Abbas - 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 heaven, holding mansions of the stars): '(By the heaven, holding mansions of the stars) He says: Allah swears by the heaven which includes mansions of the stars; it is also said: He swears by the heaven which has mansions between heaven and earth; Allah knows that,
(Blessed is He Who has placed in the heaven Buruj, and has placed therein a great lamp (the sun), and a moon giving light.) (25:61) Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, Ad-Dahhak, Al-Hasan, Qatadah and As-Suddi, all said, "Al-Buruj are the stars.'' Al-Minhal bin `Amr said,
وَالسَّمَآءِ ذَاتِ الْبُرُوجِ
(By the heaven holding the Buruj.) "The beautiful creation.'' Ibn Jarir chose the view that it means the positions of the sun and the moon, which are twelve Buruj. The sun travels through each one of these "Burj'' (singular of Buruj) in one month. The moon travels through each one of these Burj in two-and-a-third days, which makes a total of twenty-eight positions, and it is hidden for two nights.
The Explanation of the Promised Day and the Witness and the Witnessed
وَالْيَوْمِ الْمَوْعُودِ - وَشَـهِدٍ وَمَشْهُودٍ
(And by the Promised Day. And by the Witness, and by the Witnessed.) Ibn Abi Hatim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said,
(And by the Promised Day.)( This refers to the Day of Judgement. (And by the Witness.) This refers to Friday, and the sun does not rise or set on a day that is better than Friday. During it there is an hour that no Muslim servant catches while asking Allah from some good except that Allah will give it to him. He does not seek refuge from any evil in it except that Allah will protect him. (And by the Witnessed.)( This refers to the day of `Arafah (in Hajj).) Ibn Khuzaymah also recorded the same Hadith. It has also been recorded as a statement of Abu Hurayrah and it is similar (to this Hadith).
Imam Ahmad recorded from Suhayb that the Messenger of Allah said,
قُتِلَ أَصْحَـبُ الاٍّخْدُودِ
(Cursed were (Qutila) the People of the Ditch (Ukhdud).) meaning, the companions of the Ukhdud were cursed. The plural of Ukhdud is Akhadid, which means ditches in the ground. This is information about a group of people who were among the disbelievers. They went after those among them who believed in Allah and they attempted to force them to give up their religion. However, the believers refused to recant, so they dug a ditch for them in the ground. Then they lit a fire in it and prepared some fuel for it in order to keep it ablaze. Then they tried to convince them (the believers) to apostate from their religion (again), but they still refused them. So they threw them into the fire. Thus, Allah says,
(Cursed were the People of the Ditch. Of fire fed with fuel. When they sat by it. And they witnessed what they were doing against the believers.) meaning, they were witnesses to what was done to these believers. Allah said,
(And they had no fault except that they believed in Allah, the Almighty, Worthy of all praise!) meaning, they did not commit any sin according to these people, except for their faith in Allah the Almighty, Who does not treat unjustly those who desire to be with Him. He is the Most Mighty and Most Praiseworthy in all of His statements, actions, legislation, and decrees. He decreed what happened to these servants of His at the hands of the disbelievers - and He is the Most Mighty, the Most Praiseworthy - even though the reason for this decree is unknown to many people. Then Allah says,
الَّذِى لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ
(To Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth!) Among His perfect Attributes is that He is the Owner of all of the heavens, the earth, whatever is in them, and whatever is between them.
وَاللَّهُ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
(And Allah is Witness over everything.) meaning, nothing is concealed from Him in all of the heavens and the earth, nor is anything hidden from Him.
The Story of the Sorcerer, the Monk, the Boy and Those Who were forced to enter the Ditch
Imam Ahmad recorded from Suhayb that the Messenger of Allah said,
(Among the people who came before you, there was a king who had a sorcerer, and when that sorcerer became old, he said to the king, "I have become old and my time is nearly over, so please send me a boy whom I can teach magic.'' So, he sent him a boy and the sorcerer taught him magic. Whenever the boy went to the sorcerer, he sat with a monk who was on the way and listened to his speech and admired them. So, when he went to the sorcerer, he passed by the monk and sat there with him; and on visiting the sorcerer the latter would thrash him. So, the boy complained about this to the monk. The monk said to him, "Whenever you are afraid of the sorcerer, say to him: `My people kept me busy.' And whenever you are afraid of your people, say to them: `The sorcerer kept me busy.''' So the boy carried on like that (for some time). Then a huge terrible creature appeared on the road and the people were unable to pass by. The boy said, "Today I shall know whether the sorcerer is better or the monk is better.'' So, he took a stone and said, "O Allah! If the deeds and actions of the monk are liked by You better than those of the sorcerer, then kill this creature so that the people can cross (the road).'' Then he struck it with a stone killing it and the people passed by on the road.
The boy came to the monk and informed him about it. The monk said to him, "O my son! Today you are better than I, and you have achieved what I see! You will be put to trial. And in case you are put to trial, do not inform (them) about me.'' The boy used to treat the people suffering from congenital blindness, leprosy, and other diseases. There was a courtier of the king who had become blind and he heard about the boy. He came and brought a number of gifts for the boy and said, "All these gifts are for you on the condition that you cure me.'' The boy said, "I do not cure anybody; it is only Allah who cures people. So, if you believe in Allah and supplicate to Him, He will cure you.'' So, he believed in and supplicated to Allah, and Allah cured him.
Later, the courtier came to the king and sat at the place where he used to sit before. The king said, "Who gave you back your sight'' The courtier replied, "My Lord.'' The king then said, "I did'' The courtier said, "No, my Lord and your Lord - Allah'' The king said, "Do you have another Lord beside me'' The courtier said, "Yes, your Lord and my Lord is Allah.'' The king tortured him and did not stop until he told him about the boy. So, the boy was brought to the king and he said to him, "O boy! Has your magic reached to the extent that you cure congenital blindness, leprosy and other diseases'' He said, "I do not cure anyone. Only Allah can cure.'' The king said, "Me'' The boy replied, "No.'' The king asked, "Do you have another Lord besides me'' The boy answered, "My Lord and your Lord is Allah.'' So, he tortured him also until he told about the monk. Then the monk was brought to him and the king said to him, "Abandon your religion.'' The monk refused and so the king ordered a saw to be brought which was placed in the middle of his head and he fell, sawn in two. Then it was said to the man who used to be blind, "Abandon your religion.'' He refused to do so, and so a saw was brought and placed in the middle of his head and he fell, sawn in two. Then the boy was brought and it was said to him, "Abandon your religion.'' He refused and so the king sent him to the top of such and such mountain with some people. He told the people, "Ascend up the mountain with him till you reach its peak, then see if he abandons his religion; otherwise throw him from the top.'' They took him and when they ascended to the top, he said, "O Allah! Save me from them by any means that You wish.'' So, the mountain shook and they all fell down and the boy came back walking to the king. The king said, "What did your companions (the people I sent with you) do'' The boy said, "Allah saved me from them.'' So, the king ordered some people to take the boy on a boat to the middle of the sea, saying, "If he renounces his religion (well and good), but if he refuses, drown him.'' So, they took him out to sea and he said, "O Allah! Save me from them by any means that you wish.'' So they were all drowned in the sea.
Then the boy returned to the king and the king said, "What did your companions do'' The boy replied, "Allah, saved me from them.'' Then he said to the king, "You will not be able to kill me until you do as I order you. And if you do as I order you, you will be able to kill me.'' The king asked, "And what is that'' The boy said, "Gather the people in one elevated place and tie me to the trunk of a tree; then take an arrow from my quiver and say: `In the Name of Allah, the Lord of the boy.' If you do this, you will be able to kill me.'' So he did this, and placing an arrow in the bow, he shot it, saying, "In the Name of Allah, the Lord of the boy.'' The arrow hit the boy in the temple, and the boy placed his hand over the arrow wound and died. The people proclaimed, "We believe in the Lord of the boy!'' Then it was said to the king, "Do you see what has happened That which you feared has taken place. By Allah, all the people have believed (in the Lord of the boy).'' So he ordered that ditches be dug at the entrances to the roads and it was done, and fires were kindled in them. Then the king said, "Whoever abandons his religion, let him go, and whoever does not, throw him into the fire.'' They were struggling and scuffling in the fire, until a woman and her baby whom she was breast feeding came and it was as if she was being somewhat hesitant of falling into the fire, so her baby said to her, "Be patient mother! For verily, you are following the truth!'') Muslim also recorded this Hadith at the end of the Sahih. Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar related this story in his book of Sirah in another way that has some differences from that which has just been related. Then, after Ibn Ishaq explained that the people of Najran began following the religion of the boy after his murder, which was the religion of Christianity, he said, "Then (the king) Dhu Nuwas came to them with his army and called them to Judaism. He gave them a choice to either accept Judaism or be killed, so they chose death. Thus, he had a ditch dug and burned (some of them) in the fire (in the ditch), while others he killed with the sword. He made an example of them (by slaughtering them) until he had killed almost twenty thousand of them. It was about Dhu Nuwas and his army that Allah revealed to His Messenger :
(Cursed were the People of the Ditch. Of fire fed with fuel. When they sat by it. And they witnessed what they were doing against the believers. And they had no fault except that they believed in Allah, the Almighty, Worthy of all praise! To Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! And Allah is Witness over everything.) (85:4-9)'' This is what Muhammad bin Ishaq said in his book of Sirah -- that the one who killed the People of the Ditch was Dhu Nuwas, and his name was Zur`ah. In the time of his kingdom he was called Yusuf. He was the son of Tuban As`ad Abi Karib, who was the Tubba` who invaded Al-Madinah and put the covering over the Ka`bah. He kept two rabbis with him from the Jews of Al-Madinah. After this some of the people of Yemen accepted Judaism at the hands of these two rabbis, as Ibn Ishaq mentions at length. So Dhu Nuwas killed twenty thousand people in one morning in the Ditch. Only one man among them escaped. He was known as Daws Dhu Tha`laban. He escaped on a horse and they set out after him, but they were unable to catch him. He went to Caesar, the emperor of Ash-Sham. So, Caesar wrote to An-Najashi, the King of Abyssinia. So, he sent with him an army of Abyssinian Christians, who were lead by Aryat and Abrahah. They rescued Yemen from the hands of the Jews. Dhu Nuwas tried to flee but eventually fell into the sea and drowned. After this, the kingdom of Abyssinia remained under Christian power for seventy years. Then the power was divested from the Christians by Sayf bin Dhi Yazin Al-Himyari when Kisra, the king of Persia sent an army there (to Yemen). He (the king) sent with him (Sayf Al-Himyari) those people who were in the prisons, and they were close to seven hundred in number. So, he (Sayf Al-Himyari) conquered Yemen with them and returned the kingdom back to the people of Himyar (Yemenis). We will mention a portion of this -- if Allah wills -- when we discuss the Tafsir of the Surah:
(then they will have the torment of Hell, and they will have the punishment of the burning Fire.) This is because the recompense is based upon the type of deed performed. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "Look at this generosity and kindness. These people killed Allah's Awliya' and He still invites them to make repentance and seek forgiveness.''
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Literally: "By the heaven having constellations." Some of the commentators have interpreted it to mean the twelve signs of the zodiac in the heavens according to ancient astronomy, However, according to Ibn 'Abbas, Mujahid, Qatadah, Hasan Basri, Dahhak and Suddi it implies the glorious stars and platters of the sky.
That is, the Day of Resurrection.
The commentators have expressed many different views about "the seer" and "that which is seen". In our opinion what fits in well with the context is that the seer is every such person who will witness the Day of Resurrection and that which is seen is the Resurrection itself, the dreadful scenes of which will be seen by all This is the view of Mujahid. 'Ikrimah, Dahhak, lbn Nujaih and some other commentators.
"The people of the ditch": those who had burnt the believers at stake and witnessed their burning themselves. "Doomed were...": cursed were they by God and they became worthy of Hell torment. On this an oath has been sworn by Three things:
(1) By the heaven having constellations,
(2)by the Day of Resurrection, which has been promised, and
(3) by the dreadful scenes of the Day of Resurrection and all those creatures who will witness those scenes.
The first of these testifies to the truth that the Sovereign, Absolute Being Who is ruling over the glorious stars and planets of the universe, cannot allow this contemptible, insignificant creature called man to escape His grip. The second thing has been sworn by on the basis that the wicked people committed whatever tyranny they wanted to commit, but the Day of which men have been fore-warned is sure to come when the grievances of every wronged person will be redressed and every wrongdoer will be brought to book and punished. The third thing has been sworn by for the reason that just as these wicked people enjoyed witnessing the burning of the helpless believers, so will all human beings on the Day of Resurrection witness how they are taken to task and burnt in Hell.
Several events have been mentioned in the traditions of the believers having been thrown into pits of blazing fire, which show that such tyrannies have been inflicted many a time in history.
One of the events has beets reported by Hadrat Suhaib Rumi from the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), saying that a king had a magician at his court who cm becoming old requested the king to appoint a boy who should learn magic from him. Accordingly the king appointed a boy. But the boy while going to the magician's place and coming hack home also started visiting on the way a monk (who was probably a follower of the Prophet Jesus) and being influenced by his teaching turned a believer. So much so that by his training he acquired miraculous powers. He would heal the blind and cure the lepers. When the king came to know that the boy had behaved in the Unity of God, he first put the monk to the sword: the+ wanted to kill the boy, but no instrument and no device had any effect on him. At last, the boy said to the king: "If you are bent upon killing me, shoot an arrow at me with the word: Bi-ismi Rahhil-ghulam (in the name of this boy's Lord) in front of the assembled people. and I shall die." The king did as he was told and the boy died. There upon the people cried out that they affirmed faith in the Lord of the boy. The courtiers told the king that the same precisely had happened which Ire wanted to avoid: the people had forsaken his religion and adopted the boy's religion. At this the king was filled with rage. Consequently, hr got pits dug out along the roads, got them tilled with tire and ordered all those who refused to renounce the new faith to he thrown into the tire. (Ahmad, Muslim. Nasa'i, TIrmidhi, Ibn Jarir. 'Abdur Razzaq. Ibn Abi Shaibah, Tabarani. 'Ahd hin Humaid)
The second event has been reported from Hadrat 'Ali. He says that a king of lean drank wine and committed adultery with his sister resulting in illicit relations between the two. When the secret became known, the king got the announcement made that God had permitted marriage with the sister. When the people refused to believe in it, hr started coercing them into accepting by different kinds of punishment; so much so that he began to cast into the pits of fire every such person who refused to concede it. According to Hadrat 'AIi, marriage with the prohibited relations among the fire worshipers has begun since then (Ibn Jarir).
The third event has been related by lbn 'Abbas probably on the hasin of the Israelite traditions, saying that the people of Babylon had compelled the children of Israel to give up the religion of the Prophet Moses (peace he upon himl: so much so that they cast into pits of tire all those who refused to obey. Ibn Jarir, 'Ahd bin Humaid).
The best known event, how ever, relates to Najran. which has been related by Ibn Hisham, Tabari. Ibn Khaldun. the author of Mujam al-Buldan and other Islamic historians. Its resume is as follows: Tuban Asad Abu Karib, king of Himyar (Yaman), went to Yathrib once where he embraced Judaism under the influence of the Jews, and brought two of the Jewish scholars of Bani Quraizah with him to Yaman. There hr propagated Judaism widely. His son Dhu Nuwas succeeded him and hr attacked Najran which was a stronghold of the Christians in southern Arabia so as to eliminate Christianity and make the people accept Judaism. Ibn Hisham says that these people were true followers of the Gospel of the Prophet Jesus) In Najran hr invited the people to accept Judaism but they refused to obey. There upon hr caused a large number of the people to he burnt in the ditches of fire and slew many others with the sword until he had killed nearly twenty thousand of them. Daus Dhu Tha laban an inhabitant of Najran escaped and went. according to one tradition. to the Byzantine emperor, and according to another. to the Negus king of Abyssinia, and told him what had happened
According to the first tradition, the emperor wrote to the king of Abyssinia, and according to the second, the Negus requested the emperor to provide him with a naval force. In any case; an Abyssinian army consisting of seventy thousand soldiers under a general called Aryat, attacked Yaman, Dhu Nuwas was killed, the Jewish rule came to an end, and Yaman become a part of the Christian kingdom of Abyssinia.
The statements of the Islamic historians are not only confirmed by other historical means but they also give many more details. Yaman first came under the Christian Abyssinian domination in 340 A.D. and this domination continued till 378 A.D. The Christian missionaries started entering Yaman in that period. About the same time, a man named Faymiyun (Phemion), who was a righteous, earnest, ascetic man and possessed miraculous powers, arrived in Yaman and by his preaching against idol-worship converted the people of Najran to Christianity. These people were ruled by three chiefs: Sayyid, who was the principal chief like the tribal elders and responsible for external affairs, political agreements and command of the forces, 'Aqib, who looked after the internal affairs and Usquf (Bishop), the religious guide. In southern Arabia Najran commanded great importance, being a major trade and industrial center with tussore, leather and the armament industries. The well-known Yarnanite wrapper and cloak (hulls Yamani) was also manufactured here. On this very basis, Dhu Nuwas attacked this important place not only for religious but also for political and economic reasons. He put to death Harithah (called Arethas by the Syrian historians), Sayyid of Najrain, killed his two daughters in front of his wife Romah and compelled her to drink their blood and then put even her to death. He took out the bones of Bishop Paul from the' grave and burns them, and ordered women, men, children, aged people, priests and monks, all to be thrown into the pits of fire. The total number of the people thus killed has been estimated between twenty and forty thousand. This happened in October, 523 A.D. At last, in 525 A.D. the Abyssinians attacked Yaman and put an end to Dhu Nuwas and his Himyarite kingdom. This is confirmed by the Hisn Ghurab inscription which the modern archaeologists have unearthed in Yaman.
In several Christian writings of the 6th century A.D. details of the event relating to the people of the ditch" have been given, some of which are contemporary and reported from eye-witnesses. Authors of three of these books were contemporaries with the event. They were Procopeus, Cosmos Indicopleustis, who was translating Greek book of Ptolemy under command of the Negus Elesboan at that time and resided at Adolis, a city on the sea-coast of Abyssinia, and Johannes Malala froth whom several of the later historians have related this event. After this, Johannes of Ephesus (d. 585 A.D) has related the story of the persecution of the Christians of Najran in his history of the Church from a letter of Bishop Mar Simeon who was a contemporary reporter of this event. Mar Simeon wrote this letter to Abbot von Gabula; in it Simeon has reported this event with reference to the statements of the Yarnanite eye-witnesses present on the occasion. This letter was published in 1881 A.D from Rome and in 1890 A.D. in the memoirs of the martyrs of Christianity Jacobian Patriarch Dionysius and Zacharia of Mitylene have in their Syriac histories also related this event. Ya`qub Saruji also in his book about the Christians of Najran has made mention of it. Bishop Pulus of Edessa's elegy on those who perished in Najran, is still extant. An English translation of the Syriac kitab al-Himyarin (Book of the Himyarites) was published in 1924 from London, which confirms the statements of the Muslim historians. In the British Museum there are some Abyssinian manuscripts relating to that period or a period close to it, which support this story. Philby in his travelogue entitled "Arabian Highlands", writes: Among the people of Najran the place is still well known where the event of the people of the ditch (ashab al-ukhdud) had taken place. Close by Umm Kharaq there can still be seen some pictures carved in the rocks, and the present day people of Najran also know the place where the cathedral of Najran stood.
The Abyssinian Christians after capturing Najran had built a church here resembling the Ka`bah, by which they wanted to divert pilgrimage from the Ka`bah at Makkah to it. Its priests and keepers wore turbans and regarded it as a sacred sanctuary. The Roman empire also sent monetary aid for this "ka`bah". The priests of this very "Ka`bah" of Najran had visited the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) under the leadership of their Sayyid, `Aqib and Bishop for a discussion with him and the famous event of the mubahala (trial through prayer) took place as referred to in Al-Imran: 61. (For details. see E.N.'s 29 and 55 of Al-Imran)
In these verses those of Allah Almighty's attributes have been mentioned on account of which He alone deserves that one should believe in Him, and the people who feel displeased at one's believing in Him, are wicked and unjust.