By using the fāʾ al-sababiyya (the letter fāʾ as a particle of cause) at the beginning of this verse, the author states that man should venerate the Almighty for He has created him in a perfect form. In verses 21 to 29, he has outlined the means through which man can offer such praise: by (1) venerating his Creator, (2) enlightening his soul, (3) comprehending the capacities of his intellect, and (4) realising his true value. The author also asserts that praise and gratitude for the Almighty is the natural outcome and end result of carrying out the directives outlined in the previous verses. Furthermore, he also indicates that being blessed with the ability to undertake such deeds reveals that man has been created in a perfect form.
This verse also makes it clear that only those who offer praise and gratitude to the Almighty are worthy of being addressed as ‘man’. Throughout this philosophical discourse, the author addresses the reader as, ‘O’ man!’, while simultaneously expounding upon the traits and characteristics that are intrinsic to this often used but seldom contemplated word.
In this verse, in the first instance, the definitive prefix ‘al’ is added to insān (man) while the second time insān features as an indefinite article. This distinction reveals that amongst the billions of homo sapiens, it is those who offer praise and gratitude to the Creator who have truly attained humanity and can be rightfully categorised as ‘man’. The 76th sura of the Quran is Sura al-Insān whose verses are also read in praise of Amirul Mumineen, Maulana Ali AS. Its verses extol his piety and righteousness and ultimately, illuminate the path for insān to follow in order to become al-insān.
The word sawī refers to a person in his prime, both able-bodied as well as intellectually mature. Such blessings often lead man towards arrogance whereby he considers himself the most superior and forgets his Creator. Once again, the directives outlined in previous verses enable us to comprehend the meaning of what truly constitutes being able-bodied and intellectually mature.
This verse also calls upon man to offer both ḥamd (praise) and shukr (gratitude) to the Almighty. Some writers are of the view that ḥamd and shukr are synonyms of each other, while others distinguish between the two. When they are distinguished, ḥamd can only be expressed in words, while shukr is expressed both by actions and words. Ḥamd can be offered even if one has not received a blessing, but shukr is always in response to receiving a blessing. In the context of this verse, one should offer praise to the Creator through both his words and actions, solely out of the greatness and omnipotence of the Creator as well as for the blessings He bestows upon mankind.
The Quran commences with ḥamd, in its opening āya sharīfa:
All praise is to Allah, Lord of all the worlds
The phrase al-ḥamd li Allah conveys that Allah is worthy of praise, His praise is obligatory and that all Creation is directed to praise Him. The Quran, then, has its reciter declare ḥamd for Allah before enumerating His blessings upon Creation. This act of ḥamd falsifies the notion that offering praise and gratitude to Allah is futile and thus unneeded since it cannot even begin to suffice for the infinite blessings He has bestowed upon us. Furthermore, the call towards Allah’s praise and the subsequent description of Him as the Lord of all worlds reveals that these worlds are sustained by His praise. His acceptance of mankind’s ḥamd, despite its inherent inadequacy, enables the sustenance of the entire universe. Humans, birds, wild and predatory animals and marine life are each a ‘world’, and are all united and sustained by their praise of Allah.
Rasul Allah’s SAW ʿibādat of Allah Taʿāla was so intense and prolonged that his feet would become swollen from the long hours of standing. When asked why he exerted himself to such an extent even though Allah had already forgiven all his sins, past and future, he replied, ‘Should I not then be a grateful servant?’ His reply reveals that the manifestation of human perfection is for every deed and action to be done out of gratitude to Allah for his uncountable blessings, not out of fear of reprisal nor for attaining any reward. Being created in the perfect form obligates man to seek perfection in all aspects of his life to the best of his ability. Therefore, the call to praise and to be grateful to Allah is not limited to appreciating His blessings, but is part of the process of being human and ascending towards a higher realm.