Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sūrah Ash-Shams - The Sun: Exegesis 91st Chapter of Quran

Sūrah Ash-Shams " الشمس‎ " - The Sun is the ninety first sürah with 15 āyāt, part of the 30th Juzʼ  of the Holy Qur'ān. The Surah has been so designated after the word ash-shams with which it opens. 

The subject matter and the style show that this Surah too was revealed in the earliest period at Makkah at a stage when opposition to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) had grown very strong and intense. Beginning with a fine nature passage, and leading to the man's need of realizing his spiritual responsibility, it ends with a waning of the terrible consequences for those who fear not the Hereafter.

We have already given out an overview / summary of the sūrah. As already mentioned in the summary, this surah has two parts: Part One (verses 1-10) are the Divine Oaths that man’s happiness and misery depends on the purity or corruption he hath wrought in it", and Part 2 (verses 11-15) explain the destruction of people of "Thamūd  for rejecting their prophet." 

Let us now read the verse by verse translation and exegesis / tafseer in English. You may also listen to listen to an in depth Analysis and Tafseer of Sūrah Ash-Shams 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"

وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَاهَا 
( 1 )   By the sun and its brightness

The word duha as used in the original applies both to the light of the sun and to its heat. Although in Arabic its well known meaning is the time between sunrise and meridian when the sun has risen high, at that height it does not only give light but heat too. Therefore, when the word duha is attributed to the sun, its full meaning can be expressed more appropriately by its radiant brightness than by its light, or by the time of the day that it indicates.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Allah swears by His Creation that the person who purifies Himself will be Successful and the Person who corrupts himself will fail. According to Mujahid: (By the sun and Duhaha.) "means, by its light.'' While Qatadah said: (wa Duhaha.) "The whole day.'' Ibn Jarir said, "The correct view is what has been said, `Allah swears by the sun and its daytime, because the clear light of the sun is daytime.'''

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Six types of oaths are taken in three pairs, from Allah's mighty works in nature, as tokens or evidence of Allah's providence and the contrasts in His sublime creation, which yet conduce to cosmic harmony (verses 1-6). Then (verses 7-8) the soul of man, with internal order and proportion in its capacities and faculties, as made by Allah, is appealed to as having been endowed with the power of discriminating between right and wrong. Then the conclusion is stated in verses 9-10, that man's success or failure, prosperity or bankruptcy, would depend upon his keeping that soul pure or his corrupting it.

 وَالْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَاهَا 
( 2 )   And [by] the moon when it follows it

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said: (By the moon as it Talaha.) "It follows the day.'' Qatadah said, "`as it Talaha (follows it)' is referring to the night of the Hilal (the new crescent moon). When the sun goes down, the Hilal is visible.''

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "as it follows it (talaha)", i.e., the sun. According to the great philologist Al-Farra', who lived in the second century after the hijrah, "the meaning is that the moon derives its light from the sun" (quoted by Razi). This is also Raghib's interpretation of the above phrase.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The first pair is the glorious sun, the source of our light and physical life, and the moon which follows or acts as second to the sun for illuminating our world. The moon, when she is in the sky with the sun, is pale and inconspicuous; in the sun's absence she shines with reflected light and may metaphorically be called the sun's vicegerent. So with Revelation and the great Prophets who brought it; and the minor Teachers who derive their light reflected, or perhaps doubly reflected, from the original source.

 وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّاهَا 
( 3 )   And [by] the day when it displays it

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Mujahid said, "When it illuminates.'' This is similar to Allah's statement: (By the day as it Tajalla.) (92:2)'' And they have said concerning Allah's statement:

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "it" - a pronoun apparently indicating "the world" or "the earth" (Zamakhshari). It is to be noted that verses {1-10} stress the polarity - both physical and spiritual - inherent in all creation and contrasting with the oneness and uniqueness of the Creator.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The next contrasted pair consists, not of luminaries, but conditions, or periods of time, Day and Night. The Day reveals the sun's glory and the Night conceals it from our sight. So there may be contrasts in our subjective reception of divine light, but it is there, working all the time, and must reappear in its own good time.

 وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَاهَا 
( 4 )   And [by] the night when it covers it

That is, when the night comes, the sun hides and its light remains hidden throughout the night. This state has been described, saying that the night covers up the sun, for the night actually signifies the sun’s hiding behind the horizon because of which its light cannot reach that part of the earth where the night has fallen.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
meaning, when it covers the sun, which takes place when sun disappears and the horizons become dark.

 وَالسَّمَاءِ وَمَا بَنَاهَا 
( 5 )   And [by] the sky and He who constructed it

Who established it: Who established it like a vault over the earth. In this verse and in the two succeeding verses, the word ma has been used. A section of the commentators has taken this ma as an infinitive, and interpreted these verses to mean: By the heaven and its being established, by the earth and its being spread out, and by the human self and its being balanced. But this meaning is not correct for the reason that the following sentence: Then inspired it with its wickedness and its piety, does not fit in with the context. Other commentators have taken ma here in the meaning of mun or alladhi and they interpret the sentence to mean: Who established the heaven, who spread out the earth, and who balanced the human self. This second meaning is correct in our view, and no one can object that ma in Arabic is used of lifeless things and irrational creatures, For in the Quran itself there are numerous instances that ma has been used in the meaning of mun, e.g. wala antum abiduna ma aabud (nor are you the worshippers of Him Whom I worship), fankihu ma taba lakun-mia-an-nisa (so, marry from among the women those whom you like), wala tankihu ma nakaha abaaukum min-nisa (do not marry those women whom your fathers had married).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
The meaning here could be for descriptive purposes, meaning "By the heaven and its construction.'' This was said by Qatadah. It could also mean "By the heaven and its Constructor.'' This was stated by Mujahid. Both views are interrelated, and construction means raising. This is as Allah says: (With Hands did We construct the heaven.) (51:47) meaning, with strength.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "and that which has built it" - i.e., the wondrous qualities which are responsible for the harmony and coherence of the visible cosmos (which is evidently the meaning of the term sama' in this context). Similarly, the subsequent reference to the earth, which reads literally, "that which has spread it out", is apparently an allusion to the qualities responsible for the beauty and variety of its expanse.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The next contrasted pair is the wonderful firmament on high, and the earth below our feet, stretching away to our wide horizons. The sky gives us rain, and the earth gives us food. Yet both work together; for the rain is moisture sucked up from the earth, and the food cannot grow without the heat and warmth of the sun. There are many other contrasts under this head; yet they all point to unity.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The words وَمَا بَنٰہَا and وَمَا طَحٰہَا are used for the heavens and the earth respectively. In my opinion the letter مَا in them is masdariyyah (making the verb following it to be verbal noun. In the succeeding verses, it is this very مَا which occurs in وَ نَفۡسٍ وَّ مَا سَوّٰىہَا. The verse فَاَلۡہَمَہَا فُجُوۡرَہَا وَ تَقۡوٰىہَا is also governed by this مَا. In other words, what is said overall is: “By the soul and the perfection given to it and by the good and evil inspired to it.” 

What is the novelty in this style? Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
  • The particle مَا is used is masdariyyah … it does not merely convert a verb into a verbal noun, it also directs our attention to the majesty, grandeur, wisdom, uniqueness and creativity hidden or apparent in the verb. Thus for example, the words وَمَا بَنَاهَا which qualify the sky would mean: “and the sky and its amazing structure bear witness.” Implied in it would be all the marvels and wonders of the heavens towards which the Qur’an has called our attention in its varied style and used them as an argument to substantiate its basic premises. It is obvious that if مَا is used as a demonstrative noun then it would not have the capability in it to allude to all this reasoning. Because of this comprehensive nature of مَا used in the sense of a verbal noun, it is quite difficult to translate it. Some Arabs have translated it keeping in view its comprehensive nature; however, since in Urdu this style does not exist, I have not been able to translate it fully even though I have tried my best.
  • The sentence وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا طَحٰہَا (and the earth and the way it is laid out) should also be understood keeping in view the above aspects. In Surah al-Ghashiyah, it is said: (20:88) وَاِلَی الۡاَرۡضِ کَیۡفَ سُطِحَتۡ (and [do they not see] the earth, how it has been spread out? (88:20)). I have explained there that implied in this concise and terse statement are details which the Qur’an has delineated at other places while referring to the marvels and wonders of the earth and used them to substantiate its various claims. In other words, the facts on which the word کَیۡفَ (how) in this verse of Surah al-Ghashiyah induce a person to reflect, for the same purpose, the مَا used in the sense of a verbal noun is employed here. However, there is a subtle difference between the nature of the two, an explanation of which is beyond the scope of the discussion intended here. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 386)
 وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا طَحَاهَا 
( 6 )   And [by] the earth and He who spread it

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Mujahid said, "Tahaha means He spread it out.'' Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, (and Ma Tahaha.) "This means what He created in it.'' `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, "Tahaha means that He proportioned it.'' Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak, As-Suddi, Ath-Thawri, Abu Salih and Ibn Zayd all said that. (Tahaha) means, He spread it out. 

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
The masdariya in Arabic, in this and the subsequent clauses, is best translated in English by nouns. Thus what would literally be "and the (wonderful) making or construction of it" or "the fact of its (wonderful) construction" is, idiomatically, "its (wonderful) structure." "The (wide) spreading out" of the earth is rendered "its (wide) expanse," and so on.

 وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا 
( 7 )   And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it

Proportioned it: Gave man such a body which by virtue of its erect stature, its hands and feet, and its brain was most appropriate for him to live as man in the world. He blessed him with the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell which on account of their combination and their characteristics could become the best means of obtaining knowledge for him. He endowed him with the faculties of thinking, reasoning, imagination, memory, discrimination, judgment, will-power and such other mental powers by virtue of which he is able to perform the functions fit for man in the world. In addition, proportioning also means that man was not created a sinner by birth and a criminal by instinct but on right and sound nature, and was not characterized with any inborn crookedness because of which he may be unable to adopt the right path even if he wanted to do so. 

This same thing has been expressed in Surah Ar-Room, saying: Be steadfast on the nature whereupon Allah has created mankind, (verse 30), and the same has been explained by the Prophet (peace be upon him) in a Hadith, saying: Every new-born child is born on true human nature; it is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian afterwards. Its example is of an animal giving birth to complete and sound young one. Do you find any one with a torn or slit ear? (Bukhari, Muslim). That is, it is the polytheistic people who on account of their superstitions of ignorance tear and slit the ears of animals afterwards; otherwise God does not cause an animal to be born with torn ears from its mother’s belly. In another Hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: My Lord says: I had created all My servants on true faith (i.e. on sound nature); then the satans came and led them astray from their faith (i.e.. the true natural faith) and made unlawful what I had made lawful for them, and commanded them to associate with Me those for whom I had sent down no authority. (Musnad Ahmad; Muslim also has related a saying from the Prophet (peace be upon him) in similar words).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(By Nafs, and Ma Sawwaha (Who apportioned it).) meaning, He created it sound and well-proportioned upon the correct nature (Al-Fitrah). This is as Allah says: (So set you your face towards the religion, Hanif. Allah's Fitrah with which He has created mankind. No change let there be in the Khalqillah.) (30:30) 

The Messenger of Allah said:(Every child that is born, is born upon the Fitrah, but his parents make him a Jew, a Christian, or a Zoroastrian. This is just as the animal is born, complete with all of its parts. Do you notice any mutilation in it) Both Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded this Hadith from Abu Hurayrah. 

In Sahih Muslim, it has been narrated from `Iyad bin Himar Al-Mujashi`i that the Messenger of Allah said:(Allah the Mighty and Majestic says, "Verily I created My servants Hunafa' (as monotheists), but then the devils came to them and distracted them from their religion.)'' 

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
As in so many other instances, the term nafs, which has a very wide range of meanings (see first sentence of note [1] on 4:1), denotes here the human self or personality as a whole: that is, a being composed of a physical body and that inexplicable life-essence loosely described as "soul".

Lit., "and that which has made [or "formed"] it (sawwaha) in accordance with ...", etc. For this particular connotation of the verb sawwa, see note [1] on 87:2, which represents the oldest Qur'anic instance of its use in the above sense. The reference to man and that which constitutes the "human personality", as well as the implied allusion to the extremely complex phenomenon of a life-entity in which bodily needs and urges, emotions and intellectual activities are so closely intertwined as to be indissoluble, follows organically upon a call to consider the inexplicable grandeur of the universe - so far as it is perceptible and comprehensible to man - as a compelling evidence of God's creative power.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Allah makes the soul, and gives it order, proportion, and relative perfection, in order to adapt it for the particular circumstances in which it has to live its life. Cf. xxxii. 9. See also  ii. 117. He breathes into it an understanding of what is sin, impiety, wrong-doing and what is piety and right conduct, in the special circumstances in which it may be placed. This is the most precious gift of all to man, the faculty of distinguishing between right and wrong. After the six external evidences mentioned in verses 1-6 above, this internal evidence of Allah's goodness is mentioned as the greatest of all. By these various tokens man should learn that his success, his prosperity, his salvation depends on himself,-on his keeping his soul pure as Allah made it; and his failure, his decline, his perdition depends on his soiling his soul by choosing evil.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The actual words are: وَ نَفۡسٍ وَّ مَا سَوّٰىہَا. The word نَفۡس is not defined by alif lam to portray its augmented magnitude. The purpose is to direct attention to its amazing nature and prudent composition. The words “the way it is perfected” portray this very aspect and occur because the final phase of the creation of the human soul is under discussion – when as a masterpiece of God’s creation it became worthy of being blessed with the awareness of good and evil.

This is a mention of the consequence of perfection: just as the Almighty has blessed a person with eyes to see and ears to hear, similarly, he has blessed him with a faculty which distinguishes good and evil for him. A person is not mere body and intellect. He is also a moral being. This means that the ability to distinguish good from evil and the appreciation that good is good and evil is evil is innately ordained in him. In some other verses of the Qur’an, this aspect is referred to as: اِنَّا ہَدَیۡنٰہُ السَّبِیۡلَ (76:3) (We inspired in him the way of good and evil, (76:3)) and(90:10) وَ ہَدَیۡنٰہُ النَّجۡدَیۡنِ (have We not shown him both paths? (90:10)). This appreciation of good and evil is a universal reality. Thus when the most evil of persons does something wrong, he tries to hide it in the first phase. When Adam’s son, Cain, tried to hide the body of his brother, Abel, after killing him, it was because he knew that he had committed a sin. Same is the case with good. A person loves what is good and respects and reveres it. When he establishes a society, he always sets up a system of justice in it. This is ample testimony of his innate ability to distinguish between good and evil. No doubt, at times, a person may justify a sin he commits, however, at the very time he invents excuses for this justification, he very well knows that he is inventing these excuses against his nature. The reason for this is that if someone else commits the same sin against him, he regards it to be an evil without any hesitation, and vehemently protests against that person.

 فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا 
( 8 )   And inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness,

The word ilham is derived from lahm which means to swallow. According to this very basic meaning, the word ilham is used terminologically for Allah’s inspiring a man with a concept or idea unconsciously. Inspiring the human self with its wickedness and its piety and virtue has two meanings: 
  • (1) That the Creator has placed in it tendencies to both good and evil, and this is the thing that every man feels in himself. 
  • (2) That Allah has endowed every man’s unconscious mind with the concept that there is a moral good and there is a moral evil, that good morals and acts and evil morals and acts are not equal and alike. Fujur (immorality) is an evil thing and taqva (abstention from evils) a good thing. 
These concepts are not new to man; he is conscious of these by nature, and the Creator has endowed him with the ability to distinguish between good and evil naturally. This same thing has been said in Surah Al-Balad: And We showed him both the highways of good and evil. (verse 10); and in Surah Ad-Dahr, thus: We showed him the way, whether to be grateful or disbelieving (verse 3); and the same has been expressed in Surah Al-Qiyamah, saying: In man there is the reproaching self (conscience) which reproaches him when he commits evil (verse 2), and man knows his own self best, even though he may offer many excuses. (verses 14-15).

Here, one should also understand well that Allah has blessed every creature with natural inspiration according to its position and nature, as has been pointed out in Surah TaHa: Who has given a distinctive form to everything and then guided it aright. (verse 50). For example, every species of animals has been given inspirational knowledge according to its needs by virtue of which the fish learns to swim, the bird to fly, the bee to make the beehive and the weaver-bird to build the nest instinctively. Man also in view of his different capacities has been granted separate kinds of inspirational knowledge. His one capacity is that he is an animal being; as such the most significant instance of the inspirational knowledge that he has been given is that the human child starts sucking the mother’s milk soon on birth, which no one could teach it, had it, not been taught of it instinctively by God. Another position of man is that he is a rational being. As such God has been blessing him with inspirational guidance continuously since the time of his creation, by virtue of which he has been discovering things and making inventions to develop his civilization. Anyone who studies the history of these discoveries and inventions will realize that there was hardly any which might be the result of man's own effort or thought, but mostly it so happened that suddenly an idea struck a person and he discovered or invented something. Besides these two, another position of man is that he is a moral being. In this position too Allah has blessed him by inspiration with discrimination between good and evil and of the realization of the good to be good and of the evil to be evil. This sense of discrimination and realization is a universal truth on account of which no human society in the world has ever been without the concepts of good and evil; there has never been in history, nor is there now, a society which may not be having some kind of a system of rewarding the good and punishing the evil. This fact being prevalent in every age, at every place, and at every stage of civilization is a clear proof of its being natural and innate. Furthermore, this is also proof that a Wise Creator possessed of knowledge has endued man’s nature with it, for in the elements of which man is made up and the laws which govern the material system of the world, no human origin of morals can be traced out.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
(Then He showed it its Fujur and its Taqwa.) meaning, He showed him to his transgression and his Taqwa. This means that He clarified that for it and He guided it to what has been ordained for him. Ibn `Abbas said: (Then He showed it its Fujur and its Taqwa.) "He explained the good and the evil to it (the soul).'' Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ath-Thawri all said the same. Sa`id bin Jubayr said, "He gave him inspiration (to see what was) good and evil.'' Ibn Zayd said, "He made its Fujur and its Taqwa inside of it.'' Ibn Jarir recorded from Abul-Aswad Ad-Dili that he said, "`Imran bin Husayn said to me, `Do you think that what the people do, and what they strive for is a thing that is pre-ordained and predestined for them, or is it a thing which is only written after the Message comes to them from the Prophet , when there will be an evidence against them' I said, `Rather it is something preordained upon them.' Then he said, `Is that an injustice' Then I became extremely frightened of him (due to what he was saying), and I said to him, `There is nothing except that He (Allah) created it and possesses it in His Hand. He is not asked about what He does, while they (His creation) will be asked.' 

He (`Imran) then said, `May Allah guide you! I only asked you about that in order to inform you that a man from Muzaynah or Juhaynah tribe came to the Allah's Messenger and asked him: "O Messenger of Allah! Do you consider the actions of mankind and their struggles to be preordained for them and written for them from Qadr, or something written for them only after the Message came to them from their Prophet, when there will be an evidence against them'' He (the Prophet ) replied: (Rather it is something preordained for them.) So the man said, "Then what is the point of our actions'' The Prophet replied: (Whoever Allah created for one of the two positions (Paradise or Hell), He makes it easy for him (to attain). The proof of that is in the Book of Allah (By Nafs, and Ma Sawwaha (Who apportioned it). Then He showed it its Fujur and its Taqwa).)'' Ahmad and Muslim both recorded this Hadith.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "and [consider] that which has inspired it with its immoral doings (fujuraha) and its God-consciousness (taqwaha)" - i.e., the fact that man is equally liable to rise to great spiritual heights as to fall into utter immorality is an essential characteristic of human nature as such. In its deepest sense, man's ability to act wrongly is a concomitant to his ability to act rightly: in other words, it is this inherent polarity of tendencies which gives to every "right" choice a value and, thus, endows man with moral free will (cf. in this connection note [16] on {7:24-25}).

 قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا 
( 9 )   He has succeeded who purifies it,

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
This could mean that whoever purifies himself by obedience to Allah, then he will be successful. This is as Qatadah said, "He cleanses it from the lowly and despicable characteristics.''

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The testimony presented earlier is in the form of oaths. The Qur’an has suppressed the complement of these oaths. The next sentence points to the complement and for this reason its expression in words is not needed. Initially, these oaths depict the testimony of the majesty and exaltedness, gradual progression and elaborate arrangement, power and wisdom that we observe in the rising and setting of the sun and the moon, in the alternation of day and night and in the way the heavens and the earth have been created. Each of them is a record of God’s signs that relate to His creativity and organization. If a person’s eyes are open and his intellect is vigilant he will find a treasure of knowledge and wisdom before him when he observes them. Each and every motion of these objects bears witness that their creator has immense power, unbounded wisdom and limitless and universal providence and it is not impossible for Him to accomplish the greatest of tasks. The elements referred to are conflicting with one another but it is really amazing how harmoniously and obediently they obey their creator. The words ضُحٰہَا, اِذَا تَلٰىہَا, اِذَا جَلّٰىہَا and اِذَا یَغۡشٰىہَا in these verses highlight these very aspects. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:
  • … Neither does the sun interfere with the movement of the moon nor does the moon push itself to appear before its appointed time; neither does the day dare emerge before its appointed time nor does the night have the power to terminate before time the duty the day must observe. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 385)
After this the testimony of the soul is presented so that a person may reflect on it and see what a masterpiece of creation it is and to observe the abilities it has and the qualities of intellect it has and the potentials it possesses that materialize at their time and make sense and reason wonder. If man deliberates on these astounding aspects of his soul he will find a whole world in his corporeal body. Not only this, the soul has also been given the awareness of good and evil. It is the result of this awareness that there exists a guardian in his conscience which rebukes him on every wrong committed by him. It is a small court of justice within him that gives its unbiased verdict at every instance. Whether it accepts this verdict or not he does hear its calls after every error relating to his thoughts, ideology and actions except if his wretchedness increases so much that all his evil deeds stain his heart to an extent that it makes him blind and deaf to the truth. This is a testimony of a man’s inner self on him. It is called the testimony of the rebuking soul (nafs-i lawwamah) in Surah al-Qiyamah. After directing attention to all these manifestations of soul and matter, the Qur’an has argued that this world is not an accidental creation or a place of amusement. Man will not go scot-free without being held accountable for his deeds. He will be rewarded or punished by his Creator for his attitudes towards his beliefs and deeds. He shall definitely be held answerable. Moreover, this world has a purpose to it which will definitely be fulfilled one day. The Day of Judgement has been appointed by God to fulfill this purpose. Hence the Day of Judgement is bound to come.

This is the consequence for which the Day of Judgement will be brought about. It is towards this purification (tazkiyah) that prophets of God invite – the purification whose achievers are given glad tidings of success in these verses. The objective of the guidance brought by the prophets of God is purification. It means to cleanse something from evil and also to nourish and develop that thing. Thus people who cleanse their souls from evil and stir it to the level of comprehending God called the “contented soul” by the Qur’an are guaranteed success by Him. Religion has primarily been revealed to guide man to achieve this objective. It has not been revealed to forcibly establish the rule of divine warriors on them.

Verse 10 is the core of the sürah, and it is illustrated by a reference to the story of the Thamud in the following verses:

 وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا 
( 10 )   And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].

This is for which an oath has been sworn by the things mentioned in the above verses. Let us now consider how those things bear upon it. The rule that Allah has followed in the Quran is that to bear testimony to the truth that He wants to impress on the human mind, he cites some of the most conspicuous, common-place things which every man sees in his surroundings, or in his own self. Accordingly here, pairs of contradictory things have been cited, each unlike the other in its effects and results, rather opposite and reverse. The first pair is of the sun and the moon. The light of the sun is intensely bright and also hot. As against it the moon has no light of its own. Even if it is there in the sky when the sun shines, it is without light. It shines when the sun hides, and even then its light is neither so bright that it may change the night into day nor is there any heat in it that it may have the same effect as the sun’s light. Nevertheless, it has its own effects which are quite different from the effects of the sun. Likewise, there is the pair of the day and the night. Each is the reverse of the other. The effects and results of each are so different from the other that no one can say they are alike; so much so that even a most foolish person cannot possibly say that the day’s being the day or the night’s being the night does not make any difference. Likewise, there is the pair of the sky and the earth; the former has been raised high by the Creator and the latter spread like a carpet beneath it. Although both are serving the same universe, its system and expediencies, yet there is a world of difference between their functions and their effects and results. After citing these universal evidences, man’s own self has been considered, and it has been said that after balancing it with suitable combination of the limbs, senses and mental powers and faculties the Creator has placed in it tendencies, inclinations and motives to both good and evil, which are contradictory to each other, and made him understand by inspiration the distinction between the two: that one is fujur, which is evil, and the other is taqva, which is good. Now, if the sun and the moon, the day and the night, the earth and the heaven, are not alike but necessarily different from each other in their effects and results, how can fujur and taqva of the self be alike in spite of being reverse of each other? Man himself in this world does not regard and acknowledge the good and the evil as equal, no matter what criteria of good and evil he might have devised for himself according to his self-propounded philosophies. In any case, about whatever he regards as good, he holds the opinion that it is appreciable and worthy of praise, reward and recompense. On the contrary, about whatever he regards as evil, it is his own objective opinion that it is worthy of condemnation and punishment. But the real judgment does not lie with man; it lies with the Creator, Who has inspired man with his fujur and taqva. The fujur is that which is fujur in the sight of the Creator and the taqva is that which is taqva in His sight. And both have separate results in the sight of the Creator. The result of the one is that he who purifies his self, should attain to eternal success, and the result of the other is that he who suppresses his self, should be a failure.

Tazkiyah means to purify, develop and cultivate. In the context it clearly means: The one who purifies his self of fujur and develops it to the level of taqva and cultivates in it the good, will attain to eternal success. As against this, the word dassaha has been used, the infinitive of which is tadsiyah, which means to suppress, conceal, seduce and lead astray. The meaning of this also becomes clear from the context; i.e. the one who suppresses the tendency in his self towards good instead of developing and cultivating it, who seduces it into doing evil, and makes fujur dominate over taqva so as to cover it up completely, like the dead body which is buried and covered with earth, will be a failure. Some commentators have interpreted this verse to mean: Truly successful was he whom (whose self) Allah purified, and a failure he whom (whose self) Allah suppressed. But this commentary is, firstly, opposed to the style of the Quran in view of the language, for if Allah had meant to say this, He would have said: Truly successful was the self which Allah purified and a failure the self which Allah suppressed; secondly, this commentary clashes with the other statements of the Quran on this subject. In Surah Al- Aala, Allah says: Truly successful was he who adopted purity. (verse 14). In Surah Abasa, Allah has addressed His Messenger (peace be upon him), saying: And you would not be responsible if he did not adopt purity. In both these verses, adoption of purity has been regarded as an act of man. Besides, the truth stated at many places in the Quran is that man in this world is being put to the test. For example, in Surah Ad-Dahr, it is said: We created man from a mixed sperm-drop to try him, and so We made him capable of hearing and seeing. (verse 2). In Surah Al-Mulk it is stated: Who created death and life that he may try you to see which of you is best in deeds. (verse 2). Now, obviously, if the examiner at the outset encourages one candidate and discourages the other, the test would he a farce. Therefore, the correct commentary is that which Qatadah, Ikrimah, Mujahid and Saeed bin Jubair have given, saying that the subject zakkaha and dassaha is man and not God. As for the Hadith which Ibn Abi Hatim has related on the authority of Juwaybir bin Saeed from Dahhak from Ibn Abbas, saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself interpreted this verse to mean: Truly successful was the self whom the Almighty Allah purified. This saying is not confirmed to be from the Prophet (peace be upon him), for its one reporter Juwaybir, has been rejected as a narrator of Hadith, and Dahhak did not meet Ibn Abbas. However, the Hadith which Imam Ahmad, Muslim, Nasai and Ibn Abi Shaibah have related on the authority of Zaid bin Arqam, is correct which says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to pray: O Allah, grant my self its taqva and purify it; You alone are the best to purify it; You alone are its Guardian and Master. In almost similar words, this supplication of the Prophet (peace be upon him) has been related by Tabarani, Ibn Marduyah and lbn al-Mundhir from Abdullah bin Abbas and Imam Ahmad from Aishah. It actually means that man can only desire and seek taqva and tazkiyah; as for its attainment, it depends in any case on Allah’s grace and favor alone. And the same is also true of tadsiyah: Allah does not suppress a self forcibly, but when a man is resolved on iniquity, Allah deprives him of the grace of taqva and tazkyah, and leaves him alone to suppress and bury his self under any heap of filth he likes.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
meaning, to conceal it. This means that he makes it dull, and he disregards it by neglecting to allow it to receive guidance. He treats it in this manner until he performs acts of disobedience and he abandons obedience of Allah. It also could mean that he is indeed successful whose soul Allah purifies, and he has failed whose soul Allah corrupts. 

This is like what was reported by Al-`Awfi and `Ali bin Abi Talhah from Ibn `Abbas. At-Tabarani recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, "The Messenger of Allah used to stop whenever he recited this Ayah: (By Nafs, and Ma Sawwaha (Who apportioned it). Then He showed it its Fujur and its Taqwa.) Then he would say: (O Allah! Give my soul its good. You are its Guardian and Master, and the best to purify it.)'' 

Another Hadith Imam Ahmad recorded that Zayd bin Arqam said that the Messenger of Allah said: (O Allah! Verily, I seek refuge with You from weakness, laziness, senility (of old age), cowardliness, stinginess and the torment of the grave. O Allah! Give my soul its good and purify it, for You are the best to purify it. You are its Guardian and Master. O Allah! Verily, I seek refuge with You from a heart that is not humble, a soul that is not satisfied, knowledge that does not benefit and a supplication that is not answered.) Zayd then said, "The Messenger of Allah used to teach us these (words) and we now teach them to you.'' Muslim also recorded this Hadith.

كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِطَغْوَاهَا 
( 11 )   Thamud denied [their prophet] by reason of their transgression,

The things stated in principle in the above verses are now being explained by an historical precedent. Of what it is a precedent and how it relates to what has been stated above, one should consider well in the light of the other statements of the Quran the two basic truths which have been expressed in (verses 7-10).

Firstly, in these it has been stated that after creating the human self on balanced and sound nature, Allah inspired it with its fujur and its taqva. The Quran along with stating this truth also makes explicit that this inspirational knowledge of fujur and taqva is not enough for every man that he may by himself obtain detailed guidance from it, but for this purpose Allah gave detailed guidance to the Prophets through revelation in which it was explained what is fujur and what it applies to, which one should avoid, and what is taqva which one should attain and develop. If man does not accept and acknowledge this clear and definite guidance sent down through Revelation, he can neither avoid fujur not find the way to taqva.

Secondly, in these verses it has been stated that, the rewards and punishments are the necessary results which accrue from adoption of either fujur or taqva The result of cleansing the self of fujur and developing it with taqva is eternal success and the result of suppressing its good tendencies and causing it to be overwhelmed with fujur is failure, ruin and destruction.

To make man understand this truth a historical precedent is being cited and for this the tribe of Thamud has been taken as an illustration, for the various tribes destroyed in antiquity the territory of the Thamud was closest to Makkah. In northern Hijaz its historical ruins were extant, which the people of Makkah passed by during their trade journeys to Syria, and the way this tribe has been frequently referred to in the pre-Islamic poetry shows that its destruction was a common subject of talk among the Arabs.

Denied the truth: belied the Prophethood of the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him), who was sent for their guidance. On account of their rebellious attitude they were not prepared to give up the fujur in which they were involved, and they were not inclined to accept the taqva to which the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) was calling them. For details, see(Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayats 73-76); (Surah Houd, Ayats 61-62); (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 141-153); (Surah An- Naml,Ayats 45-49); (Surah Al-Qamar, Ayats 23-25).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
The Rejection of Thamud and Allah's Destruction of Them: Allah informs that Thamud rejected their Messenger because of the injustice and transgression they practiced. This was said by Mujahid, Qatadah and others. Therefore, this resulted in a rejection in their hearts for the guidance and conviction their Messenger came to them with.

 إِذِ انبَعَثَ أَشْقَاهَا 
( 12 )   When the most wretched of them was sent forth.

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
meaning, the most wicked person of the tribe, and he was Qudar bin Salif, the one who killed the she-camel. He was leader of the tribe of Thamud, and he is the one whom Allah refers to in His saying: (But they called their comrade and he took (a sword) and killed (her).) (54:29) This man was mighty and respected among his people. He was of noble lineage and a leader who was obeyed. This is just as Imam Ahmad recorded from `Abdullah bin Zam`ah. He said that the Messenger of Allah gave a sermon in which he mentioned the she-camel and he mentioned the man who killed her.

Then he said: ((When their most wicked went forth.)( A strong and mighty man who was invincible among his tribe, like Abu Zam`ah, went forth to her.) This Hadith was recorded by Al-Bukhari in his Book of Tafsir, and Muslim in his Book of the Description of the Hellfire. At-Tirmidhi and An-Nasa'i both recorded it in their Sunans in their Books of Tafsir.

 فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّـهِ نَاقَةَ اللَّـهِ وَسُقْيَاهَا 
( 13 )   And the messenger of Allah [Salih] said to them, "[Do not harm] the she-camel of Allah or [prevent her from] her drink."

At other places in the Quran the following details, are given: The people of Thamud challenged the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) to present a sign (a miracle) if he was truthful. Thereupon the Prophet (peace be upon him) presented a she-camel miraculously before them and warned them to the effect: This is Allah’s she-camel. She will graze at will in the land. One day will be for her to drink and one day for you and your cattle. If you molest her, you will be punished with a scourge. This proved to be a deterrent for some time. Then they appealed to their most wicked and rebellious chief to put an end to the she-camel, and he took up the responsibility and hamstrung her. (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 73); (Surah Ash-Shuara, Ayats 134, 156); (Surah Al-Qamar, Ayat 29).

Ibn Kathir Explanation:
Allah then says: (But the Messenger of Allah said to them) referring to Salih. (That is the she-camel of Allah!) meaning, `beware of touching the she-camel of Allah with any harm.' and its drink!) meaning, `do not transgress against her in her drinking, for she has been allocated a day to drink and you have been allocated a day to drink, as is known to you.'

 فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُم بِذَنبِهِمْ فَسَوَّاهَا 
( 14 )   But they denied him and hamstrung her. So their Lord brought down upon them destruction for their sin and made it equal [upon all of them].

According to (Surah Al-Aaraf, Ayat 77), after they had killed the she-camel, the people of Thamud said to the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him): Bring the scourge with which you threatened us. And according to Surah Houd, Ayat 65, the Prophet Salih (peace be upon him) said to them: Well, you have only three more days to enjoy yourselves in your houses. This is a limit that will not prove false.

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

(So their Lord destroyed them because of their sin,) meaning, He became angry with them and He annihilated them. 

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

 وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَاهَا 
( 15 )   And He does not fear the consequence thereof.

(And He feared not) it has also been recited as (فَلَا يَخَافُ) (So He feared not) That is, Allah is not like the kings of the world and the rulers of governments, who, when they want to take some action against a people, are compelled to consider what will be the consequences of their action. Allah’s power is supreme. He had no apprehension that some supporting power of the Thamud would come out to avenge itself on Him.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
(And for Him is no fear of its consequences.) This verse has been variously construed. I follow the general opinion in referring the pronoun "Him" to "their Lord" in the last verse and the pronoun "its" to the Punishment that was meted out to all, high and low, equally. In that case the meaning would be: God decreed the total destruction of the Thamud; in the case of creatures any such destruction might cause a loss to them, and they might fear the consequences of such loss or destruction, but Allah has created and can create at will, and there can be no question of any such apprehension in His case. An alternative view is that "him" refers to the prophet Salih, mentioned in verse 13. Then the interpretation would be: Salih had no fear of the consequences for himself; he had warned the wicked according to his commission; he was saved by Allah's mercy as a just and righteous man, and he left them with regrets (vii. 79). Yet another alternative refers "him" to the wicked man (mentioned in verse 12) who hamstrung the she-camel: he feared not the consequences of his deed.

Hadith related to Sūrah Ash-Shams:
`Abd Allah ibn `Umar (c. 614 – 693) narrated that while Muhammad was passing by Thamud's houses on his way to the Battle of Tabouk, he stopped together with the people there. The people fetched water from the wells from which the people of Thamud used to drink. They prepared their dough (for baking) and filled their water skins from it (the water from the wells). Muhammad ordered them to empty the water skins and give the prepared dough to the camels. Then he went away with them until they stopped at the well from which the she-camel (of Salih) used to drink. He warned them against entering upon the people that had been punished, saying "Do not enter the house of those who were unjust to themselves, unless (you enter) weeping, lest you should suffer the same punishment as was inflicted upon them."[8]

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

You may now like to listen to an in depth Analysis and Tafseer of Sūrah Ash-Shams 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.
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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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