In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful
1. "By the Sky full of constellations,"
2. "By the promised Day (of Judgment),"
3. "By the Witness and the Witnessed."
4. "Cursed were the makers of the pit (of fire),"
5. "Of the fuel-fed fire (kept burning),"
6. "When they sat by it,"
7. "And they were witnesses of what they did to the believers."
8. "They were vengeful towards them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah, the Almighty, the Praiseworthy,"
9. "Him, to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is Witness over everything."
The Believers and the Pyres:
We know that the believers of Mecca were in terrible trouble, at the beginning, and their enemies did whatever they could to torture them. As it was mentioned earlier, the objective of the revelation of the Sura is to warn these persecutors so that they may consider the destiny of the past tyrannical generations and, on the other hand, it is a soothing message for the early believers of Mecca and a strengthening for their spirits. Furthermore, it is a lesson to Muslims throughout history.
"By the Sky full of constellations".
The term / buruj / is the plural form of / burj / which originally means 'a castle' or 'a tower'. Some have rendered it to anything that is apparent, manifest or conspicuous, high or elevated; hence /burj/ is applied to a certain kind of structure. Also, /burj/ is used to define an angle of a fortress, or of a surrounding wall of a city, which is more conspicuous; and sometimes a fortress, itself, is called /burj/.
The celestial bodies are either the bright stars of the sky, or the 'constellations', that is, 'a number of fixed stars arbitrarily considered as a group' usually named after some mythological beings that they supposedly resemble an outline, or the broad belt of the constellations marking the twelve Signs of the Zodiac. Each makes the solar path through the heavens, as we see it, month after month . (Indeed, the sun is rather fixed and the earth rotates round the sun, but, to us it seems to be the contrary.)
Whichever of them the oath is made to, it denotes to its greatness which, perhaps, was not completely known to Arabs at that time, but it is clear to us, today, though it seems that the meaning is 'the bright stars of the sly'.
The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is narrated to have said, on the commentary of the verse, that: "It means the stars." 
"By the promised Day (of Judgement)"
The appointed Day that all the prophets spoke about and hundreds of verses of the Holy Qur'an warned of. The Day that "Those of old and those of later times." "All will certainly be gathered together for the meeting appointed for the Day", (Sura Waqi'ah, No. 56, verses 49-50), and the account of all will be made clear.
* * * *
And, in the third and fourth oaths, it says: "By the Witness and the Witnessed."
There are many commentaries given on the meaning of the terms / ŝahid / 'witness' and / maŝhud / 'witnessed'. There are more than thirty, of which the following are the most outstanding:
1. The 'Witness' is the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) as Sura Ahzab, No. 33 verse 45 says: "O prophet! Truly We have sent you as a Witness, a Bearer of Glad Tidings and a Warner".
And the 'Witnessed' is the Day of Judgment, as Sura Hud, No.11, verse 103 says: "...that is a Day for which mankind will be gathered together: that will be a Day of Testimony".
2. The 'Witness', / ŝahid /, is the witnesses to Man's deeds like his limbs, as mentioned in Sura Nur, No. 24, verse 24: "On the Day when their tongues, their hands, and their feet will bear witness against them as to their actions".
And the 'Witnessed', / maŝhud /, is people and their deeds.
3. The 'Witness' is Friday which is witness to the community of Muslims in the great ceremony of 'Friday Prayers'.
And the 'Witnessed' is 'Arafah Day ' when the pilgrims, of Kaaba, are the visitors on that Day (the ninth day of Zilhajj). This very commentary has been narrated from the Prophet, Imam Baqir, and Imam Sadiq (p.b.u.th.). 
4. The 'Witness ' is ' the Feast of Sacrifice ', and the ' Witnessed ' is 'Arafah Day '.
A narration says that once a man came into the Mosque of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), / masjid-an-nabi /, and saw a person who was reciting traditions of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). He asked him for the commentary of this verse and the person there answered in the affirmative that /ŝahid/ the 'Witness' is Friday and / maŝhud / the 'Witnessed' is 'the Feast of Sacrifice Day'. He passed him and saw another person who was also reciting. Then he asked him about the commentary of the verse and he answered: / ŝahid / the 'Witness' is Friday and / maŝhud / the 'Witnessed' is 'the Feast of Sacrifice Day'. He continued walking, and met a young man who was very handsome and he, too, was narrating traditions from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). He asked him to tell him about the commentary of the verse and the young man answered: / ŝahid / 'the Witness' is Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) and / maŝhud / the 'Witnessed' is the Day of Judgment. He added: "Have you not heard that Allah says: 'O Prophet! Truly We have sent you as a Witness, a Bearer of Glad Tidings and a Warner', and have you not also heard that He says: 'That is a Day for which mankind will be gathered together: that will be a Day of Testimony'?"
The writer of this incident says: "I asked about the first person and I was answered that it was Ibn-Abbas, the answer for the second person was 'Abdiullah-ibn-'Umar, and the third one was Hassan-ibn-'Ali (p.b.u.h)." 
5. The 'Witness' is 'nights and days', and the 'Witnessed' is 'Mankind' whose deeds they witnessed, as it is said from Imam Zayn-al- 'abidin (p.b.u.h) in 'the morning and evening supplications': "This is a new day which is witness to our deeds. When we do good, it leaves us praiseworthy, and when we do evil, it leaves us scorned." 
6. The 'Witness' is 'angels' and the 'Witnessed' is 'the Qur'an'.
7. The 'Witness' is 'the Black Stone' and the 'Witnessed' is 'the persons who have performed pilgrimage to Mecca' who pass by 'the Black Stone' and touch it.
8. The 'Witness' is people and the 'Witnessed' is Allah.
9. The 'Witness' is the 'Muslim Community', and the 'Witnessed' is other nations, as Sura Baqarah. No. 2, verse 143 says: "... that you might be witnesses over the nations".
10. The 'Witness' is the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) and the 'Witnessed' is other prophets, as Sura Nisa No. 4, verse 41 attests: ''and We brought you as a witness against these."
11. Or the 'Witness' is the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.), and the 'Witnessed' is Amir-al-Momineen Ali (p.b.u.h).
Of course, the quality of this verse, in comparison with the previous verses, demands that / ŝahid / the ' Witness ' be the Day of Judgment, whether it be the Prophet of Islam or other prophets over their nations, the angels, Man's limbs, and the like; and / maŝhud / the 'Witnessed' to be Mankind or their deeds.
Thus, most of the above mentioned commentaries join and come under one category with a broad sense.
However, the commentaries such as 'Friday', 'Arafah Day ', and 'the Feast of Sacrifice Day' are separate from this meaning; though they are also among the witnesses of the Day of Judgment and the witnesses of man's deeds. Each of them, consisting of a large number of people even in this life, metaphorically resembles the Resurrection.
Taking note of the above explanation, it will be obvious that there is no contrast in the mentioned commentaries. All of them may gather in the meaning of the 'witness' and the 'witnessed' in a vast scope. This is one of the signs of the importance of the Holy Qur'an whose meanings are so broad that many different commentaries can be applied to them. It is because /ŝahid/ the 'Witness' concludes any witness and /maŝhud/ the 'Witnessed' covers anything that can be witnessed. They are mentioned in 'indefinite form', which shows their importance which was explained, definitely, in the above commentaries.
It is noteworthy that there is a delicate relation between these four parts, on the one hand, and the subjects that the oaths are for, on the other hand. The sky and its bright stars and ordered constellations are signs of regularity and account. 'The promised Day (of Judgment)' is a definite scene of 'reckoning' upon 'the book'. The 'Witness' and the 'Witnessed' are also some means by which reckoning is precisely done. The oaths are for the persecutors to be warned that surely their evil deeds against the believers are recorded and kept for 'the promised Day of Judgment'. And the witnesses around us, from angels, limbs of the body, the days and nights, and the like, are watchful of these deeds and they will bear witness to them on that Day.
Then, after these oaths, it says:
"Cursed were the makers of the pit (of fire),"
"Of the fuel-fed fire (kept burning),"
"When they sat by it,"
"And they were witnesses of what they did to the believers."
The term /uxdud/, as Raqib says in his book 'Mufradat', means 'a wide and deep ditch spread on the land', or in other words, the vast pits or trenches are called 'Okhdud' whose plural form is / axadid / and is basically derived from /xadd/ which means 'a deep trench in the ground, or a pit, a ditch' or the like, dug, or excavated; and originally it is derived from the /xadd/ of Man with the sense of 'the part bordering upon the nose, on either side (on the right and on the left where the tears flow when one weeps)'. It is used metaphorically for the ditches that appear on the surface of the earth; (and later, as an active meaning in practice).
To answer the question of who the makers of the pit of fire were, in which they burnt people for their Faith, and while they were alive; the commentators and historians have delivered some different ideas which will be dealt with under the title of 'Explanation' later. But, it is certain that they had excavated and prepared some deep pits of fire to make the true believers leave their Faith. When the believers persisted, the persecutors threw them into the fire and burnt them alive.
The term / waqud / basically means a substance by which fire is made (like wood). Any fire needs something, such as wood, and the like to be burnt, but /that-al-waqud/ points to the abundance of fire that they used; then naturally, the resulting fire had been an immense one; and that is why the term has been interpreted to 'burning fire'.
Some authorities think that /waqud/ carries two meanings: one is 'wood' and the other is 'flame'. But, this idea is not acceptable.
The objective point in the verse: "When they sat by it," and the verse after that, is that some pagans were sitting and watching them burning not only indifferent, but, also enjoying it. That was a sign of their utmost hard-heartedness.
Some have also said that these persons were the appointed interrogators and the persecutors of the believers to cause them to leave the true religion.
Still others believe that they were two groups of people: one group was the persecutors and the other was the spectators; and since the spectators were pleased with what the persecutors did, then, this action was attributed to all of them. And, it is natural that in situations like this a group of men are always performers and some others are spectators. Besides, chiefs usually instruct while subordinates obey.
It is also said that there were some people sitting and watching the persecutions to see that the persecutors did not offend their duties and bore witness, before the king, that they had done their duties well.
The combination of these different groups, for the fulfillment of the action, does not seem improbable. Therefore, all of the above mentioned commentaries can be considered together.
At any rate, the form of the verb in the Arabic text denotes that the action was continued for a length of time.
* * * *
"They were vengeful towards them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah, the Almighty, the Praiseworthy,"
Verily, the believers had no fault, but that of their Faith in the True God, Allah. They believed in Allah, the Absolute Perfection, Who is Mighty, and is Worthy of all Praise. Was the belief in such a God a sin, or was the belief in powerless irrational gods?
The term / naqamu/ is derived from / naqam/ which means: 'to devour, to dislike, to reject' by tongue, or by practice through punishment and vengeance.
Surely an action like that is done in great sin, not for the Belief in Allah, Who is exalted in Power and Worthy of all Praise. This makes it clear that how ignorant they were and how low their culture had been that they considered their greatest sin as their greatest pride.
This resembles the idea in Sura A'raf. No.5, verse 126 that sorcerers, after believing in Moses and being threatened with persecution and death by Pharach, told him: "But thou dost wreak thy vengeance on us simply because we believed in the Signs of our Lord..."
The terms /'aziz/ 'the Almighty' and /hamid/ 'the praiseworthy' are, indeed, a reply to their iniquities and a proof against them. Meanwhile, they are also a threat and warning to all the doers of persecution, throughout history, that Allah, the 'Almighty', and the 'Praiseworthy', keeps watch over them.
* * * *
Then, talking about two other divine qualities, it says:
"Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is Witness over everything."
Indeed, these four divine qualities: 'Almighty, (Omnipotent), Praiseworthy, ownership of the kingdom of heavens and the earth, and Omniscient' are of those that establish the propriety of servitude.
Also, it is a glad tiding to the believers that Allah is attentive and watchful over their perseverance and patience in defending Faith, and He sees their sacrifices and devotions. These are the facts that give them power and satisfaction.
On the other hand, they are threats and warnings for their enemies to know that Allah is Mighty but, He leaves them alone in order to examine them; and, at last, they will receive the painful chastisement for their evil deeds.
Who Were 'The Makers of The Pit of fire'?
It was said before that /uxdud/ means 'a wide and deep ditch' and here, it means 'some great pits full of fuel-fed fire prepared by the persecutors for the purpose of burning the believers'.
There is no agreement among the authorities, both commentators and historians, as to the time and place of the incident whether it has been a single event or the happening refers to numerous events similar to that in different parts of the world.
The most famous one is that of Zu-Nuwas, the last Himyrite king of Yemen.
Zu-Nuwas, who was by religion a Jew, named himself Yusef. The members of Himyrite followed him as Jews. Then, after a length of time, he was informed that a group of people in Najran, a zone in the north of Yemen, were still Christian. His companions compelled him to force the group to be Jewish. He moved to Najran and gathered the inhabitants of the area. Offering them the Jewish religion, he insisted that they accept it, but they did not. They refused the religion and accepted to suffer death, instead.
Zu-Nuwas ordered his men to dig a large ditch and fill it with wood, then he lit a great fire. Some of them were thrown into it and burnt alive. Some others were killed by the sword and were torn into pieces. Altogether, the number of deaths was about twenty thousand.
It is cited that one of the Christians of Najran fled from the event and went to the Roman Caesar in Rome and asked him for help against Zu-Nuwas.
Caesar replied that Najran was far from his country, but, he would write a letter to the king of Abyssinia, who was a Christian and whose country was neighbouring to the man's, and would ask him to help. He wrote that letter and demanded that the Abyssinian king to take revenge on that terrible murderer. The man from Najran went to the King, Najashi, who became very saddened when he heard the story of Najran. He felt pity for the extinguishment of the light of Christianity, there, and decided to take revenge.
The Abyssinian army hastened to Yemen and defeated Zu-Nuwas' troops, killing a great many of them. Then, before long, they took Yemen and Najashi rulled it as a state of Abyssinia.
Some commentators have cited that the length of the ditch was 40 cubits and its width was 12 cubits. (A cubit was equal to half a meter. Sometimes, in other places, it was used instead of /gez/ which was a measure for one meter.) Some other commentators have cited that there were seven ditches each of which had been as large as the above mentioned one.
This event has been narrated, differently, in numerous books of commentary and history including Majma' - al - Bayan by Tabarsi, Abul-Futuh Razi's Commentary, Tafsir - i - Kabir by Fakhr - i - Razi, Ruh - al - Ma'ali by Aloosi, Qartabi's Commentary, Sirah by Ibn- Hosham, and many others.
As it was mentioned before, the cruel persecutors were finally punished in this world and were revenged for the murders they had committed. The punishment of blazing fire in the Hereafter is waiting for them, too.
These 'crematoriums', which were made by those Jews, are said to be probably the first ones in history. But, it is surprising that this very cruel innovation was used against the Jews, themselves, and, as it is known, many Jews were burnt in crematoriums, on Hitler's orders, in Germany; and the example of the 'Punishment of the Burning Fire' happened to them even in this world.
In addition to this, Zu-Nuwas, the main establisher of this horrible innovation, himself, was not safe from his evil deeds.
The above lines about 'the makers of the pit of fire' are according to popular attitudes, but there are also other narrations which say that 'the makers of the pit of fire' were not only those in Yemen at the time of Zu-Nuwas, but in other locations and at different times. Commentators have cited up to ten narrations about them.
A narration that has been cited from Amir-al-Motmineen Ali (p.b.u.h.) says: "And the Magi had a 'Book' and they acted according to their Holy Book. One of their kings married with his sister and the woman wanted him to announce that marriage with ones' sister' is lawful, but his people did not accept this. So, the king had some of the believing people, who opposed his instruction, thrown into a pit of fire." 
This is about 'the makers of the pit of fire' in Fars (Old Persia, i.e. Iran). There is a citation about 'the makers of the pit of fire' in Sham, as well, where there lived some believing people who were burnt in a pit of dire by Antiyakhus.
Some have also referred this event to the companions of Daniel, he famous prophet of the Israelites who are mentioned in the book of Daniel from the Torah, and Tha'labi has applied 'the makers of the pit of fire', in Fars, to them.
It is not improbable that 'the makers of the pit of fire' includes all of hem, although the most famous example of it is the story of Zu-Nuwas in Yemen.
Resistance in Keeping Faith.
There are numerous examples, in history, of people who suffered fatal persecutions for their beliefs. They agreed, eagerly, to be killed but, did not leave their Faith. History has so many stories of this kind: some of the Faithful were hanged, some were murdered by the sword, and some were burnt to death.
The story of 'asiya, Pharaoh's wife, is well known. She was persecuted terribly for her Faith to Moses, the son of 'Imran, so much ao that she died because of the torture.
A narration from Amir-al-Momineen Ali (p.b.u.h.) says: "Allah appointed a man to prophethood from among the people of Abyssinia for them, but they refused him. They fought against him and his followers in which, finally, some of the prophet's votaries were killed and some others were captured and kept along with the prophet himself as captives. Then they prepared a ditch full of blazing fire, and called people to come beside it. They commanded that any of them who followed the same religion as theirs could go aside and those who believed in the prophet's religion and that of is votaries should throw themselves into the fire. The prophet's followers, who could do nothing, bravely threw themselves into the fire. They outran each other (as if in a competition). Then, at that moment there came a woman carrying a one-month-old baby. She went to throw herself into the fire but suddenly her motherly affection stopped her. Then the little baby called her and said: 'Do not fear, Mother, throw yourself and me both. By Allah, surely this is a little thing on the path of Allah...' And this baby was one of those who spoke in the cradle." 
This story tells us that there had been another example of 'the makers of the pit of fire' in Abyssinia.
The story of 'Ammar-Yasir's parents and some others, like them, in addition to the story of Imam Hosain and his companions who proceeded to be killed as martyrs, are famous in Islamic history.
In our time, we ourselves, have seen or have heard many examples of young and old people who willingly wished to be martyred for the sake of their Faith and religion. Then, as a conclusion, it should be said that the existence of the Divine religions, in the past and present, depended on these devotions and martyrdoms.
 Durr-ul-Manthur, vol. 6, p. 331
 Majma.-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 466.
 Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 543.
 Sahifah-Sajjadiyah, Sixth Supplication.
 Tafsir-i- 'Ali-'bn-lbrahim-Qummi, vol. 2, p. 414.
 Qisas-i-Qur'an, Balaqi, p. 288.
 A'lam-i-Qur'an, p. 137-138.
 TafsIr-i- Ayashi; narrated in
Al-Mizan, vol. 20, p. 377.