اللَّهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ ۖ مَا لَكُمْ مِنْ دُونِهِ مِنْ وَلِيٍّ وَلَا شَفِيعٍ ۚ أَفَلَا تَتَذَكَّرُونَ
4. Allah it is He Who has created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them in six Days. Then He Istawâ (rose over) the Throne. You (mankind) have none, besides Him, as a Wali (protector or helper etc.) or an intercessor. Will you not then remember (or be admonished)?
Here, it is explained that Allah is He who has created the high and lofty heavens, as well as the outstretched and wonderful earth. Along with these, He also created all different creations that exists between the heavens and the earth. Allah is so great, powerful and mighty that He created all the different types of creations, the seven heavens and the seven earths in only six days.
While commenting on these six days, Hasan says, ‘These six days were days of the earthly world. If it was the wish of Allah, He could have created everything in the blink of an eye; but He wanted to teach His servants that they must not be hasty in their affairs. Instead, they should exercise prudence and thoughtfulness in all matters. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.14 pg. 80)
With respect to the explanation of creating the heavens and the earth in six days, the great scholar Mufti Muhammad Shafie (A.R.) has given the following explanation:
‘A question arises here. We know that Allah has great power. He is capable of creating the whole universe in a single moment. The Holy Quran itself says so time and again. For instance, in Sura Al Qamar, it is said:
وَمَا أَمْرُنَا إِلَّا وَاحِدَةٌ كَلَمْحٍ بِالْبَصَرِ
‘And Our Command is but a single Word, – like the twinkling of an eye’ (Surah Qumar:Verse 50).
Again, in Surah Yasin it is said:
إِنَّمَا أَمْرُهُ إِذَا أَرَادَ شَيْئًا أَنْ يَقُولَ لَهُ كُنْ فَيَكُونُ
‘when [Allah] intends [to create] a thing, for it He says: “Be” and it comes to be.’ (Surah Yarseen, Verse 82).
Why, then, would days be spent in creating the universe?
Commentator of the Quran, Sayyidina Said ibn Jubayr has given an answer by saying that Allah is certainly capable of creating everything there is in a single moment, but Divine wisdom requires that the creation of our universe take six days so that human beings could be taught the lesson of graduation and perfection in running the universal system. This is supported by a Hadith in which the Holy Prophet (S.A) said: Working with deliberation, dignity and graduation is from Allah, and hastening is from Shaytan. (Mazhari, with reference to Shuab al Iman by Al Baihaqi, Vol.6, Pg.211, Maktaba Rushd)
The implication is that the attitude of rushing into doing things is not good for human beings. One cannot give due thought to and take into consideration all aspects of an issue at hand if driven by haste. An action taken in haste spoils what is done and brings remorse in the end. So, whatever is done with proper advance thinking and functional ease brings Barakah (blessing from Allah which enhances the efficiency and outcome of the endeavor).
How were Days and Nights identified before the Creation of Earth, Heavens and Planets?
The second question is: The presence of the day and night is recognized through the movement of the sun. But, before the birth of earth and the heavens, when there was no sun and moon, on what basis comes the count of six days?
For this reason, some commentators have said that six days means a time duration equal to six days and nights as in the existing world. But, a much clearer approach is that the terminology of day and night, that is, what occurs from sunrise to sunset is day and what appears from sunset to the next sunrise is night, is a terminology used in world. Maybe, before the birth of the universe, Allah Ta’ala had other signs determined for the day and night – as it would be in Paradise where the day and night will not depend on the movement of the sun.
This also tells us that it is not necessary that the six days during which the earth and the heavens were created, be equal to our six days. Instead, it is possible that they may be longer than these – as the Qur’an says about the day of ‘Akhirah which will be equal to one thousand years.
Abu ‘Abdullah Razi has said that the movement of the far firmament is so fast as compared to the movements of our earth that the raised step of a man running here has still to come down to touch the ground when the far firmament moves a distance of three thousand miles. (A1-Bahrul Muheet)
Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Mujahid say that six days here mean the six days of ‘Akhirah. The same view appears in a narration of Sayyidina Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas (R.A) as reported by Dahhak. And these six days during which the creation of the universe took place began, according to authentic narrations, from Friday and ended on Friday. On Yowm al-Sabt (the day of Sabbath), that is, Saturday, there was no work done on the creation of the universe. Some ‘Ulama say that ‘sabt’ means to discontinue. The day was named as Yowm al Sabt because the work of creation was over by that day. (Tafseer Ibn Kathir, Surah A’araf, Verse 54, Vol.2, Pg.296, Qademi Kutub khana)
Mentioned in this verse is the creation of the universe in six days. Details of this have been given in other verses saying that the earth was created in two days, then, created on the earth were mountains, rivers, trees, vegetation and other things which human beings and animals could eat, in another two days. This comes to a total of four days. So, it was first said ‘He created the earth in two days’ and then it was said: ‘and determined in it the measure of its sustenance in four days’.
The first two days during which the earth was created are Sunday and Monday; and the other two days during which the mountains, rivers and the life support systems of the earth were created are Tuesday and Wednesday. Thereafter, it was said: ‘then We completed the seven heavens in two days – 41:13). As obvious, these two days will be Thursday and Friday. Thus, by Friday, this becomes a total of six days’. (Ma’ariful Quran vol.3 pg. 595-597)
After mentioning the creation of the heavens and the earth, verse 4 goes further to state, ‘then He (Allah) rose above the throne (istawa)’. Here, in this verse, it is mentioned that Allah rose above the throne. The Arabic word used to express this is ‘Istawa’ which, when followed by the preposition ‘Ala’ (on) literally means to be established or to be settled upon a thing.
In the Holy Quran, this word has been used in a few places where different meanings have been given to it. (Lughatul Quran – Allama Abdur Rasheed Nu’mani – vol.1 pg. 84).
In the above verse (i.e. v.4 of Sura Sajdah), the translation given to this part of the verse as well as other similar verses is that ‘then He (Allah) rose above the throne’ or ‘He established Himself above the throne’. This however, is not upon its literal meaning; instead, it is upon a meaning that is intended and known by Allah alone.
While commenting on verses that speak about ‘Allah’s rising above the throne’, the great commentator Allama Qurtubi writes, ‘Most of the former and latter scholars hold the view that Allah is free from direction, domain and confines. This being the case, it necessarily follows that according to most of the former scholars and leaders of the latter ones, that Allah is free from all directions. As such, according to them, the direction of ‘above’ is not there (that is, it is not to be used for Allah). The reason for this is that whenever He (Allah) is specified with a direction, then a place, domain and confine will be established for Him, and when this takes place, it means that movements, stillness, changes and new occurrences will come about in the essence and being of Allah, when in reality, He is free and pure of all these matters, and is not subjected to such movements and alterations. This is the statement of the theologians’.
Imam Qurtubi writes further, ‘The pious predecessors did not negate a direction, nor did they say that a direction was established. But, they said that it was established for Allah in the same manner the Book of Allah and the Messenger of Allah spoke about it. No one from among the pious predecessors denied that Allah ‘rose above the throne’, in truth, and the ‘throne’ was mentioned because it is the greatest of Allah’s creation. None has the knowledge of the mode of ‘rising above the throne’, and its reality is unknown. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.7 pg. 196)
The above explanation shows that with respect to Allah’s ‘rising above the throne’, none has the knowledge to explain this except Him. This is from among the divine attributes of Allah which cannot be understood or analyzed based on the actions of the created beings. Allah is free from all wants and needs. He is free from place and time, and He has no need for a throne or being above a throne. In this regard, Imam Abu Hanifa (A.R) writes in his book Al Wasiyya, ‘We agree that Allah is established (Istawa) on the Throne without His needing it or resting on it, and He is the guardian of the Throne and all besides the Throne. If He were in need, He would not have been able to bring into existence the Universe, or administrate over its affairs, just as created beings cannot. If He were in need of sitting or settling (on it), then before the creation of the Throne, where was He, the Most High? In effect, He is transcendent of all of this’. (Sharh Al Fiqhul Akbar (Mullah Ali Qaari) pg. 37)
On this issue, it is narrated that a man came to Imam Malik (A.R) and asked about the Throne. In response, Imam Malik (A.R) said, ‘The establishment (Istiwa) (on the throne) is known, the mode (‘how’) is unknown, asking about it is an innovation, and belief in it is compulsory’. (Tafseer Al Qurtubi vol.7 pg. 196).
In another similar narration, Hafiz Ibn Abd Al Barr relates that Ayyub ibn Salah Al Makhzumi reported, ‘we were with Imam Malik (A.R) when an Iraqi came and said, ‘O Abu Abdillah, Allah became established on His Throne, how did He become established?’ Imam Malik (A.R) replied, ‘You have asked about what is not unknown (i.e. the establishment on the Throne is known from the Quran), and you have spoken about what is incomprehensible (i.e. the mode and the ‘how’ of establishment upon the Throne is unknown). (Al Tamheed)
It is also narrated from Umm Salma (R.A) that she said, ‘Establishment on the Throne is not unknown (that is, it is known through the Quran), the mode of it is unknown, affirming it is Imaan (faith), and denying it is kufr (disbelief). (Ibn Marwiya and Laalka’i have narrated it in Kitaabus Sunnah – Fathul Bayaan vol.3 pg. 307 – Lughatul Quran vol.1 pg. 86)
While explaining this verse of ‘Allah’s rising above the Throne’, Hafiz Ibn Katheer has written, ‘We must thread the path of the Mazhab of the pious predecessors like that of Malik, Al Awzaa’ie, Thawri, Laith bin Sa’ad, Shafi, Ahmad, Ishaq bin Rahaway and others besides them from the leaders of the Muslims of the past and present. (They held firm to the view) that this should be accepted in the same way it is mentioned without describing a mode, a semblance or likeness and without negating it’.
‘For certainly nothing of the created beings is like Allah, and Allah is not like anything’. (Tafseer Ibn Katheer vol.2 pg. 220 – Amjad Academy Lahore Pakistan 1982)
In summary, the path of the pious predecessors is the safest way to adopt as clearly stated by the great jurist expert, Mufti Muhammad Shafi (A.R). On this issue of ‘Allah’s establishment on the Throne’, he writes, ‘Regarding this, the safest creed to hold which is clear and correct, and free from doubt, is none other but that of the most righteous elders, the Sahabah and the Tabieen. The creed is that human reason is incapable of comprehending the reality of the Being and attributes of Allah. Pursuing the knowledge of its exact reality is an exercise in futility, even harmful. One should believe, as a matter of general principle, that the meaning intended by Allah (whatever it may be) is the one correct and true. In this process, one should not try to determine or worry about fixing a meaning on one’s own’. (Ma’ariful Quran vol.3 pg. 598)
It is to be noted here, that some of the righteous successors have given interpretations on certain attributes of Allah. This, according to many great scholars, was more judicious and wise according to the exigencies of their times. In other words, the interpretations of certain attributes given by the successors were viewed as being more judicious and wise in light of the resistance they met from deviated sects (especially the Mu’tazila and more specifically the anthropomorphists), who tried to influence the masses to turn towards their heretical ideas. The practice of the pious predecessors of maintaining silence (and not giving an interpretation) regarding such texts (and verses) was no longer viewed as an adequate approach to overcome such heresy, and thus, some of the expert scholars from among the successors attempted to give interpretations, but at the same time, they maintained that the way of the pious predecessors was safer.
With respect to the concession of giving interpretation in these matters, the great scholar Ibn Daqeeq Al‘Id (died 702 A.H) mentions that interpretation of these attributes is acceptable if the meaning is close to the popular usage of the Arabs and it is unacceptable if it is distant. The great jurist expert and scholar, Allama Ibn Al Humaam (died 681 A.H) has stated that it depends upon the situation. If interpretation is required owing to a problem in the understanding of the people, then it is allowed, otherwise it should be left out. (Sharh Al Fiqh Al Akbar – Mulla Ali Qaari pg. 38-39).