In previous verses the author mentioned the various capabilities with which man has been endowed. He also encourages man to appreciate and value these qualities by using them to comprehend the truths of creation and, ultimately, fulfil his purpose in being created. In this verse he also makes it clear that failure to do so will inevitably lead to oblivion. Al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna al-Muaʾyyad al-Shirazi RA points out that the cosmos and all that it encompasses was brought into being so that man could come into existence:
I wish I knew why you have passed through the various celestial spheres and bodies, proceeded through loins and wombs and been led from the confinement of the foetal membrane to the vastness of this environment? While in you lies the soul, whose form is hidden but whose actions are evident, encompassed within it (soul) are the earth and the skies. Is this all so that you may behave like animals? Obsessed only with fulfilling your desires of food and drink? Then to die in futility, becoming dispersed and disregarded? Never! Never will the intent and purpose of the Creator in creating you be in vain. Soon you will be resurrected for a grand day, when the fortunate (among you) will be in a lofty place, while the wretched will be in pain and torment.
Some oyster shells will open to reveal pearls while others only sediment. Open your eyes and take heed, and prepare for this journey, for you have been allotted a fixed number of breaths. This lifespan, which has been leased to you, will soon be recalled. If you do not (pay heed and prepare) you will end up in a state of despair with neither water nor provision and filled with fear and dread. All that you have gathered will be of no benefit. Great will be your regret, if expressing regret is of any benefit then, over the days you have squandered and the life that you have wasted. Prepare — may Allah have mercy on you — while preparation is still possible.
Man has been afforded the opportunity to ascend from the confines of the temporal realm to his true abode. He is blessed with the discernment to realise that all sound workmen create a product with a purpose in mind, thus this Creation too has a purpose to be realized. He has the ability to observe that numerous other animals, while bereft of his intellectual prowess, have a lifespan longer than his and physical strength that he cannot hope to match, thus leading to the realisation that the primary purpose of his intellect is not earthly dominion. He finds himself to hold an inherent longing to be all-knowing, all-powerful and immortal, yet he is acutely aware that acquiring these three traits is not possible in this realm. Based upon these and many other perceptions he is able to determine that the substance of value in his possession is not his body but his soul. Thus if his endeavours are not geared towards his soul’s betterment, he has failed to appreciate its value.
Along with appreciating the eternality of the soul, this verse also calls upon man to realise his inconsequence. Al-Dai al-Ajal Syedna al-Muʾayyad al-Shirazi RA writes that an understanding of the hadīth mubārak, ‘The one who understands his soul, understands his Lord’, enables man to realize his servitude to Allah Taʿālā and his insignificance when placed before the vastness and magnitude of the universe. He writes that man has been created from four physical elements: fire, water, earth and air, and two spiritual ones: intellect and soul. However, the content of each element in man, when compared to its total quantity in the universe is so inconsequential that one cannot find any association between the two. If this is the case even though both the universe and man share the same elements, then how can it be possible for man to comprehend his Creator when there are no shared elements between the two? It is this understanding and affirmation that brings out the true meaning entailed in the hadīth mubārak ‘The one who understands his soul, understands his Lord’. Therefore, apart from valuing the blessings of the soul and intellect, this verse also indicates the importance of knowing one’s limitations, for the one who fails to realise both his strengths and shortcomings, will inevitably perish.