I find that chapter 32 of the Quran starts in an interesting way. It starts by telling that the sustainer of all realms is sending this book down and it is the truth even as some may have doubts about what it says. The truth of the message, it is suggested, ought to put the doubts to rest. Doubts about what? I soon learn that the following verses claim that while the truth is that we shall all meet our creator and Sustainer and find either great reward or grievous punishment with Him, people doubt this meeting with Him. In this way, it seems, such people doubt the claim of the book. I too find myself not sure that I will meet my Lord as I encounter the Quran and so this doubt and this truth interests me as a human being. So what is the truth about a meeting with my Lord/Sustainer/Rabb after I die? Is it true? Can I be sure that I will certainly meet my Lord? What does it mean to be sure about meeting my Lord? Am I sure of this? What difference would it make? How is it true and how can I be sure of it? The message claims to be aimed at guidance for those not already guided. I am certainly one of them! So the first 3 verses do grab my attention by making a claim that what it is about to tell me is something I may have doubts about but that this book is going to tell me a truth (and I will be able to see that truth) that will address these doubts. Fair enough.
Then comes the 4th verse that describes Allah/God. God, it says, is “the One who..” This is interesting and quite typical in the Quran. God is not left contentless and empty as a concept or name. It is filled with meaning and most often, it is some “action” that this One is doing or has done that is mentioned. God is the One who…and verses carry on. It seems then that I, the reader, ought to pay attention to some activity or action that I should be able to see (and perhaps do not currently see) and understand and confirm that the One doing those actions, is God/divine, the One with whom i.e. with the doer of such actions I can be sure to meet. So what does the One do? The 4th verse says God is the One who created. What did he create? The heavens, the earth and EVERYTHING (maa) (without exception) that is between them!…Now that is a LOT of things. It is difficult to immediately fathom the claim because it is all encompassing. The claim really is: there isn’t a thing that I can see or think of that is able to give itself existence except that a created being! I never saw God create the heavens at some point of “origin” so how can I confirm this claim?
What is creation? The verse seems to continue..”in six ayyam/days/lengths of time and then (thumma) He, this creator, established Himself on the throne..” This, at first glance, is strange. The claim that the creator created everything is not strange (even if I don’t fully understand what this is supposed to mean but prima facie its not strange for me). But to mention “in 6 days/periods of time” is strange and then, as if after creating for 6 days, he went and sat on some throne? Why did it take God 6 days to create? what is the throne? All good questions to think about.
Why not less than 6 days? Why not more? And why does my maker tell me all this (if it is him speaking to me?) Is this supposed to be a sign of His power (Am I supposed to say, Wow! You did it in 6 days! I couldn’t do it in 6! Good job God!) or is it a sign for the immensity and complexity of creation (so that I should say, Wow! Even You needed 6 days to make all this! What a complex universe you have created!). None of these add any guidance to my life really. I am not even sure if by days, 24 hours are meant or not. Is it a message about the limits of Gods powers (God is not someone who can just do everything at once – he needs time to create things and the time it took him was 6 days)! What am I supposed to say? OK! Great? It’s not like I was expecting God to take 8 days and am relieved to know that he finished well before the deadline! That wouldn’t be meaningful as a response from me to this message.
OR Is the making acknowledging (at least in the mention of 6 “periods of time”, whatever they may be, hours, seconds, centuries etc.) that I, the addressee, understands “creation” as something that happens “in time” so that when I think of something created, I tend to think that there was a time, maybe 6 days ago that this thing wasn’t there and then somebody started creating it and then took some amount of “time” (6 units of it) and then, voila, the thing started to exist when prior to that it did not exist. This is how I generally understand “creation” based on what I create or what I see others “create.” I think the verse mentions 6 “ayyam/units of time” for this reason. It draws my attention to how I see things BEFORE I have been guided. It is, as if, the first stage of my understanding of “creation.” The following parts of the verse and following verses challenge and “guide” my idea of “creation” and reveal my initial “time-bound” idea of creation to be misguided. The verse goes on. It says, “And then (thumma)…” as if to say ot me, “I know that what you understand when I say “created” but this is not the truth about creation because….” Then comes an expression “Then He is established on a throne” followed by the really interesting claim and a question: “There is absolutely nothing other than Him that helps/protects you and nothing whatsoever that intercedes? for you, would you not reflect/think/consider again whether what you think you understand by “creation” is true?
This makes me stop and ponder. What is my maker telling me by telling me this? I want to leave myself thinking here and look at my life and the “world” to see what goes on there. Is there help? Is there intercession? Are there not beings or things that I can ask to intercede to provide what I need? (I guess that is what intercession means here) Are there not things or beings helping me in some way or another? Is it the case that a single One, as if established on a throne, is directly responsible for the “creation” of all the beings, here and now, with which my needs and fulfilled and with which I am helped (to live, walk, see, love, eat, breathe, think, feel, be loved) and so on? More later…