Commentary on the Quran (Chapter 2:255; Part -2)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
The Ever-living God; Part-2
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 – 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 God not. And God is the Most High, the Most Great.
Commentary: The verse states that Allah (SWT) is the Ever-Living (الْحَيُّ), and “Neither drowsiness overtakes God nor sleep” (لَا تَأْخُذُهُ سِنَةٌ وَلَا نَوْمٌ). The latter statement implies that Allah (SWT) is always aware, awake and unceasingly stands by God’s creation in caring for their existence (الْقَيُّومُ). The word (سِنَةٌ) means drowsiness or light sleep, a state in which the person is almost awake, and (نَوْمٌ) means asleep or deep sleep.
The Concept of God’s Ownership: The verse continues and states, “To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth.” (لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ). Allah’s ownership (SWT) means every creature needs constant, unceasing divine care and mercy to continue its existence. Allah (SWT) also owns the attributes, properties, and traits of God’s creation [Al-Mizan, Vol.2, P.507, L.27]. For instance, a seed in a fertile land at a proper temperature and moisture germinates and produces fruits and vegetables. Producing fruits and vegetables are the traits of the seed. Without the will of Allah (SWT), a seed would not be able to display its characteristic, which is to germinate and produce food for humanity. The continuation of the verse refers to this fact:
… مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ … ﴿٢٥٥﴾
2:255 …Who is it that can intercede with God except by God’s permission?
The word (الشَّفَاعَةُ) means intercession. It comes from the word (الشّفعُ) and means even as opposed to odd. In an intercession, the petitioner pairs with the interceder and seeks his help to benefit or ward off harm. In essence, (الشَّفَاعَةُ) is a cause and means that brings a desired outcome to the petitioner. Within this context, Al-Mizan classifies intercession into 1) intercession in the creation and 2) intercession in the legislation [Al-Mizan, Vol.1, P.241, L.15].
Intercession in the Creation: Intercession in creation refers to the intermediary cause and means in nature that bring life, sustenance, and other bounties to creatures. For instance, Allah (SWT) is the sustainer, but God provides nourishment through fertile lands, flowing waters, sunlight, suitable temperature, etc. Hence, nature is an intermediary cause and is an intercessor between us and Allah (شَفِيعٍ), which brings food to our table. Also, nature is a creation of Allah (SWT), and it cannot be a cause of producing food and vegetables for humanity without Allah’s (SWT) Will. Hence, verse 2:255 states:
… لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ مَن ذَا الَّذِي يَشْفَعُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا بِإِذْنِهِ … ﴿٢٥٥﴾
2:255 To God belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it (in God’s creation, in the earth and heavens) that can intercede with God except by His permission?
A similar concept is echoed in verse 10:3 (Yunus) and verse 32:4 (As-Sajda). Verse 10:3 states:
…. ۖ يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ ۖ مَا مِن شَفِيعٍ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ إِذْنِهِ ۚ … ﴿٣﴾
10:3 … arranging the matter (of God’s creation through intermediary causes which God creates). There is no intercessor except after God’s Permission…
Allah (SWT) manages the affairs of God’s creation (يُدَبِّرُ الْأَمْرَ) through intermediary causes which He creates. No intermediary cause can act as an intercessor without God’s permission (مَا مِن شَفِيعٍ إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ إِذْنِهِ). Saadi, an Iranian poet, says:
ابر و باد و مه و خورشید و فلک درکارند تا تو نانی به کف آری و به غفلت نخوری
Clouds, wind, fog, sun, and sky are at work so that you can earn your sustenance and do not spend your life in vain and negligence.
Intercession in legislation: There are verses in the Quran that affirm an intercessory role for various servants of Allah (SWT) (men and angels included) with divine permission and pleasure. Some of these verses are mentioned in the appendix. On the Day of Judgment, the intercessors appeal to mercy, forgiveness, and other divine attributes to seek forgiveness for the shortcomings, faults, and transgression of another servant. Of course, the ability of intercession is granted with the permission of Allah (SWT). For instance, verse 20:109 states:
يَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَـٰنُ وَرَضِيَ لَهُ قَوْلًا ﴿١٠٩﴾
20:109 On that day, no intercessor intercession shall benefit (any person) except the one for whom the Most Gracious has given permission and whose word (of intercession) is acceptable to God.
[يَوْمَئِذٍ] On that Day, [لَّا تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ] will not benefit intercession [إِلَّا] except [مَنْ] the one [أَذِنَ لَهُ] give permission to him [الرَّحْمَـٰنُ] the Most Gracious Allah [وَرَضِيَ] and God approved [لَهُ] for him [قَوْلًا] a word.
Appendix: Verses of Intercession
يَعْلَمُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَمَا خَلْفَهُمْ وَلَا يَشْفَعُونَ إِلَّا لِمَنِ ارْتَضَىٰ وَهُم مِّنْ خَشْيَتِهِ مُشْفِقُونَ ﴿٢٨﴾
21:28 God knows what is before them and what will be after them, and they cannot intercede except on behalf of one whom God is pleased. And they stand in awe for fear of God.
وَلَا تَنفَعُ الشَّفَاعَةُ عِندَهُ إِلَّا لِمَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ ۚ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا فُزِّعَ عَن قُلُوبِهِمْ قَالُوا مَاذَا قَالَ رَبُّكُمْ ۖ قَالُوا الْحَقَّ ۖ وَهُوَ الْعَلِيُّ الْكَبِيرُ ﴿٢٣﴾
34:23 And intercession does not benefit with God except for one whom God permits. [And those wait] until, when terror is removed from their hearts, they will say [to one another], “What has your Lord said?” They will say, “The truth.” And God is the Most High, the Grand.
وَلَا يَمْلِكُ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِهِ الشَّفَاعَةَ إِلَّا مَن شَهِدَ بِالْحَقِّ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٨٦﴾
43:86 And those they invoke besides God do not possess [power of] intercession; but only those who testify to the truth [can benefit], and they know.
وَكَم مِّن مَّلَكٍ فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ لَا تُغْنِي شَفَاعَتُهُمْ شَيْئًا إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ أَن يَأْذَنَ اللَّـهُ لِمَن يَشَاءُ وَيَرْضَىٰ ﴿٢٦﴾
53:26 And how many angels there are in the heavens whose intercession will not avail at all except [only] after Allah (SWT) has permitted [it] to whom God Wills and Approves.
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﴾
32:4 It is Allah (SWT) who created the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them in six days; then God established God above the Throne. You have not besides Him any protector or any intercessor; so will you not be reminded?
(مَلَک) = angel, (مَلِک) = king, (مِلک) = property (مُلک) = kingdom
أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّـهَ لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ … ﴿١٠٧﴾
2:107 Do you not know that to Allah (SWT) belongs the dominion (the kingdom) of the heavens and the earth…