Surah Al Fajr (Arabic text: سورة الفجر) is the 89th Surah of the Qur’an. The English meaning of this Surah is “The Dawn” or “Daybreak”. It is a Meccan Surah consisting of 30 ayat (verses).
The first part of this Surah gives account to those who transgressed and their punishment. It mentions the ancient rebellious nations such as ‘Ad, Thamud, and the Pharaoh. The main lesson from this is to not be arrogant, people get distracted by this world and think themselves greater than they are. Allah warns us to be careful of this trap. The next part of Al-Fajr mentions for Muslims to be aware of neglecting to do good. It is a reminder that in order for us to enter his paradise we need to deliberately and consciously seek and do good acts. This is how we rise in ranks.
You can Surah Al Fajr in its entirety below. After every ayat in Arabic below we’ve provided transliteration to make it easy to read and Sahih International translation to make it easy to understand. At end of the Surah we’ve included four different Tafsir including Ibn Kathir for those looking to gain an in-depth understanding of this Surah.
Read Surah Fajr Translation and Transliteration
Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful
1. By the dawn
2. And [by] ten nights
Wash shaf’i wal watr
3. And [by] the even [number] and the odd
Wallayli itha yasr
4. And [by] the night when it passes
Hal fee zaalika qasamul lizee hijr
5. Is there [not] in [all] that an oath [sufficient] for one of perception?
Alam tara kayfa faAAala rabbuka biAAad
6. Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with ‘Aad –
Iramaa zaatil ‘imaad
7. [With] Iram – who had lofty pillars,
Allatee lam yukhlaq mithluha fee albilad
8. The likes of whom had never been created in the land?
Wa samoodal lazeena jaabus sakhra bil waad
9. And [with] Thamud, who carved out the rocks in the valley?
WafirAAawna thee al-awtad
10. And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes? –
Allazeena taghaw fil bilaad
11. [All of] whom oppressed within the lands
Faaktharoo feeha alfasad
12. And increased therein the corruption.
Fasabba ‘alaihim Rabbuka sawta ‘azaab
13. So your Lord poured upon them a scourge of punishment.
Inna rabbaka labilmirsad
14. Indeed, your Lord is in observation.
Fa ammal insaanu izaa mab talaahu Rabbuhoo fa akramahoo wa na’ ‘amahoo fa yaqoolu Rabbeee akraman
15. And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, “My Lord has honored me.”
Waamma itha ma ibtalahufaqadara AAalayhi rizqahu fayaqoolu rabbee ahanan
16. But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.”
Kalla bal laa tukrimooo nal yateem
17. No! But you do not honor the orphan
Wala tahaddoona AAala taAAamialmiskeen
18. And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.
Wa taakuloonat turaasa aklal lammaa
19. And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,
Watuhibboona almala hubbanjamma
20. And you love wealth with immense love.
Kallaaa izaaa dukkatil ardu dakkan dakka
21. No! When the earth has been leveled – pounded and crushed –
Wajaa rabbuka walmalaku saffansaffa
22. And your Lord has come and the angels, rank upon rank,
Wa jeee’a yawma’izim bi jahannnam; Yawma ‘iziny yatazakkarul insaanu wa annaa lahuz zikraa
23. And brought [within view], that Day, is Hell – that Day, man will remember, but what good to him will be the remembrance?
Yaqoolu ya laytanee qaddamtu lihayatee
24. He will say, “Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life.”
Fa Yawma izil laa yu’azzibu ‘azaabahooo ahad
25. So on that Day, none will punish [as severely] as His punishment,
Wala yoothiqu wathaqahu ahad
26. And none will bind [as severely] as His binding [of the evildoers].
Yaaa ayyatuhan nafsul mutma ‘innah
27. [To the righteous it will be said], “O reassured soul,
IrjiAAee ila rabbiki radiyatanmardiyya
28. Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him],
Fadkhulee fee ‘ibaadee
29. And enter among My [righteous] servants
30. And enter My Paradise.”
Tafsir of Surah Fajr
Here we’ve provided four different sources for the Tafsir of Surah Al Fajr. It is one thing to read the Qur’an in Arabic text with English translation. It’s a completely different experience to read the work of Qur’an commentators who expand on the benefits, historical context, connections to other ayahs of the Qur’an, significance, purpose of why it revealed etc. We should not only read the Qur’an but study it and we hope these works help you in that journey.
Tafseer Surah Al Fajr by Ibn Kathir
An-Nasa’i recorded a narration from Jabir that Mu`adh prayed a prayer and a man came and joined him in the prayer. Mu`adh made the prayer long, so the man went and prayed (alone) at the side of the Masjid, and then left. When Mu`adh was informed of this he said, “(He is) a hypocrite.” He (Mu`adh) then informed the Messenger of Allah of what happened. The Prophet then asked the young man (about it) and he replied, “O Messenger of Allah! I came to pray with him, but he made the prayer too long for me. So I left him and prayed at the side of the Masjid. Then I went to feed my she-camel.” The Messenger of Allah then said,
(Are you causing trouble Mu`adh Why don’t you recite (`Glorify the Name of your Lord the Most High’), (`By the sun and its brightness’), (`By the dawn’), (and (`By the night as it envelops’))
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Concerning Al-Fajr, it is well known that it is the morning. This was said by `Ali, Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Mujahid and As-Suddi. It has been reported from Masruq and Muhammad bin Ka`b that Al-Fajr refers to the day of Sacrifice (An-Nahr) in particular, and it is the last of the ten nights. `The ten nights’ refers to the (first) ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. This was said by Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Zubayr, Mujahid and others among the Salaf and the latter generations. It has been confirmed in Sahih Al-Bukhari from Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet said,
(There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these days.) meaning the ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. They said, “Not even fighting Jihad in the way of Allah” He replied,
(Not even Jihad in the way of Allah; except for a man who goes out (for Jihad) with his self and his wealth, and he does not return with any of that.)
Concerning Allah’s statement,
(And by the night when it departs.) Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, “When it goes away.” `Abdullah bin Zubayr said,
(And by the night when it departs.) “As some parts of it remove other parts of it.” Mujahid, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Qatadah, and Malik who reported it from Zayd bin Aslam and Ibn Zayd, they all said;
(And by the night when it departs.) “When it moves along.” Concerning Allah’s statement,
(There is indeed in them sufficient proofs for men with Hijr!) meaning, for he who possesses intellect, sound reasoning, understanding and religious discernment. The intellect has only been called Hijr because it prevents the person from doing that which is not befitting of him of actions and statement. From this we see the meaning of Hijr Al-Bayt because it prevents the person performing Tawaf from clinging the wall facing Ash-Sham. Also the term Hijr Al-Yamamah (the cage of the pigeon) is derived from this meaning (i.e., prevention). It is said, “Hajara Al-Hakim so-and-so (The judge passed a judgement preventing so-and-so),” when his judgement prevents the person from his liberty (i.e., of freely utilizing his wealth). Allah says,
(And they will say: “Hijr Mahjur.”) (25:22) All of these examples are different cases but their meanings are quite similar. The oath that is referred to here is about the times of worship and the acts of worship themselves, such as Hajj, Salah and other acts of worship that Allah’s pious, obedient, servants who fear Him and are humble before Him, seeking His Noble Face, perform in order to draw nearer to Him.
After mentioning these people, and their worship and obedience, Allah says,
(Saw you not how your Lord dealt with `Ad) These were people who were rebellious, disobedient, arrogant, outside of His obedience, deniers of His Messengers and rejectors of His Scriptures. Thus, Allah mentions how He destroyed them, annihilated them and made them legends to be spoken of and an exemplary lesson of warning. He says,
(Saw you not how your Lord dealt with `Ad Iram of the pillars,) These were the first people of `Ad. They were the descendants of `Ad bin Iram bin `Aws bin Sam bin Nuh. This was said by Ibn Ishaq. They are those to whom Allah sent His Messenger Hud. However, they rejected and opposed him. Therefore, Allah saved him and those who believed with him from among them, and He destroyed others with a furious, violent wind.
(Which Allah imposed on them for seven nights and eight days in succession, so that you could see men lying overthrown, as if they were hollow trunks of date palms! Do you see any remnants of them) (69: 7-8) Allah mentioned their story in the Qur’an in more than one place, so that the believers may learn a lesson from their demise. Allah then says,
(Iram of the pillars.) This is an additional explanation that adds clarification who they actually were. Concerning His saying,
(of the pillars.) is because they used to live in trellised houses that were raised with firm pillars. They were the strongest people of their time in their physical stature, and they were the mightiest people in power. Thus, Hud reminded them of this blessing, and he directed them to use this power in the obedience of their Lord Who had created them. He said,
(And remember that He made you successors after the people of Nuh and increased you amply in stature. So remember the graces from Allah so that you may be successful.)(7:69) Allah also said,
(As for ‘Ad, they were arrogant in the land without right, and they said: “Who is mightier than us in strength” See they not that Allah Who created them was mightier in strength than them.) (41:15) And Allah says here,
(The like of which were not created in the land) meaning, there had been none created like them in their land, due to their strength, power and their great physical stature. Mujahid said, “Iram was an ancient nation who were the first people of `Ad.” Qatadah bin Di`amah and As-Suddi both said, “Verily, Iram refers to the House of the kingdom of `Ad.” This latter statement is good and strong. Concerning Allah’s statement,
(The like of which were not created in the land) Ibn Zayd considered the pronoun of discussion here to refer to the pillars, due to their loftiness. He said, “They built pillars among the hills, the likes of which had not been constructed in their land before.” However, Qatadah and Ibn Jarir considered the pronoun of discussion to refer to the tribe (of `Ad), meaning that there was no tribe that had been created like this tribe in the land – meaning during their time. And this latter view is the correct position. The saying of Ibn Zayd and those who follow his view is a weak one, because if He intended that, He would have said “The like of which were not produced in the land.” But He said:
(The like of which were not created in the land.) Then Allah says,
(And Thamud, who hewed (Jabu) rocks in the valley) meaning, they cut the rocks in the valley. Ibn `Abbas said, “They carved them and they hewed them.” This was also said by Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ibn Zayd. From this terminology it is said (in the Arabic language), “the hewing of leopard skin” when it is torn, and “The hewing of a garment” when it is opened. The word `Jayb’ (pocket or opening in a garment) also comes from Jabu. Allah says,
(And you hew in the mountains, houses with great skill.) (26:149)
Allah then says,
(And Fir`awn with Al-Awtad) Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, “Al-Awtad are the armies who enforced his commands for him.” It has also been said that Fir`awn used to nail their hands and their feet into pegs (Awtad) of iron that he would hang them from. A similar statement was made by Mujahid when he said, “He used to nail the people (up) on pegs.” Sa`id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan and As-Suddi all said the same thing. Allah said,
(Who did transgress beyond bounds in the lands. And made therein much mischief.) meaning, they rebelled, were arrogant, and went about making corruption in the land, and harming the people.
(So, your Lord poured on them different kinds of severe torment.) meaning, He sent down a torment upon them from the sky and caused them to be overcome by a punishment that could not be repelled from the people who were criminals.
Concerning Allah’s statement,
(Verily, your Lord is Ever Watchful.) Ibn `Abbas said, “He hears and He sees.” This means that He watches over His creation in that which they do, and He will reward them in this life and in the Hereafter based upon what each of them strove for. He will bring all of the creation before Him and He will judge them with justice. He will requit each of them with that which he deserves, for He is far removed from injustice and tyranny.
Allah refutes man in his belief that if Allah gives Him abundant provisions to test him with it, it is out of His honor for him. But this is not the case, rather it is a trial and a test, as Allah says,
(Do they think that in wealth and children with which We enlarge them. We hasten unto them with good things. Nay, but they perceive not.) (23:55-56) Likewise, from another angle, if Allah tests him and tries him by curtailing his sustenance, he believes that is because Allah is humiliating him. As Allah says,
(But no!) meaning, the matter is not as he claims, neither in this nor in that. For indeed Allah gives wealth to those whom He loves as well as those whom He does not love. Likewise, He withholds sustenance from those whom He loves and those whom He does not love. The point is that Allah should be obeyed in either circumstance. If one is wealthy, he should thank Allah for that, and if he is poor, he should exercise patience.
(But you treat not the orphans with kindness and generosity!) This contains the command to honor him (the orphan). Abu Dawud recorded from Sahl bin Sa`id that the Messenger of Allah said,
(The guardian of the orphan and I will be like these two in Paradise.) And he put his two fingers together – the middle finger and the index finger.
(And urge not one another on the feeding of the Miskin!) meaning, they do not command that the poor and the needy be treated with kindness, nor do they encourage each other to do so.
(And you devour the Turath) meaning, the inheritance.
(devouring with greed.) meaning, however they can get it, whether lawful or forbidden.
(And you love wealth with love Jamma.) meaning, in abundance. This increases some of them in their wickedness.
Allah informs of what will happen on the Day of Judgement of the great horrors. He says,
(Nay!) meaning, truly.
(When the earth is flatened, Dakkan Dakka.) meaning, the earth and the mountains will be flattened, leveled and made even, and the creatures will rise from their graves for their Lord.
(And your Lord comes) meaning, for the session of Judgement between His creatures. This is after they requested the best of the Sons of Adam — Muhammad — to intercede with Allah. This will occur only after they have requested the other great Messengers, one after another. Yet, all of them will say, “I cannot do that for you.” This will continue until the beseeching of the men reaches Muhammad , and he will say, “I will do it, I will do it.” So he will go and seek to intercede with Allah as the session of Judgement will have come, and Allah will allow him to intercede for that (the Judgement). This will be the first of the intercessions, and it is the praiseworthy station that has already been discussed in Surat Subhan (Al-Isra’). So Allah will come for the session of Judgement as He wills, and the angels will also come, lined up in rows upon rows before Him. Then Allah says,
(And Hell will be brought near that Day.) In his Sahih, Imam Muslim bin Al-Hajjaj recorded that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud said that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Hell will be brought on near that Day and it will have seventy thousand leashes, and each leash will have seventy thousand angels pulling it.) At-Tirmidhi also recorded the same narration. Allah said:
(On that Day will man remember,) meaning, his deeds, and what he did before in his past and recent times.
(but how will that remembrance avail him) meaning, how can remembrance then benefit him
(He will say: “Alas! Would that I had sent forth for my life!”) meaning, if he was a disobedient person, he will be sorry for the acts of disobedience he committed. If he was an obedient person, he will wish that he performed more acts of obdedience. This is similar to what Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal recorded from Muhammad bin Abi `Amirah, who was one of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah . He said, “If a servant fell down on his face (in prostration) from the day that he was born until the day he died as an old man, in obedience to Allah, he would scorn this act on the Day of Judgement. He would wish to be returned to this life so that he could earn more reward and compensation.” Allah then says,
(So on that Day none will punish as He will punish.) meaning, there is no one more severely punished than those whom Allah punishes for disobeying Him.
(And none will bind as He will bind.) meaning, there is no one who is more severely punished and bound than those the Az-Zabaniyah punish the disbelievers in their Lord. This is for the criminals and the wrongdoers among the creatures. In reference to the pure and tranquil soul — which is always at rest and abiding by the truth it will be said to it,
(O tranquil soul! Come back to your Lord.) meaning, to His company, His reward and what He has prepared for His servants in His Paradise.
(well-pleased) meaning, within itself.
(well-pleasing.) meaning, pleased with Allah, and He will be pleased with it and gratify it.
(Enter then among My servants,) meaning, among their ranks.
(And enter My Paradise!) This will be said to it at the time of death and on the Day of Judgement. This is like the angels giving glad tiding to the believer at his time of death and when he rises from his grave. Likewise is this statement here. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded from Ibn `Abbas concerning Allah’s statement,
(O tranquil soul! Come back to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing!) He said, “This Ayah was revealed while Abu Bakr was sitting (with the Prophet ). So he said, `O Messenger of Allah! There is nothing better than this!’ The Prophet then replied,
(This will indeed be said to you.)”
This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Fajr, and all praise and blessings are due to Allah.
[89:1] I swear by the dawn,
This Surah, by swearing five oaths in its beginning, emphasises the following fact:
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالْمِرْصَادِ
Surely your Lord is ever on the watch. [89:14]
This means that Allah is watching over whatever you do, and reward or punishment for your deeds is certain and inevitable.
The first among the five oaths sworn at the beginning is Fajr (dawn). It may refer to the dawn of every day that brings about a great change in the world, and thus directs man’s attention to the absolute Omnipotence of Allah. It is also possible that it refers to the dawn of some specific day. Commentators like Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas and Ibn Zubair ؓ say that the word is general, and it refers to any dawn. According to another narration of Ibn ` Abbas ؓ ، it refers to the dawn of the first of Muharram which is the start of the lunar-Islamic calendar. Sayyidna Qatadah رحمۃ علیہ ، among others, has interpreted it in the same way.
Some commentators, like Mujahid and ` Ikramah, refer this to the dawn of ‘the Day of Sacrifice’ on the tenth of Dhul Hijjah. A narration from Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ concurs with this view. The reason for this specification is that according to Islamic principles, Allah has made a night to precede the day. All days are preceded by their respective nights, except the ‘the Day of Sacrifice’, because the night that precedes the Day of Sacrifice is not the night of Sacrifice. In fact, the preceding night, according to Shari’ah, is the night of ` Arafah. Staying at ` Arafat is the most important and foremost rite of Hajj. If a pilgrim is not able to reach ` Arafat on the 9th of Dhul Hijjah, any time in the day or in the night following it to halt there for a while, he will not be considered to have performed Hajj at all. However if he arrives there any time during the night before the break of dawn on the 10th of Dhul Hijjah, his halt in ` Arafah will be acceptable and his Hajj will be considered valid. This shows that the day of ` Arafah has two nights, one preceding it, and another following it. The Day of Sacrifice [10th of Dhul Hijjah] has no night. From this point of view, the dawn of the day of Sacrifice, among all the days of the year, occupies a special position. [Qurtubi].
[89:2] and by the Ten Nights,
Next, it says:
لَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ (and by the Ten Nights…89:2) According Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ Qatadah, Mujahid, Suddi, Dahhak, Kalbi and other leading commentators, the ‘ten nights’ refers to the [first] ten nights of Dhul Hijjah. It is recorded in Hadith that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said that the first ten days of Dhil Hijjah are the most meritorious days for Allah’s worship. Every fast of the day is equivalent to fasts of the whole year. Worshipping Allah every night during this period is equivalent to worshipping Him on the night of Qadr. [Transmitted by Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah with a weak chain of authorities from Abu Hurairah Mazhari]. Abu-z-Zubair narrated from Sayyidna Jabir ؓ that the Holy Prophet ﷺ said: وَالْفَجْرِ وَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ (I swear by the dawn and by the Ten Nights’ refers to the first ten days of Dhul Hijjah. Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ said that these are the ten nights that are mentioned in the story of Prophet Musa علیہ السلام ; وَ اَتمَمنٰھَا بِعَشرٍ… then We supplemented them with ten’ [7:142]. Thus these are the ten nights in the whole year which are most meritorious. Imam Qurtubi says that the Hadith reported by Sayyidna Jabir ؓ indicates that the ten nights of Dhul Hijjah are most meritorious, and that the same ten nights of Dhul Hijjah were designated for Prophet Musa (علیہ السلام) .
[89:3] and by the even and the odd,
وَالشَّفْعِ وَالْوَتْرِ (and by the even and the odd,…89:3). The Qur’an has not
specified what the words ‘the even’ and ‘the odd’ refer to. Therefore, the commentators have assigned different interpretations to them. Nevertheless, it has been mentioned in a Prophetic Hadith narrated by Abu-z-Zubair from Sayyidna Jabir ؓ thus:
(وَالْفَجْرِ ۔ وَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ ) ھو الصّبح وعشر النحر والوتر یوم عرفہ والشفع یوم النّحر
‘Fajr’ refers to the dawn, and ‘the ten nights’ refer to the first ten nights of Dhul Hijjah [which include the Day of Sacrifice], and that al-watr [the odd] refers to the day of ` Arafah [because it falls on the ninth] and ash-shaf refers to the Day of Sacrifice [because it falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah].’
Qurtubi cites this narration and confirms that its chain of authorities is more authentic than the other tradition narrated by Sayyidna Imran Ibn Husain ؓ which talks about odd [three] and even [two/four] units of prayers. Therefore, Sayyidna Ibn Abbas ؓ Ikramah and Nahhas رحمۃ علیہما have preferred the view that ‘even’ refers to the Day of Sacrifice and ‘odd’ refers to the day of Arafah.
Some commentators like Ibn Sirin, Masruq, Abu Salih and Qatadah رحمۃ علیہم said that ‘even’ refers to the entire creation, because Allah has created them in pairs, and thus He says:
وَمِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَا زَوْجَيْنِ
‘And from everything We have created (a pair of) two kinds [51:49] ‘
-belief/disbelief, happiness/unhappiness, light/darkness, night/day, cold/ heat, sky/earth, human/Jinn and male/female as against all of these pairs, Allah is the only One Being ‘odd’ that does not have a pair:
ھو اللہ الاحد الصَّمَد
‘He, is Allah, the One, Besought of all, needing none’
وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ (and by the night when it moves away…89:4). The word yasr is derived from sara and means ‘to walk in the night’ or ‘travel by night’. The verse says when the night itself moves away. It signifies ‘when the night departs and goes away.’ After taking oath by these five items, the next verse says:
هَلْ فِي ذَٰلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِي حِجْرٍ (Is there [not] in that an oath (enough) for a man of sense?…89:5). An intelligent person is, in a very special style, invited to think and reflect. The word hijr literally denotes ‘to prevent’. The intellect has been called hijr because it prevents the person from doing which is unbecoming of him – actions or statements. Are these oaths not sufficient for a man possessed of intellect, sound reasoning, understanding and religious discernment? This sentence is in the form of interrogation to awaken man from his slumber. The subject of oaths is implied, though not stated explicitly. The verse purports to say that when man considers into the Majesty of Allah and reflects on the greatness of objects of oaths, it would be confirmed and verified that everyone has to give account of his deeds, and reward and punishment in the Hereafter is sure. In this connection, reference is made to the destruction of three previous nations:  the nation of ` Ad;  the nation of Thamud; and  the nation of Fir’aun (the Pharaoh). ` Ad and Thamud are two nations whose genealogy link up with Iram. Thus Iram may refer to both, ` Ad as well as Thamud. Here however with ` Ad only the name Iram is linked for genealogical reasons:
أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ ۔ إِرَمَ ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ (Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with [the people] ` Ad of Iram, the men of tall pillars…(89:6-7). The word ‘Iram’ in verse  is, grammatically speaking, either ` atf bayan (syndetic explicative) or badal (complement). The purpose of the construction is to specify one of the two tribes of ` Ad. This statement specifies that it refers to ` Ad-ul-‘ula (the early generation of ` Ad). A remnant from the former generation is referred to as ` Ad-ul-‘Ukhra, because they are linked with their great-grand father Iram more closely than ` Ad-ul-‘Ukhra. Here the Qur’an refers to the first tribe as ` Ad Iram. In Surah An-Najm, they are described as: عَادًا الْأُولَىٰ (the earlier ` Ad,) [53:50]
[89:4] and by the night when it moves away,
[89:5] Is there (not) in that an oath (enough) for a man of sense?
[89:6] Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with (the people) of ` Ad
[89:7] of Iram, the men of tall pillars,
They are introduced here by the epithet: ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ (the men of tall pillars)
The word ` imad’ and ‘amud’ means ‘pillar’. The people of ` Ad are mentioned as the men of tall pillars because they were very tall in stature. They were a stronger and more powerful people than any other nations. The Qur’an describes them explicitly, thus:
لَمْ يُخْلَقْ مِثْلُهَا فِي الْبِلَادِ (the like of whom were never created in the lands…89:8) The Qur’an made it clear that this nation was the tallest and the strongest in their physical stature, but the Qur’an did not state the exact measurement of the people because it was unnecessary [for Qur’anic purposes]. Therefore, that detail has been left out. Israelite traditions, however, narrate such incredible reports about their stature, height and power that are difficult to believe. It is reported from Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ and Muqatil that they were six yards or eighteen feet [5.46] tall. This too seems to be derived from Israelite reports. And Allah knows best!
Some commentators say that ‘Iram’ is the name of the ‘paradise’ which ` Ad’s son Shaddad had built. The epithet ‘possessor of tall pillars’ [translated above as ‘men of tall pillars’] is used for him. The [so-called paradise] was a lofty structure standing on tall pillars built with gold and silver and studded with jewels, gems and other precious stones, so that people may prefer an instant and ready at hand paradise instead of Paradise of the Hereafter. When this magnificent palace was ready for use, and Shaddad, together with the leaders of his kingdom, wanted to enter, Divine punishment overtook them. They, together with the palaces, were completely destroyed. [Qurtubi]. In this interpretation, the verse refers to a specific punishment which descended upon the paradise built by ` Ad’s son Shaddad. In the first interpretation, which the majority of the commentators prefer, it refers to all the punishments that descended upon the nation of Ad.
[89:8] the like of whom were never created in the lands,
[89:9] and (how He dealt) with (the people of) Thamud who had carved out the rocks in the Valley (of Qura),
[89:10] and with Fir’aun (the Pharaoh), the man of the stakes,
وَفِرْعَوْنَ ذِي الْأَوْتَادِ (and with Fir’aun [the Pharaoh], the man of the stakes…89:10). The word autad is the plural of watad that means ‘peg or stake or nail’. Fir’aun (the Pharaoh) is referred to as ‘the man of the stakes’. There are several reasons for this. Majority of the commentators hold the view that he was so called because of the brute torture and cruel torment he inflicted on the people. When he was angry with people, he would hammer stakes into the ground and tie them to these, so that they could be tortured; or he would hammer stakes into their hands and feet, as they lay on the ground in the scorching heat of the sun, and leave them to the mercy of snakes and scorpions. Other commentators have recounted a lengthy story about his wife ‘Asiyah. She embraced ‘Iman (the True Faith) and expressed it to Fir’aun (the Pharaoh). This angered him and he inflicted on her the same type of brute torture and destroyed her. [Mazhari].
[89:11] all those who had rebelled in the cities,
[89:12] and spread a lot of mischief therein.
[89:13] So, your Lord unloosed on them the whip of torment.
فَصَبَّ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّكَ سَوْطَ عَذَابٍ (So, your Lord unloosed on them the whip of torment….89:13). The punishment inflicted upon them as a result of their mischief is referred to here as a ‘whip of torment’. It signifies that just as lashes are inflicted across different parts of the body, the torment these nations received was similar to it in that they suffered different kinds of punishment.
[89:14] Surely your Lord is ever on the watch.
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالْمِرْصَادِ (Surely your Lord is ever on the watch….89:14]. The
word mirsad or marsad [is derived from the root rasada which means ‘to lie in wait or on watch’]. Thus it means ‘an ambush, or a place of observation; it is usually used for a place where persons have to travel through a pass in which someone is lying in wait to strike them’. The verse purports to say that Allah is ever watching and observing their movements and activities. No one should think that he could escape Divine torment, because all are under His authority and Power, and He may administer His punishment whenever He wills. Some commentators state that this verse is the subject of the five oaths mentioned taken in the first five verses of this Surah.
[89:15] As for man, when his Lord tests him, and thus gives him honour and bounties, he says, “My Lord has honoured me.”
Wealth and Poverty are no Signs of One’s Acceptance or Rejection
فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ ۔ وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ (As for man, when his Lord tests him, and thus gives him honour and bounties, he says, “My Lord has honoured me. But when he tests him, and thus straitens his provision for him, he says, “My Lord has disgraced me…89:15-16). The word ‘man’ here primarily refers to an ‘unbelieving man’ who may form any thought about Allah as he feels like, but in its general sense, the word may include a Muslim as well who has the same thought as an unbeliever. When Allah gives abundant wealth and good health to such people, the devil puts into their head two false ideas. First, they succumb to their baser instincts; they become haughty and arrogant; and they think that the wealth and health is the result of their superior intellect, personal capability, efforts and achievement. Secondly, they think that they are enjoying a favourable status with Allah. If they did not enjoy the favourable position with Him, they would not have been granted such an abundance of wealth. By the same token, if Allah curtails their sustenance i.e. they suffer some degree of poverty, they regard it as a curse from Allah, and complain that He is humiliating or dishonouring them, while they deserved honour and respect. The unbelievers and idolaters do hold such thoughts and ideas, as the Qur’an has pointed out on many occasions, but it is regrettable that many Muslims nowadays fall into similar ideas. Allah refutes man’s belief by the expression کَلَّا Kalla ‘No/never!’ The matter is not as he claims. Wealth does not indicate acceptance of a man by Allah, nor does poverty indicate rejection. [For indeed Allah gives wealth to those whom He loves and those whom He does not love. Likewise, He withholds sustenance /wealth from those whom He loves and those whom He does not love.] Often the matter is quite the contrary. Fir’aun (the Pharaoh) claimed godhead and lordship, yet he never suffered from any headache. Some of Prophets (علیہم السلام) were sliced, by enemies, into two pieces with a saw. The Holy Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said that the poor refugees will enter Paradise forty years before the wealthy muhajirs (Immigrants). [Imam Muslim رحمۃ علیہ has transmitted it from ` Abdullah Ibn Umar ؓ – Mazhari]. In another narration, the Holy Prophet ﷺ is reported to have said that whomever Allah loves, He keeps him away from the worldly luxuries as people keep away their sickly patients from water. [Ahmad and Tirmidhi transmitted it on the authority of Qatadah Ibn Nu` man Mazhari].
[89:16] But when he tests him, and thus straitens his provision for him, he says, “My Lord has disgraced me.”
[89:17] No! But you do not honour the orphan,
Spending on the Orphan is not Sufficient. Their respect is also necessary
لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيم (No! But you do not honour the orphan….89:17). The unbelievers are warned, in these verses, against some of their evil character traits. First, as is mentioned in this verse, they do not honour and treat the orphans kindly. The basic objective of the verse is that they deprive them of their rights, and do not spend on them what is due to them, but the expression used is that they do not honour them, probably to indicate that the requirement of Allah’s gratitude, and also of humanitarian sense, is not only that the orphans are given their dues by spending wealth on them, but it is also necessary to honour them and treat them kindly. The guardians should not despise and look down upon their wards, and to discriminate them against their own children. This is apparently a rebuff to the unbelievers who think that wealth is an ‘honour’ and poverty is a ‘dishonour’. After refuting their thoughts and ideas with the expression کَلَّا Kalla ‘No/ never!’, the verse under comment progresses to say bal ‘But’ that they are deprived of sustenance, because they squander it in immoral pursuits, depriving the orphans of their rights in it.
وَلَا تَحَاضُّونَ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ (and do not encourage one another to feed the needy….89:18). This is the second evil trait of the unbelievers. The style of this verse, in condemning the evil trait of the unbelievers, indicates that it is an obligation of the affluent to spend on the poor and indigent from their own wealth. Obviously, the poor are unable to spend owing to lack of means, but they should at least encourage others to feed the needy.
[89:18] and do not encourage one another to feed the needy.
[89:19] And you devour the inheritance with a sweeping gulp,
وَتَأْكُلُونَ التُّرَاثَ أَكْلًا لَّمًّا (And you devour the inheritance with a sweeping gulp…89:19). The word lamm means to ‘gather, amass, concentrate the thing’. This is the third evil trait of the unbelievers, and the verse signifies that they devour inheritance with voracious appetites however they can get it, whether by lawful means or unlawful means. They gather them all together to make a sweeping gulp. When someone passes away, they take their own shares, together with the shares of others, regardless of whether the shares belong to orphans, widows or people who are absent. [As a matter of principle,] it is not permitted to mix up lawful and forbidden wealth in any transaction. Here, however, ‘inheritance’ has been particularly mentioned, probably because having a greedy eye on it and pursuing it are a proof of man’s greed and voracity for wealth. He stares at it like a beast of prey waiting for the person to die, and looking for the opportunity to distribute the estate. But an honourable man of principle and a noble person would not look at the wealth of the deceased with greedy eyes.
[89:20] and love wealth, with an excessive love.
وَتُحِبُّونَ الْمَالَ حُبًّا جَمًّا (and love wealth, with an excessive love 89:20). The
word jamm means ‘excessive’. This verse refers to the fourth evil trait of the unbelievers. They have an insatiable love for wealth. The word ‘excessive’ indicates that love of wealth in itself, in a sober sense, is a natural instinct of man. That has not been condemned here. What is denounced is the excessive or insatiable love of wealth. After describing the evil traits of the unbelievers, the passage reverts to the main theme that was emphasised in the earlier part of the Surah with five oaths, that is, the punishment of the Hereafter. In this connection, it first mentions the process of the end of the world, and subsequently the establishment of the Day of Resurrection, thus:
كَلَّا إِذَا دُكَّتِ الْأَرْضُ دَكًّا دَكًّا (No! When the earth will be crushed thoroughly to be turned into bits…89:21). The word dakk literally means ‘to pound or crush a thing into bits and pieces’. This refers to the earthquakes that will crush and ground the mountains to dust. The world will thus be dissolved. This will be the first stage of Resurrection. When this stage of Resurrection ends, the second stage of Resurrection will begin. The word dakkan is repeated in order to show that there will be a series of earthquakes before the dissolution of the world.
[89:21] No! When the earth will be crushed thoroughly to be turned into bits,
[89:22] and your Lord will come, and the angels as well, lined up in rows,
وَجَاءَ رَبُّكَ وَالْمَلَكُ صَفًّا صَفًّا (and your Lord will come, and the angels as well, lined up in rows….89:22) They will arrive in the Plain of Gathering. The words ‘your Lord will come’ is an allegorical expression. No one, besides Allah, knows the nature of His coming. The words ‘and the angels [will arrive] as well, lined up in rows’ are clear in meaning.
وَجِيءَ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِجَهَنَّمَ ۚ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ وَأَنَّىٰ لَهُ الذِّكْرَىٰ (and Jahannam [Hell], on that day, will be brought forward, it will be the day when man will realise the truth, but from where will he take advantage of such realisation?…. 89:23). No one, besides Allah, knows how exactly ‘Hell’ will be brought forward in the Plain of Gathering. Apparently, ‘Hell’ which is at the moment beneath the seventh earth will at that moment will flare up, and the oceans become part of the flame. In this way, Hell during the gathering will be in front of all.
[89:23] and Jahannam (Hell), on that day, will be brought forward, it will be the day when man will realise the truth, but from where will he take advantage of such realisation?
يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ وَأَنَّىٰ لَهُ الذِّكْرَىٰ (it will be the day when man will realise the truth, but from where will he take advantage of such realisation? – 89-23). The word tadhakkur in this context means ‘to realise’. The unbelievers will realise the errors of their ways in the Hereafter, but it will be too late, because it is this present world where ‘Imn and good deeds benefit the people. The Hereafter is the place only for reckoning and retribution. Man will express his remorse thus:
يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي قَدَّمْتُ لِحَيَاتِي (He will say, “0 Would that I had sent ahead [some good deeds] for [this] my life!”….89:24). When he faces the torment of disbelief and idolatry on that day of devastation, man will lament that he should have carried out good deeds and refrained from sin in this world to be saved from punishment in the Hereafter. But it will be of no avail. Allah says: ‘So, that day, no one can punish like He will punish, nor can anyone shackle like He will shackle….89:26] Having described the torment of the unbelievers, the conclusion of the Surah gives cheerful news to the believers that they will be admitted into Paradise. Thus it says:
[89:24] He will say, “0 Would that I had sent ahead (some good deeds) for (this) my life!”
[89:25] So, that day, no one can punish as He will punish,
[89:26] nor can anyone shackle like He will shackle.
[89:27] (As for an obedient man, it will be said to him,) “0 content soul,
يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ( O contented soul…89:27). Here the soul of the believer is referred to as nafs mutma’innah ‘the contented soul’. The word mutma’innah literally means ‘calm’. It refers to the soul that is ‘peaceful and tranquil’ as a result of remembrance and obedience of Allah. When he abandons it, he feels restless. This is probably the same soul as is made pure, through spiritual exercises and discipline, from the evil traits and bad conduct. Obedience of Allah and His remembrance becomes his predisposition. Shari’ah becomes his nature.
ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ (come back to your Lord….89:28). The words ‘come back’ indicate that his first place was with his Lord, and now he is commanded to go back to Him. This confirms the narration that the souls of the believers, together with their Book of Deeds, will be in ` illiyin. ` Illiyin is a place on the seventh heaven in the shade of the Throne of the Most-Merciful Lord. This is the original resting-place of all human souls, from where they are brought out and put into human body. After death, the souls are returned to that place.
[89:28] come back to your Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing.
رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً (…well-pleased, well-pleasing….89:28). [The true believer’s] soul is well-pleased with decrees destined by Allah and His legislative commands, and Allah too is well-pleased with His slave. The slave’s being pleased with Allah’s decrees and injunctions is a sign that Allah is pleased.
[89:29] So, enter among My (special) servants,
فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي (So, enter among My [special] servants…89:29). In other words, the contented soul will be addressed [compassionately], and first asked to enter the fold of righteous and sincere slaves, and then to enter Paradise. This indicates that entry into Paradise depends on their being, first and foremost, in the fold of the righteous believers. Then they will enter Paradise all together. This shows that joining the company of the righteous in this world is a sign that he will enter Paradise with them. Thus Prophet Sulaiman (علیہ السلام) prayed:
وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ الصَّالِحِينَ
‘…and admit me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous slaves…[27:19] ‘
Prophet Yusuf (علیہ السلام) prayed:
‘…and make me join the righteous. [12:101] ‘
The above supplications indicate that the company of the righteous is such a great blessing that even the Holy Prophets cannot do without, as a result they pray for it.
[89:30] وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي (and enter My Paradise 89:30]. In this verse, Paradise is attributed to Allah, and Allah said ‘My Paradise’. This is a great honour, and indicates that Paradise will not only have all sorts of eternal comfort, but above all it is a place of Allah’s pleasure.
The preceding verses describe the reward of the believers in such a manner that on behalf of Allah, the angels will address their souls honourably and in a befitting manner, as in the verses. It is not clear when they will be addressed. Some commentators say that they will be addressed on the Day of Reckoning after the reckoning is over. The context of the verses confirms this. The punishment of the unbelievers was described above. That will take place in the Hereafter after the Judgment has been passed. It is obvious that the believers will be addressed at the same time. Other scholars indicate that the believers will be addressed in this world at the time of death. Many authentic traditions bear testimony to the veracity of this view. Ibn Kathir, on the other hand, reconciles the apparently conflicting statements thus: Allah will address the soul of the believers twice with these words. Once at the time of death, and again on the Day of Judgment.
Sayyidna ` Ubadah Ibn Samit’s narration cited earlier supports the view that the address will be at the time of death. In a lengthy narration of Sayyidna Abu Hurairah, recorded in Musnad of Ahmad, Nasa’i and Ibn Majah, the Holy Prophet ﷺ said: “When death approaches a believer, the angels of mercy bring to him a piece of white silk and say: اخرجی راضیۃ مرضیّۃ الی روح اللہ وریحانہ ‘Come out [from this body], well-pleased and well-pleasing, to Divine mercy and to the eternal comforts of Paradise’ [to the end of narration.] ” Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ says that one day he recited the verse يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ (0 contented soul) in the presence of the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، Abu Bakr ؓ who was present in the assembly, said: “0 Allah’s Messenger, what a fine address and honour!” The Holy Prophet ﷺ said: “Behold, the angel will address you thus after your death.”
A Few Strange Incidents
Said Ibn Jubair رضی اللہ تعالیٰ عنہ reports that Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ passed away in Ta’if. After the funeral was prepared, a strange bird, the like of which was never seen before, came and entered the body, but no one saw it coming out of it. When it was lowered into the grave for burial, an invisible voice was heard reciting from the side of the grave: يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ Everyone looked around, but could not find anyone. Another incident is recorded by Hafiz Tabarani in his book Kitab-ul-` Aja’ib. He narrates with his chain of authorities, an incident about Fattan Ibn Razin Abi Hashim that once they were imprisoned in a Roman city. They were presented before their king. The king was an infidel. He coerced them to adopt his religion, and threatened them that if anyone refuses to comply with his command, he would be beheaded. They were a few people. Three of them feared for their lives, adopted his religion and thus became apostates. The fourth person refused to adopt the king’s religion. He was beheaded and his head was thrown into a nearby river. When it was thrown, the head went to the bottom of the river. Later, it emerged from the water and came to the surface. Then it looked at the other three persons, and calling each one of them by name, recited:
يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ ﴿27﴾ ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً ﴿28﴾ فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي ﴿29﴾ وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي ﴿30﴾
“0 contented. soul,  come back to your Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing  So, enter among My (special) servants,  and enter Paradise.”
After that it dived back into the water.
This was an unusual incident which everyone witnessed and heard. When the Christians of that place witnessed this, almost all of them embraced Islam which shook up the king’s throne. The three persons who had become apostates reverted to Islam. Caliph Abu Ja’far Mansur had them all released from their [enemy’s] prison.
The Commentary on
The present surah follows, in general, the line of this part of the Qur’an, inviting the human heart to faith, urging man to awake, meditate and follow the path of righteousness. It uses different kinds of emphasis, connotation, and rhythm, but constitutes, nevertheless, a single harmonious piece of music, varying in tones but maintaining the same cadence. Some of its scenes impart a touch of quiet beauty and a light, pleasant rhythm. This is particularly evident in its opening, which describes certain charming aspects of the universe and provides at the same time an aura of worship and prayer: “By the dawn, by the ten nights, by that which is even and that which is odd, by the night as it journeys on!” (Verses 1-4) Other scenes are tense and dramatic in both what they describe and, in their music,, like this violent, frightening picture: “No indeed! When the earth is systematically levelled down, and your Lord comes, with the angels rank on rank, and on that day, hell is brought near, then man will remember, but how will that remembrance avail him? He shall say, ‘Oh, would that I had prepared for my life!’ On that day, none will punish as He punishes, and none will bind with chains as He binds.” (Verses 21-26)
Some of the portraits drawn in the surah are pleasing, gentle and reassuring, striking perfect harmony between subject matter and rhythm. This is especially true of its ending: “Oh soul at peace! Return to your Lord, well pleased and well pleasing. Enter, then, together with My servants! Enter My paradise!’ (Verses 27-30)
The surah also includes references to the destruction that befell insolent peoples of the past. The rhythm here falls somewhere between that of easy narration and that of violent destruction: “Have you not heard how your Lord dealt with the `Ad, the people of Iram, the many pillared [city], the like of whom has never been created in the whole land? And with the Thamud, who hollowed out rocks in the valley? And with Pharaoh, of the tent pegs? They were all transgressors throughout their lands, bringing about much corruption there. Therefore, your Lord let loose on them the scourge of suffering. Your Lord surely observes all.” (Verses 6-14)
We also have an outline of some human concepts and values which are at variance with faith. This part has its own style and rhythm: “As for man, whenever his Lord tries him by His generosity and with a life of ease, he says, My Lord is bountiful to me.’ But whenever He tries him by stinting his means, he says, My Lord has disgraced me.’” (Verses 15-16)
A refutation of these erroneous concepts and values is provided through an exposition of the human conditions which give rise to them. Here we have two kinds of style and rhythm: “No indeed; but you are not generous towards the orphan, nor do you urge one another to feed the needy. You devour the inheritance [of others] greedily, and you love wealth passionately.” (Verses 17-20)
It is clear that the latter style and rhythm serves as a bridge between the statement of erroneous human ways and that which explains their inevitable attendant fate. These verses are immediately followed by a picture of the earth as it is levelled.
This brief overview reveals to us the numerous colours of the scenes described and explains the change of metre and rhyme according to the change of scenes. The surah is indeed an excellent example of an exceptionally beautiful style which is varied and harmonious at the same time.
A Serene Opening
“By the dawn, by the ten nights, by that which is even and that which is odd, by the night as it journeys on! Is there not in that an oath for a man of sense?” (Verses 1-5) opening groups together a few scenes and creatures who have familiar, pleasant, and transparent souls. “By the dawn,” refers to the time when life starts to breathe with ease and happiness, a time of fresh, friendly companionship. This dormant world gradually wakes up in a prayer-like process.
“By the ten nights.” (Verse 2) The Qur’an does not specify which these ten nights are. Several explanations, however, have been advanced. Some say they are the first of the month of Dhu’l-Hijjah; some say they are in al-Muharram; and others state that they are the last ten nights of Ramadan. As it leaves them undefined, the Arabic reference acquires an added yet amiable effect. They are merely ten nights known to God but the expression connotes that they have special character, as if they were living creatures with souls and there was mutual sympathy between them and us, transmitted through this Qur’anic verse.
“By that which is even and that which is odd.” (Verse 3) This verse adds an atmosphere of worship to that of the dawn and the ten nights. According to hadith Al Tirmidhi, the Prophet says: “Some prayers are of even number and some are odd.” This is the most appropriate import to be attached to this verse, in the general context of the surah. It suggests a mutual response between the souls of the worshippers and those of the selected nights and the brightening dawn.
“By the night as it journeys on.” (Verse 4) The night here is personified as if it were a traveller journeying in the universe. Its portrait is like that of an insomniac walking on and on in the darkness, or a wayfarer who prefers to start his long journey at night. What a beautiful expression, one enhanced by its superb rhythm! The harmony between this verse and the dawn, the ten nights, the even and the odd is perfect. These are not mere words and expressions: they provide a feeling of the breeze at dawn, and of the morning dew diffusing the fragrance of flowers.
This is the effect of a gentle, inspiring whisper on our hearts, souls and consciences. The beauty of this loving address is far superior to any poetic expression because it combines the beauty of originality with the statement of certain fact. Hence it concludes with a rhetorical question: “Is there not in that an oath for a man of sense?” (Verse 5) The oath and the conviction are certainly there for anyone with a meditative mind. Although the positive meaning is intended, the interrogative form is used because it is gentler. Thus harmony with the preceding address is maintained.
Swift Punishment of Tyranny
The subject of the oath is omitted, but it is explained by the discussion that follows on tyranny and corruption. The punishment inflicted by God on the insolent, tyrannical and corrupt communities is a law of nature asserted by this oath. The assertion takes the form of a hint befitting the generally light tone of this surah: “Have you not heard how your Lord dealt with the `Ad, the people of Iram, the many pillared [city], the like of whom has never been created in the whole land? And with the Thamud, who hollowed out rocks in the valley? And with Pharaoh, of the tent pegs? They were all transgressors throughout their lands, bringing about much corruption there. Therefore, your Lord let loose on them the scourge of suffering. Your Lord surely observes all.” (Verses 6-14)
The interrogative form in such a context is more effective in drawing the attention of the addressee, who is, in the first instance, the Prophet (peace be upon him) and then all those who may ponder over the fates of those past communities. The people of the Prophet’s generation, who were the first to be addressed by the Qur’an, were aware of what happened to these nations. Their fates were also explained in reports and stories conveyed by one generation to another. The description of these outcomes as the deeds of God is comforting and reassuring for the believers. It was particularly so to those believers in Makkah who, at the time when this surah was revealed, were subjected to relentless persecution and hardship by the unbelievers.
These short verses refer to the fates of the most powerful and despotic nations in ancient history. They speak of the earlier tribe of `Ad of Iram, a branch of extinct Arabs. They used to dwell in al-Ahqaf, a sandy piece of land in southern Arabia, midway between Yemen and Hadramowt. The `Ad were nomadic, using posts and pillars to erect their tents. They are described elsewhere in the Qur’an as being extremely powerful and aggressive. Indeed they were the most powerful and prestigious of all contemporary Arabian tribes: “The like of whom has never been created in the whole land.” (Verse 8) The distinction here is restricted to that particular age.
“And with the Thamud, who hollowed out rocks in the valley?” (Verse 9) The Thamud used to live at Al-Hijr, a rocky tract in northern Arabia, on the road from Madinah to Syria. They excelled in using rocks to build their palaces and homes. They also dug shelters and caves into the mountains.
“And with Pharaoh, of the tent pegs.” (Verse 10) The term, tent- pegs’, refers to the pyramids which are as firm in their construction as pegs well dug into the ground. The Pharaoh referred to here is the despot who was Moses’s contemporary.
These people “were all transgressors throughout their lands, bringing about much corruption there.” (Verses 11-12) Corruption is an inevitable result of tyranny, and it affects the tyrant and his subjects alike. Indeed, tyranny ruins all human relations. It forces human life out of its healthy, constructive, and straight path and diverts it into a line which does not lead to the fulfilment of man’s role as God’s vicegerent on earth. Tyranny makes the tyrant captive of his own desires because he is uncommitted to any principle or standard and unrestrained within any reasonable limit. Thus, the tyrant is always the first to be corrupted by his own tyranny. He assumes for himself a role other than that of a servant of God, entrusted with a specific mission. This is evident in Pharaoh’s boastful claim: “I am your supreme Lord.” (79: 24)
Here we have an example of the corrupting influence, indeed insolence, of despotism in Pharaoh’s aspiring to a status greater than that of an obedient creature. Tyranny also corrupts the masses, as it humiliates them and compels them to suppress their discontent and hatred. It kills all human dignity and wastes all creative talents, which cannot flourish except in an atmosphere of freedom. A humiliated soul inevitably rots away and becomes a breeding ground for sickly desires. Hence, digression from the right path becomes the order of the day as clear vision becomes an impossibility. In such conditions no aspiration to a higher human standard can be entertained. The net result of all this is the spread of corruption.
Tyranny also destroys all healthy standards and concepts because they constitute a threat to its existence. Hence, values are falsified and standards are distorted so that the repulsive idea of despotism becomes acceptable as natural. This, in itself, is great corruption.
When these aforementioned peoples caused such corruption, the remedy was, inevitably, a complete purge: “Therefore, your Lord let loose on them the scourge of suffering. Your Lord surely observes all.” (Verses 13-14) God is certainly aware of their deeds and He records them all. So, when corruption increased, He severely punished the corrupt. The text connotes that the punishment was very painful as it uses the term ‘scourge’, or ‘whip’ as the Arabic term literally means, and that it was in large supply as indicated by use of the phrase ‘let loose’. Thus these tyrants were made to suffer a plentiful and painful retribution.
As the believer faces tyranny in any age or place, he feels great reassurance emanating from far beyond the fates of all those communities. He also feels a particular comfort as he reads the verse: “Your Lord surely observes all.” (Verse 14) Nothing passes unnoticed and nothing is forgotten. So let the believers be always reassured that God will deal, in time, with all corruption and tyranny.
Thus the surah provides some examples of what God may do about the cause of faith, which are totally different from the example of the people of the pit outlined in Surah 85, The Constellations. All these stories are related for a definite purpose, namely, the education of the believers and their preparation to face whichever course God chooses for them. They will, then, be ready for all eventualities and equipped with God’s reassurance as they submit themselves to Him and let His will be done.
“Your Lord surely observes all.” (Verse 14) He sees, records, holds to account and rewards according to a strict and accurate measure which neither errs nor exceeds the limits of justice. It is never deceived by appearances because it judges the essence of things. Human measures and standards are liable to all sorts of errors. Man sees nothing beyond appearances unless he adopts the divine measure.
“As for man, whenever his Lord tries him by His generosity and with a life of ease, he says, My Lord is bountiful to me.’ But whenever He tries him by stinting his means, he says, My Lord has disgraced me.’“ (Verses 15-16) Such is man’s thinking about the various forms of trial God may set for him, be it comfort or hardship, abundance or scarcity. God may test him with comfort, honour, wealth or position but he does not realize the probationary nature of what he is given. Rather he considers the gesture as proof that he deserves to be honoured by God and as evidence that He has chosen him for a special honour. It is a line of thinking which mistakes trial for reward and test for result. It imagines honour in the sight of God to be measured by worldly comforts. God may also try man by stinting his means, and man again mistakes trial for reward and imagines the test to be a retribution. He feels that God has made him poor in order to humiliate him.
In both situations the human concept is faulty. Wealth and poverty are two forms of a test which God sets for His servants. A test with abundance reveals whether a man is humble and thankful to his Lord or arrogant and haughty, while a trial of the opposite kind reveals his patient acceptance or his irritability and fretfulness. A man’s reward is given according to what he proves himself to be. What he is given or denied of worldly comforts is not his reward, and a man’s standing in the sight of God is in no way related to his possessions, for He gives and denies worldly comforts regardless of whether a man is good or bad. A man devoid of faith cannot comprehend the wisdom behind God’s action of giving or denying worldly comforts. However, when his mind is enlightened with faith and truth becomes apparent to him, he realizes the triviality of worldly riches and the value of the reward after the test. So he works for this reward whether he is tried with worldly abundance or scarcity. As he disregards the hollow considerations of wealth and poverty, he is reassured about his fate and his position in God’s sight.
At the time of revelation, the Qur’an addressed a kind of people common to all jahiliyyah societies, one who had lost all relation with a world beyond our present life. Such people adopt this mistaken view about God’s granting or denial of wealth, and apply a set of values which reserve all honour to money and social standing. Hence, their craving for wealth is irresistible. It makes them covetous, greedy and stingy. The Qur’an reveals their true feelings. It states that their greed and stinginess are responsible for their inability to understand the true significance of divine trial, whether by granting or denying wealth. “No indeed; but you are not generous towards the orphan, nor do you urge one another to feed the needy. You devour the inheritance [of others] greedily, and you love wealth passionately.” (Verses 17-20)
The real issue is that when people are given wealth they do not fulfil the duties demanded of the wealthy. They do not look after the young orphan who has lost his father and become, therefore, in need of protection and support. They do not urge one another to contribute to general welfare. Such mutual encouragement is indeed an important feature of the Islamic way of life. Since such people do not comprehend the significance of the trial, they do not even try to come out of it successfully by looking after the orphans and urging one another to feed the needy. On the contrary, they greedily devour the orphans’ inheritance, and unrestrainedly crave for wealth. It is a craving which kills all their nobility. In Makkah, Islam faced this common urge to accumulate wealth by every possible means. The weak position of orphans, and orphan girls in particular, tempted many to deprive them of their inheritance in different ways. The ardent love of wealth, the craving to accumulate it through usury and other means, was a distinctive feature of Makkan society as it is a distinctive feature of all jahiliyyah societies at all times.
These few verses do not merely expose the true nature of such an attitude. They also condemn it and urge its discontinuation. Condemnation is evident in the repetition noted in these verses, their rhythm and metre: “You devour the inheritance [of others] greedily, and you love wealth passionately.” (Verses 19-20)
The Fateful Day
Once their erroneous concept of the trial with wealth and poverty is outlined, and their vile attitude is exposed there follows a stern warning about the Day of Judgement which comes after the result of the test is known. Here the rhythm is very powerful: “No indeed! When the earth is systematically levelled down, and your Lord comes, with the angels rank on rank, and on that day, hell is brought near, then man will remember, but how will that remembrance avail him! He shall say, ‘Oh, would that I had prepared for my life!’ On that day, none will punish as He punishes, and none will bind with chains as He binds.” (Verses 21-26)
The total destruction of all that is on earth and its systematic levelling is one of the upheavals that overwhelm the universe on the Day of Resurrection. God’s coming with the angels is unexplained but the expression overflows with reverence, awe and fear. The same applies to bringing hell closer. We take it to mean that hell on that day will be very close to its prospective dwellers. What actually happens and how it happens is part of the divine knowledge God has chosen to withhold until that day. These verses, with their captivating rhythm and sharp notes, portray nevertheless a scene which strikes fear into people’s hearts, and makes it apparent in their eyes. The earth is being systematically levelled; God Almighty judges everyone; the angels stand there rank on rank, while hell is brought near and set in readiness.
At that moment “man will remember.” Man, who lived unaware of the wisdom behind the trial with worldly riches or with deprivation; who devoured the inheritance of orphans greedily; who craved for money and did not care for the orphans or the needy; who tyrannized, spread corruption and turned away from divine guidance, will then remember the truth and take account of what he beholds. But alas! It is too late: “But how will that remembrance avail him?” (Verse 23) The time for remembrance is over, so remembrance on the Day of Judgement and reward will not profit anybody. It serves merely as an act of grief for a chance given but not taken in this present life.
When man is fully aware of the true nature of his situation he says despairingly, “Oh, would that I had prepared for my life!” (Verse 24) For the true life, the only one that deserves the name, is indeed the life hereafter. It is the one which is worth preparing for. “Oh, would that I had…” It is a sigh of evident regret and grief, but it is the most a man can do for himself then.
The surah goes on to portray man’s fate after his desperate sighing and useless wishing: “On that day, none will punish as He punishes, and none will bind with chains as He binds.” (Verses 25-26) It is God Almighty who inflicts His incomparable punishment, and who binds as no one can bind. This divine punishment and binding are explained in detail in other parts of the Qur’an, but the reference here is very brief, stressing mainly their incomparability to human action.
The reference to divine punishment here brings to mind the earlier reference to human tyranny in the given examples of the ‘Ad, Thamud and Pharaoh. Those tyrants are stated to have spread much corruption in their lands, including physically torturing people and binding them with chains and ropes. These last verses serve as an address to the Prophet and the believers, reminding them that their Lord will punish and chain those who tortured and chained others. But the two kinds of punishment are entirely different. Meagre is the torture that any creature can administer, but great is that inflicted by the Creator. Let the tyrants continue with their punishment and in different ways. The ardent love of wealth, the craving to accumulate it through usury and other means, was a distinctive feature of Makkan society as it is a distinctive feature of all jahiliyyah societies at all times.
Amidst all this unimaginable horror comes an address from on high to the believers: “Oh soul at peace! Return to your Lord, well pleased and well pleasing. Enter, then, together with My servants! Enter My paradise!” (Verses 27-30)
It is a tender, compassionate and reassuring address: “Oh soul at peace!” (Verse 27) It speaks of freedom and ease, after the earlier reference to chains and affliction: “Return to your Lord.” (Verse 28) After your alienation on earth and your separation from the one you belong to. Return now to your Lord with whom you have strong ties: “well pleased and well pleasing.” (Verse 28) It is a gentle address which spreads compassion and satisfaction. “Enter, then, together with My servants,” among those servants chosen to enjoy this divine grace. “Enter My paradise,” to receive God’s mercy and protection.
As it opens, this address generates an aura of heaven: “Oh soul at peace!” The believer’s is a soul at peace with its Lord, certain of its way, confident of its fate. It is a soul satisfied in all eventualities, happiness or affliction, wealth or poverty. It entertains no doubts; it is free from transgressions. The gentle music adds a feeling of intimacy and peace. The majestic face of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, with all His splendour looks on from above.
Tafseer Surah Fajr By Abul A’la Maududi
The Surah is so designated after the word wal-fajr with which it opens.
Period of Revelation
Its contents show that it was revealed at the stage when persecution of the new converts to Islam had begun in Makkah. On that very basis the people of Makkah have been warned of the evil end of the tribes of Ad and Thamud and of Pharaoh.
Theme and Subject Matter
Its theme is to affirm the meting out of rewards and punishments in the Hereafter, which the people of Makkah were not prepared to acknowledge, Let us consider the reasoning in the order in which it has been presented.
First of all, swearing oaths by the dawn, the ten nights, the even and the odd, and the departing night, the listeners have been asked: “Are these things not enough to testify to the truth of that which you are refusing to acknowledge?” From the explanation that we have given of these four things in the corresponding notes, it will become clear that these things are a symbol of the regularity that exists in the night and day, and swearing oaths by these the question has been asked in the sense: Even after witnessing this wise system established by God, do you still need any other evidence to show that it is not beyond the power of that God Who has brought about this system to establish the Hereafter, and that it is the very requirement of his wisdom that He should call man to account for his deeds?
Then, reasoning from man’s own history, the evil end of the Ad and the Thamud and Pharaoh has been cited as an example to show that when they transgressed all limits and multiplied corruption in the earth, Allah laid upon them the scourge of His chastisement. This is a proof of the fact that the system of the universe is not being run by deaf and blind forces, nor is the world a lawless kingdom of a corrupt ruler, but a Wise Ruler is ruling over it, the demand of Whose wisdom and justice is continuously visible in the world itself in man’s own history that He should call to account, and reward and punish accordingly, the being whom He has blessed with reason and moral sense and given the right of appropriation in the world.
After this, an appraisal has been made of the general moral state of human society of which Arab paganism was a conspicuous example; two aspects of it in particular, have been criticized: first the materialistic attitude of the people on account of which overlooking the moral good and evil, they regarded only the achievement of worldly wealth, rank and position, or the absence of it, as the criterion of honor or disgrace, and had forgotten that neither riches was a reward nor poverty a punishment, but that Allah is trying man in both conditions to see what attitude he adopts when blessed with wealth and how he behaves when afflicted by poverty. Second, the people’s attitude under which the orphan child in their society was left destitute on the death of the father. Nobody asked after the poor; whoever could, usurped the whole heritage left by the deceased parent, and drove away the weak heirs fraudulently. The people were so afflicted with an insatiable greed for wealth that they were never satisfied however much they might hoard and amass. This criticism is meant to make them realize as to why the people with such an attitude and conduct in the life of the world should not be called to account for their misdeeds.
The discourse has been concluded with the assertion that accountability shall certainly be held and it will be held on the Day when the Divine Court will be established. At that time the deniers of the judgment will understand that which they are not understanding now in spite of instruction and admonition, but understanding then will be of no avail. The denier will regret and say, “Would that I had provided for this Day beforehand while I lived in the world.” But his regrets will not save him from Allah’s punishment. However, as for the people who would have accepted the Truth, which the heavenly books and the Prophets of God were presenting, with full satisfaction of the heart in the world, Allah will be pleased with them and they will be well pleased with the rewards bestowed by Allah. They will be called upon to join the righteous and enter Paradise.