WE commented last week on the statement in this surah and elsewhere in the Qurâ€™an that God has created everything in the universe in pairs. This is an aspect of the greatness of Godâ€™s creation. The surah goes on to remind us of other aspects of creation that no one could have produced other than God.
It is He who has â€œprovided for you the ships and animals on which you ride.â€ This is to remind man that God has placed him in charge of the earth, putting at his disposal its considerable and varied power and potential. It also invites man to show gratitude for Godâ€™s choice and blessings, reminds him of the One who grants blessings every time such a blessing is enjoyed. Such expressions of gratitude for Godâ€™s blessings is sure to keep our hearts alive to their bond with God at every turn in life: â€œSo that when you are seated on their backs you remember your Lordâ€™s blessings and say: â€˜Limitless in His glory is He who has made all this subservient to our use. We could not have done it by ourselves.â€
We certainly cannot match His blessings. All that we can do is to be truly grateful and give due thanks for all that He has favoured us with. We should realize that we will eventually return to God after our term in charge of the earth comes to its end. He will then requite us for what we have done in life when we enjoyed His favours and what He placed at our service: â€œTo our Lord we shall most certainly return.â€ Such are the refined manners people should adopt towards God who has granted us countless favours and blessings. Yet we tend to forget Him even when we are enjoying His favours. Hence, this gentle reminder.
These Islamic manners closely relate to the cultivation of the human conscience and peopleâ€™s education. This is not a mere ritual or empty phrase we say when mounting cattle or riding on ships and other means of transport. It is a deliberate action that aims to alert our feelings so that we are fully aware of the bond between God and His creatures. Furthermore, His blessings are granted to us freely; we cannot repay God in anyway for any of His countless blessings. Hence, we should always remain in awe of Him, thinking of the day when we will meet Him and submit our account of what we did in life. Thus we should always remain conscious of God, aware that He is watching over us.
The surah then refers to the absurd legend that makes deities of angels, alleging that they are Godâ€™s daughters when they are no more than a different type of creature: â€œYet they assign to Him some of His own servants as offspring. Surely man is clearly hardened in disbelief.â€
The surah addresses every aspect of this superstition, leaving no loophole unclosed. Throughout, the surah uses the unbelieversâ€™ own logic and draws on their own life situations. It places before them the fate of earlier communities that adopted a similar stand to theirs, making almost identical allegations. It begins by highlighting the absurdity of this superstition and what it means of blatant rejection of the truth: â€œYet they assign to Him some of His own servants as offspring. Surely man is clearly hardened in disbelief.â€ The angels are Godâ€™s servants. To allege that they are Godâ€™s offspring means that they are not His servants, but instead have a special relationship with Him. Since they are Godâ€™s servants, to give them any special relation to their Creator is meaningless. All Godâ€™s creatures are His servants. Such a claim, thus, brands man as a clear unbeliever: â€œSurely man is clearly hardened in disbelief.â€
Using their own logic and standards, the surah ridicules their allegation that the angels are female and then their claim that they are Godâ€™s offspring: â€œWould He, out of all His creation, choose for Himself daughters and favor you with sons?â€ If God were to take offspring for Himself, why would He choose females and give the males to them? This is nothing less than absurd and especially when they are so distressed when a daughter is born to them. â€œIf any of them is given the good news of the birth of what he so readily attributes to the Lord of Grace, his face darkens and he is filled with gloom.â€
What sort of manners are these that make them attribute to God what would fill them with gloom? Indeed, they would be so distressed about parenting a daughter that they could not even face speaking about it. In their environment, it was only brave men who could fight hard in battle that were looked upon with esteem. How come, then, that they assign to God offspring of the type which only cares about jewelry and fine things, unable to refute an argument or fight a case? â€œ(Would they ascribe to God) someone who is brought up among trinkets and cannot put together a clear argument?â€ Here we see how the surah uses their own logic, making them ashamed of attributing to God what they themselves hate to father. Should they not, if at all, have attributed to Him what scores highly in their own estimation?