English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 89: Al-Fajr — The Daybreak (Revealed at Makkah: 30 verses)

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Introduction:

The important Daybreak mentioned in the first verse, after which this chapter is named, is the first morning of the month of Dhu-l-Ḥijjah, the month of the pilgrimage, because this institution had given Makkah great importance as a trade centre and brought material prosperity to its residents. A warning is given here of the punishment that must overtake the city, as punishment over-took earlier people. It is one of the earliest revelations.

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Translation:

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

89:1 By the daybreak!
89:2 And the ten nights!
89:3 And the even and the odd!
89:4 And the night when it departs!1
89:5 Truly in this is an oath for those who have understanding.
89:6 Have you not considered how your Lord dealt with Ād,
89:7 (of) Iram,2 having lofty buildings,
89:8 whose like were not created in the land;
89:9 and (with) Thamūd, who carved out rocks in the valley (to make houses);
89:10 and Pharaoh, the lord of armies,
89:11 who exceeded limits in the cities,
89:12 and made great mischief in them?
89:13 So your Lord poured on them a portion of punishment.3
89:14 Surely your Lord is Watchful.
89:15 As for man, when his Lord tries him, so (that) He gives him honour and favours him, he says: My Lord honours me.
89:16 But when He tries him, so (that) He restricts for him his (means of) subsistence, he says: My Lord has disgraced me.4
89:17 No, but you do not honour the orphan,
89:18 nor do you urge one another to feed the poor,5
89:19 and you devour heritage, devouring all,6
89:20 and you love wealth with exceeding love.
89:21 No indeed! When the earth is made to crumble to pieces,
89:22 and your Lord comes with the angels, ranks on ranks;
89:23 and hell is made to appear that day. On that day man will be mindful, and of what use will being mindful be then?
89:24 He will say: I wish I had sent (good deeds) ahead for this life of mine!
89:25 But none can punish as He will punish on that day.
89:26 And none can bind as He will bind on that day.7
89:27 O soul that are at rest,
89:28 return to your Lord, well-pleased (with Him), well-pleasing (Him).
89:29 So enter among My servants,
89:30 and enter My Garden!8

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Commentary:

  1. There is a great variety of opinion as to what is meant by the daybreak, the ten nights, and the even and the odd. The reference may be to the importance attached to Makkah (which is mentioned as The City at the commencement of the next chapter), because it was not only the spiritual centre of Arabia, but had also become its trade centre, on account of pilgrims resorting to it from all parts of Arabia. The daybreak would thus signify the daybreak of the first of the month of Dhu-l-Ḥijjah; the ten nights would stand for the first ten nights of that month, the tenth day being the day of sacrifices. The even may refer to the creation, which consists of pairs (51:49), and the odd to the Creator Who is one. The whole is a warning to the people of Makkah that, if they do not heed the warning, their end will be the same as the end of previous rejectors of truth.
  2. Iram or Aram may be the name of the grandfather of Ād, from whom the tribe took its name or the name of a city in which it lived.
  3. The meaning is that they received a portion of the punishment here, greater punishment overtaking them after death.
  4. God tries man both by granting him affluence, in which case he is puffed up with pride and says that his wealth is an indication that God honours him, and by poverty, in which case he thinks that God has disgraced him.
  5. Verses 17–19 show how the Prophet felt for the orphans, the poor and the weak, so much so that he warns his powerful and wealthy opponents that their indifference to the orphans and the poor and their injustice to the weak will bring down upon them the Divine judgment, which will shatter their power. He re­mained, to the end, a true well-wisher of the weak and the oppressed. When he became the head of a State, he provided for the orphans and the poor out of the public funds; see 9:60.
  6. Among the Arabs, women and young children were not allowed to have any share in the inheritance, because they could not fight the enemy.
  7. These words indicate the severity of the punishment.
  8. Verses 27–30 refer to the highest stage of the spiritual development of man, the stage in which he rests contented with his Lord. At this last stage, the pure and perfect sincerity, truth and righteousness of a person are rewarded by Almighty God by granting him a heaven on this earth. It is at this stage too that a person realizes that the prayers and worship which at first appeared to him as a burden are really a nourishment on which the growth of his soul depends, and that this is the basis of his spiritual development.

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