English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Chapter 85: Al-Buruj — The Stars (Revealed at Makkah: 22 verses)
This chapter takes its title from the mention in the first verse of the heaven full of stars, which indicates that persons bearing the light of Islam will spread far and wide. The chapter refers to past history to show that those who persecute the believers will meet with destruction, as happened before. It is one of the very early revelations.
In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.
85:1 By the heaven full of stars!
85:2 And the Promised day!
85:3 And the bearer of witness and that to which witness is borne!1
85:4 Destruction overtake the companions of the trench!2 —
85:5 the fire fed with fuel —
85:6 when they sit by it,
85:7 and they are witnesses of what they do with the believers.
85:8 And they punished them for nothing except that they believed in Allah, the Mighty, the Praised,
85:9 Whose is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth. And Allah is Witness of all things.
85:10 Those who persecute believing men and believing women, then do not repent, theirs is the punishment of hell, and theirs the punishment of burning.
85:11 Those who believe and do good, theirs are Gardens in which rivers flow. That is the great achievement.
85:12 Surely the grip of your Lord is severe.
85:13 Surely He it is Who creates first and reproduces;
85:14 and He is the Forgiving, the Loving,
85:15 Lord of the Throne of Power, the Glorious,
85:16 Doer of what He intends.
85:17 Has not the story come to you of the forces,
85:18 of Pharaoh and Thamūd?
85:19 But those who disbelieve deny —
85:20 and Allah encompasses them on all sides.
85:21 Indeed, it is a glorious Quran,
85:22 in a guarded tablet.3
- Burūj is the plural of burj which means a tower or fortress or a sign of the Zodiac or a star or constellation. Its root meaning is that of becoming manifest or high, and hence the various significations. As in 82:2 (see 82:4 footnote), the stars stand for the lesser lights, i.e. companions of the Prophet or the bearers of the message of Truth to people, in comparison with the sun to which the Prophet himself is likened (33:46). In the heaven full of stars there is thus a reference to the preachers of Truth, who will scatter far and wide. Hence the mention of the promised day in v. 2, the day of the triumph of Truth. The word shāhid (bearer of witness) here and shahīd elsewhere (see 4:41, etc.) both signify the Prophet. “That to which witness is borne” is the message of Truth, or it means those against whom the Prophet bears witness, i.e., the opponents of Truth. ↩
- The commentators give three different versions of the story supposed to be referred to in this verse, the best-known being that the reference is to the persecution of some Christians by Dhu Nawas, a king of Yaman, who was of the Jewish religion. One opinion holds that the reference may be to Nebuchadnezzar’s casting Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego into the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:19–21). However, there may, as well, be a prophetical reference here to the great Arab army against which the Muslims were compelled to defend themselves by means of a trench, in what is called the battle of the Allies or the battle of the Ditch; see 33:9 footnote 1. The words of v. 7, and particularly of v. 10, clearly show that the reference here is to the enemies of the Holy Prophet, who persecuted the believing men and the believing women. ↩
- The significance of these words is simply that the Quran is guarded against corruption and against the attacks of its opponents; compare 15:9: “Surely We have revealed the Reminder and surely We are its Guardian”. There is no mention here or anywhere else in the Quran of the “guarded tablet” (lauḥ maḥfūẓ) on which the decrees of God are written; but even if the reference here be to it, the significance is still the same, namely, that the Quran shall be fully guarded. ↩