When it comes to taking an oath, it is usually done in the name of someone comparatively higher, bigger or more significant. But, how is it that Allah Ta’ala has sworn by things in His creation that are inferior to Him in all conceivable respects?
It can be answered by saying that there simply is, nor can there be, any being or entity greater than Allah Ta’ala. When so, it is obvious that the oath of Allah Ta’ala cannot be like that of the common creation. Therefore, on occasions, Allah subhanahu wa Ta’ala has sworn by His own pristine Being as in:
(Yes, by my Lord – 10:53).
Then, there are seven places in the Qur’an where oaths are sworn by Allah Himself. Then there are other places where oaths are sworn by Divine acts or attributes and the Qur’an itself, for example:
(And by the sky, and One who built it, and by the earth, and the One who spread it, and by the soul, and who made it well – ash-Shams, 91:5-7).
And most of such oaths relate to the objects of creation that, being the means of recognition of Allah, do but revert back to Allah Himself as the ultimate source of all creation. (as mentioned by Ibn-ul-Qayyim)
Out of the things in creation that have been sworn by, at places, the purpose is to highlight the sublimity of that particular thing, as is the case with an oath by the blessed life of the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) in the Holy Qur’an by saying:
(By your life [O prophet], they are wandering blindly in their intoxication [misguidance] – al-Hijr, 15:72).
Ibn Marduwayh reports the saying of Sayyidina ‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas (radhiyallahu anhu) that Allah Ta’ala has not created anyone or anything in this world more sublime and esteemed than the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) himself, and it is for this reason that no oath by the person of any other prophet or messenger appears anywhere in the entire Qur’an. The only such oath being by the blessed life of the Holy Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) appears in the verse mentioned here. Similarly, the two oaths in:
(By the Mount – at-Tur, 52:1) and (By the Written Book – at-Tur 52:2)
appear there to highlight the greatness of the two objects sworn by. And on occasions, a certain created object has been sworn by for the reason that it yields a lot of benefits as in:
(By the fig, and the olive – at-Tin, 95:1).
And there are other occasions where some created object has been sworn by for the reason that its creation is the manifestation of the great power of Allah Ta’ala, and an important source of getting to know the Master-Creator of the universe. And in most cases, the thing sworn by does have some role to play in proving the subject stressed with the force of an oath. This unveils itself with a little deliberation wherever it occurs.
For human beings in general, the well-known rule of the Shari’ah is that swearing by anyone other than Allah Ta’ala is not permissible. This poses a question: Is it not that the statements sworn by Allah Ta’ala in the name of His own created objects go on to prove that a statement sworn in the name of someone other than Allah will also become permissible for others as well?
This has been answered by Hasan al-Basri by saying:
“Surely, Allah Ta’ala has the right to swear by whatever of His creation He wills, but it is not for anyone else to swear by anyone other than Allah.” (reported by Ibn Abi Hatim, as in Mazhari).
Here, the core sense is that taking one’s own self on the analogy of the most-exalted Allah is wrong and false. Once the Divine Law has prohibited swearing by anyone other than Allah in the case of human beings at large, any effort to counter argue on the basis of what He elects to do on His own, simply cannot be anything but false.
Explanation of verses
Turning to the explanation of the verses cited above, we see that the statement:
(Verily, your God is but One – 4)
has been placed at the end of the first three verses in which oaths by angels are sworn. Though, during the course of these oaths, mentioned therein are particular attributes of angels that, if deliberated upon even in a modest measure, would turn out to be nothing short of initial proofs of the belief in Tauhid, the Oneness of Allah. But, in the six verses that follow next, a standing proof of Tauhid has also been supplied. It was said:
(the Lord of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, and Lord of the points of the sunrise. – 37:5).
Now, a Being to whom goes the credit of having created and sustained such a mind-boggling range of creations has to be the One most deserving of ownership. And this entire universe is a positive proof of His existence and Oneness. The word: “al-mashariq” as used here is the plural form of “mashriq” or East. Since, the sun rises from a new point every day of the year, therefore, its orientations in the East are many, and it is on this basis that the plural form has been employed here. In the next verse, it was said:
(Verily, We have decorated the nearest sky with an adornment, the stars, – 37:6).
Here, the expression: “as-samaa’ud-dunya” means the closest sky. The sense is that Allah Ta’ala has made this sky closest to the world look good through the glittering presence of stars. Now, it is not necessary that these stars are located precisely within the sky. In fact, even if they are detached from it, even then, should they be looked at from the earth, they appear to be on the sky – and keep imparting a glow to it. What is being said here is no more but that this star-spangled sky is an open proof of the fact that it did not come into existence on its own, instead, it has been created by its creator. And why a Being that can bring such enormous things into existence would need any partner and sharer in His creation? In addition to that, when even the disbelievers find it a settled matter that Allah Ta’ala is the creator of all heavenly bodies, would it not be injustice that, despite His being the Creator and Master, someone or something else be taken as the object of worship?
As for the problem of stars being part of the sky or being separate from it in the light of the Qur’an as well as that of the coherence of astronomy with the noble Qur’an, these have been taken up in detail in the commentary on Surah al-Hijr.
In the last four verses, (37:7-10):
(and [have made them] a security against every rebellious shaitan [satan]. They cannot listen to the Upper Realm and are hit from every side, to be driven off, and for them there is a lasting punishment. However, if one snatches a little bit, he is pursued by a bright flame – 37:10).
It has been said that stars have yet another benefit besides being a decoration of the sky. Through these, wicked Satans are restrained from approaching the higher levels to eavesdrop. They do that to gather whatever news of the unseen they can gather by reaching the fringes of the sky. But, they are denied the opportunity to listen to what angels say to each other. If some Satan picks up even a part of their conversation, and tries to decamp with it, he is hit by a blazing flame, so that he remains unable to pass on this information to his devotees among soothsayers in the world. It is this blazing flame that has been called: “shihab thaqib” (meteor).