Surah Burooj (Arbaic: البروج) is the 85th Surah of the Qur’an and the English meaning of this Surah is “The Great Star”, “The Constellations”, or “The Galaxies”. It is a Meccan Surah composed of 22 ayat (verses).
The main theme or subject of Surah Burooj (buruj) is to warn people to abstain from evil on this planet. It warns us that those who do sin will face an inevitable punishment. This Surah provides motivation to continue to be strong in your imaan (faith) and reminds us of the promises that await the believer.
One of the goals of the My Islam site is to make it easy to read and understand the Qur’an. Below every ayat in Arabic we provided transliteration to help make it easy to read. We’ve also included the Sahih international English translation to make it easy to understand. For those looking to study this Surah in detail we’ve included four different sources for Tafseer including Ibn Kathir.
Read Surah Buruj with Transliteration and Translation
Bismillah Hir Rahman Nir Raheem
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious and The Most Merciful
وَالسَّمَاءِ ذَاتِ الْبُرُوجِ
Wassamaaa’i zaatil buruj
1. By the sky containing great stars
Wal yawmil maw’ood
2. And [by] the promised Day
3. And [by] the witness and what is witnessed,
قُتِلَ أَصْحَابُ الْأُخْدُودِ
Qutila as haabul ukhdood
4. Cursed were the companions of the trench.
النَّارِ ذَاتِ الْوَقُودِ
Annari thati alwaqood
5. [Containing] the fire full of fuel,
إِذْ هُمْ عَلَيْهَا قُعُودٌ
Iz hum ‘alaihaa qu’ood
6. When they were sitting near it
وَهُمْ عَلَىٰ مَا يَفْعَلُونَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ شُهُودٌ
Wahum AAala ma yafAAaloona bilmu/mineenashuhood
7. And they, to what they were doing against the believers, were witnesses.
وَمَا نَقَمُوا مِنْهُمْ إِلَّا أَنْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ الْعَزِيزِ الْحَمِيدِ
Wa maa naqamoo minhum illaaa aiyu’minoo billaahil ‘azeezil Hameed
8. And they resented them not except because they believed in Allah, the Exalted in Might, the Praiseworthy,
الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
Allazee lahoo mulkus samaawaati wal ard; wallaahu ‘alaa kulli shai ‘in Shaheed
9. To whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. And Allah, over all things, is Witness.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَتَنُوا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوا فَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ الْحَرِيقِ
Innal lazeena fatanul mu’mineena wal mu’minaati summa lam yatooboo falahum ‘azaabu Jahannama wa lahum ‘azaabul hareeq
10. Indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the Burning Fire.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَهُمْ جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْكَبِيرُ
Inna allatheena amanoowaAAamiloo assalihati lahum jannatuntajree min tahtiha al-anharu thalikaalfawzu alkabeer
11. Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds will have gardens beneath which rivers flow. That is the great attainment.
إِنَّ بَطْشَ رَبِّكَ لَشَدِيدٌ
Inna batsha Rabbika lashadeed
12. Indeed, the vengeance of your Lord is severe.
إِنَّهُ هُوَ يُبْدِئُ وَيُعِيدُ
Innahu huwa yubdi-o wayuAAeed
13. Indeed, it is He who originates [creation] and repeats.
وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الْوَدُودُ
Wa Huwal Ghafoorul Wadood
14. And He is the Forgiving, the Affectionate,
ذُو الْعَرْشِ الْمَجِيدُ
Thoo alAAarshi almajeed
15. Honorable Owner of the Throne,
فَعَّالٌ لِمَا يُرِيدُ
Fa’ ‘aalul limaa yureed
16. Effecter of what He intends.
هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ الْجُنُودِ
Hal ataka hadeethu aljunood
17. Has there reached you the story of the soldiers –
Fir’awna wa Samood
18. [Those of] Pharaoh and Thamud?
بَلِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فِي تَكْذِيبٍ
Bali allatheena kafaroo fee taktheeb
19. But they who disbelieve are in [persistent] denial,
وَاللَّهُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِمْ مُحِيطٌ
Wallaahu minw waraaa’ihim muheet
20. While Allah encompasses them from behind.
بَلْ هُوَ قُرْآنٌ مَجِيدٌ
Bal huwa qur-anun majeed
21. But this is an honored Qur’an.
فِي لَوْحٍ مَحْفُوظٍ
Fee Lawhim Mahfooz
22. [Inscribed] in a Preserved Slate.
Hadith of Surah Buruj
Jabir bin Samurah narrated: “For Zuhr and Asr, Allah’s Messenger would recite: By the heavens, holding the Buruj and (By the heavens and At-Tariq) and similar to them.”
Grade: Hasan (Darussalam)
Reference: Jami at-Tirmidhi 307 In-book reference : Book 2, Hadith 159
surah al buruj tafsir
Here you can read from four different tafsir of Surah Al Buruj. The tafsir can provide you with answers to various different interpretations and meaning of the vereses. You will be more able to understand the teachings and the message Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala had for the entire Ummah. We recommend making it a study to learn about the Qur’an and the tafsir is the best way to do that becuase it includes the benefits, the historical context, purpose of revelation and connects this chapter of the Qur’an to others.
Tafsir of Surah Buruj by Ibn Kathir
(In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
The Buruj are the giant stars, as Allah says,
(Blessed is He Who has placed in the heaven Buruj, and has placed therein a great lamp (the sun), and a moon giving light.) (25:61) Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan, Qatadah and As-Suddi, all said, “Al-Buruj are the stars.” Al-Minhal bin `Amr said,
(By the heaven holding the Buruj.) “The beautiful creation.” Ibn Jarir chose the view that it means the positions of the sun and the moon, which are twelve Buruj. The sun travels through each one of these “Burj” (singular of Buruj) in one month. The moon travels through each one of these Burj in two-and-a-third days, which makes a total of twenty-eight positions, and it is hidden for two nights.
(And by the Promised Day. And by the Witness, and by the Witnessed.) Ibn Abi Hatim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said,
(And by the Promised Day.)( This refers to the Day of Judgement. (And by the Witness.) This refers to Friday, and the sun does not rise or set on a day that is better than Friday. During it there is an hour that no Muslim servant catches while asking Allah from some good except that Allah will give it to him. He does not seek refuge from any evil in it except that Allah will protect him. (And by the Witnessed.)( This refers to the day of `Arafah (in Hajj).) Ibn Khuzaymah also recorded the same Hadith. It has also been recorded as a statement of Abu Hurayrah and it is similar (to this Hadith).
(Cursed were (Qutila) the People of the Ditch (Ukhdud).) meaning, the companions of the Ukhdud were cursed. The plural of Ukhdud is Akhadid, which means ditches in the ground. This is information about a group of people who were among the disbelievers. They went after those among them who believed in Allah and they attempted to force them to give up their religion. However, the believers refused to recant, so they dug a ditch for them in the ground. Then they lit a fire in it and prepared some fuel for it in order to keep it ablaze. Then they tried to convince them (the believers) to apostate from their religion (again), but they still refused them. So they threw them into the fire. Thus, Allah says,
(Cursed were the People of the Ditch. Of fire fed with fuel. When they sat by it. And they witnessed what they were doing against the believers.) meaning, they were witnesses to what was done to these believers. Allah said,
(And they had no fault except that they believed in Allah, the Almighty, Worthy of all praise!) meaning, they did not commit any sin according to these people, except for their faith in Allah the Almighty, Who does not treat unjustly those who desire to be with Him. He is the Most Mighty and Most Praiseworthy in all of His statements, actions, legislation, and decrees. He decreed what happened to these servants of His at the hands of the disbelievers – and He is the Most Mighty, the Most Praiseworthy – even though the reason for this decree is unknown to many people. Then Allah says,
(To Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth!) Among His perfect Attributes is that He is the Owner of all of the heavens, the earth, whatever is in them, and whatever is between them.
(And Allah is Witness over everything.) meaning, nothing is concealed from Him in all of the heavens and the earth, nor is anything hidden from Him.
Imam Ahmad recorded from Suhayb that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Among the people who came before you, there was a king who had a sorcerer, and when that sorcerer became old, he said to the king, “I have become old and my time is nearly over, so please send me a boy whom I can teach magic.” So, he sent him a boy and the sorcerer taught him magic. Whenever the boy went to the sorcerer, he sat with a monk who was on the way and listened to his speech and admired them. So, when he went to the sorcerer, he passed by the monk and sat there with him; and on visiting the sorcerer the latter would thrash him. So, the boy complained about this to the monk. The monk said to him, “Whenever you are afraid of the sorcerer, say to him: `My people kept me busy.’ And whenever you are afraid of your people, say to them: `The sorcerer kept me busy.”’ So the boy carried on like that (for some time). Then a huge terrible creature appeared on the road and the people were unable to pass by. The boy said, “Today I shall know whether the sorcerer is better or the monk is better.” So, he took a stone and said, “O Allah! If the deeds and actions of the monk are liked by You better than those of the sorcerer, then kill this creature so that the people can cross (the road).” Then he struck it with a stone killing it and the people passed by on the road.
The boy came to the monk and informed him about it. The monk said to him, “O my son! Today you are better than I, and you have achieved what I see! You will be put to trial. And in case you are put to trial, do not inform (them) about me.” The boy used to treat the people suffering from congenital blindness, leprosy, and other diseases. There was a courtier of the king who had become blind and he heard about the boy. He came and brought a number of gifts for the boy and said, “All these gifts are for you on the condition that you cure me.” The boy said, “I do not cure anybody; it is only Allah who cures people. So, if you believe in Allah and supplicate to Him, He will cure you.” So, he believed in and supplicated to Allah, and Allah cured him.
Later, the courtier came to the king and sat at the place where he used to sit before. The king said, “Who gave you back your sight” The courtier replied, “My Lord.” The king then said, “I did” The courtier said, “No, my Lord and your Lord – Allah” The king said, “Do you have another Lord beside me” The courtier said, “Yes, your Lord and my Lord is Allah.” The king tortured him and did not stop until he told him about the boy. So, the boy was brought to the king and he said to him, “O boy! Has your magic reached to the extent that you cure congenital blindness, leprosy and other diseases” He said, “I do not cure anyone. Only Allah can cure.” The king said, “Me” The boy replied, “No.” The king asked, “Do you have another Lord besides me” The boy answered, “My Lord and your Lord is Allah.” So, he tortured him also until he told about the monk. Then the monk was brought to him and the king said to him, “Abandon your religion.” The monk refused and so the king ordered a saw to be brought which was placed in the middle of his head and he fell, sawn in two. Then it was said to the man who used to be blind, “Abandon your religion.” He refused to do so, and so a saw was brought and placed in the middle of his head and he fell, sawn in two. Then the boy was brought and it was said to him, “Abandon your religion.” He refused and so the king sent him to the top of such and such mountain with some people. He told the people, “Ascend up the mountain with him till you reach its peak, then see if he abandons his religion; otherwise throw him from the top.” They took him and when they ascended to the top, he said, “O Allah! Save me from them by any means that You wish.” So, the mountain shook and they all fell down and the boy came back walking to the king. The king said, “What did your companions (the people I sent with you) do” The boy said, “Allah saved me from them.” So, the king ordered some people to take the boy on a boat to the middle of the sea, saying, “If he renounces his religion (well and good), but if he refuses, drown him.” So, they took him out to sea and he said, “O Allah! Save me from them by any means that you wish.” So they were all drowned in the sea.
Then the boy returned to the king and the king said, “What did your companions do” The boy replied, “Allah, saved me from them.” Then he said to the king, “You will not be able to kill me until you do as I order you. And if you do as I order you, you will be able to kill me.” The king asked, “And what is that” The boy said, “Gather the people in one elevated place and tie me to the trunk of a tree; then take an arrow from my quiver and say: `In the Name of Allah, the Lord of the boy.’ If you do this, you will be able to kill me.” So he did this, and placing an arrow in the bow, he shot it, saying, “In the Name of Allah, the Lord of the boy.” The arrow hit the boy in the temple, and the boy placed his hand over the arrow wound and died. The people proclaimed, “We believe in the Lord of the boy!” Then it was said to the king, “Do you see what has happened That which you feared has taken place. By Allah, all the people have believed (in the Lord of the boy).” So he ordered that ditches be dug at the entrances to the roads and it was done, and fires were kindled in them. Then the king said, “Whoever abandons his religion, let him go, and whoever does not, throw him into the fire.” They were struggling and scuffling in the fire, until a woman and her baby whom she was breast feeding came and it was as if she was being somewhat hesitant of falling into the fire, so her baby said to her, “Be patient mother! For verily, you are following the truth!”) Muslim also recorded this Hadith at the end of the Sahih. Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar related this story in his book of Sirah in another way that has some differences from that which has just been related. Then, after Ibn Ishaq explained that the people of Najran began following the religion of the boy after his murder, which was the religion of Christianity, he said, “Then (the king) Dhu Nuwas came to them with his army and called them to Judaism. He gave them a choice to either accept Judaism or be killed, so they chose death. Thus, he had a ditch dug and burned (some of them) in the fire (in the ditch), while others he killed with the sword. He made an example of them (by slaughtering them) until he had killed almost twenty thousand of them. It was about Dhu Nuwas and his army that Allah revealed to His Messenger :
(Cursed were the People of the Ditch. Of fire fed with fuel. When they sat by it. And they witnessed what they were doing against the believers. And they had no fault except that they believed in Allah, the Almighty, Worthy of all praise! To Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And Allah is Witness over everything.) (85:4-9)” This is what Muhammad bin Ishaq said in his book of Sirah — that the one who killed the People of the Ditch was Dhu Nuwas, and his name was Zur`ah. In the time of his kingdom he was called Yusuf. He was the son of Tuban As`ad Abi Karib, who was the Tubba` who invaded Al-Madinah and put the covering over the Ka`bah. He kept two rabbis with him from the Jews of Al-Madinah. After this some of the people of Yemen accepted Judaism at the hands of these two rabbis, as Ibn Ishaq mentions at length. So Dhu Nuwas killed twenty thousand people in one morning in the Ditch. Only one man among them escaped. He was known as Daws Dhu Tha`laban. He escaped on a horse and they set out after him, but they were unable to catch him. He went to Caesar, the emperor of Ash-Sham. So, Caesar wrote to An-Najashi, the King of Abyssinia. So, he sent with him an army of Abyssinian Christians, who were lead by Aryat and Abrahah. They rescued Yemen from the hands of the Jews. Dhu Nuwas tried to flee but eventually fell into the sea and drowned. After this, the kingdom of Abyssinia remained under Christian power for seventy years. Then the power was divested from the Christians by Sayf bin Dhi Yazin Al-Himyari when Kisra, the king of Persia sent an army there (to Yemen). He (the king) sent with him (Sayf Al-Himyari) those people who were in the prisons, and they were close to seven hundred in number. So, he (Sayf Al-Himyari) conquered Yemen with them and returned the kingdom back to the people of Himyar (Yemenis). We will mention a portion of this — if Allah wills — when we discuss the Tafsir of the Surah:
(Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the Owners of the Elephant) (105:1)
(Verily, those who put into trial the believing men and believing women,) meaning, they burned (them). This was said by Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, and Ibn Abza.
(and then do not turn in repentance,) meaning, `they do not cease from what they are doing, and do not regret what they had done before.’
(then they will have the torment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the burning Fire.) This is because the recompense is based upon the type of deed performed. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, “Look at this generosity and kindness. These people killed Allah’s Awliya’ and He still invites them to make repentance and seek forgiveness.”
Allah informs about His believing servants that
(for them will be Gardens under which rivers flow.) This is the opposite of what he has prepared for His enemies of Fire and Hell. Thus, He says,
(That is the supreme success.) Then Allah says,
(Verily, the punishment of your Lord is severe and painful.) meaning, indeed His punishment and His vengeance upon His enemies, who have rejected His Messengers, and opposed His command, is severe, great and strong. For verily, He is the Owner of power, Most Strong. He is the One that whatever He wants, then it will be however He wants it to be, in the matter of a blinking of an eye, or even swifter. Thus, Allah says,
(Verily, He it is Who begins and repeats.) meaning, from His perfect strength and power is that He begins the creation, and He repeats it just as He began it, without opposition or resistance.
(And He is Oft-Forgiving, Al-Wadud.) meaning, He forgives the sin of whoever repents to Him and humbles himself before Him, no matter what the sin may be. Ibn `Abbas and others have said about the name Al-Wadud, “It means Al-Habib (the Loving).”
(Owner of the Throne,) meaning, the Owner of the Mighty Throne that is above all of the creation. Then He says,
(Al-Majid (the Glorious).) This word has been recited in two different ways: either with a Dhammah over its last letter (Al-Majidu), which is an attribute of the Lord, or with a Kasrah under its last letter (Al-Majid), which is a description of the Throne. Nevertheless, both meanings are correct.
(Doer of what He intends.) meaning, whatever He wants He does it, and there is no one who can counter His ruling. He is not asked about what He does due to His greatness, His power, His wisdom and His justice. This is as we have related previously from Abu Bakr As-Siddiq, that it was said to him during the illness of (his) death, “Has a doctor seen you” He replied, “Yes.” They said, “What did he say to you” He replied, “He said, `I am the Doer of whatever I intend.”’ Concerning Allah’s statement,
(Has the story reached you of the hosts. Of Fir`awn and Thamud) meaning, has the news reached you of what Allah caused to befall them of torment, and that He sent down upon them the punishment that no one was able to ward off from them This is the affirmation of His statement,
(Verily, the punishment of your Lord is severe and painful.) meaning, when He seizes the wrongdoer, He seizes him with a severe and painful punishment. It is the seizing punishment of One Most Mighty, and Most Powerful. Then Allah says,
(Nay! The disbelievers (persisted) in denying.) meaning, they are in doubt, suspicion, disbelief and rebellion.
(And Allah encompasses them from behind!) meaning, He has power over them, and is able to compel them. They cannot escape Him or evade Him.
(Nay! This is a Glorious Qur’an.) meaning, magnificent and noble.
(In Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuz!) meaning, among the most high gathering, guarded from any increase, decrease, distortion, or change.
This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Buruj, and all praise and blessings are due to Allah.
Commentary[85:1] وَالسَّمَاءِ ذَاتِ الْبُرُوجِ (I swear by the sky, the one having stellar formations….85:1) The word buruj is the plural of burj which means ‘a large mansion or fortress’. The Qur’an says: وَلَوْ كُنتُمْ فِي بُرُوجٍ مُّشَيَّدَةٍ ‘…even though you are in fortified castles [ 4:78] ‘ Here the word buruj means ‘castles’. The primitive sense of the word barj is to become manifest’. The word tabarruj means ‘to display one’s beauty’ as in the verse: وَلَا تَبَرَّجْنَ تَبَرُّجَ الْجَاهِلِيَّةِ الْأُولَىٰ ‘…and do not display your beauty as it was previously displayed in the Time of Ignorance [ 33:33] ‘ According to the majority of commentators like Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak, Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah, Suddi ؓ and others, the word bur, in this verse, refers to ‘giant stars’. Other commentators take the word bur, in this place, to refer to mansions and castles that are reserved in the sky for the guardian angels. Some of the later commentators chose the astronomical view in which the sky is divided into twelve parts, each one called a burj. The primitive philosophers believed that the thawabit (stationary) stars are fixed in these bur. The planets move with the movement of their particular sky and the planets descend in these bur. But this is absolutely incorrect. According to the Qur’an, Allah has not fixed the stars and planets in the skies. In fact, every star and planet has its own orbit and revolves by itself as in Surah YaSin: وَكُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ ‘…And each one is floating in an orbit. [ 36:40] ‘ The word falak in this verse does not refer to the sky, but rather to the orbits of the stars and planets in which they move. [ Mazhari ] [85:2] and by the Promised Day, وَكُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ (and by the Promised Day, and by that which attends, and that which is attended…85:2-3) With reference to a prophetic Hadith reported by Tirmidhi, the phrase ‘the Promised Day’ refers to the Day of Judgment; the phrase ‘that which attends’ refers to ‘Friday’; and the phrase ‘that which is attended’ refers to the day of ` Arafah. Thus in this verse, Allah has taken oath by four objects: [ 1] ‘the sky, the one having stellar formations’; [ 2] ‘the Day of Judgment’; [ 3] ‘Friday’; and [ 4] ‘the Day of ` Arafah’. The relationship between the objects of oath and the subject of oath is as follows: They bear evidence to the Divine omnipotence, and they are a proof of reckoning and reward and punishment on the Day of Judgement. Friday and the day of ` Arafah (the main day of Hajj that is 9th Zul-Hijjah of the Islami Calender) are blessed days for the believers to accumulate treasures for the Hereafter. Further, the subject of oath curses the infidels who burned the Muslims on account of their faith, and gives cheerful news to the righteous believers of securing elevated ranks in the Hereafter.
The Story of the People of Trench
Verse 4 refers to the People of the Trench. Their story is recounted in a Hadith reported by Imam Muslim as follows: There was an infidel king who lived in bygone times. He had a soothsayer, or, according to some narrations, a magician. The infidel king is identified as the ruler of Yemen. His name, according to Ibn ` Abbas ؓ ، was Yusuf Dhu Nuwas, and he lived about seventy years before the birth of the Holy Prophet ﷺ . The soothsayer or magician [ occult teacher ] said to the king that he should be given an intelligent boy, so that he could train him in the skill of foretelling or the black magic. Accordingly, the king sent a boy, ` Abdullh Ibn Tamir by name, to be trained by the soothsayer or magician [ occult teacher ]. Whenever the boy went to his teacher, he had to pass by a Christian monk. He followed the true religion of ` Isa علیہ السلام and worshipped Allah. Since the religion of ` Ish (علیہ السلام) was the true religion in those days, the monk was, in fact, a Muslim. The boy sat with the monk and was very much impressed by his teachings. As a result, he frequented the monk’s house and sat with him for long hours before proceeding to his teacher, and ultimately embraced Islam. Allah had blessed him with such a strong faith that he was prepared to bear any pain and persecution for the sake of Allah. His teacher used to beat him for his coming late. On his way back from the occult teacher, he would spend some time again with the monk and used to go home late. The family would then beat him up for being late. But he was so keen to have the company of the monk that he managed to sit regularly with the monk without fear of persecution. Through the blessings of this, Allah had gifted him with many miracles [ karamah ]. Once it happened that the boy saw a lion has blocked the path and prevented people from passing. They were perturbed. He picked a stone and prayed: “0 Allah! If the religion of the monk is true, then kill this beast with this stone [ so that people may pass ]. And if the soothsayer or magician is true, then the beast must not die with my stone.” So praying, he aimed at the lion and it died instantly. The news spread among the people that the boy possesses wonderful knowledge. A blind man heard about this and came up to him. He requested him to restore his sight. The boy conceded on the condition that he embraces Islam. The blind man agreed. The boy prayed and Allah restored his sight. The blind man became Muslim. The king came to know about these incidents, and he got the boy, the monk and the blind were apprehended. They were brought before the king. He got the blind and the monk killed, and ordered that the boy be taken to the summit of a mountain and be thrown from there. But those who had taken him up there fell and died. The boy went home safely. Then the king ordered to have him drowned in the sea. The boy escaped safely, while the people who took him to the sea were drowned. The boy then himself told the king how to kill him. He told him to take an arrow from his quiver and place it in his bow, and reciting, بِاِسمِ اللہِ رَبِّی in the name of Allah, my Lord’ they should shoot. They did that and they boy finally died. In this way, the boy gave his life away but seeing this, the entire nation of the king cried out spontaneously: “We believe in Allah.” At this, the king was greatly enraged and, after consultation with his cabinet, ordered for deep trenches to be dug and filled with fire. An announcement was then made that the people must renounce their faith in Allah. If they refuse, they would be thrown into the fiery furnace. Eventually, a woman carrying her infant child was brought to a trench, but she hesitated. Allah granted speech to her child who said: “O mother, be steadfast, because you are certainly on the truth.” In this way, many people were burned. According to some reports, about twelve thousand people were burned to ashes and, according to other reports, the number is put more than this. Consequently, Divine wrath descended on the People of the Trench and fiery furnace. Reference in verse 4 is made to this incident after taking an oath.
Special NoteIbn Kathir, with reference to Ibn Abi Hatim, writes that the incidents of ‘trenches of fire’ took place many times in history in different parts of the world. Then Ibn Abi Hatim specifies three particular incidents: [ 1] a trench in Yemen. [ This incident took place during the period of fatrah (the interval between ` Isa (علیہ السلام) and the Holy Prophet ﷺ ، about seventy years before the advent of the Prophet ﷺ ]; [ 2] a trench in Syria; and [ 3] a trench in Iran. He further states that the incident the Qur’an refers to here in Surah Buruj is the first one that occurred in Najran, the trench of the kingdom of Yemen, because that was in Arabia.
[85:3] and by that which attends, and that which is attended, [85:4] cursed were the People of the Trench, [85:5] the (people of the) fire that was rich with fuel, [85:6] when they were sitting by it, [85:7] and were watching what they were doing with the believers. [85:8] And they had blamed them for nothing but that they believed in Allah, the All-Mighty, the Worthy of All Praise, [85:9] the One to whom belongs the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is witness over every thing. [85:10] Surely, those who persecuted the believing men and the believing women, then did not repent, for them there is the torment of Jahannam (Hell), and for them there is the torment of burning. إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَتَنُوا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوا (Surely, those who persecuted the believing men and the believing women, then did not repent,…85:10) This verse describes the torment of the wrong-doers who burned the Muslims in the fire pit only on account of their faith. The description points out two things: [ 1] فَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ them there is the torment of Jahannam) and [ 2] وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ الْحَرِيقِ (and for them there is the torment of burning). The second sentence may be treated as explicative of the first sentence, a statement for emphasis. It signifies that they will be put into Hell and will have to suffer eternal torment of the fire. Another possible interpretation is that the second statement describes the wrong-doers’ torment in this world, as is narrated in some reports. The believers, who had been cast in fire pits, were spared the torture of fire, in that the souls of the believers were taken out before the fire could touch them. Only their dead bodies were lying in the fiery furnace. After that the fire flared up so high that it spread out wildly through the city and burned all those who were watching the fun of burning the Muslims. Only Yusuf Dhu Nuwas managed to run away, and threw himself into the sea in order to save himself from the rage of the fire, but he got drowned and died. [ Mazhari ]. Attached to the torment of Hell and the torment of burning for the wrong-doers is the restrictive phrase: ثُمَّ لَمْ يَتُوبُوا (then did not repent). That is, this torment is for those who did not repent of their deed and did not offer taubah. Thus this part of the verse invites people to repent. Sayyidna Hasan ؓ states: “Look at Allah’s compassion and benevolence. They burned Allah’s friends alive, yet He invites them towards repentance and forgiveness.” [ Ibn Kathir ].
[85:11] As for those who believed and did righteous deeds, for them there are gardens beneath which rivers flow. That is the big achievement. [85:12] The seizure of your Lord is severe indeed! [85:13] Surely He originates (creation) and repeats (it after death). [85:14] And He is the Most-Forgiving, the Most-Loving, [85:15] the Master of the Throne, the Glorious. [85:16] He is ever doer of what He intends. [85:17] Has the come to you the story of the forces, [85:18] of Fir’aun (the Pharaoh) and Thamud? [85:19] But those who disbelieve are (engaged) in denying (the truth). [85:20] And Allah has encircled them from all sides. [85:21] The reality is that it is the glorious Qur’an, [85:22] (recorded) in the Preserved Tablet (Lauh Mahfuz). Alhamdulillah The Commentary on Surah Al-Buruj Ends here
This short surah outlines the essentials of faith and the basics of belief as matters of great importance. It sheds a powerful and searching light over these essentials in order to reveal what lies beyond the elementary facts expressed in the text. Every verse, and sometimes every word, in this surah virtually opens a window overlooking a limitless world of truth.
The immediate theme of the surah is the pit incident, when a community of believers who lived before the advent of Islam, said to be unitarian Christians, were faced by ruthless and tyrannical enemies who sought to force them away from their faith. The believers refused. The tyrants then lit a great fire in a pit they had dug, and threw them into it. The believers were thus burnt to death in front of large crowds that had gathered to witness this ghastly act of extermination. The tyrants sat by, amused by the believers’ sufferings: “They took vengeance on them for no reason other than that they believed in God, the Almighty, to whom all praise is due.” (Verse 8)
The surah starts with an oath: “By the heaven with its constellations, by the promised day, by the witness and that which is witnessed, slain be the people of the pit.” (Verses 1-4) In this way the surah links heaven and its magnificent constellations, the promised Day of Judgement and its great events, the multitudes which witness that day and the events they witness with the pit incident and God’s anger with the aggressors responsible for it. The surah then proceeds to portray the tragic scene in a few, quick flashes which demonstrate the horror without dwelling on detail.
It includes a reference to the greatness of faith which exalted itself over the tyrants’ atrocious cruelty and triumphed over the fire, attaining a level of sublimity which is an honour to all mankind. It also refers to the heinous crime and the evil and injustice it involves in comparison with the sublimity, innocence and purity of the believers: “Slain be the people of the pit of the fire abounding in fuel, when they sat around it, watching what they did to the believers.” (Verses 4-7)
Then follows a series of short comments stating a number of principles which are highly important to the Islamic faith, its outlook and advocacy. We have firstly a reference to the fact that all the heavens and earth are part of God’s kingdom and to His witnessing of all that takes place in them. He is the Sovereign of the heavens and the earth, who witnesses all.
Secondly, we have a reference to the burning in hell which awaits the tyrants, and a reference to the perfect heavenly bliss which awaits the believers who choose faith over life and exalt themselves despite their persecution. The believers’ action is referred to as the great triumph: “Those who persecute the believers, men and women, and do not repent shall suffer the punishment of hell, and suffer the punishment of burning. But those who believe and do righteous deeds shall have gardens through which running waters flow; that is the supreme triumph.” (Verses 10-11)
A further reference is made to the power with which God smites His enemies and to the fact that He creates and brings back to life after death: “Stern indeed is your Lord’s vengeance. It is He who brings into being, and then restores to life.” (Verses 12-13) This relates directly to the lives blotted out in the pit incident.
The surah then mentions some of the divine attributes, each of which has a specific relevance to the subject matter of the surah: “He is All-Forgiving, Compassionate.” (Verse 14) He forgives those who repent regardless of the enormity and horror of their sins. He also loves His servants who choose Him. His love is the soothing balsam which heals whatever injuries they may have suffered. “Lord of the Throne, Glorious, He does whatever He wills.” (Verses 15-16) These attributes portray God’s absolute will, dominance and power, all of which are relevant to the event discussed in the surah.
Then follows a reference to examples of God’s punishment of tyrants even though they were heavily armed. “Have you heard the story of the hosts, of Pharaoh and Thamud?” (Verses 17-18) These were two very different instances of God’s punishment with widely different effects. Along with the pit horror, they carry numerous implications.
Finally, the surah explains the situation of the unbelievers and that God surrounds them though they may be unaware of the fact. “Yet the unbelievers persist in their denial [of the truth]. But God surrounds them all.” (Verses 19-20) It concludes with a statement of the truth of the Qur’an and its blessed origin: “This is indeed a glorious Qur’an, inscribed on an imperishable tablet.” (Verses 21-22)
The Horrendous Event
“By the heaven with its constellations, by the promised day, by the witness and that which is witnessed.” (Verses 1-3) Before making any reference to the pit event, the surah opens with an oath by a heaven full of constellations. The Arabic term, buruj, used for ‘constellations’ may be taken to mean the huge mass of planets which resemble great towers or palaces built in the sky. In this sense the verse can be related to two other verses: “We built heaven with Our might, and gave it a wide expanse.” (51: 47) and “Which is stronger in constitution: you or the heaven He has built?” (79: 27) The Arabic term may, alternatively, be interpreted as meaning the positions between which these planets move as they go round in orbit. These constitute the spheres within which the planets remain as they move. This reference to the constellations however, gives an impression of a huge creation. This is, indeed, the connotation intended at the outset.
“By the promised day.” (Verse 2) That is the day when judgement is passed on all the events of this life and when the accounts of this world are settled. It is a day God has promised will come, and is a great day awaited by all creation. “By the witness and that which is witnessed.” (Verse 3) On that day all deeds and creatures are exposed and witnessed. Everybody becomes a witness. Everything becomes known as there is no cover to hide anything from beholding eyes.
References to the heaven and the constellations, the promised day, the witness and what is witnessed all combine to impart an aura of seriousness, concern, attention, and momentum to the manner in which the pit event is related. They also provide the framework in which the event is viewed, judged, and settled on the basis of its true nature. It is a framework stretching far beyond the limits of this short life.
Having thus provided the desired atmosphere, the surah then refers to the event in just a few brief strokes. “Slain be the people of the pit of the fire abounding in fuel, when they sat around it, watching what they did to the believers. They took vengeance on them for no reason other than that they believed in God, the Almighty, to whom all praise is due, to whom the dominion of the heavens and the earth belongs. But God is witness of all things.” (Verses 4-9)
Reference to the event starts with a declaration of anger with the tyrants: “Slain be the people of the pit.” (Verse 4) It also gives an impression of the enormity of the crime which has invoked the displeasure and anger of God, the All-Clement, and which makes Him threaten the perpetrators. We then have a description of the pit: “The fire abounding in fuel.” (Verse 5) The literal meaning of ‘pit’ is a hole in the ground, but the surah defines it as ‘the fire’ instead of using the term ‘trench’ or ‘hole’ in order to give an impression that the whole pit was turned into a blazing furnace.
The perpetrators aroused God’s wrath for the evil crime they committed: “When they sat around it, watching what they did to the believers.” (Verses 6-7) They sat over the fire, in the actual vicinity of the horror, watching the various stages of torture, and madly enjoying the burning of human flesh in order to perpetuate in their minds this ghastly scene. The believers had not committed any crime or evil deed against them: “They took vengeance on them for no reason other than that they believed in God, the Almighty, to whom all praise is due, to whom the dominion of the heavens and the earth belongs. But God is witness of all things.” (Verses 8-9) That was their only crime: they believed in God Almighty who deserves praise for every situation even though ignorant people do not do so. He is the Lord who deserves to be worshipped, the sole sovereign of the kingdoms of the heavens and the earth. As He witnesses all things He has witnessed what the tyrants did to the believers. This verse reassures the believers and delivers a powerful threat to the tyrants. God has been a witness and He suffices for a witness.
The narration of the event is completed in a few short verses which charge our hearts with a feeling of repugnance towards the terrible crime and its evil perpetrators. They also invite us to contemplate what lies beyond the event, its importance in the sight of God and what it has aroused of God’s wrath. It is a matter which is not yet completed. Its conclusion lies with God.
As the narration of the event concludes we feel overwhelmed by the magnificence of faith as it exalts the believers and attains its triumph over all hardships, and indeed over life itself. We feel the elevation of the believers as they rid themselves of the handicaps of human desire and worldly temptation. The believers could easily have saved their lives by accepting the tyrants’ terms. But what a loss humanity as a whole would have incurred! How great the loss would have been had they killed that sublime concept of the worthlessness of life without faith, its ugliness without freedom and its baseness when tyrants are left free to exercise their tyranny over people’s souls after they have exercised it over their bodies. But they have won a very noble and sublime concept while the fire burned their flesh. Their noble concept has triumphed as it was purified by the fire. They will, later on, have their reward from God and their tyrannical enemies will have their retribution. The surah then goes on to explain both.
“Those who persecute the believers, men and women, and do not repent shall suffer the punishment of hell, and suffer the punishment of burning. But those who believe and do righteous deeds shall have gardens through which running waters flow; that is the supreme triumph.” (Verses 10-11) What happens on earth in this first life is not the end of the story. There remains an inevitable part which will follow later. There remains the allocation of awards, which will restore the balance of justice and provide the final settlement of what took place between the believers and the tyrants.
That it will come is certain and confirmed by God: “Those who persecute the believers, men and women” and persist with their evil ways, careless, unrepentant, “and do not repent shall suffer the punishment of hell, and suffer the punishment of burning.” Burning is specified although it is also implied by the very mention of hell.
It earns its specific mention in order to serve as a counterpart to the burning in the pit. Although the same word signifying the action is used, the two types of burning are dissimilar in intensity and duration. The burning here is by fire lit by human beings while the burning in the hereafter is by fire lit by the Creator. In this present world, the burning is over in a few minutes while in the hereafter it goes on for ages unknown except to God. The believers who suffer the burning here earn with it God’s pleasure, and ensure the triumph of that noble human concept referred to earlier. In the hereafter the burning is attended by God’s anger and man’s abject degradation.
Paradise symbolizes God’s pleasure with righteous believers and His reward to them. “But those who believe and do righteous deeds shall have gardens through which running waters flow; that is the supreme triumph.” (Verse 11) The Arabic term, fawz, used here for triumph also connotes escape and success. To escape the punishment of the hereafter is to achieve success. How to describe, then, the reward of gardens with running waters!
With this conclusion justice is restored and the whole question is finally resolved. What has taken place on earth is no more than one part; the matter remains unfinished here. This is the fact emphasized by this initial comment on the pit event, so that it may be fully comprehended by the few believers who have accepted the faith in Makkah, and by every group of believers subjected to trial and tyranny during any period of history.
God’s Unique Attributes
Further comments follow: “Stern indeed is your Lord’s vengeance.” (Verse 12) This comment suitably contrasts God’s punishment with the petty and trifling vengeance exacted by tyrants and thought by them and by people generally to be very powerful. The real power is that levelled by the Almighty, to whom belongs the heavens and the earth, not that levelled by insignificant people who impose their rule over a limited piece of land for a limited period of time.
The statement also emphasizes the relationship between the addressee, namely, God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and the speaker, who is God Almighty. He says to him, “stern indeed is your Lord’s vengeance.” He is your Lord, in whose Godhead you believe, and on whose assistance you rely. This relationship is very significant in situations where believers are afflicted by tyrants.
“It is He who brings into being, and then restores to life.” (Verse 13) In their wider connotations, origination and restoration refer to the first and second processes of bringing into life. The two terms, however, signify two events which constantly take place. In every moment there is origination as well as restoration of what has died and decayed. The whole universe is in a state of continuous renovation, and constant decay. Within the context of this ever-repeated cycle of origination and re-origination the whole affair of the pit and its apparent results seem to be, in reality, no more than a beginning of what can be created anew, or a re-creation of what has already been originated. It is part of a continuous process.
“He is All-Forgiving, Compassionate.” (Verse 14) Forgiveness relates to the earlier statement: “and do not repent”. Forgiveness is part of God’s mercy and grace which have no limits or restrictions. It is an open door which is never closed in the face of anyone who repents, no matter how grave his sins are. Compassion, however, relates to the believers’ attitude who choose their Lord in preference to all things. It is a generous touch of divine benevolence. God elevates His servants who love and choose Him to a grade which one would hesitate to describe except for the fact that God, out of His blessing, bestows it. It is the grade of friendship between Lord and servant. It is a tie of love which exists between God and His favoured servants. How insignificant the transitory life they have sacrificed and the momentary affliction they have suffered appear when compared to only a small part of this splendid and tender love. Some of those who live in servitude to another human being take fatal risks in order to win a word of encouragement or receive a sign of pleasure from their master. They do this although both master and servant are God’s slaves. What, then, should be the attitude of God’s servants who receive that compassionate love and benevolence from the “Lord of the Throne, the Glorious”, the All- Powerful, the Sublime. So petty becomes life, so paltry becomes all suffering, and so trifling becomes every treasured object when the pleasure of the loving Lord of the Throne is at stake.
“He does whatever He wills.” (Verse 16) This is His constantly realized, never failing attribute. His will is absolute. He may choose, on a certain occasion, that believers should, by His grace, win victory for a specific purpose He wants to accomplish. He may choose, on other occasions, that faith should triumph over persecution and trial. This may be manifested, at times, through the physical elimination of believers from this transitory life, again to accomplish a specific purpose. He may decide to smite tyrants in this life, or to delay their punishment to the promised day. Either course of action fulfils a certain purpose behind which divine wisdom lies. Any action He performs is part of His well-defined scheme and His ability to do what He wills. All this fits very well with the account of the pit and with what comes later of reference to the fates of Pharaoh and Thamud and their respective hosts. Beyond all these events and beyond life and the universe there exist the free will and absolute power of God.
Examples of this are given: “Have you heard the story of the hosts, of Pharaoh and Thamud?” (Verses 17-18) This is a reference to two long stories well known to the addressees as they have been mentioned several times in the Qur’an. The two nations concerned are described here by the term “the hosts” in reference to their might and equipment. Have you heard their stories and how God did with them as He pleased? Theirs were two stories, different in nature and consequence. Pharaoh and his army were eliminated when the Children of Israel were saved by God. He gave them power to rule for a certain period in order to accomplish a certain scheme. As for the Thamud, God exterminated them and saved His prophet, Şaliĥ, along with his few followers. The believers in this instance did not establish a state of their own; they were merely saved from corrupt enemies.
Both stories are manifestations of the divine will and its performance. They provide two examples of what may befall advocates of the Islamic faith. They are mentioned along with a third possibility which distinguishes the pit event. The Qur’an explains all three eventualities to the believers in Makkah and to all generations of believers.
The surah concludes with two statements characterized by their sharp and decisive rhythm. Each is a statement of fact and a final verdict. “Yet the unbelievers persist in their denial [of the truth]. But God surrounds them all.” (Verses 19-20) The truth about the unbelievers is that they are in a constant state of disbelief, crying “lies” morning and evening “But God surrounds them all.” They are unaware that God’s might and His knowledge engulf them, making them even more powerless than mice stranded in a great flood.
“This is indeed a glorious Qur’an, inscribed on an imperishable tablet.” (Verses 21-22) The term ‘glorious’ signifies nobility and sublimity. Indeed, there is nothing more noble or more sublime or more glorious than God’s word. It is inscribed on an imperishable tablet, the nature of which we cannot comprehend because it is part of the knowledge God has reserved for Himself. We benefit, however, from the connotations of the statement and the impression it leaves that the Qur’an is well preserved and well-guarded. It is the final word in every matter it deals with.
The Qur’an states its judgement in the pit event and what lies behind it. This judgement is final.
Surah Burooj Tafseer by Abul A’la Maududi
85. Surah Al Burooj (The Constellations)
The Surah is so designated after the word al buruj appearing in the first verse.
Period of Revelation
The subject matter itself indicates that this Surah was sent down at Makkah in the period when persecution of the Muslims was at its climax and the disbelievers of Makkah were trying their utmost by tyranny and coercion to turn away the new converts from Islam.
Theme and Subject Matter
Its theme is to warn the disbelievers of the evil consequences of the persecution and tyranny that they were perpetrating on the converts to Islam, and to console the believers, so as to say: “If you remain firm and steadfast against tyranny and coercion, you will be rewarded richly for it, and Allah will certainly avenge Himself on your persecutors on your behalf.”
In this connection, first of all the story of the people of the ditch (ashab al-ukhdud) had been related, who had burnt the believers to death by casting them into pits full of fire. By means of this story the believers and the disbelievers have been taught a few lessons. First, that just as the people of the ditch became worthy of Allah’s curse and punishment, so are the chiefs of Makkah also becoming worthy of it. Second, that just as the believers at that time had willingly accepted to sacrifice their lives by being burnt to death in the pits of fire instead of turning away from the faith, so also the believers now should endure every persecution but should never give up the faith. Third, that Gods acknowledging Whom displeases the disbelievers and is urged on by the believers, is Dominant and Master of the Kingdom of the earth and heavens; He is self-praiseworthy and is watching what the two groups are striving for. Therefore, it is certain that the disbelievers will not only be punished in Hell for their disbelief but, more than that, they too will suffer punishment by fire as a fit recompense for their tyranny and cruelties. Likewise, this also is certain that those, who believe and follow up their belief with good deeds, should go to Paradise and this indeed is the supreme success. Then the disbelievers have been warned, so as to say: “God’s grip is very severe. If you are proud of the strength of your hosts, you should know that the hosts of Pharaoh and Thamud were even stronger and more numerous. Therefore, you should learn a lesson from the fate they met. God’s power has so encompassed you that you cannot escape His encirclement, and the Qur’an that you are bent upon belying, is unchangeable: it is inscribed in the Preserved Tablet, which cannot be corrupted in any way.”
(85:1) By the heaven with its impregnable castles;  (85:2) by the Promised Day,  (85:3) and by the witness and what is witnessed:  (85:4) the people of the pit were destroyed (85:5) with fire abounding in fuel, (85:6) while they sat around it, (85:7) and were witnessing what they did to the believers.  (85:8) Against these they had no grudge except that they believed in Allah, the Most Mighty, the Most Praiseworthy, (85:9) to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. Allah witnesses everything.  (85:10) Surely those who tormented the believing men and the believing women and then did not repent, theirs shall be the chastisement of Hell, and theirs shall be the chastisement of burning.  (85:11) As for those who believed and acted righteously, theirs shall be Gardens beneath which rivers flow. That is the great triumph. (85:12) Stern indeed is your Lord’s punishment. (85:13) He it is Who creates for the first time and He it is Who will create again, (85:14) and He is the Ever Forgiving, the Most Loving (85:15) – the Lord of the Glorious Throne, (85:16) the Executor of what He wills.  (85:17) Has the story of the armies reached you, (85:18) the armies of Pharaoh and Thamud?  (85:19) The unbelievers are indeed engaged in denying it, calling it a lie, (85:20) although Allah surrounds them. (85:21) Nay; but this is a glorious Qur’an, (85:22) inscribed on a well-guarded Tablet. 
. Literally: By the heaven having constellations. Some of the commentators have interpreted it to mean the twelve signs of the zodiac in the heavens according to ancient astronomy, However, according to Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah, Hasan Basri, Dahhak and Suddi it implies the glorious stars and planets of the sky.
. That is, the Day of Resurrection.
. The commentators have expressed many different views about “the witness” and “that which is witnessed”. In our opinion what fits in well with the context is that it is every such person who will witness the Day of Resurrection, and that which is witnessed is the Resurrection itself, the dreadful scenes of which will be seen by all. This is the view of Mujahid. Ikrimah, Dahhak, lbn Nujaih and some other commentators.
. The people of the ditch were those who had burnt the believers at stake and witnessed their burning themselves. Destroyed were: Cursed were they by God and they became worthy of Hell torment. On this an oath has been sworn by three things:
(1) By the heaven having constellations.
(2) By the Day of Resurrection which has been promised.
(3) By the dreadful scenes of the Day of Resurrection and all those creatures who will witness those scenes.
The first of these testifies to the truth that the Sovereign, Absolute Being Who is ruling over the glorious stars and planets of the universe, cannot allow this contemptible, insignificant creature called man to escape His grip. The second thing has been sworn by on the basis that the wicked people committed whatever tyranny they wanted to commit, but the Day of which men have been fore-warned is sure to come when the grievances of every wronged person will be redressed and every wrongdoer will be brought to book and punished. The third thing has been sworn by for the reason that just as these wicked people enjoyed witnessing the burning of the helpless believers, so will all human beings on the Day of Resurrection witness how they are taken to task and burnt in Hell.
Several events have been mentioned in the traditions of the believers having been thrown into pits of blazing fire, which show that such tyrannies have been inflicted many a time in history.
One of the events has been reported by Suhaib Rumi from the Prophet (peace be upon him), saying that a king had a magician at his court who on becoming old requested the king to appoint a boy who should learn magic from him. Accordingly, the king appointed a boy. But the boy while going to the magician’s place and coming back home also started visiting on the way a monk, who was probably a follower of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), and being influenced by his teaching turned to a believer. So much so that by his training he acquired miraculous powers. He would heal the blind and cure the lepers. When the king came to know that the boy had believed in the Unity of God, he first put the monk to the sword; then wanted to kill the boy, but no instrument and no device had any effect on him. At last, the boy said to the king: If you are bent upon killing me, shoot an arrow at me with the word: Bi-ismi Rabbil-ghulam (in the name of this boy’s Lord) in front of the assembled people, and I shall die. The king did as he was told and the boy died. There upon the people cried out that they affirmed faith in the Lord of the boy. The courtiers told the king that the same precisely had happened which he wanted to avoid: the people had forsaken his religion and adopted the boy’s religion. At this the king was filled with rage. Consequently, he got pits dug out along the roads, got them filled with fire and ordered all those who refused to renounce the new faith to be thrown into the fire. (Ahmad, Muslim. Nasai, Tirmidhi, Ibn Jarir. Abdur Razzaq. Ibn Abi Shaibah, Tabarani. Abd bin Humaid).
The second event has been reported from Ali. He says that a king of lran drank wine and committed adultery with his sister resulting in illicit relations between the two. When the secret became known, the king got the announcement made that God had permitted marriage with the sister. When the people refused to believe in it, he started coercing them into accepting by different kinds of punishment; so much so that he began to cast into the pits of fire every such person who refused to concede it. According to Ali, marriage with the prohibited relations among the fireworshippers has begun since then. (Ibn Jarir).
The third event has been related by lbn Abbas, probably on the basis of the Israelite traditions, saying that the people of Babylon had compelled the children of Israel to give up the religion of the Prophet Moses (peace he upon him), so much so that they cast into pits of fire all those who refused to obey. (Ibn Jarir, Abd bin Humaid).
The best known event, however, relates to Najran, which has been related by Ibn Hisham, Tabari, Ibn Khaldun, the author of Mujam al-Buldan and other Islamic historians. Its resume is as follows: Tuban Asad Abu Karib, king of Himyar (Yaman), went to Yathrib once, where he embraced Judaism under the influence of the Jews, and brought two of the Jewish scholars of Bani Quraizah with him to Yaman. There he propagated Judaism widely. His son Dhu Nuwas succeeded him and he attacked Najran which was a stronghold of the Christians in southern Arabia so as to eliminate Christianity and make the people accept Judaism. Ibn Hisham says that these people were true followers of the Gospel of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). In Najran, he invited the people to accept Judaism but they refused to obey. Thereupon he caused a large number of the people to be burnt in the ditches of fire and slew many others with the sword until he had killed nearly twenty thousand of them. Daus Dhu Thalaban an inhabitant of Najran escaped and went, according to one tradition, to the Byzantine emperor, and according to another to the Negus, king of Abyssinia, and told him what had happened.
According to the first tradition, the emperor wrote to the king of Abyssinia, and according to the second, the Negus requested the emperor to provide him with a naval force. In any case; an Abyssinian army consisting of seventy thousand soldiers under a general called Aryat, attacked Yaman, Dhu Nuwas was killed, the Jewish rule came to an end, and Yaman become a part of the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia.
The statements of the Islamic historians are not only confirmed by other historical means but they also give many more details. Yaman first came under the Christian Abyssinian domination in 340 A.D. and this domination continued till 378 A.D. The Christian missionaries started entering Yaman in that period. About the same time, a man named Faymiyun (Phemion), who was a righteous, earnest, ascetic man and possessed miraculous powers, arrived in Yaman and by his preaching against idol-worship converted the people of Najran to Christianity. These people were ruled by three chiefs: Sayyid, who was the principal chief like the tribal elders and responsible for external affairs, political agreements and command of the forces, Aqib, who looked after the internal affairs and Usquf (Bishop), the religious guide. In southern Arabia Najran commanded great importance, being a major trade and industrial center with tussore, leather and the armament industries. The well-known Yamanite wrapper and cloak (hulla Yamani) was also manufactured here. On this very basis, Dhu Nuwas attacked this important place not only for religious but also for political and economic reasons. Dhu Nuwas put to death Harithah (called Arethas by the Syrian historians), killed Sayyid of Najrain and also killed his two daughters in front of their mother Romah and compelled her to drink their blood and then put even her to death. He took out the bones of Bishop Paul from the grave and burnt them, and ordered women, men, children, aged people, priests and monks, all to be thrown into the pits of fire. The total number of the people thus killed has been estimated between twenty and forty thousand. This happened in October, 523 A.D. At last, in 525 A.D. the Abyssinians attacked Yaman and put an end to Dhu Nuwas and his Himyarite kingdom. This is confirmed by the Hisn Ghurab inscription which the modern archaeologists have unearthed in Yaman.
In several Christian writings of the 6th century A.D. details of the event relating to the “people of the ditch” have been given, some of which are contemporary and reported from eye-witnesses. Authors of three of these books were contemporaries with the event. They were Procopeus, Cosmos Indicopleustis, who was translating Greek book of Ptolemy under command of the Negus Elesboan at that time and resided at Adolis, a city on the sea-coast of Abyssinia, and Johannes Malala from whom several of the later historians have related this event. After this, Johannes of Ephesus (dated 585 A.D) has related the story of the persecution of the Christians of Najran in his history of the Church from a letter of Bishop Mar Simeon who was a contemporary reporter of this event. Mar Simeon wrote this letter to Abbot von Gabula; in it Simeon has reported this event with reference to the statements of the Yamanite eye-witnesses present on the occasion. This letter was published in 1881 A.D. from Rome and in 1890 A.D. in the memoirs of the martyrs of Christianity Jacobian Patriarch. Dionysius and Zacharia of Mitylene have in their Syriac histories also related this event. Yaqub Saruji also in his book about the Christians of Najran has made mention of it. Bishop Pulus of Edessa’s elegy on those who perished in Najran, is still extant. An English translation of the Syriac kitab al-Himyarin (Book of the Himyarites) was published in 1924 from London, which confirms the statements of the Muslim historians. In the British Museum there are some Abyssinian manuscripts relating to that period or a period close to it, which support this story. Philby in his travelogue entitled Arabian Highlands, writes: Among the people of Najran the place is still well known where the event of the people of the ditch (ashab al-ukhdud) had taken place. Close by Umm Kharaq there can still be seen some pictures carved in the rocks, and the present day people of Najran also know the place where the cathedral of Najran stood.
The Abyssinian Christians after capturing Najran had built a church here resembling the Kabah, by which they wanted to divert pilgrimage from the Kabah at Makkah to it. Its priests and keepers wore turbans and regarded it as a sacred sanctuary. The Roman empire also sent monetary aid for this “kabah”. The priests of this very “kabah” of Najran had visited the Prophet (peace be upon him) under the leadership of their Sayyid, Aqib and Bishop for a discussion with him and the famous event of the mubahala (trial through prayer) took place as referred to in (Surah Al-Imran Ayat 61). (For details. see (E.Ns 29 and 55 of Surah Al-Imran).
. In these verses those of Allah Almighty’s attributes have been mentioned on account of which He alone deserves that one should believe in Him, and the people who feel displeased at one’s believing in Him, are wicked and unjust. 1
. Punishment of burning has been mentioned separately from the torment of Hell because they had burnt the oppressed people to death by casting them into the pits of fire. Probably this will be a different and severer kind of fire from the fire of Hell in which those people will be burnt.
. He is the All-Forgiving: If a person repents and reforms himself, he can hope to be received by Allah in His mercy. All-Loving: He has no enmity with His creatures that He would subject them to torment without any reason, but He loves the creatures He has created and punishes them only when they do not give up the attitude of rebellion against Him. Owner of the Throne, means that He alone is the Ruler of the kingdom of the universe: no one who is a rebel can escape His grip and punishment. The mention of His being Exalted is meant to warn man for his meanness when he adopts an attitude of arrogance against such a Being. Last of all, “He is Doer of whatever He intends: no one in the entire universe has the power to obstruct and resist what Allah wills to do.
. The address is directed to the people who in their false pride of having powerful hosts, are breaking the law of God on His earth. They are being warned, as if to say: Do you know what evil fate was met before by those who broke the bounds set by Allah on the strength of the power of their hosts.
. That is, the writ of the Quran is unchangeable and imperishable. It is inscribed in the guarded tablet of God, which cannot he corrupted in any way. Whatever is written in it has to be fulfilled: even the whole world together cannot avert its fulfillment.