The Divine Teachings of The Holy Quran
As Amirul-Mu'minin 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (A.S.) said: "The outside of the Qur'an is elegant and its inside is deep." The Qur'an is a limitless ocean whose depths cannot be fathomed except by the Ma'sums (A.S.). Nevertheless, both the Qur'an and the Ma'sums advise the people to contemplate the ayahs [verses] of the Qur'an.
The Qur'an says: "A Book We have revealed to you, blessed, that they may ponder over its ayahs..." Not satisfied with that, it even rebukes those who do not ponder over it, saying: "Do they not, then, ponder over the Qur'an, or are there locks on the hearts?" Likewise, the Prophet (S.A.) and the (twelve) pure Imams (A.S.) had frequently advised that the Qur'an should be referred to and meditated upon, especially when the general ideological situation gets obscure and confused, and when there appear among the Muslims dubieties which may cause ideological and doctrinal deviations. It is advised that in such conditions the Muslims are to refer to the Qur'an: "When ordeals become ambiguous to you, like lumps of a black night, refer to the Qur'an."
How to Utilize the Qur'an
According to many narrations, the complete knowledge of the Qur'an was with the Prophet (S.A.) and with the pure Imams (A.S.), and it was they who were the real teachers and interpreters of the Qur'an. The Qur'an itself presents the noble Prophet as its teacher and explainer. At the same time we realize that the noble Prophet (S.A) as well as the pure Imams (A.S.), stress that people should refer to the Qur'an, and that when the truthfulness of a narrative was doubted, it must be compared with the Qur'an.
There is a chapter in the narrative books called "Comparison with the Book", which also comes in the books of Usul under the title: "Equality and Preference." One of the preferences, or the conditions, for accepting a narrative as true, is whether it is in conformity with the Qur'an or not.
So, when we want to make sure whether a narrative is in conformity with the Qur'an or not, or whether it is, at least, preferable to other ones, we must first know the meaning of the relevant ayah in order to see if the narrative conforms to it or not. If it is such that the ayah has to be in conformity with the narrative, there we will have a cycle. Therefore, the dubious saying that, "No one has the right to deliberate the Qur'an and to utilize it, without referring first to the narratives", is but a groundless one. It is our duty, according to the very command of the Qur'an, the affirmations of the noble Prophet (S.A.), and the recommendations of the pure Imams (A.S.) to contemplate the ayahs of the Qur'an and understand them.
Unfortunately, there have been many shortcomings in this respect. Classes on explaining and interpreting the Qur'an among the religious students circles became so weak and negligent, until the late professor 'Allamah Tabataba'i succeeded in animating the classes on this subject. This was one of his great noble deeds, and we are all indebted to him. At present, one of the greatest authorized Islamic reference books is his honoured 'Al-Mizan fi Tafsir Al-Qur'an [=The Balance in .Interpreting the Qur'an] as one of the best exegeses of the Qur'an, which had been written. May Allah associate him with his pure ancestors, and help us to follow the path of our professor, and we offer our gratitude to him and his like.
However, we have to ponder and think about the Qur'an so as to be benefited by its precious gems and treasures.
Thank God, today our people have realized the importance of learning the Qur'an and its meaning. The people's reception of the interpretation is unprecedented. Although we are glad to know about it, yet we should be cautious lest some deviation might appear in the interpretation of the Qur'an which besides not bringing the facts of Islam any nearer, it also opens the roads to satanic goals. Unfortunately, we do know of such instances that had already happened. Today, there are groups of different identities who think that they are taking advantage of the Qur'an by way of conforming- their ill-thought ideas to the ayahs of the Qur'an. some of these groups are already known, while some others are not yet known well enough, though their activities in this respect are effective.
As we rejoice at the people's - especially the youths' - advance towards understanding the Qur'an, we must be on the alert lest the deviational methods find their way in the interpretation of the Qur'an, and change -God forbid- the course of the society.
Naturally, the burden of this responsibility lies on the shoulders of the men of religion who will have to fill up this gap, and guide those who want to learn the Qur'an to the right path, since not all of the deviators have intentionally and purposely adopted enmity to Islam and the Islamic State. It may be that the majority of them have been dragged on this road as a result of misunderstanding, and incorrect teachings and inspirations. Yet, regretfully, some of them have received the support of some men of religion.
Deviation in Interpreting the Qur'an
The impact of this topic may better be realized in seeing that the affliction of "the deviational conformity of the Qur'an to one's own ideas and purposes", not comparing them with it, had befallen the Islamic society just after the demise of the noble Prophet (S.A.), causing a person like 'Amirul-Mu'minin, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (A.S.) to complain.
So, isn't there the danger that this deviation may expand, during our time of weak knowledge, to a more disastrous stage? That is why we must handle such matters with greater alertness than before, and follow the same path shown by the noble Prophet (S.A.) and the Imams (A.S.)
There is no doubt, then, that one of the most important tasks of our men of religion is to try hard to explain correctly and accurately all the concepts of the Qur'an to the different people of common, medium and high levels, and to put their knowledge within the easy reach of everybody. This task is a must, as otherwise, other deviations should be expected.
Today, most of the Muslim youths are deeply and eagerly interested in learning the concepts of the Qur'an. Some think that by referring to lexical and other similar books they can solve their problems. If we are to excuse them for this, how can we accept such an excuse from the elders who spent so many years in company with the scholars and studied hard the ayahs and the narratives together with the great researchers and versed men?
We have to utilize the criterion which we received from the scholars and the interpreters of the Qur'an, and to do our best to obtain explicit concepts of the Qur'an to offer them to the society, so as to pay up our debt to Islam and the Qur'an.
Yes, although it is not easy to understand the meanings and the interpretation of the Qur'an, yet, telling the one who desires to understand the Qur'an that one must keep studying for some thirty years before being able to comprehend the Qur'an, would mean disheartening one of being able to know the correct meaning of the Qur'an, or sending one into the arms of the perverted. It is true that understanding the Qur'an requires special efforts and certain faculties, but it is also true that a number of the talented should shoulder this burden and present its fruit to the others.
What we offer are such subjects whose dependence on the Qur'an is unquestionable, and, at the same time, they are not irrelevant nor orderless, since, on the one hand, disarrayed thoughts are difficult to learn, and, on the other, the incorrect ideological orders cannot be counteracted by another ideological order made of scattered and irrelevant notions.
The Necessity of Classifying the Islamic Learnings
At a time when all the deviated schools of thought try to connect and join a series of matters into an orderly and coordinated whole and to present their incorrect thoughts as a coherent unit, we must be even keener in offering the learnings of the Qur'an systematically and in good order so that a researcher may start from a particular point and advance to connect the rings of the Islamic learnings into a joint chain so as to finally attain to the aim of the Qur'an and Islam.
Therefore, we have but to sort out and classify the Qur'anic learnings and shape them in such forms that make it easy for the less attentive young people to learn them, and to be, at the same time, able to present them facing the other schools of thought.
To classify the learnings of the Qur'an in accordance with an objective exegesis sorting out the Qur'anic concepts according to their subject matters, while observing their correlations, would incur some difficulties, despite its being necessary.
The classification of the Qur'anic learnings requires a special systematic order. We are to pick out for each subject the relevant ayahs, arrange them together, then to think about them and coordinate our efforts to light up the possibly ambiguous points. That is, to explain the Qur'an by the Qur'an itself-the very method adopted by the great 'Allamah Tabatabai, in his Al-Mizan exegesis. Yet, it must be noted that when we take an ayah out of its context and consider it alone, disregarding the other ayahs before and after it, there can be the possibility of losing its real importance. In other words, the Qur'anic ayahs have contextual indications which are sometimes found in former or latter ayahs, or even in another surah. So, without taking these indications into our consideration, we may not get the real meaning of the ayahs.
In order not to face such difficulties, and not to mutilate or dissect the ayah, or get away from its original meaning - such as just reading: 'There is no god," cutting off its second part: "but Allah" - we, must take care, when intending to put an ayah under a certain subject, and take into consideration its connection with the ayahs before and after it, so as not to neglect mentioning any possible relevant indication.
Nothing can prevent us from stating the ayah under discussion together with its relevant ayahs that come before or after it, putting them between parentheses. This will help us not to overlook the contextual indications when referring to the discussed ayah.
Once again I repeat that we should always consider the indications before and after the ayah in question, as it had happened to the author of these lines. On occasion an ayah was considered and some remarks were written down, after some time, it was noted that in the former ayah there was an indication which escaped his attention, as otherwise he could have made more complete remarks, or even different ones.
Now as we have but to classify the learnings and the concepts of the Qur'an, and, consequently, to classify the ayahs as well, and present the relevant ones to each chapter, we must decide the basis according to which they should be classified.
We do know that the Qur'an is not classified like that which is used by the human beings. We seldom find a surah, even if it is of a single line, that deals with only a single subject. Actually, there are many ayahs each of which handles several subjects, and its content has many dimensions and features.
For example, a single ayah can include ideological, moral, historical and other dimensions - another fact which makes it difficult to segment the ayahs, though not impossible. Each ayah can be repeated on diverse topics.
A Plan for Grouping the Ayahs
Finding a general headline for the content of a single or several ayahs is not a difficult task-such as the ayahs on the salat, the jihad, bidding the right and forbidding the wrong. But coining the headlines and placing them within the frame of a system is not an easy job. Suppose we looked into the Qur'an and managed to group its concepts under, say, a hundred headlines, but how can these headlines be arranged in a harmonious order? Take, for example, the first ayah of the Qur'an. It praises Allah. So, the first title may be "Praising Allah". The first ayah of Suratul-Baqarah is about those who are guided by Allah. Similarly the other titles can follow this wake. Now, is that the best plan for titling, or can these same titles be systematized, too, so as to have a starting point, and a natural and logical advance?
In this respect we suggest three plans as specimens of the best opinions offered for the grouping of the learnings of the Qur'an. From among them we have selected the best.
The First Plan
It maybe that this plan is the most familiar to one's mind. It divides the religious contents into three groups: beliefs, ethics and precepts. Al-Mizan exegesis frequently refers to this classification. so, one way for grouping all the learnings of the Qur'an is to divide them into three groups: one group to cover the principal beliefs (monotheism, prophethood, resurrection, justice and Imamate), as well as their relevant details, such as the details of the Barzakh [the intermediate state of the souls after death up to the Resurrection Day]. The second group covers the ethics. The third group covers the precepts, whose division in fact, had been applied by our jurists in their books under a chapter titled: 'The Ayahs of the Precepts", such as Kanzul-'Irfan" and Zubdatul-Bayan."
Criticizing the First Plan
Although a good plan, it is nevertheless criticizable. First, forcing all the contents of the Qur'an into these three categories is difficult. Take, for example, those ayahs which concern the histories and episodes of the prophets, though some of these episodes refer to monotheistic, ethical and legislative matters, yet the collection of the episodes belongs to none of these categories. It should, actually, come under a separate coherent chapter which, if segmented, it can no longer be episodic. So, if somebody wants to look up the episode about Ashabul Kahf [the people of the cave], he will not know under which group it can be found, as there would be no clear indication to guide him.
Another difficulty is that since these three categories have no obvious correlation among them, they may be regarded as forcibly imposed.
These precautions are, however, unimportant, and, should there be no better alternative, it may be adopted.
The Second Plan
The second plan is based on the saying that the Qur'an is for the guidance of mankind: "A guidance to men, and, as man has different dimensions, such as the material, the spiritual, the individual, the social, the secular and the heavenly dimensions, the learnings of the Qur'an are also to be classified accordingly, taking man as the axis of the classification.
Criticizing the Second Plan
This plan is actually workable, as it has no serious problem, but it seems that its technical difficulties are more than those of the first one. This is because when we come to look deeper into the details of the concepts of the Qur'an we find out that to take man as an axis is not so much recommended by the Qur'an itself. It would be a kind of prejudice which takes man to be the centre around which everything else revolves. The Qur'an does not accept such partiality.
We do realize that all the Qur'anic concepts, no matter what topic they deal with, whether ideological, moral, preachy, narrative, legislative, individual or social, they all revolve around a single axis - Allah the Exalted. When a law or a precept is enjoined, it is said that Allah had imposed it on you, and when a morality is explained it is said to be loved by Allah: Allah loves those who judge equitably", "Allah loves the patient" and Allah does not love the mischief-makers." So, the axis of morality is Allah, the Exalted, too. Thus, it can be said that the Qur'anic ayahs are based on Allah centralization.
The school of the Qur'an is Allah axial, not man-axial. So, taking man as an axis is almost a deviation. The axis of the learnings of the Qur'an must thus, be "Allah", and it should be preserved.
Another difficulty is that the dimensional entity of man is obscure and it cannot be decided how many dimensions man has, so that we can according to them group the ayahs . On the other hand, there can be seen no obvious connection among the dimensions of the human entity at first glance. The next problem is that grouping the learnings of the Qur'an according to man's dimensional entity is a futile attempt, because sometimes we see that Divine judgement or a characteristic praised in man does not belong to a particular dimension of human entity, as, actually, we realize that many of man's dimensions are connected to a precept, law or morality, such that one cannot positively say that his Qur'anic declaration undoubtedly belongs to a particular dimension of man's entity.
The Third Plan
Taking into consideration the problems of the former two plans concerning grouping the learnings of the Qur'an, this third suggestion is offered with "Allah" as the axis, and the grouping is done longitudinally, not crosswise. That is, we take the learnings of the Qur'an to be like a running stream, or a cataract, which flows down from the Divine source of abundance, saturating every region or stage it reaches: He sends down water from the sky, then the water flows in the valleys according to their capacities."
We must regard the learnings of the Qur'an as a flowing spring which advances from one region to another, representing the longitudinal groupings. It has a starting point from which it flows into a valley, then, having filled it to the brim, it runs to the second one, which is a branch of the first, not that it goes in parallel to it or as its partner. These longitudinal classifications gradually change into a delta with many tributaries. So, the basis of this plan is to longitudinally classify the Qur'anic learnings.
This plan, in our view, is more recommendable than the other two, for the following reasons:
First, its axis is "Allah", the Exalted, and besides Him nothing is introduced: He is the First and the Last and the Outward and the Inward", whereas in other classifications with some other axes, such as man, monotheism or beliefs, we shall have to share in ethics and precepts as well. In this plan we have but a single theme, with none to come along with it, as any other theme can be dealt with only after completely finishing our discussion about the first theme.
Therefore, the first merit of this plan is that it is based on "Allah" being the axis, and all the classifications go around it.
The second merit is that a logical arrangement among matters and groupings can be established. When these discussions are connected to one another chain-like, the previous topic will naturally have a kind of advancement over the later one- a clear and understandable advancement, unlike the classifications done diagonally, in which case the advancement of the one over another needs explanation, often constrained. For example, suppose that man's individual and social affairs are two dimensions of his entity. Now should we begin with his individual affairs or social affairs: should we give priority to other classifications, or should we begin with the material and spiritual affairs? Had there been a natural arrangement among the titles and the groups according to which the classifications could be carried out, there would have been an explicit reason for advancing or delaying the groups - a fact which would have offered a better coordinated system, free from the problems of the former plans.
Consequently, it is better to take "Allah" as the axis for all the Qur'anic learnings, as it is completely compatible with the spirit of the teachings of the Qur'an. We are to begin with theology, then, through our study of the Divine Acts we are to study topics concerning ontology, anthropology and other dimensions of the human being by way of studying the Divine management and education. The result would be a harmonious system of the Qur'anic learnings whose axis is of real originality, and whose chain links are of obvious connection and arrangement.
The Order of the Learnings of the Qur'an
Therefore, the system of the Qur'anic learnings can be arranged as below:
It covers knowing Allah and studying monotheism and Allah's Divine Attributes and Universal Acts.
It covers studying the universe: (The Earth, the heavens, and the stars), atmospheric phenomena: (thunder, lightening, wind, rain, etc.) and terrestrial phenomena: (mountains, seas, etc.), including, at the same time: Divine Throne, Divine Omniscience, angels, jinn and the Satan.
Obviously, after studying the Universal Acts of Allah, which will be dealt with in the first section, the turn. will be for the study of the details of creation and management. Naturally, the study of the creation of the world comes before the study of the creation of man.
It covers the creation of man, the specialities of the spirit, man's dignity and honour, bearing responsibility and its conditions: (awareness, ability to work, freewill, etc.), the different dimensions of man's entity, divine laws for the management of the individual and the society, resurrection and the final destiny of man.
It will be realized in this part that life in this world is a preliminary step to the Hereafter life, and is a stage in which man must himself choose, of his own free will, his way to happiness and make his own fate. The Divine management in this world revolves around securing the preliminary steps (affliction and trials) to be chosen.
4. Recognizing the way:
That is, one is to obtain ordinary knowledge (different common intuitive and acquired knowledge), and extraordinary knowledge (inspiration, revelation, etc.). Questions like prophethood, the necessity of sending prophets, their objectives and their positions (as prophets, messengers and Imams), questions dealing with miracles, infallibility, and, finally, the succession of the prophets (Imamate in its particular meaning) will be dealt with.
The connection between this section and the previous one is obvious, as, after knowing that man is a selective creature, and that he must freely choose his way, the topic of this section will be "the necessity of recognizing the way."
5. Recognizing the guide:
It covers the history of the prophets, the merits of every one of them, the Books that had been revealed to them and their contents, ending with the history of the noble Prophet of Islam and the events that happened during his lifetime. Meanwhile, the history of the nations and other episodes mentioned by the Qur'an will be discussed therein.
The depending of this section on the previous one is also obvious, as, having realized that there were revelation and prophethood, there would emerge the necessity of recognizing the persons who had been chosen to receive the revelation and convey it to the people.
6. Knowing the Qur'an:
It covers knowing general information about the Qur'an and its characteristics, such as: the objective of its revelation, how it was revealed, its miraculous nature, its universality, its everlastingness, its style of expression (logical inference, preaching, argument, exemplification, narration, etc.). It is obvious that this section also depends on the previous one, as, after having discussed the old heavenly Books, the turn would be for the last revealed Book which is to remain eternal.
7. Ethics or the making of man by the Qur'an:
This covers discussions about knowing oneself; the making of man, the good and bad in the freewill actions of man, and their relation to perfection and final happiness; the method of the Qur'anic education and purifieation (awakening of the motives for good deeds by warning and glad tidings); the role of faith and action and their connection to knowledge; and, at last, the details of virtues and evils. Consequently, this section comes after knowing the Qur'an, where we conclude that the objective of the Qur'an is purification [of the soul] and education. The purification requires discussing ethics and self-making.
8. The devotional programmes of the Qur'an:
This covers studies on salat [Islamic ritual prayer], sawm [fasting], hajj [Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca], sacrifice, invocation and praising Allah, i.e. acts whose basic pillar is the strengthening of man's connection with Allah, though including many social interests.
9. The Qur'anic precepts concerning the individual:
This covers discussing subjects such as: halal [the lawful] and haram [the forbidden] in respect of the eatables and the drinkables (food and drink), games, slaughtering, luxury and beautification.
10. The Qur'anic precepts concerning the society:
This section covers social, legal, political and economic arguments which are divided into the following divisions:
a. Civil laws
b. Economic laws
c. Judicial laws
d. Penal code
e. Political regulations
f. International laws
As an introduction to this section, the society will be dealt with from the Qur'anic point of view.
In the last three sections, the Qur'anic practical programme, concerning relations with Allah, with one-self and with the others, are discussed with reference to the teachings of this heavenly Book in respect of each of them.
Thus, the learnings of the Qur'an start from the very beginning of existence, then go forward to orderly deal with the stages of creation and Divine management, ending with explaining the merits of the ideal society. In all stages the connection with the original axis, Allah, is completely preserved.
Notes on Knowing Allah
Before discussing the original subject, it is necessary to be aware of a few points:
1. There are two ways for knowing a being: personal and general. The personal knowledge of the tangibles is acquired through senses and takes place in the form of a sensory understanding, while in respect of intangibles, it is acquired only through intuition and vision. But as regards a general knowledge about all beings, it is effected by means of intellectual concepts.
This knowledge, in fact, concerns the natures and titles of all beings, though the individuals and persons are occasionally labelled by it. For example, man's awareness of himself (the understanding "I"), and of his inner powers, actions and psychological emotions, such as his will and egoism, are of the personal and intuitive knowledge, whereas his awareness of the colours he sees and the sounds he hears, are of personal and sensory.
Knowing Hasan, Husayn and Taqi, as human beings (i.e. living beings of reasoning faculty and other human characteristics), is a general knowledge which principally concerns the nature of "man", but is incidentally ascribed to save Hasan, Husayn, etc. Similarly, knowing the electricity as an energy that changes into light and heat, and is the cause of many other material phenomena, is a general knowledge which, principally, belongs to a general title, but incidentally is ascribed to a particular electricity.
Two Types of Knowing Allah
Two types of knowing Allah can be imagined: The intuitive knowing which is fulfilled without the intermediation of mental concepts. The other is the general knowing which is fulfilled by means of the rational concepts, and does not directly belong to Allah.
The knowledge, which is achieved by way of rational proofs, is a general and acquired knowledge attained to through mental concepts. Yet, if a visionary and intuitive knowledge takes place, it will be known without the intermediation of mental concepts. Probably, the prevision mentioned in certain ayahs and narratives is this very visionary knowledge. It is also possible that Allah cannot be recognized except through His own self refers to the same knowledge.
The contexts of some other narratives can also be regarded likewise.
Admitting this point would protect our minds against a prejudgement on the ayahs concerning recognizing Allah, by taking them as general and as mental knowing of Him. They are to be better scrutinized lest some of them might refer to the presence of Allah through heart intuition, which may happen consciously or half-consciously. It is of the intuitive kind of knowledge.
Naturally, the intuitive knowledge can neither be learnt nor taught. Learning and teaching are practised by means of words and concepts which insert certain meanings into the minds of the listeners and thinkers. The intuitive knowledge is not an intellectual meaning and can neither be conveyed nor received. Even the Qur'anic declarations cannot, by themselves, grant us intuitive and visionary knowledge, but they can guide us along the road which helps us to get to intuitively know Allah, the Exalted, or to bring our unconscious, or half-conscious, knowledge up to the level of conscious knowledge.
So, we have to answer this question: does the Qur'an aim at giving man a general idea about Allah, the Exalted, His Names and His Attributes, like that which is taught by the philosophers and theologians, or does it have another loftier aim - i.e., does it acquaint us with Allah and guide us to the intuitive and visionary knowledge?
2. The names and the words which refer to Allah in the diverse languages are of two kinds: some are "particular names", or "proper names", and some are used as names or general attributes". Sometimes a word is used in two forms: as a "proper name", or as a "general name", since there seems to be a kind of verbal communion between them, such as the word "GOD". In the Arabic language, the Glorified Name, "Allah", is used as a proper name or a personal pronoun, and "Ar-Rahman" [The Beneficent], is His Exclusive Attribute.
As to his other Names and Attributes they have no such exclusiveness, and, as such, they can be grouped and used for other than Allah, such as "rabb, pl. arbab" [master(s), owner(s)]", ilah, pl. alihah" [god(s)], khaliq, pl. khaliqun" [creator(s)] and "rahim, pl. ruhama and rahimun" [merciful].
In the Qur'an we find such qualities as "ra'uf" [kind] and "rahim", attributed to the Prophet (S.A.): "(he is) kind and merciful to the believers". 
3. The proper name might have been assigned to a particular being from the beginning , with no previous common name, though, before using it as a proper name, it might have been used as a general name or attribute, such as Muhammad and 'Ali, which had not formerly been used attributively. Such names, in their new position as proper names belong to the first group.
Consequently, the Glorious Word "Allah", whether aplastic or derived, when used as a proper name, it exclusively refers to the Divine Sacred Being. But, as His Sacred Being is not visible, He is introduced by way of an exclusive epithet that cannot be used to describe other than Allah, such as: "The Being All-Inclusive of all attributes of perfection", yet, it does not mean that the word "Allah" is intended to cover the total of these concepts. So, any research about the matter and form of this word would not help us to know any more of the meaning of the word as a personal knowledge.
4. Although the Persian word for Allah, "Khuda", is said to be the abbreviation of "Khud-aa", which is equivalent to "the One whose existence is necessay' or "the Necessary Being" there are some other similar ones, like "Khudawand" and "KadKhuda", one may declare that it means "The Owner" or "The Proprietor", while its common meaning is like "The Creator" or "The Originator".
The most common word used in the Qur'an to denote God is "Ilah" and "Rabb", the first of which is used even in the slogan of monotheism: "La ilaha illallah" (there is no god but Allah). It is, then, suitable to offer an explanation regarding these two words: "Ilah, though on the measure of "fi'al", has the meaning of "maf'ul" , like "Kitab" which means "maktub". So, linguistically it means "ma'bud" [The Worshipped]. One can also add that "Ilah", like many other derivatives, denotes status and meritoriousness. Thus, He can be said to be "worthy of worshipping". So, in the slogan "la ilaha illallah", there would be no need to think of a relevant attribute.
Here, another question may be asked: If "Ilah" means "the One worthy of worshipping", why then it is used in the Qur'an to denote the false deities such as "the Samiri's calf", which is referred to as "your Ilah", or Pharaoh's deities which are referred to as "your Ilahs"? The answer is that such uses are either according to the beliefs of the addressees, or uttered by the disbelievers - the case in which it means "the thing which, according to the listener's, or the speaker's, belief, is worthy of worshipping". Thus, even in such instances the Intended meaning of the word is also "worthiness", though from the point of view of the addressee or the addresser.
As to "rabb", which means "educator", "nourisher" or "breeder", originally meant "the owner", as is gathered from the Arabic phrase: "rabbul-ibil" [the owner of the camels], or "rabbud-dar" [the owner of the house] although it can be related, through "the grand derivation", to the root "to bring up", yet it does not exactly mean that. Therefore, translating it into "rearer" is not quite suitable, and using it for Allah, the Exalted is because He is "the Owner" of His creatures, and needs no genetic nor legal permission from anybody to deal with them and manage their affairs.
So, believing in one's "ownership" means believing in one's independent and needless of permission from anybody to do whatever one likes to what one owns. Believing in the oneness of the "owner" means believing that it is only Allah who can, independently and without any permission, dispose of all His creatures (the whole world) and manage their affairs.
Looking into the meanings of "ilah and "rabb, we realize that the former is a carollary to the latter, as worship and servitude are practised by the one who believes that the worshipped must have an independent mastery, domination and absolute ownership over the servant, inasmuch as to benefit or harm him.
The Rational Evidences in the Qur'an on Allah's Existence
The first question that is asked in respect of the Qur'anic knowledge of Allah is whether the Qur'an could prove the existence of Allah. A good number of the exegesists of the Qur'an, especially those versed in theology, could locate numerous ayahs in the Qur'an that prove the existence of Allah, regarding their import to be evidences that depend on the order of the universe.
On the other hand, another group of commentators believe that the glorious Qur'an made it needless to prove the existence of Allah, and, thus, it did not care to prove it.
This group believes that the evidences brought about by the first group are either to prove monotheism and deny polytheism, or they are not to be regarded as proofs in the Qur'an, and that it was the commentators who used parts of the Qur'an together with some other introductions to show them as evidences.
Indirect Proving of Allah's Existence
Correct and documented judgment concerning this subject naturally depends on strict and all-embracing study, which cannot be accommodated in this concise discussion. What can be said to bring together these two opinions is that the Qur'an might not have directly tried to prove the existence of Allah, because it regarded the idea of His existence as to be so self-evident that it needed no argumentation, or because it encountered no serious dangers, and so it did not find it wise to discuss a topic which could arise some doubts and controversies.
Yet, it is possible to find out in the declarations of the Qur'an some evidences on the subject. It is even not impossible that the Qur'an itself indirectly takes care of them. For example, it is not contradictory that an ayah may directly aim at proving the oneness of Allah, and indirectly prove the very existence of Allah, too. Or an ayah, by way of defying those who did not believe in the prophethood of the Prophet (S.A.) and denied it, may refer to a subject which indirectly proves the existence of Allah, too. For instance, the Qur'an, arguing with the disbelievers who refrain from believing in the noble Prophet (S.A.), puts forth a number of ensuring questions: "Or were they created without there being any thing, or are they the creators?"
There is no doubt that the ayah is not openly intended to prove the existence of Allah, yet it can be a tacit proof on that. That is, a human being must have either been created by himself, without having a creator, he himself had created himself, or he must have a creator. The invalidity of the first and second suppositions is obvious and no sane person can accept them. So, the third supposition must inevitably be regarded as correct, i.e. man has a creator.
This inference is based on the fact that the meaning of "thing" in the noble ayah is "creator" , that is: were those disbelievers created without there being any creator, or were they the creators of themselves? Naturally, neither of these two notions is correct, and the answer to both questions is negative. So, they must believe that there was a creating god. But there are two other possibilities in respect of the sense of "thing". one is that it means a "previous matter", i.e. were they created without there being a previous matter? The other is that it means "a goal", i.e. were they created without any objective? It seems that neither of these two senses befits the next question: were they the creator of themselves? It is not that whether they had been created without a previous matter or with no goal.
Actually, it coincides with such a question as: were they created without a creator, or did they create themselves? It may be that the reason for not putting the question like this: "Do they have no creator or are they themselves creators?" is that a stress is wanted on "were created" so as to make more the invalidity of both suppositions more clear. Therefore, as we realize that the Qur'an did not present the question of the existence of Allah as a problem, and did not try to directly prove it, we also realize that it requires that it should not, even indirectly and tacitly, refer to its proof, too, inasmuch as we may not be able to obtain even preparatory inferential steps.
It is to be noted that the rational evidences, whether in the Qur'an or in the discourses of the philosophers, prove the existence of Allah by way of mental concepts, which result in a total and acquired knowledge. For example, the evidence showing the movement in the world proves the existence of a mover for the world, and the evidence showing the order of the universe proves the existence of Allah as the organizer of that order, and then other evidences prove His existence as Creator, Maker, the Necessary Being, the Perfect, the Absolute, and afterwards, the evidences of monotheism prove that all these total titles prove but only a single thing - that Allah is One.
As to the evidences of Allah's Attributes, they also affirm His Attributes of perfection and negate all defects from Him, and final conclusion comes to:
"There exists the Being Who possesses Knowledge, Power, Life, and has, no limitations, such as time, place and the like, and it is He Who is the Creator of the universe and man." This is a knowledge that concerns a totality confined to a single One, and it is an in-absentia knowledge of "Being" and of "Him"
Here this question presents itself. Does the Qur'an say anything about knowing Allah, the Exalted visually and personally? We may get the positive answer to this question from "Ayatul-Fitrah and Ayatul-Mithaq.
Knowing Allah Through One's Fitrah (Nature)
Before entering the discussion about the two ayahs of al-Fitrah" and "al-Mithaq, it is worthy to give some explanations concerning the word fitrah (nature) ["disposition" or "invateness:"]: The word "fitrah" is an infinitive of kind, denoting the kind of creation, though commonly used in respect of human beings. Usually it refers to something which is an innate constitution of man. It is God-given, and not acquired, and more or less common to all human individuals. Consequently, it is inclusive of all man's God-given views and tendencies.
Fitrah has many idiomatic usages in logic and philosophy. But only three of these idiomatic meanings concern our purpose:
1. That which denotes that the quest for Allah is one of man's innate wants. The proof evidencing this allegation is that man, during the entire history, and disregarding his racial, geographical and educational differences, was in quest of Allah. A sort of religion and a belief in the existence of a creator-god have always prevailed among the people. 2. That which denotes that knowing Allah is a natural kind of knowledge, by which we mean the two kinds of knowledge: the acquired Knowledge of Allah, and the intuitive Knowledge of Allah.
a. By the innately acquired Knowledge of Allah we mean the fact that the human intellect needs not to exert itself in believing in the existence of Allah, as it very easily realizes that the existence of man and all other natural phenomena need Allah. Thus, there must be a needless Allah who can meet his own being needs.
b. By the innately intuitive Knowledge of Allah we mean the fact that the human heart has a deep connection with its Creator. When man looks deep into his heart he will discern that connection. But most of the people give little heed, if any, to that cordial connection, especially when they are too busy in their everyday engagements to do so. But when their hopes are taken away from everything and are cut off all means, they can recognize that connection.
3. That which denotes that worshipping Allah is an innate inclination, and that man is motivated by his nature to demand to worship Allah, to pay homage, and submit to Him.
It is clear that the Fitrah, in its first and third meanings, is a kind of inner inclination and tropism, and has no direct connection with knowledge. But, as to the second meaning, it is a kind of knowledge, either intellectually acquired or through a visual intuition. The first is, actually, obtained through reasoning and proofs. Now as its proofs are almost self-evident, it is called the innately acquired knowledge, while the innately intuitive knowledge is that which we intend to explain.
"Then set your face for religion as the one by nature upright-Allah's nature of which He had made man. There is no altering of Allah's creation. That is the right religion, but most people do not know. In this ayah the full attention is first drawn to the religion, then there is an intimation to the fact that this is in complete accordance with the nature which Allah, the Exalted has put into man, and which is unalterable. Then, it is said that it was the upright religion. Finally, it is noted that the majority of the people are ignorant of that fact.
Now, the argument is about: what is this natural thing? Is it knowing Allah, worshipping Him, or is it something else? If the "natural thing" means the very cordial, intuitive knowledge, it will coincide with the matter we formerly referred to, and which is backed by the narratives which regard the context of this ayah to be identical to that of Ayatul-Mithaq, whose explanation will come later on. But , if it means the intellectual knowledge, it will have little connection with what is being discussed. This latter opinion, however, is rather weak. Another commentary on this ayah says that the general ideologic thoughts and laws, such as monotheism, worshipping Allah, caring for the deprived, establishing equity and justice in the society and other basic Islamic questions, coincide with man's innate nature, and are in harmony with his human wants, insight and tendencies.
According to this commentary, knowing Allah and worshipping Him are natural as mentioned in the said ayah. Another commentary, which is near to the above one, says that the actual meaning of religion is nothing but submission and obedience to Allah, the Exalted, shown in diverse forms of worship, and carrying out His instructions and laws. This is understood from the very word "Islam". "Surely the religion with Allah is Islam..." By saying that religion is natural we mean that having an inclination to worship Allah and to submit to the Lord is an inclination deeply-rooted in the constitutional nature of man. Everybody wants by nature to get nearer to the Absolute Perfect, while the diversive and polytheistic questions are the production of incorrect inspirations and education, or of ignorance and bad applications: "Every child is born up to nature..."
According to this commentary, the ayah does not directly refer to knowing Allah, but it can be said that the naturalness of God-worshipping necessitates the existence of some sort of natural knowledge of Allah, the Exalted, as man should know Allah in order to worship Him. Should the tendency to worship Allah be natural, knowing Him should also be natural. In this respect there is in Al-Kafi a narrative quoted from the Imam al-Baqir (A.S.), commenting on the said ayah, which says: "He had made them to know Him."
"And when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their backs, their offsprings, and made them bear witness against themselves: Am I not your Lord? They said: Yes, we bear witness. Lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: We were heedless of this." This ayah is one of the most difficult ones to interpret and requires extensive discussions on diverse grounds. But to handle them all would take us away from our intended objective. What can be clearly obtained from this noble ayah is that everybody has a kind of knowledge of Allah, the Exalted, and which can be described to have occurred like this: Allah asked them: "Am I not your Lord? They replied: "Yes, we bear witness". This conversation is carried out in such a way that they are deprived of any excuse of committing mistakes in practice.
Consequently, on the Day of Resurrection, no one would have the excuse to say that he had no knowledge of His Divine Lordship, or that they had only followed their fathers and ancestors in worshipping other deities besides Allah, as a pretext for their deviation and polytheism.
It seems that such intuitive conversing and excuse-denying, which refute even mispractising, cannot take place except by way of intuitive knowledge and vision. This is supported by many narratives that refer to discerning and eying. A narrative of this kind, quoted from the Imam al-Baqir (A.S.), says: "...He made them to know Him and showed Himself to them, as otherwise one could not have known one's Lord." Also in the expression of 'Ali al-Qummi, quoting ibn Maskan, it is said that he had asked the Imam as-Sadiq (A.S.): "Was it real eying?" He said: "Yes."
In "Al-Mahasin by al-Barqi, quoting the Imam as-Sadiq (A.S.) as he has said: "...otherwise no one would have known who his creator and sustainer is." This gives one to understand that the noble ayah refers to a personal knowledge, not to a general one, which occurs through abstractive mental concepts. Personal knowledge of Allah cannot occur except through intuitive and visionary knowledge. Had it meant a general knowledge acquired by means of mental inference, it should have been expressed like this: "...otherwise no one could have known that he had a creator, not who his creator was.
In short, this ayah gives us to realize that knowing Allah by nature does not mean that intuitive and visionary knowledge of Allah, the Exalted is accessible to everybody. This knowledge of Allah, the Exalted is accessible to everybody. This knowledge, however, is a semiconscious one, which may become fully conscious on severing one's material relations and strengthening spiritual inclinations. With the holy people it reaches a stage when they say: " "Can anyone else be more manifest than You are?" and "I do not worship a god whom I do not see."
Probably the objective of many Qur'anic ayahs is to draw attention to this natural knowledge and let hearts be more acquainted with Allah. For example, having drawn the attention to the phenomenon of life, it says: "...such is Allah, how then are you perverted?" It seems that contemplating the living creatures prepares the heart to see the hand of Allah in the nature and feel His presence. Once again having mentioned many divine signs in the same surah, it says: "Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no god save Him..." The import of knowing Allah as an inward nature speaks, in fact, of the connection between man as a being with the Creator of existence. This kind of knowledge shown by a creature and his faculty of understanding it are inseparable. Thus, to describe it as to be "natural" is quite true. Such vision does not belong only to the principle of the existence of the Creator, but it also belongs to all affairs of the above-mentioned connection, including His State of Lordship , as indicated by us in g the word "rabb" [Lord ] in Ayatul-Mithaq, i.e.
in this vision both the Existence of Allah and His State of Lordship are proved. Had there been a similar existential connection between man and another being, it would have been visible. So, this knowledge refers to "Allahs Oneness", too. That is why there can be no excuse for associating another deity with Him: Or lest you should say: our fathers did associate others (with Allah)..." As Divinity and being worshipped are worthy only of the one who is the Creator and the Lord, it is evident that none other than "Allah", who is innately discerned, may be worthy of being worshipped. Consequently, it can be said that unification of creativity, Lordship and divinity is something natural. The Imam as. Sadiq (A.S.) had been quoted in many narratives in "Al-Kafi" to have said: "He created them [the creatures] on monotheism". Probably the following ayah refers to this, too: "Did I not charge you, O children of Adam, that you should not whorship the Satan? He is, indeed, your open enemy, and that you should worship Me. Here is the straight path,", taking into consideration that "the straight path" is that which is shown by the human nature - worshipping the Only One God, Allah. The worshipping of any one else is deviation and turning from the straight path of human nature.
It had already been said that the intuitive knowledge of Allah could be understood from the ayahs of al-Fitrah and al-Mithaq. It had also been said that the content of Ayatul-Mithaq confirmed that Allah, the Exalted had made all the children of Adam witnesses against themselves, and they did so and confessed that their Lord is "Allah". This, as it were, face-to-face conversation between them and Allah, and Allah's asking them: "Am I not your Lord?" and their reply: "Yes", leaves no excuse for the children of Adam to take to polytheism, and to say that they knew nothing of such a truth, nor can they pretend to have followed the wake of their ancestors who had adopted idolatry, and they followed them unaware, and, therefore, they should not be punished for that. Such a pretext cannot be accepted after that Allah had such a face-to-face talk with the children of Adam.
It had also been said that this ayah was difficult to be interpreted, that is, the commentators had different ideas about its parts and their relation to each other, and they also differed in explaining the gist of its meaning. Some even said that they understood nothing from the ayah and that it was one of the allegorical ayahs of the Qur'an that should be left to the versed authorities to explain.
Yet, it is fair to say that, although there is some ambiguity in this ayah, which is, in fact, of the allegorical ones, but this does not mean that nothing can be derived from the allegorical ayahs, and that their allegories can never be clarified. Actually, by thorough scrutinizing these two ayahs the above-mentioned subject can easily be understood. Should there be any difficulty, it would be due to our insufficient understanding of their truths. The ayah clearly says that Allah had a face-to-face meeting with individuals; asking everyone of them "Am I not your Lord?" to which they gave answer: "Yes, You are our Lord". This meeting with them individually deprived the idolaters from their excuse saying: "We were unmindful of At-tawhid [monotheism] and the worship of the One, as following our ancestors caused us to be idolaters.
So, the sin is our fathers' and we ourselves are not to be blamed." None of such excuses would be acceptable. They would be told: "you should have paid your attention to this fact. You cannot be excused for neglecting such a truth, nor can following your ancestors be an excuse, as you can very well realize it." Undoubtedly, the ayah wants to express these things. The ambiguity is in the fact that we ourselves have no idea about our face-to-face meeting with Allah, and that Allah had asked us: " Am I not your Lord?", and that we said: "Yes". We do not remember such an incident, and it is difficult for us to accept it. Otherwise, there is no doubt about what the ayah says. Many questions can be asked on this occasion: In which world and under what conditions did that questioning and answering happen? Did it happen collectively or individually? And so on.
The reason for referring to this ayah in this respect is that the mentioned conversation was not done in absentia and from behind a curtain. If a voice rises from somewhere asking: "Am I not so and so?" and you answer: "Yes, you are", it will be insignificant, as you may later say that you were wrong. It should be in such a way that allows no mistake, as otherwise you would have your excuse. Suppose it was Satan who called out: "Am I not your Lord?" and somebody thought him to be God, and replied: "Yes", it would be an error, i.e. a mere voice that enters our ears cannot definitely tell us who it was. The conversation which deprives you from an excuse and leaves no room for any misunderstanding is that in which you can see your addressee and definitely recongize him, as otherwise, just hearing a voice from behind a curtain cannot refute your excuse. So, the ayah alleges that such a conversation did take place between Allah and man, such that no excuse can be acceptable. Any excuse presented by man on the Resurrection Day to Allah that "I could not recognize You and did not worship You because of such and such reasons" would be refused. But this refusal cannot be acceptable without witnesses and actual comprehension.
Man must know Allah Himself and get a sort of knowledge of Him that causes. no mis-application. This is confirmed by many narratives which are received from the Pure Imams (A.S.) by the way of commenting on the said ayah. They are identical in their contents and trusted by authority. For instance, there are narratives in "Usulul-Kafi", the exegesis of 'Ali ibn Ibrahim, "Al-Burhan" exegesis , "Nuruth-Thaqalayn" exegesis and in other books of narratives, to the effect that Imam as-Sadiq (A.S.) or, the Imam al-Baqir (A.S.) (most of the narratives are quoted from these two Imams) was asked whether this conversation had taken place "through eye-witnessing"? He said: "Yes, but the knowledge remained and the situation was forgotten." As to how the eye-witnessing took place, the world in which it took place, its time, etc., they are details that have nothing to do with our topic, although they are misty and ambiguous. But, as regards the original subject there is no ambiguity as the ayah presents it. We regard it to be applicable to the intuitive world.
It must be noted, however, that when we talk about seeing, witnessing and the like in respect of Allah, the Exalted, we positively do not mean seeing by the eyes and feeling by the senses. Actually we mean the heart-discerning and intuitive witnessing, which are expressed in different styles.
Commenting on the said ayah Imam 'Ali (A.S.) said: "Otherwise no one would have known who his Creator and Sustainer is".
If man could have visionary knowledge he would not be able to understand the fact that there is somebody who does a special work, suppose you did not observe the builders of a building which at work 'nor the workers making something with his hands yet on seeing the building on the thing you can immediately realize that there must have been somebody had done them. By studying the features of the construction you can gather some knowledge about the constructor. The degree of its beauty, precision and artistry denotes the degree of the cleverness and the knowledge of the maker. Up to this stage you will be able to recognise the effective through its effect. But you cannot find out who the maker was. Through your inferences you are unable Lo know the very person who made it.
So, the inferences of the intellect can tell us that the world had been made by Wise Maker, Powerful Creator, Unbeatable Creator. Yet, these are concepts of general meanings: somebody is creator, powerful, knowing, wise, but who is it? The answer cannot be told by mental inference. Had it not been for our intuitive connection with Allah we could not have known Allah. We could only know that the world had a Creator. One can know the Creator in person only when one had, in some way recognised Him. Otherwise, it would be just a general knowledge of Him. We want to draw the attention to the strictness of the wording of the narrative. It is different to say: "Otherwise no one would know (or realize, or learn) that he has a Creator", or to say: "Otherwise no one would know who his Creator is".
It may sometimes be said that had it not been for that, no one would have known that the world had a Creator, or sometimes it is said that had it not been for that no one would have known who the Creator of the world was. None of the narratives said: "Had it not been for such a conversation and facing, no one would have known that the world had a Creator", because, even if it had not happened, the human intellect could have realized that the world had a Creator. It could even understand the Creator's Attributes, but it could not have known Him. So, the conversation created a connection between the heart and Allah such that when man looks deep into his heart finds his Lord, not that he knows that there is a Creator.
If man, by Allah's help, could fully concentrate his attention on contemplating and praying, becoming cut off everything save Allah, he would be able to discern Allah before himself, to hear His speech, and to be in a mood in which he sees Allah - not that he would say from behind a curtain: "O You who are high above the earth and the heavens, and manage the world," in fact, he would see Him in front of him and hear His words and hear His words Amirul-Mu'minin ['Ali] (A.S.), commenting on the ayah: Men whom neither trading nor commercing. distracts from remembering Allah", says: "There are some people who are devoted to the remembrance of Allah." Counting the attributes of "the people of remembrance" he also says: "...there have been persons with whom...Allah whispered through their wits...", that is, instead of the servant whispering to Allah, the Imam (A.S.) says that Allah Himself whispered to the. servant. There are persons who can hear the secret talk of Allah. Such things do happen. Man is so great that he can attain to such positions. Actually, they are not confined to the prophets and the impeccables (A.S.). The true followers of the prophets and the impeccables (A.S.) can also attain such positions. The prophets had come to extend a helping hand to the people to pull them towards themselves and to get them nearer to their own positions.
This ayah tells us that man has a kind of intuitive knowledge of Allah, which acquaints him with Him. This is exactly like a clever mason whose artistic work you witness with your eyes, i.e. this mason is the one who constructs such a building. Then, when you see somewhere else another building with similar features and artifice, you remember that mason whom you had seen at work, and tell yourself that it must be the same mason who built this one, too. You take the features to be your witness.
If a man is acquainted with Allah, knows Him and has seen the effects of His wisdom, his heart will be drawn to this one whom he saw and was acquainted with. Only then the heart will be attracted, and only then it will be able to perform real worshipping.
In other words, if somebody wants to know a being who is absent, he has first to know his attributes. This ayah says that everybody knows Allah in his heart, and when he sees His effects his knowledge of Him is animated. This knowledge is intuitive not acquired, and yet it does not attract our attention. Whenever it catches our attention the said knowledge occurs to us and is revived. The narrative says that had it not been for that scene no one could have known who his Creator was; that is, he could have known well that he had a Creator, but he could not have known who He was, as he had never seen Him.
Yet, as this knowledge is visionary, when the reason says that the world has a Creator, one remembers that the Creator is the one he had already known.
Therefore, depending on this point of view, which is backed by so many narratives and which is not a personal point of view, we may say that: The Qur'an confirms that man does know Allah intuitively and visionally.
Another point which is worth mentioning in this respect is that this vision, besides giving man to recognize the principle of the existence of Allah, that is, besides man finding out that there is a God, it further helps him to know some other points as well, such as the Attributes of Allah. One of these Attributes is His Lordship.
The visionary knowledge takes place in such a way that man finds out not only who his Creator is, but he also finds out that it is He Who owns him, has his will and manages his life. The phrase expressing this scene in the Qur'an is His interrogation: "Am I not your Lord?" He does not ask: "Am I not your Creator?" It is more like asking: "Am I not your Lord in whose hands are your lives? Am I not the one Who owns your entire existence? By their saying: "Yes" not only His Attribute as Creator is proved, but His Lordship, too. In addition to that, His Oneness is also proved, i.e. that there is no other one who can be Creator and Lord except Him.
The conclusion of the discussion, then, is that the intuitive and visionary knowledge is a kind of knowledge existing between man and Allah (in the philosophic term: The Giver of Life) through which man discerns the cause of Divine profusion, the union of the existence. The meaning of the intuitive knowledge is that I see the genetic connection between my existence and Allah. Towards whom such an intuitive knowledge happens to me? Towards the one with whom I have this connection. It is a kind of coherence and attachment that is intuitively discerned. Whenever there is such an attachment, it can be seen, but if it is not there, no intuitive knowledge can take place at all. When the existent attachment is intuitively seen, it is so, disregarding the subject of the attachment. In this instant, one discerns only one's own attachment with "Allah". Had it been with something else, one should have discerned it, too.
For example, a lamp is attached by means of a wire to the ceiling and thus it is connected to the ceiling, and the connector is the wire. If somebody is not blind, and if the necessary conditions for seeing are there, and if he cares to look, he can see what is there, i.e. if the lamp is connected to the ceiling with a single wire, he will only see that single wire. If it is a twin wire, he will see them, and if they are three wires, he will see them three. So anybody who is capable of seeing can see whatever is there. The connection between us and Allah is a genetic and real one. i.e. our existence is connected to Him and belongs to Him, the same as our actions and psychological conditions are connected to us and belong to us.
You may visualize an image in your mind. It may be visualized by some other person, too, without his being aware of what is there in your mind. Now think of an apple-tree in your mind. Can there be such an image of an apple-tree without there being a mind? Of course not. In fact, it is connected to your mind and belongs to it. There is even a stronger connection between the whole world and Allah, the Exalted. This is said only to simplify the idea, as, in fact, we cannot understand the reality of the connecting attachment between man and Allah, or between the world and Him. Now, had there been such a connection between man and two Gods - God forbid! - that is if we had two creators, we should have seen our intuitive connection with two Gods, too. But, as in such an intuitive vision only single God is seen, it proves, that besides Him there is no Lord at all. So, this visionary discerning proves both the existence of Allah and His Lordship. That is in this scene, one sees his relation to Allah like the relation of a mental vision to the mind which imagines it.
Actually, it depends on one's inclination. If your mind is inclined towards the apple-tree, then its image is there, but if you divert from it, there can be no such image. The very consistency of its existence depends on your own will and inclination. All the world, in connection with Allah, is explained in the same way. If He willed and cared for the world, it would be there, and if He lifted His care off the world, it is nothing, there would be no world.
"If she coquettishly turns away, all the moulds collapse." If one realizes that his existence is connected to Allah, that it is in His powerful hands, and that if He wishes him to be he will be, and if He does not, He will not be, one will be understanding the truth about Allah's Lordship and that our existence is at His disposal. He is our Lord, which means He owns us and our existence is from Him. If He wants we shall be, and if He does not, we shall not be:
His command, when He wills anything, is only to say to it: 'Be!' so it is." The connection of the world's existence to Allah, the Exalted, (is just like to say: "Be!" and it is, or: "Not to be!" or not to say: "Be!" and it is not. We had seen this situation in the world mentioned by the Qur'an, but we forgot it now. Maybe Allah assist us to bring it to perfection so that the intuitive knowledge becomes a conscious one, and then we shall find that our existence is connected to Allah in the same way. We have no independence of our own. We are bound to His will.
In other words, everything other than Allah is the crystallization of His Will. It is His Will that the world should exist. Had it not been for His Will there would have been nothing. Man can discern this through his intuition, and he had already seen it in some world - a world which is called by some scholars "'Alamudh-Dhar", or "The world of the Covenant". In that world Allah asked: "Am I not your Lord?" that was a covenant with His servants.
As to how it happened, what kind of world it was, we know nothing, since we know only this natural world. We cannot comprehend what kind of a world it was, what kind of a conversation took place and how it happened. These are the features of the ambiguity of this ayah, according to some scholars. It is, however, caused by our insufficient understanding of the metaphysics. Yet, as a result of the said witnessing and conversation, knowing Allah, His Lordship and His Oneness had been established. That is why some narratives stress that this ayah is a proof of man's natural belief of monotheism: "He moulded them on monotheism" .
In the comments on Ayatul-Fitrah of Suratur-Rum and Ayatul Mithaq of Suratul-'A'raf, it is said: These two ayahs denote that Allah had moulded the people as worshippers of the One-a fact which necessitates that they should know Allah and His Lordship status, as well as His worshipability and Oneness. Thus, some narratives say: "He made them such as to know there is no Lord but He".
Therefore, it may be said that this ayah proves the natural intuitive knowledge of Allah. As we said, natural knowledge is of two concepts: knowing Allah by means of reasoning, which is obtained through general concepts; and knowing Allah by means of intuitive vision, which is obtained through heart-witnessing.
Consequently, the ayah is an evidence confirming that such heart-witnessed and intuitive vision of Allah had happened to man sometime, and it still has its effects which refute our excuse. That is, when we want to know Allah, we are like the one who, on seeing the craftsmanship of an architect, remembers similar works by an architect whom one had known before.
In this case, one cannot allege that these works belong to some other architect. Similarly, our hearts, which had been acquainted with Allah, the One, have no excuse for associating any other deity with Him. It is true that attending to the world of matter and material means has extracted man's attention and weakened his intuitive knowledge of Allah, but, after the establishment of the intellectual proofs, and after the coming of the prophets with warnings and good tidings, there remains no excuse for man to say: "I thought that the creator of the heavens and the earth was an idol made of earned stone", nor has he the right to say: "...Our fathers associated others (with Allah) before and we were (their) offspring (who came) after them." They would be told: No, you had reason and you had been formerly acquainted with Allah and your hearts knew Him. So, you had no right to say that an idol made of dates or dried clay is worthy of worshipping.
This is the refutation of their excuse. Hence, this ayah says that Allah is known, through intuitive and visionary knowledge, to be the Creator of the world and the only worshipped deity.