Tafsir Surah al Najm (53: 42-62)

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

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The language and rhythm of this surah is unique, Allah begins verse 33 with a short question “Have you then seen him who turns his back?” and follows this with a number of phrases begining with “And”. Here Allah is both setting the style and pacing of the verses to come and does this for almost the remainder of the surah, if we look at how this was done in the previous verses (33-41) it becomes clear why, towards the end of this pattern;

 

  • 53:33  Have you then seen him who turns his back?
  • 53:34  And gives a little and (then) withholds.
  • 53:35  Has he the knowledge of the unseen so that he can see?
  • 53:36  Or, has he not been informed of what is in the scriptures of Musa?
  • 53:37  And (of) Ibrahim who fulfilled (the commandments):
  • 53:38  That no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another-
  • 53:39  And that man shall have nothing but what he strives for-
  • 53:40 And that his striving shall soon be seen-
  • 53:41  Then shall he be rewarded for it with the fullest reward-

By using this language, which is more apparent in Arabic, Allah is more clearly coupling subjects in the verses together over an extended number of verses, elsewhere in the Quran this is usually done within a verse by simply mentioning things side by side.

It then shouldn’t be a surprise how Allah continues the next verses…

  • 53:42  And that to your Lord is the goal,
  • 53:43  And He it is, Who makes you laugh and cry.
  • 53:44  And that He it is Who causes death and gives life (creates in the next life)
  • 53:45  And that He created the two spouses, the male and female,
  • 53:46  From a drop (of sperm) if it gets lodged (in the womb),
  • 53:47  And that upon Him is your last creation (resurrection).
  • 53:48  And that it is He alone who frees from want and causes to possess;
  • 53:49  And that He is the Lord of Sirius (the star);
  • 53:50  And that He did destroy the Ad of old
  • 53:51  And Samood, so He spared not
  • 53:52  And the folk of Noah before, Truly they were more unjust and more rebellious;
  • 53:53  And the overthrown cities did He overthrow, (Sodom and Gomorrah)
  • 53:54  So there covered them (in rubble) that which covered.
  • 53:55  So which of your Lord’s benefits will you then dispute about?

To your Lord is the return of all created beings after they die and their destination will be to Him in the Hereafter; and it is He Who makes you laugh, whomever He will He makes joyous, and makes you weep, whomever He will He makes him sorrowful, and it is He Who brings death, in this world, and gives life, for resurrection, and He [Himself] creates the two spouses, the two kinds, the male and the female, from a drop [of semen] once it is emitted, [once] it is poured forth into the womb, and that with Him rests the second genesis, the other creation, for the Resurrection, after the first creation.

(And that He it is Who enricheth) He made Himself independent of the need for created beings (and contenteth) and He made His slaves needy for Him; and that it is He Who is the Lord of Sirius — this is a star [lying] beyond [the constellation of] Gemini, which was worshipped in the time of paganism (jahiliyya); it was worshipped by the tribe of Khuza’ah; and that He destroyed the former Ad; this [former one] refers to the people of Ad the folk of Hud, while the second [Ad] is that of the people of Salih “And remember when He made you successors after Aad”(7:73)

(And (the tribe of) Thamud) the folk of Salih (He spared not) a single one of them; and the people of Noah before that, that is to say, before Ad and Thamud, We [also] destroyed them; indeed they were more unjust and more insolent, than Ad and Thamud, because of the long time that Noah remained among them: and he remained among them a thousand-less-fifty years [Q. 29:14], for they, despite their disbelief in him, would [still] harm him and assault him; and the Deviant [cities], namely, the cities of the people of Lot, (And al-Mu’tafikah He destroyed) and He destroyed the townships of the folk of Lot: Sodom (Sadum) and Gomorrah (Sawa’im); al-Mu’tafikat means those that were swallowed up by the earth.

He overturned, He hurled them down to the earth after lifting them up to the heaven (and slammed them back) upside down, by commanding Gabriel to do this; so that there covered them, of rocks afterwards, that which covered [them]: this is [purposely] left vague in order to inspire terror; in [surat] Hud [it is stated]: We made their uppermost the nethermost, and We rained upon them stones of baked clay [Q. 11:82]. (Tafsir al Jalalayn and Tafsir Ibn Abbas).

Regarding the depths of the Quran the following hadith which is Shia is being quoted to illustrate in a few short words and to be brief a subject all scholars agree with and which we have explained at length elsewhere in our books. Our book “The Light Of Allah In The Heavens and The Earth” contains a chapter entitled “What Is The Unseen World and Where Is It: Explaining The Technical Terminology Of The Scholars” that explains this subject in greater detail.

The prophet (saws) said “the Quran possesses an external appearance and a hidden depth, an exoteric meaning (easily understood) and an esoteric meaning (knowledge that needs contemplation). This esoteric meaning in turn conceals a (further) esoteric meaning (this depth in the Quran posses further depth). So it goes on for seven esoteric meanings (seven depths of further knowledge).(from Corbin, Henry (1993). History of Islamic philosophy, this hadith is also one of the main Ahaidth among the Shia, we should Keep in mind Imam Ali and his companions spent years among them teaching them, much of that we do not have through our narrators because they lived in other parts of the world).

Imam, Jafar al Sadiq (d. 765 AD) said, “The book of Allah comprises four things: the statement sent down, the allusions (what it alludes to), the hidden meanings relating to the supra-sensible world (the science behind the verses), and the exalted spiritual doctrines (wisdom and Law we should follow). The literal statement is for the ordinary believers. The allusions are the concern of the elite (scholars and scientists). The hidden meanings pertain to the friends of Allah (because they can put the bigger picture of life together from the smaller parts). The exalted spiritual doctrines are the province of the prophets. (They can see the greater wisdom from that picture)”

The Hidden meanings in the Quran relate to the scientific themes Allah is mentioning in each verse and how those topics scientifically relate to each other, because this is Allah’s knowledge of the Universe and every word of Allah is deliberate and purposefully phrased. We should remember Allah revealed the Quran for the minds of men and not as a sort of magic never to be understood, in fact Allah makes a promise to make people understand these deeper meanings once they develop scientifically “In time We shall make them fully understand Our messages”…(Quran 41:53)

Once we outline the themes in a verse, or over a number of verses, we can see the Quran’s depth by understanding how each science Allah is mentioning is related to the other. This is common in the Quran and at times Allah mentions six, seven, nine, twelve or more scientific themes, one after the other, to draw the bigger picture of life. We have shown a perfect example of this in our Tafsir to Surah al Shams (91) were Allah draws the complete picture of how man is inspired on earth, in this surah He does something similar but to refute the accusations of the Pagans, essentially throwing their words back in their faces and ending the chapter with a sever warning to them.

Allah begins by saying the goal of this life is to reach Allah in the next life and to spend it with Him, then He states something very deep that it is He who causeth laughter and crying, most people would say that it is their choice but most of the time both of these are instinct in man, a reaction to something, and it is mans instincts that are attuned to the ghayb (unseen) of the universe, so the underlaying subject is the unseen forces in the universe and Allah controlling them.

Remembering that each time Allah says ‘And’ (wa-in) in this surah He is connecting a greater number of topics together, Allah then connects laughter and crying with death and rebirth in the next verse, both death and rebirth are through the unseen forces in the Universe, the underlaying theme of rebirth is a reference to the creation of the Universe, in the next verse he connects this to the creation of pairs or spouses, male and female so now the theme has moved from the forces of the Universe to the creation of pairs that are spouses. He then states that this is from a drop that clings (in the womb) or one thing clinging to another, the male sperm to the female egg, the underlaying theme is things in the Universe that cling to each other, like the particles that make up the Atom clinging to each other through the forces of space.

Then Allah states the next creation of the Universe is His responsibility, when Allah relates something back to Him directly it is done from His qualities directly, kun fa yakun (be and it is), this is a more literal reference to Him using the forces governing this universe because elsewhere in the Quran He calls these forces His Hold on creation. Then He says He is the one who frees and causes to possess which is an indirect reference to a type of force which we will see once the next verse is explained, and that He is the Lord of the star Sirius.

The verses all build up and end with this last statement because what follows no longer builds up it is all referring to destruction and a severe warning. The build up of these topics ends with the mention of the star Sirius which these pagans worshiped and most verses before this speak about topics in pairs, Laughter and Crying, Death and Life, the Creation of pairs, Sperm and Clinging to an egg in the Womb, Allah and His responsibility for recreation and Want and Possessing, and finally that Sirius is under Allah’s Command, His laws that govern space.

Through these pairings Allah is revealing something new to the pagans they did not know about the star Siruis which they worshiped, supposedly they should then know it better than anyone else. This surah began as a challenge against the prophet (saws) and whether He (saws) was capable of receiving revelation, so through out it at every point Allah challenged them to their core, beginning by deconstructing their nature that is slave to their desires and then dismantling the foundations of their pagan belief by showing they invented it. So in this last verse Allah is showing them to what extent He is the Master of this Universe by revealing in front of their eyes it’s hidden secrets, to challenge and show that even if He stated matters from Ghayb (the unseen) in front of them they are still blind and incapable of unraveling it like the prophet (saws).

The star Sirius is the brightest star in the Earth’s night sky, it is almost twice as bright as Canopus, the next brightest star. What the naked eye perceives as a single star is actually a binary star, consisting of a white main star, termed Sirius A, and a faint white dwarf companion called Sirius B, just like the pairing in the verses prior to this Siruis is in fact a pair of stars orbiting each other, which is why it is the brightest star in the sky.

A binary star is a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around each other, or possessing each other, Allah indirectly mentions this in the verse just before mentioning Siruis “And that it is He alone who frees… and causes to possess” the subject of want and possessing, which is another description for two stars orbiting through the forces that bind them, this subject flows into the next verse with out interruption, these stars orbit each other through the forces in the Universes that bind them like gravity.

Allah then couples this subject of the unseen forces with the destruction of the people of Ad who were destroyed by a violent wind Allah sent against them for seven nights and eight days that buried them. Then He mentions the destruction of Thamud who He destroyed with an earthquake and the people of Noah with the flood, then the people of Lut who were flung down to earth from the sky by Jibril, then He says “So there covered them that which covered”, Allah uses three different things to cover these people, wind, earth and water. After mentioning His ability to create in a number of verses before these Allah then wants people to think bout His power to destroy as well, He lists all the people who wronged themselves, before these pagans came along, and were destroyed by the power of Allah this is one of the most serious and vivid warnings in the Quran, a warning He began by asserting He is the Lord of the Star they worshiped, Sirius, essentially mentioning it’s very creation in the subtexts of the verses to place in front of them the extent of their blindness.

All of this is in response to the question Allah put in from of them at the start, ’Have they the knowledge of the unseen so that they can see?’

Allah then demands of them “So which of your Lord’s benefits will you then dispute about?”

Then He asserts…

  • 53:56  This is a warner of the warners of old.
  • 53:57  The near event draws nigh (the hour).
  • 53:58  There shall be none besides Allah to remove it.
  • 53:59  Do you then wonder at this announcement?
  • 53:60  And will you laugh (mockingly) and not weep?
  • 53:61  Wasting your time in vanities?
  • 53:62  Rather prostrate yourselves before Allah and serve Him.
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