16. "But nay! I swear by the glow of the sunset,"
17. "And by the night and that which it gathers together (in one herd)".
18. "And the moon when it grows full,"
19. "That you shall most certainly enter one stage after another."
20. "What then is the matter with them that they do not believe?"
21. "And when the Qur'an is recited to them they do not fail prostrate" *
22. "Nay, those who disbelieve reject (it)."
23. "And Allah knows best what they keep secret (in their breasts)."
24. "So announce to them a painful punishment,"
25. "Except those who believe and work righteous deeds: for them is a reward unending."
You Are Continuously Changing.
After the description of Man's development, stage by stage, unto his Lord that we had discussed in the former verses, we will see a conformation of the same fact, with more details, in the following verses. It says: "But Nay! I swear by the glow of the sunset," "And by the night, and that which it gathers together (in one herd)". "And the moon when it grows full," "That you shall most certainly enter one stage after another."
The word / la / in the term /fa-la-uqsimu/ is expletive and is used for emphasis, here.
The term /ŝafaq/, here, as Raqib cites in Mufradat, means 'redness' of the sky after sunset which mixes with the darkness of nightfall.
Fakhr - i - Razi believes that the term /ŝafaq/ originally means 'thinness', and therefore, a very thin dress is called /ŝafaq/ and /ŝafaqat/ is used in the case of one having a 'thin' heart. (But, Raqib's statement seems to be more appropriate).
In any case, Allah swears by it to make everyone think about this beautiful natural phenomenon, because 'sunset' announces a deep revelation in the world, that is, the day ends and the night begins, and also, it is the time of the sunset prayer; 'Maghrib'.
To swear by the night is for the reason that night is a hiding place for secrets and mysteries.
The term /wasaq/, conveying the meaning of 'to gather together (in one herd)', points to one of the great secrets of the night. At nightfall all the wandering flocks and herds come home. The men that had scattered abroad, for their livelihood, return home to rest and sleep. The night collects them in their homes. This idea is also carried in Sura Mo'min. No. 40, verse 61 when it says: "It is Allah who has made the Night for you, that you may rest therein...".
The moon and its glorious silver light, especially when it is full at night, is one of Allah's signs and that is why He swears by it.
It is interesting to note that these four parts point to the cases and varieties that continually occur in the created world: the sun sets, its redness appears in the sky, living creatures rush to their home, and the moon rises in full. It should be noted that on the night before the fourteenth day of the month, the moon rises from the beginning of the night, by which these oaths are said, and that is a basis for the verse: "That you shall most certainly enter one stage after another", which illustrates the different states in the life of Man.
There are various commentaries for this sentence. Some of them are as follows:
1. Man travels and ascends, stage by stage, towards the Absolute perfection. He strives hard; first in this world, then in the partition and then in Resurrection, with the different states that they have.
2. Man has different stages of development, from the time he is the sperm form, until death. They are considered about thirty seven stages by some people.
3. Man bears various opposites in his life: health and sickness, chess and happiness, hardship and ease, war and peace.
4. Man will face many different hard situations in the Hereafter until he receives the consequence of his reckoning; Heaven or Hell.
5. In ancient times people had many varieties of pleasant and unpleasant adventures; or that the unbelieving people among the Muslim community displayed various denials and rejections of Islam. This idea is said to be narrated from Imam Sadiq (p.b.u.h.).
All the above commentaries are possible, of course, and the verse may refer to all of them together.
In any event, the occurrence of these states to Man and the lack of constancy in his position, on the one hand, is an evidence to the fact at he is 'a created thing' and necessarily has a Creator, because every changeable thing is a creature and all creatures have a Creator; and on the other hand, it is an evidence to the lack of immortality for this world; also it is a sign for Man's constant movement and development toward his Lord, to the Resurrection; as was mentioned in verse 6: "0 man! Surely you are ever toiling on towards your Lord; painfully toiling, until you meet Him." Then, as a general consequence it inquires: "What then is the matter with them that they do not believe?" How can they ignore the immense gifts and benefits they have from Allah? They have clear evidences and signs for theism, theology and Resurrection, both in outer nature like day and night, sun and moon, light and darkness, sunrise and sunset with its redness; and inner nature from the mother's womb in the form of sperm; to other stages one after another until death, but they do not believe. Why do they not accept of Allah's grace instead of disputing about it?
* * * *
Then it turns from the creation to the revelation and says: "And when the Qur'an is recited to them they do not fall prostrate." * The Holy Qur'an is so bright and clear that it is a good evidence for itself and that its content is from the Divine source. ' Prostrate ', here, means ' humble gratitude to Allah ', and ' to fall prostrate ' which is the act of putting the forehead on the ground for the prayer, is one of the examples of this general sense. Perhaps for the same reason, as it is narrated, when the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) recited these verses he fell prostrate.
"Nay, those who disbelieve reject (it)." The verb form used in the Arabic text, which is usually applied in a continuous case, shows their constant rejection. That constancy was not because of the revelation being inadequate, but it was based on their blind imitation of their father's behaviour and following their own interests and their lusts.
"And Allah knows best what they keep secret (in their breasts)". Allah is aware of their thoughts and aims, and, also, of the motives causing those constant rejections. Then, whatever more they keep secret, finally He will punish them.
The term / yu'un/ is derived from / wi'a'/ 'container'. The very word is used in a statement narrated from Hazrat Ali (p.b.u.h.) in Nahj-ul-Balagha which says: "Verily these hearts are containers. The best of them is that which has a better ability to preserve its contents and a bigger capacity to hold more".
"So give them tiding of a painful punishment".
The term /baŝŝir/ is usually used for 'announcing good news' but, sometimes, it is used ironically. The believers are informed of the immense blessings of Heaven while blame is put on the unbelievers and causes them to be regretful and begrudging.
In the last verse of this Sura, the fate of those good-doers from among the believers is again mentioned as an exception where it says: "Except those who believe and work righteous deeds: for them is a reward unending."
The term / mamnun / is derived from / mann / which means both 'cease' and 'decline' and also 'indebtedness'. The word /manun/ 'death' is, also, based on it. All these senses may be understood from the term, in this verse, because, inspite of the blessings in this human world, which are diminishable and ever changing and often mixed with undesired consequences or indebtedness given by this person or that person, the blessings of that spiritual world are followed by no indebtedness, declension or undesired consequences.
This exception is apparently joined to the earlier descriptions, about the unbelievers in the former verses, in order to give a way to the disbelievers and to say that certainly that painful punishment will be removed from those who repent and believe and do good and they will given a Reward that will never fail.
* * * *
The late ' Tabarsi ' in 'MaJma'-al-Bayan' has rendered the last verses of this Sura to mean 'free-will', since it is not praiseworthy for Allah, the Wisest, to blame those who do not fall prostrate and believe, when they are forced to. And, when it says: "What then is the matter with them that they do not believe?", "And when the Qur'an is recited to them they do not fall prostrate", * is a clear evidence for 'free-will' . Again, blame for leaving the prostration is a reason for the fact that the disbelievers should not only follow the primary Principles of religion, but, also should perform the secondary precepts of religion, as well.
O Lord! Take our reckoning easy on the Day when all attend at Your Judgment.
O Lord! Help us to go the Right Path when all human beings are ever toiling on towards You until they meet You.
O Lord! We have obeyed Your Message, the Holy Qur'an, bestow on us the grace to act accordingly.
(The Rending Asunder)