Ships that traverse the sea are yet another of Godâs signs, just like mountains. It is a sign seen by all. They represent a phenomenon that is based on several factors each of which is a great sign put in place by God Almighty. Who created the sea? Can any human or any other creature claim that they made the sea? Who gave the sea its different characteristics: the density of its water, its depth and vast area allowing it to carry such large craft?? Then what about the wind that moves the ships that were known to those who were the first to be addressed by the Qurâan; and what about other forces that man was subsequently able to use such as steam and nuclear power, and other forces God may place at manâs disposal in future? Who has given these forces their qualities that make them able to move such huge ships in the sea, so that they look like mountains on its surface?
âIf He wills, He stills the wind, and then they lie motionless on the surface of the sea.â The wind may die down at times and ships will lie motionless, as though life has departed from them. âIn this there are signs indeed for all who are patient in adversity and deeply grateful to God.â The signs are both in making the ships sail across the sea and in leaving them motionless. Such signs are appreciated by everyone who is patient in adversity, thankful for blessings. Patience and gratitude are often mentioned together in the Qurâan, as they are interrelated qualities of believers in conditions of hardship and happiness.
âOr else He may cause them to perish because of what they have wrought.â He may cause the ships to be destroyed or drowned as a result of peopleâs sins or deviation from the faith that all creatures acknowledge, with the exception of the unbelievers. âAnd yet He forgives much.â He certainly does not punish people for every sinful action they do. Instead, He pardons and forgives much.
âLet those who call Our messages into question know that there is no escape for them.â Should God want to smite them, destroy their ships or visit them with some other punishment, they simply have no means of escape. Thus they are made to know that whatever they possess of this lifeâs riches, comforts and pleasures can always be taken away from them. The only thing that is stable in this present life is to maintain a close relation with God.
Earlier in the surah, we had a description of the conditions pertaining to mankind. We learnt that those given revelations divided into groups: and such divisions were caused by petty rivalries rather than any lack of knowledge of the divine book and the faith God established for mankind from the times of Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them all). It also pointed out that the generations that followed those who were in dispute entertained serious doubts about divine revelations. Needless to say, the conditions of those who did not receive revelations and had no messenger to guide them along the right path were even worse. Therefore, mankind needed wise leadership to save it from the depth of ignorance into which it had sunk and to guide its footsteps along the way that leads man to God, his Lord and the Lord of all the worlds. Therefore, God revealed this Qurâan, in the Arabic tongue, to His servant Muhammad (peace be upon him) incorporating in it what He had enjoined upon Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Thus all phases of the divine message, from early history, are linked together. The path it follows and the goals it aims to achieve are the same. With this final message, the Muslim community comes into existence, assuming the leadership of mankind and setting a model of how the divine faith functions in human life.
The surah takes another step forward, alerting them to the fact that whatever they have in life on earth is transient. The only lasting value is what God grants in the life to come to those who have believed and placed their trust in Him. Some of the distinctive qualities that make of true believers a separate community are then given: âWhatever you are given is but for the enjoyment of life in this world, but that which is with God is much better and more enduring.â ¬