¡ O mankind! Reverence your Lord, Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate, and from the two has spread abroad a multitude of men and women. Reverence God, through Whom you demand your rights of one another, and family relations. Truly God is a Watcher over you.
1 That God created human beings from a single soul is also mentioned in 6:98; 7:189; 31:28; 39:6; the creation of its mate therefrom is also mentioned in 7:189; 39:6. Elsewhere, God’s having made for human beings “mates from among themselves” or “in pairs” is considered a Divine gift for which humanity should be grateful and in awe (16:72; 30:21; 35:11; 42:11; 78:8). The present verse indicates a progression in human creation from singularity (a single soul, reflecting the singularity of God), to duality (its mate), to multiplicity (a multitude of men and women). The single soul is widely understood to refer to Adam, and its mate to Eve (Ḥawwāʾ). Although soul (nafs) is grammatically feminine and mate (zawj) is grammatically masculine, this does not
necessarily make the correlation to Adam and Eve, respectively, problematic for most commentators (Q, R, Ṭ, Ṭs). The interweaving of masculine and feminine references suggests a reciprocity of the masculine and feminine in human relations and marriage, which is also implied in other verses (cf. 2:187; 30:21).
Commentators typically understand this verse as a reference to the story of Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib as found in Genesis 2:21-23 (IK, Q, Ṭ, Z), although some modern commentators are skeptical of this association, feeling it relies too heavily on the Biblical tradition. The story of Eve’s creation from Adam’s rib is referenced in the canonical Ḥadīth, but the Quran nowhere explicitly recounts Eve’s creation. And from it (minhā) created its mate may simply mean that the mate (Eve) was created of the same nature as the original single soul (Adam), since to be “of/from another” (min anfus) can mean to be of the same type or character (R; cf. 3:164; 9:128; 16:72). The fifth Shiite Imam, Muhammad al-Bāqir (d. ca. 114/732), reportedly said that Eve was created from the same superior clay as Adam (Ṭs). The statement regarding humanity’s common origin from a single soul and its mate could also be meant to engender brotherly and sisterly love between all human beings and to discourage boasting about one’s ancestral legacy, as all human beings are ultimately of common parentage (IK, R, Ṭ, Ṭs).
Reverence God, through Whom you demand your rights of one another, and family relations may be related to the pre-Islamic Arab practice of swearing upon “God and family relations.” However, most favor the view that this passage instructs men to reverence God through obedience to His commands and to reverence family relations by maintaining good relations with family members. Family relations translates arḥām; the singular is raḥim, the primary meaning of which is “womb,” derived from the same root as raḥmah, meaning “mercy,” and the Divine Name al-Raḥmān, “the Compassionate.” A ḥadīth states, “The Compassionate (Al-Raḥmān) created the womb (al-raḥim), and whoever maintains ties to it, God will maintain ties to him, and whoever cuts himself off from it, God cuts Himself off from him.” Elsewhere, the imperative to worship God is paired with commands to be good to family (4:36; 17:23; 47:22; R). The first part of this verse indicates the kinship of all human beings, as they are created from the same soul and mate, while the latter part commands reverence for one’s relatives. Taken together, they suggest a Divine imperative to recognize one’s responsibility to all human beings as one’s “brothers and sisters.”