Exposition of the Holy Quran – 53 An-Najm (G A Parwez)

Surah 53: An-Najm
(The Star)

(1) (These people wonder about the extent to which wahi, which claims to guide them, is dependable. They are afraid that at some time it may either mislead them or leave them in the lurch. Ask them where they get their guidance from when they travel at night in the desert, when they do not have any fixed sign or clear path to guide them? There you determine your course after seeing the position of the stars. So what does this experience tell you? Is that guidance not dependable? Do the stars deceive you by changing their positions? Do they not always provide you the same guidance? So whatever opinion you have with regard to the stars, it should be exactly the same in respect of wahi. The Rasool gets his wahi from the same source from where the stars get their guidance to travel on a set course – 6:98, 56:75. Therefore) The star which appears at a fixed point and which after rising travels across a set course and dips at a particular point (always following the same course and pattern), is a witness to the fact that
(2) Your companion (who has been commanded to guide you on the right path of life) is neither wandering in search of the right course, nor has he gone astray after finding it. (He knows his destination and the way leading to it.)
(3-4) Whatever he tells you in his capacity as a rasool, he does not say it on his own. He only narrates the wahi revealed to him from the Almighty. The Qur’an contains divine revelation; the feelings or personal opinions of the Rasool have no share in it. (Human emotions and opinions are a result of personality and reflect a person’s exposure in society. However, the wahi that one gets from outside sources is not changeable and cannot be affected by any of these.)
(5) He gets it from the Almighty, Who is universally mighty and powerful. (You can visualize His power and might from the countless stars and galaxies that are traveling in their disciplined orbits, bound by His laws. Similarly, the laws that have been revealed to mankind through this wahi are bound to produce their results, without deviating even a little.)
(6) Not only does the Almighty possess unlimited powers, He is also aware of the various ups and downs of life. He is therefore capable of providing comprehensive guidance that covers all aspects of one’s individual and collective life.
(It is obvious that the person, the rasool, who has to receive wahi should be an embodiment of virtue and wisdom.) Hence the Rasool’s personality developed with complete poise and his character attained perfect purity.
(7) (Due to wahi) He also reached the pinnacle of knowledge, beyond human intellect or wisdom (81:23);
(8) He thus came very close to the absolute realities of the universe and deeply understood the divine laws, becoming in unison with them.
(9) As a result of this closeness and unison, he became the Almighty’s companion in the human world, to fulfill His programme (8:17). This closeness was similar to the strengthening of a bond of friendship, just like drawing two bows together, both appearing almost as one and then together shooting the arrow. This example shows the close affinity between the Rasool and Allah Almighty. In fact however, it was far stronger and deeper.
(10) In this way He revealed to His votary all He wanted to reveal (for the guidance of mankind).
(11) The knowledge given to the Rasool through wahi is unlike that which the eyes perceive; and the heart too cannot decide whether it is reality or a delusion. In a nabi’s case, his conscience confirms whatever his eyes see. (That is why a nabi is the first one to profess eiman on the truth of his wahi – 2:285, 6:164.)
(12) Now say, how can you challenge him about the realities of wahi when he has actually seen whatever he talks about; and when you cannot even comprehend his status?
(13) (Furthermore, the state of wahi is not that of a dream which cannot be experienced for the second time, in the same sequence and detail.) However, a nabi’s eyes can see again the phenomena he has seen once. (Therefore, for him seeing realities is not the same as dreaming. Wahi is not a dream. It is the observance of real facts.)
(14) The source of wahi is divine knowledge; and this is the point which completely bewilders the human intellect and wisdom. (Wahi is not the developed stage of human intellect. It is not a creation of the human intellect. Its source is beyond human reach and that is why the intellect cannot explain it.)
(15) (However, the fact that the human intellect cannot comprehend the nature of nabuwwa, does not mean that no benefit can be drawn from it.) The human intellect can believe it after understanding the divine laws as revealed by wahi. Then by acting according to them) Human beings can obtain real peace of mind and enjoy a blissful heavenly life.
(In other words, the human intellect will be bewildered if it tries to comprehend the phenomena of nabuwwa. However, if one spends his life according to the guidance of wahi, it will take him straight to janna.)
(16-17) (Unlike other human beings) The state of a nabi is such that even when he is in that valley of bewilderment surrounded by divine knowledge, his eyes do not falter or stray. At the same time (at that stage) it cannot cross the limits prescribed by the divine will. (This is a significant difference between divine knowledge and that of a nabi. Whereas divine knowledge is unlimited, as desired by God the knowledge bestowed on a nabi through wahi is limited. Hence, it could be considered as a part of divine knowledge, but not the whole of it. Although the knowledge granted by wahi is far ahead of that of humans, it is still limited in terms of divine knowledge. A nabi’s perception cannot cross that limit.)
(18) In this way the Rasool has seen some of the most profound and revolutionary symbols of his Rabb. (He saw with his own eyes the wonderful and sublime revolution that was about to come in the human world; that was bound to topple the mighty superpowers and authority of kings, priests and capitalists; and that which would ultimately free man from the bonds of the Pharaohs, Korah (Qur’an) and Haman – 7:156, 17:1, 20:23-24.)
(19-20) (Tell them that this divine message has been revealed from the Almighty, whose knowledge and wisdom are limitless, and it is being presented to you by this Rasool who himself is the embodiment of all human virtues; and your way of life is such that you bow before statues carved by yourselves out of stone) Have you ever thought about the real status of Laat or Uzza and their third companion Manat(1)?
(21) (And have you ever pondered over your belief that these deities are the
daughters of the Almighty? The very belief that God has children is utterly ridiculous. Furthermore, you state that) The Almighty has daughters, whereas you have sons!
(22) Just imagine how preposterous this apportioning is, particularly as it is based on sheer ignorance.
(23) Remember that the factual position of these deities is that they are only names which you and your forefathers have devised (7:71). Allah Almighty has not bestowed any warrant for them (nor can any proof for such beliefs be given rationally). These people just follow their assumptions simply to satisfy their wishful thinking. (O Rasool) Whatever you present (on the other hand) is a code of guidance which your Rabb bestowed on you (and it is totally based on knowledge and facts).
(24-25) (Each one of you goes to these deities to fulfill your wishes; and you are under the impression that they will be granted. Just think) Is it possible that every person’s wishes can be fulfilled? (For example, how can the conflicting desires of two persons be fulfilled? This is what always happens in a system in which every individual works for his own interest. Individual interests do conflict. However, the divine order keeps in view the collective good of all human beings and therefore there is no clash of individual interests. Another result of this collective system is that) Everyone gets immediate benefits, and one’s future life will also be bright and successful.
(The collective good of mankind, whereby both the present and the future are bright, is the basic premise of the divine order. This is not possible in a religion that is personal.)
(26) These people have also made as their deities the various forces of nature in the universe such as air, water, fire, clouds, lightning or thunder. Tell them that making these forces deities will not bring them any success. Even if they imagine that such deities are with them, they will not obtain any benefit. The only way they can be of any use to them is if these forces are utilized according to the law of nature and in unison with the overall programme of the divine will.
(27) (The above attitude is based on knowledge and reality. However) These people consider these physical forces to be their deities and give them feminine names. Only the people who have no faith in the Law of Mukafat and in the life hereafter would do such things. (The one who believes in the law of cause and effect would never get involved in such superstitions.)
(28) Their attitude is not based on knowledge and reality but on mere guesswork. It is obvious that such guesswork cannot be compared to reality and truth (6:149). Such guesswork may work in the era of ignorance, but it loses impact when faced with knowledge and truth.
(29) So the people who have no ideal higher than worldly comfort and gains, turn away and leave Our code of life. (O Rasool! ) You should stay away from them. (However, remain actively involved in the fulfillment of your programme.)
(30) How can the people whose extent of knowledge is so low (that they consider stone statues carved with their own hands to be their gods, and prostrate themselves before the physical forces) accept the truth of a deen which is based totally on knowledge and facts and which gives human beings the highest status in the universe? (But you should not be disheartened by their attitude.) Your Rabb knows fully well who goes on the straight path and who strays, leaving the guidance aside.
(31) (The results would be compiled according to the course a person takes.) This is because everything in the heavens and on the earth is continuously compiling the consequences of one’s deeds; producing negative results for those creating chaos and disorder; and producing positive and pleasant results for those who lead a righteous life (11:7, 45:22).
(32) These people (who lead righteous lives) avoid the serious offenses that slow down the growth of the human personality and the actions which spread abomination. However, in a situation when one realizes this and immediately corrects oneself (7:201), or even if he makes an unintentional mistake (and thereafter corrects himself), then he is forgiven the consequences of such actions. (In other words this means that) The weight of their good deeds is so heavy that it provides protection against the ill-effects of minor unintentional mistakes. This shows the abounding magnanimity of the divine Law of Mukafat (4:31, 42:37). This is the law of the Almighty Who is fully aware of human weaknesses as well as their potential abilities. He knows the stages that life has gone through from being inanimate matter to becoming human beings; and how many formations the fetus attained in the mother’s womb. He knows what hampers the development of the human self and what helps it grow. This is the very criterion for adjudging the depth of the divine injunctions in one’s personality. The judgment should not be according to one’s own devised standards. (The one and the only touchstone is Allah’s book and not any man-made standards – 91:7-10, 93:17-18.)
(33-34) (In order to judge the extent of the development of one’s personality the basic standard is how much one gives away for meeting the needs of other people. However) You will see so many people who turn away from this divine standard. They give only a little for the nourishment of mankind and then stiffen up like a stone. Despite such an attitude they judge their own deeds by their self-devised measures and consider themselves to be very noble and pious.
(35) Do these people have knowledge of the unseen that has told them that the standard adopted by them is the correct one?
(36) Do they not know that the standard laid down in the Qur’an by Us is the same one that was conveyed to mankind through various anbiya; and the same that was contained in the book revealed to Moses;
(37) And the one revealed earlier to Abraham who in his person was the embodiment of obedience; and who proved true to every commitment he made?
(38) The principles and standards that were revealed to previous anbiya and which are now being repeated in the Qur’an were:
(i) No one shall carry the burden of another person. Everyone is responsible for his own actions and the development of one’s self can take place only through one’s own deeds;
(39) (ii) A man (is entitled) to receive only that for which he has striven. (The results will be proportionate to the effort. According to the divine standard, the compensation should only be for labour.)
(40) (iii) Nobody’s toils will go waste. They will certainly see the results.
(41) (iv) There will be no shortfall in the reward of one’s labour. Everyone will get the full reward for his efforts.
(42) (v) The ultimate objective and goal of human life is to establish the Nizam-e-Rabubiyya for the collective good. The semblance of divine attributes is reflected in every individual (as far as is humanly possible) and every human affair is decided according to the divine laws (79:44).
(43) These are the fundamental principles according to which a nation lives a life full of comforts and pleasures; while others live in depression, lamenting in a house of mourning.
(44) The life and death of nations is regulated by these firm unchangeable laws. The nation which follows these laws survives while the one that violates them perishes.
(45-46) (The life and death of nations is subject to these divine laws in a manner similar to an individual’s birth, growth and death.) According to the same law, the birth of a human being takes place when the reproductive materials intermix following which the males and females are born.
(47) Up to this level of creation human beings and animals are alike. However later, He raises a human being in a totally different way. (He instills in him a spark of divine energy that enables him to exercise choice and discretion.)
(48) Subsequently, the Almighty’s Nizam-e-Rabubiyya makes arrangements to fulfill the basic necessities of life in a manner that no one remains dependent on others. He bestows on him things which give peace and tranquility.
(49) Up to this stage, as far as means of nourishment are concerned, man and animal are alike. But He has also granted intellect and conscience to human beings. This too is a unique phenomenon of Allah’s Rabubiyya(2).
(50) (It is because of this intellect and wisdom that a human being is made responsible for his actions; and his life
develops and is fashioned according to the results thus compiled. This applies to the life of nations as well as to that of individuals.) According to this very law He destroyed the ancient tribe of Aad;
(51) And also the tribe of Thamud. Neither of them survived.
(52) Even before them the people of Noah were destroyed. All these tribes perished because they rebelled against the divine laws and perpetuated zulm on weaker people.
(53) All the tribes which adopted such an attitude were completely destroyed; and their habitations were depopulated and became ruins.
(54) Their destruction was the outcome of their deeds; and it came from all sides encircling them completely.
(55) In light of this historical evidence, ask these people about how many different powers of the divine law they dispute or question?
(56) These are the consequences of your deeds about which this Rasool cautions you; just as the rusul of earlier nations warned their people. (They ignored their warnings and perished; if these people ignore the warnings they too will be annihilated.)
(57) The hour of destruction which was fast approaching has become imminent.
(58) No power in this world can stall it; but if even now they obey the divine law it can be averted.
(59) Ask them, “Do you still marvel at the things that are being told to you? Are you not convinced that they are bound to happen?
(60) “And keep laughing. Actually if you knew the reality you would weep; but no one applies his mind seriously.
(61) “It is for this reason that you are rebellious and are not changing your attitude. You take life only as fun and indulge in pleasures.
(62) “Do not do this. It is not too late; you still have time to bow before the divine laws and obey them (and you will be saved from the coming doom).”

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(1) Laat, Uzza and Manat: The pagan Arabs (Mushrikeen) pretended that these three idols were daughters side by side with the angels of Allah.  Worship of these goddesses in pre-Islamic era was common in Arabia.

(2) Sheraa (     ) is also the name of a star that was worshipped by an Arab tribe. However, if this is considered a derivative of the root Sh-‘-R, it would mean wisdom and intellect. We have preferred the latter meaning.

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