Then watch thou for the Day that the sky will bring forth a kind of smoke (or mist) plainly visible. 4695 4696
What Day is this? It obviously refers to great calamity, and from the wording it is to be a great calamity in the future, seen with the prophetic eye. The word yagsha in verse 11 may be compared to gashiya in lxxxviii. 1, which obviously refers to the final Day of Judgment. But verse 15 below ("We shall remove the Penalty for a while") shows that it is not the final Judgment referred to here, but some calamity that was to happen soon afterwards. Perhaps it was a famine, about which see the next note.
The "smoke" or "mist" is interpreted on good authority to refer to a severe famine in Makkah, in which men were so pinched with hunger that they saw mist before their eyes when they looked at the sky. Ibn Kathir in his Tarikh mentions two famines in Makkah, one in the 8th year of the Mission, say the fourth year before the Hijra, and another about the 8th year after the Hijra. But as either or both of these famines lasted as many as seven years, the dates are to be taken very roughly. It is even possible that the two famines were continuous, of varying severity from year to year. Bukhari mentions only the post-Hijrat famine, which was apparently so severe that men began to eat bones and carrion. Abu Sufyan (about 8 A.H.) approached the holy Prophet to intercede and pray for the removal of the famine, as the Pagans attributed it to the curse of the Prophet. Sura xxiii., which is also Makkan, but of later date than the present Sura, also refers to a famine: see xxiii. 75, and n. 2921. As Suras were not all revealed entire, but many came piecemeal, it is possible that particular verses in a given Sura may be of different dates from the Sura as a whole.