out contrarily to its nature. For according to this, the water should have overrun the [whole] globe. But in His wisdom and mercy, the Maker drew out a part of it and spread it out and laid on it the table of His bounties.
Similarly, in accordance with the rule “If a thing is proved, it is proven together with the things it necessitates,” the word “resting-place” [derived from the verb farasha to spread out] indicates that the earth is like the carpeted floor of a house, and the species of plants and animals it contains like its furniture, placed in it intentionally and purposively.
It suggests also that intentionally and purposively [the state of] the earth is a middling one; it is neither so liquid that it cannot be walked upon, nor is it so hard that it cannot be utilized or tilled. For if it had been thus it would have been useless even if made of gold. Its intermediate [state] therefore indicates that it has been specified, made, and intended by one [who acts] with wisdom and purpose.
“And the sky a canopy (wa al-samā’ binā’an)” indicates this, that when the Most High made the heavens a canopy and roof for you, its stars became your lamps, so don’t imagine that chance [has any part] in their dispersal, as you might imagine it does if you scatter some jewels on the ground.
In this verse is the hint, the suggestion, the intimation of a wondrously subtle and precious mystery, which is as follows:
If you were to ask: Man is a mere atom in relation to the earth, and the earth is an atom in relation to the universe. Similarly, a human individual is an atom relatively to the human race, and the human race is an atom compared with its partners in benefiting from this lofty home. Moreover, the extent to which mankind utilizes the house’s advantages and aims is [only] an atom’s [worth]. And its aims that the human intellect can perceive are a [mere] atom in relation to the uses [existent] in pre-eternal wisdom and divine knowledge. So how is it that [the Most High] created the earth for humankind and made man’s utilizing it its ultimate aim?
You would be told: Yes, that’s right, but despite all that, on account of the breadth of man’s spirit and the expanse of his intellect and extent of his abilities, and the many, far-flung ways in which he utilizes the universe; and because of the absence of overcrowding and fragmentation and resistance in respect of its utilization, like the relation of the whole with its parts – for the whole is present in its entirety in all its parts and there is therefore no crowding and no fragmentation; the Qur’an made man’s utilization the ultimate aim although it is only one out of the myriad aims of the heavens