REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF THE SUN [91]


REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF THE SUN [91]


In the Name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.


وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَاهَا (1) وَالْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَاهَا (2) وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّاهَا (3) وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَاهَا (4) وَالسَّمَاءِ وَمَا بَنَاهَا (5) وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا طَحَاهَا (6) وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا (7) فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا (8) قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا (9) وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا (10) كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِطَغْوَاهَا (11) إِذِ انبَعَثَ أَشْقَاهَا (12) فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ نَاقَةَ اللَّهِ وَسُقْيَاهَا (13) فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُم بِذَنبِهِمْ فَسَوَّاهَا (14) وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَاهَا (15)

1. “By the Sun and its Brightness,”2. “By the Moon when it follows it (reflects the Sun’s light),” 3. “By the day when it unfolds its glory,” 4. “By the night when it enshrouds it,” 5. “By the heaven and He Who made it,” 6. “By the Earth and He Who spread it,” 7. “And by the soul and He Who perfected it,” 8,”Then inspired it to understand what is wrong and (what is) right for it,” 9. “Indeed he succeeds who purifies it,” 10. “And indeed he fails who corrupts it.” 11. “The Thamud (people) rejected (their prophet) through their inordinate wrong doing,” 12. “When the most wicked man among them was sent forth (to kill the she-camel).,” 13. “Then the Messenger of God (Salih) said to them: ‘It is a she-camel of God and (bar her not from) having her drink!” 14. “But they rejected him and hamstrung her, so their Lord crushed them for their sin and levelled them (with the ground),” 15. “And He does not fear the consequence thereof.”

[Surah Ash-Shams]


This Surah, which is in fact a Surah on the purification of the ‘carnal soul’ and sanctification of the heart from vice and impurities’, explains the same themes as in previous Suras, but at the beginning of the Surah eleven great subjects from the world of creation and Divine essence are mentioned and to prove that salvation depends upon ‘purification of the carnal soul’ some oaths are made. These oaths envelop most of the Qur’anic oaths collectively.

At the end of the Surah, the People of Thamud, as an example or a disobedient people, are briefly pointed out. They defied God’s sacred Law and His prophet, Salih (as), and were destroyed for their crime, which was the fruit of neglecting ‘the purification of the carnal soul’.

This short Surah, in fact, restates one of the most important instructive points for the destiny of Man’s life, and leads him to true Islamic values.


The Virtue in Studying this Surah

On the virtue of reciting this Surah, we refer to a tradition narrated from the Prophet (S) who said:

“He who recites it (Surah Ash-Shams) is like he who has given charity (in the way of Allah) to all things that the sun and the moon shine upon.” [1]

And certainly, this great excellence belongs to the one who keeps the sublime content of this short Surah alive in his spirit and knows that the ‘purification of the carnal soul’ is his constant duty.


“By the Sun and its brightness”,

There are some considerable oaths pointed out at the beginning of this Surah. By one consideration, they are eleven oaths, and by another one, they are seven. In any case, in this position the number of oaths is the largest throughout the Qur’an and this shows that in these verses the solemn appeal is made to something very splendid. The matter is as important as the solemnity of the heavens, Earth, sun, and moon; that which is effective in the fate of Man.

First, the oaths will be described and commented on and then, attention will be paid to the great subject that these oaths are made to.

“By the Sun and its brightness”, as it was mentioned earlier, Qur’anic oaths are generally for two purposes. First, the oaths pertain to the importance of the subject which the oath is made to. Second, they pertain to the importance of the affairs themselves, since oaths are always made to great matters. In this way, the oaths make Man contemplate and evoke his thoughts to work on the great objects of God’s sublime creation through which he may find a path to Him.

The sun plays a big role in Man’s life and in the life of all living creatures on the earth, because it is not only a source of heat and energy (the essential factors necessary for life), but also, it is the origin of some other life giving factors such as; winds, rains, plants, running rivers and waterfalls, and even the energy mineral sources; oil, coal, and the like, all depend on the sunlight. So, if this world- illuminating-lamp ceased one day, darkness, silence and death would dominate everywhere.

The term “dhuha” (ضحى) originally means ‘those hours of the morning which follow shortly after sunrise’, and here it means ‘the full brightness of the sun’.

The particular emphasis put on the term “dhuha” is for its importance, when the glory of sunlight dominates the land.


“By the Moon when it follows it (reflects the sun’s light)”.

“By the Moon when it follows it (reflects the sun’s light)”. This sense, as some commentators have said, refers to the full moon, i.e. on the fourteenth night of the lunar month; since on this night the moon appears on the eastern horizon nearly at the time of sunset and with its silver light, introduces itself in the sky and to the world when the world is in its most beautiful state to which swearing is done. The word “talaha” (تَلَاهَا) comes from the word “tilow” (تلو) which means: in pursuit of; in search of, dependent; follower ; subject ; subordinate ; subsidiary etc. The moon is always in pursuit and in search of the sun and its broad light.

The light of the moon is dependent on the sunlight, and hence, It is also probable that the above mentioned meaning refers to the constant dependence of the moon on the sun and getting light from it, but in this case the sentence: “…when it follows it” will be an adverbial time clause. There are also other commentaries cited about this verse, however, this discussion will conclude here.


“By the day when it unfolds its glory”

“By the day when it unfolds its glory”, the term “jallaha” (جَلَّاهَا) is based on “tajliyah” (تَجْلِيَة) which means ‘revealment’.

The commentators are divided on the meaning of the pronoun “ha” (هَا) in the term “jallaha”. Many of them believe it refers to the earth (as mentioned earlier).

Some also believe that the pronoun refers to the sun, that is; ‘by the day when it makes the sun manifest’. It is true that the sun makes the day appear, but figuratively speaking, it can be said that the day makes the sun apparent. However, the first commentary seems more appropriate.

At any rate, the swearing is done in the names of these great celestial phenomena, because they are extremely effective both in the life of Man and of all living creatures, and day, itself, is the sign of movement and struggle; a mystery to any intelligent, active mind.


“By the night when it enshroud it,”

“By the night when it enshroud it,” night, with all its blessings and effects, which, on the one hand, moderates the heat of the sun and on the other, brings quietude to living things, is completely necessary for life. It provides Man, and the majority of living creatures, with rest. If the darkness of night did not exist and the sun were to shine, continuously, there would be no tranquillity, because the piercing heat of the sun would destroy everything.

Even if the regularity of day and night were not as it is, now the same situation would exist. For instance, like the moon whose one night is equal to two weeks’ time on our globe, as well as in the middle of one of its days, the heat of its atmosphere; almost three hundred degrees centigrade, or at midnight when the weather is so cold no living creature, that we know of, could live there.

It is noteworthy that the verbs, in the former verses, were in the past tense while, in this verse, the verb is in the present tense. This variety of tenses may be for the fact that some phenomena, such as day and night, are not peculiar to a definite time; they belong to both the past and the future to show the generality of these incidents over a length of time.


“By the heaven and He Who made it,”

In the sixth and seventh oaths heaven and its Creator is referred to. It says: “By the heaven and He Who made it,” the creation of the glorious heaven with its beautiful heavenly bodies and their wonderful regularities, is one of the manifestations of God’s might and wisdom which none else, besides Him, could ever produce.

It is worthy to note that “ma” (مَا), in Arabic, usually refers to non-intellectual beings and using it for God, All-knowing, is inappropriate.

Then, some had to consider it ‘ma masdariyah’ (the word after ‘ma’ is infinitive) and construed the verse as: ‘by the heaven and its structure’.

But, regarding verses 7 and 8, whose commentaries will be dealt with later, we have to consider “ma” as a relative pronoun that refers to God, the Creator of all heavens.

Using “ma”, for intelligent persons, referring to the word ‘women’ in the following verse, is not uncommon in the Arabic language, either, as in Surah An-Nisa, No. 4, verse 3: “…Marry women of your choice…”

A group of commentators believe that the term “ma” with the meaning of ‘something’, here is for mentioning the origin of the world in an ambiguous form and consequently later, after careful study some become familiar with His Knowledge and Wisdom and can change the concept of ‘something’ to ‘someone’. But, the commentary on ‘He’ is more fitting.


“By the Earth and He Who spread it,”

Continuing with the eighth and ninth oaths the reference is to the Earth and the Producer of the Earth. It says: “By the Earth and He Who spread it,” the Earth, which is a cradle of life for Man and all living creatures, with all its wonders; mountains, seas, valleys, forests, springs, rivers, mines, and other precious sources, is a collection of the Divine Signs, each of which if studied intelligently, is an evidence of His might and wisdom, and more important than the Earth is the Creator of the Earth Who spreads it out.

The term “tahaha” (طَحَاهَا) is derived from “tahw” (طحو) used with the sense of ‘to spread, spread out’ and also with the meaning of ‘to repel or to destroy’ and here it means ‘spread or expand’, because:

1) the earth was totally submerged under water at the beginning and then, gradually the water subsided into the lowlands causing high points of land to appear and spread which is called “dahw-ul-ard” (دحو الأرض)

2) At first, the earth was totally in the form of high and lowlands with steep slopes that were uninhabitable.

Continuous heavy rains washed the highlands and thereby, filled the valley, so, little by little, dry level lands appeared, becoming suitable for Man to live and farm on.

Some commentators believe that there is also a slight hint, in this sense, to the movement or the Earth, because one or the meanings of “tahw” is ‘repel’ and it may point to the ‘driving’ or the Earth around the sun or around itself or both of them.


“And by the soul and He Who Perfected it,”

Finally, attention is paid to the tenth and eleventh oaths, the last oaths or this portion, saying: “And by the soul and He Who Perfected it,”

Man is an essence or the world or creation, the best on the earth and in the heavens. The human soul is one or the greatest mysteries of the universe. Its importance is so much that God swears by it and by its Producer, both.

Commentators have delivered some different probabilities as to whether the term “nafs” (نفس), here means Man’s ‘soul’ or his ‘body and soul’.

If it means ‘soul’ the term “sawwaha” (سَوَّاهَا) is based on “taswiyah” (تسوية ) refers to the proportion and order of Man’s soul and his spiritual faculties including his external and internal senses such as comprehension, memory, apprehension, imagination, faculty of origination, love, will, and the like, all of which can be studied in psychology.

If it means ‘soul and body’, both, it covers all the wonders and regularities found in the body and its different systems and these can be studied in anatomy and physiology.


However, the term “nafs”, in the Qur’an, refers to both of them. Regarding the use of “nafs” for both the soul and the body the Qur’an says about the ‘soul’: “It is God that takes the souls (of man) at death…”, [2]

and about the body (a man) it says: “He said, ‘O my Lord! I have slain a man among them, and I fear lest they slay me’. [3]

But here both meanings are involved since the wonders of the Divine Power are seen in both the soul and body not in only one of them.

It is interesting that the ‘soul’ is mentioned, here in an indefinite form which may refer to the importance of Man’s soul something which is beyond the imagination and also full of ambiguity that introduces him as an ‘unknown being’; the very title that some scientists have used for Man.


“And (he) inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it.,”

In the next verse, concerning the creation of Man, one of the most important things is referred to. It says: “And (he) inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it.,”

Yes, when the creation of Man was completed and he came into being, God taught him how to discriminate between right and wrong. This is the most precious gift of all granted exclusively to Man. Thus, an entity out of clay and God’s spirit, into which He breathes an understanding of what is sin, impiety, and wrong doing and what is piety and right conduct, in the special circumstances in which it may be placed, was formed as Man.

By those faculties and talents, and these various tokens, Man should learn that his success, prosperity, salvation, and position, where he can be in a rank higher than the angels, depends on himself, on his keeping his soul pure as God has made it, and his failure, his decline; to the lowest degree even lower than the beast, and his perdition depends on himself soiling his soul by choosing evil.


The term “alhamaha” (أَلْهَمَهَا) derived from “ilham” (اِلْهام) originally means ‘to ingurgitate, swallow up something greedily’, then, it has been used with the sense of ‘to inspire a matter from God to the soul of Man’, as if Man’s soul ingurgitates the matter with all its entity.

Sometimes, it has also been used in the sense of ‘revelation’ while some of the commentators believe that the difference between ‘inspiration’ and ‘revelation’ is that in the former, the one to whom something is inspired does not understand where he has gotten it from, but in the latter, he knows well where he has received the revelation from and how.


The term “fujur” (فُجُورَ) is based on “fajr” (فجر) and as it was said before, it means ‘break open’, and since the light of dawn breaks the gloom of night it is called “fajr”, and also, since committing sin breaks the curtain of piety and religion, it is called “fujur”.

Of course, the purpose of using the term “fujur” in the verse under discussion, is to denote the means of this breaking and also the means and ways of its occurrence.


And the purpose of using the term “taqwa(تقوى) is based on “wiqayah” (وِقَايَة) with the meaning of ‘protection’, is that Man protects himself from sin, crime, corruption and vice.

It is necessary to note that verse 8 does not mean, as some have considered, that God put the means of committing “fujur” and “taqwa” inside the soul of Man; the very means which cause him to do wrong actions and break the curtains of piety, or the means and ways that push him towards piety and good actions.

They have thought of the verse as an evidence for the existence of some contrariety in the entity of Man. It says that God inspired him and taught him these two facts.

In simpler words, He showed him the difference between right and wrong, as is mentioned in Surah Al-Balad, No. 90 verse 10: “And showed him the two ways (of good and evil)”.

And expressively, the soul is inspired by God; its Almighty and All-wise Author, with the consciousness and the faculty of discretion to distinguish between piety and impiety, right conduct and the wrong ways in life, by the means of his ‘wisdom’ and ‘primordial nature’.


Therefore,some commentators believe that this verse, in fact, refers to the proposition of the idea of ‘rational goodness and evil’ and that God has gifted Man with the ability to distinguish between them.

It is noteworthy that God has given Man many blessings, but, among all of them the Qur’an emphasizes, here on the inspiration of understanding ‘piety’ and ‘impiety’ and the recognition of right and wrong, because this is the most important factor in the destiny of Man.


“Indeed he succeeds who purifies it,”

Finally, after these numerous important oaths, attention is paid to the result of them and says: “Indeed he succeeds who purifies it,”

The term “zakkaha” (زَكَّاهَا) is based on “tazkiyah” (تزكية) which originally means ‘to grow’; and “zakat” (زكاة) basically means ‘growth’.


This meaning is used in a narration from Hazrat Ali (as), thus:

“…wealth decreases if you keep spending it and knowledge increases the more you make use of it”. [4]


Later, the term was used to mean ‘to purify’, perhaps because the purification of wealth from putridity causes it to increase. In the current verse both meanings are suitable.

Yes, ‘salvation’ depends upon preserving the soul in its original purity against it getting soiled, polluted and clouded from’ carnal desires, by submitting it to the will and the pleasure of your Lord. This is the main, right goal in the life of every human individual, male and female, to succeed in salvation by the way of “tazkiyah”, otherwise, he or she will be in perdition.


“And indeed he fails who corrupts it.”

Then, our attention is directed to the contrary group of people and says: “And indeed he fails who corrupts it.”

The term “khaba” (خَابَ) is based on “khaybah” (خَيْبَة): which means a failure, failure to win or succeed, defeat, disappointment; being frustrated, to be in a hopeless state, deprived, damaged’ etc.

The term “dassaha” (دَسَّاهَا) is based on “dass” (دَسّ) which basically means ‘to foist something unwillingly’, as the Holy Qur’an says about the pagan Arabs who hatefully buried the baby girls alive: “…Or bury it (alive) in the dust…” [5]


And hidden, harmful actions, in Arabic, are termed “dasisah” (دَسِيسَة). It is also said that the term refers to sin and corruption because wrongdoers and sinners hide themselves.

Further, it has been said that the objective meaning of the term is that sinners conceal themselves amongst the good-doers, or one conceals his soul in vice, or, yet still, one hides vice and corruption inside his soul. In any case, it refers to sin and evil which is the opposite of piety. It is also possible to gather all these ideas in the vast meaning of the verse.

Thus, those who are successful and those who fail in their lives in this world are defined here. The characteristic of these two groups is only the following: Piety and the growth in the spirit of virtue and obeying God, or impiety and polluting the soul with sin and corruption.


A tradition from Imam Al-Baqir (as) and Imam Sadiq (as) commenting on this verse, says:

“Indeed he succeeds who obeys and he is deprived who disobeys.” [6]


Again, commenting on these two verses, the Messenger of God (S) has said in a tradition:

“The soul succeeds which God purifies, and the soul is deprived which God deprives of every goodness”. [7]


Explanation

Discussion on the relation of the Qur’anic oaths and their solemn affirmations follows:

What relation is there between these eleven highly important oaths and the truth for which the adjurations are fulfilled?

It seems that the main purpose is that God wants to tell Man that everything, either material or spiritual, was made ready for him to enable him to reach his salvation. On the one hand, He made the world illuminated and fruitful with sunshine and moonlight for him to live in and brought the regularity of day and night into existence on the Earth to make his life calm and useful.

On the other hand, He created him with a soul gifted with all applicable talents and merits necessary for this aim, such as a wakeful conscience and a sense of understanding piety and impiety for paving the way to felicity. Yet, he does not purify his soul, but, follows the intrigues of Satan.


The Fatal End of the Wrongdoers!

Following the previous awakening verses about the end of those who pollute their soul, in the next verses one of the clear examples of these people, of the past, is referred to and the destiny of the Thamud is explained with some short, expressive, decisive sentences. It says: “The Thamood (people) rejected (their prophet) through their inordinate wrongdoing,”

The terms “Taghwa” (طَغَوْا) and “tughiyan” (طغيان) both have the same meaning, which is ‘transgression’; and here it means ‘exceeding all the Divine bounds and disobeying His Law’.

The Thamud people, whose prophet was Salih (as) are the most ancient people to have lived in a zone between Hijaz and Sham (Syria). They lived comfortably and care-free in a fertile level land in strong and splendid castles.

They not only showed ingratitude for the abundant blessings they had but disobeyed their Lord by acting rebellious against the instruction of the Apostle Salih (as) and mocked His Sign: the she-camel. This conduct brought perdition to the people by means of a sudden, violent blast from heaven which was accompanied by an earthquake.

Then, the Qur’an illustrates one of the clear examples of this rebellious group and says: “When the most wicked man among them went forth (to kill the she-camel).,”

The term “ashqaha” (أَشْقَاهَا) means ‘the most wretched’ among them, referring to the person who hamstrung the she-camel which was sent to them as a trial and whose murder was a sign of rebellion against their Divine Prophet (as).

Some commentators and historians have said that the most wicked man among them, who dared to commit that heinous crime, was Qaddar-Ibn-Salif.


In a tradition, it is narrated that the Holy Prophet (S) of Islam said:

“The most wicked person among the ancient ones was the murderer of the harmless she-camel of Salih (as), and the most wicked person of the latter age is the murderer of Ali-ibn-Abi-Talib. A wicked one, who will make his beard dyed (red) from the blood of his forehead.” [8]


In the next verse, there is more about the rebellious impieties of the Thamud people.

It says: “Then the Messenger of Allah (Salih) said to them: ‘It is a she-camel of God and (bar her not from) having her drink.”

The meaning of ‘the Messenger of Allah’, here is Salih (as), the prophet of the Thamud people; and ‘a she-camel of God’ refers to the fact that it was no ordinary she-camel, but it was a miracle from God sent to those people to prove that the prophet was a true prophet sent by God. The process of the creation of the she-camel is not described in the Qur’an, it has only stated that the creation of the she-camel was a sign.[4] However more details are mentioned about the miracle in Islamic narrations. After decades of promoting Monotheism among the people of Thamud and facing constant rejections from people, prophet Salih (a) said to them, “If you want, you can ask me anything and I will ask God to provide it for you; or if you want I ask something from your Gods and if they comply with my request I will leave you alone, as I have exhausted you and you have exhausted me”. [9]

According to narrations, Thamud people accepted Salih’s (a) suggestion, they prepared the situation but when Salih (a) asked each of their gods they were unable to respond. Then it was people’s turn to ask Salih’s (a) God. Seventy grand figures of Thamud people went near a mountain with Salih (a) and they said, “Right now a red-headed, hairy and ten months pregnant she-camel should come out of the mountain.” Then Salih (a) said, “To meet your demand is tough for me, but it is easy for my God.” And he asked God to bring the desired camel. Then suddenly the mountain was split open with a loud noise and a pregnant she-camel came out of the mountain. Then they asked that the camel should give her birth, and then the baby was born. Eventually only few disbelievers converted to Monotheism and they told the truth to people. [10]

It is well understood from other verses of the Qur’an that Salih (as) told the people that they should divide the water of the town between the camel and themselves so that on one day they could drink the water and in turn the next day the camel could drink, without them bothering each other: “And tell them that the water is to be divided between them: Each one’s right to drink being brought forward (by suitable turns)”. [11]

And he particularly told them: ” and do not touch her with harm, lest you be seized by the punishment of a terrible day”…

but they ham-strung her: then did they become full of regrets, and the punishment seized them. Indeed, in that is a sign, but most of them were not to be believers. “[12]


The term “‘aqaruha” (عَقَرُوهَا) is based on “uqr” (عُقْر) which basically means ‘origin, basis’ and then ‘to cut the basis, or to kill’.

Some have said that the objective meaning here is ‘to hamstring an animal’, that is to cut the legs of the animal and make it fall so that it consequently dies.

It is interesting to note that the man who was deputed to do the impious deed of hamstringing the she-camel was only an individual whom the Qur’an considers ‘the most reprobate’ but had of course the sympathy and cooperation of the whole people as the verse too mentions the subjective pronoun of the verb in the plural form “aqaruha” ‘they hamstrung her’ which means that others of the Thamud tribe had a share in committing the act also.

An action like that is usually plotted by a group and then the action is fulfilled by one or a few definite individuals. Furthermore, even though the action is fulfilled by some individuals, if the whole group thinks it is right to do it, then, it is as if the whole group has participated in the action.


That is why Hazrat Ali (as) has said:

“…for only one individual killed the camel of Thamud, but God punished all of them, because all of them joined him by their acquiescing in their contentment to it. Thus, God, the glorified has said: ‘Then they hamstrung her, and turned (themselves) regretful,’[13] [14].


It was the fruit of their own rejection and impiety that destroyed them.

But it was too late for that regretfulness. It was the fruit of their own rejection and impiety that destroyed them. God punished them and then they were buried in their houses.

The term “damdama” (دَمْدَمَ) is based on the term “damdamah” (دمدمة) which is sometimes used in the sense of ‘to destroy’ and sometimes ‘to make shared punishment fall upon people’ or ‘to cut the roots of them’, or ‘to pound, crush’ and sometimes ‘to disfavour’ or ‘to surround, involve’, all or which can be applicable, in this verse, because that penalty originated from the wrath of God due to their sin which led to their total destruction.

The term “sawwaha” (سَوَّاهَا) is based on “taswiyah” (تسوية) which means ‘to level or equal’, and it may mean that their houses were levelled to the ground, God sent an equal destruction upon them all so that no one could escape. All these meanings can also be accepted.

The pronoun “ha” in the term “sawwaha” refers to the tribe of Thamud or to their cities and buildings which God destroyed and levelled to the ground.

Some have said that the pronoun refers to the term “damdama” ‘destruction’ which is understood from the next sentence, i.e. God divided this wrath and destruction equally between them all.

However, the first commentary seems more appropriate. By the way, this verse denotes that their penalty was the fruit of their sin and was in proportion to it and this adopts to Divine Justice and Wisdom.


“And for Him is no fear of its consequence”

It is said about many nations that when they felt that they were receiving punishment and saw its preliminary signs, they became regretful and repented; but as some narrations denote, the situation about the Thamud is different.

They decided to find Salih (as), their sincere prophet and kill him when they saw the first signs of the Divine penalty for their disobedience. This shows the depth of their rebellion and disobedience against God, and the Messenger of God (as), Salih (as), whom He saved by His Mercy and then destroyed all the rejectors.

Finally, in the last verse of the Surah, in order to clearly warn all those who go on the same path, it says: “And for Him is no fear of its consequence”,

There are many rulers who have the authority and power to punish others, but they fear the consequence that it may have and the reactions of the people. For this very reason they do not use their power completely or putting it more directly, their power is based on weakness and inability, and their knowledge is mingled with ignorance. Hence, they fear being unable to afford the unknown results which they will face.

God, the Almighty, the All-knowing, has created and can create at will, and there can be no question of any such apprehension in His case, that is why He decisively does what He pleases.

Transgressors and wrongdoers should be careful of their conditions, lest they will be involved in the punishment of God for their evil actions.


The term “uqba” (عُقْبَا) means ‘end, finite’, and the pronoun “ha”, at the end of the Arabic word, refers to “damdamah” ‘destruction’.


Explanation: The Brief Story of the Thamud

As it was mentioned before, the Thamud flourished in a territory between Medina and Sham (Syria). The plain was known as ‘Wadi-ul-Qura’ which forms the southern boundary of Syria. They worshipped a part of a mountain when Salih (as) was sent to them as an Apostle of God.

He preached to those people and tried his best to correct their faith and conduct, but it was to no avail at all. In the end, the people challenged Salih (as) saying that they would believe in God and obey His Apostle, Salih, if Salih could cause a she-camel to come out of the mountain with a young one.

Salih (as) made the miracle happen with the permission of God and yet the people did not believe and correct themselves. It was then fixed that on one day the she-camel would drink of the water of the town and on the next day the people would have the water.

As some narrations denote, even on the day the she-camel drank the water, she gave so much milk that the whole town was supplied.

Salih (as) had already warned them that if they caused the least harm or hurt to her, a chastisement from God would overtake them. But, the cup of their inequities was full enough to plan to kill both Salih (as) and the she-camel who were obstacles to their carnal desires.

They cruelly hamstrung the poor, harmless she-camel by the hand of the most wretched man among them, Qaddar-Ibn-Salif. But they failed to find Salih (as) to slay.


After that he had warned them that they had only three days’ time in which to enjoy themselves in this world: “But they did hamstring her. So, he said: ‘Enjoy yourselves in your homes for three days. (Behold) there is a promise not to be belied!’”. [15]

Just three days’ time for further thought and repentance! However, they were not only heedless, but they also increased their impiety.

Then, by night came a terrible earthquake as a Divine punishment, and buried them in their own fortress homes which they thought to be places of security: “The (mighty) Blast overtook the wrongdoers, and they lay prostrate in their homes before the morning.” [16]

They were destroyed and the light of life in their land was extinguished so that no one there remained alive, but, God saved Salih (as) and his believing followers: “When Our Decree issued, We saved Salih and those who believed with him, by (special) Grace from Ourselves…” [17]


A Chapter of deep reflection

God always wants us as human beings to reflect on His creations and creatures. It is very important to reflect on nature and on what God swears by. When God swears by something, He wants to show us the importance of reflection and that we should turn our attention to God and his words. Man can get into a stage where he denies the existence of God. For God to make man realize the truth, God causes this ungrateful man to reflect on his creations. Unfortunately, there are people in the world today who know where the truth lies but choose to deny it despite all the reflections and observations they have made. Reflect on the sun and its light. If you can’t even look at the sun, how should you understand the light of your creator?

The sun is a source of life. Without the sun, we as humans would not be able to survive on earth. Compared with the billions of other stars in the universe, the sun is unremarkable. But for Earth and the other planets that revolve around it, the sun is a powerful centre of attention. It holds the solar system together; provides life-giving light, heat, and energy to Earth; and generates space weather.

Without the sun, we wouldn’t have had a brilliant moon during the nights. The light of the moon is dependent on the Sun. The moon shines because its surface reflects light from the sun. And even though it sometimes seems to shine very brightly, the moon reflects only between 3 and 12 percent of the sunlight that hits it.

As we reflect on the sun, we understand that the light from the days and the great light from the night, comes from the sun. Nothing is more important to us on Earth than the Sun. Without the Sun’s heat and light, the Earth would be a lifeless ball of ice-coated rock. The Sun warms our seas, stirs our atmosphere, generates our weather patterns, and gives energy to the growing green plants that provide the food and oxygen for life on Earth. Get it into your head, that the sun and its light have vital functions. The earth needs a balance between day and night. Day and night are produced from these wonderful movements. Without day and night, we as humans would not have been able to survive.

We as Muslims should also reflect on the sky and the ground on which we walk on. Stand in the middle of nature, look up at the sky and start reflecting. Notice how beautiful God created the heavens and how wonderful God created the ground we walk on. Reflect on what life would have looked like without a sky and without a ground to walk upon.


Reflect on your soul which God created.

Also, reflect on your soul which God created. Reflect on how God inspired your soul to know what is good and what is bad. Also reflect on how your fitrah can distinguish good from evil. Your soul is a mystery. The soul is something we cannot see, but it exists. God created your soul and God knows what is best for you. It is the soul you should discipline during your life on this earth. You should build your soul. It is the soul you must build and struggle within order to reach human perfection so that you reach that stage of your life where you say, “By the Lord of the Kaaba, I have succeeded.” The successful man is not the one who manages to collect the highest amounts of money. The successful man is the one who manages to purify and preserve his soul in a world where people have lost their souls and hearts. This is the successful human being.

Today, people are even ready to sell their souls to achieve the materialistic goals. A Muslim is far away from these actions. A Muslim is the one who gives away the materialistic to achieve the spiritual. The spiritual is what counts. As we read the Qur’an, we understand that God is trying to make the disbelievers realize that this world means nothing compared to what God has prepared for them, if they are willing to accept the truth and purify their souls. The soul is a major subject within Islam that is discussed within every Islamic school of thought. We humans, we are our souls. We are not our bodies. We are not judged based on how we look or how much money we have. We are judged by what our souls look like, what our intentions are before we commit our actions and our good deeds. We take that with us when we stand before God. You must cling to your soul and make it an eternal example for all of humanity. You become immortal through the soul. If you choose to be good, your soul will remain as a good and eternal example for all of humanity. If your soul chooses to be evil, your soul will be an evil and a temporary example that will eventually lead to an eternal destruction and perdition. This is the reality my dear brothers and sisters.


The Thamud (people) rejected (their prophet) through their ordinarily wrongdoing.

The Thamud (people) rejected (their prophet) through their ordinarily wrongdoing. The Thamud people were not a people of tazkiyah. The Thamud people were a people who wanted to kill God’s sign on earth. They believed that they killed God’s light and sign by killing the she-camel. They tried, but God will always preserve his light and eternal signs in this world and the next world. What the people of Thamud did was a consequence of their dark souls which they themselves corrupted. The human being who tries to kill the sign of God is a human being who is full of evil.

Prophet Salih (as) warned them to let the she-camel drink in peace. But the the souls of the Thamud people were too dark and too evil. Imagine what level their souls were in. The entire nation was punished by a group of individuals who were planning to kill the she-camel. One person from that group killed the she-camel, and that was Qaddar. Qaddar did an act and the whole nation was punished. All this because of the consent of the Thamud people to kill God’s sign on earth. Even if everyone in a society does not commit evil acts, God can punish an entire nation due to the condition of their souls.


HONOUR YOUR SOUL

أكْرِمْ نَفْسَكَ ما أعانَتْكَ عَلى طاعَةِ اللّهِ

Imam Ali (as) said: “Honour your soul as long as it aids you in the obedience of God.”

[Ghurar Al-Hikam]


ألا إنَّهُ لَيْسَ لأنْفُسِكُمْ ثَمَنٌ إلاّ الْجَنَّةُ، فَلاتَبِيعُوها إلاّ بِها

Imam Ali (as) said: ” Indeed there is no price for your souls other than Paradise, so do not sell them except [in return] for it. “

[Ghurar Al-Hikam]


Never lose your soul for that which does not last. The soul is what you bring with you before God. If you lose your soul, you have lost yourself. Today, we see people selling their souls to obtain the superficial and materialistic, while not realizing that the superficial and materialistic will only last for a very short time.

The important thing when it comes to the soul is to purify it from negative and evil qualities. Sometimes the soul has a tendency to urge you to commit evil acts. Here, you should be strong enough to avoid these negative and evil actions that will have a very big impact on your soul. Restrain your soul from lustful desires and you will remain safe from calamities.

Another strange trend that is prevalent among Muslims is that their perception of strength is completely wrong. Our religion has taught us that the strongest of people is the one who has the greatest command over his soul. The strong is not the one who can beat up and wrestle down people, but the strong is the one who can hold his ego when he is experiencing strong emotions of anger and negativity. Keep in mind that these emotions are temporary, and the actions of these emotions are destructive while paradise is forever. The fruits of patience are the fruits of eternal sweetness.


تَوَلَّوْا مِنْ أنْفُسِكُمْ تَأْدِيبَها واعْدِلُوا بِها عَنْ ضَرارَةِِ عاداتِها

Imam Ali (as) said: ” Take it upon yourselves to discipline your souls and turn them away from their harmful habits. “

[Ghurar Al-Hikam]


We as ordinary and non-flawless human beings have good habits and bad habits. Islam is a religion that wants you to avoid habits that are destructive to the soul and Islam is a religion that wants you to adopt habits that are constructive to the soul. God encourages man to adopt habits that build the human being and make the human being a stronger and a better human being, while God forbids habits and actions that make man corrupt, evil and reckless.

The cure of the soul is abstaining from vain desires and abstinence from the pleasures of this world and Whoever struggles with his soul to reform it, becomes felicitous.


مَعْرِفَةُ النَّفْسِ أنْفَعُ المَعارِفِ

Imam Ali (as) said: “Cognizance of the self is the most beneficial of all [types of] knowledge.”

[Ghurar Al-Hikam]


نَظَرُ النَّفْسِ لِلنَّفْسِ العِنايَةُ بِصَلاحِ النَّفْسِ

Imam Ali (as) said: “Introspection turns one’s attention to self-reformation.”

[Ghurar Al-Hikam]


The purpose of this life is to worship our Lord, to come closer to our Lord and to know our Lord. In order for the soul to be cleansed, the soul must be close to God and not close to materialism and the world. Self-cognizance is a gift from God, where God inspires the soul with knowledge and wisdom.

As a believer, you should always be in a stage where you reform yourself into a better person. Being spiritual in this world is not easy, because the world has become more materialistic, and therefore it becomes more difficult for man to be spiritual. It was not like before, where the majority of people in many societies were spiritual and ascetic. Today it does not look like that. Today, the spiritual individuals are a minority in today’s world, in both the western and eastern world.


نُفُوسُ الأبْرارِ نافِرَةٌ مِنْ نُفُوسِ الأشْرارِ

Imam Ali (as):” The souls of the virtuous are averse to the souls of the wicked.”

[Ghurar Al-Hikam]


Good souls are different from evil souls and evil souls are different from good souls. Today, you see people saying that all people are equal and that all people are on the same level, where they mean that it does not matter if you are a criminal or a hero in this society. Well, it does matter and not all people are equal when it comes to goodness and good deeds. Here, people differ and that is a fact.

Yes, when it comes to flesh and blood, we humans are equal. All of us are humans and we were all created from dust. But when it comes to spirituality, we are different, and it is the human soul according to Islam that defines the value of the human being and not the flesh and blood.

So, God does not place the wise on the same level as the ignorant or the believer on the same level as the sinner. There is mercy and there is justice. There is good and there is evil. There is light and there is darkness, and the soul of light can never be harmonized with the soul of darkness.


نَزِّهْ عَنْ كُلِّ دَنِيَّة نَفْسَكَ، وابْذُلْ فِي المَكارِمِ جُهْدَكَ، تَخْلُصْ مِنَ المَـآثِمِ، وتُحْرِزِ المَكارِمَ

Imam Ali (as) said: “Purify your soul from every vileness and make an effort to perform every noble deed, you will become free from sins and will achieve noble qualities.”

[Ghurar Al-Hikam]


Always seek the good and the good will seek you. Always strive to be as good as possible. Always try to hone yourself. Investigate what deficiencies you have and see how you can erase each defect over time. At the same time, you should reflect on how you can multiply your good deeds. Write down your shortcomings and your strengths and reflect on how you can get rid of your shortcomings and how you can increase your strengths.

Do not let your soul be devoid of a thought that increases your wisdom and a lesson that safeguards you from sin. It behoves a man to guard his soul, watch over his heart and protect his tongue. It behoves the one who wants to reform himself and protect his religion to avoid mingling with people who seek the wealth and pleasures of this world. Control the passion of your soul, the intensity of your rage, the power of your hand and the sharpness of your tongue, and guard against all these by delaying the initiation of any action and refraining from using force until your rage subsides and you recover your senses, because Imam Ali (as) taught us that :


أعْظَمُ مِلْك مِلْكُ النَّفْسِ

Imam Ali (as) said: “The greatest mastery is mastery over the soul.”

[Ghurar Al-Hikam]


Supplication

O Lord! You are our hope in avoiding carnal desires; please help us.

O Lord! You inspired in us the understanding of what ‘piety’ is and what ‘impiety’ is. Bestow upon us the success of taking benefit from this inspiration.

O Lord! The temptations and intrigues of Satan are mysteriously concealed in the soul of Man. Open their mysteries to us so that we may know them and be able to avoid them.


Peace and Blessings be upon Prophet Muhammad (saw) and his progeny (as)


| Sayyid Abbas Sadr-‘ameli and Amir Zabidi


Further reading


https://www.al-islam.org/enlightening-commentary-light-holy-quran-vol-20/surah-shams-chapter-91


References


[1] Majma’-al-Bayan, vol, 10. p. 496

[2] Surah Zumar, No. 39, verse 42

[3] Surah Qasas, No. 28, verse 33

[4] Nahj-ul-Balagha. Saying 147.

[5] Surah Nahl, No. 16, verse 59.

[6] Bihar Al-Anwar

[7] Bihar Al-Anwar

[8] Majma’-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 499; and also in Tafsir-e-Qurtubi.

[9] Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 8, p. 185.

[10] Kulaynī, al-Kāfī, vol. 8, p. 185.

[11] Surah Qamar, No. 54 verse 28

[12] Qur’an (26:156-158)

[13] Surah Shu’ara, No. 26, verse 157

[14] Nahj-ul-Balagha, Sermon 201 (Arabic Version).

[15] Surah Hud, No. 11, verse 65

[16] Surah Hud, No. 11, Verse 67

[17] Surah Hud, No. 11, Verse 66


| REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF THE SUN [91]

Leave a Reply