55. Ar-Rahman (The Beneficent)
Revealed in Makkah, this sūrah of 78 verses derives its name from Ar-Rahman (The All-Merciful or The Beneficent), which constitutes the first verse. Throughout, it is mentioned that the manifestations of God are a result of His being the All-Merciful. As explained in note 4 on Sūrat al-Fātihah at the very beginning of this study, the term the All-Merciful designates the Divine Being as the One with infinite mercy Who embraces all of creation with mercy, grace, and favor, including humankind, without any discrimination between believers and unbelievers; and as the One Who gives life, maintains, provides, and equips all with the capacities necessary for each. God has created the universe out of, and as the manifestation of, the mercy embodied by His Name the All-Merciful.
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
1. The All-Merciful.
2. He has taught the Qur’ān (to humankind and, through them, the jinn);1
3. He has created human;
4. He has taught him speech.2
5. The sun and the moon are by an exact calculation (of the All-Merciful).3
6. And the stars and the trees both prostrate (before God in perfect submission to His laws).
7. And the heaven – He has made it high (above the earth), and He has set up the balance,;
8. So you must not go beyond (the limits with respect to) the balance;
9. And observe the balance with full equity, and do not fall short in it.4
10. And the earth – He has laid it down and furnished for living beings:
11. Therein are fruits (of various kinds), and date-palms with sheathed clusters;
12. And also corn, with leaves and stalk (for use as fodder), and scented herbs.
13. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?5
14. He has created human from sounding clay like the potter’s;
15. And He has created the jinn from a smokeless (fusing flame of) fire.6
16. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
17. He is the Lord of the two easts, and the Lord of the two wests.7
18. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
19. He has let flow forth the two large bodies of water, they meet together,
20. (But) between them is a barrier, which they do not transgress (and so they do not merge).8
21. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
22. There come forth from them pearl and coral.
23. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
24. His are the ships constructed (by God’s inspiration and running) through the sea (with sails unfurled), lofty like mountains.9
25. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
26. All that is on the earth is perishable;
27. But there remains forever the “Face” of your Lord, the One of Majesty and Munificence.10
28. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
29. All that are in the heavens and on the earth entreat Him (in their needs). Every (moment of every) day, He is in a new manifestation (with all His Attributes and Names as the Divine Being).11
30. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
31. We will (in time) settle your affairs, O you two most honorable classes of creatures (of the earth endowed with important faculties and, therefore, having heavy responsibilities)!12
32. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
33. O you assembly of jinn and humankind! If you are able to pass through and beyond the spherical regions of the heavens and the earth, then pass through. You will not pass through except with an authority (spiritual or scientific).13
34. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
35. There will be sent on you both, a flame of fire (to burn) and a smoke (to choke); then you will not help each other (to safety or refuge).14
36. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
37. And finally when the heaven is rent asunder, and it becomes rosy like red hide –
38. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?15
39. On that Day, neither humans nor jinn will be asked about their sins (to know whether they are sinful or not).
40. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
41. The disbelieving criminals will be known by their marks (especially on their faces), and seized by the forelocks and the feet.
42. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
43. This is Hell, which the disbelieving criminals deny.
44. They will go round between it(s fire) and hot, boiling water.
45. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
46. But for him who lives in awe of his Lord and of the standing before his Lord (in the Hereafter), there will be two Gardens.16
47. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
48. Having in them trees with thick, spreading branches.
49 Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
50. In them both are two flowing springs.
51. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
52. In them both are all kinds of fruit in pairs.17
53. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
54. Reclining upon beds lined with silk brocade, and the fruits of the two Gardens within reach—
55. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?—
56. In them are pure, chaste-eyed spouses (whose glances are fixed on their spouses only), whom no man or jinn has touched before—
57. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?—
58. Like rubies and coral (they will seem, in rare beauty and radiance).
59. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
60. Is the recompense of excellence (in obedience to God) other than excellence?
61. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
62. And besides these two, there are yet two other Gardens—18
63. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?—
64. Dark green throughout.
65. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
66. In them both are springs gushing forth.
67. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
68. In them both are fruits, and date-palms and pomegranates.
69. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
70. In them both are maidens good in character and beautiful—.
71. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?—
72. Pure maidens assigned for them in secluded pavilions—.
73. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?—
74. Whom no man or jinn has touched before—.
75. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?—
76. (The people of those Gardens are) reclining on green cushions and rich, beautiful mattresses.
77. Then (O humankind and jinn), which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?
78. Blessed and Supreme is the Name of your Lord, the One of Majesty and Munificence!
1. The Qur’ān, as the greatest manifestation of God’s Mercy, is the embodiment of the Straight Path that leads to happiness in both the world and the Hereafter. It is by means of the Qur’ān that we have knowledge about God and what He asks us to do in order that He may be pleased with us. The purpose of the creation of the universe and humankind has been universally disclosed in the Qur’ān. This sūrah reminds us of God’s favors and asks Which of the favors of your Lord will you deny? When God’s Messenger recited it to the jinn, they responded: “We do not deny any of Your favors. All praise and gratitude are for You.” In appreciation of this, the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, narrated this to his Companions (at-Tirmidhī, “Tafsīr ar-Rahmān,” 55).
The fact that the Qur’ān was taught signifies that the Qur’ān consists of knowledge throughout. Like the petals of a rose, knowledge of everything exists in it in degrees, and everyone can attain this knowledge from it, according to their capacity, purity of intention, and degree of submission to it.
2. Teaching the Qur’ān, creating humankind, endowing us with the ability to speak, and teaching us how to speak by inspiring language in us—all these are among the greatest blessings of God and manifestations of His being the All-Merciful. Speech is a very complicated process, which takes place at the same instant as thought. Through speech, people make themselves known. How languages have come into being and been diversified is a mystery. No one knows how this happened, although there are many different theories. However, God declares that He made all things known to Adam and taught him their names (1: 31). Therefore, language is also a direct gift from God.
3. A noted scientist, A. Cressy Morrison, expands on this idea of the “exact calculation”:
The earth rotates on its axis in twenty-four hours or at the rate of about one thousand miles an hour. Suppose it turned at the rate of a hundred miles an hour. Why not? Our days and nights would then be ten times as long as now. The hot sun of summer would then burn up over vegetation each long day and every sprout would freeze in such a night. The sun, the source of life (on the earth), has a surface temperature of 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and our earth is just far enough away so that this “eternal fire” warms us just enough and not too much. It is marvelously stable, and during millions of years, has varied so little that life as we know it has survived…. The earth travels around the sun at the rate of eighteen miles each second. If the rate of revolution had been, say, six miles or forty miles each second, we would be too far from or too close to the sun for our form of life to exist.
Stars vary in size, as all we know. One is so large that if we were our sun, the orbit of the earth would be millions of miles inside its surface. Stars vary in the type of radiation. Many of their rays would be deadly to every known form of life. The intensity and volume of this radiation is anywhere from less than that of our sun to ten thousand times as great…. But our sun is about right for our life among millions of others which are not.
The earth is tilted at an angle of twenty-three degrees. This gives us our seasons. If it had not been tilted, the poles would be in eternal twilight. The water vapor from the ocean would move north and south, piling up continents of ice and leaving possibly a desert between the equator and the ice. Glacial rivers would erode and roar through canyons into the salt-covered bed of the ocean to form temporary pools of brine. The weight of the unbelievably vast mass of ice would depress the poles, causing our equator to bulge or erupt, or at least show the need of a new waistline belt. The lowering of the ocean would expose vast new land areas and diminish the rainfall in all parts of the world, with fearful results.
The moon is 240,000 miles away, and the tides twice a day are usually a gentle reminder of its presence. Tides of the ocean run as high as sixty feet in some places, and even the crust of the earth is twice a day bent outward several inches by the moon’s attraction. All seems so regular that we do not grasp to any degree the vast power that lifts the whole area of the ocean several feet and bends the crust of the earth, seemingly so solid. If our moon was, say, fifty thousand miles away instead of its present respectable distance, our tides would be so enormous that twice a day all the lowland of all the continents would be submerged by a rush of water so enormous that even the mountains would soon be eroded away, and probably no continent could have risen from the depths fast enough to exist today. The earth would crack with the turmoil and the tides in the air would create daily hurricanes.
(In short,) there must be in nature some form of intelligent direction. If this be true, then there must be a purpose. (Morrison, 13–18)
4. By mentioning balance in three successive verses, the Qur’ān shows the importance attached to it. It clearly states that there is a very sensitive balance in creation and the relationships among its parts. The wonderful accord observed in the universe and its maintenance is due to this most sensitively computed balance. It is also indispensable to human life, both individually and socially. Its social manifestation is justice. With respect to human education and perfection, this balance requires that everything is given its due importance in life and that the basic faculties or impulses of anger, desire or appetite, and reason be trained, disciplined, and employed in order to develop them into the virtues of chivalrous courage, moderation and chastity, and wisdom (for a detailed explanation, see sūrah 2, notes 23, 39, and 113).
5. This verse points out that not only humankind but also the jinn have a share in the benefits in the favors mentioned previously and in those which will be mentioned in the verses to come.
6. The Qur’ān has many references to the creation of humankind from clay, which signifies their lowly material origin and the fact that the body is composed of elements coming from earth, air, and water. This also implies that the real worth of human beings lies in the immaterial dimensions of their existence.
The last two verses may also be referring to the initial origin of humankind and the jinn and the phases the earth passed through during the process of its creation or formation. As stated in note 7 in sūrah 15, the process of creation may have followed a gradual, regular accumulation of identities and/or a saltational sequence of abrupt leaps. He spread one existence through another, compounding and interweaving, and created living beings appropriate for each phase of creation. When the earth was in a state of smokeless fire, He created appropriate life forms, which the Qur’ān calls the jinn. They ruled the earth before humankind. When the soil became suitable for the present, visible forms of life, He created (appropriate) plants and animals, and eventually humans.
Verse 14 also suggests that in the beginning the earth was dry and barren and, therefore, not suitable for life. Then God revived it, stirring it up for life by means of the rain He sent down from the direction of the sky. This is continuously repeated every year. So, as with the first human being on the earth, the particles to form each human body also initially come from the dried, lifeless earth.
7. This verse emphasizes the fact that it is God Who has absolute authority and control over the whole universe. By the two easts and two wests, the Qur’ān may be suggesting the rising and setting points of the sun on the longest and shortest days of the year, between which there are 178 such points, which is what verse 37: 5 refers to. It may also suggest that the sun rises in one hemisphere while it sets in another, thus having two points of rising and setting throughout the whole world. Moreover, it also indicates that the sun rises and sets in the same place two days in a year.
8. For an explanation, see 25: 53, note 11.
9. It is God Who has created the seas, equipping water with the power of lifting solid objects, and Who has taught humankind how to construct ships.
10. Said Nursi expands on this verse in the most eloquent way: The sun’s images reflected in bubbles floating on a river and the sea, as well as in transparent things on the earth, bear witness to the sun. These images disappear when the sun sets or a river enters a tunnel, and new ones appear when the sun rises or the river emerges from the tunnel. These phenomena testify to the permanence of the light of the sun and demonstrate that these images are the reflection of a single sun. Their existence proves the sun’s existence; their disappearance and re-appearance show that there is only one permanent sun.
Similarly, along with the alternation of day and night, seasons and years, beautiful beings are renewed, and fine creatures are replaced as they “set,” while their likes “rise.” Thus the existence of creatures proves the existence of the Necessarily Existent Being, while their disappearance, along with the causes of their existence and their replacement with new creatures bear witness to His Permanence, Eternity, and Oneness.
The disappearance of causes and their effects, along with the succession of years and centuries, and their being followed by similar things, testify that the causes and their effects are created for subtle purposes. All of those fine beings coming in succession are creatures of the All-Majestic, All-Gracious, and Beautiful One, all of Whose Names are beautiful and holy. Such activity testifies that they are His changing works, moving mirrors, and successive stamps and seals (al–Mathnawī an-Nūriyah, “The First Treatise,” 13–14).
As nothing can exist by itself, everything’s existence depends absolutely on God. Since it exists as a manifestation of the permanent Divine Names, it has a permanent, sublime reality that emanates from its reflection of the Divine Name that caused it to be. So this verse is a sword that liberates people from that which is not God (e.g., the world, the flesh, and life’s vanities). Thus, whatever people have or do for God’s sake is not included in the meaning of this verse.
If people find God and act only for His sake, there will be nothing left to be included in the meaning of, All that is on the earth is perishable. So if they want to make (themselves eternal and) to have their deeds rewarded with permanent happiness, they must seek God and live for His sake and good pleasure (The Letters, “The 15th Letter,” 82).
11. Following classical Newtonian physics, and under the spell of developments in science, physicists of the 19th century claimed that they could explain every phenomenon in the universe. E. Dubois Reymond, at a meeting held in memory of Leibniz, at the Prussian Academy, in 1880, was a bit more humble: “There have remained seven enigmas in the universe, three of which we have as yet been unable to solve: The essential nature of matter and force; the essence and origin of movement; and the nature of consciousness. Three of the remaining that we can solve, although with great difficulties, are the origin of life; the order in the universe and the apparent purpose for it; and the origin of thought and language. As for the seventh, we can say nothing about it. It is individual free will” (A. Adivar, Ilim ve Din [“Science and Religion”], 282).
The sub-atomic world threw all scientists into confusion. This world and the “quantum cosmology” which it introduced, rather than being a heap or assemblage of concrete things, is made up of five elements: the mass of the electron in the field where an action occurs (M), the mass of the proton (m), the electrical charge which these two elements carry, the energy quanta (h) – the amount of the energy remaining during the occurrence of the action – and the unchanging speed of light (c). These five elements of the universe can be reduced even further to action or energy waves traveling through space in tiny packets or quanta. Since the quanta required for an action are peculiar to it and exist independently of the quanta required for the previous action, it becomes impossible to predict the exact state of the universe. If the universe is in T1 state now, it cannot be predicted that it will be the same at time T2. Paul Renteln, assistant professor of physics at California State University, writes:
Modern physicists live in two different worlds. In one world we can predict the future position and momentum of a particle if we know its present position and momentum. This is the world of classical physics, including the physics described by Einstein’s theory of gravity, the general theory of relativity. In the second world it is impossible to predict the exact position and momentum of a particle. This is the probabilistic, subatomic world of quantum mechanics. General relativity and quantum mechanics are the two great pillars that form the foundation of 20th-century physics, and yet their precepts assume two different kinds of universe. (American Scientist, Nov.-Dec., 1991, p. 508)
The real nature of this sub-atomic world and the events taking place in it make it impossible to construct a theory to describe them because they cannot be observed. One reason for their unobservability is that, as Renteln writes, in an attempt to propose a theory which he calls quantum gravity, to reconcile the two different worlds of classical and quantum physics, “the events take place at a scale far smaller than any realm yet explored by experimental physics. It is only when particles approach about 10-35 meters that their gravitational interactions have to be described in the same quantum-mechanical terms that we adopt to understand the other forces of nature. This distance is 1,024 times smaller than the diameter of an atom – which means that the characteristic scale of quantum gravity bears the same relation to the size of an atom as an atom bears to the size of the solar system. To probe such small distances would require a particle accelerator 1,015 times more powerful than the proposed Superconducting Supercollider.”
Later research suggests that the electron is more of an energy field cloud that fluctuates around a nucleus. The nucleus itself seems to be composed of two smaller constituents – protons and neutrons. However, in the 1960s, physicists Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig confirmed in experiments that protons and neutrons were made up of even more elementary particles, which Gell-Mann called “quarks.” Quarks cannot be seen, not just because they are too small, but also because they do not seem to be quite “all there.”
Quarks are better described as swirls of dynamic energy, which means that solid matter is not, at its fundamental level, solid at all. Anything you hold in your hand and which seems solid, is really a quivering, shimmering, lacy lattice of energy, pulsating millions of times every second as billions of fundamental particles gyrate and spin in an eternal dance. At its most fundamental level, everything is energy held together by forces of incredible power.
This is not all that makes us unable to predict even the nearest future of the universe. According to Werner Heisenberg’s theories, at the time when we can know either where a particle is or how fast it is traveling, we cannot know both. This is because the very act of measuring the particle alters its behavior. Measuring the particle’s speed changes its position, and measuring its position changes its speed. However, unpredictability in the sub-atomic world does not change anything in our everyday, predictable world. Everything works according to the basic laws of classical Newtonian physics (Groping in the Light, 1990, pp. 11–17).
Why is this so, and how should our view of the world and events be? Scientists who believe in the existence of God and His creation of the universe suggest that creation was not a single event. That is, God did not create the universe as a single act and then leave it to operate according to the laws He established. Rather, creation is a continuous act (creatio continua). In other words, roughly like the movement of energy or electricity and its illuminating our world by means of bulbs, existence continuously comes from God, and returns to and perishes in Him. Through the manifestation of all His Names, God continuously creates, annihilates, and re-creates the universe. Some medieval Muslim scholarly saints, such as Muhyi’d-Dīn ibn al-‘Arabī and Mawlānā Jalālu’d-Dīn ar-Rūmī, called these pairs of acts the continuous cycle of coming into existence and dying. Because of the incredible speed of this movement, the universe appears to be uniform and continuous. Ar-Rūmī likens this to the spinning of a staff on one end of which there is fixed a light. When spun at speed, the light on the end of the staff appears to be a circle of light. Modern researchers liken it to the projection of a film onto the screen. A film-strip is composed of numerous frames, but the film is projected onto the screen, appearing as an undivided, complete frame. So, the universe incessantly undergoes appearance and disappearance, or perishing and re-creation, but we have the impression that it continues to exist without any interruption.
In consequence, all creatures incessantly need God throughout their entire life – when they come into existence and in order to continue to exist. So God Almighty constantly manifests Himself with All His Attributes and Names, which have their source in His Essential Qualities as God. All the creatures exist because He creates; they meet their needs because He is the All-Providing and the All-Munificent; and they continue to exist because He is Self-Subsisting and the All-Maintaining.
(For another important meaning of this verse, see note 12 below.)
12. The original of the word “moment” in the verse 29 is yawm, the first meaning of which is day. So the whole of creation consists of two days, one being the entire lifetime of this visible universe, the other being the Hereafter. So when the word yawm is taken to mean a day, the second part of verse 29 suggests that God manifests Himself with all His Attributes and Names in the world in a manner particular to this world, and He will manifest Himself in the other world peculiar to it. In this world, which is the world of wisdom, creatures live a life according to its conditions, and humankind and the jinn, the responsible beings, sow here to reap in the Hereafter. But in the other world, He will take them to account for their deeds in the world and recompense them accordingly. This world is the world of labor, while the other is the world of remuneration.
13. This verse states that it is possible to travel and even go beyond the regions or layers of the heavens and the earth. God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, achieved this both in his body and spirit, which we call the Ascension, and showed that it is possible for every one to do it in spirit. The verse also suggests that it can be possible to make this journey by means of an authority (scientific knowledge). However, it may not be possible to go beyond the heavens by means of science. However, the verse may also be suggesting that the immaterial dimensions of existence can “scientifically” be discovered and established. The word aqtār, which we have translated as spherical regions, means regions or layers with a diameter, and, therefore, spherical regions.
14. God does not allow any jinn that have ill intentions to ascend to the heavens to take something from the conversation of the angels; rather, he destroys them (sūrah 15: 16–18, note 5; sūrah 26: 212, note 37; sūrah 37: 10, note 3; sūrah 67: 5, note 4). However, saintly people can ascend the heavens in spirit. The verse may also be predicting modern firearms, bombs, and missiles.
15. Although people do not like death, it is liberation from the sufferings of the world, and a door to the eternal life, where people will receive remuneration for their deeds in the world. Moreover, like God’s Justice, His Compassion will also manifest itself with all its infinity in the Hereafter. So the advent of the Last Hour will be a blessing or favor in this respect; its announcement is also a blessing for people in that it urges them to self-criticism. The thought of getting what one deserves, with no action being concealed, prevents people from committing evil actions. (For a detailed explanation of the benefits of belief in the afterlife, see 44: 37, note 11.)
16. These people are mentioned in the next chapter of the Qur’ān, Sūrat al-Wāqi‘ah, as those who are the foremost in faith and good deeds, and serving God’s cause, and, therefore, made near to God by God Himself.
17. Concerning the pairs of fruit, some say there will be fruits of the same kind as those in the world and fruits peculiar to Paradise. However, if we consider that verse 50 mentions two springs, and verse 54 below mentions the fruits of the two Gardens, we can put forward the opinion that one of the springs and one of the pairs of fruit will belong to one of the Gardens, and the other to the other. However, it is God Who knows the exact nature of both.
18. These two Gardens will be granted to the people of happiness and prosperity who will be given their Records in their right hands.