Interpretation of Sura al-Fatir – Verse 12


SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) 12.“And not are the two seas alike, the one (is) palatable, and pleasant to drink, and the other, salt and bitter. Yet from the both you eat fresh flesh; and you extract ornaments which you wear, and you see the ships cleave through it that you may seek of His bounty and that you may be thankful.”



The Divine bounties are from His grace and we are not His creditors, but we may gain something because of our effort and endeavour, so noting to blessings is a premise to the growth of the essence of thanksgiving.

Another part of the extroversive verses, which are the signs of His greatness and power in the creation of the seas, blessings, and their benefits are referred to in this verse. It says:

“And not are the two seas alike, the one (is) palatable, and pleasant to drink, and the other, salt and bitter. …”

The Arabic word /‘ao(b/, as Ra-qib says in Mufrada-t, means: pure and cold, while Lisa-n-ul-‘Arab has rendered it into: ‘Pure water’.

Although, on the first day, the water of these two seas has been sent down from the sky in the form of some sweet and wholesome drops of rain, and both of them originate from one source, but they have appeared in two completely different forms and with various benefits.

It is also wonderful that:

“… Yet from the both you eat fresh flesh; …”

“… and you extract ornaments which you wear, …”

Moreover, you can take enjoy both of them, not only for transportation but also for carrying your goods, as the verse says:

“… and you see the ships cleave through it that you may seek of His bounty and that you may be thankful.”

Some points

1- As the Lisa-n-ul-‘Arab says, the Arabic word /fura-t/ is the water which is in utmost purity and wholesomeness.

The Qur’a-nic word /sa-’iq/ means the water that because of its wholesomeness is easily swallowed, contrast to the word /milh?/ (a salt water) and the word /’uja-j/ (a bitter water) that as if this kind of water hurts the throat and bars the way of the gullet.

2- Some commentators believe that this holy verse is an example to show the lack of equality between believers and disbelievers, but the verses before and after it all talk about the signs of creation. Even the last part of this very verse is the evidence over this fact that this sentence, too, discusses about the secrets of Unity, and it is an indication to the variety of the seas and their different effects, and their common benefits.

3- In this verse three benefits out of abundant benefits of the seas have been mentioned: foodstuff, means of ornament, and the subject of transportation.

We know that the seas are one of the important sources of man’s foodstuff, and every year millions of tons of fresh flesh are taken from them without that man bears a considerable trouble for it. The system of creation has arranged a proper program in this regard so that men can enjoy this vast blessing, the spread Divine food table, without the least task.

Some different means of ornament, such as: pearl, shell, pearls and coral are drawn out from the seas. The emphasis of the Qur’a-n on this subject is for the sake that, contrary to the beasts, the man’s self has different dimensions one of which is the sense of beauty. This sense is the origin of the appearance of some artistic, literary and taste issues, the satiation of which correctly and far from any kind of excess and defect, and immoderation and extravagance pleases the self and gives man mirth and calmness, and makes him ready for the heavy affairs of life.

As for the subject of transportation, which is one of the most important fillers of human civilization and the man’s social life, regarding the fact that the seas (and oceans) have covered the main part of the surface of the earth and, that they relate to each other, they can do man the best favour in this regard.

The amount of the goods that are transported on the seas and the number of the passengers who are removed from one place to another on them is so large that they cannot be compared with any other means of vehicle. Sometimes it happens that one ship can carry by it the loads as many as the tens of thousand cars.

4- Of course, the benefits of the seas are not limited to what was said in the above, and the Qur’a-n does not tend to limit them in these three aspects. The formation of pieces of cloud, different medicines, oil, the means of clothing, the fertilizing materials for the uncultivated lands, having effect on winds, and so on are counted as other favours of the seas.

5- The emphasis of the Holy Qur’a-n on ‘fresh flesh’ is an expressive indication to the nutrition benefited from such

fleshes comparing the harms of the stale fleshes, the conserves, and the like.

6- There arises a question here: the seas with salt water are spread all over the globe, where is the sea with sweet water?

In answer it must be said: the seas and lakes with sweet water are not so few in the earth, like the lakes of sweet water in the United States and the others. Moreover, some great streams are sometimes called sea, like the great river of Nile which in Arabic has been called /bah?r/ (sea) in the story of Moses. (Sura Al-Baqarah, No. 2, verse 50, Sura As-Shu‘ara-, No. 26, verse 63, and Sura Al-’A‘ra-f, No. 70, verse 38)

Moreover, the advance of the water of the great streams into the seas, regarding the fact that it goes through the salty water therein and does not mix with it for a length of time, itself forms some seas of sweet water in different places.

7- The Qur’a-nic sentence: ‘That you may seek of His bounty’ contains a vast meaning which includes any economical activities which are done by means of sea-ways.

The last sentence of the verse: ‘That you may be thankful’, has been mentioned for awakening the sense of thanksgiving in men and it is a means for theism and theology.

Be Careful of the Following Points

1- The spiritual elements effective in prolongation and, shortening the life-time: In relation to the discussion stated in the abovementioned verses about the increase and decrease of lifetime by the command of Allah, paying attention to the Islamic narrations concerning the prolonging and shortening of lifetime, a group of Qur’a-nic commentators have explained some matters in this regard. There are, of course, some natural factors effective in increasing and decreasing the length of lifetime most of which have been known to human beings yet,

like correct feeding free from excess and defect, being constantly busy working and moving, avoidance from any kind of narcotic materials and dangerous addictions and alcoholic liquors, avoiding the permanent excitements, and having a strong Faith which can give man peace and power in the difficulties of life and living.

But, besides these things, there are some factors that their outward relation with the question of prolongation of life-time is not so clear to us, while some Islamic narrations have properly emphasized on it. As a few examples, pay attention to the following narrations:

1- The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) says: “Verily alms-giving (in the way of Allah) and union of kindred cause houses to be furnished and prolong the life-times’.” 28

2- He (p.b.u.h.) also has said: “Whoever desires his sustenance to be increased and his death to be postponed should perform union of kindred.”

3- Concerning some of sins, like fornication in particular, Islamic narrations indicate that such sins decrease the length of lifetime. Among them is the famous tradition of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) in which he has said: “O’ Muslims! Do avoid fornication which has six sequels: Three of them are in this world and three of them are in Hereafter. Those three which are in the world are as these: it causes the worth (and light) of man to be vanished, brings indigence, and decreases the length of lifetime. …” 29

4- Imam Ba-qir (a.s.) says: “Kindness and hidden alms-giving remove poverty and increase life-time, and prevent seventy kinds of evil death.” 30

There are also some indications in Islamic narrations concerning some other sins, such as injustice, and sins in absolute. Some of the commentators who have not been able to make difference between the ‘appointed death’ and the ‘sudden death’ have attacked to these traditions and believe that they are contradictory to the texts of the Qur’a-n which consider the limit of the length of man’s lifetime fixed and unchangeable. 31


No doubt man has two kinds of ‘end of life’:

The appointed term, which is the end of potential ability of man’s body for continuity of entity, and by its coming everything will end by the command of Allah.

The sudden death that, with the change of circumstances, the length of life-time changes. For example, someone commits suicide while if he had not committed this great sin, he would have been alive for longer years. Or as the result of using the alcoholic liquors and some narcotic materials, and excess sensuality, he loses his bodily ability in a short time, but if these things were absent in his life, he could live for many longer years.

These are some vivid things which are experimental and comprehensible for every body and none can deny them.

Concerning the unexpected events, there are also some affairs which are naturally related to the sudden death; this is not deniable, too.

Therefore, if a great deal of Islamic narrations indicate that alms-giving in the cause of Allah, or union of kindred cause the length of lifetime to be prolonged and pests to be removed, in fact, they depend on these very factors.

And if we do not separate these two kinds of the term of death from each other, the comprehension of many of the issues in relation with fore-ordination and destiny, and the effect of effort and endeavour in men’s lives will remain insolvable.

This discussion can be made clear by a simple example. For instance, a person provides a new car that, according to the different preparations used in the structure of it, the car can work for example for twenty years, but upon condition that it would be treated well and the necessary protections should be applied. In this case the appointed term of this car is twenty years, not more than that.

But if the necessary protections are not applied, and the car is given to some unaware experienced and careless persons to ride and they use it beyond its power and capacity, and every day they take it to work in rough roads, the life-time of the car may decrease to half or less than that. This is that very ‘sudden death’ of it.



28. The Commentary of Nu-r-uth-Thaqalayn, Vol. 4, PP. 354-355

29. Ibid

30. Safi-nat-ul-Bih)a-r, Vol. 2, P. 23

31. ‘A-lu-si-, the Commentary, Vol. 22, P. 164

Adopted from the book : “The Light of the Holy Qur’an; Interpretation of Surah al-Fatir” by : “Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and a Group of Muslim Scholars”



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