Tuesday 4 April 2023

Exegesis / Tafseer (تفسير) Al Qur'an: Surah 89. Al Fajr (The Dawn)

Sūrah Al Fajr is the eighty ninth Sūrah  with 30 āyāt, part of the 30th Juzʼ  of the Qur'ān. The Surah is so designated after the word wal-fajr (وَالۡفَجۡرِۙ‏ ) with which it opens. It begins with God swearing an oath that the tyrants of Mecca will be dealt with like those of the past.  It then goes on to compare the destinies of the grateful and the ungrateful.

Theme and Subject Matter
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, let us consider the reasoning in the order in which it has been presented.
First of all, swearing oaths by the dawn, the ten nights, the even and the odd, and the departing night, the listeners have been asked: "Are these things not enough to testify to the truth of that which you are refusing to acknowledge?" From the explanation that we have given of these four things in the corresponding notes, it will become clear that these things are a symbol of the regularity that exists in the night and day, and swearing oaths by these the question has been asked in the sense: Even after witnessing this wise system established by God, do you still need any other evidence to show that it is not beyond the power of that God Who has brought about this system to establish the Hereafter, and that it is the very requirement of his wisdom that He should call man to account for his deeds?
Then, reasoning from man's own history, the evil end of the Ad and the Thamud and Pharaoh has been cited as an example to show that when they transgressed all limits and multiplied corruption in the earth, Allah laid upon them the scourge of His chastisement. This is a proof of the fact that the system of the universe is not being run by deaf and blind forces, nor is the world a lawless kingdom of a corrupt ruler, but a Wise Ruler is ruling over it, the demand of Whose wisdom and justice is continuously visible in the world itself in man's own history that He should call to account, and reward and punish accordingly, the being whom He has blessed with reason and moral sense and given the right of appropriation in the world.
After this, an appraisal has been made of the general moral state of human society of which Arab paganism was a conspicuous example; two aspects of it in particular, have been criticized: first the materialistic attitude of the people on account of which overlooking the moral good and evil, they regarded only the achievement of worldly wealth, rank and position, or the absence of it, as the criterion of honor or disgrace, and had forgotten that neither riches was a reward nor poverty a punishment, but that Allah is trying man in both conditions to see what attitude he adopts when blessed with wealth and how he behaves when afflicted by poverty. Second, the people's attitude under which the orphan child in their society was left destitute on the death of the father. Nobody asked after the poor; whoever could, usurped the whole heritage left by the deceased parent, and drove away the weak heirs fraudulently. The people were so afflicted with an insatiable greed for wealth that they were never satisfied however much they might hoard and amass. This criticism is meant to make them realize as to why the people with such an attitude and conduct in the life of the world should not be called to account for their misdeeds.
The discourse has been concluded with the assertion that accountability shall certainly be held and it will be held on the Day when the Divine Court will be established. At that time the deniers of the judgment will understand that which they are not understanding now in spite of instruction and admonition, but understanding then will be of no avail. The denier will regret and say, "Would that I had provided for this Day beforehand while I lived in the world." But his regrets will not save him from Allah's punishment. However, as for the people who would have accepted the Truth, which the heavenly books and the Prophets of God were presenting, with full satisfaction of the heart in the world, Allah will be pleased with them and they will be well pleased with the rewards bestowed by Allah. They will be called upon to join the righteous and enter Paradise.

In consonance with its theme and subject matter, the Surah can be divided into three distinct parts as under:
  • Part I (Verses 1-14) Admonition for social welfare through the examples of prior nations
  • Part II (Verses 15-20) What should be avoided to do real social welfare
  • Part III (Verses 21-30) Day of judgement will be too late to heed the admonition and Allah's address to the believers
We have already presented the overview / summary of the Sūrah , which also includes its recitation in Arabic with English subtitles. Let us now read the verse-by-verse translation and exegesis / tafseer in English. You may also listen to eminent Muslim scholar Nouman Ali Khan explaining the Surah in English at the end of this post.

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ 
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful"

Part I (Verses 1-14)
( 1 )   By the dawn

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.

وَلَيَالٍ عَشۡرٍۙ‏ 
( 2 )   And [by] ten nights

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
The "daybreak" (fajr) apparently symbolises 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.

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 and notes, also n. 217 to 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 (n. 217); 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.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
The actual word is: لَيَالٍ عَشۡرٍ. It is an undefined noun because each of the ten from among the thirty nights of this month can be implied. This, in a very subtle style, points to the waxing and waning of the moon. This is because in the first ten nights of a month it starts in the shape of a thin fingernail and increases in size until more than half of it becomes bright. In the second ten nights of a month its brightness is at its pinnacle and in the last ten nights of a month it starts to move to its end until, in the words of the Qur’ān, it becomes like a withered palm-twig. Imām Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, while commenting on this expression of the Qur’ān, writes:
In this verse, the moon is portrayed as if it is an obedient camel whose reins are in the hands of a divine impeller who makes it ascend to a certain height in various steps and then from there makes it descend in various steps so much so that this tiring journey transforms it into a withered thorn. (Amīn Aḥsan Iṣlāḥī, Tadabbur-i Qur’ān, vol. 9, 348)
وَّالشَّفۡعِ وَالۡوَتۡرِۙ‏ 
( 3 )   And [by] the even [number] and the odd

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 kinds: in other words, it signifies everything 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 ).

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, and note (given herein under):
(xxxvi. 36) Glory to Allah Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.
The mystery of sex runs through all creation, in man, in animal life, in vegetable life, and possibly in other things of which we have no knowledge. Then there are pairs of opposite forces in nature, e.g., positive and negative electricity, etc. The atom itself consists of a positively charged nucleus or proton, surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The constitution of matter itself is thus referred to pairs of opposite energies. 
In the animal world pairs are but two individuals, and yet each is a complement to 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?

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

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
An allusion to the night of spiritual darkness which is bound to "run its course" - i.e., to disappear - as soon as man becomes truly conscious of God.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
That is, the last part of the night, just before full daylight. 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.

Javed Ahmad Ghamidi Explanation:
(And the night also when it departs) The actual words are: اِذَا يَسۡرِ. This condition has been imposed so that attention is directed right at the time when the night is about to leave and the signs of dawn appear on the horizon.

(That the Day of Judgement is certain to dawn.) Ie., the way the night after passing through various stages culminates in the dawn and the way the moon completes its journey in each of the ten nights of a month at times in twenty-nine days and at times in thirty shows that a wondrous law of gradual progression which is based on great purpose exists. Also evident is that all these things are subservient to God and it is He Who takes them to a destination and then starts the process all over again. Viewed thus, no sensible person should hesitate in accepting the claim of the Qur’ān that this world of ours will also reach its fate one day and the dawn of the Day of Judgement is certain to come. The dead will be raised to life in it again. The fact that the moon appears every month and at night while it departs every day reminds us of it.

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 Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), 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 himself after the commentary by the Holy Prophet.

After a study of the style, one clearly feels that there was an argument already in progress in which the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) was presenting something and the disbelievers were denying it. At this, affirming what the Holy Prophet presented, it was said: By such and such a thing", so as to say: "By these things, what Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) 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 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 (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) 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 'Ad" 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 Holy Messenger (upon whom be peace) 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 (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) 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, vet 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.

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
Lit., "a [more] solemn affirmation" (qasam): i.e., convincing evidence of the existence and oneness of God.

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 suggests 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".

اَلَمۡ تَرَ كَيۡفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ‏ 
( 6 )   Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with 'Aad -
After reasoning out the judgment from the system of day and night, now an argument is berg 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; and

(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 be 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 Qur'an and we have explained it everywhere accordingly. For example, see E.N.'s 5, 6 of AI-A'raf, E.N. 12 of Yunus, E.N.'s 57, 105, 115 of Hud, E.N. 9 of Ibrahim, E.N.'s 66, 86 of An-Naml, E.N. 8 of Ar-Rum E.N. 25 of Saba, E.N.'s 29. 30 of Suad, E.N. 80 of Al-Mu'min, E.N.'s 33, 34 of Ad-Dukhan, E.N.'s 27, 28 of Al-Jathiah, E.N. 17 of Qaf, E.N. 21 of Adh-Dhariyat).  

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
See {7:65-72}. Iram, mentioned in the next verse, seems to have been the name of their legendary capital, now covered by the sands of the desert of Al-Ahqaf.

اِرَمَ ذَاتِ الۡعِمَادِ‏ 
( 7 )   [With] Iram - who had lofty pillars,
`Ad Iram implies the ancient tribe of `Ad, who have been called 'Ad Ula in the Qur'an and Arabian history. In Surah An-Najm, it has been said: "And that We destroyed the ancient people of `Ad" (v. 50), i.e. the `Ad to whom the Prophet Hud had been sent, and who were punished with a scourge. As against thetas the people of `Ad who retrained safe and flourished afterwards are remembered as Ad Ukhra in Arabian history. The ancient `Ad are called Ad lram for the reason that they belonged to that branch of the Semetic 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 Qur'an; another are the Aramaeans, who in the beginning inhabited the northern parts of Syria and whose language Aramaic occupies an important place among the Semetic languages.

The words dhat-ul-`imad (of lofty pillars) have been. used for the 'Ad 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 Qur'an this characteristic has been mentioned in connection with the Prophet Hud, 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!" (Ash-Shu`ara': 128-129).

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.

الَّتِىۡ لَمۡ يُخۡلَقۡ مِثۡلُهَا فِى الۡبِلَادِ‏ 
( 8 )   The likes of whom had never been 
That is, they were matchless people of their time; no other nation in the world compares with them in strength, glory and grandeur. At other places in the Qur'an, it has been said about them: "Your Lord made you very robust." (Al-A`raf: 69) "As for the `Ad, they became arrogant with pride in the land, without any right, and said: `Who is stronger than us in might"? (Ha Mim As-Sajdah: 15). "When you seized somebody, you seized him like a tyrant." (Ash-Shu`ara' 130) 

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 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.

وَثَمُوۡدَ الَّذِيۡنَ جَابُوا الصَّخۡرَ بِالۡوَادِ 
( 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 E.N.'s 57, 59 of Al A'raf, E.N. 45 of Al-Hijr, E.N.'s 95, 99 of Ash-Shu`ara' along with the photographs) .

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
See explanation of surah {7: 73,74}. The "valley" referred to in the sequence is the Wadi 'l-Qura, situated north of Medina on the ancient caravan route from South Arabia to Syria.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Their civilisation of Thamud shows traces of Egyptian, Syrian, and (later) Greek and Roman influences. They built fine temples, tombs, and buildings cut out of solid rock. The cult of the goddess Lat flourished among them.

وَفِرۡعَوۡنَ ذِى الۡاَوۡتَادِ‏ 
( 10 )   And [with] Pharaoh, owner of the stakes? 
The words dhul-autad (of the stakes) for Pharaoh have also been used in Surah Suad: 12 above. 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 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.

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
 "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.

الَّذِيۡنَ طَغَوۡا فِى الۡبِلَادِ‏ 
( 11 )   [All of] whom oppressed within the lands

فَاَكۡثَرُوۡا فِيۡهَا الۡفَسَادَ 
( 12 )   And increased therein the corruption.

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

اِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالۡمِرۡصَادِؕ‏ 
( 14 )   Indeed, your Lord is in observation.
The words "ever lying 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 prey. The same is the case against Allah of those wicked people who spread mischief in the world and have no sense and tear 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.

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).

Part II (Verses 15-20)
فَاَمَّا الۡاِنۡسَانُ اِذَا مَا ابۡتَلٰٮهُ رَبُّهٗ فَاَكۡرَمَهٗ وَنَعَّمَهٗ  ۙ فَيَقُوۡلُ رَبِّىۡۤ اَكۡرَمَنِؕ‏ 
( 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?"

Muhammad Asad Explanation:
(BUT AS FOR man) The above phrase, introduced by the particle fa-amma ("But as for..."), obviously connects with the reference to the "solemn evidence of the truth" in verse {5} - implying that man does not, as a rule, bethink himself of the hereafter, being concerned only with this world and what promises to be of immediate advantage to him (Zamakhshari, Razi, Baydawi). 

(Whenever his Sustainer tries him by His generosity and by letting him enjoy a life of ease, he says, "My Sustainer has been [justly] generous towards me";) I.e., he regards God's bounty as something due to him (Razi).

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.

وَاَمَّاۤ اِذَا مَا ابۡتَلٰٮهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيۡهِ رِزۡقَهٗ ۙ فَيَقُوۡلُ رَبِّىۡۤ اَهَانَنِ​ۚ‏ 
( 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 actual 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​ بَلۡ لَّا تُكۡرِمُوۡنَ الۡيَتِيۡمَۙ‏ 
( 17 )   No! But you do not honor the orphan
(No!) That is, this is not all the criterion of honor and disgrace, for the real criterion is moral good and evil.

(But you do not honor the orphan) That is, "As long as his father is alive, your treatment of him is attentive and when his father dies, even the paternal and maternal uncles and the elder brothers, to say nothing of the neighbors and distant relatives, neglect him."

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
Even at our own valuation, if we are favoured with superfluities, do we think of fatherless children, or the stuggling 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.

وَلَا تَحٰٓضُّوۡنَ عَلٰى طَعَامِ الۡمِسۡكِيۡنِۙ‏ 
( 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.

وَتَاۡكُلُوۡنَ التُّرَاثَ اَكۡلًا لَّـمًّا ۙ‏ 
( 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.

وَّتُحِبُّوۡنَ الۡمَالَ 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. "

Part III (Verses 21-30)
كَلَّاۤ اِذَا دُكَّتِ الۡاَرۡضُ 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."

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.

وَّجَآءَ رَبُّكَ وَالۡمَلَكُ صَفًّا صَفًّا ۚ‏ 
( 22 )   And your Lord has come and the angels, rank upon rank,
Although, literally the words jaa Rabbuka 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.

وَجِاىْٓءَ يَوۡمَـئِذٍۢ بِجَهَنَّمَ  ۙ​ يَوۡمَـئِذٍ يَّتَذَكَّرُ الۡاِنۡسَانُ وَاَنّٰى لَـهُ الذِّكۡرٰىؕ‏ 
( 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 one then?

Yusuf Ali Explanation:
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?

يَقُوۡلُ يٰلَيۡتَنِىۡ قَدَّمۡتُ لِحَـيَاتِى​ۚ‏ 
( 24 )   He will say, "Oh, I wish I had sent ahead [some good] for my life."

فَيَوۡمَـئِذٍ لَّا يُعَذِّبُ عَذَابَهٗۤ اَحَدٌ ۙ‏ 
( 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.

وَّلَا يُوۡثِقُ وَثَاقَهٗۤ اَحَدٌ ؕ‏ 
( 26 )   And none will bind [as severely] as His binding [of the evildoers].

يٰۤاَيَّتُهَا النَّفۡسُ الۡمُطۡمَـئِنَّةُ  ۖ
( 27 )   [To the righteous it will be said], "O reassured soul,
"Peaceful .. 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 Qur'an as sharh Badr. (Al-An'am 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).

ارۡجِعِىۡۤ اِلٰى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرۡضِيَّةً​ ۚ
( 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.

فَادۡخُلِىۡ فِىۡ عِبٰدِىۙ‏ 
( 29 )   And enter among My [righteous] servants

وَادۡخُلِىۡ جَنَّتِى‏ 
( 30 )   And enter My Paradise."

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!

You may now like to listen to explanation of the sürah by eminent Muslim scholar Nouman Ali Khan:

وَمَا عَلَيۡنَاۤ اِلَّا الۡبَلٰغُ الۡمُبِيۡنُ‏ 
(36:17) and our duty is no more than to clearly convey the Message.”
That is Our duty is only to convey to you the message that Allah has entrusted us with. Then it is for you to accept it or reject it. We have not been made responsible for making you accept it forcibly, and if you do not accept it, we shall not be seized in consequence of your disbelief, you will yourselves be answerable for your actions on Day of Resurrection.
May Allāh (سبحانه و تعالى‎) help us understand Qur'ān and follow the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which is embodiment of commandments of Allah contained in the Qur'ān. May Allah help us to be like the ones He loves and let our lives be lived helping others and not making others' lives miserable or unlivable. May all our wrong doings, whether intentional or unintentional, be forgiven before the angel of death knocks on our door. 
Reading the Qur'ān 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. It will also help the Muslims to have grasp over social issues and their answers discussed in the Qur'an and other matter related to inter faith so that they are able to discuss issues with non-Muslims with authority based on refences from Qur'an.

May Allah forgive me if my posts ever imply a piety far greater than I possess. I am most in need of guidance.

Note: When we mention God in our posts, we mean One True God, we call Allah in Islam, with no associates. Allah is the Sole Creator of all things, and that Allah is all-powerful and all-knowing. Allah has no offspring, no race, no gender, no body, and is unaffected by the characteristics of human life.

Please refer to our Reference Page "114 Chapters (Sūrahs) of the Holy Qur'an" for translation, explanation and exegesis of all other chapters of the Qur'an. You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.

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 and explanation have 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 (links to Reference Pages given below):  
  • Tafsir Ibn Khatir
  • Muhammad Asad Translation
  • Al-Quran, Yusuf Ali Translation
  • Javed Ahmad Ghamidi / Al Mawrid
  • Qur'an Wiki
  • Verse by Verse Qur'an Study Circle
  • Tafsir Nouman Ali Khan
  • Towards Understanding the Quran
In addition, references of other sources which have been explored have also been given below. Those desirous of detailed explanations and tafsir (exegesis), may refer to these sites:

Photo References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 67 | 8 | 9 | 10 |

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