Tafsir of Surah al Fajr – Daybreak (Surah 89)

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  1) By the break of day, 2) by ten nights, 3) by the even and the odd, 4) and by the night as it advances; 5) is there not in that an oath sufficing a person of sense?

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In this chapter, it seems clear that the oath and the purpose for which the oath is taken is one and the same. This is something permissible and a usage known in the language when the subject matter is clear and important, as is the case here. “By the break of day,” Allah takes an oath by the dawn: the last part of the night and the start of a new day. In the night’s departure and the day’s beginning lies a great sign pointing to the all-encompassing power of Allah and proving that He is the One who regulates all affairs, and therefore, as a consequence, worship should only be directed to Him. At the time of dawn it is legislated to pray a noble and great prayer, the prayer of Fajr. Hence, it is behoves Allah to take an oath by it and this is also why He follows by saying, “by ten nights,” according to the correct opinion this is a reference to last ten nights of Ramadan or the ten nights of Dhu’l-Hijjah because these nights, including their days, are noble days in which worship is done to an extent not found in other days.

In the last ten nights of Ramadan lies the Night of Decree which is “better than a thousand months”[1] and in the days following these nights one fasts, and fasting the month of Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam. In the first ten days of Dhu’l-Hijjah falls the Standing at `Arafah, a day in which Allah forgives His servants with a forgiveness that drives Shaytan to despair. It is a day in which Shaytan is never seen so miserable and wretched due to what He sees of the descent of Allah’s angels and His mercy. In these ten days many of the rites of Hajj and `Umrah are also carried out. All of these great affairs deserve to be taken an oath by. “By the even and the odd,* and the night as it advances,” i.e. as it sets, enveloping the servants with darkness so that they can rest therein and sleep: a mercy from Allah and all-encompassing wisdom. “Is there not in that an oath sufficing a person of sense?” possessing intelligence. The answer: yes, even some of what has been mentioned is sufficient for one “who has a heart, or gives ear and is witness.”[2]

  6) Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with `Ad, 7) of Iram, (the city) of lofty pillars, 8) whose like was not made in any land? 9) And with Thamud, who carved out rocks in the valley? 10) And with Pharaoh of the Stakes? 11) All of whom were inordinate in their lands, 12) infesting them with corruption. 13) So your Lord unleashed a scourge of punishment on them. 14) Your Lord is always lying in wait.

“Have you not seen,” in your heart and considered, based on sure knowledge, “how your Lord dealt with `Ad,” an inordinate nation “of Iram,” a well known tribe in Yemen “of lofty pillars,” i.e. of great might, unruly and haughty of nature. “Whose like” the like of `Ad “was not made in any land?” in strength and power, just as their Prophet, Hud, said to them, “Remember when He appointed you successors to the people of Nuh, and increased you greatly in stature. Remember Allah’s blessings, so that hopefully you will be successful.”[3] “And with Thamud, who carved out rocks in the valley?” hewing out dwellings amongst the rocks. “And with Pharaoh of the Stakes?” i.e. of armies who helped him to enforce his rule in the same way as stakes help to hold something down. “All” i.e. `Ad, Thamud, Pharaoh and their followers “of whom were inordinate in the lands,” harming Allah’s servants both in their worldly life and in their religion. This why He proceeds to say, “infesting them with corruption,” spreading disbelief and its multifarious branches of sin and transgression. They actively fought the Messengers and prevented people from the Path of Allah. Then, when they reached a level of haughtiness that called for their destruction, “your Lord unleashed a scourge of punishment on them. Your Lord is always lying in wait,” of those who disobey Him. He grants them a short respite and then seizes them “with the grasp of the Mighty, the Powerful.”[4]

  15) As for man, whenever his Lord tries him by honouring him and favouring him, he says, ‘My Lord has honoured me!’ 16) But whenever He tries him by stinting his provision, he says, ‘My Lord has disgraced me!’ 17) No indeed! You do not honour the orphan, 18) nor do you encourage feeding the destitute; 19) you devour inheritance with voracious appetites 20) and you have an insatiable love of wealth.

Allah, Most High, informs us of man’s nature: he is essentially an ignorant and oppressive creature having no knowledge of the consequences of his deeds. He thinks that the state he is in will endure, never to leave. He thinks that Allah’s favouring him in this world by granting him blessings proves that he is noble in His sight and close to Him. “As for man, whenever his Lord tries him by honouring him, and favouring him, he says, ‘My Lord has honoured me.’ But whenever He tries him by stinting his provision,” such that he gets just what he needs to survive with nothing extra “he says, ‘My Lord has disgraced me.’”

Allah refutes this assertion with His words, “No indeed,” not everyone to whom I grant blessings in this world is noble in My sight; neither is everyone whose provision I restrict disgraced in My sight. Richness, poverty, ease and difficulty are all tests from Allah by which He examines His servants as to who is grateful and patient that He may reward him abundantly, and who is not that He may give him a woeful punishment. Moreover, in the servant’s only being concerned with fulfilling his own needs lies proof that he has petty and weak aspirations, and this why Allah proceeds to censure them for their lack of concern for the needy amongst creation, “you do not honour the orphan,” who has lost his father and therefore the ‘breadwinner’ of his family. As such he stands in need of one who will show him beneficence and alleviate his distress. You do not honour the orphan, instead you humiliate him, and this proves that your hearts are devoid of mercy and that you do not desire to strive for goodness. “Nor do you encourage feeding the destitute” the indigent and the orphans because you are miserly and love this world inordinately with a love that has taken hold of your hearts. This is why He then says, “you devour inheritance,” wealth left behind as inheritance “with voracious appetites,” rapidly, leaving nothing. “And you have an insatiable love of wealth,” just as Allah says elsewhere, “But you prefer the life of the world although the Hereafter is better and more lasting”[5], “No indeed! You love the present life and neglect the Hereafter.”[6]

  21) No indeed! When the earth is crushed, pounded, pulverised to dust, 22) and your Lord comes, and the angels, rank upon rank, 23) and Hell that Day is brought out; on that Day man will remember, but what good will memory be to him then? 24) He will cry, ‘If only I had prepared in advance for this life of mine!’ 25) That Day, no one will punish as He punishes, 26) and none will shackle as He shackles.

“No indeed,” all the wealth that you crave and all the worldly delights you compete for are soon to vanish; ahead of you lies a Grave Day and an awful terror: “but when the earth,” and the mountains and all that is on it “is crushed, pounded, pulverised to dust,” until it becomes “a barren, level plain on which you see no dip or gradient.”[7] “And your Lord comes,” “in the shadows of the clouds”[8] to judge His servants “and the angels,” the inhabitants of the heavens, all of them, “rank upon rank,” the angels of each heaven in a rank, overshadowing the creation. These ranks are ranks of abject subservience to the King, the Compeller. “And Hell that Day is brought out,” dragged forward by Angels on iron chains, “on that day man will remember,” what he has sent forth of good and bad deeds “but what good will memory be to him then?” the time for doing something about it has past. “He will cry,” in deep regret of how he has fallen short in “his duty to Allah”[9] “If only I had prepared” righteous deeds “in advance for this life of mine” to come, the eternal life, just as Allah says elsewhere, “the Day when a wrongdoer will bite his hands and say, ‘Alas for me! If only I had gone the way of the Messenger. Alas for me! If only I had not taken so-and-so for a friend!’”[10] This verse proves that the life one should strive for, strive to perfect and complete, and strive to attain the delight of is not the life of this world but the life of the Hereafter because that is the abode of permanence and eternity. “That Day, no one will punish as He punishes,” those who ignored this Day and neglected to work for it “and none will shackle as He shackles,” they will be fettered in chains of Fire and they will be “dragged through boiling waters; then thrust into the Fire.”[11] This is the reward of the criminals!

  27) ‘O soul at rest and peace, 28) return to your Lord, well-pleased and well-pleasing! 29) Enter among My servants, 30) enter My Garden!’

As for those who have faith in Allah and believe in His Messengers: “O soul at rest and peace” having found tranquillity in the remembrance of Allah, serenity in His love, and contentment in Him, “Return to your Lord,” who nourished and sustained you with His grace, lavishly bestowing His munificence on you such that you became one of His friends and beloved “well-pleased” with Allah and His reward “and well-pleasing,” to Allah. “Enter among My servants, enter My Garden!” This is how this soul will be addressed on the Day of Rising and how it will be addressed at the point of death.

All praise and thanks are for Allah, Lord of the worlds.


Endnotes

* Ahmad #14511 records on the authority of Jabir that the Prophet ﷺ said, “The ten are the ten days of al-Adha. The odd is the day of `Arafah and the even is the Day of al-Nahr.” i.e. `Arafah falls on an odd day and `Eid al-Adha falls on an even day.

1. al-Qadr (97): 3
2. Qaf (50): 37
3. al-A`raf (7): 69
4. al-Qamar (54): 42
5. al-A`la (87): 16-17
6. al-Qiyamah (75): 20-21
7. Ta Ha (20): 106-107
8. al-Baqarah (2): 210
9. al-Zumar (39): 56
10. al-Furqan (25): 27-28
11. Ghafir (40): 71-72

(NOTE: If you want to build a strong and powerful relationship with Allah, check out Islamia TV, where you can watch Islamic speakers from across the globe deliver inspiring and motivational courses. Learn more at www.islamia.tv.)



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