Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
And from his narration on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he said concerning the interpretation of Allah's saying (By the Dawn): '(By the Dawn) He says: He swears by the dawn which is the breaking of day; it is also said it is the whole day; and it is also said that this refers to the dawn of the year.
The Explanation of Al-Fajr and what comes after it
Concerning Al-Fajr, it is well known that it is the morning. This was said by `Ali, Ibn `Abbas, `Ikrimah, Mujahid and As-Suddi. It has been reported from Masruq and Muhammad bin Ka`b that Al-Fajr refers to the day of Sacrifice (An-Nahr) in particular, and it is the last of the ten nights. `The ten nights' refers to the (first) ten days of Dhul-Hijjah. This was said by Ibn `Abbas, Ibn Zubayr, Mujahid and others among the Salaf and the latter generations. It has been confirmed in Sahih Al-Bukhari from Ibn `Abbas that the Prophet said,
(Not even Jihad in the way of Allah; except for a man who goes out (for Jihad) with his self and his wealth, and he does not return with any of that.)
Explanation of Night
Concerning Allah's statement,
وَالَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ
(And by the night when it departs.) Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, "When it goes away.'' `Abdullah bin Zubayr said,
وَالَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ
(And by the night when it departs.) "As some parts of it remove other parts of it.'' Mujahid, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Qatadah, and Malik who reported it from Zayd bin Aslam and Ibn Zayd, they all said;
وَالَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ
(And by the night when it departs.) "When it moves along.'' Concerning Allah's statement,
هَلْ فِى ذَلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِى حِجْرٍ
(There is indeed in them sufficient proofs for men with Hijr!) meaning, for he who possesses intellect, sound reasoning, understanding and religious discernment. The intellect has only been called Hijr because it prevents the person from doing that which is not befitting of him of actions and statement. From this we see the meaning of Hijr Al-Bayt because it prevents the person performing Tawaf from clinging the wall facing Ash-Sham. Also the term Hijr Al-Yamamah (the cage of the pigeon) is derived from this meaning (i.e., prevention). It is said, "Hajara Al-Hakim so-and-so (The judge passed a judgement preventing so-and-so),'' when his judgement prevents the person from his liberty (i.e., of freely utilizing his wealth). Allah says,
وَيَقُولُونَ حِجْراً مَّحْجُوراً
(And they will say: "Hijr Mahjur.'') (25:22) All of these examples are different cases but their meanings are quite similar. The oath that is referred to here is about the times of worship and the acts of worship themselves, such as Hajj, Salah and other acts of worship that Allah's pious, obedient, servants who fear Him and are humble before Him, seeking His Noble Face, perform in order to draw nearer to Him.
Mentioning the Destruction of `Ad
After mentioning these people, and their worship and obedience, Allah says,
أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ
(Saw you not how your Lord dealt with `Ad) These were people who were rebellious, disobedient, arrogant, outside of His obedience, deniers of His Messengers and rejectors of His Scriptures. Thus, Allah mentions how He destroyed them, annihilated them and made them legends to be spoken of and an exemplary lesson of warning. He says,
(Saw you not how your Lord dealt with `Ad Iram of the pillars,) These were the first people of `Ad. They were the descendants of `Ad bin Iram bin `Aws bin Sam bin Nuh. This was said by Ibn Ishaq. They are those to whom Allah sent His Messenger Hud. However, they rejected and opposed him. Therefore, Allah saved him and those who believed with him from among them, and He destroyed others with a furious, violent wind.
(Which Allah imposed on them for seven nights and eight days in succession, so that you could see men lying overthrown, as if they were hollow trunks of date palms! Do you see any remnants of them) (69: 7-8) Allah mentioned their story in the Qur'an in more than one place, so that the believers may learn a lesson from their demise. Allah then says,
إِرَمَ ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ
(Iram of the pillars.) This is an additional explanation that adds clarification who they actually were. Concerning His saying,
(of the pillars.) is because they used to live in trellised houses that were raised with firm pillars. They were the strongest people of their time in their physical stature, and they were the mightiest people in power. Thus, Hud reminded them of this blessing, and he directed them to use this power in the obedience of their Lord Who had created them. He said,
(As for 'Ad, they were arrogant in the land without right, and they said: "Who is mightier than us in strength'' See they not that Allah Who created them was mightier in strength than them.) (41:15) And Allah says here,
الَّتِى لَمْ يُخْلَقْ مِثْلُهَا فِى الْبِلَـدِ
(The like of which were not created in the land) meaning, there had been none created like them in their land, due to their strength, power and their great physical stature. Mujahid said, "Iram was an ancient nation who were the first people of `Ad.'' Qatadah bin Di`amah and As-Suddi both said, "Verily, Iram refers to the House of the kingdom of `Ad.'' This latter statement is good and strong. Concerning Allah's statement,
الَّتِى لَمْ يُخْلَقْ مِثْلُهَا فِى الْبِلَـدِ
(The like of which were not created in the land) Ibn Zayd considered the pronoun of discussion here to refer to the pillars, due to their loftiness. He said, "They built pillars among the hills, the likes of which had not been constructed in their land before.'' However, Qatadah and Ibn Jarir considered the pronoun of discussion to refer to the tribe (of `Ad), meaning that there was no tribe that had been created like this tribe in the land - meaning during their time. And this latter view is the correct position. The saying of Ibn Zayd and those who follow his view is a weak one, because if He intended that, He would have said "The like of which were not produced in the land.'' But He said:
لَمْ يُخْلَقْ مِثْلُهَا فِى الْبِلَـدِ
(The like of which were not created in the land.) Then Allah says,
وَثَمُودَ الَّذِينَ جَابُواْ الصَّخْرَ بِالْوَادِ
(And Thamud, who hewed (Jabu) rocks in the valley) meaning, they cut the rocks in the valley. Ibn `Abbas said, "They carved them and they hewed them.'' This was also said by Mujahid, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and Ibn Zayd. From this terminology it is said (in the Arabic language), "the hewing of leopard skin'' when it is torn, and "The hewing of a garment'' when it is opened. The word `Jayb' (pocket or opening in a garment) also comes from Jabu. Allah says,
وَتَنْحِتُونَ مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتاً فَـرِهِينَ
(And you hew in the mountains, houses with great skill.) (26:149)
A Mention of Fir`awn
Allah then says,
وَفِرْعَوْنَ ذِى الاٌّوْتَادِ
(And Fir`awn with Al-Awtad) Al-`Awfi reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, "Al-Awtad are the armies who enforced his commands for him.'' It has also been said that Fir`awn used to nail their hands and their feet into pegs (Awtad) of iron that he would hang them from. A similar statement was made by Mujahid when he said, "He used to nail the people (up) on pegs.'' Sa`id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan and As-Suddi all said the same thing. Allah said,
(Who did transgress beyond bounds in the lands. And made therein much mischief.) meaning, they rebelled, were arrogant, and went about making corruption in the land, and harming the people.
فَصَبَّ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّكَ سَوْطَ عَذَابٍ
(So, your Lord poured on them different kinds of severe torment.) meaning, He sent down a torment upon them from the sky and caused them to be overcome by a punishment that could not be repelled from the people who were criminals.
The Lord is Ever Watchful
Concerning Allah's statement,
إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالْمِرْصَادِ
(Verily, your Lord is Ever Watchful.) Ibn `Abbas said, "He hears and He sees.'' This means that He watches over His creation in that which they do, and He will reward them in this life and in the Hereafter based upon what each of them strove for. He will bring all of the creation before Him and He will judge them with justice. He will requit each of them with that which he deserves, for He is far removed from injustice and tyranny.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
Much difference of opinion has been expressed by the commentators in the commentary of these verses, so much so that in respect of "the even and the odd" there are as many as 36 different views. In some traditions the commentary of these verses has also been attributed to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace), but the fact is that no commentary is confirmed from him, otherwise it was not possible that anyone from among the Companions, their immediate successors, and later commentators would have dared to determine the meaning of these verses by himself after the commentary by the Holy Prophet.
After a study of the style one clearly feels that there was an argument already in progress in which the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) was presenting some thing and the disbelievers were denying it. At this, affirming what the Holy Prophet presented, it was said: By such and such a thing", so as to say: "By these things, what Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) says is wholly based on the truth. Then, the argument is concluded with the question: "Is there an oath in it for a man of understanding ?" That is, "is there need for yet another oath to testify to the truth of this matter ''" Is this oath not enough to persuade a sensible man to accept that which Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) is presenting?"
Now the question arises: what was the argument for the sake of which an oath was sworn by these four things? For this we shall have to consider the whole theme which, in the following verses, commences with: "Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with the 'Ad" and continues till the end of the Surah. It shows that the argument concerned the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter, which the people of Makkah were refusing to acknowledge and the Holy Messenger (upon whom be peace) was trying to convince them of this by constant preaching and instruction. At this oaths were sworn by the dawn, the ten nights, the even and the odd, and the departing night to assert: Are these four things not enough to convince a sensible man of the truth of this matter so that he may need yet another evidence for it?
After having determined the significance of these oaths in the context, we would inevitably have to take each of these in the meaning relevant to the subsequent theme. First of all, it is said: "By Fajr." Fajr is the breaking of day, i.e. the time when the first rays of the light of day appear in the midst of the darkness of night as a white streak from the east. Then, it is said: "By the ten nights." If the context is kept in view, it will become plain that it implies each group of the ten nights among the thirty nights of the month, the first ten nights being those during which the crescent moon starting as a thin nail. goes on waxing every night until its major portion becomes bright; the second group of the ten nights being those during which the greater part of the night remains illumined by the moon, and the last ten nights being those during which the moon goes on waning and the nights becoming more and more dark until by the end of the month the whole night becomes absolutely dark. Then, it is said : "By the even and the odd." Even is the number which is divisible into two equal parts, as 2, 4, 6, 8, and the odd the number which is not so divisible, as l, 3, 5, 7. Generally, it may imply everything in the universe, for things in the universe either exist in pairs or as singles. But since the context here concerns the day and the night, the even and the odd mean the alternation of day and night in the sense that the dates of the month go on changing from the first to the second, and from second to the third, and every change brings with it a new state. Last of all, it is said: "By the night when it is departing", i.e. when the darkness which had covered the world since sunset may be at the verge of disappearing and the day be dawning.
Now let us consider as a whole the four things an oath by which has been sworn to assert that the news which Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) is giving of the meting out of rewards and punishments is wholly based on the truth. All these things point to the reality that an all-Powerful Sustainer is ruling over this universe, and nothing of what He is doing is absurd, purposeless, or lacking wisdom; on the contrary, a wise plan clearly underlies whatever He does. In His world one will never see that while it is night, the midday sun should suddenly appear overhead, or that the moon should appear one evening in the shape of the crescent and be followed next evening by the full moon, or that the night, when it falls, should never come to an end, but should become perpetual, or that there should be no system in the alternation of the day and night so that one could keep a record of the dates and know what month was passing, what was the date, on what date a particular work is to begin, and when it is to finish, what are the dates of the summer season and what of the rainy or winter season. Apart from countless other things of the universe if man only considers this regularity of the day and night intelligently and seriously, he will find evidence of the truth that this relentless discipline and order has been established by an Omnipotent Sovereign God; with it are connected countless of the advantages of the creatures whom He has created on the earth. Now, if a person living in the world of such a Wise, Omnipotent and All-Mighty Creator denies the rewards and punishments of the Hereafter, he inevitably commits one of the two errors: either he is a denier of His powers and thinks that though He has the power to create the universe with such matchless order and discipline, He is powerless to recreate man and mete out rewards and punishments to him or he denies His wisdom and knowledge and thinks that although He has created man with intellect and powers in the world, vet He will neither ever call him to account as to how he used his intellect and his powers, nor will reward him for his good deeds, nor punish him for his evil deeds. The one who believes in either, is foolish in the extreme.