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Surah Ad-Dahr (Dahr)

Ayat/pg: 5 | 10 | 15 | 20 | All

Maududi's Commentry (Tafseer) on Surah Ad-Dahr

Madina Madina (98)
31Total Ayat: 31
2Total Ruku: 2


This Surah is called Ad-Dahr as well as Al-Insan after the wordsoccurring in the first verse.

Period of Revelation

Most of the commentators, including Allama Zamakhshari, Imam Razi,Qadi, Baidawi, Allama Nizam ad-Din Nisaburi, Hafiz Ibn Kathir and manyothers, regard it as a Makki Surah, and, according to Allama Alusi, thesame is the opinion of the majority of scholars. However, somecommentators hold the view that the Surah was revealed at Madinah, andsome others say that it was revealed at Makkah but vv. 8-10 of it weresent down at Madinah.

As far as the subject matter and the style ofthe Surah are concerned, these are very different from those of theMadani Surahs. A little study of it rather shown that it is not only aMakki Surah but it was revealed during the earliest period at Makkah,which began just after the revelation of the first seven verses ofSurah Al-Muddaththir. As for vv 8-10, they are so naturally set in thetheme of the Surah that if they are read in their proper context, noone can say that the theme preceding and following them had been sentdown 15 to 16 years earlier but these three verses which were revealedmany years later were inserted here unnaturally.

In fact, the basis ofthe idea that this Surah; or some verses of it were revealed at Madinah,is a tradition which has related from Ibn Abbas (may Allah blesshim). He says that once Hadrat Hasan and Husain fell ill The HolyProphet and some of his Companions visited them. They wished HadratAli to make a vow to Allah for the recovery of the two children.Thereupon, Hadrat Ali, Hadrat Fatimah and Fiddah their maid servant,vowed a fast of three days if Allah restored the children to health.The children recovered by the grace of Allah and the three of thembegan to fast as avowed. As there was nothing to eat in the house,Hadrat Ali borrowed three measures (sa') of barley from somebody(according to another tradition, earned through labour). When on thefirst day they sat down to eat after breaking the fast, a poor mancame and begged for food. They gave all their food to him, drank waterand retired to bed. The next day when they again sat down to eat afterbreaking the fast, an orphan came and begged for something. They againgave away the whole food to him, drank water and went to bed. On thethird day when they were just going to eat after breaking the fast, acaptive came up and begged for food likewise. Again the whole food wasgiven away to him. On the fourth day Hadrat Ali took both the childrenwith him and went before the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace). TheHoly Prophet (on whom be peace) seeing the weak condition of the three,returned with them to the house of Hadrat Fatimah and found her lyingin a corner half dead with hunger. This moved him visibly. In themeantime the Angel Gabriel (peace be on him) came and said; "Look,Allah has congratulated you on the virtues of the people of yourhouse!"When the Holy Prophet asked what it was, he recited this wholeSurah in response. (According to Ibn Mahran's tradition, he recited itfrom verse 5 till the end. But the tradition which Ibn Marduyah hasrelated from Ibn Abbas only says that the verse Wa yut'imun-atta'am... was sent down concerning Hadrat Ali and Hadrat Fatimah; thereis no mention of this story in it). This whole story has been narratedby Ali bin Ahmad al-Wahidi in his Commentary of the Qur'an, entitledAl'Basit, and probably from the same it has been taken by Zamakhshari,Razi, Nisaburi and others.

In the first place, this tradition is veryweak as regards its chain of transmission. Then, from the point ofview of its subject matter also, it is strange that when a poor man,or an orphan, or a captive, comes to beg for food, he is given all thefood. He could be given one member's food and the five of them couldshare the rest of it among themselves:Then this also is incrediblethat illustrious persons like Hadrat Ali and Hadrat Fatimah, whopossessed perfect knowledge of Islam, should have regarded it as anact of virtue to keep the two children, who had just recovered theirhealth and were still weak, hungry for three consecutive days.Moreover, in respect of the captives also, it has never been apractice under the Islamic government that they should be left to begfor food for themselves. For if they were prisoners of the government,the government itself was responsible to arrange food and clothing forthem, and if they were in an individual's custody, he was maderesponsible to feed and clothe them. Therefore, it was not possiblethat in Madinah a captive should have gone about begging food fromdoor to door. However, overlooking the weaknesses of transmission andthe probability of subject matter, even if the narrative is acceptedas it goes, at the most what it shows is that when the people of theHoly Prophet's house acted righteously as they did, Gabriel came andgave him the good news that Allah had much appreciated their act ofvirtue, for they had acted precisely in the righteous way that Allahhad commanded in these verses of Surah Ad-Dahr. This does notnecessitate that these verses too were sent down on that very occasion.The same is the case with many traditions concerning the occasion ofrevelation. When about a certain verse it is said that it was sentdown on a particular occasion, it in fact does not mean that the versewas sent down on the very occasion the incident took place. But itmeans that the verse applies precisely and exactly to the incident.Imam Suyuti in Al-Itqan has quoted this from Hafiz Ibn Taimiyyah:"When the reporters say that a verse was sent down concerning aparticular incident, it sometimes implies that the same incident (ormatter) occasioned its revelation, and sometimes that the verseapplies to the matter although it may not have occasioned itsrevelation."Further on he quotes Imam Badr ad-Din Zarkashi's view fromhis Al-Burhan fi Ulum al-Quran:"It is well known in respect of theCompanions and their immediate successors that when one of them saysthat a verse was sent down concerning a particular matter, it meansthat the ruling contained in it applied to that matter and not thatthe matter itself occasioned the revelation of the verse. Thus, itonly uses the ruling of the verse for the purpose of reasoning and notfor stating a fact." (Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Quran, vol. I, p. 31, Ed.1929).

Theme and Subject Matter

The theme of this Surah is to inform man of his true position in theworld and to tell him that if he understood his true position rightlyand adopted the attitude of gratefulness, he would meet with such andsuch good end, and if he adopted the way of disbelief, he would meetwith such and such evil ends In the longer Surahs of the Qur'an thissame theme has been presented at length, but a special characteristicof the style of the earliest Surahs revealed at Makkah is that thesubjects dealt with at length in the later period, "have beenpresented in a brief but highly effective way in this period in suchconcise, elegant sentences as may automatically be preserved in thememory of the hearers.

In this Surah, first of all man has beenreminded that there was a time when he was nothing; then a humblebeginning of him was made with a mixed drop of sperm and ovum of whicheven his mother was not aware; even she did not know that he had beenconceived nor anyone else seeing the microscopic cell could say thatit was a man, who in future would become the best of creation on theearth. After this, man has been warned, so as to say: "Beginning yourcreation in this way We have developed and shaped you into what youare today in order to test and try you in the world. That is why,unlike other creatures, you were made intelligent and sensible andwere shown both the way of gratitude and the way of ungratitudeclearly so that you may show, in the interval that you have beengranted here for work, whether you have emerged as a grateful servantfrom the test or an unbelieving, Un- grateful wretch!"

Then, just inone sentence, it has been stated decisively what will be the fate tobe met with in the Hereafter by those who emerged as unbelievers fromthis test.

After this, in vv. 5-22 continuously, the blessings withwhich those who do full justice to servitude in the world, will befavored, have been mentioned in full detail. In these verses, notonly have their best rewards been mentioned but they have also beentold briefly what are the acts on the basis of which they would becomeworthy of those rewards. Another special characteristic of theearliest Surahs revealed at Makkah is that besides introducing in thembriefly the fundamental beliefs and concepts of Islam, here and there,those moral qualities and virtuous acts have been mentioned, which arepraiseworthy according to Islam, and also those evils of deed andmorality of which Islam strives to cleanse human life. And these twothings have not been mentioned with a view to show what good or evilresult is entailed by them in the transitory life of the world, butthey have been mentioned only to point out what enduring results theywill produce in the eternal and everlasting life of the Hereafter,irrespective of whether an evil quality may prove useful or a goodquality may prove harmful in the world.

This is the subject matter ofthe first section (vv. 1-22). In the second section, addressing theHoly Prophet (upon whom be peace), three things have been stated:first, that "it is in fact We Ourself Who are revealing this Qur'anpiecemeal to you, and this is intended to inform the disbelievers, notyou, that the Qur'an is not being fabricated by Muhammad (upon whom beAllah's peace and blessings) but it is "We Who are revealing it, andit is Our Own wisdom which requires that We should reveal it piece bypiece and not all at once."Second, the Holy Prophet has been told: "Nomatter how long ,it may take for the decree of your Lord to beenforced and no matter what afflictions may befall you in the meantime,in any case you should continue to perform your mission of Apostleshippatiently, and not to yield to the pressure tactics of any of thesewicked and unbelieving people."The third thing he has been told is:"Remember Allah day and night, perform the Prayer and spend yournights in the worship of Allah, for it is these things which sustainand strengthen those who call to Allah in the face of iniquity anddisbelief."

Then in one single sentence, the actual cause of thedisbelievers wrong attitude has been stated: they have forgotten theHereafter and are enamored of the world. In the second sentence, theyhave been warned to the effect: "You have not come into being byyourself: We have created you. You have not made these broad chests,and strong, sturdy hands and feet for yourselves, it is We Who madethese for you; and it so lies in Our power to treat you as We please.We can distort your figures, We can destroy you and replace you bysome other nation. We can cause you to die and can recreate you inwhatever form We like."

In conclusion, it has been said: This is anAdmonition: whoever wills may accept it and take a path to his Lord.But man's own will and desire is not everything in the world. No one'swill and desire can be fulfilled unless Allah (also) so wills. AndAllah's willing is not haphazard: whatever He wills, He wills it onthe basis of His knowledge and wisdom. He admits into His mercywhomever He regards as worthy of His mercy on the basis of Hisknowledge and wisdom, and He has prepared a painful torment for thosewhom He finds unjust and wicked.

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This surah name can also be written as "surah dahr". Surah dahr is short name, the proper full name is "Surah Ad-Dahr".

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