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of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat
85 (Al-Buruj - The Stars)
Holy Quran Section > Commentary of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat Ahmad > Chapter 85 (Al-Buruj - The Stars)
of Chapter 85 (Al-Buruj - The Stars) of the Holy
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
This chapter was revealed at Makkah at a time when the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions were experiencing persecution of all kinds. The unbelievers had lit a fire of oppression around them and were secretly devising all kinds of plots to exterminate them as was alluded to in the last chapter, Al-Inshiqaq (The Bursting Asunder), in which it was stated that Allah was fully cognisant of the conspiracies they concealed in their hearts and they were warned of the consequent punishment that would visit them. In the present chapter, this prophecy is elaborately described with firm and decisive arguments and supporting evidence so that it may serve for all times as a guiding principle and as an example of unchanging Divine practice.
1. By the heaven full of stars!
Let us ponder over the state of darkness and misguidance that overspread Arabia at that time as well as over the difficulties and turbulence that prevailed around it, and then let us consider the magnificence and explicitness of this prophecy in which the triumph of truth has been so lucidly portrayed. The testimony of the star-studded heavens is presented here in order to proclaim to the world that the time had come when the land of Arabia would accept the heavenly teaching and Allah's kingdom, which is in heaven, would be established on earth with such glory and grandeur that, metaphorically speaking, it could be said that earth would turn into heaven. And just as the heaven was full of stars, in the same way, the earth would abound with people who, like the stars, would be illuminated with heavenly light as the Holy Prophet (pbuh) himself had said: "My Companions are like the stars."
By the promised day is meant that for the fulfilment of these matters, a particular day has been set aside and a promise of that day has been firmly given when truth would triumph over falsehood. This would constitute an irrefutable evidence that just as truth had prevailed in Arabia in the time of the Holy Prophet, so, too, would it triumph for all times to come.
The witness mentioned above was no other than the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who gave evidence of the success of the religion of Islam and made prophecies about it. It also referred to those who were witnesses of this eventuality, in particular, the Holy Prophet's Companions, who saw with their own eyes the glorious fulfilment of these prophecies.
The expression by what is witnessed refers to evidence which was prophesied, that is, the triumph of Islam.
It also means what was actually seen and that is an allusion to the palpable manifestation of the defeat and destruction and the humiliation and abasement of the unbelievers. This occurrence serves as a testimony that Islam will always continue to spread and predominate and it is also a warning to those who will try to destroy it and impede its progress in the future that they will suffer the same fate as the opponents of the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
4. Destruction overtake the companions of the trench! --
Who are the companions of the ditch? The commentators of the Holy Quran are divided in their opinion and many stories are related concerning it among which the one referred to in the Bible is quite popular. It tells how a famous king of Babel threw into a blazing furnace three Jews who had refused to worship an idol in the king's likeness. However, they suffered no harm whatsoever from the blaze.
This writer has no objection in accepting such stories. However, as regards this chapter, the generally accepted meaning is that if those people who were harsh, tyrannical and hard-hearted to such an extent that they would dig a pit of fire and throw believers into it, and would sit beside it and blissfully witness the spectacle of their death -- if those unbelievers were destroyed and suffered the punishment of Allah for their crime and for the persecution and murder of the believers in this very world, then how can the unbelievers of Makkah be spared? If they torment and slaughter believers, will they be safe from the grip of Allah and His punishment?
However, the explanation that this commentator likes is different from those above. In his opinion, the companions of the trench were really those Makkan unbelievers who used to dig all kinds of ditches in the path of the Muslims in order to impede their progress. Metaphorically speaking, to dig a ditch for someone means to devise means of obstructing the advancement of that person.
The kinds of trenches that the pagans of Makkah dug as obstacles on the road of the Muslims' progress were those of persecution and warfare. This is made clear by the words of the Quran itself for the expression, the fire fed with fuel is used in place of the trench (ukhdud). In other words, the meaning of trench is really fire. We must note here that the Arabs used the word fire to mean wars and this was a well-known figure of speech among them as the Holy Quran attests elsewhere when it says:
Whenever they kindle a fire for war Allah puts it out, and they strive to make mischief in the land (5:64).
In order to destroy and annihilate the Muslims, the pagans of Makkah lit the fire of war on every side and in order to place stumbling-blocks on their path of progress, they dug pits of fire everywhere. And as no fire can be ignited nor sustained without fuel as the Holy Quran concurs when it says: The fire fed with fuel, therefore, those who supplied fuel for this fire of war and oppression were none other than the aristocrats of Makkah, that is, the Makkan unbelievers who stirred up all kinds of people, inciting them to persecute the Muslims and to fight against them and kill them. They spared no attempt in keeping this fire of war and oppression ever burning and thus, having thrown the believers into this pit, they sat by greatly relishing the spectacle of their pain and torment. The Holy Quran states that these very ones who placed impediments in the way of the Muslims' advance and who stoked the fires of war and torture against them and who, having cast them into a pit of misery and agony, sat back and enjoyed their handiwork, were themselves destroyed. In other words, their perdition was a foregone conclusion for they were to fall into the same trench they dug for the believers. They were to be consumed by the very fire they lit for innocent people, that is, they would undoubtedly taste defeat, ruin, shame and disgrace.
If we observe carefully, we shall see that the above seven verses form a connected link. First of all, the picture of the heaven filled with stars is placed before us and a prophecy is made that just as this starry heaven, the land of Arabia will become a heaven and will be filled with people who, like the celestial stars, will be illuminated by the heavenly light.
We are then told that the day of the triumph of truth was already fixed for a promised day and that day was the conquest of Makkah. It was said that one people would witnessed the fulfilment of that prophecy and that referred to the Companions of the Holy Prophet, whilst another people would be conquered and the fulfilment of that prediction would be shown to the world at large, and belonging to this second group were the unbelievers of Makkah.
The trench they dug to thwart the onward march of Islam and the fire of war and persecution they lit for the sake of exterminating the Muslims became the cause of their own extinction. They had lit this fire to burn the believers and to witness their ordeal, but they fell into the same fire and were devoured by it and ironically, it was the believers who witnessed their sorry end. All these events served as a sure testimony to the fact that the end of all those who try to destroy the truth, the religion of Islam, which Allah wishes to establish firmly on earth, and all who strive to put obstacles in its way, and their helpers too, will meet the same fate as the pagans of Makkah. That is, those who kindle a pit of fire to engulf the believers will themselves fall and burn in the same fire and their plight will become a warning for the world. In this regard, therefore, the designation, companions of the trench, has a general application and is not limited to a particular nation. Those who dig a ditch to hamper the spread of Islam will suffer as bitter a fate as those trench diggers in the Holy Prophet's lifetime.
8. And they punished them for naught but that they believed in Allah, the Mighty, the Praised.
These verses reveal to us the real reason for the ungovernable rage of the unbelievers and their persecution of the Muslims and ask whether the latter were at fault for the atrocities they had to endure. We are told that their only sin was their belief in Allah. In other words, the crime for which they were guilty in the eyes of the pagans and which made them deserving of being killed and slaughtered was nothing more than their deep faith in Allah, Most High, Who is Supreme and worthy of all praise and honour and Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth. As a result, all these incidents were not hidden from Him for He is Seer of everything.
Now, as regards those people who had faith in a God Who is Triumphant, Honourable and Praiseworthy and Who is the Master of the heavens and the earth, circumstances dictate that they, too, should be stamped with distinguished qualities as those mentioned here. That is, Allah, Most High, should bestow on them victory and honour and should make them the recipients of such moral and spiritual excellences that praise would redound to them in this world and that they should also become the inheritors of worldly as well as spiritual kingdoms.
The result of the unbelievers' persecution of the Muslims is given in the following verses:
10. Those who persecute believing men and believing women, then repent not, theirs is the chastisement of hell, and theirs is the chastisement of burning.
Here, the end of those companions of the trench who stoked it with fuel has clearly been stated as a chastisement of burning. These verses tell us that those who persecuted believing men and women and inflicted pain and torture on them and who embroiled them in turmoil and wars would have the unenviable pleasure of tasting this same fire in the Hereafter and in this life also. That is, they would burn in the fire of hell in the next life and would experience the fire of regret, failure and total defeat and frustration in this life. Furthermore, they would fall into the same trenches they dug and ignited for the believers and would burn in them.
11. Those who believe and do good, theirs are gardens wherein flow rivers. That is the great achievement.
Those who believe and do good are told that Allah will certainly grant them in the next life, paradise wherein their faith will be rewarded in the form of gardens whilst their good deeds will take the form of streams. However, that is not all. In this very life, they will receive a garden of success and fulfilment. Just imagine the happiness and delight of the believers at the time when Allah gave them victory over their blood-thirsty enemies and showed them how solidly established their beloved religion was; how He gave power to those dwellers of the desert over all the countries through which the Tigris, Euphrates and the Nile flow, and how He made them rulers of all those countries that were filled with gardens, and how, besides the promise of the Hereafter, He conferred on them a most stupendous and stunning success in this very life!
12. Surely the grip of thy Lord is severe.
Those who dig pits of fire for the believers and do not refrain from tormenting them are warned of a grievous fate if they do not desist from their evil. They are reminded that when the Lord of Muhammad (pbuh) seizes someone, there is no escape from His mighty grip.
13. Surely He it is Who creates first and reproduces.
Abda'a means to create for the first time whilst i'adah signifies to create again and again.
A very good example comes to mind. We observe that a hen is hatched from an egg and an egg comes into being from a hen. Now, no one knows for sure which came first, the hen or the egg.
What we are certain of is that one of them came first and its birth was not according to the law of creation which we witness today. That egg, or that chicken which was created first came into being in a different way from that which we observe today. The law under which the first egg was created is called the law of origination, whilst the law that gives rise to a chain of events whereby we now get a chicken from an egg and then a hen lays an egg from which we get another chicken and so on, is called the law of reproduction. Concerning these two laws the Holy Quran says: Surely He it is Who creates first and reproduces.
That is, Allah is the Creator of the two kinds of laws. In the beginning, He created the world in whatever manner He willed under the law of origination and then, under the law of perpetuation, or procreation He brought into being such laws called the way of Allah by which the machinery of the whole world could continue to operate. This is called the law of reproduction or repetition, or sometimes the law of cause and effect because under this law certain causes give rise to certain consequences and if these same causes were to come together again then, of necessity, the results would be the same as before. This is why it is commonly said that history repeats itself. The Holy Quran explains this phenomenon by using the word yu'id (He repeats), meaning that Allah reproduces or repeats those events of the past.
The intention here is to warn those who will not refrain from persecuting the believers that they should not forget that the Lord (Rabb) Who created Muhammad (pbuh) will never fail to shower His Providence (Rabubiyyat) on him until he attains his goal of perfection. On the contrary, they are told that the seizure of the Lord of Muhammad (pbuh) is extremely strong and He will repeat His practice in this affair also, as He has been doing throughout the history of the world. That is, their fate will be the same as all those before them who brought grief on the servants of Allah. The reason they were not dealt a swift requital is given in the following verse:
14. And He is the Forgiving, the Merciful.
They are reminded that it is Allah's attributes of Forgiveness and Love that are saving them from quick punishment. He desires His servants to preserve themselves from chastisement for He is very loving to them.
Once the Holy Prophet asked a Companion of his the following question:
"Is there a mother who will want her child to burn in fire?"
When the Companion replied in the negative, the Holy Prophet remarked:
"Allah's love is far greater than that of a mother."
That it is as a consequence of Allah's love and forgiveness that He wishes to rescue His servants from punishment. It is for this reason that He has raised prophets and messengers and sent them with books of guidance so that His servants may take heed and so save themselves from retribution for evil deeds. Unrighteous people oppose the truth and inflict untold suffering on Allah's servants, yet Allah, in His infinite mercy, delays His punishment to them so that they may come to their senses and voluntarily give up their disobedient ways.
Thus, they are told here that they should not think that as they have persecuted the Muslims and nothing has happened to them, they are above punishment. It is only because of Allah's love and forgiveness that chastisement is withheld from them. However, if they do not desist, then they must remember that Allah, Most High, is:
15. Lord of the Throne of Power, the Glorious,
In this world, an ordinary king will exact retribution for rebellion or law-breaking in his kingdom without sparing anyone. Can we expect Allah, Most High, not to have any regard for His Own power and glory? How can those who transgress the laws of His kingdom escape unscathed?
Again, it is possible sometimes that temporal leaders of governments may desire to implement a particular plan but may lack the power (and resources) to do so. However, Allah's power and strength are so perfect and powerful that it is impossible for Him to desire a thing and not be able to achieve it.
17. Has there not come to thee the story of hosts,
Here, a history of two past nations has been called into evidence and we are invited to cast a philosophical glance at the manner in which the people of Pharaoh and Thamud were destroyed. Prophets had also come to them but they maltreated them and tried their best to destroy them. Under the law of repetition, Allah, Most High, wishes to bring about the same consequences in Makkah as obtained in those two nations. In other words, just as they tasted failure and destruction, so, too, will the unbelievers of Makkah experience the same. The Holy Quran is the first book that has taught us to look philosophically at the history of the world in order to discover the causes of the rise and fall of nations. It tells us that whether the elevation or the decline is individual or national, it all takes place under Divine Laws and if man ponders deeply then he can profit from them and save himself from ruin.
The people of Thamud lived to the north of the Hejaz and were thus neighbours of the Makkans. They, too, had tried to kill their prophet Salih (pbuh), in the same manner as the Makkans were devising intricate plots to assassinate the Holy Prophet (pbuh).
Pharaoh was the title of the king of Egypt. He, too, had tormented the Prophet Moses (pbuh) and his people just as Abu Jahl of Makkah and all his people were persecuting the Holy Prophet (pbuh), and his community. We are told that history would repeat itself in that the same thing that happened in the past to those nations would also take place in Makkah for the same causes that operated there were also present here. Therefore, the consequence was bound to be the same.
19. Nay, those who disbelieve give the lie --
Instead of profiting from the fate and condition of those two past nations, the pagans of Makkah were daily increasing in their denial of, and opposition to the Holy Prophet (pbuh), oblivious to the fact that Allah had encompassed them on all sides. In other words, they could do no harm to the believers nor could they extricate themselves from their own predicament, for they had refused to take the path of salvation. As a result, they could not rescue themselves from the toils of unbelief nor could they do any harm to the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and his followers.
21. Nay, it is a glorious Quran,
In these verses three very powerful prophecies of the Holy Quran are given and these are contained in, firstly, the name Quran, secondly, in the word glorious (majid) and thirdly, in the phrase in a guarded tablet (fi lauhim mahfuz).
The word Quran means a book that is worthy to be read and also one which is read abundantly. So having given the name Quran to this book, Allah, Most High, prophesied that this book would be the most read book in the world and so it has proven to be for in formal prayer (salah) alone it is recited daily to the extent that no other book in the world, whether religious or secular, is recited. As regards worldly books, they are read once or twice and then discarded, whilst as regards heavenly books and scriptures, it is man's duty to read them throughout his life. However, can one read the Vedas and the Zend Avesta when their very style and form seem so forbidding?
As for the Bible, there is only one book but there are so many editions and revisions that one is amazed. But even more astonishing is the fact that even though there are numerous editions, yet the Bible is not read to any great extent. On Sundays some prayers from it are read in the church and that is the end of the matter.
On the other hand, the Holy Quran is read in our five daily prayers (salah), in the extra night prayers (tarawih) during the month of Ramadan and it is also studied and memorised. In short, there are scores of ways in which the Holy Quran is read and Muslims have considered it so great a duty of theirs to read the Holy Book that the like of it is not met anywhere else in the world. Thus, in this prophecy, the unbelievers are cautioned that whilst they are contemplating ways of discrediting and destroying the Holy Quran, Allah is proclaiming to the world that so extensively will this book be propagated, and so profusely will it be read that there will be no parallel to it in the history of mankind.
Implied in the designation glorious (majid) is a prophecy that not only will the Holy Quran be widely read, but it will attain a rank of exalted honour and profound respect throughout the world. There is no need to mention the reverence and dignity in which it is held by millions and millions of Muslims. However, this prophecy will never ever come to an end for subsumed in it is a prediction that even non-Muslims, in the measure that they acquire true knowledge of the Holy Quran, will be forced to bow their heads before it in acknowledgement of its power and majesty.
Many years ago, a survey was carried out in England by newspapers among wise and highly educated people who were asked their opinion on the following question: "As regards guidance, righteousness, knowledge and Divine gnosis, which is the most honourable and revered book in the world?'
At that time, the Holy Quran was numbered sixth in the list of great books. However, two years later, when the same question was asked once more, and the responses of highly distinguished, educated people were polled, the Holy Quran moved up to second place in the ranking, with the Bible occupying the top position.
Now, if people were to read both the Holy Quran and the Bible dispassionately, they would certainly come to the realisation that to give the Bible precedence over the Holy Quran is only the result of rigid conservatism and blind prejudice for, indeed, the Bible cannot be compared with the Holy Quran.
It is a fervent hope that if the Holy Quran is translated into various languages as is now being done by the Lahore Ahmadiyya Anjuman and also by other notable scholars, and if Islamic literature is published far and wide, then if Allah, Most High, wills, the time is not far off when these very non-Muslims will place the name of the Holy Quran first on the list, and will confess and publish the same sentiments as those publicly expressed by the famous European scholar, Goethe, sometime before:
"I sat down to read the Holy Quran with feelings of hatred and contempt. But as I started to read, I began to feel the power of its noble sentiments surging in my breast, so that by the time I had finished it, my heart was brimming with love for it."
Thus, those unbelievers who were standing on the verge of rejection in the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and even those of our time are addressed and given the warning that despite all the efforts they may choose to expend in order to nullify the influence of the Holy Quran, they will fail, for this book will always occupy a place of dignity and honour in the world.
The phrase, in a guarded tablet (fi lauhim mahfuz), incorporates a prophecy meaning that however hard the unbelievers may strive to destroy the Holy Quran, they will surely fail for it is preserved in a guarded tablet. In other words, no one will be able to erase either the words or the meaning of the Holy Quran. As regards the words, so phenomenal has been Allah's preservation of the Holy Book by means of memorisers, writing and publication that of no other book in the world can such a claim of preservation be made with such certainty as is made by the Holy Quran.
As regards the meaning, the guarding of it refers to the fact that the principles of the Holy Quran embody everlasting truths, the verity and eminence of which cannot be refuted by any worldly philosophy. These are Divine laws, the consequences of which are unchangeable. It contains such verities that if man should reject them, there is no way for him to become the recipient of true happiness and contentment. Furthermore, as the explanation of unseen matters and the prophecies contained in the Holy Quran come from the knowledge of the Almighty, therefore, they are always being fulfilled and will continue to come to pass in the future also. Indeed, world history provides an incontestable testimony to this fact whilst the experience and evidence of life have set a seal on the truth of these matters and are continuing to do so continuously each day.
The nations of the world will never be blessed with real happiness and peace in this life and the hereafter and will never escape from pain and misery until they follow the true teachings of the Holy Quran. Thus, the Holy Quran is protected in such a guarded tablet that no one can ever obliterate it. Whatever is written on worldly tablets can be erased by natural causes or by the hand of man. However, no one can erase what is written on the Divine tablet for such a writing contains the eternal verities which are impossible to be negated. They are Allah's laws the consequences of which are inevitable. Thus, whatever the Holy Quran says is the truth and will always be the truth for it is the word of Allah on a guarded tablet and can never be wiped out nor nullified by man.
We must bear in mind here that the word tablet (lauh) does not refer to something made of wood. Instead, it is used to mean Allah's perfect knowledge and the tablet of His laws and His way. There is no one who can obliterate or falsify His words for they are truths and verities which falsehood cannot approach. They possess supreme majesty and power in which there is no trace of weakness or defect. Thus, fortunate indeed is the person who takes the Holy Quran as the manual for his conduct and way of life.
of the Holy Quran by Dr. Basharat
85 (Al-Buruj - The Stars)