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Chapter 89:
Al-Fajr — The Daybreak:

Revealed at Makkah: 30 verses

English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali


Introduction:

The important Daybreak which gives its name to this chapter is the first morning of the month of Dhu-l-Hijjah, or the month of pilgrimage, because pilgrimage gave Makkah great importance as a trade centre and made its residents enjoy a life of ease, the trade of the whole country being brought to their very doors. A warning is given here of the punishment that must overtake the city, as punishment overtook ‘Ad, Thamud and others. It is one of the earliest revelations.

Translation:

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

89:1 By the daybreak!

89:2 And the ten nights!

89:3 And the even and the odd!

89:4 And the night when it departs!a

89:5 Truly in this is an oath for men of understanding.

89:6 Hast thou not considered how thy Lord dealt with ‘Ad,

89:7 (Of) Iram,a having lofty buildings,

89:8 The like of which were not created in the land;

89:9 And (with) Thamud, who hewed out rocks in the valley;

89:10 And Pharaoh, the lord of hosts,

89:11 Who exceeded limits in the cities,

89:12 And made great mischief therein?

89:13 So thy Lord poured on them a portion of chastisement.a

89:14 Surely thy Lord is Watchful;

89:15 As for man, when his Lord tries him, then gives him honour and favours him, he says: My Lord honours me.

89:16 But when He tries him, then straitens to him his subsistence, he says: My Lord has disgraced me.a

89:17 Nay, but you honour not the orphan,

89:18 Nor do you urge one another to feed the poor,a

89:19 And you devour heritage, devouring all,a

89:20 And you love wealth with exceeding love.

89:21 Nay, when the earth is made to crumble to pieces,

89:22 And thy Lord comes with the angels, ranks on ranks;

89:23 And hell is made to appear that day.a On that day man will be mindful, and of what use will being mindful be then?b

89:24 He will say: O would that I had sent before for (this) my life!

89:25 But none can punish as He will punish on that day.

89:26 And none can bind as He will bind on that day.a

89:27 O soul that art at rest,

89:28 Return to thy Lord, well-pleased, well-pleasing,

89:29 So enter among My servants,

89:30 And enter My Garden!a

Commentary:

4a. There is a great variety of opinion as to what is meant by the daybreak, the ten nights, and the even and the odd. I think the reference is to the importance attached to Makkah (which is mentioned as The City in the commencement of the next chapter), because it was not only the spiritual centre of Arabia, but had also become its trade centre, on account of pilgrims resorting to it from all parts of Arabia. The daybreak would thus signify the daybreak of the first of the month of Dhu-l-Hijjah; the ten nights would stand for the first ten nights of that month, the tenth day being the day of sacrifices. According to another interpretation, the ten nights are the last ten nights of the month of Ramadan, in which occurs the lailat al-qadr. By the even and the odd, according to a hadith, is meant the prayer which consists of even and odd rak‘ahs (Tr. 44:89). Others however say that by shaf‘ is meant the creation, which consists all of pairs (51:49) and by watr (odd) is meant the Creator (RM). The whole is a warning to the people of Makkah that, if they do not heed the warning, their end will be the same as the end of previous rejecters of truth.

7a. Iram or Aram was, according to one account, the name of the grandfather of ‘Ad, from whom the tribe took its name, and according to another, the name of a city in which it lived. The ‘Ad are here called dhat al-‘imad, the word ‘imad meaning lofty buildings, supported by columns. But dhat al-‘imad may also mean possessing tallness (LL).

13a. Saut signifies primarily the mixing of one thing with another (R). It then comes to signify a whip, but here it means a portion or a share (LL), the significance being that they received a portion of the punishment here, greater punishment overtaking them after death.

16a. As a general statement, it means that God tries man both by granting him affluence, in which case he is puffed up with pride and says that his wealth is an indication that God honours him, and by poverty, in which case he thinks that God has disgraced him. But wealth is no indication of a man’s honour.

18a. Vv. 17 and 18, as also the 19th, show how the Prophet felt for the orphans, the poor and the weak, so much so that he warns his powerful and wealthy opponents that their indifference to the orphans and the poor and their injustice to the weak will bring down upon them the Divine judgment, which will shatter their power. As he was in the beginning so he remained to the end, a true well-wisher of the weak and the oppressed. And when he became the head of a State, he provided for the orphans and the poor out of the public funds, thus forestalling the Poor Laws and Old Age Pensions by thirteen centuries; see 9:60.

19a. Among the Arabs, women and young children were not allowed to have any share in the inheritance, because they could not fight the enemy.

23a. The crumbling to pieces of the earth, the coming of the Lord with angels, and the appearance of hell, refer equally to the punishment in this life as to that in the next.

23b. Being “mindful” is of no use to a man when punishment overtakes him.

26a. These words indicate the severity of the punishment.

30a. The concluding verses of this chapter refer to the highest stage of the spiritual development of man, the stage in which he rests contented with his Lord, and finds his quietude, his happiness, and his delight in Him. This is the heavenly life. It has already been noted — see 12:53a and introductory note to ch. 75 — that the Holy Qur’an recognises three stages in spiritual development, the ammarah or the animal stage (12:53), the lawwamah or the human stage (75:2), and the mutma‘innah or the heavenly or spiritual stage, mentioned here. At this last stage, the pure and perfect sincerity, truth and righteousness of a person are rewarded by Almighty God by granting him a heaven on this earth. All others look to a prospective paradise, but he enters paradise in this very life. It is at this stage, too, that a person realizes that the prayers and worship which at first appeared to him as a burden are really a nourishment on which the growth of his soul depends, and that this is the basis of his spiritual development. The spirit — which in the second stage, although blaming a man for the impurities of life, is yet powerless to resist the evil tendencies, or to blot them out wholly, and too infirm to establish a man upon the principle of virtue with firmness — now reaches a stage of development in which its efforts are crowned with success. The state of struggle with sinful propensities passes away, an entire change comes over the nature of man, and the former habits undergo a complete transformation.

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