By the Sky (displaying) the Zodiacal Signs; 6051 6052
By the promised Day (of Judgment); 6053
By one that witnesses and the subject of the witness 6054
Woe to the makers of the pit (of Fire) 6055
Fire supplied (abundantly) with Fuel:
Behold! they sat over against the (fire). 6056
And they witnessed (all) that they were doing against the Believers.
And they ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in Allah Exalted in Power worthy of all Praise!
Him to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth! and Allah is Witness to all things. 6057
Those who persecute (or draw into temptation) the Believers men and women and do not turn in repentance will have the Penalty of Hell: they will have the Penalty of the Burning Fire. 6058
For those who believe and do righteous deeds will be Gardens Beneath which Rivers flow: that is the great Salvation (the fulfillment of all desires). 6059 6060
Truly strong is the Grip (and Power) of thy Lord.
It is He Who creates from the very beginning and He can restore (life). 6061
And He is the Oft-Forgiving Full of loving-kindness
Lord of the Throne of Glory
Doer (without let) of all that He intends. 6062
Has the story reached thee of the Forces 6063
Of Pharaoh and the Thamud?
And yet the Unbelievers (persist) in rejecting (the Truth)! 6064
But Allah doth encompass them from behind! 6065
Nay this is a Glorious Qur'an
(Inscribed) in a Tablet Preserved! 6066
Here is an appeal to three Signs in verses 1-3, and the substantive proposition is in verses 4-8, a denunciation of wicked persecutors of the votaries of Allah, persecutors who burnt righteous men for their Faith. The three Signs are: (1) the Glorious Sky, with the broad belt of the Constellations marking the twelve Signs of the Zodiac; (2) the Day of Judgment, when all evil will be punished; and (3) certain Persons that will be witnesses, and certain Persons or things that will be the subjects of the witness. See the notes following.
See n. 1950 to xv. 16. The Stars of the Zodiac as well as of other Constellations are like the eyes of the Night. It may be that crimes are committed in the darkness of the night. But countless eyes are watching all the time, and every author of evil will be brought to book.
The Day of Judgment, when the Sinner will have to give an account of every deed, open or hidden, is not merely a matter of speculation. It is definitely promised in revelation, and will inevitably come to pass. Woe then to the Sinners for their crimes.
The literal meaning is clear, but its metaphorical application has been explained in a variety of ways by different Commentators. The words are fairly comprehensive, and should, I think, be understood in connection with Judgment. There the Witnesses may be: (1) the Prophets (iii. 81); Allah Himself (iii. 81, and x. 61); the Recording Angels (I. 21); the Sinner's own misused limbs (xxiv. 24); his record of deeds (xvii. 14); or the Sinner himself (xvii. 14). The subject of the witness may be the deed or crime, or the Sinner against whom the testimony cries out. The appeal to these things means that the Sinner cannot possibly escape the consequences of his crime. He should repent, seek Allah's Mercy, and amend his life.
Who were the makers of the pit of fire in which they burn people for their Faith? The words are perfectly general, and we need not search for particular names, except by way of illustration. In ancient history, and in Medieval Europe, many lives were sacrificed at the stake because the victims did not conform to the established religion. In Arab tradition there is the story of Abraham: Nimrud tries to burn him to death, but on account of Abraham's Faith, the fire became "a means of safety for Abraham": xxi. 69, and n. 2725. Another case cited is that of Zu-Nuwas, the last Himyarite King of Yemen, by religion a Jew, who persecuted the Christians of Najran and is said to have burnt them to death. He seems to have lived in the latter half of the sixth Christian century, in the generation immediately preceding the Prophet's birth in 570 A.D. While the words are perfectly general, a reference is suggested to the persecution to which the early Muslims were subjected by the Pagan Quraish. Among other cruelties, they were stripped, and their skins were exposed to the burning rays of the Arabian summer sun.
The persecutors sat calmly to gloat over the agonies of their victims in the well-fed fire.
It is suggested that the persecutors will richly deserve to be punished in the Fire of Hell. That Punishment will be far more real and lasting than the undeserved cruelty which they inflicted on men for their Faith in the One True God.
The "Chastisement of the Burning Fire" has been mentioned here in addition to the "Penalty of Hell". This assumes a special significance in the background of the cruel burning of the Faithful by the "makers of the pit". These criminals would be duly retributed by being subjected to a similar kind of suffering that they had caused their innocent victims.
Cf. v. 119, ix. 72 and xxii. 19.
Cf. v. 119, n. 833.
For the various words for "Creation" and the ideas implied in them, see n. 120 to ii. 117.
Allah's Will is itself the Word and the Deed. There is no interval between them. He does not change His mind. No circumstances whatever can come between His Will and the execution thereof. Such are His Power and His Glory. Compare it with that of men, described in the next two verses.
In contrast to the real, all-embracing, and eternal power of Allah, what are the forces of man at their best? Two examples are mentioned. (1) Pharaoh was a proud monarch of a powerful kingdom, with resources and organisation, material, moral, and intellectual, as good as any in the world. When he pitted himself against Allah's Prophet, he and his forces were destroyed. See lxxix. 15-26. (2) The Thamud were great builders, and had a high standard of material civilization. But they defied the law of Allah and perished. See vii. 73-79, and n. 1043.
In spite of the great examples of the past, by which human might and skill were shown to have availed nothing when the law of Allah was broken, the unbelievers persist (in all ages) in defying that law. But Allah will know how to deal with them.
Allah encompasses every thing. But the wicked will find themselves defeated not only in conditions that they foresee, but from all sorts of unexpected directions, perhaps from behind them, i.e., from the very people or circumstances which in their blindness they despised or thought of as helping them.
"Inscribed in a Tablet Preserved", i.e. Allah's Message is not ephemeral. It is eternal. The "Tablet" is "preserved" or guarded from corruption: xv. 9: for Allah's Message must endure for ever. That Message is the "Mother of the book": see n. 347 to iii. 7.