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Surat Al-Fajr - A Commentary


Islamic Articles - Holy Quran

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An Enlightening Commentary of the Holy Qur'an
Vol. II

In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent the Merciful!
Sura Fajr - Break of Dawn
No. 89 (30 Verses)

Contents of the Sura:

This Sura, like many other Meccan Suras, contains short,
meaningful, awakening verses with abundant warnings.

There are several oaths mentioned in the first part of the Sura
that have no precedent and are primarily for warning the transgressors
about the divine punishment.

Another part of this Sura points to some of the ancient rebellious
nations, such as the 'Ad and Thamood people; and also to Pharaoh, the
transgressor, and the divine punishment that destroyed them, which is a
lesson for all arrogant powers so that they may take careful account of
their situation.

In the next part of the Sura, which relates to the previous parts,
Man's trial is mentioned and his neglect, in doing good deeds, is very
sharply criticized.

In the last part of the Sura the discussion is about the Hereafter
and the fate of the sinners and unbelievers, and presents a contrast in
regard to the great rewards that the believers will receive; those whosc
souls are at rest.

The Virtue of Studying Sura Fajr:

Regarding the virtue of studying this Sura, a tradition from the
Prophet (pbuh&hf) says:

"Allah forgives the mistakes of whoever recites Sura Fajr on the
'Ten Nights' (i.e., the first ten nights of Zul-Hajj), and it will
become a light on Dooms Day for the one who recites it at other
times (of the year)."

Also, a tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says:

" Recite Sura Fajr, which is Hosaibn ibn Ali's Sura, in your prayers,
whether they be obligatory or optional. He who recites it wiil be
with him (Hosain-ibn-Ali) at the same place in Heaven on the Day of

Introducing this Sura as Hosain-ibn-Ali's Sura may be for the
reason that the clear example of the 'serene soul', mentioned at the end
of the Sura, is Hosain-ibn-Ali (p.b.u k.), as the idea has also been cited
trom Imam Sadiq (pbuh&hf) about the same verses.

Or, perhaps, it is for the same reason that one of the
commentarics about the 'Ten Nights' means the first ten nights of
Muharram, (the first month of the Muslim new year), which is closely
relevant to Hosain-ibn-Ali (pbuh&hf).

At any rate, these great rewards and outstanding merits are for
the ones who recite the Sura as a preparation for their own
self-improvement and self-perfection.


In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent the Merciful!

1. "By the Break of Dawn,"
2. "And the Ten Nights;"
3. "By the Even and the Odd;"
4. "And by the Night when it departs;"
5. "Is there (not) in this an oath for those who have sense?"


An Oath to the Dawn!

There are five awakening oaths at the beginning of the Sura.
At first, it says:

QURAN: "By the Break of Dawn,", "And the Ten Nights;"

The term / fajr / originally means 'break open', and since the light
of the dawn breaks the gloom of night it is called / fajr /.

We know that the meaning of / fajr / is two fold: (1) / fajr-i-kaib /
'the false dawn' which rises without extending laterally and appears to be
black, presenting itself like an obstacle on the horizon, and is compared
to the tail of a Fox whose narrow end is onto the horizon and its conical
shaped end is in the mid-sky, (2) /fajr-i-sadiq/ 'the true dawn' and is
like a stream with white water that becomes visible, rising, filling the
horizon with its whiteness and, thereafter, spreads throughout the sky
with a special brightness by which the night ends and the day begins.

It is the time when everything by which fasting would be broken
becomes unlawful to the faster, and when the morning prayer can, then,
be performed.

Some commentators have carried the term / fajr /, in this verse, to
its absolute meaning, that is; whiteness, which is certainly one of the
signs of Allah's Greatness. It is a reference point in the lives of
human beings and all earthly creatures, and the prime glory of the
victorious light and the end of faded darkness when the calm sleep ends
and the movement of living creatures begins. It is for this very life that
Allah swears by it.

However, some commentators have said that it means ' break of
dawn at the beginning of Muharram '.

Still, others have commented on it as meaning ' break of dawn on
the day of the Feast of Sacrifice ' where the important rituals of the
pilgrimage to Mecca are fulfilled and it follows close to the Ten Nights.

Finally, there are some who have commented on it as meaning ' break of
dawn for the month of Ramadan', or ' break of dawn on Fridays'.

All in all, the verse has such a broad meaning which involves all
the above commentaries, though some of its examples are more clear
and more important than the others.

Some have considered its meaning even beyond this and have said
that the objective point for the term ' break of dawn ' is ' any light that
glitters in the dark '.

Therefore, the glitter of the light of Islam and Mohammad
(pbuh&hf) in the gloom of ignorance, at that time, is onc of the examples
of / fajr / ' break of dawn ' . Also, the glitter of the break of dawn for
the Rise of Hazrat Mahdi (the twelfth Imam) (pbuh&hf), when the world
will be completely darkened by corruption, transgression and injustice, is
considered to be another example of this.

The rise of Imam Hosain on the bloody plains of Karbala, is
another example, when he pulled back the black curtains of deceit
revealing the tyrannies of the Ummayides and unveiling the real face
and nature of those devils.

Furthermore, all the true revolutions that have occurred in the
history of the world, against disbelief, ignorance, transgression and
cruelty are, also, examples of / fajr /.

Even the first light of wakefulness that appears in the darkened
hearts of sinners and makes them move to repent, is / fajr / ' break of
dawn '. Of course, this is an expansion on the concept of the verse,
while the apparent meaning of the verse has the same meaning / fajr /
with the sense of ' the break of dawn '.

The oath ' By the Ten Nights ' is generally understood to be the
first ten nights of Zul-Hajj; nights which are witness to the largest and
most devoted gathering of Muslims in the world, and this is an idea
which is narrated by Jabir-ibn-'Abdillah in a tradition from the Prophet

Some have also commented on them to mean ' the last ten nights
of Ramadan ' in which the nights of /qadr/, (when the Qur'an was
revealed) are hidden.

Some have meant ' the Ten Nights ' to be the first ten nights of
Muharram; the first Arabic lunar month.

It is also possible to combine these three commentaries together.
Some narrations, containing the hidden meanings of the Qur'an,
say that / fajr / refers to the existence of Imam Mahdi (pbuh&hf), and
/layalin-'ashr/ ' ten nights ' refers to the ten sinless Imams who came
before him (pbuth), and / saf'/ ' even ' refers to Hazrat Ali and
Fatimah Zahra (pbuth); the latter term is mentioned in the next verse.

In any event, the oath to these ten nights is an evidence of their
great importance, since oaths are always made to very important things.

QURAN: "By the Even and the Odd."

Commentators have cited many different meanings for the terms
/saf'/ and / watr / ' even and odd ' mentioned in this verse Some of
them have given twenty meanings, while some others have gone
further and narrated over thirty-six meanings.

The following are the most important ones:

1. The objective point, here, is the ' even ' and ' odd ' numbers.
According to this commentary, Allah has sworn by all even and odd
numbers. They are figures around which all calculations and regularities
revolve, and cover the existing universe. It seems as if He had said:
'By the regulation and calculation' . In fact, in the world of existence
the most important things are regularity, calculation and numbers which
shape the main foundation of Man's life.

2. The objective meaning of /saf/ is ' creatures ', because they are
all in pairs, and the objective point of /watr/ ' odd ' is 'Allah',
Who is unique and has no equal. In addition, created things are all
combined by substance and existence which, in philosophy, are called
' combined pairs ' . The only infinite entity, which is non-material,
is Allah. (This meaning has been used in some narrations from the
sinless Imams).

3. The objective idea of ' even and odd ' is that all the creatures of
the world, in one respect or another, are either ' even ' or ' odd '.

4. The meaning refers to prayers, some of which are ' even ' from
the point of the number of ' rak'at ', and some are ' odd '. (This idea
has heen narrated from the sinless Imams (pbuth), too.) Or it means the
elective prayers of 'Shaf' (two rak'ats) and ' Watr ' (one rak'at) at
the  end of ' the night prayers '.

5. The meaning of /saf/ is the day of / tarwiyah / (the eighth day
of Zul-Hajj when the pilgrims, in Mecca, travel to 'Arafat), and / watr/
is the 'Arafah Day, when the pilgrims in Mecca remain at 'Arafat. Or
/saf/ is the day of the ' Feast of Sacrifce ', (the tenth of Zul-Hajj)
and /watr/ is the day of 'Arafah. (This commentary is also mentioned in
narrations from the sinless Imams).

The main thing is that if the Arabic sign /al/, in these two terms, is
used in general, all the above meanings can be applied, as each of these
commentaries indicates only one example from the given examples of
/saf'/ ' even ' and /watr/ ' odd ' . Mentioning each of them does not
mean that it is the exclusive interpretation, but that it is one clear
example among the rest.

However, if / al / refers to a particular even and odd number,
here, concerning the former oaths, two meanings are the most
appropriate. The first is that the objective point is the day of the '
Feast  of Sacrifice ' and the day of ' 'Arafah ', which corresponds with the first
ten nights of Zul- Hajj, and the most important pilgrimage rituals are
practised, then. Or, pertaining to the oath ' By the break of Dawn '; the
objective point is concerning the prayers which are said at the end of
the night and before the break of day, which is the most suitable time
for praying and supplicating to Allah?; particulary when both of the
commentaries are mentioned in the narrations cited from the sinless
Imams (pbuth).

For the final oath in this group, it says:

QURAN: "And by the Night when it departs."

What an interesting concept! The movement of the night is in
relation to night, itself, (the term / yasr / based on / sura / ' to walk
at night ' here, is written as an analogy instead of /yasri/ due to the pause
at the end of the verse) as if ' night ' were a living crcature with senses
and movement and travelled in the darkness, by itself, moving toward a
bright dawn.

Yes, the oath is taken to the darkness which moves to the light; a
moving darkness, not a stationary one. Darkness is frightening when it
becomes fixed and immobile, but when there is movement unto the
light, it becomes valuable.

Some people have said that the gloom of night is moving over the
face of the earth and, basically, it is that very moving night which is
useful and livable, that is, night alternates continuously with day. So it
night stopped permanently on one half of the globc, both the dark and
the sunlit halves would die.

What does 'Night' mean here? Does it mean every night or is it a
special definite night? Again, there is no agreement among the
commentators. If /al/, the Arabic definite article, is used in a general
sense, it refers to all the nights, which, itself, is a blessing from the
gifts of Allah and is a phenomenon from the great phenomena of creation.

Although, if it refers to a definite night, relating to the previous
oaths, it means the night before ' the Feast of Sacrifice ' when the
pilgrims of Mecca go from 'AraNat to the Sacred Monument,
/muzdalafah/, and, spending the night in that sacred place, go toward
Mina at sunrise. (T place on the night before ' the Feast of
Sacrifice ' and sees, with his own eyes, the exact meaning of this verse:

QURAN: "And by the night when it departs."

In any case, night, with either meaning it has (general or definite),
is one sign among the many signs of the Divine Dignity, and is one of
the very important factors in the existing world. It moderates the
temperature of the weather. It gives calmness to every creature, and
prepares a still and quiet atmosphere for worship and supplication to
Allah. The night before ' the Feast of Sacrifice ', which is called ' the
gathering night ', is also one of the most wonderful nights of the year at
the Sacred Monument, /muzdalafah/.

Furthermore, if these five items (the oath by break of dawn, the
Ten Nights, Even, Odd, Night when it departs) can be considered as
relating to the specific days of Zul-Hajj and the great rituals of Hajj,
their relationship will be clear.

And, if it is not clear yet, a collection of great events of the divine
creation and divine religious rituals are pointed out, which are signs of
the Dignity of Allah and are a wonderful phenomenon in the existing

After expressing these meaningful awakening statements, it says:

QURAN: "Is there (not) in this an oath for those who have sense?"

The term / hijr /, here, means ' sense, understanding ' and
originally means ' anything forbidden ', for instance, it is said: ' The
judge forbade him to use his wealth '. A skirt is also called /hijr/,
meaning protection and forbidding others entrance, and since /'aql/
wisdom ' also forbids man from doing wrong deeds it has been rendered
/hijr/ . The word /'aql/, itself, means ' keeping back '; therefore, the
rope with which the leg of a camel is hobbled is called / ' iqal /.

What are these oaths for? There are two possibilities. The first is
that they are for the sentence of verse 14: "Surely your Lord is ever

The second is that what they are for is not mentioned, but means
that they are about the punishment of the wrong doers. The meaning
may be found in verse 13, in that, a scorge of diverse chastisement will
be poured on the unbelievers and transgressors. In this way, the oaths
and what they are for can be made clear.

Source: http://www.fabonline.com

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