1. By the Sky,
Here is an
appeal to three Signs in verses 1-3, and the substantive proposition is
in verses 4-8, a denunciation of wicked persecutors of the votaries of
Allah, persecutors who burnt righteous men for their Faith. The three
Sky, with the broad belt of the Constellations marking the twelve Signs
of the Zodiac;
the Day of
Judgment, when all evil will be punished; and
that will be witnesses, and certain
things that will be the subjects of the witness. See the notes
See n. 1950 to
15:16.The Stars of the Zodiac as well as of other Constellationsare like
the eyes of the Night. It may be that crimes arecommitted in the
darkness of the night. But countless eyes are watching all the time, and
every author of evil will be brought to book.
2. By the promised
The Day of
Judgment, when the Sinner will have to give an account of every deed,
open or hidden, is not merely a matter of speculation. It is definitely
promised in revelation, and will inevitably come to pass. Woe then to
the Sinners for their crimes.
3. By one that
witnesses, and the subject of the witness --
meaning is clear, but its metaphorical application has been explained in
a variety of ways by different Commentators. The words are fairly
comprehensive, and should, I think, be understood in connection with
Judgment. There the Witnesses may be:
(3:81, and 10:61);
own misused limbs (24:24);
his record of
deeds (17:14); or
The subject of
the witness may be the deed or crime, or the Sinner against whom the
testimony cries out.
The appeal to
these things means that the Sinner cannot possibly escape the
consequences of his crime. He should repent, seek Allah's Mercy, and
amend his life.
قُتِلَ أَصْحَابُ الْأُخْدُود
4. Woe to the
makers of the pit
Who were the
makers of the pit of fire in which they burn people for their Faith?
The words are
perfectly general, and we need not search for particular names, except
by way of illustration.
history, and in Medieval Europe, many lives were sacrificed at the stake
because the victims did not conform to the established religion.
tradition there is the story of Abraham: Nimrud tries to burn him to
death, but on account of Abraham's Faith, the fire became "a means of
safety for Abraham": 21:69, and n. 2725.
cited is that of Dhu Nuwas, the last Himyarite King of Yemen, by
religion a Jew, who persecuted the Christians of Najran and is said to
have burnt them to death. He seems to have lived in the latter half of
the sixth Christian century, in the generation immediately preceding the
Prophet's birth in 570 A.D.
While the words
are perfectly general, a reference is suggested to the persecution to
which the early Muslims were subjected by the Pagan Quraish. Among other
cruelties, they were stripped, and their skins were exposed to the
burning rays of the Arabian summer sun.(R).
النَّارِ ذَاتِ الْوَقُود
5. Fire supplied
إِذْ هُمْ عَلَيْهَا قُعُودٌ
over against the
sat calmly to gloat over the agonies of their victims in the well-fed
وَهُمْ عَلَى مَا يَفْعَلُونَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ شُهُودٌ
7. And they
that they were
doing against the Believers.
وَمَا نَقَمُوا مِنْهُمْ إِلَّا أَنْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ
8. And they
ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah,
Exalted in Power, worthy of all Praise! --
الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ ۚ
وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
9. Him to Whom
belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! and Allah is Witness
to all things.
It is suggested
that the persecutors will richly deserve to be punished in the Fire of
Hell. That Punishment will be far more real and lasting than the
undeserved cruelty which they inflicted on men for their Faith in the
One True God.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ فَتَنُوا الْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ ثُمَّ لَمْ
يَتُوبُوافَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ جَهَنَّمَ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابُ الْحَرِيقِ
10. Those who
(or draw into
the Believers, men and women, and do not turn in repentance, will have
the Penalty of Hell: they will have the Penalty of the Burning Fire.
mentioned here in addition to the "Penalty of Hell". This assumes a
special significance in the background of the cruel burning of the
Faithful by the "makers of the pit". These criminals would be duly
retributed by being subjected to a similar kind of suffering that they
had caused their innocent victims. [Eds.}
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ لَهُمْ
جَنَّاتٌ تَجْرِي مِنْ تَحْتِهَا الْأَنْهَارُ ۚ
ذَلِكَ الْفَوْزُ الْكَبِيرُ
11. For those who
believe and do righteous deeds, will be Gardens,Beneath which Rivers
flow: that is the great Salvation,
Cf. 5:119, 972
fulfillment of all desires).
Cf. 5:119, n.
إِنَّ بَطْشَ رَبِّكَ لَشَدِيدٌ
12. Truly strong is
of thy Lord.
إِنَّهُ هُوَ يُبْدِئُ وَيُعِيدُ
13. It is He Who
creates from the very beginning, and He can restore
For the various
words for "Creation" and theideas implied in them,
see n. 120 to
وَهُوَ الْغَفُورُ الْوَدُودُ
14. And He is the
Oft-Forgiving, Full of loving-kindness,
ذُو الْعَرْشِ الْمَجِيدُ
15. Lord of the
Throne of Glory,
Allah's Will is
itself the Word and the Deed. There is no interval between them. He does
not change His mind. No circumstances whatever can come between His Will
and the execution thereof. Such are His Power and His Glory. Compare it
with that of men, described in the next two verses.
of all that He
هَلْ أَتَاكَ حَدِيثُ الْجُنُودِ
17. Has the story
reached thee, of the Forces --
In contrast to
the real, all-embracing, and eternal power of Allah, what are the forces
of man at their best? Two examples are mentioned.
1. Pharaoh was
a proud monarch of a powerful kingdom, with resources and organisation,
material, moral, and intellectual, as good as any in the world. When he
pitted himself against Allah's Prophet, he and his forces were
destroyed, See 79;15-26.
2. The Thamud
were great builders, and had a high standard of material civilization.
But they defied the law of Allah and perished. See 7:73-79, and n. 1043.
18. Of Pharaoh and
بَلِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فِي تَكْذِيبٍ
19. And yet the
In spite of the
great examples of the past, by which human might and skill were shown to
have availed nothing when the law of Allah was broken, the unbelievers
persist (in all ages) in defying that law. But Allah will know how to
deal with them.
وَاللَّهُ مِنْ وَرَائِهِمْ مُحِيطٌ ﴿٢٠﴾
20. But Allah doth
encompass them from behind!
encompasses every thing. But the wicked will find themselves defeated
not only in conditions that they foresee, but from all sorts of
unexpected directions, perhaps from behind them, i.e., from the very
people or circumstances which in their blindness they despised or
thought of as helping them.
بَلْ هُوَ قُرْآنٌ مَجِيدٌ﴿٢١﴾
21. Nay, this is a
فِي لَوْحٍ مَحْفُوظٍ
in a Tablet
"Inscribed in a
Message is not ephemeral. It is eternal. The "Tablet" is "preserved" or
guarded from corruption:
Allah's Message must endure for ever.That Message is the "Mother of the
book": see n. 347 to