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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 53 (Al-Najm- The Start) > Section 1 (Verses 1 to 25)



Section/Ruku 1 [Verses 1 to 25]: Eminence to be attained by the Prophet:
Chapter 53: (Al-Najm: The Star)
(Revealed at Makkah: 3 sections; 62 verses)

1. Introduction:

The word Star, which gives its name to this chapter, occurs in the first verse. The last chapter deals with the success of the faithful and the destruction of their enemies and this speaks of the eminence to which the Holy Prophet would rise. The first section states that the Prophet does not err, and would rise to the highest eminence to which man can rise. The second section states that nothing can avail against Truth, while the third refers to Allah’s power as manifested in the destruction of falsehood. The date of the revelation of this chapter may be assigned to the fifth year of the call.

2. Translation:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

1 By the star when it sets!a

2 Your companion errs not, nor does he deviate.a

3 Nor does he speak out of desire.

4 It is naught but revelation that is revealeda

5 One Mighty in Power has taught him,a

6 The Lord of Strength. So he attained to perfection,a

7 And he is in the highest part of the horizon.a

8 Then he drew near, drew nearer yet,a

9 So he was the measure of two bows or closer still.a

10 So He revealed to His servant what He revealed.a

11 The heart was not untrue in seeing what he saw.

12 Do you then dispute with him as to what he saw?a

13 And certainly he saw Him in another descent,

14 At the farthest lote-tree.a

15 Near it is the Garden of Abode.

16 When that which covers covered the lote-tree;

17 The eye turned not aside, nor did it exceed the limit.

18 Certainly he saw of the greatest signs of his Lord.

19 Have you then considered Lat and ‘Uzza,

20 And another, the third, Manat?

21 Are the males for you and for Him the females?a

22 This indeed is an unjust division!

23 They are naught but names which you have named, you and your fathers— Allah has sent no authority for them. They follow but conjecture and what (their) souls desire. And certainly the guidance has come to them from their Lord.

24 Or shall man have what he wishes?

25 But for Allah is the Hereafter and the former (life).

3. Commentary:

1a. The words may be interpreted variously, according to the meaning of najm and hawa that is adopted. The best-known significance of najm is star, and when used as a proper noun it signifies the Pleiades, and hawa may signify, going down low (R). The Arabs believed that when al-Najm (the Pleiades) rose in the morning, disasters and calamities came to an end. Thus we have under the word najm: "The Arabs believed that between its rising in the morning and its disappearance there are diseases and plagues and calamities for men and camels and fruits" (R). In the setting of the star the opponents are warned of the calamities which would soon overtake them; their star of fortune was about to set.

There is, however, a less-known significance of the word najm. It sometimes means a portion of the Qur’an (Bd, Rz, Kf). Kf says: "Or najm indicates one of the portions of the Qur’an, and it was revealed in portions, during twenty years. Hawa means when it descends or is revealed". R gives the following interpretation: "And it is said that by this (i.e., najm) is meant the Qur’an as revealed in portions, one part after another. And by His saying hawa is meant its revelation; and the same interpretation must be adopted in His saying bi-mawaqi‘l-nujum" (56:75). The meaning is that every portion of the Qur’an when it is revealed is an evidence that the Prophet errs not — he is in the right. Thus there is a reference here to the internal evidence which is offered in every portion of the Qur’an that it is the Truth. [Back to verse 1]

2a. By your companion is meant the Prophet, who had led among this very people a life of unblemished purity. There are two statements made here; erring on his part is negatived in the first to show that he had a true knowledge or he did not err in theory, and deviation from the right course is negatived in the second to show that he acted according to that knowledge, or his practice accorded with the theory. This verse is a conclusive proof that according to the Holy Qur’an the Prophet was perfectly sinless. [Back to verse 2]

4a. The personal pronoun huwa (it) occurring here refers to the najm or portion of the Qur’an spoken of in the first verse. The Qur’an was not his word, for he spoke not of his own desire; it was the word of God. [Back to verse 4]

5a. It is not correct to take the One Mighty in Power as meaning Gabriel. The One Who taught him was God Himself as plainly stated elsewhere: "The Beneficent (has) taught the Qur’an" (55:1, 2). [Back to verse 5]

6a. Istawa means he became full-grown and mature in body and intellect, or he attained the completion of his make and intellect (LL). There is no mention of Gabriel; the personal pronoun, therefore, does not refer to him. It is the Holy Prophet that is spoken of here as having attained to perfection because the Almighty Himself was his Teacher. [Back to verse 6]

7a. The Prophet’s being in the highest part of the horizon is in reference to the resplendence of his light, which was to illuminate all corners of the world — a prophecy, in fact, that he will shine out in the full brilliance of his light as the midday sun. [Back to verse 7]

8a. Tadalla signifies he was lowly or humble (LL), but it also means al-dunuww or being near (R). According to LA, the meaning is zada fi-l-qurb, he increased in nearness. The verse points out that the Prophet attained the utmost nearness unto God which it is possible for man to attain. [Back to verse 8]

9a. The qab of a qaus is the portion of a bow that is between the part that is grasped by the hand and the curved extremity (LL). According to Qatadah, its meaning is from one extremity of the bow to the other extremity (AH). According to Hasan and Mujahid, the qab is from the chord to the middle of the bow near the place grasped by the hand (AH). N and LA favour measure (qadr) as the meaning of qab, and the latter quotes the Arab proverb baina-huma qaba qausain, i.e., between them two is the measure of a bow, which is a proverb to indicate close relationship between two persons. There is another proverb, ramau-na ‘an qaus-in wahid-in, meaning they shot at us from one bow, denoting agreement (LL). Whatever significance of the word qab may be adopted, the mention of a single qab for two bows indicates close union. The two bows seem to indicate the Holy Prophet’s twofold perfection, i.e., his nearness to the Divine Being and his humility in his relations with men. The commentators generally understand the phrase as only indicating the distance of two bows. [Back to verse 9]

10a. The ma (what) in ma auha (i.e., what He revealed) is according to all commentators for the purpose of tafkhim, i.e., to indicate that a mighty revelation was given to him. [Back to verse 10]

12a. That is, what he saw was a certain truth and not an imaginary picture. [Back to verse 12]

14a. The sidrah, or the lote-tree, is, in Arabia, the tree in the shade of which people alight and rest (LL), or in the shade of which people gather together (Bd). The word occurs elsewhere in the Qur’an as indicating a tree in paradise (56:28), and R thus explains the word: "And the shade of it is sought, and thus it is made to serve as a parable for the shade of paradise and its blessings in the words fi sidr-in makhdud-in on account of the ampleness of its shadow". As for its meaning in this verse, the same authority takes it either as meaning a place in which the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him!) was chosen for Divine favours and great blessings, or as signifying the tree under which the companions of the Holy Prophet took the pledge at Hudaibiyah to defend him with their lives, the mention in the latter case being prophetical. The qualification of sidrah by the word al-muntaha shows that it is a place beyond which human knowledge does not go, one of the explanations given by Kf being, "the knowledge of angels and others ends there, and no one knows what is beyond it". Hence the significance conveyed by the words is that the Prophet’s knowledge of things Divine was the utmost which could be vouchsafed to man. According to some it conveys the same significance as ‘illiyyun in 83:18 (LL), for which see 83:18a. [Back to verse 14]

21a. Verses 19 –21 are made the basis of the false story of what is called the "Lapse of Muhammad" or "Compromise with idolatry" by Christian writers. Certain reports narrated by Waqidi and Tabari are the sole authority for this charge against that incessant preacher against idolatry, every incident of whose life condemns it as a bare falsehood. Muir asserts that "Pious Muhammadans of after-days, scandalized at the lapse of their Prophet into so flagrant a concession, would reject the whole story," as if the earlier Muslims were not as pious as the latter. The fact is that the story was quite unknown to the earlier Muslims. There is not a single trustworthy hadith that lends support to this story. Muhammad ibn Ishaq, who died as early as 151 A.H., does not mention the incident, while Muir’s earliest authority, Waqidi, was born more than forty years later. It is stated in the Bahrain that when questioned about it, Ibn Ishaq called it a fabrication of the zindeeqs. And the famous Bukhari, the most trustworthy authority on the sayings of the Holy Prophet, was Waqidi’s contemporary, and his collection of sayings contains no mention of the story. As regards Waqidi, all competent authorities entertain a very low opinion of his trustworthiness. The Mizan al-I‘tidal, a critical work on the lives and characters of the reporters of Hadith, speaks of Waqidi as unreliable and even as a fabricator of reports. As regards Tabari, Muir himself represents him as guilty of "indiscriminate reception". As against these two unreliable authorities, "those who reject this story are highly learned men" (Ruh al-Ma‘ani). The six collections of reports known as the Sihah Sittah (or the Six Reliable Works) do not mention it at all, and contain instead a report which essentially contradicts the story of the so-called compromise. Internal evidence, too, is wholly against the story. We are told that instead of v. 21 the Prophet read the words: Tilk al-gharaniq al-‘ula wa inna shafa‘ata-hunna la-turtaja, i.e., "These are exalted females whose intercession is to be sought". But the insertion of these few words in a chapter which is wholly directed against idolatry is quite out of place: v. 23 condemns idols; v. 26 denies their intercession; v. 28 condemns the giving of names of female deities to angels, and so on. It is further asserted that 22:52 was revealed in connection with this change, but it should be noted that a period of at least eight years must have elapsed between the revelation of this verse and that of 22:52. Moreover, if the Prophet had made any such compromise, it could not have been a sudden event, and traces of it would have been met with in other chapters revealed about the same time. But a perusal of these shows clearly that the Qur’an’s condemnation of idolatry was never marked by the slightest change. See further 62a. [Back to verse 21]



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Section 2: Nothing avails against Truth

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Chapter 52: Al-Tur (The Mountain)

Chapter 54: Al-Qamar (The Moon)

Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 53 (Al-Najm- The Start) > Section 1 (Verses 1 to 25)

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