REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF THE KNOCKER [86]


REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF THE KNOCKER [86]


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


وَالسَّمَاءِ وَالطَّارِقِ (1) وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الطَّارِقُ (2) النَّجْمُ الثَّاقِبُ (3) إِنْ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ لَمَّا عَلَيْهَا حَافِظٌ (4) فَلْيَنْظُرِ الْإِنْسَانُ مِمَّ خُلِقَ (5) خُلِقَ مِنْ مَاءٍ دَافِقٍ (6) يَخْرُجُ مِنْ بَيْنِ الصُّلْبِ وَالتَّرَائِبِ (7) إِنَّهُ عَلَى رَجْعِهِ لَقَادِرٌ (8) يَوْمَ تُبْلَى السَّرَائِرُ (9) فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ قُوَّةٍ وَلَا نَاصِرٍ (10) وَالسَّمَاءِ ذَاتِ الرَّجْعِ (11) وَالْأَرْضِ ذَاتِ الصَّدْعِ (12) إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلٌ فَصْلٌ (13) وَمَا هُوَ بِالْهَزْلِ (14) إِنَّهُمْ يَكِيدُونَ كَيْدًا (15) وَأَكِيدُ كَيْدًا (16) فَمَهِّلِ الْكَافِرِينَ أَمْهِلْهُمْ رُوَيْدًا (17)

1. By the Sky and the Night-Visitant (therein);- 2. And what will explain to thee what the Night-Visitant is?- 3. (It is) the Star of piercing brightness;- 4. There is no soul but has a protector over it. 5. Now let man but think from what he is created! 6. He is created from a drop emitted- 7. Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs: 8. Surely (Allah) is able to bring him back (to life)! 9. The Day that (all) things secret will be tested, 10. (Man) will have no power, and no helper. 11. By the Firmament which returns (in its round), 12. And by the Earth which opens out (for the gushing of springs or the sprouting of vegetation),- 13. Behold this is the Word that distinguishes (Good from Evil): 14. It is not a thing for amusement. 15. As for them, they are but plotting a scheme, 16. And I am planning a scheme. 17. Therefore grant a delay to the Unbelievers: Give respite to them gently (for awhile).

[Surah At-Tariq]


Introduction

The subjects in this Surah are mainly divided into two groups:

1. Resurrection and

2. The Holy Qur’an and its value.


At the beginning, after some reflective oaths, it points to the existence of some divine protectors of man.

To make manifest the possibility of Resurrection, it refers to the first stage of man’s life and his creation from a sperm drop and then it draws a conclusion that the Creator, who is able to create him from nothing and from such a lowly life-germ, can give him life again.

In the following part, it describes the Resurrection and the uniqueness it has. Then, it offers some meaningful oaths to verify the importance of the Holy Qur’an; and finally, the Surah finishes by mentioning God’s punishments for the unbelievers in order to give a warning to them.


The Virtue of Studying this Surah

There is a tradition from the Prophet (S) for the virtue of this Surah which says:

“For the person who studies this Surah, God will reward this action ten times, the number of stars in the sky.” [1]


There is a narration from Imam As-Sadiq (as) which says:

“Anyone who recites Surah At-Tariq in his obligatory prayers will have a high rank with God in the Hereafter and will be the prophets ‘ close friend and companion in Heaven.” [2]


Obviously, it is the content of the Surah and acting accordingly which deserves such great rewards; not its mere recitation without following by action.


O man! Reflect on your creation!

This Surah, like many other Surahs of the last part of the Holy Qur’an, begins with some beautiful oaths to reflect upon which express a great fact.

“By the Sky and the Night-visitant (therein), and what will explain to thee what the Night-visitant is? (It is) the Star of piercing brightness,”

The term “tariq” (طارِق) is derived from “tarq” (طرق) ‘to pound’. And “tariq” (طريق) means ‘way’ because the path is pounded by the feet of pedestrians. The term “matraqah” (مطرقة) ‘a sledgehammer’ is used for pounding iron and materials like this.

And since the doors are closed at night when people arrive, they have to pound on them to gain permission to enter, then, that which comes at night is called “tariq” ‘the night-visitant’.


Amir-al-Momineen Ali (as) said about Ash’ath-ibn-i-Qays, the hypocrite, who came to the door of his house at night and thought that he could bribe Imam Ali (as) by giving him some honey paste so that he would not judge against him, then Imam Ali (as) said:

“A stranger incident than this is that a man came to us in the night with a closed flask full of honey paste.” [3]


“(It is) the Star of piercing brightness.”

The Qur’an has defined ‘tariq’, itself, where it says: “(It is) the Star of piercing brightness.”‘


This Night-visitant is the brilliant star that appears very high in the sky as if it almost pierces its depth; and it is so bright that it splits the thick darkness and penetrates to the eyes.

There are many different ideas said about the kind of ‘star’ mentioned in this verse. Some of them, from the point of its distance and highness, say that it may be ‘Pleiades’. Some others, from the point of its brightness, say that it is ‘Saturn’, or ‘Venus’, or ‘a meteor’. Some ideas say that it can be any star which glitters in the sky.

Bear in Mind, that star (نجم) and planet (كوكب) are used interchangeably in the Arabic language, and the two words are synonymous.[4]

“(It is) the Star of piercing brightness.”‘: star in this verse means planet, according to At-Tusi.[5]


But, taking note that the modifier ‘piercing’ mentioned in the verse for the star, shows that the star is not any star, but it is a forceful bright star whose light passes through the darkness of night and penetrates to men’s eyes.

Some narrations denote that the ‘star’ is ‘Saturn’ which is one of the planets of the solar system and it is a very bright planet.


This very idea is also understood from a narration of Imam As-Sadiq (as) when he was asked by an astronomer regarding what God meant by “thaqib” in that verse and he answered:

“It is ‘Saturn’ which appears in the seventh sky. But its light passes the skies and reaches the first sky. That is why God has called it ‘the star of piercing brightness’.” [6]


It is noteworthy that Saturn is the last and the farthest planet from us in the solar system which is visible simply by the naked eye. And from among the planets of the solar system, it is the sixth in distance from the sun, but if we count the moon’s circle, it will be the seventh, so Imam As-Sadiq (as) has considered its circle as the seventh sky in the mentioned narration.

Having some outstanding characteristics, Saturn deserves to be sworn by. It is the farthest visible planet in the solar system and everything which is very high is exemplified in Arabic literature.

Saturn is notable for several concentric bright rings, which revolve around it in the plane of its equator and are the most amazing celestial phenomena about which meteorologists have delivered various ideas. But there are still more secrets about it that must be discovered in the future.

Some experts believe that there are ten moons around Saturn: eight of which can be seen through ordinary telescopes, but, two of them can only be seen by very great and powerful telescopes.

It is clear that when the Holy Qur’an was revealed when no one knew all of these facts and it is after many centuries we know about them now.


Moreover, the commentary of ‘the star of piercing brightness’ may cover any bright star, and Saturn, being one of its examples, does not contradict the above idea.

‘Piercing star’ is one of the wonders of the celestial creations and may be one of the examples of the above-mentioned commentary.

As in Surah As-Saffat, No. 37, verse 10 which says: “Except such as snatch away something by stealth, and they are pursued by a flaming fire, of piercing brightness.”

The occasion of revelation recorded in some commentaries for the above-mentioned verse, attests to this idea.


“There is not a soul but has a protector over it.”

Now let us see what these oaths are for. In the next verse it says: “There is not a soul but has a protector over it.”

This protector is for recording one’s acts and retaining them for the Reckoning Day. It is similar to what Surah Al-Infitar, No. 82, verses 10-12 carry over. They say: “And surely there are Watchers over you, Honourable scribes: They know (and understand) whatever you do.”

Thus, you are not alone. Whoever you are, and wherever you are, the angels of God watch you. This is a subject that can be very useful in training and improving man, if he will only consider it.

It is noteworthy that the ‘protectors’ are not defined in the verse as to who they are, and what kind of things they protect, but some other verses of the Qur’an clearly certify that they are angels and the things that they protect are ‘man’s deeds’; irrespective of good or evil.

Some probabilities denote that this protection is the protection of humans from accidents and fatal events. Verily, if Allah did not protect them, there would be few people who would die of natural causes, because the number of terrible accidents is so large that no one can escape from them, particularly young children.

Or, the protection may be the protection of humans against the whispers of Satans, of Jinns and of men. They are so many that if God did not protect them, no one would remain safe.

But the first commentary seems the most suitable, because the latter verses talk about Resurrection and Reckoning, though all three commentaries, together, do not seem improbable.

It is praiseworthy that the aforementioned oaths have a close relationship with the protection of angels from the deeds of man; that which the oaths are for.

Since, the stars, rotating in a regular order high in the sky, are as an evidence for the existence of a definite regularity in the universe, then how can man’s deeds be left alone without a reckoning and protection from the divine protectors?


“So let man contemplate on from what he is created.”

Then, to prove the possibility of the Resurrection for those who consider it impossible, it says: “So let man contemplate on from what he is created.”

And, thus, the Qur’an asks and advises all mankind to think about that which they were created from in the beginning.

But, immediately after that the Qur’an answers the question, itself, and says: “He is creased from a drop emitted.” A gushing fluid in which his life-germ was floating.


“Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.”

And in another description for ‘that water pouring forth’ it says: “Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.”

There are many different ideas for the commentary of the terms “Sulb” (صُّلْب) ‘backbone’ and “tara’ib” (تَّرَائِبِ) ‘ribs’, as mentioned in this verse, where the fluid comes forth from between them. In these ideas the commentators mostly try to comment on these two terms referring to man and woman from which the egg and sperm form the foetus.

But, primarily it should be noted that the verse is speaking only about a man’s fluid, because ‘a drop emitted’ belongs to a man not to a woman since that of a woman does not emit and it says that the gushing fluid is so that: “Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.”

Then, it is not appropriate to bring women into this discussion. It is better to say that the Qur’an points to one of the two main parts of the life-germ, viz: a man’s seed, which is understandable to all. [7]


And ‘backbone’ and ‘ribs’ are a man’s back and front; the area between which his fluid comes from. In embryonic stages, the reproductive organs of the male and female, i.e. the testicles and the ovaries, begin their development near the kidney between the spinal column and the eleventh and twelfth ribs. Later they descend; the female gonads (ovaries) stop in the pelvis while the male gonads (testicles)continue their descent before birth to reach the scrotum through the inguinal canal. Even in adulthood after the descent of the reproductive organs, these organs receive their nerve supply and blood supply from the Abdominal Aorta, which is the area between the backbone (spinal column) and the ribs. The lymphatic drainage and the venous return also go to the same area.



“Surely He is able to bring him back (to life).”

Then, as a consequence it says that the Creator who created man from a sperm drop: “Surely He is able to bring him back (to life).”

At first it was dust. Then, after some changes, it varied to a sperm drop, and eventually it turned into man, after passing some amazing and complicated stages, of course. So, it will not be difficult for God to bring him back to life again.

This fact is similarly mentioned in some other verses of the Qur’an such as in Surah Al-Hajj, No. 22, verse 5 which says: “O mankind! if you have a doubt about the Resurrection (consider) that We created you out of dust, then out of sperm…”

And also, in Surah Maryam, No.19, verse 67 which says: “Does not man call to mind that We created him before, when he was nothing?”


“On the Day when hidden things will he made manifest.”

In the next verse it describes the Great Day when it says: “On the Day when hidden things will he made manifest.”

The term “tubla” (تُبْلَى) is based on “balwa” (بَلْوَى) ‘to prove by trial or examination’ , since the facts will be made manifest through the examination, then the term is used, here, in the sense of ‘appearing’.

The term “sara’ir” (سَّرَائِر) is the plural form of “sarirah” (سّريرَة) ‘a secret; inner thought or innermost feelings’.


Yes, on that Day, the day of appearing and the day of sorting out, the secrets will be uncovered and everything from good or evil, truth or falsehood, pure or impure will become quite evident. The believing people will be proud, then, they will be honoured by additional rewards, but the unbelieving ones will be ashamed and blamed because of this clear manifestation.

What a painful time he will have who lived a life respectfully, but with hidden evils; then, everything will become obvious to all! Surely, he will be completely sorry and regretful on that Day.

Surah Ar-Rahman, No. 55, verse 41 also says: “For the sinners will be known by their Marks…”.

In some other verses of the Qur’an we read that in the Hereafter there are some people whose faces are white and bright, but there are others that have dark and dusty faces. [8]

Verily, similar to the Night-visitant and other stars that appear at night and everyone can see them in the sky, the protectors of man, who record and keep his deeds, will unveil everything there, also.


It is narrated from Ma’ath-ibn-Jabal who asked the Prophet (S) about the interpretation of the term “sara’ir” ‘secrets’, in this verse regarding what secrets there are by which God will examine the people in the Hereafter and he answered:

“Your secrets are your deeds such as prayers, fasting, religious tax, ablution, wet dream ceremonial bath, and any other obligatory acts. All of them are hidden, because if a person wills he says he has said his prayers but in fact he has not, he says he has made his ablution, but he has not, and this is the commentary of which Allah says: ‘On the Day when hidden things will be made manifest’”. [9]


“man will have no strength and no helper.”

But the great difficulty is that, on that Day: “man will have no strength and no helper.”

He will have no power to hide his evils, and no one to help him to ward off God’s punishment. Many verses of the Qur’an denote that, on the Day of Judgment, man will have no helper, no use of ransom, no way of returning and no chance of fleeing. The only useful means to make one safe from torments will be pure belief and good deeds


We will destroy the enemies’ plans


Their plots will be of no avail, and God’s purpose will prevail. To follow the previous verses which were about the Resurrection and realizing it by taking note of the creation of man from sperm, the following verses continue with the same theme, however, for further emphasis and with more evidences that you will return to life.

It says: “By the rain giving heaven, (the returning rain), and by the earth splitting (with plants), Most surely it (the Qur’an) is a decisive word, and it is not a thing for amusement.”


The term “raj’” (رَّجْعِ) is based on “ruju’” (رجوع) ‘return’. In the Arabic language ‘rain’ is called “raj’” (رجع), because water evaporates from the earth and the seas, rises to form clouds and then once again comes back down as rain.

The term “sad’” (صَّدْع) means ‘to split’ and together with what was said about “raj’” ‘rain’ it means splitting of dry, hard earth after rainfall and, also, the growth of plants.

In fact, these two verses point to dead lands which survive by life-giving rain. This is what the Qur’an has repeatedly mentioned as an evidence for the Resurrection.

For example, in Surah Qaf, No. 50, verse 11 it says: “…And We give (new) life therewith to land that is dead: thus will be the Resurrection.”

So, there is an obvious relation between these oaths and what the oaths are taken for. This is one of the wonders of the Qur’an’s eloquence, that there is an interesting relationship between the oaths and what the oaths are for.

Surah Al-Hajj, No.22, verse 5, confirms the Resurrection, and it refers to both of the evidences of man’s creation from sperm and its various stages in the form of foetus, and giving life again to dead lands by sending down rain, and in this very Surah, At-Tariq, it emphasizes on both of them as well.


Indeed, the Qur’an is a decisive statement.

The phrase “Qaul-un-fasl” (إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلٌ فَصْلٌ)‘a decisive word’, is a statement that separates Good from Evil. A group of commentators, considering the aforementioned verses, have related the statement to Resurrection while some others believe it means ‘the Holy Qur’an’ as some narrations of Ahlul-Bayt (as) confirm, too.

Of course, the term “yaum-ul-fasl” with the meaning of ‘Hereafter’ is used and mentioned in several verses of the Qur’an.

It is also probable that the term “qaul-un-fasl” means ‘the verses of Qur’an’, some of which will announce the Resurrection. Both of the above commentaries can be combined.


A quotation from the Holy Prophet (S) has been said to have been narrated by Imam Ali (as) that the Prophet (saw) said: “’There will be a sedition among you soon, ‘

Imam Ali (as) asked him (saw): “What is the way out from it, O Messenger of Allah?”, He (saw) said:

“Allah’s book. In it is news for what happened before you, and information about what comes after you, and judgement for what happens between you. It is the Criterion (between right and wrong) without jest. Whoever among the oppressive abandons it, Allah crushes him, and whoever seeks guidance from other than it, then Allah leaves him to stray. It is the firm rope of Allah, it is the wise remembrance, it is the straight path, and it is the one that the desires cannot distort, nor can the tongues twist it, nor can the scholars ever have enough of it, and it shall not become dull from reciting it much, and the amazement of it does not diminish. It is the one that when the Jinns hear it, they did not hesitate to say about it: ‘Verily, we have heard a wonderful Recitation (this Qur’an)! ‘It guides to the Right Path, and we have believed therein.’ Whoever speaks according to it then he has said the truth, and whoever acts according to it he is rewarded, and whoever judges by it he has judged justly, and whoever invites to it then he guides to the straight path.” [10]


“Surely, they are plotting a scheme (against the truth), and I am (also) planning a scheme (against them), therefore grant a delay to the unbelievers: give respite to them gently (for a while).”

Then, to console the Prophet (S) and the believers both, on the one hand, and for threatening the enemies of Islam, on the other hand, it says: “Surely, they are plotting a scheme (against the truth), and I am (also) planning a scheme (against them), therefore grant a delay to the unbelievers: give respite to them gently (for a while).”

Verily, they always plan wicked schemes to oppose you. Sometimes they mock you. Sometimes they lay siege on you, economically. Sometimes they torture the believers. Sometimes they tell others not to listen to the Qur’anic recitation and make noise in order to be victorious. Sometimes they call you a soothsayer, mad, etc.


Sometimes they believe Islam in the morning, but they disbelieve in the evening on the same day to attract some believers to follow them. Sometimes, they tell you that only the poor and miserable people believe in you and follow you. Sometimes they ask you to accept some of their gods until they follow you. And, sometimes they plan a scheme to banish you or kill you.

In short, the unbelievers never rest, and they always try a new plot to disperse your followers and oppress the believers or abolish you in order to extinguish God’s light.

But they should know that God will never allow them to do so, and He has taken a decision to spread the light of Islam over the entire world, and then, God’s light will never disappear. This bright ever-shining light will not be put out by the plots of these unregenerate men who plan, because God also plans.


The term “kayd” (كَيْد) ‘to plot against’ is applied both to plotting with an evil purpose, and also planning with a good purpose, such as in Surah Yusuf, No.12, verse 76 which says: “…Thus did We plan for Yusuf (Joseph).”

The meaning of “the enemies’ plot”, in this verse, is clear with the above explanation about some of the evils of the unbelievers.

There are many evil plots and wicked plans of this kind, with an evil purpose, mentioned in the Qur’an, but what is the meaning of God’s plan, in this verse, of having a good purpose?


Some commentators believe that ‘granting a delay to the unbelievers ‘which ends with their painful punishment, is its meaning. Some others think that ‘ the punishment itself ‘ carries the meaning.

It is more suitable to say that it means the same beneficence that the Prophet (S) and the believers received from God. They, after respiting the enemies, caused them to be neglectful and rendered their efforts ineffective, and then, their plans remained fruitless.


In these verses, the Prophet (S) is ordered by God to act moderately towards them and give respite to them and not hurry to destroy them; to let them have the final notes, so that some of them have time to reflect on the truth.

It is noteworthy that, at first, it says: “Therefore grant a delay to the unbelievers”, and then it emphasizes: “…give respite to them gently (for a while)”.

It says the same matter twice for emphasis, but in a different way and with various words so that it is not taken unpleasantly.


The term “ruwayda” (رُوَيْدًا) is based on “rud” (رود) ‘to try to do something gently’, but here it means: give respite to them for a while.

Thus, in this short verse three times, God commands the Prophet (saw) to be moderate with them, and this is a good example for all Muslims : to be patient and careful in their affairs especially when they are faced with their powerful and dangerous enemies. They should avoid haste and doing things at an inappropriate time.

Moreover, it is better for the Prophet (S) to be patient in delivering the Message of God in order to respite all those who may believe, and to complete the argument and reason for all of them.


The reason why this respite has been counted short, may be because Islam overcame its enemies in a short time and their plans did not profit them. The first failure was at the battle of Badr. Then, later their plans failed, again, in the battles of Ahzab, Khaybar, Siffin and so on. At the end of the Prophet’s (saw) life, they were completely weak when the light of Islam spread throughout the Arabian Peninsula; it covered most parts of the world at that time.

Or, it may be that the punishment of the Hereafter is near and basically everything which is definite and sure is counted close.

However, this Surah begins with God swearing by the sky and the piercing star, and the Surah ends with threats to the unbelievers who plot and scheme against the beneficent purpose of God. As a Muslim, it is very important to reflect on these verses. These verses will make you think about the creations such as the heavens, the stars, the angels and your own creation. The verses in this Surah will also make you think of the day of resurrection and in the same way God allows the circumference of nature to circulate, he can also cause the circumference of life to circulate and cause it to begin anew in another dimension. Whoever wants to plan can plan, but God’s plans are greater than all of humanity’s plans combined together. You may have a strength, but God’s strength is greater. All praise be to God, the Most High.


Supplication

O Lord! The plots and schemes of the enemies are many in our time. Turn them against themselves and make their evil plans invalid.

O Lord! On the Day when all the secrets will be made manifest, please, put us not to shame.

O Lord! We have no power or helper save You. Leave us to no one else, but to Yourself.


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


| Sayyid Abbas Sadr-‘Ameli and Amir Zabidi


Further reading


https://www.al-islam.org/enlightening-commentary-light-holy-quran-vol-19/surah-tariq-chapter-86


References


[1] Majma’-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 469

[2] Thawab-ul-A’mal, according to Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 549.

[3] Nahj-ul-Balagha, Sermon 224 (Arabic Version), Sermon 228 (English Version),

[4] Al-Mufradat by Raghib Al-Esfahani, Volume 1, p. 791, Lisan Al-Arab, Volume 1, p. 721,

[5] At-Tusi, At-Tibyan Fi Tafsir Al-Qur’an, Volume 11, p. 576.

[6] Nur-uth-Thaqalayn, vol. 5, p. 550, Tradition 4

[7] see also Surah An-Najm, No.53, verse 46 and Surah Al-Qiyamah, No. 75, verse 37

[8] Surah ‘Abasa. No. 80, verses 38-41

[9] Majma’-al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 472; and a similar meaning is found in Durr-al-manthur, vol. 6, p. 336.

[10] ‘At-Tirmidhi’ and ‘Sunan-i-Darami’ based on the quotation of ‘Ruh-al-Ma’ani, The Commentary, vol. 3, p. 100 and ‘Tafsir-i-Maraqi, vol. 30, p. 118.


| REFLECTIONS ON THE CHAPTER OF THE KNOCKER [86]

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