Verse 2: Who created death and life to test you [people] and reveal which of you does best––He is the Mighty, the Forgiving;
Meaning, Allah ﷻ alone is the one who created death and life. The creation of life is something obvious; all of us can see examples of how Allah ﷻ brings things into existence from nothing, or how He gives life. But what does it mean that He created death? Death is the absence of life. This verse proves that death is also a created event just like life. Death is not a state of pure non-existence. It’s the removal of the soul from the body and its transfer from one place to another.
One of the reasons why Allah ﷻ specifically chose to mention only life and death is because it covers the entire spectrum of human life. Just as Allah ﷻ created life and death he has created everything in between as well. Another interpretation given for this verse is that Allah ﷻ created all of us for death and life. Meaning, for death in the life of this world and for life in the world to come.
Help Us End Ramadan with 1000 Supporters!
Alhamdulillah, we’re at 900 supporters. Help us get to 1000 supporters before Ramadan ends. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.
The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small.
Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you’re supporting without thinking about it.
Oftentimes the sequence of words in the Quran also has significance. Here the concept of death has been mentioned before life because it creates a greater sense of urgency.The th ought and remembrance of death motivates us to constantly be on watch and do good deeds. ʿAmmār ibn Yāsir (ra) narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Death is sufficient as a preacher and certainty is sufficient as a cause of being free from needs.” The thought of death and the remembrance of death will automatically correct our behavior.
Allah ﷻ then tells us why He’s created this cycle of life and death. “That He may test you which of you is best in deed.” The whole purpose of this life, the reason why we were created is to test us and see which of us is best in terms of deeds. Who will believe and do the best righteous deeds? Allah ﷻ gave us life, intellect, feelings, emotions and the ability to think rationally. He has given us free will, the ability to choose what we say and what we do. That’s why we’ll be held accountable for what we say and do. These tests and trials are actually part of Allah’s infinite mercy; they’re an integral part of purification.
It should be noted here that Allah ﷻ said, “Which of you is best in deed” and not “which of you does more deeds”. This shows that it’s not about the quantity of deeds but the quality. That’s why on the Day of Judgment our deeds won’t be counted but they will be weighed. It could be that the weight of one action is more than a thousand other deeds. Ibn ʿUmar (ra) narrated that once the Prophet ﷺ recited this verse and when he reached the words “better in deeds” said, “that better in deeds is the person who stays away from most things Allah has forbidden and is always ready to obey Him.”
“And He is the All-Mighty, the Oft-Forgiving.” Allah ﷻ is the All Mighty and the All Powerful. The One who overcomes and can’t be overcome. al-ʿAzeez is one of the names and attributes of Allah ﷻ. It indicates power, predominance, superiority and highness. al-Ghafoor is another attribute of Allah ﷻ. He’s the most forgiving. This means that He is the Almighty, the Most Great, the Most Powerful and the Most Honorable. However, along with this He is Most Forgiving to whoever turns to Him in repentance and seeks His pardon after having disobeyed Him and opposed His commandment. Even though Allah is Almighty, He also forgives, shows mercy, pardons and excuses.
Syed Qutb comments, “The Truth Islam establishes in people’s hearts does not depict Allah as chasing humans to afflict or punish them. He only wants them to be aware of the purpose behind their existence and of their true nature. He wants them to rise to the level worthy of His honor when He blew of His own spirit into them, elevating them above many of His other creations. When they have absorbed this truth and hold to it, they will find that His grace, mercy, and forgiveness are always available to them.”