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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Surah An Najm (The Star): Exegesis of 53rd Chapter of the Holy Quran

Surah An Najm is the fifty third surah with 62 ayahs with three rukus, part of the 27th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'an. This Surah was revealed in Ramadan of 5th year of Prophet's residence at Makkah.

The surah is also known for referencing the star Sirius in ayah 49 where it is given the name الشِّعْرَى (transliteration: aš-ši‘rā or ash-shira; the leader). The verse is: "وأنَّهُ هُوَ رَبُّ الشِّعْرَى", "That He is the Lord of Sirius (the Mighty Star)." Ibn Kathir said in his commentary "that it is the bright star, named Mirzam Al-Jawza' (Sirius), which a group of Arabs used to worship." The alternate name Aschere, used by Johann Bayer, is derived from this.

However, there are others who differ. Ibn Abbas, Mujahid and Sufyan Thauri opine that Najm implies the Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters). Ibn Jarir and Zamakhshari have held this same interpretation as preferable, for in Arabic when the word an-najm is used absolutely, it usually implies the Pleiades. Suddi says that it implies Venus; and Abu Ubaidah, the grammarian, holds that here the word an-najm has been used generically so as to express this idea: When the day dawned, and the stars set. 

One of the most powerful attribute of this surah is that it is the first surah of the Holy Qur'an which the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had publicly recited before an assembly in the Ka'bah in which both the believers and the disbelievers were present. At the end, when he recited the verse requiring the performance of a Sajdah (prostration) and fell down in prostration, the whole assembly also prostrated with him. Surprisingly even those chiefs of the polytheists who were in the forefront of the opposition to the Prophet (pbuh) could not resist falling down in prostration. Ibn Mas'ud (may Allah be pleased with him) says that he saw only one man, Umayyah bin Khalaf, from among the disbelievers, who did not  prostrate but took a little dust and rubbing it on his forehead said that it was enough for him. 

The theme of the discourse is to warn the disbelievers of Makkah about the error of the attitude that they had adopted towards the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The discourse starts by saying: "Muhammad is neither deluded nor gone astray, nor has he fabricated this teaching of Islam and its message, as you seem to think he has. In fact, whatever he is presenting is nothing but Revelation which is sent down to him. The verities that he presents before you, are not the product of his own surmise and speculation but realities of which he himself is an eye witness. He has himself seen the Angel through whom this knowledge is conveyed to him. He has been directly made to observe the great Signs of Allah during his trip of Ma'iraj; whatever he says is not what he has himself thought out but what he has seen with his own eyes." 

After this, following three convincing arguments are presented:
  • The religion that you are following is based on mere conjecture and invented ideas. You have set up a few goddesses like Lat and Manat and Uzza, whereas they have no share in divinity. You regard the angels as the daughters of Allah. You think that these deities of yours can influence Allah in your favor, whereas the fact is that all the angels together, who are stationed closest to Allah, cannot influence Him even in their own favor. None of beliefs that you have adopted is based on knowledge and reason, but are wishes and desires for the sake of which you have taken some whims as realities. This is a grave error.
  • The final judgement will not depend on what you consider yourself to be, and on the claims you make about your purity and chastity but on whether you are pious or impious, righteous or unrighteous in the sight of Allah. If you refrain from major sins, He in His mercy will overlook your minor errors.
  • A few basic principles of the true faith are reiterated which were stated in the Books of the Prophets Abraham and Moses, so that there remains no misunderstanding that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) has brought some new and novel religion. These are the same fundamental truths which the former Prophets of Allah have always been presenting in their respective ages. It is made clear that the destruction of the 'Ad, the Thamud and of the people of the Prophets Nuh (Noah) and Lut (Lot) was not the result of accidental calamities, but Allah has destroyed them in consequence of the same wickedness and rebellion from which the disbelievers of Makkah are not inclined to refrain and desist.
This was such an impressive discourse, by it even the most hardened deniers of the truth were completely overwhelmed, and when after reciting these verses of Divine Word the Prophet of Allah (pbuh) fell down in prostration, they too could not help falling down in prostration along with him.

Let us now read explanation of the Surah segmented into portions as per the subject matter:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"
The first eighteen verses of this surah are considered to be some of the earliest revelations of the Qur'an. These verses address the legitimacy of Muhammad’s prophetic visions and also explain the scene of the first Revelation, brought by angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

The passage evokes the process of vision by tracing the movement along the highest horizon and then coming down and drawing near to the distance of “two bows” length. The passage ends with the affirmation of the validity of the vision by stating that the heart of the prophet “did not lie in what it saw.”

The surah takes its name from its very first verse,  which mentions “the stars” (najm):

 وَٱلنَّجۡمِ إِذَا هَوَىٰ
1. By the star when it goes down, (or vanishes).
Thus, Surah An Najm opens with the oath of the Allah swearing by every one of the stars, as they descend and disappear beneath the horizon, that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is indeed God’s awaited Messenger. It also refutes the claims of the disbelievers about the goddesses and the angels (ayah 9), and lists several truths about Allah’s power. It closes with a warning of the imminent Day of Judgement.

مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمۡ وَمَا غَوٰى
2. your companion has neither strayed nor is he deluded;
Your companion here implies the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) and the addressees are the Quraish. The word Sahib as used in the original means a friend, a companion, a close associate. Here, making mention of the Prophet by the word Sahib-u-kum (your companion) instead of Our Messenger is very meaningful. This is meant to make the people of the Quraish realize: The person being mentioned is no stranger to you. He is not an outsider whom you may not be knowing or recognizing already. He is a man of your own clan and tribe. If someone of you were to say an improbable thing about him, there would be a thousand men among you who know him, who could see for themselves whether what was said actually applied to him or not.

This is the thing for which an oath has been sworn by the setting star or stars. Going astray means a person’s adopting a wrong way being unaware of the right way, and being deluded means his adopting the wrong way knowingly and consciously. The verse means: Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a well-known man among you. Your accusation that he has gone astray, or is misguided, is utterly wrong. In fact, he is neither gone astray nor misguided. Here, the propriety of swearing by the setting stars is that in the darkness of the starry night a person cannot see the things of his surroundings clearly, and from their vague appearances can form wrong judgments about them, e.g. he may take a tree for a ghost in the dark, a string for a snake, a rock in the sand for a beast of prey. But when the stars have set and the day has dawned, everything appears before man in its real form and shape, and there remains no doubt whatsoever about the reality of things. The same is also the case of Muhammad (peace be upon him) among you. You also know how well-intentioned and honest and righteous person he is. Then how can somebody from among the Quraish have the misunderstanding that he has gone astray?
3. Nor does he speak of (his own) desire.
4. It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.
Verse 4 implies that things for which you accuse him of having gone astray or been misled and deceived, have neither been fabricated by himself nor motivated by any selfish desire on his part, but they have been sent down, and are being sent down, to him by Allah. He did not intend to become a Prophet of his own desire so that he might have laid a claim to Prophethood in order to satisfy his desire, but when Allah appointed him to that office through revelation, then only did he rise to preach his mission and to tell you that he had been appointed Allah’s Messenger to you.

Here, the question arises: Which of the words spoken by the Prophet (peace be upon him) are Allah’s Words: Do they apply to everything that he spoke, or to some of his words and not to others? The answer is: As far as the Quran is concerned, the divine words apply to it most completely. As for the other words, apart from the Quran, which the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke, they could inevitably be of three kinds:

  • First, those words which he employed for preaching religion and inviting others to Allah, and for explaining the themes, teachings and commands of the Quran, or for giving admonition and instruction to the people to fulfill the object for which the Quran was revealed. In this regard, obviously nobody can have the doubt that, God forbid, he fabricated these things from his own mind. In these matters, his position, in fact, was of the official interpreter of the Quran and of Allah’s authorized representative. Although these things were not revealed to him literally as the Quran was revealed; yet these were necessarily based on the same knowledge that he had been given by revelation. The only difference between the Quran and these was that the Quran, both in word and in meaning, was entirely from Allah, and in these other things the meanings were those taught by Allah and the words those which he himself employed to express those meanings. On the basis of this very distinction, the Quran has been described as wahi-jali (manifest revelation) and the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) other sayings as wahi-khafi (concealed revelation).
  • The second kind of the words were those which the Prophet (peace be upon him) spoke in connection with the struggle of raising Allah’s Word and his services for establishing Islam. In this regard, he had to perform countless duties of different kinds as the leader and guide of the Muslim community. In this many a time he took counsel with his companions as well, and followed their advice instead of his own view. On being asked he sometimes told them that he was expressing a particular view not under Allah’s command but as his personal opinion, and on several occasions it so happened that he said something on the basis of his own opinion and later an instruction came down against it from Allah. As for the question whether these sayings were based on divine inspiration, the answer is that except for the things in regard to which he made it explicit that they were not based on divine command, or about which he took counsel with his companions and accepted their advice, or with regard to a thing against which Allah sent down an instruction after he had said or done something on the basis of his personal judgment, all other things were based on concealed revelation (wahi-khafi) just like the things of the first kind. That is why whenever his personal judgment was even slightly turned away from Allah’s pleasure, it was immediately rectified by manifest revelation (wahi-jali). This rectification of some of his personal judgments is itself a proof that all the rest of his religious judgments and interpretations were precisely in accordance with divine will.
  • The third kind of the things were those he said concerning common matters of life as a man, which had nothing to do with the duties of Prophethood, which he said before being appointed a Prophet as well as continued saying even after having been appointed a Prophet. About this kind of the things it should be understood at the outset that there was no dispute with the disbelievers concerning them. They had not accused him of being a misled and misguided person because of these but because of the first two kinds of the things. But although they were not the subject of any dispute, yet the fact is that in this private aspect of his life also never did the Prophet (peace be upon him) utter a word that was opposed to the truth, but at all times, under all conditions, his words and deeds remained within the bounds that Allah had prescribed for living his life as a Prophet (peace be upon him) and righteous man. This same thing has been reported from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in some authentic Ahadith. In Musnad Ahmad a tradition has been related on the authority of Abu Hurairah, saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) once said: I never say anything but what is true and right. A companion said: O Messenger of Allah, you say things sometimes in jest also. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: Indeed, I never say anything but the truth. 
5. He has been taught (this Qur'an) by one mighty in power.
That is, there is no human being who teaches him this, as you seem to think, but he obtains this knowledge through a supernatural source. According to some people, mighty in power implies Allah Himself, but a great majority of the commentators agree that it implies the Angel Gabriel. In (Surah Al-Baqarah, Ayat 97), the Angel has been mentioned by name through whom this teaching had been revealed on the heart of the Prophet (peace be upon him): Say to them, whoever is enemy to Gabriel should understand that he has, by Allah’s command, revealed to your heart the Quran. If these verses are read with this verse of Surah An-Najm, there remains no doubt that here mighty in power implies the Angel Gabriel and not Allah.

Here, some people express the doubt as to how the Angel Gabriel can be regarded as the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) teacher. For this would mean that he was the teacher and the Prophet (peace be upon him) his pupil, and this would place him above the Prophet (peace be upon him) in rank. But this suspicion is misplaced, because Gabriel did not impart instruction to the Prophet (peace be upon him) from any personal knowledge of his own, which might give him superiority over the Prophet (peace be upon him). Allah, in fact, had made him a means of conveying knowledge to the Prophet (peace be upon him), and he was the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) teacher in the metaphoric sense for being only a medium of instruction. That does not give him any superiority whatever. To quote an example: After the Prayer was prescribed five times a day, Allah sent Gabriel to teach the Prophet (peace be upon him) the correct times of the Prayers, and he led him in the Prayers five times daily for two days. This has been related in Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Daud, Tirmidhi and Muwatta and other collections of the Ahadith, with authentic chains of reporters, and in this the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself has explained that he was the follower and Gabriel his leader in the Prayers. But his being made the leader only for the purpose of instruction does not mean that he was superior to the Prophet (peace be upon him) in rank.
6. One endowed with immense wisdom. He came forth and stood poised.
7. While he [Jibrael (Gabriel)] was in the highest part of the horizon,
The horizon means the eastern edge of the sky where the sun rises and the day dawns. The same has been referred to as ufuq-mubin (bright horizon) in Surah Takweer, Ayat 23 [he indeed saw the message-bearer on the clear horizon]. Both the verses make it explicit that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw Gabriel for the first time, he had appeared on the eastern horizon of the sky; and there are several authentic traditions which show that at that time he was in his real shape in which Allah has created him.
8. Then he approached and came closer,
فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوۡسَيۡنِ اَوۡ اَدۡنٰ
9. And was at a distance of two bows' length or (even) nearer,
That is, After appearing on the uppermost edge of the sky, Angel Gabriel started advancing towards the Prophet (peace be upon him) till he reached and hung suspended about him in mid air. Then he bent down to him and came within just two bow-lengths or even closer. The commentators generally have taken qaba-qausain in the meaning of two bow-lengths, but Abdullah bin Abbas and Abdullah bin Masud have taken qaus in the meaning of a dhira (an armlength, cubit), and have interpreted the words kama qaba qausain, saying that the distance between them was reduced to only two arm-lengths. And since all bows are not equal in length, the approximate distance has been expressed by two bow-lengths away or even closer.
10. Then he revealed to Allah's servant whatever he had to reveal
11. His heart added no untruth to what he saw.
That is, as the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) observed all this in broad daylight in the waking condition, with open eyes, his heart did not deem it was a delusion, or that it was a jinn or a devil, who had appeared before him, or that it was an imaginary figure, or a vision that he was seeing while awake. His heart fully confirmed what his eyes saw that it was the Angel Gabriel and the message he was conveying was indeed God’s revelation to him.

Here, the question arises: How is it that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not entertain any doubt at all concerning such a wonderful and extraordinary observation, and he confirmed with full faith that whatever his eyes saw was a real face and not an imaginary figure, nor a jinn nor devil? When we consider this question deeply we are led to five reasons for it:
  • First, that the external conditions in which this observation was made, testified to its truth and validity. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not observe this in darkness, or in a state of meditation, or in a vision, or in a sleep-like condition, but the day had dawned and he was fully awake, and he was seeing the whole scene in the broad daylight in the open with his own eyes precisely in the way as one sees the other things in the world. If doubt is cast on this, then whatever we see in the day time, e.g. rivers, mountains, men, houses, etc., also would become doubtful and illusory.
  • Second, that the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) own internal condition also testified to its validity. He was in his full senses. He had no idea whatever in his mind that he should observe, or that he was going to observe such a thing. His mind was absolutely free from such a thought and any longing for it, and in this state he met with this experience suddenly. There was no room for doubting that the eyes were seeing an actual scene, but that an imaginary thing had appeared before his eyes.
  • Third, that the being who had appeared before him in that condition was so marvelous and magnificent, so beautiful and bright, that neither had he ever had any concept of such a being before that he could take it for a product of his own imagination, nor could a jinn or a devil have such an appearance that he would have taken him for a being other than an angel. Abdullah bin Masud has reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: I saw Gabriel in the shape that he had six hundred wings. (Musnad Ahmad). 
  • Fourth, that the teaching that the being was imparting also testified to the validity of the observation. The Prophet (peace be upon him) had no concept of the knowledge that he received suddenly through him, a knowledge that comprehended the realities and truths of the whole universe. About it he could not have the doubt that it consisted of his own ideas which were being set and arranged by his own mind. Likewise, there was no ground for thinking either that it was Satan who was imparting that knowledge to him and thus deluding him, for it is not for Satan that he should teach, nor can he ever teach, the doctrine of Tauhid to man as against polytheism and idol-worship, that he should warn of the accountability of the Hereafter, that he should create contempt against ignorance and its practices, that he should invite people to moral excellence, and should exhort a person not only to accept that teaching himself but should also rise to eradicate polytheism, injustice, wickedness and sin from the world and replace these evils by the virtues of Tauhid, justice, equity and piety.
  • The fifth and by far the most important reason is that when Allah chooses a certain person for His Prophethood, He cleanses his heart of doubts and suspicions and evil suggestions and fills it with faith and conviction. In that state no hesitation or vacillation is caused in his mind about the validity of whatever his eyes see and his ears hear. He accepts with complete satisfaction of the heart every truth that is revealed to him by his Lord, whether it is in the form of an observation that he is made to witness with the eyes, or in the form of knowledge which he is inspired with, or in the form of a revelation that is recited to him literally. In all these cases the Prophet is fully aware that he is absolutely safe and secure against Satanic interference of every kind, and whatever he is receiving in any form is precisely and definitely from his Lord. Like all God-given feelings this sense and feeling of the Prophet also is a certainty which does not admit of any misunderstanding. Just as the fish has a God-given sense of being a swimmer, the bird of being a bird, and the man of being a man, and there can be no likelihood of any misunderstanding in this regard, so has the Prophet also a God given sense of his being a Prophet. He does not even for a moment entertain the doubt that he has perhaps been involved in the misunderstanding of being a Prophet.
12. Will you then dispute with him (Muhammad ) about what he saw [during the Mi'raj: (Ascent of the Prophet  over the seven heavens)] . 
13. And indeed he (Muhammad ) saw him [Jibrael (Gabriel)] at a second descent (i.e. another time).
عِنۡدَ سِدۡرَةِ الۡمُنۡتَهٰى‏  
14. Near Sidrat-ul-Muntaha [lote-tree of the utmost boundary (beyond which none can pass)],
Sidrah in Arabic means the lote-tree and muntaha the extreme edge or limit. Thus, literally, sidrat-al-muntaha means the lote-tree that is situated on the extreme edge or limit. Allama Alusi in his Ruh al-Maani has explained it thus: At this the knowledge of every learned man comes to an end; whatever is beyond it is known to none but Allah. Almost the same explanation of it has been given by Ibn Jarir in his commentary, and by Ibn kathir in An-Nihayah fi Gharib alHadith wal-Athar. It is difficult for us to know what kind of a lote-tree it is that is situated at the farthest end of this physical world and what is its nature and state. These are the mysteries of the divine universe which are incomprehensible for us. In any case, it is some such thing for which there was no more appropriate word than sidrah in human language, in the sight of Allah

عِنۡدَهَا جَنَّةُ الۡمَاۡوٰىؕ‏ 
15. near which is the Garden of Abode.
This is about the Holy Prophet’s second meeting with Gabriel in which he appeared before him in his real shape and nature. The place where this meeting took place has been described as Sidrat-al-muntaha, along with which it has been said that nearby it is located Jannat-al-mava (Garden of Repose).

Jannat al-mava literally means the Jannat (Garden) that is to be an abode. Hasan Basri says that this is the same Jannat which the believers and righteous will be given in the Hereafter, and from this same verse he has argued that that Jannat is in the heavens. Qatadah says that this is the Jannat in which the souls of the martyrs are kept, it does not imply the Jannat that is to be given in the Hereafter. Ibn Abbas also says the same but adds that the Jannat to be granted to the believers in the Hereafter is not in the heavens but here on the earth.
16. When that covered the lote-tree which did cover it!
That is, its splendor and glory exceeds all description. The divine glory and effulgence was such as can neither be conceived by man nor can any human language depict it adequately.
17. His eye did not waver, nor did it stray,
That is, on the one hand, the Messenger (peace be upon him) of Allah was so firm and steadfast that even in the presence of the great divine splendor and glory his sight was not dazzled and he went on gazing at it with great composure. On the other hand, he was in such complete control of himself and so exclusively attentive that he kept his mind and his sight focused upon the object for which he had been summoned, and he did not let his sight wander to any side like a spectator’s to have a glimpse of the wonderful objects present there.
18. Indeed he (Muhammad ) did see, of the Greatest Signs, of his Lord (Allah).
This verse clearly states that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had not seen Allah but His wonderful sings. Even according to the context, this second meeting also took place with the same being with whom the first meeting had taken place. Therefore, one will have to admit that neither the one whom he had first seen on the uppermost horizon was Allah nor he whom he saw afterwards by the farthest lote-tree was Allah. Had he seen Allah Almighty on either occasion it would have been a great thing and must certainly have been mentioned here explicitly. About the Prophet Moses it has been said in the Quran that he had besought to see Allah And the reply given was: Lan tarani You cannot see Me. (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 143). Now, obviously this honor was not granted to the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him). Had it been granted to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), it would by itself have been such an important thing which must have been stated in clear words. But we see that nowhere in the Quran has it been said that the Prophet (peace be upon him) had seen his Sustainer and Lord. Even in Surah Bani-Israil also, where mention has been made of the event of Miraj (Ascension), it has been said that: We had transported Our servant...so that We may show him some of Our signs, and here also in connection with his visit at sidrat al-muntaha, it has been said: He saw of the greatest signs of His Lord.

Verses 19-25 are about the three major idols of the pagan; Lat, Uzza and Manat (goddesses of Arabs) saying that they are nothing but names in vented by pagan Arabs.

Verse number 19 begins with the mention of three gods and goddesses of the Arab pagans.
19. Have you then considered Al-Lat, and Al-'Uzza (two idols of the pagan Arabs)
  • The shrine of Lat was in Ta'if and the Bani Thaqif were its devotees.
  • 'Uzza is the name of a female goddess, which enjoyed pagans' veneration and respect. This was the special goddess of the Quraish and her shrine was situated at Hurad in the valley of Nakhlah, between Makkah and Ta'if. The people of Bani Shaiban, who were the allies of the Bani Hashim, were its attendants. The Quraish and the people of other tribes paid visits to it and presented offerings and made sacrifices to it. As for the Ka`bah sacrificial animals were driven to it also and it was held in the highest esteem. 
  • The shrine of Manat was situated at Qudaid by the Red Sea between Makkah and Madinah, and the people of Khuza`ah and Aus and Khazraj were in particular its great devotees. People visited it as pilgrims, circumambulated it and made offerings and sacrifices before it.
20. And Manat (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third?
That is, you regard the teachings being given to you by Muhammad (peace be upon him) as erroneous and falsehood, whereas he is being given this knowledge by Allah, and Allah has made him see with his own eyes the verities to which he is testifying before you. Now consider it for yourself as to how irrational are the beliefs that you are following persistently and as to whom you are causing loss by opposing and resisting the person who is guiding you to the right way. In this connection, especially the three goddesses that were worshiped generally by the people of Makkah, Taif and other parts of Hejaz have been taken as an example. About them, they have been asked: Have you ever considered rationally whether they could have even the slightest role in the affairs of the Godhead of the earth and heavens? Or could they bear any relationship whatever with the Lord of the Universe?
21. Is it for you the males and for Him the females?
[Verse 21] That is, you held these goddesses as daughters of Allah, Lord of the worlds, and did not consider while inventing this absurd creed that as for yourselves you regarded the birth of a daughter as disgraceful, and desired to have only male children, but as for Allah you assign to Him only daughters.
22. That indeed is a division most unfair!
23. They are but names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire, whereas there has surely come to them the Guidance from their Lord!
[Verse 23] That is, those whom you call gods and goddesses are neither gods nor goddesses, nor do they possess any attribute of divinity, nor any share whatever in the powers of Godhead. You have of your own whim made them children of God and deities and associates in Godhead. Allah has sent down no authority which you may produce as a proof in support of your presumptions. In other words, the basic causes of their deviation are two:
  • First, that they do not feel any need for the knowledge of reality for the purpose of adopting a creed and religion, but make a supposition on the basis of a mere conjecture and then put belief in it as though it were the reality, 
  • Second, that they have, in fact, adopted this attitude in order to follow the desires of their souls: they desire that they should have such a deity as should help them attain their aims and objects in the world, and if at all there is to be a Hereafter, it should take the responsibility to have them granted forgiveness there too, But it should not impose any restriction of the lawful and the unlawful on them nor should bind them in any discipline of morality. That is why they do not feel inclined to worship One God as taught by the Prophets, and only like to worship these invented gods and goddesses.
That is, in every age the Prophets appointed by Allah have been guiding these wicked people to the truth, and now Muhammad (peace be upon him) has come to tell them as to whom belongs Godhead in reality in the universe.
24. Does man imagine that whatever he wishes for is right for him?
The meaning of this verse [24] can be: Is man entitled to take anyone he pleases as his god? Still another meaning can be: Can the desire of man to have his prayers answered by these gods ever be fulfilled?
25. But to Allah belongs the last (Hereafter) and the first (the world).
In verses 26-32, it has been explained that Angels have no share in divinity, nor they can even intercede without the permission of Allah. Do not claim piety for yourselves, Allah knows who is God fearing and pious.
26. And there are many angels in the heavens, whose intercession will avail nothing except after Allah has given leave for whom He wills and pleases.
That is, even if all the angels together intercede for a person, it cannot be beneficial for him not to speak of the intercession by these invented deities of yours, which can do no one any good. All the powers of Godhead rest with Allah. Even the angels cannot dare intercede for somebody before Him unless He permits it and is pleased to hear their intercession in his behalf.
27. Verily, those who believe not in the Hereafter, name the angels with female names.
That is, their first folly is that they have taken these powerless angels who cannot even intercede for anyone before Allah as their deities. Their second folly is that they regard them as female and daughters of Allah. The basic reason for these errors is that they do not believe in the Hereafter. For, had they been believers in the Hereafter, they would never have behaved so irrationally and irresponsibly. Their denial of the Hereafter has made them heedless of their end, and they think that believing or disbelieving in God, or believing in a thousand gods, does not make any difference, for none of these creeds seems to entail any good or bad result in the present life of the world. Whether the people are deniers of God, or believers in many gods, or in One God, their crops ripen as well as fail, they fall ill as well as recover from illness, and they pass through all kinds of circumstances, good as well as bad. Therefore it is not at all an important and serious matter for them that man should or should not take some one as a deity, or should take as many deities or of any kind as he likes of his choice. When according to them the decision as to what is truth and what is falsehood is to take place in this very world, depending on the results thereof appearing here, obviously the results here do not decide absolutely that one creed is true and another false. Therefore, the adoption of one creed and rejection of another is a matter of mere whim with these people.
28. although they have no knowledge regarding that. They only follow their conjecture and conjecture can never take the place of the Truth.
That is, they have not adopted this creed about the angels on the ground that they had found through some means of knowledge that they were females and daughters of God, but they have presumed this on mere conjecture and have set up these shrines at which they pray for fulfillment of desires, make offerings and pay tributes.
29. Therefore withdraw (O Muhammad ) from him who turns away from Our Reminder (this Qur'an) and desires nothing but the life of this world.
That is, you should not waste your time in making him understand the truth, for such a person will never be inclined to accept any invitation which is based on God-worship, which calls to objects and values higher than the material benefits of the world, and according to which the real aim of life may be the eternal success and well-being of the Hereafter. Instead of spending your time and energy on such a materialistic and ungodly person, you should devote attention to the people who are inclined to heed the remembrance of Allah and are not involved in the worship of the world.
30. That is what they could reach of knowledge. Verily, your Lord it is He Who knows best him who goes astray from His Path, and He knows best him who receives guidance.
31. And to Allah belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth, that He may requite those who do evil with that which they have done (i.e. punish them in Hell), and reward those who do good, with what is best (i.e. Paradise).
32. Those who avoid great sins (see the Qur'an, Verses: 6:152,153) and Al-Fawahish (illegal sexual intercourse, etc.) except the small faults, verily, your Lord is of vast forgiveness. He knows you well when He created you from the earth (Adam), and when you were fetuses in your mothers' wombs. So ascribe not purity to yourselves. He knows best him who fears Allah and keep his duty to Him [i.e. those who are Al-Muttaqun (pious - see V.2:2)].
Verses 33-62 explain that No soul shall bear the burden of another, there shall be nothing for a person except what he strives for.
33. Did you (O Muhammad ) observe him who turned away (from Islam).
34. And gave a little, then stopped (giving)?
35. Is with him the knowledge of the unseen so that he sees?
36. Or is he not informed with what is in the Pages (Scripture) of Musa (Moses),
37. And of Ibrahim (Abraham) who fulfilled (or conveyed) all that (what Allah ordered him to do or convey),
38. That no burdened person (with sins) shall bear the burden (sins) of another.
[Verse 39] This verse is oft quoted when talking of punishments and rewards:
وَاَنۡ لَّيۡسَ لِلۡاِنۡسَانِ اِلَّا مَا سَعٰ
From this verse three important principles are derived: (1) That every person will get only the fruit of his own deeds. (2) That the fruit of one man’s deeds cannot be given to another unless he has a share in that deed. (3) That none can attain anything without striving for it.
39. And that man can have nothing but what he does (good or bad),
In this connection, however, four things should be understood:
  • First, that the reward of that act only can be transferred, which may have been performed purely for the sake of Allah and according to the Shariah injunctions; otherwise obviously an act which is performed for the sake of another than Allah, or in contravention of the Shari ah injunctions, cannot even entitle its doer himself to any reward, nothing to say of its transfer to another person.
  • Secondly, the gift of the rewards will certainly reach to those righteous persons who are staying as guests with Allah, but no rewards are expected to reach to those culprits who are placed in confinement there. The gift can reach the guests of Allah but the criminals of Allah cannot be expected to receive it. 
  • Thirdly, the transfer of the reward is possible but not the transfer of punishment. That is, it is possible that one may do a good deed and may willingly transfer its reward to the other and it reaches him, but it is not possible that one may commit a sin and transfer its punishment to the other and it reaches him.
  • The fourth thing is that a virtuous act is beneficial in two ways: First, on account of its those results which accrue to the soul and morality of the doer himself because of which he becomes worthy of a reward in the sight of Allah; Second, on account of the reward which Allah grants him as a gift and favor. The transfer of the spiritual reward does not concern the first but only the second. 
This can be understood by an example. A person tries to attain proficiency in the art of wrestling by constant practice. The strength and skill thus gained is in any way specially meant for his own self; it cannot be transferred to another. Similarly, if he is attached to a royal court, and there is a stipend fixed for him as a wrestler, he alone will receive it and no one else. However, in respect of the prizes and gifts that his patron may like to grant him as an appreciation for his creditable performance, he may request that they may be given to his coach, or parents, or some other benefactor, on his behalf. The same is the case with the virtuous deeds: their spiritual benefits are not transferable and their rewards also cannot be transferred to another, but as for their rewards and gifts he can pray to Allah that these may be granted to a near and dear one, or a benefactor of his. That is why it is termed as isal thawab (conveying of spiritual rewards) and not as isal jaza (conveying of material reward).
40. And that his deeds will be seen,
[Verse 40]  That is, in the Hereafter the people’s deeds shall be examined and judged in order to see what provisions they have brought with them. As this sentence occurs immediately after the preceding sentence, it by itself indicates that the preceding sentence relates to the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter, and the view of those who present it as an economic principle relating to this world is not correct. To interpret a verse of the Quran in a way as is irrelevant to the context as well as clashes with the other ordinances of the Quran cannot be right.
41. Then he will be recompensed with a full and the best recompense
42. And that to your Lord (Allah) is the End (Return of everything).
43. And that it is He (Allah) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh, and makes (whom He wills) weep;
44. And that it is He (Allah) Who causes death and gives life;
45. And that He (Allah) creates the pairs, male and female,
46. From Nutfah (drops of semen male and female discharges) when it is emitted;
47. And that upon Him (Allah) is another bringing forth (Resurrection);
When this verse is read with the two preceding verses, the sequence by itself seems to provide the argument for the life-after-death also. The God Who has the power to give death and grant life and the God who brings about a creature like man from an insignificant sperm-drop, rather brings about two separate sexes - male and female - from the same substance and by the same method of creation, cannot be helpless to resurrect man once again.

وَاَنَّهٗ هُوَ اَغۡنٰى وَ اَقۡنٰىۙ 
48. that He it is Who bestowed wealth and riches,
Different meanings have been given by the lexicographers and commentators of the word aqna as used in the original. According to Qatadah, Ibn Abbas took it in the meaning of arda (pleased), and according to Ikrimah in the meaning of qannaa (satisfied). According to Imam Razi, whatever is given to a person over and above his need and requirement is aqna. Abu Ubaidah and several other lexicographers have expressed the view that aqna is derived from qunya-tun, which means lasting and secured property, e.g. the house, lands, gardens, cattle, etc. Ibn Zaid, however, has given quite a different meaning of it. He says that aqua here has been used in the sense of afqara (made penniless), and the verse means: He made whomever He pleased rich and whomever He pleased penniless.

وَاَنَّهٗ هُوَ رَبُّ الشِّعۡرٰىۙ‏  
49.  that He is the Lord of Sirius,
Shiera is the brightest star in the heavens, which is also known by the names of Mirzam al-Jawza, al-Kalb al-Akbar, al-Kalb al-Jabbar, Ash-Shira al-Abur, etc. In English it is called Sirius, Dog Star and Canis Majoris. It is 23 times as luminous as the Sun, but as it shines over eight light-years away from the earth, it appears to be smaller and less luminous than the Sun. The Egyptians worshiped it, for it made its appearance at about the time of the season when the annual floods were beginning in the Nile; the Egyptians believed that Sirius caused the Nile floods. The pagan Arabs also held the belief that this star influenced human destinies. That is why they worshiped it as a deity, and the Bani Khuzaah, the neighboring tribe of the Quraish, were particularly well-known for being its devotees. What Allah says means: Your destinies are not made and controlled by Shiera but by the Lord of Shiera.
50. And that it is He (Allah) Who destroyed the former 'Ad (people),
Here the mention of the ancient Aad is made to whom the Prophet Houd (peace be upon him) had been appointed as a Prophet. When those people were inflicted with the torment in consequence of denying the Prophet Houd (peace be upon him), only the believers escaped the punishment. Their descendants are called Aad Ukhra, or the latter Aad, in history.
51. And Thamud (people). He spared none of them. 52. And the people of Nuh (Noah) aforetime, verily, they were more unjust and more rebellious and transgressing [in disobeying Allah and His Messenger Nuh (Noah)]. 
 53. And He destroyed the overthrown cities [of Sodom to which Prophet Lout (Lot) was sent]. 54. So there covered them that which did cover (i.e. torment with stones).
“The subverted settlements”: the settlements of the people of Lot, and “covered them that which did cover” probably imply the waters of the Dead Sea, which spread over their settlements after they had sunk underground, and covered the region even till this day.

فَبِاَىِّ اٰلَاۤءِ رَبِّكَ تَتَمَارٰى‏ 
55. Then which of the Graces of your Lord (O man!) will you doubt.
The word tatamara, as used in the text, means both to doubt and to wrangle. The address is directed to every listener. To every person who may be listening to this discourse, it is being said: Even after witnessing what has been the fate in human history of denying the bounties of Allah and of wrangling with the Prophets concerning them, will you still commit the same folly? What the former peoples had doubted was whether the bounties and blessings they were enjoying in the world, had been bestowed by One God, or by other associates of His, or by no one, but had become available by themselves. On account of this they wrangled with the Prophets. The Prophets asserted that all these blessings had been granted to them by God, and by One God alone; therefore, they should be grateful to Him and should serve Him alone; but the people did not believe this and wrangled with the Prophets on this very account. Now, O man: Don’t you see in history what fate these nations met for entertaining this doubt and for their wrangling? Will you entertain the same doubt and indulge in the same wrangling as proved disastrous for others?

In this connection, one should also bear in mind that the Aad and the Thamud and the people of Noah had passed long before the Prophet Abraham, and the people of Lot had met with the torment during his own lifetime. Therefore, there can be no difficulty in regarding this passage as a part of the resume of the Prophet Abraham’s Books.

هٰذَا نَذِيۡرٌ مِّنَ النُّذُرِ الۡاُوۡلٰٓى‏  
56. This is a warning among the warnings of yore.
The words in the original are: Hadha nadhir-un-minan- nudhur-il-ula. The commentators have expressed three points of view in the explanation of this sentence. First, that nadhir here implies the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him); second, that it implies the Quran; third, that it implies the fate of the peoples already destroyed, which has been referred to in the foregoing verses. In view of the context, it is the opinion of the most that this last commentary is preferable.
57. The Day of Resurrection draws near, 58. None besides Allah can avert it, (or advance it, or delay it).
That is (verse 57), do not be under the delusion that there is yet enough time for thinking and consideration; therefore, you may not give immediate and serious attention to these things and may not decide that you should accept them without further delay. Nay: no one among you knows how much of the respite of life is left to him. Anyone of you can die at any time and the Last Hour can also take place suddenly. Therefore, do not think that the Hour of Judgment is yet far off. Whoever has any concern for the Hereafter, should mend his ways forthwith, for one may not have a chance to take a second breath after the present breath.

And (verse 58) when the Hour of Judgment does arrive, you will not be able to stop it, nor your deities other than Allah have the power to avert it. Allah alone can stop it but He will not.
59. Do you then wonder at this recital (the Qur'an)?
Verse 59 means this: That to which Muhammad (peace be upon him) is inviting you is the same that you have already heard. Now, is it this very thing at which you marvel and feel alarmed, and express wonder as if something very strange and novel was being presented before you?
60. And you laugh at it and weep not,
That is, instead of weeping at your ignorance and deviation you, on the contrary, are mocking, the truth.
61. Wasting your (precious) lifetime in pastime and amusements (singing, etc.).
Two meanings have been given of the word samidun by the lexicographers. (1) Ibn Abbas, Ikrimah and Abu Ubaidah, the grammarian, are of the view that in the Yarnanite tongue sumud means singing and playing, and the verse alludes that the disbelievers of Makkah, in order to suppress the recitation of the Quran and to divert the people’s attention away from it, would start singing in a loud voice. (2) The other meaning of it given by lbn Abbas and Mujahid is: Sumud means bending down the head out of arrogance; when the disbelievers of Makkah passed by the Prophet (peace be upon him), they would pass by him angrily with their faces lifted up. Raghib Isphahani in his Mafradat also has adopted the same meaning; accordingly, Qatadah has translated samidun into ghafilun and Saed bin Jubair into muridun.
 فَاسۡجُدُوۡا لِلّٰهِ وَاعۡبُدُوۡا ۩
62. So fall you down in prostration to Allah, and worship Him (Alone).
According to Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Shafei and many other scholars, it is obligatory to perform a sajdah on the recitation of this verse. Abdullah bin Masud, Ibn Abbas and Muttalib bin Abi Wadaah have unanimously stated that when the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited this Surah for the first time in the Ka'abah, he had prostrated himself and along with him the whole assembly of the believers and the disbelievers had also fallen down prostrate. (Bukhari, Ahmad, Nasai). Ibn Umar has reported that the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited Surah an-Najm in the Prayer and prostrated himself and lay long in that state. (Baihaqi, Ibn Marduyah). Saburat al-Juhani states that Umar recited Surah an-Najm in the Fajr Prayer and performed a sajdah, then stood up, recited Surah al-Zilzal and performed the ruku. (Saed bin Mansur). Imam Malik himself has related this act of Umar in his Muwatta (Bab Maja fi Sajud al- Quren).

Although Imam Malik himself used to perform a sajdah here (as cited by Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Arabi in Ahkam al-Quran), yet he held the view that it was not obligatory to perform a sajdah here, the basis of his view being this tradition of Zaid bin Thabit: I recited Surah an-Najm before the Prophet (peace be upon him), and he did not perfom a sajdah. (Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Abu Daud, Nasai). But this Hadith does not negate the incumbency of the prostration here, for it is likely that the Prophet (peace be upon him) did not perform the sajdah then due to some reason but might have performed it later. Other traditions on the subject are explicit that the prostration was always performed on this verse.

You may now like to listen to Arabic recitation of Surah An Najm with English subtitles:

You may refer to our post "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, meaning and summary of other chapters (Though not complete but building up from 30th Part backwards for chapters in 30th Part are shorter and easier to understand). 

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |
An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic souses and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. However, the exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran are basically based on the "Tafhim al-Qur'an - The Meaning of the Qur'an" by one of the most enlightened scholars of the Muslim World Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi. In addition the references of  other sources which have been explored have also been given above. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites. 

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