بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
In the Name of Allah, the All-beneficent, the All-merciful.
By the sky, by the Morning Star, (86:1).
وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الطَّارِقُ
and what will show you what is the Morning Star? (86:2).
It is the brilliant star): (86:3).
إِنْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ لَمَّا عَلَيْهَا حَافِظٌ
there is a watcher over every soul. (86:4).
فَلْيَنْظُرِ الْإِنْسَانُ مِمَّ خُلِقَ
So, let man consider from what he was created. (86:5).
خُلِقَ مِنْ مَاءٍ دَافِقٍ
He was created from an effusing fluid (86:6).
يَخْرُجُ مِنْ بَيْنِ الصُّلْبِ وَالتَّرَائِبِ
which issues from between the loins and the breastbones. (86:7).
إِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ رَجْعِهِ لَقَادِرٌ
Indeed, He is able to bring him back [after death], (86:8).
The Qur'an frequently invites Man to cast his eyes upwards and gaze at the sky and the stars, and this is to take his attention away from the familiarity of the earth to the wonder of the heavens!
It is in this vein that these verses mentions that star which pierces the darkness of the night, and the Qur'an magnifies it by saying:
“and what will show you what is the Morning Star?” (at-Tariq 86:2).
and this is the only time in the whole Qur'an that this expression (i.e. 'And what will show you ...') is used not for the events of the Resurrection or the Night of Power but for a material component of existence. And this demonstrates the greatness of this star!
And what is there to prevent the One who splits the darkness of the night with that 'piercing star' from splitting the darkness of the soul and illuminating its depths? It is the same divine power in both cases... so, how can we despair of Allah's providence even in our darkest and most difficult times, while he can banish the night's darkness with a single piercing star!
The watching (hafz) mentioned in this verse could allude to either:
a. The angels watching over a person's deeds, as in Allah's saying:
“Indeed, there are over you watchers,” (al-Infitar, 82:10).
“noble writers,” (al-Infitar, 82:11).
“who know whatever you do” (al-Infitar, 82:12).
b. Or the angels watching over a person and protecting him from calamities and disasters, as in Allah's saying:
“He has guardian angels, to his front and his rear, who guard him by Allah's command.” (ar-Ra'd, 13:11).
But both these interpretations show that the human being is connected to another kind of creation, namely the angels who act as intermediaries between him and his Lord; sometimes by witnessing and recording his deeds and at other times by protecting him and keeping him safe from harm.
This surah moves from talking about something in the highest reaches of the firmament - 'piercing star' - to one of the lowest aspects of man's physical existence, namely the semen he ejaculates. This is so, a person ponders and reflects on every aspect of this wondrous existence, acknowledging the magnificence of its Creator in everything, comprehending that everything is the result of His all-encompassing wisdom, epitomized by the fact that everything will return to Him just as He created it in the first place.
The Qur'an reminds its listeners of one of the most complex processes in this universe, namely the process of creating a human being that Allah made in the best form. It begins by mentioning his origin, that he was created from 'a gushing fluid' emitted from 'the loins,' as if it this substance was neither liquid or ejected forcefully, then conception would not happen! And it mentions the place of where the fertilized egg settles, which is a chamber protected by the bones of the chest 'ribs' and back. This is so, that the servant remains amazed first by the greatness of his Creator, and then convinced of His power to create him again.
The Qur'an frequently connects the beginning of creation with its end, as when Allah says:
“He will revive them who produced them the first time.” (Ya Sin, 36:79).
and the power to originate with the power to bring back, as this surah mentions:
“Lo! He verily is Able to return him.” (at-Tariq 86:2).
This keeps the servant mindful of the outcome of the affair, while he is usually preoccupied with its beginning!
So, the nature of this world and the mixture of joys and tribulations it contains is a cause for man to remain unaware and be distracted from his purpose therein.
يَوْمَ تُبْلَى السَّرَائِرُ
On the day when the secrets are examined, (86:9).
فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ قُوَّةٍ وَلَا نَاصِرٍ
and he shall have neither power nor helper. (86:10).
وَالسَّمَاءِ ذَاتِ الرَّجْعِ
By the skies which give returning rain, (86:11).
وَالْأَرْضِ ذَاتِ الصَّدْعِ
by the earth that splits: (86:12).
إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلٌ فَصْلٌ
it is Indeed, a decisive word, (86:13).
وَمَا هُوَ بِالْهَزْلِ
and it is not a jest. (86:14).
إِنَّهُمْ يَكِيدُونَ كَيْدًا
Indeed, they are devising a stratagem, (86:15).
and I (too] am devising a plan. (86:16).
فَمَهِّلِ الْكَافِرِينَ أَمْهِلْهُمْ رُوَيْدًا
So, respite the disbelievers; give them a gentle respite. (86:17).
A corrupt person can conceal his true nature by putting on an outward appearance that will cause others to speak well of him and that will benefit him in this life. But that will not help him
“on the day when secrets are examined.” (at-Tariq 86:9).
Therefore, a servant who is vigilant must reform his innermost character, and not suffice himself by merely changing his outward behaviour. And this is something that even the most dedicated people will sometime forget!
But Allah will hold people to account for their inner character just as readily as He holds them to account for their outward behaviour; in fact, he will even punish them for it, as in the case of holding deviant beliefs, or those things which cause him to sin outwardly:
“and whether you disclose what is in your hearts or hide it, Allah will bring you to account for it. Then He will forgive whomever He wishes and punish whomever He wishes.” (al-Baqarah, 2:284).
Those whose embarrassing secrets are disclosed that bring disgrace to them among the people will do everything in their capacity to protect themselves, whether on their own or by relying on the ability of others. But on the Day of Resurrection, we know that people will be completely equal before their Lord, so, no one can help them against Allah's absolute power.
How much better it is for a person to apprehend this reality while the is still alive in the abode of this world, that there is no power nor recourse save with Allah, and that there is no helper except Him –
“and he shall have neither power nor helper.” (at-Tariq 86:10).
In reality, there is never any helper or might besides Allah, whether in this world or the Hereafter, even if a person only sees this in the afterlife.
As a rule, the oaths of the Qur'an display a relation between the oath and its object. There is - without doubt - wisdom behind every instance of an oath in the Qur'an. Here, for example, Allah swears by the skies ‘that give returning rain,' which is the rain that returns to the earth after having evaporated from it,1 and then the earth 'which splits' meaning it has openings from which plants emerge.2 So, taken together, both these oaths reveal that there is a power that revives the earth after its death, by way of various intermediate causes in the heavens and the earth!
And, of course, the one who has the power to give life in this creation is able to give it in the next one too; this is what Allah means when He says:
“Indeed, He is able to bring him back.” (at-Tariq 86:8).
This relation is also, clear between the phenomena of rain falling from the heavens and the plants springing from the earth, and the sending down of the Qur'an, which is another manifestation of divine mercy that descends upon hearts, which are ready, and from which then springs the fruits of knowledge.
Therefore, anyone who wishes for divide guidance to have an effect on him must have the capacity to receive these divine effusions, just as the earth must be ready to receive the rain of mercy in order for 'delightful gardens’ 3 to grow from it. The Qur'an has described itself as 'decisive word’, which separates truth from falsehood, so, anyone who does not adhere to it will inevitably fall into falsehood;
“So, what is there after the truth except error?” (Yunus, 10:32).
Those who treat the Qur'an - there is nothing more serious than that - in a manner that can be described as 'jest' place themselves in the position of challenging the Lord Almighty. And this is why Allah puts Himself in the position of plotting against them, which is a form of revenge that will close in and seize them by surprise;
“Indeed, they are devising a stratagem, and I too am devising a stratagem.” (at-Tariq 86:15).
And it is utmost folly for a servant to vie with the Lord of the Worlds!
Based on this logic we also, should not fear the plotting of the wrongdoers so, long as we believe that Allah has laid an ambush for them.
Plotting, even if it is something usually considered improper, when done in response to the plotting of others falls within the bounds of responding in kind, for example:
“the requital of a misdeed shall be its like.” (Yunus, 10:27).
This is in addition to the fact that Allah - who is the utmost sovereign - has the right to requite the wrongdoers in a hidden manner, which is implicit in calling this a 'stratagem' (kayd); so, Allah will seal their hearts, their hearing and their eyes, to drive them toward a painful punishment without them realizing it.
Allah asks his prophet not to be hasty to witness Allah's revenge against the unbelievers and not to be preoccupied with them, rather he asks him to grant them 'a gentle respite', which is a brief respite so, that Allah may show them the recompense for their stratagem!
And this is exactly what happened for the Prophet (S) during his blessed life; he experienced amazing victories against the polytheists beginning with the battle of Badr and ending with the defeat of his enemies who had driven him out of his homeland and the conquest of Mecca, and the punishment they have in store for them on the Day of Resurrection is even more severe, and this too is near at hand for those who are certain that it will come to pass!
- 1. See Mufradat Alfazl Al-Qur'an 343.
- 2. Majma' al-Bahrayn 4/358.
- 3. Surah al-Naml:
“Nay, He Who created the heavens and the earth, and sent down for you water from the cloud; then We cause to grow thereby beautiful gardens; it is not possible for you that you should make the trees thereof to grow. Is there a god with Allah? Nay! they are people who deviate.” (27:60)