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Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 86: (Al-Tariq: The Comer by Night)



Chapter 86: (Al-Tariq: The Comer by Night)
(Revealed at Makkah: 1 section; 17 verses)

1. Introduction:

This chapter states how great were the difficulties which the Prophet had before him in bringing light to a benighted world, and it is for this reason that he is called The Comer by Night in the first verse, this description giving the chapter its name. He appeared at a time of total darkness and is compared to one who stood in need of knocking at the doors which were shut against him. But he is given the comfort that a spiritual resurrection will be brought about. Before his advent the whole world was submerged in a gulf of ignorance, and the night had lasted for fully six hundred years, and it was no easy task to awaken the world from such a long and deep sleep. That the Holy Prophet was acquainted with the difficulties of his task is borne out by this chapter, which is classed among the earliest revelations. The reference to plans in vv. 15, 16 does not show that that part was revealed later, for while it is true that plans against the Prophet’s life were formed very early, the reference in these verses may be prophetical.

2. Translation:

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

1 By the heaven and the Comer by night!

2 And what will make thee know what the Comer by night is?

3 The star of piercing brightnessa

4 There is not a soul but over it is a keeper.a

5 So let man consider of what he is created.

6 He is created of water pouring forth,

7 Coming from between the back and the ribs.a

8 Surely He is Able to return him (to life).

9 On the day when hidden things are manifested,a

10 Then he will have no strength nor helper.

11 By the cloud giving rain,a

12 And the earth opening (with herbage)!

13 Surely it is a decisive word,a

14 And it is not a joke.

15 Surely they plan a plan,

16 And I plan a plan.

17 So grant the disbelievers a respite — let them alone for a while.a

3. Commentary:

3a. Tariq (from tarq, striking a thing) originally signifies a comer by night, because one who comes by night finds the doors shut, and knocking at the doors becomes necessary (N). The Comer by night is here the Holy Prophet; the revelation of the Qur’an is also spoken of as taking place on a blessed night (44: 3; 97:1). The reason is that the Holy Prophet appeared when total darkness spread on the earth, and no one ever stood more in need of knocking at the doors which were shut against him and fastened with strong bolts. It is noteworthy that Jesus compares his advent to that of a thief: “If the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, ... Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24: 43, 44). It may be added that Tariq is also the name given to the morning star (LL), because it comes at the end of the night. But in that sense too the word is applicable to a great man or a chief, as in the saying of Hind on the day of Uhud: “We are the daughters of the morning-star” (Ar., al-tariq) where the meaning is that we are the daughters of a chief, “likening him to the star in elevation” (LL).

In the third verse the Comer by night is called the star of piercing brightness, indicating that the Comer by night is a star of such resplendent brightness that all darkness will be dispelled before him. [Back to verse 3]

4a. Though the words are general, and signify that the deeds done by man are guarded so that he cannot escape their consequences, there is also a comfort for the Holy Prophet here that his opponents will not be able to harm him and that in time they will meet their doom. This is made clear at the end of the chapter. [Back to verse 4]

7a. Water pouring forth means the sperma genitale. The expression between the back and the ribs is a euphemism. A similar expression occurs in a saying of the Holy Prophet: “Whoever gives me a guarantee as to that which is between his two jaws and that which is between his two feet, I guarantee for him paradise” (Msh. 24:10), the significance being the control of the tongue and the control of lust. [Back to verse 7]

9a. Note this description of the day of Resurrection. The hidden things are the consequences of one’s good or evil deeds, which will be made palpably manifest in the shape of Gardens and fruits or chains and Fire. [Back to verse 9]

11a. Raj‘ (the inf. noun of raja‘a, he returned) means rain, because God returns it time after time, or because the water is raised from the sea and then returned to the earth, by the sama’ here being meant the cloud (LL). [Back to verse 11]

13a. The decisive word is the Holy Qur’an. Just as when rain comes down, the earth produces vegetation, so the coming of the Divine revelation is bound to raise a dead nation to life, and no efforts against it would hamper its progress. There is also a reference to the doom of the disbelievers in v. 10, in the words he will have no strength nor helper. [Back to verse 13]

17a. Whatever doubt there may be as to the significance of this chapter, it is dispelled by the last three verses, which speak of the plans of the opponents to exterminate Truth. The plan of God could not be frustrated, and the earth will receive life, but the Prophet is told to wait for a while. The same is true today. [Back to verse 17]



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Chapter 85: Al-Buruj (The Stars)

Chapter 87: Al-A‘la (The Most High)

Holy Quran Section > English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran by Maulana Muhammad Ali (Table of Contents) > Chapter 86: (Al-Tariq: The Comer by Night)