be free from calamities. This means that God Almighty, Whose mercy surpasses His wrath, overlooks many of our misdeeds and forgives us many times in a day. In fact, the conclusive part of the verse expresses this reality: “… yet He overlooks many (of the wrongs you do).”

Truly, it is the command of the Qur’an that people should accept that any affliction that befalls them is because of their own faults. Otherwise, people look for a guilty one other than themselves for their sufferings, and one who thinks like this can never find the real guilty one and get rid of the sin of the ill-suspicion of others. Indeed, the Qur’an presents us a standard to find the guilty. The guilty one is nobody but our own selves. To illustrate, suppose that you hit a glass carelessly and the hot tea inside it is spilt and burns your foot. In such a case, instead of getting angry and looking for someone to blame such as the one who has put the glass there, you should turn to yourselves and think or say: “My Lord! There is no room for chance in the universe and happenings. This must be a punishment for my heedlessness and some disobedience to You. Forgive my sins.” You should not blame others. Otherwise, if you look for a guilty one other than your own self, then you will act against the command of God, “Do not hold yourselves pure (sinless)” (An-Najm 53:32), and think ill of others in opposition to another Divine command, “Avoid much suspicion” (Al-Hujurat 49:12).

If one considers themselves as guilty for the afflictions that befall them, this leads them to self-interrogation. As a matter of fact, God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, turned to God for anything evil which befell him, prayed to God, and asked for His forgiveness.

The expression “your hands have earned” in the verse does not only refer to our hands with which we commit evils; it refers to all of our limbs or organs such as our feet, eyes, ears, tongues, and so on. Hence, all the vices from backbiting to adultery are included in the evil deeds from which we—and all parts and organs of our body—are prohibited.

Sometimes there may be a correlation between the wrongdoing committed and the nature and size of the afflictions, and sometimes not. Nevertheless, every affliction is like a tap under which a believer is cleaned of their offenses or sins. Thus believers preserve their essential purity.

In one of the hadiths related by Ibn Abi Hatim, the pure Prophet said: “Having a thorn in any of the parts of his body or his slipping or getting sweaty in distress is because of a sin or evil that a believer has committed. Yet, God Almighty forgives many of his sins.”(111) Whether Almighty God forgives a believer of his sins without any affliction out of His Mercy or by inflicting him with a suffering, as Caliph ‘Ali said, He is both exalted and munificent enough not to call a servant to account and punish in the Hereafter for a sin of them which He forgave them in the world.

Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and any wasteful act we may have done in our duty, and set our feet firm, and help us to victory over the disbelieving people!

M. Fethullah Gülen

111  Al-Bayhaqi,¯ Shuabu’l-Iman, 7/153; al-Munawi,¯ Faydu’l-Qadir, 5/492; al-Muttaqi,¯

Kanzu’l-Ummal, 3/341, 707.