English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 86: At-Tariq — The Comer by Night (Revealed at Makkah: 17 verses)

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Introduction:

This chapter states how great were the difficulties which the Holy Prophet faced in bringing light to a benighted world, and in the first verse he is called The Comer by Night; hence the title. He is given comfort that a spiritual resurrection will be brought about. This chapter is among the earliest revelations. The reference at the close of the chapter to plans against the Holy Prophet may be prophetical.

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Translation:

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

86:1 By the heaven and the Comer by night!
86:2 And what will make you know what the Comer by night is?
86:3 The star of piercing brightness1
86:4 there is not a soul but over it is a keeper.2
86:5 So let man consider of what he is created.
86:6 He is created of water pouring forth,
86:7 coming from between the back and the ribs.3
86:8 Surely He is Able to return him (to life).
86:9 On the day when hidden things are manifested,4
86:10 then he will have no strength nor helper.
86:11 By the cloud giving rain,
86:12 and the earth opening (with vegetation)!
86:13 Surely it is a decisive word,5
86:14 and it is not a joke.
86:15 Surely they plan a plan,
86:16 and I plan a plan.
86:17 So grant the disbelievers a respite — let them alone for a while.6

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Commentary:

  1. Ṭāriq (from ṭarq, striking a thing) originally signifies a comer by night, because one who comes by night finds the doors shut, and knocking at the doors becomes necessary. The Comer by night is here the Holy Prophet; the revelation of the Quran is also spoken of as taking place on a blessed night (44:3, 97:1). The reason is that the Holy Prophet appeared when total darkness spread on the earth, and no one ever stood more in need of knocking at the doors which were shut against him and fastened with strong bolts. It is noteworthy that Jesus compares his advent to that of a thief: “…if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched… Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew, 24:43–44). It may be added that Ṭāriq is also the name given to the morning star, because it comes at the end of the night. The Comer by night is called the star of piercing brightness, indicating that the Comer by night is a star of such resplendent brightness that all darkness will be dispelled before him.
  2. Though the words are general, and signify that the deeds done by man are guarded so that he cannot escape their consequences, there is also a comfort for the Holy Prophet here that his opponents will not be able to harm him and that in time they will meet their doom. This is made clear at the end of the chapter.
  3. Water pouring forth refers to sperms. The expression between the back and the ribs is a euphemism. A similar expression occurs in a saying of the Holy Prophet: “Whoever gives me a guarantee as to that which is between his two jaws and that which is between his two feet, I guarantee for him paradise” (Mishkāt, 24:10), the significance being the control of the tongue and the control of lust.
  4. Note this description of the day of Resurrection. The hidden things are the consequences of one’s good or evil deeds, which will be made palpably mani­fest in the shape of Gardens and fruits or chains and Fire.
  5. The decisive word is the Quran. Just as when rain comes down, the earth produces vegetation, so the coming of the Divine revelation is bound to raise a dead nation to life, and no efforts against it would hamper its progress. There is also a reference to the doom of the disbelievers in v. 10, in the words he will have no strength nor helper.
  6. Whatever doubt there may be as to the significance of this chapter, it is dispelled by the last three verses, which speak of the plans of the opponents to exterminate Truth. The plan of God could not be frustrated, and the earth will receive life, but the Prophet is told to wait for a while. The same is true today.

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