This is the first of seven surahs that all begin with the two separate letters, Ha. Mim. In one of these seven surahs three other separate letters, Ayn Sin Qaf, are added after the initial two. Some surahs start with these separate letters, thereby indicating that the Qur’an, which defies imitation, is composed of such letters which the Arabs used every day, orally and in writing, in their language.

This is followed by a statement of a fact that is frequently used in Makkan surahs given these seek to establish faith: the fact of revelation: “The revelation of this book is from God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing.” A number of God’s attributes are then stated. These are directly relevant to the subject matter of the surah and the issues it discusses: “the Almighty, the All-Knowing, who forgives sins, accepts repentance, is severe in retribution and limitless in bounty. There is no deity other than Him. To Him is the ultimate return.” (Verses 2-3) In fact all the issues the surah raises relate to these attributes of God, powerfully stated at the outset to give an impression that they are well and firmly established.

Limitless in His glory, God outlines to His servants these of His attributes that have a profound effect on their lives. Thus, He raises their hopes and fears, making them feel that they are within His grasp and can never elude what He wills. The attributes highlighted here are:

The Almighty: He is overpowering. No one can get the better of Him, while He has power over all things. When He decides something, nothing can stop this from occurring.

The All-Knowing: He conducts all affairs on the basis of perfect knowledge. Nothing is hidden from Him.

He forgives sins: He grants His forgiveness on the basis of His knowledge about those servants who deserve to be forgiven.

He accepts repentance: When sinners repent, He accepts their repentance and bestows His grace on them, opening the door for them to address Him directly.

He is severe in retribution: He punishes the arrogant who are hardened in sin, unwilling to show regret or seek forgiveness.

Limitless in bounty: He bestows His limitless grace, multiplies the reward for good deeds and gives without reckoning.

There is no deity other than Him: He alone is the Godhead who has no partners or equals.

To Him is the ultimate return: None can evade meeting Him or escape accountability.

These attributes provide a clear outline of the interrelation between Him and His servants. They should be clear in their feelings, thoughts and understanding of how to deal with Him. Then, they will have no ambiguity about what pleases Him or incurs His anger.

In the past, those who held beliefs based on legends were at a loss in knowing how to deal with their deities, because they had no clear idea of what pleased or angered them. They pictured them as impulsive, having no clear aim or purpose, demonstrating violent reactions and causing people much worry and confusion. They resorted to charms and sacrifices in their attempts to please such deities, but could only guess about whether they were satisfied or not. By contrast, Islam provides a very clear concept, establishing a relationship between people and their true Lord, outlining His attributes, defining His will, and instructing them on how to draw closer to Him, fear His punishment and pray for His mercy, always following a straight and clear path.

Having established the truth of God’s oneness and His divine attributes, the surah makes clear that this truth is accepted by all creatures. It is, in fact, firmly rooted in their nature and directly related to the nature of the universe. All creation is entirely convinced by the signs testifying to God’s oneness. Only the unbelievers dispute these signs and argue about God’s revelations. Thus they are a class apart, choosing to be at odds with the universe and all other creatures within it.

“None but the unbelievers dispute God’s revelations.”

Throughout the entire expanse of the universe, only the unbelievers stand apart, deviating from the true path. In relation to the whole universe, they are weaker and less significant than an ant in relation to planet earth. When they stand on their own disputing God’s revelations and denying His signs, the rest of the universe declares its acceptance of Him and recognizes His oneness, deriving its strength from Him. With their odd attitude, the unbelievers’ fate is sealed, no matter how powerful, affluent and mighty they may appear to be: “Let it not deceive you that they seem to be able to do as they please on earth.” They may be able to move about, gather wealth, enjoy their power and revel in easy living. However, they are ultimately doomed. The battle, if there could ever be a battle between them and the Creator of the universe, will lead to its inevitable end.

-by Adil Salahi