Surah Ash Shams (Arabic: الشمس‎) is the 91st Surah of the Quran. The English meaning of this Surah is “The Sun” and it is a Meccan Surah meaning it’s revelation was before the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) migrated from Mecca to Medinah. It’s composed of 15 ayat or verses.

The Surah is in two parts, ayat 1-10 deal with one subject matter and 11-15 a second. The first part can be summarized into this one line, A Muslim’s happiness or misery in life is directly dependent on the purity or corruption he has brought into it (i.e. a person’s choices or actions determines his own fate).

The second part of Surah gives account to the story Thamud – an ancient civilization near the time of Muhammad located in the north of the peninsula – and their negative attitude and transgression towards Allah’s messenger (ﷺ). They disobeyed Allah’s command and killed the she-camel which inevitably lead to their own destruction. 

Below you can read Surah Ash Shams in its entirety with transliteration and Sahih International English translation. At the end of Surah we’ve provided four different Tafsir including Tafsir by Ibn Kathir.

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Read Surah Ash Shams Transliteration and Translation

Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful

وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَاهَا

Wash shamsi wa duhaa haa
1. By the sun and its brightness

وَالْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَاهَا

Walqamari itha talaha
2. And [by] the moon when it follows it

وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّاهَا

Wannahari itha jallaha
3. And [by] the day when it displays it

وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَاهَا

Wallaili izaa yaghshaa haa
4. And [by] the night when it covers it

وَالسَّمَاءِ وَمَا بَنَاهَا

Wassamaaa’i wa maa banaahaa
5. And [by] the sky and He who constructed it

وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا طَحَاهَا

Wal-ardi wama tahaha
6. And [by] the earth and He who spread it

وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا

Wanafsin wama sawwaha
7. And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it

فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا

Faalhamaha fujooraha wataqwaha
8. And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness,

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا

Qad aflaha man zakkaha
9. He has succeeded who purifies it,

وَقَدْ خَابَ مَنْ دَسَّاهَا

Wa qad khaaba man dassaahaa
10. And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].

كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِطَغْوَاهَا

Kazzabat Samoodu bi taghwaahaaa
11. Thamud denied [their prophet] by reason of their transgression,

إِذِ انْبَعَثَ أَشْقَاهَا

Izim ba’asa ashqaahaa
12. When the most wretched of them was sent forth.

فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ نَاقَةَ اللَّهِ وَسُقْيَاهَا

Faqaala lahum Rasoolul laahi naaqatal laahi wa suqiyaahaa
13. And the messenger of Allah [Salih] said to them, “[Do not harm] the she-camel of Allah or [prevent her from] her drink.”

فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ بِذَنْبِهِمْ فَسَوَّاهَا

Fakazzaboohu fa’aqaroohaa fadamdama ‘alaihim Rabbuhum bizambihim fasaw waahaa
14. But they denied him and hamstrung her. So their Lord brought down upon them destruction for their sin and made it equal [upon all of them].

وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَاهَا

Wa laa yakhaafu’uqbaahaa
15. And He does not fear the consequence thereof.

Tafseer of Surah Ash Shams

For those looking to gain an in depth education on Surah Ash Shams it’s recommend that we read the various works of Quran commentators. By studying the Qur’an we can fully understand the historical context in which these verses we’re revealed, the teachings and the message, learn of the benefits and hadith, you can also be able to draw connections to other ayat of different Surah which you otherwise wouldn’t see.

Tafseer Surah shams by Ibn Kathir

Which was revealed in Makkah
Recitation of Surah Ash-Shams wa Duhaha in the `Isha’ Prayer The Hadith of Jabir which was recorded in the Two Sahihs has already been mentioned. In it the Messenger of Allah said to Mu`adh,

«هَلَّا صَلَّيْتَ بِــ

﴿سَبِّحِ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ الاّعْلَى ﴾

﴿وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَـهَا ﴾

﴿وَالَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَى ﴾»
  (Why didn’t you pray with (the recitation of) (Glorify the Name of your Lord the Most High) (87), (By the sun and Duhaha) (91), and (By the night as it envelops) (92))

﴿بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ
  In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.  
Allah swears by His Creation that the Person Who purifies Himself will be Successful and the Person Who corrupts Himself will fail
Mujahid said,

﴿وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَـهَا ﴾
  (By the sun and Duhaha.) “This means, by its light.” Qatadah said,

  (wa Duhaha.) “The whole day.” Ibn Jarir said, “The correct view is what has been said, `Allah swears by the sun and its daytime, because the clear light of the sun is daytime.”’

﴿وَالْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلـهَا ﴾
  (By the moon as it Talaha.) Mujahid said, “It follows it (the sun).” Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said,

﴿وَالْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلـهَا ﴾
  (By the moon as it Talaha.) “It follows the day.” Qatadah said, “`as it Talaha (follows it)’ is referring to the night of the Hilal (the new crescent moon). When the sun goes down, the Hilal is visible.” Concerning Allah’s statement,

﴿وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّـهَا ﴾
  (By the day as it Jallaha.) Mujahid said, “When it illuminates.” Thus, Mujahid said,

﴿وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّـهَا ﴾
  (By the day as it Jallaha.) “This is similar to Allah’s statement,

﴿وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا تَجَلَّى ﴾
  (By the day as it Tajalla.) (92:2)” And they have said concerning Allah’s statement,

﴿وَالَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَـهَا ﴾
  (By the night as it Yaghshaha.) meaning, when it covers the sun, which takes place when sun disappears and the horizons become dark. Concerning Allah’s statement,

﴿وَالسَّمَآءِ وَمَا بَنَـهَا ﴾
  (By the heaven and Ma Banaha.) The meaning here could be for descriptive purposes, meaning “By the heaven and its construction.” This was said by Qatadah. It could also mean “By the heaven and its Constructor.” This was stated by Mujahid. Both views are interrelated, and construction means raising. This is as Allah says,

﴿وَالسَّمَآءَ بَنَيْنَـهَا بِأَيْدٍ﴾
  (With Hands did We construct the heaven.) (51:47) meaning, with strength.

﴿وَالسَّمَآءَ بَنَيْنَـهَا بِأَيْدٍ وَإِنَّا لَمُوسِعُونَ – وَالاٌّرْضَ فَرَشْنَـهَا فَنِعْمَ الْمَـهِدُونَ ﴾
  (Verily, We are able to extend the vastness of space thereof. And We have spread out the earth: how excellent a spreader are We!) (51:47-48) This is also similar to Allah’s statement,

﴿وَالاٌّرْضِ وَمَا طَحَـهَا ﴾
  (By the earth and Ma Tahaha.) Mujahid said, “Tahaha means He spread it out.” Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said,

﴿وَمَا طَحَـهَا﴾
  (and Ma Tahaha.) “This means what He created in it.” `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, “Tahaha means that He proportioned it.” Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, As-Suddi, Ath-Thawri, Abu Salih and Ibn Zayd all said that

  (Tahaha) means, He spread it out. Allah then says,

﴿وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا ﴾
  (By Nafs, and Ma Sawwaha (Who apportioned it).) meaning, He created it sound and well-proportioned upon the correct nature (Al-Fitrah). This is as Allah says,

﴿فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفاً فِطْرَةَ اللَّهِ الَّتِى فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا لاَ تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ﴾
  (So set you your face towards the religion, Hanif. Allah’s Fitrah with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in the Khalqillah.) (30:30) The Messenger of Allah said,

«كُلُّ مَوْلُودٍ يُولَدُ عَلى الْفِطْرَةِ فَأَبَوَاهُ يُهَوِّدَانِهِ أَوْ يُنَصِّرَانِهِ أَوْ يُمَجِّسَانِهِ، كَمَا تُولَدُ الْبَهِيمَةُ بَهِيمَةً جَمْعَاءَ، هَلْ تُحِسُّونَ فِيهَا مِنْ جَدْعَاءَ؟»
  (Every child that is born, is born upon the Fitrah, but his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian. This is just as the animal is born, complete with all of its parts. Do you notice any mutilation in it) Both Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded this Hadith from Abu Hurayrah. In Sahih Muslim, it has been narrated from `Iyad bin Himar Al-Mujashi`i that the Messenger of Allah said,

«يَقُولُ اللهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ: إِنِّي خَلَقْتُ عِبَادِي حُنَفَاءَ فَجَاءَتْهُمُ الشَّيَاطِينُ فَاجْتَالَتْهُمْ عَنْ دِينِهِم»
  (Allah the Mighty and Majestic says, “Verily I created My servants Hunafa’ (as monotheists), but then the devils came to them and distracted them from their religion.)” Then Allah says,

﴿فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا ﴾
  (Then He showed it its Fujur and its Taqwa.) meaning, He showed him to his transgression and his Taqwa. This means that He clarified that for it and He guided it to what has been ordained for him. Ibn `Abbas said,

﴿فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا ﴾
  (Then He showed it its Fujur and its Taqwa.) “He explained the good and the evil to it (the soul).” Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ath-Thawri all said the same. Sa`id bin Jubayr said, “He gave him inspiration (to see what was) good and evil.” Ibn Zayd said, “He made its Fujur and its Taqwa inside of it.” Ibn Jarir recorded from Abul-Aswad Ad-Dili that he said, “`Imran bin Husayn said to me, `Do you think that what the people do, and what they strive for is a thing that is pre-ordained and predestined for them, or is it a thing which is only written after the Message comes to them from the Prophet , when there will be an evidence against them’ I said, `Rather it is something preordained upon them.’ Then he said, `Is that an injustice’ Then I became extremely frightened of him (due to what he was saying), and I said to him, `There is nothing except that He (Allah) created it and possesses it in His Hand. He is not asked about what He does, while they (His creation) will be asked.’ He (`Imran) then said, `May Allah guide you! I only asked you about that in order to inform you that a man from Muzaynah or Juhaynah tribe came to the Allah’s Messenger and asked him: “O Messenger of Allah! Do you consider the actions of mankind and their struggles to be preordained for them and written for them from Qadr, or something written for them only after the Message came to them from their Prophet, when there will be an evidence against them” He (the Prophet ) replied:

«بَلْ شَيْءٌ قَدْ قُضِيَ عَلَيْهِم»
  (Rather it is something preordained for them.) So the man said, “Then what is the point of our actions” The Prophet replied,

«مَنْ كَانَ اللهُ خَلَقَهُ لإِحْدَى الْمَنْزِلَتَيْنِ يُهَيِّئُهُ لَهَا، وَتَصْدِيقُ ذَلِكَ فِي كِتَابِ اللهِ تَعَالَى:

﴿وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا – فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا ﴾»
  (Whoever Allah created for one of the two positions (Paradise or Hell), He makes it easy for him (to attain). The proof of that is in the Book of Allah (By Nafs, and Ma Sawwaha (Who apportioned it). Then He showed it its Fujur and its Taqwa).)” Ahmad and Muslim both recorded this Hadith. Allah then says,

﴿قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّـهَا – وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّـهَا ﴾
  (Indeed he succeeds who purifies it. And indeed he fails who Dassaha.) This could mean that whoever purifies himself by obedience to Allah, then he will be successful. This is as Qatadah said, “He cleanses it from the lowly and despicable characteristics.” Similar to this has been reported from Mujahid, `Ikrimah and Sa`id bin Jubayr.

﴿وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّـهَا ﴾
  (And indeed he fails who Dassaha.) meaning, to conceal it. This means that he makes it dull, and he disregards it by neglecting to allow it to receive guidance. He treats it in this manner until he performs acts of disobedience and he abandons obedience of Allah. It also could mean that he is indeed successful whose soul Allah purifies, and he has failed whose soul Allah corrupts. This is like what was reported by Al-`Awfi and `Ali bin Abi Talhah from Ibn `Abbas. At-Tabarani recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “The Messenger of Allah used to stop whenever he recited this Ayah,

﴿وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا – فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا ﴾
  (By Nafs, and Ma Sawwaha (Who apportioned it). Then He showed it its Fujur and its Taqwa.) Then he would say,

«اللْهُمَّ آتِ نَفْسِي تَقْوَاهَا، أَنْتَ وَلِيُّهَا وَمَوْلَاهَا، وَخَيْرُ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا»
  (O Allah! Give my soul its good. You are its Guardian and Master, and the best to purify it.)” Another Hadith Imam Ahmad recorded that Zayd bin Arqam said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«اللْهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْعَجْز وَالْكَسَلِ، وَالْهَرَمِ وَالْجُبْنِ وَالْبُخْلِ وَعَذَابِ الْقَبْرِ. اللْهُمَّ آتِ نَفْسِي تَقْوَاهَا، وَزَكِّهَا أَنْتَ خَيْرُ مَنْ زَكَّاهَا، أَنْتَ وَلِيُّهَا وَمَوْلَاهَا. اللْهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ قَلْبٍ لَا يَخْشَعُ، وَمِنْ نَفْسٍ لَا تَشْبَعُ، وَعِلْمٍ لَا يَنْفَعُ، وَدَعْوَةٍ لَا يُسْتَجَابُ لَهَا»
  (O Allah! Verily, I seek refuge with You from weakness, laziness, senility (of old age), cowardliness, stinginess and the torment of the grave. O Allah! Give my soul its good and purify it, for You are the best to purify it. You are its Guardian and Master. O Allah! Verily, I seek refuge with You from a heart that is not humble, a soul that is not satisfied, knowledge that does not benefit and a supplication that is not answered.) Zayd then said, “The Messenger of Allah used to teach us these (words) and we now teach them to you.” Muslim also recorded this Hadith.
The Rejection of Thamud and Allah’s Destruction of Them
Allah informs that Thamud rejected their Messenger because of the injustice and transgression they practiced. This was said by Mujahid, Qatadah and others. Therefore, this resulted in a rejection in their hearts for the guidance and conviction their Messenger came to them with.

﴿إِذِ انبَعَثَ أَشْقَـهَا ﴾
  (When their most wicked went forth.) meaning, the most wicked person of the tribe, and he was Qudar bin Salif, the one who killed the she-camel. He was leader of the tribe of Thamud, and he is the one whom Allah refers to in His saying,

﴿فَنَادَوْاْ صَـحِبَهُمْ فَتَعَاطَى فَعَقَرَ ﴾
  (But they called their comrade and he took (a sword) and killed (her).) (54:29) This man was mighty and respected among his people. He was of noble lineage and a leader who was obeyed. This is just as Imam Ahmad recorded from `Abdullah bin Zam`ah. He said that the Messenger of Allah gave a sermon in which he mentioned the she-camel and he mentioned the man who killed her. Then he said,

«﴿إِذِ انبَعَثَ أَشْقَـهَا ﴾

انْبَعَثَ لَهَا رَجُلٌ عَارِمٌ عَزِيزٌ مَنِيعٌ فَي رَهْطِهِ مِثْلُ أَبِي زَمْعَة»
  ((When their most wicked went forth.)( A strong and mighty man who was invincible among his tribe, like Abu Zam`ah, went forth to her.) This Hadith was recorded by Al-Bukhari in his Book of Tafsir, and Muslim in his Book of the Description of the Hellfire. At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa’i both recorded it in their Sunans in their Books of Tafsir.  
The Story of Salih’s She-Camel
Allah then says,

﴿فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ﴾
  (But the Messenger of Allah said to them) referring to Salih.

﴿نَاقَةُ اللَّهِ﴾
  (That is the she-camel of Allah!) meaning, `beware of touching the she-camel of Allah with any harm.’

  (and its drink!) meaning, `do not transgress against her in her drinking, for she has been allocated a day to drink and you have been allocated a day to drink, as is known to you.’ Then Allah says,

﴿فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا﴾
  (Then they denied him and they killed it.) which means they rejected what he came with. This resulted in them killing the she-camel that Allah had brought out of the rock as a sign for them and a proof against them.

﴿فَدَمْدمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ بِذَنبِهِمْ﴾
  (So their Lord destroyed them because of their sin,) meaning, He became angry with them and He annihilated them.

  (Fasawwaha!) meaning, He made the punishment descend upon them all equally. Qatadah said, “It has reached us that the leader of tribe of Thamud did not kill the she-camel until their youth, their elderly, their males and their females all pledged allegiance to him. So when the people cooperated in killing her, Allah destroyed them all with the same punishment due to their sin.” Allah said,

﴿وَلاَ يَخَافُ﴾
  (And He feared not) it has also been recited as (فَلَا يَخَافُ) (So He feared not)

  (the consequences thereof.) Ibn `Abbas said, “Allah does not fear any consequences from anyone else.” Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Bakr bin `Abdullah Al-Muzani and others all said the same.


This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Ash-Shams, and all praise and thanks are due to Allah.

Commentary [91:1] Allah swears by the objects and phenomena mentioned in verses [1-7], which gives these creations an added significance and draws man’s attention to them. Man ought to reflect on these phenomena and try to appreciate their value and the purpose of their creation. The first oath is taken by: وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَاهَا (I swear by the sun and his broad light,…91:1). The phrase and his broad light’ is, though conjoined to ‘by the sun’ by means of the conjunctive particle ‘and’, the context indicates that ‘broad light’ is in adjectival position qualifying shams ‘the sun’, that is to say, ‘I swear by the sun when it is in the time of forenoon. The word duha is that part of the day when the sun rises [early in the morning] and goes up slightly higher [on the sky], and its light spreads on the earth. Man observes it to be near to himself and observes it fully on account of lack of heat.
[91:2] and by the moon when she follows him,

The second oath is taken by:

وَالْقَمَرِ‌ إِذَا تَلَاهَا (and by the moon when she follows him,…91:2). This signifies one of two things: [1] The moon following the sun is seen clearly during the middle of the lunar months when the full moon rises to dominate the sky with its radiance after sunset. [2] The phrase ‘when she follows him’ could signify just as the sun is seen in full in broad light, so does the moon, following the sun, becomes full. The third oath is taken by:
[91:3] and by the day when it shows its brightness, وَالنَّهَارِ‌ إِذَا جَلَّاهَا (and by the day when it shows its brightness…91:3). The attached pronoun ha ‘its’ may possibly refer to the earth or the world, although neither of the nouns precedes it. Such usage in Arabic is commonplace, especially if the phenomenon, such as the earth or the world, with which man is generally familiar. In such a case Arabs commonly refer to the phenomenon simply by using a pronoun without making prior reference to it. The addressee understands the meaning by implication. The Qur’an has many examples of, and bears ample testimony to, this grammatical phenomenon. The verse thus signifies ‘by the day and by the world or the earth which the day has brightened up’. In other words, ‘by the day when it is fully bright’. Another possibility, which is more pertinent to the context, is that the pronoun ‘its’ refers to the ‘sun’ in which case it signifies ‘by the day when it brightens up the sun’. This relation of attribution, in this case, would be a metaphorical relationship. Although the sun is usually understood to be the cause of the day to come out, here the day is said to brighten up the sun. Thus the verse would signify ‘when the sun is seen brightened up because the day is out.
[91:4] and by the night when it envelops him,

The fourth oath is taken thus:
وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَاهَا (and by the night when it envelops him,…91:4). In other words, when it [the night] sets in, the brightness of the sun is concealed [and only darkness prevails].

[91:5] and by the sky, and the One who built it,

The fifth oath is:
وَالسَّمَاءِ وَمَا بَنَاهَا (and by the sky, and the One who built it…91:5). Most clearly the context suggests that the ma may be taken as infinitival particle [masdariyyah], signifying ‘by the sky and its make ‘ as elsewhere in the Qur’an غَفَرَ‌ لِي رَ‌بِّي ‘…how my Lord has forgiven me [36:27] ‘ (1) 1. It should be kept in mind that the translation of the text is not based on this construction. It is based on taking ‘ma’ as mousulah in the sense of ‘the one’ as adopted by Maulana Thanawi, and explained by the author in the following verse. word taswiyah means, to proportion, balance, perfect. The meaning of this word has been explained in the previous Surah.

[91:6] and by the earth, and the One who spread it,

The sixth oath is:
وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ وَمَا طَحَاهَا (and by the earth, and the One who spread it…91:6). The ma in this phrase too stands for masdariyyah or infinitival particle, signifying ‘by the earth and its expanse’. The word tahwun means ‘to spread’. Thus in the two verses above attention has been focused on the great Designer and Architect of the sky and earth [that is, the universe], and on the perfection and complete freedom from flaw or defect in the design and creation of the universe. Sayyidna Qatadah and others reported this interpretation. Kashshaf, Baidawi and Qurtubi preferred this interpretation. Some of the commentators have taken ma in the sense of man ‘the One Who’ and refer it to ‘Allah’, signifying ‘by the sky and its Maker and by the earth and One who spreads it. Thus far, all the oaths were taken by the created objects and phenomena. In between is taken oath by Allah. And Allah knows best! The seventh oath is taken thus:

[91:7] and by the soul, and the One who made it well, وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا (and by the soul, and the One who made it well,…91:7) If, in this phrase, the particle ma is taken to function as infinitival particle, it signifies ‘by the human soul and its perfection’. If ma is taken in the sense of man , it signifies ‘by the soul and the One who proportioned it’. The word taswiyah means, to proportion, balance, perfect. The meaning of this word has been explained in the previous Surah.
[91:8] then inspired it with its (instincts of) evil and piety, فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَ‌هَا وَتَقْوَاهَا (then inspired it with its [instincts on evil and piety…91:8) The word ilham denotes ‘to cast into the heart’. The word fujur denotes ‘open transgression’. The meaning of taqwa is well-known. This sentence is linked with the seventh oath وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا and by the soul, and the One who made it well, [91:7] ‘, signifying that Allah has equipped man with human soul which has the capacity to distinguish between good and bad, and right and wrong. In other words, in his make-up Allah has built in him a special ability to choose freely the righteous path or the sinful path. Whichever way he takes out of his own free will, he will be rewarded or punished. This interpretation is deducible from a traceable Hadith which is transmitted by Muslim on the authority of Sayyidna ` Imran Ibn Husain ؓ . The Holy Prophet ﷺ was sitting in the company of his followers. They asked him a question regarding Divine Destination. In response, the Holy Prophet ﷺ recited this verse. This verse will allay the doubt about Divine Destination only if the words ‘then inspired it with its (instincts of) evil and piety, [91:8] ‘ are taken in the sense that human soul has been inspired with conscience to distinguish between right and wrong, and has also been granted the ability to do good as well as the ability to commit sin. Man is not a creature of pure force or coercion. He has free will to choose his path of good or evil. He, in fact, has the option to do good or refrain from sin. The choice is his, for which he is rewarded or punished. Sayyidna Abu Hurairah and Ibn ` Abbas ؓ report that whenever the Holy Prophet ﷺ recited the verses [91:7-8] under comment would stop and recite the following supplication aloud: اللّٰھُمَّ اٰتِ نفسِی تَقوٰھَا اَنتَ وَلِیُّھَا وَ مَولَاھَا وَ اَنتَ خَیرُ مَن زَکَٰھَا ‘0 Allah! Give my soul its good. You are its Guardian and Master, and the best to purify it.’
[91:9] success is really attained by him who purifies it, قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا ﴿9﴾ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا ﴿10﴾ (success is really attained by him who purifies it, and failure is really suffered by him who pollutes it….91:10). This is the subject of the seven oaths. The primitive meaning of tazkiyah is ‘inner cleanliness’, signifying ‘he who obeyed Allah and purified his inner and outer selves.’ Verse [10] signifies ‘he who caused his soul to sink in the swamp of sins will be deprived’. The word dassa is derived from the basic word dass’ which denotes ‘to bury in the ground’ as for instance it occurs elsewhere in the Qur’an, thus: أَمْ يَدُسُّهُ فِي التُّرَ‌ابِ …or put it away into the dust? [16:59] ‘ Some of the commentators have analysed that the pronouns of zakka ‘He purified’ and dassa ‘He caused to pollute’ as referring to ‘Allah’, signifying that ‘he is successful indeed whose soul Allah has purified and he has failed whose soul Allah pollutes ‘. This verse has divided the entire mankind into two groups: [1] successful; and [2] unsuccessful. An example of the second group has been cited to show how it rejected the message of Allah and consequently how Allah destroyed them. Such a group will receive severe punishment in the Hereafter. Sometimes, however, an installment of punishment is meted out to them in this world as in the case of Thamud. Their story is recounted fully in Surah A` raf [S.7:73-79; S.11:61-68; S. 26:141-159; S.27:45-53; S..41:17-18; S.54:23-32; and S. 69:4-5]. Here a brief reference is made to that story and their punishment.
[91:10] and failure is really suffered by him who pollutes it. [91:11] (The People of) Thamud denied the truth because of their transgression, [91:12] when rose up the one who was most wretched of them. [91:13] So, the Messenger of Allah said to them, “Be careful of Allah’s she-camel and her right to drink.” [91:14] But they rejected him and killed her, so their Lord sent eradicating torment upon them, and made it equal for all.
[91:15] فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَ‌بُّهُم بِذَنبِهِمْ فَسَوَّاهَا (… so their Lord sent eradicating torment upon them, and made it equal for all. And He has no fear of its consequence….91:14). The word damdama refers to such tormenting scourge as is unleashed on a person or a nation again and again, until it destroys or crushes them completely. Fa-sawwaha signifies that the scourge overtook the entire nation, men, women, children, and young and old. In conclusion, the verse says: وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَاهَا ‘Allah has no fear of its consequence’. It means that Divine torment that destroys a nation completely cannot be compared to the torment inflicted by the greatest king of this world, because a tyrant king who destroys his people on a large scale, fears for his life, lest the survivors or the supporters of the people destroyed should revenge on him and rebel against him. Whoever destroys others is himself in danger of avenge. Those who attack others must necessarily bear the brunt of counter-attack except Allah. When a people incur Divine punishment and are thus destroyed, Allah has no fear from any one. Al-hamdulillah The Commentary on Surah Ash-Shams Ends here


This surah, which maintains the same rhyme in all its verses and keeps the same musical beat throughout, starts with several aesthetic touches which seem to spring out from the surrounding universe and its phenomena. These phenomena form the framework which encompasses the great truth which is the subject matter of the surah, namely, the nature of man, his inherent abilities, choice of action, and responsibility in determining his own fate.

This surah also refers to the story of the Thamud and their negative attitude to the warnings they received from God’s messenger, to their killing of the she-camel, and finally their complete annihilation. This provides an example of the unpromising prospects which await those who corrupt their souls instead of keeping them pure and who do not confine themselves within the limits of piety. “Successful is the one who keeps it pure, and ruined is the one who corrupts it.” (Verses 9-10)

God’s Solemn Oath

By the sun and his morning brightness, by the moon as she follows him, by the day, which reveals his splendour, by the night, which veils him. By the heaven and its construction, by the earth and its spreading, by the soul and its moulding and inspiration with knowledge of wickedness and righteousness. Successful is the one who keeps it pure, and ruined is the one who corrupts it. (Verses 1-10)

God swears by these objects and universal phenomena as He swears by the human soul, how it is fashioned and the inspiration it receives. The oath gives these creatures an added significance and draws man’s attention to them. Man ought to contemplate these phenomena and try to appreciate their value and the purpose of their creation.

There exists in fact, some kind of a special language through which the human heart communicates with the universe. This language is part of human nature. It is a language which does not use sounds and articulation. It is a communication to hearts and an inspiration to souls which come alive whenever man looks up to the universe for an inspiring or cheerful sight. Hence, the Qur’an frequently urges man to reflect upon his surroundings. It does this in various ways, sometimes directly and sometimes with hints, incidental touches and stimuli. In this case, for example, some phenomena of the universe are made the subject of God’s oath, in order to serve as a framework for what follows in the surah. These explicit directives and indirect hints are very frequent in the surahs of the present volume. There is hardly any surah which does not encourage man, in one way or another, to communicate with the universe, in secret language, so that he may appreciate its signs and understand its address. Here we have an inspiring oath by the sun and the mid-morning. The oath also specifies the time when the sun rises above the horizon, when it is indeed at its most beautiful. Indeed, mid-morning is, in winter, a time of refreshing warmth. In summer, it is a time when the atmosphere is just mild and fresh before the blazing heat of midday sets in, and the sun is at its clearest.

The oath is also by the moon as she follows the sun and spreads her beautiful and clear light. Between the moon and the human heart there is an age-long fascination that is well established in men’s inmost souls. It is a fascination that is born anew every time the two meet. The moon issues her own special whispers and inspirations to the human heart, and she sings her songs of praise of God, the Creator. On a clear night, one can almost feel oneself sailing through the moonlight, clearing one’s worries and enjoying perfect bliss as one feels the hand of the Maker beyond this perfect creation.

God also swears by the day as it reveals the sun. The Arabic wording of this verse, wan-nahari idha jallaha, makes the possessive pronoun attached to ‘splendour’ ambiguous. Initially, one tends to take it as if it refers to the sun. The general context, however, suggests that it refers to the earth as it is lit by the sun. This method of changing referents is widely employed in the Qur’an when the change is easily noticed and the subject matter familiar. Here we have a discreet allusion to the fact that sunlight reveals the earth and has a great effect on human life. Our familiarity with the sun and its light makes us tend to overlook its beauty and function. This Qur’anic hint alerts us anew to this magnificent daily spectacle.

The same applies to the next verse, “by the night, which veils him.” (Verse 4) This is the opposite of what happens during the day. Night time is like a screen that covers and hides everything. It also leaves its own impressions on everyone, and its impact on human life is no less important than that of the day time.

God then swears “by the heaven and its construction.” (Verse 5) When heaven is mentioned, our immediate thoughts go to the huge dome-like sky above us in which we see the stars and the planets moving, each in its orbit. But we are in fact uncertain of the exact nature of heaven. However, what we see above us does bear the idea of building and construction because it looks to us a firm and solid whole. As to how it is built and what keeps it together as it floats in infinite space, we have no answer. All that has been advanced in this field is only theory that is liable to be invalidated or modified. We are certain, however, that God’s hand is the one which holds this structure together, as emphasized elsewhere in the Qur’an: “It is God who upholds the heavens and the earth lest they collapse. Should they collapse none could uphold them after He will have ceased to do so.” (35: 41) This is the only definite and absolute truth about the matter.

The oath then includes the earth and its spreading as preparatory to the emergence of life. Indeed, human and animal life would not have been possible had the earth not been spread out. It is indeed the special characteristics and the natural laws which God has incorporated in the making of this earth that make life on it possible, according to His will and plan. It appears that if any of these laws were violated or upset, life on earth would become impossible or change its course. The most important of these is perhaps the spreading out of the earth which is also mentioned in Surah 79, The Pluckers: “After that He spread out the earth. He brought out water from it, and brought forth its pastures.” (79: 3031) When the surah mentions the spreading out of the earth, it actually reminds us of God’s hand which brought this about.

A Look into the Human Soul

The surah moves on to state the basic truth about man, and relates this truth to the various phenomena of the universe, for man is one of the most remarkable wonders in this harmonious creation: “By the soul and its moulding and inspiration with knowledge of wickedness and righteousness. Successful is the one who keeps it pure, and  ruined is the one who corrupts it.” (Verses 7-10)

The basis of the Islamic concept of human psychology is outlined in these four verses, along with verse 10 of the preceding surah, The City, “And [We have] shown him the two paths,” and verse 3 in Surah 76, Man, which says: “We have shown him the right path, be he grateful or ungrateful.” They supplement the verses which point out the duality in man’s make-up in Surah 38, Sad, which says: “Your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am creating man from clay. When I have fashioned him, and breathed of My spirit into him, kneel down and prostrate yourselves before him.’“ (38: 7172) These verses also supplement and relate to the verses which define man’s responsibility and accountability for his actions, such as the one in Surah 74, The Cloaked One, which reads: “Everyone is held in pledge for whatever he has wrought,” and the verse in Surah 13, Thunder, which states that God’s attitude to man is directly related to man’s own behaviour: “God does not change a people’s lot until they change what is in their hearts.” (13: 11) These and similar verses define the Islamic view of man with perfect clarity.

God has created man with a duality of nature and ability. What we mean by duality is that the two ingredients in his make-up, i.e. earth’s clay and God’ spirit, form within him two equal tendencies to good or evil, to either follow divine guidance or go astray. Man is just as capable of recognizing the good as he is of recognizing the evil in everything he encounters, and he is equally capable of directing himself one way or the other. This dual ability is deeply ingrained within him. All external factors, like divine messages, only serve to awaken his ability and help it take its chosen way. In other words, these factors do not create this innate ability; they only help it to develop.

In addition to his innate ability, man is equipped with a conscious faculty which determines his line of action. Hence, he is responsible for his actions and decisions. He who uses this faculty to strengthen his inclinations to what is good and to purify himself and to weaken his evil drive will be prosperous and successful. By contrast, a person who uses this faculty to suppress the good in him will ruin himself: “Successful is the one who keeps it pure, and ruined is the one who corrupts it.” (Verses 9- 10)

There must be, then, an element of responsibility attached to man’s conscious faculty and freedom of choice. Since he is free to choose between his tendencies, his freedom must be coupled with responsibility. He is assigned a definite task related to the power given to him. But God, the Compassionate, does not leave man with no guidance other than his natural impulses or his conscious, decision-making faculty. God helps him by sending him messages which lay down accurate and permanent criteria, and points out to him the signs, within him and in the world at large, which should help him choose the right path and clear his way of any obstructions so that he can see the truth. Thus, he recognizes his way easily and clearly and his conscious decision-making faculty functions in full knowledge of the nature of the direction it chooses and the implications of that choice.

This is what God has willed for man and whatever takes place within this framework is a direct fulfilment of His will.

From this very general outline of the Islamic concept of man emerge a number of vital and valuable facts: firstly, that this concept elevates man to the high position of being responsible for his actions and allows him freedom of choice, within the confines of God’s will that has granted him this freedom. Responsibility and freedom of choice, therefore, make man the honoured creature of this world, a position worthy of the creature in whom God has blown something of His own spirit and whom He ha made with His own hand and raised above most of His creation

Secondly, it puts man’s fate in his own hands — according to God’s will as already explained — and makes him responsible for it. This stimulates caution in him as well as a positive sense of fear of God. For he knows then that God’s will is fulfilled through his own actions and decisions: “God does not change a people’s lot until they change what is in their hearts.” (13: 11) This is in itself a great responsibility which demands that one should always be alert.

Thirdly, it reminds man of his permanent need to refer to the criteria fixed by God in order to ensure that his desires do not get the better of him. Thus man stays near to God, follows His guidance and illuminates his way by divine light. Indeed, the standard of purity man can achieve is limitless.

Historical Example

The surah then gives an example of the failure which befalls those who corrupt themselves, and erect a barrier between themselves and divine guidance: “In their overweening arrogance the people of Thamud denied the truth, when their most hapless wretch broke forth. God’s Messenger said to them: ‘It is a she-camel belonging to God, so let her have her drink.’ But they rejected him, and cruelly slaughtered her. For this their sin their Lord let loose His scourge upon them, and razed their city to the ground. He does not fear what may follow.” (Verses 11-15)

The story of the Thamud and their messenger, Salih, is mentioned several times in the Qur’an. A discussion of it is given every time it occurs. The reader may refer for further details to the commentary on Surah 89, The Dawn, in this volume. The present surah, however, states that the people of Thamud rejected their prophet and accused him of lying simply because they were arrogant and insolent. Their transgression is represented here by the most hapless wretch among them rushing to slaughter the she-camel. He is the most wretched as a result of his crime. Their  messenger had warned them in advance, saying, “It is a she-camel belonging to God, so let her have her drink.” This was his condition when they asked him for a sign. The sign was that the she-camel had the water for herself one day and left it for the rest of the cattle the next day. The she-camel must have had something else peculiar to her, but we shall not go into detail because God has not told us about it. The Thamud, however, did not heed their messenger’s warnings but killed the she-camel. The person who perpetrated the crime, the arch sinner, is the most- wretched, but they were all held responsible because they did not take him to task. On the contrary, they applauded what he did. A basic principle of Islam is that society bears a collective responsibility in this life. This does not conflict with the principle of individual responsibility in the hereafter when everyone is answerable for his own deeds. It is a sin, however, not to counsel and urge one another to adhere to what is good and not to punish evil and transgression.

As a result of the Thamud’s arrogance and their outrageous crime, a calamity befell them: “For this their sin their Lord let loose His scourge upon them, and razed their city to the ground.” (Verse 14) The Arabic verse uses the verb damdama for ‘let loose His scourge’, which creates, by its repetitiveness, an added feeling of horror, as we learn that the city was completely razed to the ground. “He does not fear what may follow.” (Verse 15) All praises and glorification be to Him. Whom, what and why should He fear?

The meaning aimed at here is what the statement entails: he who does not fear the consequences punishes most severely. This is true of God’s punishment.

In conclusion, we say the surah provides a link between the human soul, the basic facts of the universe, its constant and repetitive scenes and God’s unfailing law of punishing tyrant transgressors. This He does according to His own wise planning which sets a time for everything and a purpose for every action. He is the Lord of man, the universe and fate.

Tafseer Surah Shams by Maududi

91. Sura As Shams (The Sun)

The Surah has been so designated after the word ash-shams with which it opens.

Period of Revelation
The subject matter and the style show that this Surah too was revealed in the earliest period at Makkah at a stage when opposition to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah’s peace) had grown very strong and intense.

Theme and Subject Matter Its theme is to distinguish the good from the evil and to warn the people, who were refusing to understand this distinction and insisting on following the evil way, of the evil end. In view of the subject matter this Surah consists of two parts. The first part consists of vv. 1-10, and the second of vv. 11-15. The first part deals with three things: That just as the sun and the moon, the day and the night, the earth and the sky, are different from each other and contradictory in their effects and results, so are the good and the evil different front each other and contradictory in their effects and results; they are neither alike in their outward appearance nor can they be alike in their results. That Allah after giving the human self powers of the body, sense and mind has not left it uninformed in the world, but has instilled into his unconscious by means of a natural inspiration the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, and the sense of the good to be good and of the evil to be evil. That the future of man depends on how by using the powers of discrimination, will and judgment that Allah has endowed him with, he develops the good and suppresses the evil tendencies of the self. If he develops the good inclination and frees his self of the evil inclinations, he will attain to eternal success, and if, on the contrary, he suppresses the good and promotes the evil, he will meet with disappointment and failure. In the second part citing the historical precedent of the people of Thamud the significance of Prophethood has been brought out. A Messenger is raised in the world, because the inspirational knowledge of good and evil that Allah has placed in human nature, is by itself not enough for the guidance of man, but on account of his failure to understand it fully man has been proposing wrong criteria and theories of good and evil and thus going astray. That is why Allah sent down clear and definite Revelation to the Prophets (peace be upon them) to augment man’s natural inspiration so that they may expound to the people as to what is good and what is evil. Likewise, the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) was sent to the people of Thamud, but the people overwhelmed by the evil of their self, had become so rebellious that they rejected him. And when he presented before them the miracle of the she camel, as demanded by themselves, the most wretched one of them, in spite of his warning, hamstrung it, in accordance with the will and desire of the people. Consequently, the entire tribe was overtaken by a disaster. While narrating this story of the Thamud nowhere in the Surah has it been said “O people of Quraish, if you rejected your Prophet, Muhammad (upon whom be Allah’s peace and blessings), as the Thamud had rejected theirs, you too would meet with the same fate as they met.” The conditions at that time in Makkah were similar to those that had been created by the wicked among the people of Thamud against the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him). Therefore, the narration of this story in those conditions was by itself enough to suggest to the people of Makkah how precisely this historical precedent applied to them.
(91:1) By the sun and its heat and brightness,[1] (91:2) and by the moon as it follows it; (91:3) and by the day as it displays the sun’s glory, (91:4) and by the night as it envelopes the sun; [2] (91:5) and by the sky and by Him Who made it; [3] (91:6) and by the earth and by Him Who stretched it out; (91:7) and by the soul and by Him Who perfectly proportioned it, [4] (91:8) and imbued it with (the consciousness of) its evil and its piety: [5] (91:9) He who purifies it will prosper, (91:10) and he who suppresses it will be ruined. [6]
1. The word duha as used in the original applies both to the light of the sun and to its heat. Although in Arabic its well known meaning is the time between sunrise and meridian when the sun has risen high, at that height it does not only give light but heat too. Therefore, when the word duha is attributed to the sun, its full meaning can be expressed more appropriately by its radiant brightness than by its light, or by the time of the day that it indicates. 2. That is, when the night comes, the sun hides and its light remains hidden throughout the night. This state has been described, saying that the night covers up the sun, for the night actually signifies the sun’s hiding behind the horizon because of which its light cannot reach that part of the earth where the night has fallen. 3. Who established it: Who established it like a vault over the earth. In this verse and in the two succeeding verses, the word ma has been used. A section of the commentators has taken this ma as an infinitive, and interpreted these verses to mean: By the heaven and its being established, by the earth and its being spread out, and by the human self and its being balanced. But this meaning is not correct for the reason that the following sentence: Then inspired it with its wickedness and its piety, does not fit in with the context. Other commentators have taken ma here in the meaning of mun or alladhi and they interpret the sentence to mean: Who established the heaven, who spread out the earth, and who balanced the human self. This second meaning is correct in our view, and no one can object that ma in Arabic is used of lifeless things and irrational creatures, For in the Quran itself there are numerous instances that ma has been used in the meaning of mun, e.g. wala antum abiduna ma aabud (nor are you the worshippers of Him Whom I worship), fankihu ma taba lakun-mia-an-nisa (so, marry from among the women those whom you like), wala tankihu ma nakaha abaaukum min-nisa (do not marry those women whom your fathers had married). 4. Proportioned it: Gave man such a body which by virtue of its erect stature, its hands and feet, and its brain was most appropriate for him to live as man in the world. He blessed him with the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell which on account of their combination and their characteristics could become the best means of obtaining knowledge for him. He endowed him with the faculties of thinking, reasoning, imagination, memory, discrimination, judgment, will-power and such other mental powers by virtue of which he is able to perform the functions fit for man in the world. In addition, proportioning also means that man was not created a sinner by birth and a criminal by instinct but on right and sound nature, and was not characterized with any inborn crookedness because of which he may be unable to adopt the right path even if he wanted to do so. This same thing has been expressed in Surah Ar-Room, saying: Be steadfast on the nature whereupon Allah has created mankind, (verse 30), and the same has been explained by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a Hadith, saying: Every new-born child is born on true human nature; it is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian afterwards. Its example is of an animal giving birth to complete and sound young one. Do you find any one with a torn or slit ear? (Bukhari, Muslim). That is, it is the polytheistic people who on account of their superstitions of ignorance tear and slit the ears of animals afterwards; otherwise God does not cause an animal to be born with torn ears from its mother’s belly. In another Hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: My Lord says: I had created all My servants on true faith (i.e. on sound nature); then the satans came and led them astray from their faith (i.e.. the true natural faith) and made unlawful what I had made lawful for them, and commanded them to associate with Me those for whom I had sent down no authority. (Musnad Ahmad; Muslim also has related a saying from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in similar words). 5. The word ilham is derived from lahm which means to swallow. According to this very basic meaning, the word ilham is used terminologically for Allah’s inspiring a man with a concept or idea unconsciously. Inspiring the human self with its wickedness and its piety and virtue has two meanings: (1) That the Creator has placed in it tendencies to both good and evil, and this is the thing that every man feels in himself. (2) That Allah has endowed every man’s unconscious mind with the concept that there is a moral good and there is a moral evil, that good morals and acts and evil morals and acts are not equal and alike. Fujur (immorality) is an evil thing and taqva (abstention from evils) a good thing. These concepts are not new to man; he is conscious of these by nature, and the Creator has endowed him with the ability to distinguish between good and evil naturally. This same thing has been said in Surah Al-Balad: And We showed him both the highways of good and evil. (verse 10); and in Surah Ad-Dahr, thus: We showed him the way, whether to be grateful or disbelieving (verse 3); and the same has been expressed in Surah Al-Qiyamah, saying: In man there is the reproaching self (conscience) which reproaches him when he commits evil (verse 2), and man knows his own self best, even though he may offer many excuses. (verses 14-15). Here, one should also understand well that Allah has blessed every creature with natural inspiration according to its position and nature, as has been pointed out in Surah TaHa: Who has given a distinctive form to everything and then guided it aright. (verse 50). For example, every species of animals has been given inspirational knowledge according to its needs by virtue of which the fish learns to swim, the bird to fly, the bee to make the beehive and the weaver-bird to build the nest instinctively. Man also in view of his different capacities has been granted separate kinds of inspirational knowledge. His one capacity is that he is an animal being; as such the most significant instance of the inspirational knowledge that he has been given is that the human child starts sucking the mother’s milk soon on birth, which no one could teach it, had it, not been taught of it instinctively by God. Another position of man is that he is a rational being. As such God has been blessing him with inspirational guidance continuously since the time of his creation, by virtue of which he has been discovering things and making inventions to develop his civilization. Anyone who studies the history of these discoveries and inventions will realize that there was hardly any which might be the result of man’’s own effort or thought, but mostly it so happened that suddenly an idea struck a person and he discovered or invented something. Besides these two, another position of man is that he is a moral being. In this position too Allah has blessed him by inspiration with discrimination between good and evil and of the realization of the good to be good and of the evil to be evil. This sense of discrimination and realization is a universal truth on account of which no human society in the world has ever been without the concepts of good and evil; there has never been in history, nor is there now, a society which may not be having some kind of a system of rewarding the good and punishing the evil. This fact being prevalent in every age, at every place, and at every stage of civilization is a clear proof of its being natural and innate. Furthermore, this is also proof that a Wise Creator possessed of knowledge has endued man’s nature with it, for in the elements of which man is made up and the laws which govern the material system of the world, no human origin of morals can be traced out. 6. This is for which an oath has been sworn by the things mentioned in the above verses. Let us now consider how those things bear upon it. The rule that Allah has followed in the Quran is that to bear testimony to the truth that He wants to impress on the human mind, he cites some of the most conspicuous, common-place things which every man sees in his surroundings, or in his own self. Accordingly here, pairs of contradictory things have been cited, each unlike the other in its effects and results, rather opposite and reverse. The first pair is of the sun and the moon. The light of the sun is intensely bright and also hot. As against it the moon has no light of its own. Even if it is there in the sky when the sun shines, it is without light. It shines when the sun hides, and even then its light is neither so bright that it may change the night into day nor is there any heat in it that it may have the same effect as the sun’s light. Nevertheless, it has its own effects which are quite different from the effects of the sun. Likewise, there is the pair of the day and the night. Each is the reverse of the other. The effects and results of each are so different from the other that no one can say they are alike; so much so that even a most foolish person cannot possibly say that the day’s being the day or the night’s being the night does not make any difference. Likewise, there is the pair of the sky and the earth; the former has been raised high by the Creator and the latter spread like a carpet beneath it. Although both are serving the same universe, its system and expediencies, yet there is a world of difference between their functions and their effects and results. After citing these universal evidences, man’s own self has been considered, and it has been said that after balancing it with suitable combination of the limbs, senses and mental powers and faculties the Creator has placed in it tendencies, inclinations and motives to both good and evil, which are contradictory to each other, and made him understand by inspiration the distinction between the two: that one is fujur, which is evil, and the other is taqva, which is good. Now, if the sun and the moon, the day and the night, the earth and the heaven, are not alike but necessarily different from each other in their effects and results, how can fujur and taqva of the self be alike in spite of being reverse of each other? Man himself in this world does not regard and acknowledge the good and the evil as equal, no matter what criteria of good and evil he might have devised for himself according to his self-propounded philosophies. In any case, about whatever he regards as good, he holds the opinion that it is appreciable and worthy of praise, reward and recompense. On the contrary, about whatever he regards as evil, it is his own objective opinion that it is worthy of condemnation and punishment. But the real judgment does not lie with man; it lies with the Creator, Who has inspired man with his fujur and taqva. The fujur is that which is fujur in the sight of the Creator and the taqva is that which is taqva in His sight. And both have separate results in the sight of the Creator. The result of the one is that he who purifies his self, should attain to eternal success, and the result of the other is that he who suppresses his self, should be a failure. Tazkiyah means to purify, develop and cultivate. In the context it clearly means: The one who purifies his self of fujur and develops it to the level of taqva and cultivates in it the good, will attain to eternal success. As against this, the word dassaha has been used, the infinitive of which is tadsiyah, which means to suppress, conceal, seduce and lead astray. The meaning of this also becomes clear from the context; i.e. the one who suppresses the tendency in his self towards good instead of developing and cultivating it, who seduces it into doing evil, and makes fujur dominate over taqva so as to cover it up completely, like the dead body which is buried and covered with earth, will be a failure. Some commentators have interpreted this verse to mean: Truly successful was he whom (whose self) Allah purified, and a failure he whom (whose self) Allah suppressed. But this commentary is, firstly, opposed to the style of the Quran in view of the language, for if Allah had meant to say this, He would have said: Truly successful was the self which Allah purified and a failure the self which Allah suppressed; secondly, this commentary clashes with the other statements of the Quran on this subject. In Surah Al- Aala, Allah says: Truly successful was he who adopted purity. (verse 14). In Surah Abasa, Allah has addressed His Messenger (peace be upon him), saying: And you would not be responsible if he did not adopt purity. In both these verses, adoption of purity has been regarded as an act of man. Besides, the truth stated at many places in the Quran is that man in this world is being put to the test. For example, in Surah Ad-Dahr, it is said: We created man from a mixed sperm-drop to try him, and so We made him capable of hearing and seeing. (verse 2). In Surah Al-Mulk it is stated: Who created death and life that he may try you to see which of you is best in deeds. (verse 2). Now, obviously, if the examiner at the outset encourages one candidate and discourages the other, the test would he a farce. Therefore, the correct commentary is that which Qatadah, Ikrimah, Mujahid and Saeed bin Jubair have given, saying that the subject zakkaha and dassaha is man and not God. As for the Hadith which Ibn Abi Hatim has related on the authority of Juwaybir bin Saeed from Dahhak from Ibn Abbas, saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself interpreted this verse to mean: Truly successful was the self whom the Almighty Allah purified. This saying is not confirmed to be from the Prophet (peace be upon him), for its one reporter Juwaybir, has been rejected as a narrator of Hadith, and Dahhak did not meet Ibn Abbas. However, the Hadith which Imam Ahmad, Muslim, Nasai and Ibn Abi Shaibah have related on the authority of Zaid bin Arqam, is correct which says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray: O Allah, grant my self its taqva and purify it; You alone are the best to purify it; You alone are its Guardian and Master. In almost similar words, this supplication of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been related by Tabarani, Ibn Marduyah and lbn al-Mundhir from Abdullah bin Abbas and Imam Ahmad from Aishah. It actually means that man can only desire and seek taqva and tazkiyah; as for its attainment, it depends in any case on Allah’s grace and favor alone. And the same is also true of tadsiyah: Allah does not suppress a self forcibly, but when a man is resolved on iniquity, Allah deprives him of the grace of taqva and tazkyah, and leaves him alone to suppress and bury his self under any heap of filth he likes.
(91:11) In their presumptuous insolence the Thamud [7] called the Truth a lie [8] (91:12) when their arch-criminal rose up in rage. (91:13) Then Allah’s Messenger warned them: “Hands off the she-camel and her drink!” [9] (91:14) But they rejected his statement as a lie and hamstrung the she-camel. [10] For that crime their Lord rumbled down upon them, utterly razing them to the ground. (91:15) He has no fear of its sequel.[11]
7. The things stated in principle in the above verses are now being explained by an historical precedent. Of what it is a precedent and how it relates to what has been stated above, one should consider well in the light of the other statements of the Quran the two basic truths which have been expressed in (verses 7-10). Firstly, in these it has been stated that after creating the human self on balanced and sound nature, Allah inspired it with its fujur and its taqva. The Quran along with stating this truth also makes explicit that this inspirational knowledge of fujur and taqva is not enough for every man that he may by himself obtain detailed guidance from it, but for this purpose Allah gave detailed guidance to the Prophets through revelation in which it was explained what is fujur and what it applies to, which one should avoid, and what is taqva which one should attain and develop. If man does not accept and acknowledge this clear and definite guidance sent down through Revelation, he can neither avoid fujur not find the way to taqva. Secondly, in these verses it has been stated that, the rewards and punishments are the necessary results which accrue from adoption of either fujur or taqva The result of cleansing the self of fujur and developing it with taqva is eternal success and the result of suppressing its good tendencies and causing it to be overwhelmed with fujur is failure, ruin and destruction. To make man understand this truth a historical precedent is being cited and for this the tribe of Thamud has been taken as an illustration, for the various tribes destroyed in antiquity the territory of the Thamud was closest to Makkah. In northern Hijaz its historical ruins were extant, which the people of Makkah passed by during their trade journeys to Syria, and the way this tribe has been frequently referred to in the pre-Islamic poetry shows that its destruction was a common subject of talk among the Arabs. 8. Denied the truth: belied the Prophethood of the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him), who was sent for their guidance. On account of their rebellious attitude they were not prepared to give up the fujur in which they were involved, and they were not inclined to accept the taqva to which the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) was calling them. For details, see(Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 73-76); (Surah Houd, Ayats 61-62); (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 141-153); (Surah An- Naml,Ayats 45-49); (Surah Al-Qamar, Ayats 23-25). 9. At other places in the Quran the following details, are given: The people of Thamud challenged the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) to present a sign (a miracle) if he was truthful. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) presented a she-camel miraculously before them and warned them to the effect: This is Allah’s she-camel. She will graze at will in the land. One day will be for her to drink and one day for you and your cattle. If you molest her, you will be punished with a scourge. This proved to be a deterrent for some time. Then they appealed to their most wicked and rebellious chief to put an end to the she-camel, and he took up the responsibility and hamstrung her. (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 73); (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 134, 156); (Surah Al-Qamar, Ayat 29). 10. According to (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 77), after they had killed the she-camel, the people of Thamud said to the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him): Bring the scourge with which you threatened us. And according to Surah Houd, Ayat 65, the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) said to them: Well, you have only three more days to enjoy yourselves in your houses. This is a limit that will not prove false. 11. That is, Allah is not like the kings of the world and the rulers of governments, who, when they want to take some action against a people, are compelled to consider what will be the consequences of their action. Allah’s power is supreme. He had no apprehension that some supporting power of the Thamud would come out to avenge itself on Him.