Some Muslims criticize the biblical account of creation by pointing out that Genesis 2:2-3 states that God rested on the seventh day. They assume that Genesis teaches us that Allah toiled so hard for six days that He had become wearied and needed a well-deserved rest. It doesn’t seem to make any difference whether or not this could be understood in a different sense. Furthermore, Muslim defenders ignore the Christian understanding of these verses. In fact, normative Christianity never believed that Allah worked hard to created the universe; and, as a result of the work, He needed a rest. In reality, the Muslim’s criticism is a fallacious straw-man attack, because it attacks a view that Christians do not hold to be true.
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Gen 2:2-3 (NIV)
|وَفِي الْيَوْمِ السَّابِعِ أَتَمَّ اللهُ عَمَلَهُ الَّذِي قَامَ بِهِ، فَاسْتَرَاحَ فِيهِ مِنْ جَمِيعِ مَا عَمِلَهُ.||2|
|:وَبَارَكَ اللهُ الْيَوْمَ السَّابِعَ وَقَدَّسَهُ، لأَنَّهُ اسْتَرَاحَ فِيهِ مِنْ جَمِيعِ أَعْمَالِ الْخَلْقِ||3|
See they not that Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth, and never wearied with their creation, is able to give life to the dead? Yea, verily He has power over all things. 46:33
Were We then weary with the first Creation, that they should be in confused doubt about a new Creation? 50:15
We created the heavens and the earth and all between them in Six Days, nor did any sense of weariness touch Us. 50:38 Translation by Yusufali
|أَوَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّ اللَّهَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَلَمْ يَعْيَ بِخَلْقِهِنَّ بِقَادِرٍ عَلَى أَنْ يُحْيِيَ الْمَوْتَى بَلَى إِنَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ||46:33|
|أَفَعَيِينَا بِالْخَلْقِ الْأَوَّلِ بَلْ هُمْ فِي لَبْسٍ مِّنْ خَلْقٍ جَدِيدٍ||50:15|
|وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ وَمَا مَسَّنَا مِن لُّغُوبٍ||50:38|
Muhammad recited the Qur’an during the seventh century A.D. By this time, there was a considerable body of Christian literature. Now, this literature states —in no ambiguous terms— that God resting was not because He had become wearied by the task of creating. The term, resting, is the Hebrew word, Shabath ( English, Sabbath). It has a number of different meanings, such as, repose, rest, cease, celebrate, satisfaction, etc.
In fact, a conceptual usage of restis found in the Qur’an. For example, the sentence, “Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest! “ Does this mean that the heart ceases to work and to pump blood when Allah is remembered? To interpret this ayah in a literal and material way would do an injustice to its meaning. And, It would be hypocritical for a Muslim to permit only one understanding for rest in Genesis 2:2-3 while advocating there has to be a wider range of meanings for rest in the Qur’an. Clearly, the Qur’an 13:28 does not mean the heart ceases to pump blood. Because the words, heart and rest, often have meanings that go beyond their literal force. This is true for everyday speech as well as for the Bible and the Qur’an.
“Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of Allah: for without doubt in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find satisfaction. 13:28 Translated by Yusufali
Who have believed and whose hearts have rest in the remembrance of Allah. Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest! 13:28 Translated by Pickthal
|الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ وَتَطْمَئِنُّ قُلُوبُهُم بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ أَلاَ بِذِكْرِ اللّهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ||13:28|
Genesis records that “God rested from all His work.” It does not state that God rested because He was wearied by creating the universe out of nothing (i.e., ex nihilo). Rather, it simply states that “God rested from all His work.” This could be for one or for all of the following reasons. Firstly, the creative acts were completed quantitatively, because the creation ex nihilo was bountifully supplied, being filled with numerous and diverse creatures. There were no additional creatures to create. Hence, God rested from the creative work. Later in time, all subsequent creatures would be made from the matter of Allah’s initial creation ex nihilo. Secondly, scriptures states that all of creation was qualitatively good. The Creator had marvelously created a pristine and majestic creation. No additional work was necessary to improve or to perfect the beauty of a single creature, so Allah rested from the work. Thirdly, Allah could rest because the creation was completed and suitable to fulfill Allah’s divine purposes for the future. Allah’s divine counsels and purposes would be become manifest during the course of world history. Finally, Allah rested and delighted in the actualization of His own creative power and genius, the newly created space-time universe.
After Allah had finished creating our vast and majestic universe, He pronounced that it was very good. Allah rested and found pleasure in beholding the results of His own wondrous skill, imagination, wisdom and power. It was a work of awesome magnitude encompassing the universe’s vast space with its planets, stars, constellations, and galaxies. It was an intricate composition of skilled marvels, including microscopic organisms, cells, molecules, atoms and sub-atomic particles. Both the stellar telescope and the cellular microscope discover the wonders of Allah’s creation. As scripture affirms, it was very good.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning– the sixth day. Gen 1:31 (NIV)
|وَرَأَى اللهُ مَا خَلَقَهُ فَاسْتَحْسَنَهُ جِدّاً. ثُمَّ جَاءَ مَسَاءٌ أَعْقَبَهُ صَبَاحٌ فَكَانَ الْيَوْمَ السَّادِسَ.||1:31|
The Hebrew word used for very good is towb (Strong’s Dictionary No.2896). It has a broad meaning; and, in the King James version of the Bible, it is variously translated into the following English words: beautiful, best, bountiful, cheerful, fine, glad, good, joyful, kindness, loving, precious, sweet, wealth, etc. Exodus 31:17 uses the Hebrew term, naphash (Strong’s Dictionary No.2896), to express Allah’s response to the freshly created universe. In its figurative sense, it means to be refreshed as if by a current of air. These terms indicate Allah’s rest, satisfaction, and joy in His own wisdom, power, and glory that are mightily displayed in and to His creation. King Dawud proclaimed in worship,
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Psalms 19:1-3 (NIV)
|الْمَزْمُورُ التَّاسِعَ عَشَرَ|
لِقَائِدِ الْمُنْشِدِينَ. مَزْمُورٌ لِدَاوُدَ
السَّمَاوَات ُ تُحَدِّثُ بِمَجْدِ اللهِ، وَالْفَلَكُ يُخْبِ رُ بِعَمَلِ يَدَيْهِ
بِذَلِكَ تَتَحَادَثُ ا لأَيَّامُ أ َبْلَغَ حَدِيثٍ، وَتَتَخَاطَبُ بِهِ اللَّيَال ِي.
لاَ يَصْدُرُ عَنْهَا كَلاَمٌ، لَكِنَّ صَو ْتَهَا يُسمَعُ وَاضِحاً.
So, in conclusion, none of these examples necessitate that Allah be wearied. As a side note, we should remember that, in an ultimate sense, Allah rests in Himself, meaning that Allah is self-sufficient in His own happiness. Allah does not need creation to increase His happiness, because He has infinite joy in Himself. Now, if rested necessarily entailed being wearied, then Allah resting in Himself would necessarily mean that Allah had been wearied with Himself too. Such a thought is infinitely distant from the Almighty One, the Lord of the vast Universe.
Thomas Aquinas wrote the following,
First, because He ceased from creating new creatures on that day, for, as said above(A(1), ad 3), He made nothing afterwards that had not existed previously, in some degree, in the first works; secondly, because He Himself had no need of the things that He had made, but was happy in the fruition of Himself. Hence, when all things were made He is not said to have rested “in” His works, as though needing them for His own happiness, but to have rested “from” them, as in fact resting in Himself, as He suffices for Himself and fulfils His own desire. And even though from all eternity He rested in Himself, yet the rest in Himself, which He took after He had finished His works, is that rest which belongs to the seventh day.1
Lastly, St Augustine addressed the question of Allah resting from all His creative work two centuries before the time of Muhammad. It is crystal clear from his writings that Allah resting after the creation event has nothing to do with His being physically wearied. Perhaps, if Muhammad would have been more familiar with the Genesis account and Christian exegesis, he would not have suggested that rest from a work necessarily meant to become wearied by a work.
BOOK FOUR: CHAPTER 8
God did not rest because of exhaustion.
15. We come now to the text of Scripture that says that God rested on the seventh day from all the works that He had made, and that He blessed this day and sanctified it because of the fact that He had rested on it. Now, in order to try, as far as we can with God’s help, to grasp this truth with our intellect, we must first drive from our minds all anthropomorphic concepts that men might have. Can we be justified in saying or believing that God toiled in His work when He made the creatures described in Scripture and when He spoke and they were made? Even a man does not toil if he has only to say the word and an object is made. It is true, of course, that man’s words when produced with the sound of the voice will weary the speaker if his speech is prolonged. But there are very few words recorded in the Scripture narrative where God said, Let there be light, let there be a firmament, and so forth to the end of the works which He completed on the sixth day. It is, therefore, absurd and ridiculous to suppose that such words would involve toil for man, to say nothing of God.
16. Could one say perhaps that God did not toil by uttering the decree which instantly produced the works He created, but by thinking over what ought to be made? Then, being relieved, as it were, of this burden, once the universe was complete He rested, and therefore He chose to bless and sanctify the day on which He was first released from the strain of such intellectual effort. But to think in this way is utter foolishness, for God’s power to create and the ease with which He can exercise it are beyond our knowledge and our ability to describe.2
1 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Vol 1, P(1)-Q(73)-A(2) Whether God rested on the seventh day from all His work?, Translated by English Dominican Province,Christian Classics, Westminster, Maryland, 1981, p. 354.
2 St. Augustine, The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Translated by J. H. Taylor, S.J., Volume 1 (Books 1-6), In series, Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation, volume 41, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ, USA, 1982, p. 113.