Sunday 18 October 2020

Surah Al Fajr - The Dawn / Daybreak: Exegesis 89th Chapter of Quran

Sūrah Al Fajr "الفجر "  is the eighty ninth sürah with 30 āyāt , part of the 30th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'ān. The Surah is so designated after the word wal-fajr  " وَالۡفَجۡرِۙ‏  " with which it opens. Its contents show that it was revealed at the stage when persecution of the new converts to Islam had begun in Makkah. On that very basis the people of Makkah have been warned of the evil end of the tribes of Ad and Thamud and of Pharaoh. Its theme is to affirm the meting out of rewards and punishments in the Hereafter, which the people of Makkah were not prepared to acknowledge.

This surah is one of he earliest surahs to be revealed, - probably within the first ten in chronological order. Its meaning is suggested by contrasts, - contrasts in nature and in man's long history. Thus does it enforce the lesson of Faith and Hereafter to "those who understand". Man's history and legendary lore show that greatness does not last and the proudest are brought low. For enforcing moral and spiritual truths, the strictest history is no better than the legend. Indeed all artistic history is legend, for it is written from a special point of view.

Man is easily cowed by contrast in his own fortunes, and yet he does not learn from them the lessons of forbearance and kindness to others, and the final elevation of goodness in the Hereafter. When all these things on which his mind and heart are set on the earth shall be crushed with nothingness, he will see the real glory and power, love and beauty, of Allah, for these are the light of the Garden of Paradise.

The subject matter of this Sūrah can be divided into three parts:
  • Verses 1-14 Admonition for social welfare through the examples of prior nations
  • Verses 15-20 What should be avoided to do real social welfare
  • Verses 21-30 Day of judgement will be too late to heed the admonition and Allah's address to the believers
Sürah Al-Fajr forms a pair with the next Sürah Al-Balad. The central theme of both the sürahs is to reprimand the leaders of the Quraysh for the rebellious attitude and arrogant behavior they have adopted with regard to Allah and their fellow human beings after being bestowed with favors and riches.

We have already presented the overview / summary of the sürah. Let us now read the verse by verse translation and exegesis / tafseer in English. You may also listen to tafsir / exegesis of sürah by eminent Muslim scholar, exegete and linguist Nouman Ali Khan at the end of the post:

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"
( 1 )   By the dawn

Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala opens the Surah by presenting a pleasant scene. Fajr time is when life starts to breathe. It’s a time of freshness. The dormant world is gradually coming back to life.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Four striking contrasts are mentioned, to show Allah's Power and Justice, and appeal to "those who understand". The first is the glory and mystery of the Break of Day. It just succeeds the deepest dark of the Night, when the first rays of light break through. Few people except those actually in personal touch with nature can feel its compelling power. In respect both of beauty and terror, of hope and inspiration, of suddenness and continuing increase of light and joy, this "holy time" of night may well stand as the type of spiritual awakening from darkness to Faith, from Death to Resurrection.

Nouman Ali Khan Explanation:
Why did the people of the past take oaths, and why does Allah take Oaths in the Qur'an? (1) To get attention in speech. (2) The Object being sworn/oathed by has a relation to the subject to come. The oaths in this surah continue with the pattern of previous oaths which show the different signs of Allah's wonders in the sky. (I.e. The stars, the sunrise, the red glow of the sun when it sets, the still night etc.)

Fajr - the time when the night has been ripped, and the light begins to come through into the sky. Fajr (and other similar root words to it) = to tear/rip open something completely. So the earliest time when the light tears through the darkness of the night - Fajr has begun. Allah does an oath by this time of the Day. This is the time of life. Animals and birds start chirping. The world is given life once again after its death. (Surah Duha - wal layli idha saja - By the Night when it is Saja [still/not moving at all.]) It is only the believer who wakes up willingly by choice at this time to worship Allah, his Master, whereas the disbelievers/sinners remain asleep. And the animals wake up without choice. This makes the believing slave of Allah have a high rank in His sight.

At this time - the hearts are the closest and most in fear in the presence of their Lord. Why?
  • 1 - The slave has woken up for no reason of the world except for Allah's sake.
  • 2 - When Allah swears by the morning - He is swearing by death and life. Because the night sleep is a sign of death, and the waking up is like the Resurrection after that death. This is affirmed by the du'a we recite from the Sunnah after waking up; Alhamdulillah aladheeahyana ba'da ma amaatana wa ilayhin-nushoor. (the praise is for Allah who brought us to life after our death, and to Him is our gathering.) So waking up is a reminder of the final Resurrection on Judgment Day.
  • 3 - Darkness is removed. Since this surah is a Makki surah (revealed in Makkah when the Muslims faced hardship). The Fajr morning light is a sign of the upcoming victory of Islam after the hardships (darkness) faced by the Muslims. Just like the morning light (of Tawheed/monotheism) removes the darkness of shirk(polytheism) and oppression.
This is why Fajr is sworn by.

وَلَيَالٍ عَشۡرٍۙ‏ 
( 2 )   And [by] ten nights

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Concerning Al-Fajr, it is well known that it is the morning. This was said by `Ali, Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Mujahid and As-Suddi. It has been reported from Masruq and Muhammad bin Ka`b that Al-Fajr refers to the day of Sacrifice (An-Nahr) in particular, and it is the last of the ten nights. `The ten nights' refers to the (first) ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. This was said by Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Zubayr, Mujahid and others among the Salaf and the latter generations. It has been confirmed in Sahih Al-Bukhari from Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet said: (There are no days in which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than these days.) meaning the ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. 

They said, "Not even fighting Jihad in the way of Allah'' He replied: (Not even Jihad in the way of Allah; except for a man who goes out (for Jihad) with his self and his wealth, and he does not return with any of that.)

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
By the Ten Nights are usually understood the first ten nights of Zul-Hijja, the sacred season of Pilgrimage. From the most ancient times Makkah was the centre of Arab pilgrimage. The story of Abraham is intimately connected with it: see ii. 125-127, also ii. 197. In times of Paganism various superstitions were introduced, which Islam swept away. Islam also purified the rites and ceremonies, giving them new meaning. The ten days specially devoted to the Hajj introduce a striking contrast in the life of Makkah and of the pilgrims. Makkah, from being a quiet secluded city, is then thronged with thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the world. They discard their ordinary dress-representing every kind of costume-to the simple and ordinary Ihram (ii. 197); they refrain from every kind of fighting and quarrel; they abstain from every kind of luxury and self-indulgence; they hold all life sacred, however humble, except in the way of carefully-regulated sacrifice; and they spend their nights in prayer and meditation.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
The "daybreak" (fajr) apparently symbolizes man's spiritual awakening; hence, the "ten nights" is an allusion to the last third of the month of Ramadan, in the year 13 before the hijrah, during which Muhammad received his first revelation (see introductory note to surah {96}) and was thus enabled to contribute to mankind's spiritual awakening.

وَّالشَّفۡعِ وَالۡوَتۡرِۙ‏ 
( 3 )   And [by] the even [number] and the odd

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The contrast between even and odd forms the subject of learned argument among those who deal with the properties of numbers. In any case, even and odd follow each other in regular succession: each is independent, and yet neither is self-sufficient. In ultimate analysis every even number is a pair of odd ones. And all things go in pairs: see xxxvi. 36. In the animal world pairs are but two individuals, and yet each is a complement of the other. Both abstract and concrete things are often understood in contrast with their opposites. Why should we not, in spiritual matters, understand this life better with reference to the Hereafter, and why should we disbelieve in the Hereafter simply because we cannot conceive of anything different from our present life?

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "the even and the odd" or "the one": i.e., the multiplicity of creation as contrasted with the oneness and uniqueness of the Creator (Baghawi, on the authority of Sa'id ibn al-Khudri, as well as Tabari in one of his alternative interpretations of the above phrase). The concept of the "even number" implies the existence of more than one of the same kind: in other words, it signifies every thing that has a counterpart or counterparts and, hence, a definite relationship with other things (cf. the term azwaj in 36:36, referring to the polarity evident in all creation). As against this, the term al-watr - or, in the more common (Najdi) spelling, al-witr - primarily denotes "that which is single" or "one" and is, hence, one of the designations given to God - since "there is nothing that could be compared with Him" (112:4) and "nothing like unto Him" (42:11).

وَالَّيۡلِ اِذَا يَسۡرِ​ۚ‏ 
( 4 )   And [by] the night when it passes,

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Concerning Allah's statement, (And by the night when it departs.) Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, "When it goes away.'' `Abdullah bin Zubayr said, "As some parts of it remove other parts of it.'' Mujahid, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Qatadah, and Malik who reported it from Zayd bin Aslam and Ibn Zayd, they all said; "When it moves along.''

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
That is, the last part of the night, just before full day-light. Note the gradations: first, the turn of the night, when just the first rays of daylight break through; secondly, the social and institutional rites of religion, like those during the ten nights of Pilgrimage; thirdly, when the usual contrast between the Here and Hereafter vanishes, and we can see heaven even here; and lastly, when this world vanishes, the full light of Day arrives, and we see Reality face to face.

هَلۡ فِىۡ ذٰلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِىۡ حِجۡرٍؕ‏ 
( 5 )   Is there [not] in [all] that an oath [sufficient] for one of perception?

Much difference of opinion has been expressed by the commentators in the commentary of these verses, so much so that in respect of “the even and the odd” there are as many as 36 different views. In some traditions the commentary of these verses has also been attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him), but the fact is that no commentary is confirmed from him, otherwise it was not possible that anyone from among the companions, their immediate successors, and later commentators would have dared to determine the meaning of these verses by themselves after the commentary by the Prophet (peace be upon him).

After a study of the style one clearly feels that there was an argument already in progress in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) was presenting something and the disbelievers were denying it. At this, affirming what the Prophet (peace be upon him) presented, it was said: By such and such a thing, so as to say: By these things, what Muhammad (peace be upon him) says is wholly based on the truth. Then, the argument is concluded with the question: Is there an oath in it for a man of understanding. That is, is there a need for yet another oath to testify to the truth of this matter. Is this oath not enough to persuade a sensible man to accept that which Muhammad (peace be upon him) is presenting.

Now the question arises: what was the argument for the sake of which an oath was sworn by these four things? For this we shall have to consider the whole theme which, in the following verses, commences with: Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the Aad, and continues till the end of the Surah. It shows that the argument concerned the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter, which the people of Makkah were refusing to acknowledge and the Messenger (peace be upon him) was trying to convince them of this by constant preaching and instruction. At this oaths were sworn by the dawn, the ten nights, the even and the odd, and the departing night to assert: Are these four things not enough to convince a sensible man of the truth of this matter so that he may need yet another evidence for it?

After having determined the significance of these oaths in the context, we would inevitably have to take each of these in the meaning relevant to the subsequent theme: 
  • First of all, it is said: By Fajr. Fajr is the breaking of day, i.e. the time when the first rays of the light of day appear in the midst of the darkness of night as a white streak from the east. 
  • Then, it is said: By the ten nights. If the context is kept in view, it will become plain that it implies each group of the ten nights among the thirty nights of the month, the first ten nights being those during which the crescent moon starting as a thin nail, goes on waxing every night until its major portion becomes bright. The second group of the ten nights being those during which the greater part of the night remains illumined by the moon. And the last ten nights being those during which the moon goes on waning and the nights becoming more and more dark until by the end of the month the whole night becomes absolutely dark. 
  • Then, it is said: By the even and the odd. Even is the number which is divisible into two equal parts, as 2, 4, 6, 8, and the odd the number which is not so divisible, as l, 3, 5, 7. Generally, it may imply everything in the universe, for things in the universe either exist in pairs or as singles. But since the context here concerns the day and the night, the even and the odd mean the alternation of day and night in the sense that the dates of the month go on changing from the first to the second, and from second to the third, and every change brings with it a new state. 
  • Last of all, it is said: By the night when it is departing, i.e. when the darkness which had covered the world since sunset may be at the verge of disappearing and the day be dawning. 
Now let us consider as a whole the four things an oath by which has been sworn to assert that the news which Muhammad (peace be upon him) is giving of the meting out of rewards and punishments is wholly based on the truth. All these things point to the reality that an all-Powerful Sustainer is ruling over this universe and nothing of what He is doing is absurd, purposeless, or lacking wisdom. On the contrary, a wise plan clearly underlies whatever He does. In His world one will never see that while it is night, the midday sun should suddenly appear overhead, or that the moon should appear one evening in the shape of the crescent and be followed next evening by the full moon, or that the night, when it falls, should never come to an end, but should become perpetual, or that there should be no system in the alternation of the day and night so that one could keep a record of the dates and know what month was passing, what was the date, on what date a particular work is to begin, and when it is to finish, what are the dates of the summer season and what of the rainy or winter season. 

Apart from countless other things of the universe if man only considers this regularity of the day and night intelligently and seriously, he will find evidence of the truth that this relentless discipline and order has been established by an Omnipotent Sovereign God; with it are connected countless of the advantages of the creatures whom He has created on the earth. Now, if a person living in the world of such a Wise, Omnipotent and All-Mighty Creator denies the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter, he inevitably commits one of the two errors: either he is a denier of His powers and thinks that though He has the power to create the universe with such matchless order and discipline, He is powerless to recreate man and mete out rewards and punishments to him or he denies His wisdom and knowledge and thinks that although He has created man with intellect and powers in the world, yet He will neither ever call him to account as to how he used his intellect and his powers, nor will reward him for his good deeds, nor punish him for his evil deeds. The one who believes in either is foolish in the extreme.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(There is indeed in them sufficient proofs for men with Hijr!) meaning, for he who possesses intellect, sound reasoning, understanding and religious discernment. The intellect has only been called Hijr because it prevents the person from doing that which is not befitting of him of actions and statement. From this we see the meaning of Hijr Al-Bayt because it prevents the person performing Tawaf from clinging the wall facing Ash-Sham. Also the term Hijr Al-Yamamah (the cage of the pigeon) is derived from this meaning (i.e., prevention). It is said, "Hajara Al-Hakim so-and-so (The judge passed a judgement preventing so-and-so),'' when his judgement prevents the person from his liberty (i.e., of freely utilizing his wealth).

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
All these Signs draw our attention, like solemn adjurations in speech, to the profoundest mystery of our inner life, viz., how from utter depths of darkness-ignorance or even degradation-Allah's wonderful light or Revelation can lead us by contrast into the most beautiful sunshine of a glorious spiritual Day. But the contrast suggest also the opposite process as a corollary,-how resistance to Allah's fight would destroy us utterly, converting our greatness or glory to perdition, as happened with the peoples of Arab antiquity, the 'Ad and the Thamud, and the type of the powerful but arrogant and godless monarch, the Pharaoh of Egypt. Like a man with a bounded horizon, the average man does not understand these long-range mysteries of life, and we have need to pray that we may be of "those who understand".

Allah says, "وَيَقُولُونَ حِجْراً مَّحْجُوراً " (And they will say: "Hijr Mahjur.'') (25:22) All of these examples are different cases but their meanings are quite similar. The oath that is referred to here is about the times of worship and the acts of worship themselves, such as Hajj, Salah and other acts of worship that Allah's pious, obedient, servants who fear Him and are humble before Him, seeking His Noble Face, perform in order to draw nearer to Him.

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ 
( 6 )   Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with ʿĀd -

After reasoning out the judgment from the system of day and night, now an argument is being given from man’s own history for its being a certainty. The mention of the conduct of a few well known tribes of history and their ultimate end is meant to point out that the universe is not working under some deaf and blind law of nature, but a Wise God is ruling over it, and in the Kingdom of that God only one law, which man describes as the law of nature is not working, but a moral law also is operative, which necessarily calls for retribution and rewards and punishments. The results of the working of the law have been appearing over and over again even in this world, which point out to the people of understanding as to what is the nature of the kingdom of the universe. Any nation which carved out a system of life for itself, heedless of the Hereafter and of the rewards and punishments of God, was ultimately corrupted and depraved, and whichever nation followed this way, was eventually visited with the scourge of punishment by the Lord of the universe. This continuous experience of man’s own history testifies to two things clearly:

(1) That denial of the Hereafter has been instrumental in corrupting every nation and sending it ultimately to its doom; therefore, the Hereafter indeed is a reality clashing with which leads, as it has always led, to the same inevitable results.

(2) That retribution for deeds will at some time in the future take place in its full and complete form also, for the people who touched the extreme limits of corruption and depravity and were visited with punishment had been preceded by many others who had sown seeds of corruption for centuries and left the world without being visited by any scourge.

The justice of God demands that all those people also should be called to account at some time and they too should suffer for their misdeeds. Argument from history and morals for the Hereafter has been given at many places in the Quran and we have explained it everywhere accordingly. For example, see explanation of (verses 5, 6 of Surah Al-Aaraf); (verse 8 of Surah Younus); (Verses 52, 103 and 117 of Surah Houd); (verse 5 of Surah Ibrahim); (verses 52 and 69 of Surah An-Naml); (verse 9 of Surah Ar-Room); (Verse 15 of Surah Saba); (verses 27-28 of Surah Saad); (verse 58 of Surah Al-Momin); (verses 37-38 of Surah Ad-Dukhan); (verses 21-22 of Surah Al-Jathiah); (verse 21 of Surah Qaf); (verse 24 of Surah Adh-Dhariyat).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Mentioning the Destruction of `Ad: After mentioning these people, and their worship and obedience, Allah says, (Saw you not how your Lord dealt with `Ad) These were people who were rebellious, disobedient, arrogant, outside of His obedience, deniers of His Messengers and rejectors of His Scriptures. Thus, Allah mentions how He destroyed them, annihilated them and made them legends to be spoken of and an exemplary lesson of warning. 

These were the first people of `Ad. They were the descendants of `Ad bin Iram bin `Aws bin Sam bin Nuh. This was said by Ibn Ishaq. They are those to whom Allah sent His Messenger Hud. However, they rejected and opposed him. Therefore, Allah saved him and those who believed with him from among them, and He destroyed others with a furious, violent wind.

(Which Allah imposed on them for seven nights and eight days in succession, so that you could see men lying overthrown, as if they were hollow trunks of date palms! Do you see any remnants of them) (69: 7-8) Allah mentioned their story in the Qur'an in more than one place, so that the believers may learn a lesson from their demise.

Allah then says:

 إِرَمَ ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ 
( 7 )   [With] Iram - who had lofty pillars,

Aad Iram implies the ancient tribe of ʿĀd, who have been called ʿĀd-ula in the Quran and Arabian history. In Surah An-Najm, it has been said: And that We destroyed the ancient people of Aad (verse 50), i.e. the Aad to whom the Prophet Houd (peace be upon him) had been sent, and who were punished with a scourge. As against them the people of Aad who remained safe and flourished afterwards are remembered as ʿĀd-ukhra in Arabian history. The ancient Aad are called ʿĀd-lram for the reason that they belonged to that branch of the Sematic race which descended from Iram, son of Shem, son of Noah (peace be upon him). Several other sub-branches of this main branch are well known in history. One of which were the Thamud, who have been mentioned in the Quran; another are the Aramaeans, who in the beginning inhabited the northern parts of Syria and whose language Aramaic occupies an important place among the Sematic languages.

The words dhat-ul-imad ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ (of lofty pillars) have been used for the Aad because they built high buildings and the pattern of architecture of erecting edifices on lofty pillars was introduced by them in the world. At another place in the Quran this characteristic has been mentioned in connection with the Prophet Houd (peace be upon him), who said to them: What, you erect for mere pleasure a monument on every high spot, and build huge castles as if you were immortal. (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 128-129).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
This is an additional explanation that adds clarification who they actually were. Concerning His saying, (of the pillars.) is because they used to live in trellised houses that were raised with firm pillars. They were the strongest people of their time in their physical stature, and they were the mightiest people in power. Thus, Hud reminded them of this blessing, and he directed them to use this power in the obedience of their Lord Who had created them. 

He said,(And remember that He made you successors after the people of Nuh and increased you amply in stature. So remember the graces from Allah so that you may be successful.)(7:69) 

Allah also said, (As for 'Ad, they were arrogant in the land without right, and they said: "Who is mightier than us in strength'' See they not that Allah Who created them was mightier in strength than them.) (41:15) And Allah says here,

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Iram would seem to have been an ancient 'Ad capital, in southern Arabia. It boasted of lofty architecture ("lofty pillars"). Some Commentators understand Iram to be the name of an eponymous hero of the 'Ad, in which case the following line, "with lofty pillars", should be construed "of lofty stature". The 'Ad were a tall race.

 الَّتِي لَمْ يُخْلَقْ مِثْلُهَا فِي الْبِلَادِ 
( 8 )   The likes of whom had never been created in the land?

That is, they were a matchless people of their time; no other nation in the world compares with them in strength, glory and grandeur. At other places in the Quran, it has been said about them: Your Lord made you very robust. (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 69). As for the Aad, they became arrogant with pride in the land, without any right, and said: Who is stronger than us in might. (Surah Ha Mim As- Sajdah, Ayat 15). When you seized somebody, you seized him like a tyrant. (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayat 130).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(The like of which were not created in the land) meaning, there had been none created like them in their land, due to their strength, power and their great physical stature. Mujahid said, "Iram was an ancient nation who were the first people of `Ad.'' Qatadah bin Di`amah and As-Suddi both said, "Verily, Iram refers to the House of the kingdom of `Ad.'' 

This latter statement is good and strong. Concerning Allah's statement, (The like of which were not created in the land) Ibn Zayd considered the pronoun of discussion here to refer to the pillars, due to their loftiness. He said, "They built pillars among the hills, the likes of which had not been constructed in their land before.'' However, Qatadah and Ibn Jarir considered the pronoun of discussion to refer to the tribe (of `Ad), meaning that there was no tribe that had been created like this tribe in the land - meaning during their time. And this latter view is the correct position. The saying of Ibn Zayd and those who follow his view is a weak one, because if He intended that, He would have said "The like of which were not produced in the land.'' 

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
This tract of southern Arabia was once very prosperous (Arabia Felix) and contains ruins and inscriptions. It has always been an object of great interest to the Arabia. In the time of Muawiya some precious stones were found among the ruins in this locality. Quite recently, a bronze lion's head and a bronze piece of gutter with a Sabaean inscription, found in Najran, have been described in the British Museum Quarterly, vol, XI, No. 4, Sept. 1937.

 وَثَمُودَ الَّذِينَ جَابُوا الصَّخْرَ بِالْوَادِ 
( 9 )   And [with] Thamud, who carved out the rocks in the valley?

The valley: Wad-il-Qura, where the Thamud carved out dwellings in the mountains, and probably in history they were the first people who started cutting out such buildings into the rocks. (For details, see (verse 73-74 of Surah 7. Al- Aaraf); (verse 80of Surah 15. Al-Hijr); (verse 141, 149 of Surah 26 Ash- Shuara).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(And Thamud, who hewed (Jabu) rocks in the valley) meaning, they cut the rocks in the valley. Ibn `Abbas said, "They carved them and they hewed them.'' This was also said by Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ibn Zayd. From this terminology it is said (in the Arabic language), "the hewing of leopard skin'' when it is torn, and "The hewing of a garment'' when it is opened. The word `Jayb' (pocket or opening in a garment) also comes from Jabu. Allah says, (And you hew in the mountains, houses with great skill.) (26:149)

 وَفِرْعَوْنَ ذِي الْأَوْتَادِ 
( 10 )   And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes? -

The words dhul-autad (of the stakes) for Pharaoh have also been used in (Surah Suad, Ayat 12). This can have several meanings. Possibly his forces have been compared to the stakes, and “of the stakes” means “of great forces”, for it was by their power and might that he ruled a firmly established kingdom; it might also imply multiplicity of forces, and the meaning may be that wherever his large armies camped, pegs of the tents were seen driven into the ground on every side; it may also imply the stakes at which he punished the people, and it is also possible that the pyramids of Egypt have been compared to the stakes, for they are the remnants of the grandeur and glory of the Pharaohs, and seem to have been driven into the ground like stakes for centuries.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(And Fir`awn with Al-Awtad) Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, "Al-Awtad are the armies who enforced his commands for him.'' It has also been said that Fir`awn used to nail their hands and their feet into pegs (Awtad) of iron that he would hang them from. A similar statement was made by Mujahid when he said, "He used to nail the people (up) on pegs.'' Sa`id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan and As-Suddi all said the same thing.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
For "Lord of Stakes", see xxxviii. 12. For Pharaoh's arrogance and his fall see xx. 43, 78-79. The three examples given, the 'Ad, the Thamud, and Pharaoh, show that neither nations nor individuals, however mighty, prosperous, or firmly established they may be, can live if they transgress the Law of Allah. The Law of Allah, which is also the law of the higher nature which He has bestowed on us, made them in the first place great and glorious: when they fell from it and "heaped mischief on mischief", they were swept away.

 الَّذِينَ طَغَوْا فِي الْبِلَادِ 
( 11 )   [All of] whom oppressed within the lands

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
meaning, they rebelled, were arrogant, and went about making corruption in the land, and harming the people.

 فَأَكْثَرُوا فِيهَا الْفَسَادَ 
( 12 )   And increased therein the corruption.

 فَصَبَّ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّكَ سَوْطَ عَذَابٍ 
( 13 )   So your Lord poured upon them a scourge of punishment.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Allah sent down a torment upon them from the sky and caused them to be overcome by a punishment that could not be repelled from the people who were criminals.

 إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالْمِرْصَادِ 
( 14 )   Truly your Lord is ever watchful.

The words “ever watchful in ambush” have been used metaphorically for keeping watch on the movements and activities of the wicked and mischievous people. An ambush is a place where a person lies hiding in wait to attack somebody by surprise. The victim, thoughtless of his fate, comes and falls a prey. The same is the case against Allah of those wicked people who spread mischief in the world and have no sense and fear that there is God above them, Who is watching all their misdeeds. Therefore, they go on committing everyday more and more evils fearlessly until they reach the limit which Allah does not permit them to transgress. At that very moment His scourge descends upon them suddenly.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Ibn `Abbas said, "He hears and He sees.'' This means that He watches over His creation in that which they do, and He will reward them in this life and in the Hereafter based upon what each of them strove for. He will bring all of the creation before Him and He will judge them with justice. He will requit each of them with that which he deserves, for He is far removed from injustice and tyranny.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Even though Allah's punishment is delayed, it is not to be supposed that He does not see all things. Allah's providence is ever vigilant: His punishment of evil doers is a form of justice to the weak and the righteous whom they oppress. It is part of the signification of His title as Rabb (Cherisher).

فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ 
( 15 )   And as for man, when his Lord tries him and [thus] is generous to him and favors him, he says, "My Lord has honored me."

Now, criticizing the general moral state of the people, it is being said: After all, why shouldn’t the men who have adopted such an attitude in the life of the world, be ever called to account, and how can it be regarded as a demand of reason and justice that when man has left the world, after doing all he could, he should never receive any reward or suffer any punishment for his deeds.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Wealth and Poverty are both a Test and Honor or Disgrace for the Servant: Allah refutes man in his belief that if Allah gives Him abundant provisions to test him with it, it is out of His honor for him. But this is not the case, rather it is a trial and a test, as Allah says: (Do they think that in wealth and children with which We enlarge them. We hasten unto them with good things. Nay, but they perceive not.) (23:55-56) Likewise, from another angle, if Allah tests him and tries him by curtailing his sustenance, he believes that is because Allah is humiliating him. 

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Contrast with Allah's justice and watchful care, man's selfishness and pettiness. Allah tries us both by prosperity and adversity: in the one we should show humility and kindness; and in the other patience and faith. On the contrary, we get puffed up in prosperity and depressed in adversity, putting false values on this world's goods.

Verse By Verse Quran Study Circle Explanation:
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala then criticizes man’s materialistic view of the world. Allah’s judgment is based on divine wisdom and is free from error whereas human judgments are liable to all sorts of errors because man does not see anything beyond the apparent.

Whenever Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala tries man by His generosity and with a life of ease, man says, “My Lord has honored me.” But whenever He tries him by stinting his means, he says, “My Lord has humiliated me.” Such is man’s thinking about the various forms of trials Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala may set for him, be it comfort or hardship, abundance or scarcity.

Prosperity and calamity are both in reality a test from Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. He may test a person by honoring him, giving him comfort, wealth or status and He may also test him by depriving him of these blessings. When man is given wealth and status he considers the gesture as proof that he deserves to be honored by Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.

 وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ 
( 16 )   But when He tries him and restricts his provision, he says, "My Lord has humiliated me."

This then is man’s materialistic view of life. He regards the wealth and position and power of this world alone as everything. When he has it, he is filled with pride and says God has honored me; and when he fails to obtain it, he says: God has humiliated me. Thus, the criterion of honor and humiliation in his sight is the possession of wealth and position and power, or the absence of it, whereas the truth which he does not understand is that whatever Allah has given anybody in the world has been given for the sake of a trial. If he has given him wealth and power, it has been given for a trial to see whether he becomes grateful for it, or commits ingratitude. If he has made him poor, in this too there is a trial for him to see whether he remains content and patient in the will of God and faces his hardships bravely within permissible bounds, or becomes ready to transgress every limit of morality and honesty and starts cursing his God.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Subsistence, in both the literal and the figurative sense. Allah provides for all, but people complain if the provision is measured and restricted to their needs, circumstances, and antecedents, and does not come up to their desires or expectations, or is different from that given to people in quite different circumstances.

 كَلَّا ۖ بَل لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيمَ 
( 17 )   No! But you do not honor the orphan

That is, this is not all the criterion of honor and disgrace, for the real criterion is the moral good and evil.

That is, as long as his father is alive, your treatment of him is attentive and when his rather dies, even the paternal and maternal uncles and the elder brothers, to say nothing of the neighbors and distant relatives, neglect him.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
( كَلاَّ But no!) meaning, the matter is not as he claims, neither in this nor in that. For indeed Allah gives wealth to those whom He loves as well as those whom He does not love. Likewise, He withholds sustenance from those whom He loves and those whom He does not love. The point is that Allah should be obeyed in either circumstance. If one is wealthy, he should thank Allah for that, and if he is poor, he should exercise patience.

(But you treat not the orphans with kindness and generosity!) This contains the command to honor him (the orphan). 

Abu Dawud recorded from Sahl bin Sa`id that the Messenger of Allah said: (The guardian of the orphan and I will be like these two in Paradise.) And he put his two fingers together - the middle finger and the index finger.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Even at our own valuation, if we are favoured with superfluities, do we think of the fatherless children, or the struggling poor? On the contrary, too many men are but ready to embezzle the helpless orphan's inheritance, and to waste their own substance in worthless riot instead of supplying the people's real needs.

Verse By Verse Quran Study Circle Explanation:
Likewise, if Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala tests him and tries him by curtailing his sustenance, he believes that is because Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala is humiliating him. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says, “No,” meaning the matter is not as the man claims. In both situations, man’s judgment is faulty. Wealth and poverty are two forms of a test which Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala sets for His servants. Abundance reveals whether aman is humble and thankful to his Lord or arrogant and haughty, while a trial of theopposite kind reveals his patient acceptance or his irritability and fretfulness.

For indeed Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala gives wealth to those whom He loves as well as those whom He does not love. Similarly, he withholds sustenance from those whom He loves and those whom He does not love. Worldly comforts are by no means a standard of one’s status before Allah. However, a person devoid of faith cannot comprehend the wisdom behind Allah’s action. Abundance or depravity are not the criterion of honor and disgrace, for the real criterion is the moral good and evil.

 وَلَا تَحَاضُّونَ عَلَىٰ طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ 
( 18 )   And you do not encourage one another to feed the poor.

That is, nobody in your society feels any urge to feed the poor. Neither a man himself feels inclined to feed a hungry person, nor is there among the people any urge to do something to satisfy the hunger of the hungry, nor do they exhort one another to do so.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Kindness and generosity set up standards which even worldly men feel bound to follow out of social considerations even if they are not moved by higher motives. But the wicked find plausible excuses for their own hard-heartedness, and by their evil example choke up the springs of charity and kindness in others.

 وَتَأْكُلُونَ التُّرَاثَ أَكْلًا لَّمًّا 
( 19 )   And you consume inheritance, devouring [it] altogether,

In Arabia, the women and children were as a rule deprived of inheritance and the people’s idea in this regard was that the right to inheritance belonged only to those male members who were fit to fight and safeguard the family. Besides, the one who was more powerful and influential among the heirs of the deceased, would annex the whole inheritance without qualms, and usurp the shares of all those who did not have the power to secure their shares. They did not give any importance to the right and duty so that they should honestly render the right to whom it was due as a duty whether he had the power to secure it or not.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Inheritance is abused in two ways. (1) Guardians and trustees for the inheritance of minors or women or persons unable to look after their own interests should fulfil their trusts with even more care than they devote to their own interests. Instead of that they selfishly "devour" the property. (2) Persons who inherit property in their own rights should remember that in that case, too, it is a sacred trust. They must use it for the purposes, objects, and duties which they also inherit. It gives them no license to live in idleness or waste their days in riotous show.

 وَتُحِبُّونَ الْمَالَ حُبًّا جَمًّا
( 20 )   And you love wealth with immense love.

That is, you have no regard for the permissible or the forbidden, the lawful or the unlawful. You feel no qualms about acquiring wealth in any way or by any means, fair or foul, and your greed is never satisfied however much you may have acquired and amassed.

کلَّا إِذَا دُكَّتِ الْأَرْضُ دَكًّا دَكًّا 
( 21 )   No! When the earth has been leveled - pounded and crushed -

That is, you are wrong in thinking that you may do whatever you like in your life of the world, but you will never be called to account for it. The meting out of rewards and punishment denying which you have adopted this mode of life, is not anything impossible and fictitious, but it has to come to pass and it will certainly come to pass at the time being mentioned below.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
On the Day of Judgement Everyone will be recompensed according to what He did of Good or Evil: Allah informs of what will happen on the Day of Judgement of the great horrors. 

He says: (Nay!) meaning, truly. the earth and the mountains will be flattened, leveled and made even, and the creatures will rise from their graves for their Lord.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Our attention is now called to the Day of Reckoning. Whether we failed to respect the rights of the helpless here or actually suppressed those rights in our mad love for the good things of this life, we shall have to answer in the realm of Reality. This solid earth, which we imagine to be so real, will crumble to powder like dust before the real Presence, manifested in glory.

 وَجَاءَ رَبُّكَ وَالْمَلَكُ صَفًّا صَفًّا 
( 22 )   And your Lord has come and the angels, rank upon rank,

Although literally the words jaa Rabbuka جَاءَ رَبُّكَ mean your Lord will come, obviously there cannot be any question of Allah Almighty's moving from one place to another; therefore, this will inevitably have to be understood as an allegoric expression, which is meant to give an idea that at that time the manifestations of Allah Almighty’s power and His majesty and sovereignty will appear fully, as, for example, in the world the arrival of a king in person in the court is more awe-inspiring than the mere array of his forces and chiefs and nobles.

 وَجِيءَ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِجَهَنَّمَ ۚ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ وَأَنَّىٰ لَهُ الذِّكْرَىٰ 
( 23 )   And brought [within view], that Day, is Hell - that Day, man will remember, but what good to him will be the remembrance?

The words in the original can have two meanings:

(1) That on that Day man will remember whatever he had done in the world and will regret, but what will remembrance and regretting avail him then.

(2) That on that Day man will take heed and accept admonition: he will realize that whatever he had been told by the Prophets was true and he committed a folly when he did not listen to them; but what will taking heed and accepting the admonition and realizing one’s errors avail then.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The Retribution will at last come, and we shall realize it in our inmost being, all the illusions of this fleeting world having been swept away. Then we shall remember, and wish, too late, that we had repented. Why not repent now? Why not bring forth the fruits of repentance now, as a preparation for the Hereafter?

Verse By Verse Quran Study Circle Explanation:
Outlining man’s erroneous concept of success and failure, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala then informs us of what will happen on the Day of Judgment.

The total destruction of all that is on earth and its systematic leveling is one of the upheavals that overwhelm the universe on the Day of Resurrection. Entire mankind will be raised from its graves for its accountability before Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala.   Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala will appear before His creation along with His angels. That is when His power and majesty will be actually manifested before mankind. This is a moment when His slaves will be filled with reverence, awe and fear. This is similar to a king’s coming to his court which is awe-inspiring for the viewers and yet frightening.

Hell on that day will be very close to its prospective dwellers. What actually happens and how it happens is part of the divine knowledge Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala has chosen to withhold until that day.

These ayaat, with their captivating rhythm portray a scene which strikes fear into people’s hearts, and makes it apparent in their eyes. The earth is being systematically leveled; Allah Almighty judges everyone; the angels stand there rank on rank, while hell is brought near and set in readiness.

At that moment “man will remember.” Man, who lived unaware of the wisdom behind the trial with worldly riches or with deprivation; who devoured the inheritance of orphans greedily; who craved for money and did not care for the orphans or the needy; who tyrannized, spread corruption and turned away from divine guidance, will then remember the truth and take account of what he beholds.

 يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي قَدَّمْتُ لِحَيَاتِي 
( 24 )   He will say, "Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life."

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
meaning, if he was a disobedient person, he will be sorry for the acts of disobedience he committed. If he was an obedient person, he will wish that he performed more acts of obedience. This is similar to what Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal recorded from Muhammad bin Abi `Amirah, who was one of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah . He said, "If a servant fell down on his face (in prostration) from the day that he was born until the day he died as an old man, in obedience to Allah, he would scorn this act on the Day of Judgement. He would wish to be returned to this life so that he could earn more reward and compensation.'' 

Verse By Verse Quran Study Circle Explanation:
When man is fully aware of the true nature of his situation he says despairingly, “Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life!” [89: 24] For the true life is indeed the life hereafter. It is the one which is worth preparing for. “Oh, I wish I had…” is a sigh of evident regret and grief, but it is the most a man can do for himself then.

The Surah goes on to portray man’s fate after his desperate sighing and useless wishing. On that Day Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala will severely punish those who disobeyed Him. They are the ones who did wrong and committed crime on the earth.

These ayaat serve as an address to the Prophet and the believers, reminding them that their Lord will punish and chain those who tortured and chained others. But the two kinds of punishment are entirely different. Meager is the torture that any creature can administer, but great is that inflicted by the Creator. Let the tyrants continue with their punishment and persecution; they will have their turn and be the sufferers of a punishment which is beyond all imagination.

 فَيَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا يُعَذِّبُ عَذَابَهُ أَحَدٌ 
( 25 )   So on that Day, none will punish [as severely] as His punishment,

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
"Chastisement" in this verse and the "binding in bonds" in the next verse are two distinct phases of the Penalty. "Chastisement" involves pain and agony, such as cannot be imagined anywhere else, or from any other source, for it touches our inmost soul and cannot be compared with anything our bodies may suffer or others may inflict. "Bonds" imply confinement, want of freedom, the closing of a door which was once open but which we deliberately passed by. We see that others accepted in faith and entered that door. This shutting out of what might have been is worse than any other bonds or confinement we can imagine, and may be worse than actual chastisement.

 وَلَا يُوثِقُ وَثَاقَهُ أَحَدٌ 
( 26 )   And none will bind [as severely] as His binding [of the evildoers].

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
meaning, there is no one who is more severely punished and bound than those the Az-Zabaniyah punish the disbelievers in their Lord. This is for the criminals and the wrongdoers among the creatures. In reference to the pure and tranquil soul -- which is always at rest and abiding by the truth it will be said to it,

يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ 
( 27 )   [To the righteous it will be said], "O reassured soul,

Peaceful and fully satisfied soul: The man who believed in Allah, the One, as his Lord and Sustainer, and adopted the way of life brought by the Prophets as his way of life, with full satisfaction of the heart, and without the least doubt about it, who acknowledged as absolute truth whatever creed and command he received from Allah and His Messenger, who withheld himself from whatever he was forbidden by Allah’s religion, not unwillingly but with perfect conviction that it was really an evil thing, who offered without sacrifice whatever sacrifice was required to be offered for the sake of the truth, who endured with full peace of mind whatever difficulties, troubles and hardships he met on this way and who felt no remorse on being deprived of the gains and benefits and pleasures in the world which seemed to accrue to those who followed other ways but remained fully satisfied that adherence to true faith had safeguarded him against those errors. This very state has been described at another place in the Quran as sharh sadr. (Surah Al-Ana'am, Ayat 125).

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The righteous enter into their inheritance and receive their welcome with a title that suggests freedom from all pain, sorrow, doubt, struggle, disappointment, passion, and even further desire; at rest, in peace; in a state of complete satisfaction. In Muslim theology, this stage of the soul is the final stage of bliss. The unregenerate human soul, that seeks its satisfaction in the lower earthly desires, is the Ammara (xii. 53). The self-reproaching soul that feels conscious of sin and resists it is the Lawwama (lxxv. 2, and n. 5810).

Verse By Verse Quran Study Circle Explanation:
Amidst all this unimaginable horror comes an address to the believers, “O soul at peace! Return to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing. Enter, then, together with My [righteous] servants! Enter My paradise!” [89: 27-30]

It is a tender, compassionate and reassuring address, “O soul at peace!” It speaks of freedom and ease. “Return to your Lord,” after your alienation on earth and your separation from the One you belong to return now to your Lord with Whom you have strong ties, “well-pleased and well-pleasing.” It is a gentle address which spreads compassion and satisfaction.

The believer’s is a soul at peace with its Lord, certain of its way, confident of its fate. It is a soul satisfied in all eventualities, happiness or affliction, wealth or poverty. It entertains no doubts; it is free from transgressions. These ayaat instill a feeling of intimacy and peace.

 ارْجِعِي إِلَىٰ رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً 
( 28 )   Return to your Lord, well-pleased and pleasing [to Him],

This he will be told at the time of his death as well as on the Day of Resurrection when he will rise from the dead and move towards the Plain of Assembly and also on the occasion when he will be presented in the divine court. At every stage he will be assured that he is moving towards the Mercy of Allah Almighty.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Note that Evil finds itself isolated, and cries out in lonely agony (verse 24), while Good receives a warm welcome from the Lord of Goodness Himself,-also that it is the soul which enters heaven, and not the gross body which perishes.

 فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي 
( 29 )   And enter among My [righteous] servants

 وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي 
( 30 )   And enter My Paradise."   

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
This will be said to it at the time of death and on the Day of Judgement. This is like the angels giving glad tiding to the believer at his time of death and when he rises from his grave. Likewise is this statement here. 

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded from Ibn `Abbas concerning Allah's statement: (O tranquil soul! Come back to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing!) He said, "This Ayah was revealed while Abu Bakr was sitting (with the Prophet ). So he said, `O Messenger of Allah! There is nothing better than this!' 

The Prophet then replied, (O tranquil soul! Come back to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing!) He said, "This Ayah was revealed while Abu Bakr was sitting (with the Prophet ). So he said, `O Messenger of Allah! There is nothing better than this!' 

The Prophet then replied, (This will indeed be said to you.)'' This is the end of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Fajr, and all praise and blessings are due to Allah.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The climax of the whole is: "Enter My Heaven!" Men may have imagined all kinds of heaven before, and many types are used in the sacred Word itself. But nothing can express the reality itself better than "My Heaven"-Allah's own Heaven! May we reach it through Allah's grace!

May Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala help us recognize the reality of this life, and bless us with nafs-mutma’ina النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ - reassured soul, and may we be among those who will be given glad tiding of Jannah at the time of their death, Aameen.

You may now like to listen to tafsir / exegesis of Sūrah Al Fajr by Nouman Ali Khan:

You may refer to our Reference Page "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, explanation and exegesis of other chapters of the Qur'an.

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 67 | 8 | 9
Reading the Holy Quran should be a daily obligation of a Muslim - Reading it with translation will make it meaningful. But reading its Exegesis / Tafsir will make you understand it fully.

An effort has been made to gather explanation / exegesis of the surahs of the Holy Qur'an from authentic sources and then present a least possible condensed explanation of the surah. In that:
  • The plain translation has been taken from the Holy Quran officially published by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. [1]
  • The exegesis of the chapters of the Holy Quran is mainly 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.  [2]
In order to augment and add more explanation as already provided by [2], additional input has been interjected from following sources: 
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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