53 - An Najm (The star)

5 Tafsir(s) related to verse 53.1

Al-Jalalayn

By the Star — the constellation Pleiades (al-thurayya) — when it sets, [when] it disappears,

Al-Tustari

By the star when it sets,That is, [by] Muḥammad when he returned from the heavens. His words, Exalted is He:

Kashf Al-Asrar

By the star when it fell.

Know that in this surah the Real reported about the miʿrāj of that paragon of the world and master of the children of Adam, his journey to heaven, and his return from contemplation and face-to-face vision. Thus by knowing this story his community may give repose to their spirits and increase the light and joy of their hearts. At the beginning of the Surah of Banī IsrāÌīl He mentions the story of his going and, to show its greatness, put His own incomparability before it: "Glory to be Him who took His servant by night" [17:1]. In this surah He explains his return from the Presence and, to declare its eminence, swears by his person: "By the star when it fell! By that bright star, by that full moon, by that lit lamp, when he returned from the presence of face-to-face vision!" His person saw the station of proximity, his heart found the repose of contemplation, his secret core reached the good fortune of union, and he listened to the secrets in the secluded cell of Or closer [53:9] on the carpet of expansiveness.

Know that the Master's going to that way station is not strange, but his resting in this way station is wondrous, for the people of the world are in the darkness of distance, but he was in the light of nearness and proximity. When that paragon left Gabriel in his known station [37:164] and passed on, he entrusted the luminous secrets of his outwardness and inwardness to the attraction of the Presence. He dove into the sea of light and the ocean of tremendousness and he traversed the canopy of eminence with the feet of aspiration. Just as a magnet attracts iron to itself, so the spires of the Splendorous Throne attracted that paragon to itself. From the Splendorous Throne he aimed for the presence of two-bows' length [53:9], and in the station of two-bows' length he made himself a resting place on the seat of beauty in the description of perfection while contemplating majesty. The exalted revelation explains these intimations in these words:

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

In the original the word "an-najm"has been used. Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid and Sufyan Thauri opine that it implies the Pleides. Ibn Jarir and Zamakhshari have held this same interpretation as preferable, for in Arabic when the word an -najm is used absolutely it usually implies the Pleides. Suddi says that it implies Venus; and Abu `Ubaidah, the grammarian, holds that here the word an-najm has been used generically so as to express this idea: "When the day dawned, and the stars set." In view of the context we are of the opinion that this last interpretation is more preferable.

"Your Companion" implies the Holy Messenger of Allah (upon whom be peace) and the addressees are the Quraish. The word Sahib as used in the original means a friend, a companion, a close associate. Here, making mention of the Holy Prophet by the word Sahib-u-kum (yew Companion) instead of "Our Messenger" is very meaningful. This is meant to make the people of the Quraish realize: "The person being mentioned is no stranger to you: he is not an outsider whom you may not be knowing or recognizing already. He is a man of your own clan and tribe; he lives and moves among you; even your children know who and what he is, what is his character, what are his dealings, what are his ways and habits and characteristics, and how he has passed his life among you so far. If same one of you were to say an improbable thing about him, there would be a thousand men among you who knew him, who could see for themselves whether what was said actually applied to him or not. "

This is the thing for which an oath has been sworn by the setting star or stars. "Going astray" means a person's adopting a wrong way being unaware of the right way, and "being deluded" means his adopting the wrong way knowingly and consciously. The verse means: "Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) is a well-known man among you. Your accusation that he has gone astray, or is misguided, is utterly wrong. In fact, he is neither gone astray nor misguided." Here, the propriety of swearing by the setting stars is that in the darkness of the starry night a person cannot see the things of his surroundings clearly, and from their vague appearances can form wrong judgments about them, e.g.. he may take a tra for a ghost in the dark, a string for a snake, a rock in the sand for a beast of prey. But when the stars have set and the day has dawned, everything appears before man in its real form and shape, and there remains no doubt whatever about the reality of anything. The same is the case also of Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) among you. His life and personality is. not hidden in darkness, but is manifest like the bright dawn. You are aware that this "companion of yours" is a right-minded, wise and sagacious man. How can somebody from among the Quraish have the misunderstanding that he has gone astray? You also know how well-intentioned and honest and righteous person he is. How can one of you form the view that he has knowingly adopted a crooked way not only for himself but has started inviting others also to the same falsehood?

It means this: "The things for which you accuse him of having gone astray or been misled and deceived, have neither been fabricated by himself nor motivated by any selfish desire on his part, but they have been sent down, and are being sent down, to him by God. He did not intend to become a Prophet of his own desire so that he might have laid a claim to Prophet hood in order to satisfy his desire, but when Allah appointed him to that office through Revelation, then only did he rise to preach his mission and to tell you that he had been appointed God's Messenger to you. Likewise, this invitation to Islam, this teaching of the doctrine of Tauhid, this news about the gathering together of all mankind on the Day of Resurrection and their accountability, the truths that he is presenting about the Universe and Man and the principles of leading a pure life, are not a philosophy propounded by himself, but the knowledge of all this has been bestowed on him by Revelation. Likewise, this Qur'an that he recites before you, is also not of his own composition but it is Divine Word which is sent down to him by Revelation."

Here, the question arises: To which of the words spoken by the Holy Prophet do Allah's Words: "He does not speak of his own desire; it is only a Revelation which is sent down to him," apply? Do they apply to everything that he spoke, or to sonic of his words and not to others? The answer is: As far as the Qur'an is concerned, the Divine Words apply to it most completely. As for the other words, apart from the Qur'an, which the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) spoke, they could inevitably be of three kinds:

First, those words which he employed for preaching religion and inviting others to Allah, and for explaining the themes, teachings and commands of the Qur'an, or for giving admonition and instruction to the people to fulfill the object for which the Qur'an was revealed. In this regard, obviously nobody can have the doubt that, God forbid, he fabricated these things from his own mind. In these matters, his position, in fact, was of the official interpreter of the Qur'an and of Allah's authorized representative. Although these things were not revealed to him literally as the Qur'an was revealed; yet these were necessarily based on the same knowledge that he had been given by Revelation. The only difference between the Qur'an and these was that the Qur'an, both in word and in meaning, was entirely from Allah, and in these other things the meanings were those taught by Allah and the words those which he himself employed to express those meanings. On the basis of this very distinction, the Qur'an has been described as wahi-jali (manifest Revelation) and the Holy Prophet's other sayings as wahi-khafi (concealed Revelation).

The second kind of the words were those which the Holy Prophet spoke in connection with the struggle of raising Allah's Word and his services for establishing Islam. In this regard, he had to perform countless duties of different kinds as the leader and guide of the Muslim community. In this many a time he took counsel with his Companions as well, and followed their advice instead of his own view. On being asked he sometimes told them that he was expressing a particular view not under Allah's command but as his personal opinion, and on several occasions it so happened that he said something on the basis of his own opinion and later. an instruction came down against it from Allah. None of the things of this nature that he said or did could be based on a selfish motive. As for the question whether these sayings were based on Divine inspiration, the answer is that except for the things in regard to which he made it explicit that they were not based on Divine command, or about which he took counsel with his Companions and accepted their advice, or with regard to a thing against which Allah sent down an instruction after he had said or done something on the basis of his personal judgment, all other things were based on concealed Revelation (wahi khafi) just like the things of the first kind. For the office of the leader and guide of the Islamic Movement and the chief of the believing community and the ruler of the Islamic State, which he held, was not self-invented or bestowed by the people, but he had been appointed to it by Allah, and whatever he said and did in carrying out the duties of this office, his position in it was of the representative of Divine, Will. In this matter, whatever he said on the basis of his personal judgment, his judgment in those matters was approved by Allah, and was, derived from the light of the knowledge which Allah had blessed him with. That is why whenever his personal judgment was even slightly turned away from Allah's pleasure, it was immediately rectified by manifest Revelation (wahi jali; ). This rectification of some of his personal judgments is itself a proof that all the rest of his religious judgments and interpretations were precisely in accordance with Divine Will.

The third kind of the things were those he said concerning common matters of life as a man, which had nothing to do with the duties of Prophet hood, which he said before being appointed a Prophet as well as continued saying even after having been appointed a Prophet. About this kind of the Things it should be understood at the outset that there was no dispute with the disbelievers concerning them. They had not accused him of being a misled and misguided person because of these but because of the first two kinds of the things. These things were not disputed and therefore could not become the cause of a verse from Allah. But although they were not the subject of any dispute, yet the fact is that in this private aspect of his life also never did the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) utter a word that was opposed to the truth, but at all times, under all conditions, his words and deeds remained within the bounds that Allah had prescribed for living his life as a Prophet and righteous man. Therefore, the light of Revelation shone in that sphere as well. This same thing has been reported from the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) in some authentic Ahadith. In Musnad Ahmad a Tradition has been related on the authority of Hadrat Abu Hurairah, saying that the Holy Prophet once said: "I never say anything but what is true and right. " A Companion said, "O Messenger of Allah, you say things sometimes in jest also.' The Holy Prophet replied: "Indeed, I never say anything but the truth. " According to Musnad Ahmad and Abu Da'ud, Hadrat `Abdullah bin `Amr bin 'As is reported to have said: "I used to write down whatever I heard from the sacred tongue of the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) so as to preserve it. The people of the Quraish forbade me to do this, saying: 'You arc writing down everything whereas the Holy Prophet is a man: he sometimes says things in the state of anger too'. At this I gave up writing. Afterwards when I mentioned this before the Holy Prophet, he said: 'You should continue writing: By Him in Whose hand is my life, never have I said anything but the truth'." (For a complete discussion of this question, see my book Tafhimat vol. I, Article: Prophethood and Its Injunctions).

That is, "There is no human being who teaches him this, as you seem to think, but he obtains this knowledge through a supernatural source. " According to some people, "mighty in power" implies Allah Himself, but a great majority of the commentators are agreed that it implies the Angel Gabriel (upon whom be peace). This same view has been reported from Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud, Hadrat 'A'ishah, Hadrat Abu Hurairah, Qatadah, Mujahid and Rabi` bin Anas. Ibn Jarir, Ibn Kathir, Razi, Alusi and others also have adopted this very view. Shah Waliyullah and Maulana Ashraf 'Ali Thanwi also have followed this same view in their translations. And the fact is that from the other explanations of the Qur'an itself also this very thing is confirmed. In Surah Takvir it has been said: "This indeed is the word of a noble Messenger, who has great power and high rank with the Owner of the Throne: there he is obeyed and held as trustworthy. And (O people of Makkah), your Companion is not mad. He has seen that Messenger on the bright horizon." (vv. 19-23). Then, in Surah Al-Baqarah: 97, the Angel has been mentioned by name through whom this teaching had been revealed on the heart of the Prophet: "Say to them: Whoever is enemy to Gabriel should understand that he has, by Allah's Command, revealed to your heart the Qur'an." If these verses are read with this verse of Surah An-Najm, there remains no doubt that here "mighty in power" implies the Angel Gabriel and not Allah. More about, it to follow.

Here, some people express the doubt as to how the Angel Gabriel can be regarded as the Holy Prophet Muhammad's teacher. For this would mean that he was the teacher and the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) his pupil, and this would place him above the Holy Prophet in rank. But this suspicion is misplaced, because Gabriel did not impart instruction to the Holy Prophet from any personal knowledge of his own, which might give him superiority over the Holy Prophet. Allah, in fact, had made him a means of conveying knowledge to the Holy Prophet, and he was the Holy Prophet's teacher in the metaphoric sense for being only a medium of instruction. That does not give him any superiority whatever. To quote an example: After the Prayer was prescribed five times a day, Allah sent Gabriel (peace be upon him) to teach the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) the correct times of the Prayers, and he led him in the Prayers five times daily for two days. This has been related in Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi and Mu'watta and other collections of the Ahadith, with authentic chains of reporters, and in this the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) himself has explained that he was the follower and Gabriel his leader in the Prayers. But his being made the leader only for the purpose of instruction does not mean that he was superior to the Holy Prophet in rank.

Ibn `Abbas and Qatadah take dhu mirra-tin of the Text in the meaning of beautiful and grand. Mujahid, Hasan Basri, Ibn Zaid and Sufyan Thauri say that it mean: strong and powerful. Said bin Musayyab has expressed the opinion that it means wise. In a Hadith the Holy Prophet has used this word in the sense of healthy and sound. In Arabic usage this word is used in the meaning of sound in judgment, wise and learned also. Allah has chosen this word for Gabriel (peace be upon him) here because he possesses both intellectual and physical powers to the highest degree. We have adopted only one of these meanings in the translation, for his physical powers have been mentioned in the preceding sentence.

The horizon means the eastern edge of the sky where the sun rises and the day dawns. The same has been referred to as ufuq mubin (bright horizon) in Surah Takvir: 23. Both the verses make it explicit that when the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) saw Gabriel (peace be upon him) for the first time, he had appeared on the eastern horizon of the sky; and there are several authentic Traditions which show that at that time he was in his real shape in which Allah has created him. We shall quote all such Traditions below.

That is, "After appearing on the uppermost edge of the sky, Gabriel started advancing towards the Prophet till he reached and hung suspended about him in mid air. Then he bent down to him and came within just two bow-lengths or even closer. " The commentators generally have taken qaba qausain in the meaning of "two bow-lengths", but Hadrat `Abdullah bin `Abbas and Hadrat `Abdullah bin Mas`ud have taken qaus in the meaning of a dhira'(an amm-length, cubit), and have interpreted the words kama qaba qausain, saying that the distance between them was reduced to only two arm-lengths. And since all bows are not equal in length, the approximate distance has been expressed by "two bow-lengths away or even closer.

The sentence fa auha ila `abd-i -hi ma auha of the Text can have two translations:

(1) "He revealed to His (Allah's) servant whatever he revealed"; and

(2) "He (Allah) revealed to His own servant whatever He revealed. "

According to the first translation, the meaning would be: Gabriel revealed to the servant of Allah whatever he had to reveal"; according to the second: "Allah revealed through Gabriel to His servant whatever He had to reveal. " The commentators have given both these meanings; the first meaning, however, fits in better with the context,.and the same has been reported from Hadrat Hasan Basri and lbn Zaid. Here, the question may be asked: "How can the pronoun of abd-i-hi turn to Allah instead of to the subject of auha, whereas Allah has nowhere been mentioned from the beginning of the Surah to this place ?" The answer is that wherever it becomes apparent from the context that the antecedent of a pronoun refers to a particular person, the pronoun turns to him automatically whether it has been mentioned before or not. There are several instances of this available in the Qur'an itself. In Surah Al-Qadr: l, Allah says: "We have sent it down in the Night of Glory." There is no mention of the Qur'an in this sentence, but the context explicitly shows that the antecedent of the pronoun is the Qur'an. At another place Allah says: ¦If Allah were to seize the people because of their misdeeds, He would not leave any creature (unpunished) on its back. " In this sentence there is no mention of the earth anywhere, but the context clearly shows that "its back" implies "the earth's back". In Surah Ya Sin: 69, it has been said: "We have not taught him poetry, nor does poetry behoove him." Here, there is no mention of the Holy Prophet, neither before this sentence nor after it, yet the context is explicit that the antecedent of the pronouns is the Holy Prophet himself. In Surah Ar-Rahman: 26, it has been said: "Whatever exists on it shall perish." There is no mention of the earth either before or after it, but the style clearly shows that the pronoun of 'alaika turns to it. In Surah AI-Waqi'ah: 35, it has been said: "We shall have created them especially." There is no noun or pronoun before or after it to which the pronoun of hunna may be referring. It is apparent from the context that it signifies the women of Paradise. Thus, as auha ila `abd-i hi cannot at all mean that Gabriel revealed to his servant, the meaning necessarily would be that "Gabriel revealed w the servant of Allah", or that "Allah revealed to His own servant through Gabriel. "

That is, "As the Holy Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) observed all this in broad daylight in the waking condition, with open eyes, his heart did not deem it was a delusion, or that it was a jinn or a devil, who had appeared before him, or that it was an imaginary figure, or a vision that he was seeing while awake, but his heart fully confirmed what his eyes saw. He did not for a moment doubt that it was the Angel Gabriel and the Message he was conveying was indeed God's Revelation to him."

Here, the question arises: How is it that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) did not entertain any doubt at all concerning such a wonderful and extraordinary observation, and he confirmed with full faith that whatever his eyes saw was an actual fact and not an imaginary figure, nor a jinn or devil ? When we consider this question deeply we are led to five reasons for it:

First, that the external conditions in which this observation was made, testified to its truth and validity. The Holy Prophet did not observe this in darkness, or in a state of meditation, or in a vision, or in a sleep-like condition, but the day had dawned and he was fully awake, and he was seeing the whole scene in the broad daylight in the open with his own eyes precisely in the way as one sees the other things in the world. If doubt is cast on this, then whatever we see in the day time, e.g. rivers, mountains, men, houses, etc., also would become doubtful and illusory.

Second, that the Holy Prophet's own internal condition also testified to its validity. He was in his full senses. He had no idea whatever in his mind that he should observe, or that he was going to observe, such a thing. His mind was absolutely free from such a thought and any longing for it, and in this state he met with this experience suddenly. There was no room for doubting that the eyes were seeing an actual scene, but that an imaginary thing had appeared before his eyes.

Third, that the being who had appeared before him in that condition was so marvelous and magnificent, so beautiful and bright, that neither had he ever had any concept of such a being before that he could take it for a product of his own imagination, nor could a jinn or a devil have such an appearance that he would have taken him for a being other than an angel. Hadrat 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud has reported that the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) said: “I saw Gabriel in the shape that he had six hundred wings.” (Musnad Ahmad), In another Tradition Ibn Mas`ud has further explained that each single wing of Gabriel (on whom be peace) was so extensive that it seemed to be covering the whole horizon (Musnad Ahmad), Allah Himself has described him as shadid al-quwa (one mighty in power) and dhu-mirra (one endowed with great wisdom).

Fourth, that the teaching that the being was imparting also testified to the validity of the observation. The Holy Prophet had no concept of the knowledge that he received suddenly through him, a knowledge that comprehended the realities and truths of the whole Universe. About it he could not have the doubt that it consisted of his own ideas which were being set and arranged by his own mind. Likewise, there was no ground for thinking either that it was Satan who was imparting that knowledge to him and thus deluding him, for it is not for Satan that he should teach, nor can he ever teach, the doctrine of Tauhid to man as against polytheism and idol-worship, that he should warn of the accountability of the Hereafter, that he should create contempt against ignorance and its practices, that he should invite people to moral excellences, and should exhort a person not only to accept that teaching himself but should also rise to eradicate polytheism, injustice, wickedness and sin from the world and replace these evils by the virtues of Tauhid, justice, equity and piety.

The fifth and by far the most important reason is that when Allah chooses a certain person for His Prophet hood, He cleanses his heart of doubts and suspicions and evil suggestions and fills it with faith and conviction. In this state no hesitation or vacillation is caused in his mind about the validity of whatever his eyes see and his ears hear. He accepts with complete satisfaction of the heart every truth that is revealed to him by his Lord, whether it is in the form of an observation that he is made to witness with the eyes, or in the form of knowledge which he is inspired with, or in the form of a Revelation that is recited to him literally. In all these cases the Prophet is fully aware that he is absolutely safe and secure against Satanic interference of every kind, and whatever he is receiving in any form is precisely and definitely from his Lord. Like all God-given feelings this sense and feeling of the Prophet also is a certainty which does not admit of any misunderstanding. Just as the fish has a God-given sense of being a swimmer, the bird of being a bird, and the man of being a man, and there can be no likelihood of any misunderstanding in this regard, so has the Prophet also a God given sense of his being a Prophet. He does not even for a moment entertain the doubt that he has perhaps been involved in the misunderstanding of being a Prophet.

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said regarding the interpretation of Allah's saying (By the Najm when it setteth): '(By the Najm when it setteth) He says: Allah swears by the Qur'an when Gabriel takes it down to Muhammad in instalments (nujuman): one, two, three or four verses at a time. There was a 20 years interval between the first and last verses. When this verse was revealed, 'Utbah Ibn Abi Lahab heard that the Prophet (pbuh) swore by the revelation of the Qur'an in instalment and so he said: "Tell Muhammad that I disbelieve in the instalments of the Qur'an". When the Prophet (pbuh) was informed of this, he prayed: "O Allah! Set on him one of Your wild beasts". Later, Allah set on him a lion near Harran that snatched him from among his friends and took him to a place nearby. It tore him apart from head to foot but did not eat him because of his impurity, just as the Prophet (pbuh) had prayed against him. It is also said here Allah swore by the stars when they set,