association of partners with Allah (shirk), taqwā [preventing the committing of] grievous sins, taqwā [causing one] to preserve one’s heart from [attachment to] things other than Allah the Most High, and taqwā [causing one] to avoid [things leading to] punishment, and taqwā [causing one] to restrain oneself from anger. It is also a hint that [true] worship is that which is [performed] with sincerity. And it indicates that worship should be the sole aim, and not a means, and suggests too that worship should not be [performed in the hope of] reward or [to avoid] punishment.
Now the elements of the phrase “Who has made the earth a resting-place for you and the sky a canopy (Alladhī ja‘ala la-kum al-arḍa firāshan wa al-samā’ binā’an):”
Consider this: by describing the vastness of the Maker’s power, this indicates that it is spurring [the people] on to worship, and by mentioning His favours encouraging [them]. It is as though saying: “O man! The One who subjugates the earth and heavens to you deserves your worship.”
It also indicates man’s virtue and his high worth and his nobility in Allah’s sight, as though saying: “You should show through worshipping the One who has ennobled you by making the heavenly and lowly bodies [in such a way] that you might benefit from them despite their vastness, that you are worthy of His favour.”
Moreover, it is a hint rebutting chance, coincidence, and the [actual] effect of nature. That is: “All the attributes you see [in nature exist] through the making of a Maker, the intention of an Intender, the specification of a Specifier, and the order of an Orderer. How sublime is His wisdom!”
So too it infers rebuttal of the Naturalists’ school, and that of the Sabeans, which gave rise to the school of idolators (al-wathanīīn).
Furthermore, it draws attention to the fact that the attributes of bodies point through their contingency to the Maker. For their atoms are equal in that they can assume [an infinite number of] general states and modes, and all contingent attributes are hesitant amid a great many possibilities. So in respect of their attributes and states all [physical] bodies are in need of intention, purpose or wisdom, and the specifying of one to specify [these].
As for the precedence of “for you (la-kum),” it indicates that the earth has been spread out for man; as though it is only man who benefits from it, and the rest [in this respect] are superfluous. Ponder over this carefully!
“A resting-place (firāshan)” indicates a fine point of eloquence which is the strange fact that although the earth’s nature requires that it should have been submerged in water, [it was not] and this implies that it was spread