The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement
presenting Islam as peaceful, tolerant, rational, inspiring
1. Islam

Articles and booklets

Lessons in the Quran

Lesson 43

2. Publications
3. Activities
4. Ahmadiyya Movement
5. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
6. Non-English material

Discussion forums
Site Statistics
Contact us
Search the website


Previous Lesson | Next Lesson

Lesson - 43


"Allah — there is no god but He, the Ever-Living, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist. Slumber over-takes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them. And they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of them both tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Great."

Ch. 2:255

I gave an introductory commentary on this verse, commonly known as the aayat-ul-kursi (verse of Divine Knowledge), in my previous lesson. In fact, there is a great depth of wisdom and knowledge enclosed in the few sentences of this verse. I will attempt a brief commentary of it in this lesson. The concept of the Divine Being that is commonly found in religions other than Islam, can be categorized into three or four types. One type is that of an inanimate stone idol carved by man which he has the power to destroy at will. A second type is that of an animal such as a cow which is inferior to him. Like all other animals, it is created from a non-existential state. It was born and will eventually die a natural death, if not slaughtered for its meat. The third concept of the Divine Being is that of a human like us. Like all human beings, the deity was brought from a non-existential state to life in the mother's womb. Her blood nurtured him, and eventually he was born like any other baby. The deity felt hunger and thirst, possessed all human frailties, and eventually passed away. Such is the Christian concept of the Divinity of Jesus. If the Christians claim that the life experience of Jesus was different from that of a human because he was given life after death, it does not in any way make him superior to the rest of humanity which too has the same fate. In fact, the prophets of God and the righteous are all given a new life, immediately after death. The fourth concept of divinity is that celestial bodies, like the sun, moon, stars etc., are gods. Science has proven that these are nothing, but masses of heated matter, and gas bound by the laws of the Great Master and Creator. In this age of science and knowledge there was the widespread rejection of such concepts, and the consequential spread of atheism on a large scale.

Concept of the Divine Being in Islam

It is quite apparent that the human mind which is a material entity like that of other animals cannot independently acquire knowledge of the Divine Being. The concepts that man formulated independently were so flawed that they have been rejected today. It is, therefore essential that knowledge of His Being and attributes be given by God Himself. He certainly did give such knowledge in different revealed scriptures, but unfortunately these were either completely destroyed, or greatly altered by human hands. This is the reason why Allah Himself became the Guardian of His complete and Final Word, the Holy Quran. Even the critics admit that the Holy Quran we have in our hands today, is exactly the same as was revealed to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). The concept of the Divine Being is presented throughout the Holy Quran from its beginning to the end. The verse (Aayat-ul-Kursi) that I am going to discuss briefly today, also presents this magnificent concept.

"Allah — there is no God (ilaa-ha), but He."

As I explained in my first lesson, Allah is the proper name of the Divine Being. When we introduce someone, we first mention his proper name. For example, "This is Mr. Rashid Khan." It is surprising that no other religion besides Islam has informed us about the proper name of God, although there are names describing His attributes. This is just like saying about someone that he is a Muslim, a very good person etc., but without revealing his proper name. If only the descriptive qualities are given without the proper name, the introduction is not only incomplete, but is also generalized because these qualities could be possessed by several different persons. The name Allah, even before Islam, was used in the Arabic language for the One and Only God, and for no one else. The proper name Allah means, One Who is perfect in the excellence and goodness of His attributes, and also in their manifestation, so that His creation benefits from them at all times. It is not enough for someone to possess good qualities unless others benefit from them. For example, if a person is a great scholar, his knowledge is useless unless it is of benefit to someone else. The creation of Allah, the Most High, however benefits from His attributes all the time as is quite apparent from His attributes of Rabb-il-Alamin (One Who nourishes the whole creation unto perfection), Ar-Rahman (the Beneficent), and Al-Raheem (the Merciful).

After giving knowledge of the name Allah, it is stated that there is no God (ilah), but He. The ordinary meaning of the word ilah in Arabic is One Who is worshipped, i.e., the One served with humility. In this one word a cogent proof of the unity of the Divine Being is given. The question is raised, in whose service is the whole creation obediently bound? This answer which was given fourteen hundred years ago has been confirmed by modern scientific knowledge, that the whole universe is one, and is bound by the same universal law. That is why even the atheist and Christian scientists have now finally accepted that this magnificent universe has all been created by, and is under the control of One Being. Since this whole universe, and even the human body is serving the One God with humility, mankind should also strive to serve the One and Only God. This can only be accomplished by completely following the guidance given in the Holy Quran.

The second meaning of ilah is, the One Who deserves our love. This tells us that submission to God should be with love, only then can it be truly representative of genuine enthusiasm and sincerity. This is the kind of submission which can bring the most beneficial results. For example, the child who appreciates the favors of his parents, considers them his well-wishers, and follows their guidance enthusiastically, will benefit the most from it. If he does so reluctantly, he cannot reap the same rewards. The parental favors towards their offspring are nothing compared to the Divine favors upon mankind. He created the heavens, and the earth and made man His vicegerent upon earth. He made all creation submissive to man and blessed him with innumerable favors. He breathed into him His spirit, and blessed him with His knowledge, and provided him with guidance, so that by following it he can get closer to Him. As I have pointed out in my previous lesson, there is nothing more satisfying, rewarding, or of value that can equal this relationship. The third meaning of ilah is, the One Who is the desired objective or purpose of life. Recognition of the Divine Being and establishment of a relationship with Him is the purpose of man's creation, and giving man knowledge and guidance to accomplish this is the greatest Divine favor upon mankind. Whosoever sets up associates with Allah, fails to achieve the purpose of his creation.

The verse then proceeds to state:

"the Ever-living (Al-Haye), the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist."
The Arabic word Haye means One Who was always living, and will live forever. By using the Arabic letter Alif and Laam, which makes Al ('the'), with the word Haye, indicate that the Divine Being is also Unique in this matter, i.e., He is the Only One Who was always living and will live forever. Scientists agree that the universe has finite life, though perhaps a long one by our reckoning. There was a beginning, and there will be an end. This is true for everything in the universe, including humans and all other living beings. Every one amongst us did not exist at one time, and will eventually die. The other meaning of Haye is that Allah is not only Himself Ever-Living, but He also gives life to others. This meaning of the word Haye informs us that Allah is our Creator and the Source of life for each one of us. Not only is Allah the initiator of life, but in accordance with the first meaning of the Arabic word Haye, i.e., the One Who is Ever-living. He gives everlasting life, which is a blessed one for those who seek His pleasure. This is a source of immense satisfaction for humans, because the greatest desire of every human being is to abide forever. We are thus informed by this Quranic verse that if you desire a blessed everlasting life, then Allah is the Only One Who can give it. The Arabic word Qayyum means that He is the Self- subsisting by Whom all subsist. After the desire for life everlasting, the second greatest desire of man is that he should have stability in life, remain physically active, and in good health. This can also be granted only by Allah, the Most High. He has promised this for the life Hereafter, where mankind is to abide forever.

It is quite surprising that modern science has also come to the conclusion that the existence of this universe is because of the Divine Being. There are several books on this subject, two of the easily comprehensible ones being, 'The Mysterious Universe,' by Sir James Jeans, and 'The Universe and Dr. Einstein,' by Lincoln Barnett. Sir James Jeans writes in his book: "The Universe exists because it exists in a Universal Mind."

A being that is not ever-living and self-subsisting by whom all subsist does not deserve to be called god, for such a being was born like us, and will likewise die one day. It did not give life, or subsistence to others nor is it self-subsisting. In contrast, the Holy Quran has given such a magnificent and attractive concept of the Divine Being that in this age of science and reasoning no other concept can be acceptable. It is then stated:

"Slumber overtakes Him not, nor sleep."
Slumber creates a period of temporary unawareness, while sleep does that for a more prolonged period. Science today has also established this principle. If the existence of this universe is because of its existence in a Divine mind encompassing the whole universe, if that Being goes into slumber or sleep, then the whole universe would perish. Those who elevate their prophets to the status of god do not deny that they were prone to slumber and sleep. I have heard from Hindus that their idols do sleep in the temple, or cave. That is why the worshipper rings a bell before commencing supplications. If those prophets or idols were the real Divine Being, then this universe would have ended in a few seconds. How can the Being Who is prone to slumber and sleep be our guardian at all times? I have quoted Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in my previous lesson that "Allah lies awake while human beings are asleep, He sees their enemies, and the dangers they face, and protects them, provided they are His humble servants."

It is then stated:

"To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth."
Ordinarily heavens are considered as the physical heavens about which modern science is making novel discoveries everyday. If we accept his meaning momentarily, it is quite obvious that Allah is the Creator of whatever is in the heavens and the earth, for man comes into this world empty handed and leaves it in a similar condition. A better meaning of the heavens, is those spiritual heavens which are the abode of man's life Hereafter. According to the Quran and the Hadith, these are seven in number and man's everlasting existence and progress will continue in them after death. Considering this meaning, let us now study the words of this verse: "To Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth." This implies that whatever you desire in your earthly existence, can only be given by Allah, who owns everything that is in this world, and He is the Creator of all. To Him also belongs whatever is in the heavens, meaning the life Hereafter, for He has created everything over there for you, and only He can give it to you. Mankind is, therefore totally dependent upon the blessed being of Allah, in this world, and in the life Hereafter. What can other human beings, or the ones who have been made into gods give, for they are themselves dependent on Allah for everything?

Further on it is stated:

"Who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission?"
I have discussed the subject of intercession in my previous lessons. Unfortunately it is a common misconception that a certain entity can intercede on our behalf, and save us. That is the reason why prophets, saints, holy men, ascetics and even their graves are worshipped. The foundations of Christianity rest on Jesus being the intercessor between man and God. Misunderstanding the concept of intercession has led people associating other entities with God. As I have already discussed, and is apparent even in this verse, that Allah, the Most High, is the One Who gives the permission to intercede. It behooves us to seek His pleasure by submitting to Him with humility, and not His displeasure by associating others with Him. If a certain person has developed a bond with a prophet continuously striving to follow in his footsteps (the Arabic word for intercession, shafa`at, means bonding or forming a relationship), and Allah desires to forgive this person despite his shortcomings, Allah will give His prophet permission to intercede on the person's behalf and not otherwise. It must be remembered that Allah's permission to intercede is accepted merely to honor the prophet. The same holds true for a person who emulates a righteous person or follows the impulses from angels to do acts of goodness. If Allah desires to forgive such a person, despite his shortcomings, He will give permission to the righteous persons and angels to intercede merely to honor them. The intercession in the hereafter, therefore, is very different from the intercession that we see in worldly affairs. Here the intercessions are unsolicited and the intercessor is generally a person who feels he has some right over the person he is asking for a favor, if the favor is not granted it is implied that it will incur the displeasure of the intercessor. I have worked all my life for the government, and it is my personal observation that if I did not accept someone's recommendation it invariably led to their displeasure even if they did not show it. No one has any right over Allah, the Blessed Most High, or can have the impertinence to think that he can put any kind of pressure on Him on basis of which he can intercede without His permission. Nor can anyone have the audacity to say that if his intercession is not accepted, it will offend him or result in his displeasure.

The subsequent words of aayat-ul-kursi give another reason why intercession would not be possible without the permission of Allah, and those words are, "He knows what is before them, and what is behind them." Allah only has the complete knowledge of a man's present and past, and no one else. Only Allah, therefore, is in the position to decide whether a person should be forgiven or not. The deeds that are committed by man, his intentions and circumstances and subsequent actions are known only to Allah, and no one else. How appropriate are the words that follow:

"And they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases."
The limits of human knowledge whether it is of this world, or the Hereafter, or of his temporal, or spiritual self are defined by Allah the Most High. We are told not to assess the knowledge of Allah by means of our own imperfect knowledge. Man's knowledge of the past or present is incomplete and defective, as is well known to historians and scientists. That is why science is constantly making new discoveries which show older ideas to be faulty or incomplete. The knowledge of the future and the unseen is possessed only by Allah. He gives proof of this by imparting knowledge of the unseen to His prophets and righteous servants. He has also made the Holy Quran a repository of such knowledge. Quranic prophecies are being fulfilled even today, fourteen hundred years after its revelation and only Allah knows how many more will be fulfilled in the future. Even modern science has accepted Allah's knowledge of the unseen. This a very lengthy subject which I will, if it please Allah, discuss on another occasion by directly quoting some well known scientists on this subject. We do not however, need the confirmation of the scientists to convince us. The unlimited amount of knowledge of the unseen that is there in the Holy Quran, thousands of prophecies that the Holy Prophet made on being given knowledge by Allah, and the knowledge of the unseen given to other righteous servants and reformers by Allah, is sufficient proof for us.

"His knowledge (kursi) extends over the heavens and the earth." The Arabic word kursi commonly refers to an object used for sitting. Without going into the lexicological details, suffice it to say that the word kursi also signifies both dominion and knowledge, and both of these meanings are appropriate in the present context. Allah has created the heavens of this physical universe, and also those of the Hereafter. His knowledge and sovereignty, therefore encompasses both the heavens and the earth. with knowledge comes power. For example, as man has gained more knowledge of science, his dominion over the rest of the creation has increased. Allah is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and His control extends over not only this world, but also the Hereafter. Man, whether in this life or the life Hereafter, cannot go outside the domain of Allah, and there is no refuge for him if he displeases Allah. If you desire the benefit in this world, or the Hereafter, seek the pleasure of Allah which can be achieved through humble submission to Him.

"And the preservation of them both tires Him not." If Allah was to tire like humans, the heavens and the earth would cease to exist. These words also indicate that protection in this world and the Hereafter can only be acquired by coming within the protection of Allah and not otherwise.

"And He is the Most High, Great." Most High (`Aliy) indicates exaltation of status due to His attributes and qualities, and Great (`Azeem) indicates His dominion and power. 'Most High' is mentioned first because attributes and qualities are the real source of eminence. For example, the honor and eminence attained by prophets and saints by reflecting the Divine attributes within themselves is much greater than the honor and eminence of kings and rulers, although it cannot be denied that worldly power and sovereignty is also a source of honor. The sequencing of `Aliy before `Azeem, therefore, indicates that it is eminence of character which embellishes worldly prominence and honor. Without character worldly power and honor are of no consequence as is frequently observed in the case of world leaders who get involved in scandals. The sequence of the words the Most High, Great (al-`Aliy-ul-`Azeem) also indicates that if you rectify your character and spirit, Allah will also bestow worldly honor upon you.
Previous Lesson | Next Lesson
Website created and published by: Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha`at Islam Lahore Inc. U.S.A.
Contact us.