Al-Rum (The Byzantines)
Chapter 30: Verse 54
"It is God who creates you in a state of weakness, and then after weakness He brings about strength in you, and then after strength He brings about your weakness and old age. He creates what He wills; and He alone has all knowledge and power."
In this verse we see the beginnings in our own life, and we see the end brought to them in a vivid image as though it were happening before our own eyes. We only need to have a receptive mind to gather the inspiration behind the verse.
The weakness in man's formation meant here has several aspects to it. It includes the physical weakness of the single, tiny cell that makes the foetus which goes through several stages, remaining weak throughout all of them. This weakness continues during childhood, until the person reaches adolescence and the prime of youth. Another weakness is that of the substance from which man is made, which is clay. Had it not been for the breath of God's spirit, man would have remained in the physical image of clay or in an animal image. Both of these are very weak compared to man. There is also the psychological weakness that makes man yield to desire, passion and lust. It is again the breathing of God's spirit into him that gives him the ability and resolve to resist such emotions. Without this spirit man would have been weaker than animals which behave according to their natures.
The strength mentioned here covers all those aspects discussed under weakness: strength in physical build, human potential, mental ability and psychological constitution.
Old age is a decline into childhood in all aspects. It may be accompanied with psychological decline due to weakness of will. An old person may have an urge similar to that of a child without having the willpower to resist it. The Arabic word shaybah, translated here as 'old age' also connotes 'grey hair'. It is specially selected here to give a tangible impression of old age.
No one escapes these stages. They never fail to affect anyone who survives; nor are they ever slow so as to come later than usual. These stages confirm that mankind is subject to a greater will that creates and determines as it pleases. That is the will of God who determines the age, life and stages of every creature in accordance with perfect knowledge and elaborate planning.
"In The Shade of the Quran" - Sayyid Qutb, Vol. 13, pp. 397, 398