And when My servants question you concerning Me, I am near; I answer the call of the caller when he calls to Me; so let them respond to Me, and let them believe in Me that they might go aright.
The question of each one indicates his state. They did not ask about any decree, created thing, this world or what comes next, but rather they asked [Muḥammad] about Him, so God most high said, “And when My servants question you concerning Me. . .” [These questioners] were not among the group about whom He said, “They will question you concerning the mountains” [20:105], nor among the group about whom He said, “They will ask you about orphans” [2:220], nor among the group about whom He
said, “They will ask you about the monthly period” [2:222], nor among the group about whom He said, “And they will question you concerning the spirit” [17:85], nor among the group about whom He said, “They ask you about wine, and divinatory arrows” [2:219], or “They ask you about the sacred month, and fighting in it” [2:217].
These were a select group of people. “And when My servants question you concerning Me, how could you answer them? This answer is not by your tongue, O Muḥammad. Even though you are the ambassador between Us and created beings, I assume responsibility for this answer: I am near.” In regard to nearness, He took away the act of mediating from anyone other than Himself. He did not say, “Say to them I am near,” but rather He said, may His affair be exalted, “I am near.”
Then He explained what this nearness is. Inasmuch as the Real (سبحانه) is too holy for drawing near or moving away in terms of direction, or speci- fication in any spot (buqʿa) He said, I answer the call of the caller. Verily the Real (سبحانه) is near, wholly and entirely, by means of knowledge, power, hearing and vision. He is near the believers with respect to caretaking, help, and answering supplications, but He is too exalted and holy to be near anyone in essence (dhāt) or spot (buqʿa), for He is uniquely without direc- tion in any region (aqṬār), mighty without being described by substance or measure (miqdār).
I answer the call of the caller when he calls to Me; so let them respond to Me, and let them believe in Me that they might go aright: He did not promise to answer the one who might be considered worthy because of asceticism or [to answer] at the time of worship. Instead He said, “the call of the caller when he calls to Me,” however he calls to Me (kayfamā daʿānī) and wherever He calls to Me (haythumā daʿānī). Then He said, “So let them respond to Me,” which establishes a responsibility (taklīf), while His words, “I answer the call of the caller” is a giving of information (taʿrīf) and
a lightening [of responsibility] (takhfīf).
He spoke of the lightening before He spoke of the responsibility. So it was as if He said, “When you call to Me, My servant, I will answer you. So answer Me also when I call you. I do not wish to refuse your call, so you should not wish to refuse My call to you. My answering you, My servant, with what is good, prompts you to call on Me. It is not that your call prompts Me to answer you. So let them respond to Me, and let them believe in Me and let them trust in Me for I answer the call of the one who calls to Me.” The one who spoke for them said:
By the All-Mighty, I swear by the One whose servant I am and
to whom belongs the pilgrims and what ʿArafāt encompasses:
I do not want any substitute for you as a friend.
Trust in my words,
for noble people are trustworthy.
Then He said at the end of the verse, that they might go aright, that is, “the only objective to your being charged with responsibilities and supplica- tions is to receive right guidance (irshād) for yourself.”