Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 2:255; Part -1)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
The Ever-living God
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
اللَّهُ لَا إِلَٰهَ إِلَّا هُوَ الْحَيُّ الْقَيُّومُ ۚ لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ ۚ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ ۚ يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ ۖ وَلَا يُحِيطُونَ بِشَيْءٍ مِّنْ عِلْمِهِ إِلَّا بِمَا شَاءَ ۚ وَسِعَ كُرْسِيُّهُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ ۖ وَلَا يَئُودُهُ حِفْظُهُمَا ۚ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْعَظِيمُ ﴿٢٥٥﴾
2:255 Allah (SWT) – there is no deity except God, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes God nor sleep. To God belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with God except by God’s permission? God knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of God’s knowledge except for what God wills. God’s Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And God is the Most High, the Most Great.
Commentary: The verse states that, unlike the creatures, Allah (SWT) is the Ever-living (الْحَيُّ), the Self-Subsisting, the Guardian and Sustainer of all existence (الْقَيُّومُ).
A living creature is born, grows, and reproduces in maturity. It then gradually ages and eventually dies, after which its body turns to dust. For instance, in the spring season, plants and vegetation grow on the land, trees sprout and bloom and yield fruits. With the fall season’s arrival, the colors of leaves and vegetation change, eventually dry up and crumble to pieces. With the arrival of the winter season, the earth becomes barren and lifeless again. The cycle of life repeats itself in the following spring.
Life is the source of feelings, emotions, and strengths in animals and humans. For instance, an animal takes care of its child, hunts for food, defends itself against predators, etc. With death, feelings, emotions, and strength disappear.
Life is the source of human faculties. Human rationale and intellect help him reflect, articulate his thoughts, solve problems, learn new skills, etc. All human abilities and faculties die with his death. How is God’s life different from the life of His creatures?
Unlike creatures which are born and after a while die, Allah (SWT) is the immortal, the Ever-Living (الْحَيُّ). That is, life is reserved for Allah (SWT) alone, and God gives life to creatures and causes them to die [Al-Mizan, Vol.2. P.504]. The Quran mentioned:
هُوَ الَّذِي يُحْيِي وَيُمِيتُ … ﴿٦٨﴾
41:68 He it is who gives life and causes death;
Allah (SWT) is also “Al-Qayyum” (الْقَيُّومُ). The word “Qayyum” (قَیُّوم) is the exaggerated noun of “Qiyam” (قیام); it means to rise and stand. Hence, “Qayyum” (قَیُّوم) is either a person who stands without the support of others or someone who stands to support others. Within this context, “Al-Qayyum” (الْقَيُّومُ) is translated to either the Self-Subsisting or the Guardian and Sustainer of all existence. Allah (SWT) is the Self-Subsisting since God’s life does not depend on anyone or anything. Allah (SWT) is also the Guardian and Sustainer of the whole universe because GOd stands by God’s creation and cares for them so that their existence does not perish. Without God’s care, there can be no being.
Allah (اللَّـهِ) The Particular Name of God: Allah (SWT) is God’s unique name; all other divine names mentioned in the Quran describe one of God’s attributes. For instance, verse 2:173 states that Allah is Oft-Forgiving (غَفُورٌ) and Ever Merciful (الرَّحِيمِ):
….إِنَّ اللَّـهَ غَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴿١٧٣﴾
2:173 …Truly, Allah (SWT) is Oft-Forgiving, Ever Merciful.
The name “Allah” was used long before the rise of Islam [Az-Zukhurf 43:87 (وَلَئِن سَأَلْتَهُم مَّنْ خَلَقَهُمْ لَيَقُولُنَّ اللَّـهُ)]. It was initially “Al-A-lah” (اَلْ اِلَه), in which the middle letter (اِ) was omitted due to its frequent use. The word “Al-A-lah” (اَلْ اِلَه) is either derived from the root word “a-la-ha” (اَلَهَ), which means “worship” or from the root word “Wa-la-ha” (وَلَهَ), which means astonished. If “Allah” is derived from the word “A-la-ha” (اَلَهَ), it means the essence which is worthy of worship. If “Allah” is derived from the word of “Wa-la-ha” (وَلَهَ), it means the essence of which the human mind becomes astonished when it reflects on God’s attributes [Al-Mizan Vol. 1, P. 28, L.23].
2:255 [اللَّهُ] Allah [لَا] there is no [إِلَٰهَ] God [إِلَّا] except [هُوَ] Him, [الْحَيُّ] the Ever-living [الْقَيُّومُ] Self-Subsisting or the Guardian and Sustainer of all existence.