Tafsir Surah al Najm (53:19-32)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

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Allah continues, “Have you then considered al Lat and Uzza, And Manat, the third, the last? What! for you (pagans) the males and for Him (Allah) the females! (A reference to the Angles) This indeed is an unjust division! They are naught but names (for your idols) which you have named, you and your fathers; Allah has not sent for them any authority. They follow naught but conjecture and the low desires which (their) souls incline to; and certainly the guidance has come to them from their Lord. Or shall man have what he wishes? Nay! for Allah is the hereafter and the former (life).” (53:19-25)

“It was said that the verse means: do you deem that your worship of (the idols) al-Lat, al-‘Uzza and Manat in the life of the world will benefit you in the Hereafter. No, it will surely not benefit you. As for al-Lat it was an idol which was worshipped in Thaqif (by that tribe); al-‘Uzza was a tree in Batn al-Nakhlah which (the tribe of) Ghatafan worshipped; while Manat was an idol in Mecca which was worshipped beside Allah by (the tribes) Hudhayl and Khuza’ah.” (Tanwir al Miqbas min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, 53:20)

Allah switches the subject from highest state a person can achieve “Certainly he saw of the greatest signs of his Lord” to the lowest state of humanity that the pagans of Makkah were involved in, worshiping their idols, “Have you then considered Lat and Uzza, And Manat, the third, the last?”.

After establishing the prophets ability to receive revelation He now questions the pagans themselves and the lives they are living which was stopping them from comprehending.

If a person physically trains everyday his increased health gives him clarity in his self, if he is lethargic then his unhealthy state shapes his mind, character and heart in a bad way, in a similar way our moral or immoral actions shape who we are from the physiological level to the psychological and spiritual level, so Allah wants to point out this contrast between perfection and corruption to the pagans by switching the subject to them.

“The meaning then is, ‘Inform Me: do these idols have the power over anything, such that you worship them besides Allah Who has the power over all that has been mentioned?’ And because of their assertion also that the angels were Allah’s daughters, despite their aversion to daughters, the following was revealed: What! for you (pagans) the males and for Him (Allah) the females!” (Tafsir al Jalalayn, 53:20).

Allah begins the questioning of the pagans by mentioning the unjust reality they are painting against Him, He says to them ‘you worship Idols that have no power and relegate Allah to something that is unacceptable in your society’, since they hated the birth of females, How could you have a clear perspective of the truth when you bury it behind stories that push it away.

So Allah then accuses them of being unbalanced “This indeed is an unjust division!” because being unjust is a result of being unbalanced and that is the subtext of the surah, comparing the prophets (saws) inner nature to the pagans who are deluded by their made up religion.

Allah continues…“They are naught but names (for your idols) which you have named, you and your fathers; Allah has not sent for them any authority. They follow naught but conjecture and the low desires which (their) souls incline to; and certainly the guidance has come to them from their Lord.”(52:23)

Allah ties everything He is accusing them of back to mans nature by saying to them you only worship them because you follow your low desires “they worship them because they follow their own desires.” (Tafsir ibn Abbas) they accuse the prophet (saws) of not being capable of receiving revelation and seeing the unseen clearly all the while they worship stones and wood as their gods, so then how can you claim you see clearly when you can’t see beyond these pieces of stone and wood you say are your gods.

Their desires are so out of control they believe what ever they wish so Allah again accuses their low nature “Or shall man, that is, shall every human being among them, have whatever he wishes for?, such as [their wish] that the idols intercede for them. [No!] It is not so.”(Tafsir al Jalalayn, 53:24)

Allah is bringing them down even further by saying you accuse the prophets nature but you make up your religion as you desire and expect it to be reality, this is far from the truth, the creation of the Universe runs according to the Laws of Allah not what you invent.

The subtext of the surah, mans nature and the universe, is maintained through out the entire chapter in Allah’s words, He ends by saying to the pagans “Yet to Allah belong the Hereafter and the former [life], that is to say, [the life of] the world, and so nothing comes to pass in them except what He, exalted, wills.”(Tafsir al Jalalayn,53:25)

Allah continues…“And how many an angel is there in the heavens whose intercession does not avail at all except after Allah has given permission to whom He pleases and chooses. Most surely they who do not believe in the hereafter name the angels with female names. And they have no knowledge thereof. They follow but a guess, and lo! a guess can never take the place of the truth. Therefore turn aside from him who turns his back upon Our reminder and does not desire anything but this world’s life. Such is their sum of knowledge. Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth, and He is Best Aware of him whom goeth right.” (53:26-30)

The intercession is not just referring to the Angels pleading for mankind but to the Angels governing the universe and acting on behalf of Allah, what they choose doesn’t come to pass until Allah accepts it first.

The Pagans believed their idols similarly intercede on their behalf with the creator, but Allah poses a question to the pagans to wake them up, He says to them the intercession of the Angels is worthless unless He accepts it yet you invent idols and place them as interceders with Him, “Allah has given permission to whom He pleases and chooses” but He hasn’t given permission to what you invent “Allah has not sent for them (your idols) any authority” to act in the universe, they are just stones and wood.

Allah then says to them you don’t believe in the hereafter because of your unjust character, which is the meaning behind their insisting Allah has created for himself something inferior to what they possess, that they have male sons while Allah has only women for Angels, this is a derogatory perceptive they insist on viewing Allah with and it is a result of their moral corruption.

Because of the greater context of the surah Allah is tying the physiological and spiritual causes for being capable of accepting the truth with the inability to accept it, in other words the reasons (asbab) behind Iman and Kufr. He is saying behaving unjust will unbalance your character and you will be incapable of deciphering between what is true and what is false because your perspective is now warped by your desire. We need to think of this in terms of the chemicals and psychology mans actions produce in him because Allah in the surah is constantly pointing towards the Laws that govern the universe and mans nature.

Their desires (kufr) were a result of the false gods they created to act as intercessors for them, the reality is they made these idols say what ever they wished so they could lift the moral burdens of their actions from themselves.

So Allah is saying to them, no, these idols have no power to do anything for you and your worship of them doesn’t bring about any change in the Universe except your own corruption, “And they have no knowledge thereof. They follow but a guess (a delusion), and lo! a guess can never take the place of the truth. Therefore turn aside from him who turns his back upon Our reminder and does not desire anything but this world’s life,” turn away from people who only have desire for this life, they are incapable of understanding this type of knowledge we are giving them because of their corruption, “Such is their sum of knowledge (all they understand). Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth, and He is Best Aware of him whom goeth right.”

Allah continues the subtext of man’s connection with the universe in the following verses but switches the perspective to Him controlling the Universe so man understands their is science and knowledge behind everything that occurs in creation, this is clear from Allah’s warning against ascribing purity to ourself which was a blind and unscientific way of looking at life common in the old world, Allah corrects this and says, no, this is all a result of your actions, which is a reference to science and the fact every action has an “equal and opposite reaction” so Allah by switching perspectives to Himself is saying everything that occurs is because of Him and His Laws in the universe and like a chemical reaction it is all a consequence of what we do in life.

Allah continues…“And Allah’s is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth, that He may reward those who do evil according to what they do, and (that) He may reward those who do good with goodness. Those who keep aloof from the great sins and the indecencies but the passing idea; surely your Lord is liberal in forgiving. He knows you best when He brings you forth from the earth and when you are embryos in the wombs of your mothers; therefore do not attribute purity to your souls; He knows him best who guards (against evil).”(53:31-32)

Allah begins the verse by saying to Him belongs the entire Universe so man can understand He is talking about a subject greater than our daily lives, but then gives a reason for it belonging to Him “that He may reward” people for what they do, this is pretty much the third law of motion in physics “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”, to Allah belongs the Universe so He can give every act its “reaction”, Allah is teaching man that all our actions cause reactions in the universe, this is why He gave a reason for Him owning the Universe rather than simply saying He is it’s creator, Allah wasn’t justifying himself for owning it He was pointing out something deeper to us, the foundations of chemistry and physics, that this Universe is run by scientific Laws not just religious Laws.

This is further emphasised in the next verse where He switches from the Laws of the Universe to mans actions then to how man was created, starting with the molecules he is made from then to when he was in the womb, all to force man to look at the microscopic world when trying to understand the reason behind things. Allah then ends the verse by saying purity isn’t a thing of magic, you are not it’s source magically purifying everything it comes about because of your actions, in this case Allah is saying warding of evil is the source of purity in the universe, this is the reaction to mans actions in life.

The theme of Allah controlling the universe and all the reactions that occur in it is clear from the reason behind verse 32’s revelation.

Thabit ibn al-Harith al-Ansari said: “The Jews used to say when they lost a young boy: ‘He is a Tsadoq (Siddiq, a form of purity)’. The Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, heard of this and commented: ‘The Jews have lied. No living person that Allah creates in the womb of his mother except that it is either felicitous or damned’. Upon which Allah, exalted is He, revealed this verse “He is Best Aware of you (from the time) when He created you from the earth, and when ye were hidden in the bellies of your mothers” (al wahidi’s asbab al nuzul 53:32).

Here we see Allah saying He decided the reason behind what will occur in mans life from the time He is in the womb, so purity isn’t something magical it has causes (asbab) and reasons behind it like the laws of chemistry and physics, “His is the creation and the command”(7:54).

All of this is in response to the pagans creating idols according to their desires claiming they do what the pagans created them for, “Or shall man have what he wishes (desires)?” but Allah answers them saying everything is according to His command “Nay! for Allah is the hereafter and the former (life)” this life and the next are mentioned in this way because the subject of idol worship is about what happens to man in the next life but all of that is a result of what happens to us in this life first and to Allah belong both.

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