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“It is He Who created you from a single human self...” (Al-A‘rāf 7:189–190)

by Fethullah Gülen on . Posted in Sūratu’l-A‘rāf (The Heights)

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هُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَجَعَلَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا لِيَسْكُنَ إِلَيْهَا ۖ فَلَمَّا تَغَشَّاهَا حَمَلَتْ حَمْلًا خَفِيفًا فَمَرَّتْ بِهِ ۖ فَلَمَّا أَثْقَلَت دَّعَوَا اللَّهَ رَبَّهُمَا لَئِنْ آتَيْتَنَا صَالِحًا لَّنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الشَّاكِرِينَ ۞ فَلَمَّا آتَاهُمَا صَالِحًا جَعَلَا لَهُ شُرَكَاءَ فِيمَا آتَاهُمَا ۚ فَتَعَالَى اللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَ
“It is He Who created you from a single human self, and made from it its mate, so that he (inclining with love towards his mate) may find rest in her. And so, when he has covered her, she conceives a light burden, and continues to bear it. Then, when she grows heavy (with child), both (feel the need to) turn to God, their Lord, with prayer: “If You indeed grant us a righteous child, we will most certainly be among the thankful.” Then when He grants the couple a righteous child, they begin to associate partners with God in respect of what He has granted them. Infinitely is He exalted above their association of partners with Him and whatever they associate with Him as partners.” (Al-A‘rāf 7:189–190)

It is a fact that although they do not do so as clearly as polytheists do, peo-ple of faith can also commit the sin of “associating partners with God.” As mentioned in the verse under discussion, excessive love of child is one of the different ways of “associating partners with God.” Today, instead of con-sidering our children as God’s trust to and gifts or bounties on us, we think and behave as if we were the true owners of our children and grandchil-dren. Moreover, we can sometimes neglect our prescribed Prayers for the sake of them. It is as if our love for them was greater than our love of God. While we must consider them as trust to us and love them in the name of God and for His sake, we are attached to them so deeply without thinking of God that we are probably involved in implicit association of partners with God Almighty. Therefore, we must behave according to the principle, “There cannot be two genuine loves in a heart,” and have a firm stand against association of partners with God. I admit that it is easy to say, but it is extremely difficult to put it into practice. Even so, we should strive to purify ourselves of “associating partners with God” and keep distant from the cases which include even a slight sign of it. Added to these efforts, the following prayer of God’s Messenger may be considered as a prescription: “My God! I take refuge in You from being involved in any kind of associating partners with You knowingly, and I ask for Your forgiveness for the things that I do unknowingly.”[1]

Love for children can be approached from another perspective: Human beings may not be accountable for their uncontrollable emotions. However, they are charged with balancing their natural feelings with religious principles and attitudes. For instance, people may feel the desire of over-eating and drinking, or they may desire an aristocratic lifestyle. Even becoming so passionate, they may behave without thinking of the end. Human beings are created stingy, hasty, and addicted to their desires. In other words, these characteristics exist in human nature. In addition, other contrasting characteristics such as vengeance, hatred, and enmity as well as love, affection, and humanity exist in human nature as well. These two kinds of feelings and tendencies are two different hallways leading to goodness and evil. Therefore, human beings should close the doors to the evil in their nature and control their evil thoughts and passions through religious thoughts and feelings so that they are able to attain the perfection for which they are created in accordance with their endowed capacity or potential to attain it. This is called “attaining the second nature” in religious terminology. In other words, human beings can direct their nature—which is potentially capable of being the lowest of the low—towards having a towering character (or a second nature) with all the good characteristics and thus have closer relationship with God.

To turn to the topic of love of children, this, too, exists in human nature. Parents cannot look after and bring up their children without this love; the result of such is that countries and humanity cannot progress. Indeed, there are many rebellious children around us, yet their parents still take care of them. If there was not this natural love and affection in parents’ hearts, the streets would be full of abandoned people. However, this natural love and affection, like other feelings, need to be amended with love of God, so that righteousness may be attained. Unless life is lived according to the principles laid by God and in connection with Him, deviation is inevitable. Because of this, love of God should develop and be rooted in every heart, primarily. This is dependent on practice. If a person says, “O God, I am sacrificing my property and children in Your cause,” without feeling it in their heart after spiritual education and experience, this can sometimes be hypocrisy or even a lie. All evil habits should be removed from the soul and all good characteristics should be repeatedly experienced so that Islam may be deeply rooted in our personality and becomes a part of our nature and so that our behavior may become natural. Otherwise, it will be impossible for us to get rid of dual thinking and dual living.

The verse under discussion shifts from Adam in person to the children of Adam (humankind), extending through time as individuals and communities. Being many in one, and having as much meaning and value as all beings, humanity has the potential to move past angels with respect to doing good deeds, on one hand, and to cause even Satan the accursed to regret his existence when it comes to destruction, on the other. Thus, the verse tells about one of the links of the chain of humanity in a style that describes the whole of humanity. When this point is understood, it becomes meaningless to ask which couple or family the verse refers to.

Humankind was created from a “self” that can be considered human nature and from which “its mate” was also created. Therefore, all human beings descended from a pair of “selves” identical to each other in terms of being human in character, contents, capacity, and value. In other words, the pairs were formed from the same elements, which compose the very substance of humankind. The Creator created the pairs as the two sides of a single entity that are in need of each other, complete each other, attain peace and contentment by means of each other, and feel and understand each other as they share the same life. Therefore, He returns the “seemingly plural” to the “singular” in content; thus, He reminds us of the principle of tawhīd (God’s Unity and unity in existence coming from It). Furthermore, reminding us of our creation, He prompts the feeling of gratitude in our consciousness, at the same time as He excites our minds with gratitude as well.

[1] Al-Munāwī, Faydu’l-Qadīr, 4/173; al-Qurtubī, al-Jāmiu li Ahkāmi’l-Qur’ān, 11/72.