The Meanings of `Amr’ in the Qur’anic verses – Part 2

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SHAFAQNA- In verses 4 and 5 of Surat al‑Sajdah, it is said:

اللَّـهُ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ ثُمَّ اسْتَوَىٰ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ مَا لَكُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَلِيٍّ وَلَا شَفِيعٍ أَفَلَا تَتَذَكَّرُونَ﴿٤﴾ يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ…

“It is God who created the heavens and the earth and what is between them in six days. Then He established himself on the Throne; you have not besides Him any guardian or any intercessor (you have no one who has authority of his own and who may do something for you, nor is there any one amongst you who can intercede of his own will between you and God and fulfil your needs]. Will you not then remember? He regulates the affair (amr) (steers the course of the universe) from heaven to earth ….”(32:4‑5)

These are verses where mention has been made of both khalq (creation) and amr(command or affair). In addition to these, verse 31 of Surat Yunus, verse 123 of Surat Hud and verse 12 of Surat al‑Nahl also relate to amrand clearly illuminate its meaning.

Why do the verses of the Qur’an pay so much attention to this topic? The Qur’an generally pays greater attention‑ to matters with which Islam came into contact at the early stages of its propagation. Besides Jews and Christians, the beliefs of the people living within the area of Islamic expansion were mostly influenced by the views of the Sabaeans. Al‑Mas’udi in his book Muruj al‑dhahab devotes a whole chapter to religious views and tenets of the Arabs.’ From what he says, and what is found in other sources, particularly the Qur’an itself, it can be inferred in general that the Arabs recognized the creation of the world as the work of God and believed in God, the Creator.

However, they held diversified views regarding how the worldly affairs were administered and who administered them. Some believed that God created the world as He willed; thereafter He left the affairs of the world and its creatures to themselves without having anything to do with its big or small affairs. Hence, to worship or to pray to Him for fulfilment of our needs, was considered futile and meaningless.

After this assumption, no room is left for prophethood, resurrection, duties, reward and punishment. If God has nothing to do with the affairs of the world, where is the need to send apostles to prescribe duties and obligations, and to forewarn regarding reward or punishment in the Hereafter?

Another group believed that God created the world but did not entrust the regulation and administration of affairs to the creatures, but to the angels, gods of the sun, the moon, and the stars, or spirits of His favoured and intimate servants etc., so that they might do whatever they wanted in the world.

Therefore, men should pray and appeal to these authoritative managers of the world for the solution of their diffi­culties, and should have nothing to do with God. People should worship them to please them and to invoke them for solution of their problems. They should stand facing their icons or statues and perform ceremonies to worship and glorify them. They should make offerings and sacrifices to them lest they may get enraged and cast their wrath on human beings.

Another group said that God created the world and held the reins of the affairs of the world in His own hands. However, He did not involve Himself in all big and small matters of the world. Rather, like a great emperor, He sought the assistance of His agents and representa­tives for the administration of this great kingdom. God, also, like great emperors, is not easily accessible to His creatures for submission of their applications and petitions.

They have to resort to God’s agents and assistants, and try to earn their good pleasure so that they may, as and when necessary, convey their demands to God and act as inter­cessors and intermediaries between God and His creation. Hence people should bow their heads on the thresholds of these intermediaries so as to approach God and have their needs and demands fulfilled.

In view of such curious beliefs, the Qur’an, in many of its verses, announces that they are totally baseless and nonsensical. In the verses quoted earlier, as well as in many other verses, it is declared that:

1. God created the universe, which from the moment of its incep­tion, stood in need of governance of this vast kingdom. He, there­fore, mounted the Throne of command (`Arsh) and took over the task of its administration, so that all its affairs, big and small, would be performed by His command, and no agent had the least independence of his own.

2. The angels, the sun, the moon, the stars and all the other crea­tures of the universe are subject to His command, and even their smallest movement is with His permission and command. They do not have the least authority or independence, and can do nothing of their own will: they are neither angry with anyone, nor can they show favour to anyone on their own accord.

3. These creatures are not aides, helpers, colleagues or partners ­not even subdued and weak partners‑of God in the administration of the world’s affairs. God is not like other rulers who need aides and adjutants. The angels are entirely obedient workers of God and are themselves a part of this splendid system of creation.

4. God is closer to His creatures than anything else and is more aware of their pleas than any other being. He Himself listens to their prayers. Therefore, there is no need of anyone to submit the pleas of His creatures to Him? In His establishment there is no intermediary or intercessor who could mediate of his own will and wish between the Creator and His creatures, so as to call for the creatures’ special worship and veneration, and motivate them to offer sacrifices and offerings in order to come closer to God with his assistance.

Would a wise man worship an intermediary who does not have even a particle of authority of his own and cannot intercede in any matter but with the permission and will of the real master? This is how the affairs of the world are administered. Nothing is worthy of man’s worship except God, since khalq (creation) and amr(administration of affairs) both are from Him; nothing else is of any effect in the affairs of the world besides Him.

Adapted from: “The Theory of ‘Alam al Khalq and ‘Alam al-‘Amr”

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