The Arabs recognized that God was the Creator of the heavens and the earth, yet, amazingly, they did not follow this through to its logical conclusion, declaring His oneness and addressing all worship to Him. On the contrary, they attributed partners to Him, assigning to these some of the cattle He has created. They also alleged that the angels were Godâs daughters whom they worshipped in the form of idols. The Qurâan reports their acknowledgement of Godâs creation, puts before them the logic of human nature which they discard, and outlines the behavior they should adopt in response to His blessings. It then describes what they claim about the angels.
The Arabs had a faith, which we can imagine as consisting of remnants of the original pure faith of Abraham that had lost its original shining colors and intermingled with legends. What remained was something that human nature could not deny, namely that the universe has a Creator who is God: the universe could not have existed without a Creator and the Creator could only be God. Yet, the Arabs did not take this natural truth to its logical conclusion; they simply stopped at the bare fact: âYet if you ask them, âWho created the heavens and the earth?â they are sure to answer, âThe Almighty, the All-Knowing created them.ââ
It is obvious that they did not verbalize Godâs two attributes: the Almighty and the All-Knowing. They acknowledged that it was God who created the universe, but they did not know God according to His attributes detailed in the Islamic faith. These are positive attributes that produce a clear effect on peopleâs lives and the life of the universe. They admitted that God created them and the universe, but they also alleged that He had partners because they did not know Godâs attributes that would have made the very concept of partnership with Him appear absurd. The Qurâan tells them now that the Creator they acknowledge is the One who is Almighty and who knows all.
The surah takes them another step forward in outlining Godâs attributes and the favors He has given them: âIt is He who has smoothed out the earth for you and has traced on it paths for you so that you can find your way.â Smoothing out the earth is a fact understood, in one way or another, by everyone. The people who were the first to be addressed by the Qurâan would have seen the earth smooth under their feet when they walked, ready for plants to grow. It is smoothed out generally for life to grow. However, we realize this today in a more profound way, taking into account what we have learned about the nature of the earth and its history. Future generations will understand this fact in an even greater way; human knowledge will continue to expand and discover new facts that have so far remained unknown.
Today, we understand that smoothing out the earth so as to enable the human race to survive on it and find ways and paths to ensure life progresses is a complex multi-faceted process. In fact, this planet has gone through a number of different stages that have allowed its surface to change from a hard rocky one to plant-supporting soil. Water has been formed from oxygen and hydrogen. Its rotation speed has slowed down to ensure that it has moderate temperatures throughout its day and so as to allow objects to remain stable on its surface. Moreover, a proper measure of gravity has been placed on it to ensure that its atmosphere remains sufficiently stable to support life. Without such an atmosphere life cannot be sustained, as is the case on other planets with a gravity too weak to ensure stability.
Moreover, the earthâs gravity has been made equal to movement and this equilibrium has protected objects and living things from being blown away, while at the same time allowing man and other living things to move on the surface of the earth. Had gravity increased above this sustainable level, all objects and living creatures would have been stuck to the earth and their movements would have become very hard or even impossible. Furthermore, air pressure would have increased so as to bind them firmly to the earth or crush them against it, just as we sometimes crush flies and mosquitoes with a strike that does not bring our hands into contact with them but rather increases the air pressure around them. By contrast, should air pressure decrease, our veins and breasts may burst.
The smoothing of the earth to make it life supporting also refers to the fact that the Almighty, All-Knowing Creator has brought about numerous balances which together facilitate human life on earth. Had any of these been disturbed, life would have become very difficult, even impossible. We have already mentioned some of these. We may, however, refer to the fact that the great amount of water that covers much of the earthâs surface purges its atmosphere of much of the poisonous gases that result from the infinite number of interactions that take place all the time. Thus, its atmosphere remains life supporting. Plants also ensure that a proper balance is maintained between the oxygen living creatures breathe in and the oxygen breathed out during the process of assimilation plants perform. Unless this balance is maintained, all living things would have suffocated in a very short period of time.
Indeed the significance of the Qurâanic statement, âIt is He who has smoothed out the earth for you and has traced on it paths for you,â grows wider everyday. Every new addition to its significance testifies to both Godâs might and knowledge. We see Godâs able hand wherever we look and however far our imagination roams. It tells man that his life is not the result of blind coincidence nor has he been abandoned. Indeed, Godâs hand defines manâs every step before, during and after his life on earth.
âSo that you can find your way.â Reflection on what the universe contains and its natural laws inevitably leads the human mind to recognition of its Creator who established such accurate and perfectly harmonious systems. ¬