In the name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful
This book is bestowed from on high by God, the Almighty, the Wise. It is We who have bestowed on you this revelation from on high, stating the truth. Therefore, worship God alone, sincere in your faith in Him. True devotion is due to God alone. Those who take others besides Him as their protectors say: 'We worship them for no reason other than that they would bring us nearer to God.' God will judge between them concerning all matters on which they differ. God will not grace with guidance anyone who is bent on lying [to himself and is] stubbornly ingrate! (Quran 39: 1-3)
The surah begins with a clear, emphatic statement: "This book is bestowed from on high by God, the Almighty, the Wise." As He is Almighty, He is able to bestow it from on high, and as He is wise, He knows the purpose of bestowing it, ensuring that it is all done in accordance with wise and elaborate planning.
The surah, however, does not dwell on this fact. It is only a prelude to its main theme, which this book has been revealed to establish, namely, God's oneness, addressing all worship to Him alone, ensuring sincerity in faith, eliminating all traces of any alleged partnership with God and establishing direct contact with Him without any intermediary or need for intercession.
"It is We who have bestowed on you this revelation from on high, stating the truth." The essence of the truth with which the book has been revealed is the absolute oneness of God, which forms the foundation of all existence. In verse 5 the surah states: "He has created the heavens and the earth in accordance with the truth." It is all the same truth that makes up the foundation of the universe and provides the purpose for revealing the Qur'an. It is a single, consistent truth confirmed by the unity of the system that controls the heavens and the earth, and expressed in human language through this book. It is the truth that puts the seal on everything made by the only Creator.
"Therefore, worship God alone, sincere in your faith in Him." The address here is to the Prophet, the recipient of the book as it is bestowed from on high. It embodies the constitution which he advocates, calling on all mankind to adopt it: to worship God alone, sincere in our devotion, and to conduct human life, in all spheres, on this basis. These are not mere statements. It is a complete system, starting with a firm belief that is translated into an all-embracing way of life for both the individual and the community.
A believer in God's oneness submits only to God, bowing his head to none other, and asking nothing from others. For him only God is powerful and holds sway. Indeed, all other creatures are weak, unable to do him, or themselves, either harm or good. It is God alone who gives, bestows favors or withholds them. What is the use, then, of turning to anyone other than God for help when all are weak and God alone holds all power?
A true believer recognizes the unity of the system that conducts all affairs in the universe, realizes that the code of living God has chosen for mankind is part of that system, specially molded to achieve harmony between human life and the universe. Hence, a believer does not choose any system or legal code other than that which God has laid down. A believer in God's oneness also feels that there is a bond between him and all that God has created in this universe, and that all creatures are friendly toward him. He feels that all around him have been put in place by God's hand. Hence, he warms to everything that comes his way of God's creation. He does not hurt, destroy or waste anyone or anything, or use it in any way other than what God has sanctioned.
Similarly, the effects of believing in God's oneness are apparent in believers' concepts and feelings just as they are reflected in their actions and behavior. Thus, belief in God's oneness is not merely a verbal utterance. Hence why it is given such emphasis in God's book, and hence why it is repeated and explained in a great variety of ways. Each and everyone of us needs to study and reflect upon God's oneness so that this truth is perfectly ingrained in our own essence.
"True devotion is due to God alone." In Arabic this statement has added emphasis provided by certain characteristics of the sentence structure, which is peculiar to Arabic and difficult to capture in translation. It gives the statement the sense of a declaration producing a loud but clear echo. Thus sound, structure and meaning combine to strongly emphasize this basic truth upon which all life, throughout the universe, is based.
Then a refutation of the complex superstition the idolaters presented in opposition to belief in God's oneness follows: "Those who take others besides Him as their protectors say: 'We worship them for no reason other than that they would bring us nearer to God.' God will judge between them concerning all matters on which they differ. God will not grace with guidance anyone who is an ungrateful liar."
Although they declared that God created them and the heavens and earth, they would not carry this belief to its natural and logical consequence which required that they devote all their worship and submission to Him alone. Instead they invented the superstition that the angels were God's daughters and even carved statues representing angels so that they could worship these. They then claimed that their worship of these statues, such as Al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Manat, was not in essence devotion to them. It was merely a gesture to bring them closer to God, in the hope that these statues or what they represented would eventually intercede with God on their behalf.
Sayyid Qutb was an Egyptian intellectual author, associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. He is best known for his work on redefining the role of Islam in social and political change, particularly in his books Social Justice and Ma'alim fi-l-Tariq (Milestones). His extensive Quranic commentary Fi zilal al-Qur'an (In the shades of the Qur'an) has contributed significantly to modern perceptions of Islamic concepts.