surah 20as 20shams 20image
Surah Ash-Shams in English (Arabic: الشمس, “The Sun”) is the 91st surah
of the Qur’an, with 15 ayat or verses. It opens with a series of solemn oaths
sworn on various astronomical phenomena, the first of which, “by the sun”,
gives the sura its name, then on the human soul itself.

It then describes the fate of Thamud, a formerly prosperous but now extinct
Arab tribe. The prophet Saleh urged them to worship God alone, and commanded
them in God’s name to preserve a certain she-camel; they disobeyed and
continued to reject his message; they killed the she-camel and God destroyed
them all except those who had followed Salih.


    Summary of Surah Shams

    • 1-10 Oaths that man’s happiness and misery depends on the purity or
    corruption he hath wrought in it.
    11-15 Thamúd was destroyed for rejecting their prophet.

    Surah Shams in Roman English Transliteration

    Bismillaahir Rahmaanir Raheem 

    1. Wash Shamsi Wa Duhaa Haa

    2. Wal Qamari Izaa Talaa Haa

    3. Wannahaari Izaa Jallaa Haa

    4. Wallaili Izaa Yaghshaa Haa

    5. Wassamaaa’i Wa Maa Banaahaa

    6. Wal Ardi Wa Maa Tahaahaa

    7. Wa Nafsinw Wa Maa Sawwaahaa

    8. Fa-alhamahaa Fujoorahaa Wa Taqwaahaa

    9. Qad Aflaha Man Zakkaahaa

    10. Wa Qad Khaaba Man Dassaahaa

    11. Kazzabat Samoodu Bi Taghwaahaaa

    12. Izim Ba’asa Ashqaahaa

    13. Faqaala Lahum Rasoolul Laahi Naaqatal Laahi Wa Suqiyaahaa

    14. Fakazzaboohu Fa’aqaroohaa Fadamdama ‘alaihim Rabbuhum Bizambihim Fasaw

    15. Wa Laa Yakhaafu’uqbaahaa

    Surah Ash-Shams English Translation

    In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

    By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour;

    By the Moon as she follows him;

    By the Day as it shows up (the Suns) glory;

    By the Night as it conceals it;

    By the Firmament and its (wonderful) structure;

    By the Earth and its (wide) expanse:

    By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it;

    And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-

    Truly he succeeds that purifies it,

    And he fails that corrupts it!

    The Thamud (people) rejected (their prophet) through their inordinate

    Behold, the most wicked man among them was deputed (for impiety).

    But the Messenger of Allah said to them: “It is a She-camel of Allah! And (bar
    her not from) having her drink!”

    Then they rejected him (as a false prophet), and they hamstrung her. So their
    Lord, on account of their crime, obliterated their traces and made them equal
    (in destruction, high and low)!

    And for Him is no fear of its consequences.

    Surah Ash-Shams in Arabic with Urdu Translation

    (91:1) وَٱلشَّمْسِ وَضُحَىٰهَا
    سورج کی قسم اور اس کی روشنی کی

    (91:2) وَٱلْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَىٰهَا
    اور چاند کی جب اس کے پیچھے نکلے

    (91:3) وَٱلنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّىٰهَا
    اور دن کی جب اُسے چمکا دے

    (91:4) وَٱلَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَىٰهَا
    اور رات کی جب اُسے چھپا لے

    (91:5) وَٱلسَّمَآءِ وَمَا بَنَىٰهَا
    اور آسمان کی اور اس ذات کی جس نے اسے بنایا

    (91:6) وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَمَا طَحَىٰهَا
    اور زمین کی اور اس کی جس نے اسے پھیلایا

    (91:7) وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّىٰهَا
    اور انسان کی اور اس کی جس نے اس (کے اعضا) کو برابر کیا

    (91:8) فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَىٰهَا
    پھر اس کو بدکاری (سے بچنے) اور پرہیزگاری کرنے کی سمجھ دی

    (91:9) قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّىٰهَا
    کہ جس نے (اپنے) نفس (یعنی روح) کو پاک رکھا وہ مراد کو پہنچا

    (91:10) وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّىٰهَا
    اور جس نے اسے خاک میں ملایا وہ خسارے میں رہا

    (91:11) كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِطَغْوَىٰهَآ
    (قوم) ثمود نے اپنی سرکشی کے سبب (پیغمبر کو) جھٹلایا

    (91:12) إِذِ ٱنۢبَعَثَ أَشْقَىٰهَا
    جب ان میں سے ایک نہایت بدبخت اٹھا

    (91:13) فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ نَاقَةَ ٱللَّهِ وَسُقْيَٰهَا
    تو خدا کے پیغمبر (صالح) نے ان سے کہا کہ خدا کی اونٹنی اور اس کے پانی پینے
    کی باری سے عذر کرو

    (91:14) فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُم بِذَنۢبِهِمْ

    مگر انہوں نے پیغمبر کو جھٹلایا اور اونٹنی کی کونچیں کاٹ دیں تو خدا نے ان
    کےگناہ کے سبب ان پر عذاب نازل کیا اور سب کو (ہلاک کر کے) برابر کر دیا

    (91:15) وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَٰهَا
    اور اس کو ان کے بدلہ لینے کا کچھ بھی ڈر نہیں

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    Benefits and Virtues of Surah Ash-Shams

    Hadith Surah Shams: It was narrated from Abdullah bin Buraidah, from
    his father (رضي الله عنهم), that The Messenger of Allah
    (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) used to recite ‘By the sun and its
    brightness’ and similar surahs in Isha’. (Hadith Sunan an-Nasa’i 999)

    Narrated that Abu Hurairah (رضي الله عنه) said “I have never prayed
    behind anyone whose prayer more closely resembled that of the Messenger of
    Allah (صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم) than so-and-so.

    We prayed behind that person and he used to make the first two rak’ahs of Zuhr
    lengthy and the last two shorter, and he would make ‘Asr shorter; in Maghrib
    he would recite the short Mufassal surahs.

    In Isha’ he recited: ‘By the sun and its brightness and similar surahs, and in
    Subh he recited two lengthy surahs.” (Hadith Sunan an-Nasa’i 983)

    Surah Shams Benefits :

    1. Our Beloved Prophet Muhammad sallal laahu alaihi wasallam, said that
    the reward for reciting this Sura is compared to the things upon which the sun
    and the moon shine.

    2. Our Beloved Imam Jaffar Sadiq (Radi Allahu Tala Anhu) has said that
    the person who recites Surat as-Shams, al-Layl, ad-Dhuha and al-Inshirah will,
    on the Day of Judgement, find all creatures of the earth testifying on his
    behalf and Allah will accept their testimony and give him a place in Jannah.
    3. Those who recites Surah Shams, Surat Layl, Surat duha and Sura
    Inshirah on any day or any night, there is nothing which would not give
    witness for his recitation of these four surahs on the day of judgement, so
    much so that the reciter’s hair, face, blood, muscles and bones would give
    witness and everything on earth would come forward to stand witness for him.

    4. Then Allah would say: “I have accepted the evidence of all of you
    for my servant, now I send him to paradise. Whatever he likes will be given to
    him there, and more through My mercy and favour.”

    5. Those who recites Surat Ash-Shams is like that very rich man who
    gives away in charity all that he has; and if the reciter is not a man of
    means, Allah would provide for him favourable turn of circumstances and divine

    6. He would be guarded wherever he might be, The Reciter will have many
    benefits ; he would be a amiable and popular man among the people; Allah would
    increase his means of substance and he would be freed from losses, worries and

    7. If you writes Sura Ash-Shams on a china plate, wash it with clean
    water and drinks it, inshallah, his trembling would go away.

    8. Recitation of Surat Shams benefits you to increase in sustenance,
    courage and popularity amongst the people.

    9. Recite Surat Ash-Shams on water to cure fever.

    Surah Ash-Shams Tafseer in English

    This surah can be considered a tafseer and an explanation of that one central
    ayah and those two pathways and gives us an insight into human psychology and

    91:1 وَٱلشَّمْسِ وَضُحَىٰهَا
    1) By the sun in its morning brightness

    This is a surah of many oaths and one opinion on oaths held by a minority of
    scholars is that every time Allah (swt) takes an oath by any of his creations
    there is a word implicitly understood – rabb. For example, this verse would be
    rendered ‘By the Lord of the Sun’.

    For the most part though the sunnah is that when we take an oath we take it by
    Allah (swt) but when Allah (swt) takes an oath He has the right to take it by
    whatever he wills. In this verse Allah (swt) swears by the Sun but then adds
    another attribute.

    The word duha here has been defined in two ways. Some have called it the light
    of the Sun whilst others have called it the entire day especially considering
    the day exists due to light given from the Sun.

    The majority opinion though comes from the linguistic analysis of it which
    implies that it is when the Sun comes out partially but not fully and to the
    extent that you can still look at it, so not the scorching Sun but rather the
    soothing morning light of the Sun.

    It is also worth noting that Allah (swt) takes two distinct oaths here,
    swearing by the Sun and then by its morning light as opposed to a single oath
    by the soothing Sun. Note also this glow or duha is only attributed to the sun
    as an exclusive feature and not any other light source, like a torch or lamp
    for example.

    91:2 وَٱلْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَىٰهَا
    2) And by the moon as it follows it

    The word talaa in Arabic has two origins, one of which means to read and the
    other which means to follow right behind something. In the previous ayah there
    were two oaths separated by a waw, however, in this ayah the moon is not given
    a unique entity, rather it is given a subservient quality.

    Allah (swt) swears by the moon as it follows the sun. When the moon becomes
    full it reflects light off the sun and draws light from it and hence is in a
    subservient position and this was also a view of the Salaf. It is not uncommon
    also to see in the Quran that when Allah (swt) talks about the day and night
    He (swt) always mentions the day first.

    91:3 وَٱلنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّىٰهَا
    3) By the day as it displays its (the sun’s) glory

    The word jalla is to give brilliance to something, where you give something
    that is already bright exposure. For example, the lamp that is covered up can
    only be appreciated when it is exposed. In classical Arabic tajal-la was used
    to describe when a wife beautified herself for her husband thereby exposing
    her full covered up beauty.

    The sun is what causes the day to appear but here Allah (swt) is saying that
    it is in fact the day that gives the sun the opportunity to show and present
    its full glory. Allah (swt) creates opportunities every day for the brilliant
    sun to be appreciated.

    Another opinion on the pronoun ha is that it is refers to the earth. An oath
    is being taken against the morning as it gives brilliance to the earth but
    that is a weaker opinion as the word jalla is used to describe exposing
    something that already possesses light, which the earth does not.

    91:4 وَٱلَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَىٰهَا
    4) And by the night as it conceals it (the sun)

    The oaths in this surah thus far have centred around the sun and with this
    ayah Allah (swt) takes another oath by the sun (the ‘ha’ refers to the sun).

    In this ayah Allah (swt) swears by the sun as it’s light is covered up by the
    night. A parallel will soon be drawn in this surah between the sun and the
    nafs, which is commonly translated as soul but perhaps is better understood as
    one’s conscience.

    91:5 وَٱلسَّمَآءِ وَمَا بَنَىٰهَا
    5) By the sky and how He built it

    By the sky and the One who built it

    Allah (swt) swears by the sky and by what made it. One would expect the word
    ‘man’ (who) to be used here and the question to be ‘who made it’ but instead
    the question is ‘maa’ (what) made it.

    Some mufassiroon have interpreted this as a ‘Maa Al Mawsoolah’ which is a
    question of what that thing is. It could also be a ‘Maa Masdariyyah’ which is
    an infinitive form of statement and here is a sign of astonishment at its
    creation and construction.

    The word ‘what’ which refers here to Allah (swt) should not feel inappropriate
    though. When you do not know someone you will ask who he is but sometimes you
    may also want to know what that person’s attributes are.

    When we ask who created the sky the answer is Allah (swt) but it is also
    appropriate to ask in amazement what kind of power can possibly create it. Man
    is being asked to look up at the sky and exhaust his imagination by thinking
    about what kind of power Allah (swt) must be.

    The word binaa in Arabic is to put something together in such a way that it
    gets fused together and becomes inseparable and this is actually an
    illustration of the flawless sky in which there are no cracks or gaps. Even in
    the newest constructions built today with the most advanced methods possible
    you will often find some flaws. Yet there is nothing in the sky that needs

    Rather it is all covered up for our safety and protection. (And) who created
    seven heavens in layers. You do not see in the creation of the Most Merciful
    any inconsistency. So return (your) vision (to the sky); do you see any
    breaks? (Al Mulk 67:3).

    By using the word banaa we know that the sky has been constructed and was not
    always there. Similarly the words used in this surah like talaa which means to
    follow and the night as it covers all suggest a beginning.

    By definition when a verb is used there must be a beginning and so it poses a
    question of when did all this, the following and covering etc., begin. Allah
    (swt) here asks the more fundamental question of what kind of power
    constructed this sky.

    91:6 َٱلْأَرْضِ وَمَا طَحَىٰهَا
    6) And by the earth and how He spread it

    And by the earth and the One who spread it

    If the maa in this ayah is maa al mawsoolah then Allah (swt) is swearing by
    the earth and what kind of power it must be that spread it and gave it its
    vastness. If the maa is mas masdariyyah then it is an exclamation of how
    incredible the earth’s creation and vastness is. So one part of the
    translation makes man wonder about the remarkable attributes of Allah (swt)
    and the other His incredible creation and both meanings are captured by the
    word maa.

    The word taha means to spread out and to lay down. This word is used only once
    in the Quran and its sister word is daha (And after that He spread out the
    earth: An-Naziat 79:30) and according to the mufassiroon both words are
    actually the same but were used by different Arab tribes.

    How universal the message of the Quran is in that both words from both tribes
    are used and both are used only once. The word taha is also used when the Arab
    would go to a castle or to a huge house, so large that one can barely see
    where it begins and where it ends. The Arab would say that the house is
    muthiyya which means well spread out and Allah (swt) uses the same root to
    describe the earth’s vastness.

    The function of these oaths is to invite us to reflect on these illustrations
    that Allah (swt) has given, e.g. the sun, the moon and the night, in
    preparation for the rest of the surah. These things are in conflict; the sun
    is in conflict with the moon and the day is in conflict with the night but
    both form part of a larger picture particularly in the human experience of one
    dwelling in the desert.

    Many people now are city dwellers and spend a lot of time indoors to the
    extent that we have no real appreciation of night and day and when night
    transitions to day. The desert dweller however has a very different experience
    of living during the day and night and hence has a greater appreciation for
    these things that Allah (swt) has created and their limitations.

    There is a time for night and a time for the early morning and that order will
    not be broken. These opposites have been given rules and a system that they
    follow and cannot break.

    Imagine if that balance disappeared and the sun and the moon rebelled
    (tugyaan). When water exceeds its limits in the ocean and causes flooding it
    has rebelled and if the sun and the moon rebelled there would be chaos on the
    earth. We are talking about things in the sky yet if they went awry the
    consequences would be on earth and on us.

    In this surah we will learn that such conflicts and balance are also within
    the human being. Allah (swt) balanced and perfected and gave limits and
    discipline to each and every different human attribute and inclination.

    When you reflect on the harmony between these opposite entities you must
    wonder what kind of power must it be that made such an enormous creation like
    the sun and moon and gave them harmony despite them being such opposites. This
    is the point of reflection that has been set for us before we continue to the
    rest of the surah.

    91:7 وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّىٰهَا
    7) By the soul and how He formed it

    Allah (swt) swears by the nafs and notice that there is no definite article
    here which is a departure from all the other oaths taken thus far in this
    surah. The absence of the definite article serves to magnify the points of
    reflection that has been put forward in this surah.

    Some verses in the Quran are like seeds and other verses and places in the
    Quran are like the flowers that blossomed from those seeds. The beginning
    verses in this surah cause us to reflect on the universe and the fruits of
    reflecting on them are seen in this ayah which helps us understand ourselves

    The word nafs is often translated as conscience in English but this
    translation has its limitations. In English conscience is not necessarily used
    to describe when you want to do something good or bad but is rather used to
    describe your state of mind, for example you may have a guilty or clear

    The word sawaa comes from taswiyah and is to take something that is uneven and
    to organise and balance in such a way that it evens out. Sawaa would be akin
    to balancing out a set of scales such that each side is equal in weight.

    It also means to build something and to perfect it to the finest detail. Allah
    (swt) asks us to reflect not only on our nafs (ourselves) but also on how
    remarkably it has been balanced and how amazing the One who balanced it is.
    What kind of attributes must the One Who balanced it have?

    Our conscience is something that makes us remember Allah (swt) and since He
    (swt) is the one that gave us our conscience we should realise that He is
    watching what we do with it. Allah (swt) is the One who programmed feelings
    like guilt, remorse, satisfaction and joy into us and watches how we handle

    Modern society has become obsessed in science and in the study of things that
    are tangible which is a break from the past pre-modern obsession in philosophy
    and the study of thoughts. In the past many cultures have engaged in
    discussion on finding balance in oneself, in understanding good energy and bad
    energy etc. but the advent of modern society resulted in a shift to the
    empirical sciences and in the belief that only knowledge with a tangible
    origin has merit.

    There is therefore no room for a discussion on the soul in modern society as
    it is not tangible and cannot be studied in scientific terms. Even in
    psychology which is the modern day philosophy, studies into man is under
    molecular and chemical parameters and has led to conditions like depression
    being treated by tablets. One of the biggest unanswered questions in
    psychology today is the definition of the human personality. Yet, Allah (swt)
    Himself has given us a profound and deep understanding of the human self in
    the Quran.

    Rooh is one of the words used to describe the human personality in the Quran
    and on it Allah (swt) says that it is a mystery, something that we cannot
    learn much about. Al Bicaa’i commented that the Nafs is comparable with the
    body in the same way the Sun is comparable to its glow. In other words the sun
    is something physical like the human body but its glow is intangible just like
    the Nafs.

    Al Aloosi commented that when Allah (swt) created us He created clay and blew
    into it the Rooh. Thus, we are created from organic matter on this earth.
    Furthermore, the things we need and desire in this world all come from the
    earth. Yet, there is something different inside us that did not come from
    earth but rather it came from the command of Allah (swt) – our rooh (soul).
    Just like the body feels hunger and nourishment so too does the rooh.

    The difference is that nourishment of the body comes from the earth and the
    nourishment of the soul comes from Allah (swt). When we are hungry spiritually
    we need satisfaction directly from Allah (swt). These two components that make
    us up are in conflict with each other. The body and the soul have their own
    separate needs and desires and pull the human in opposing directions.

    Imbalances in people and in societies are normally due to indulging in one
    force over another and a society in imbalance is completely immersed in
    pleasing itself where individual concerns are dominated by thoughts on how to
    beautify the body, and to indulge in its desires and excesses.

    This imbalance occurs when you overfeed one and starve the other. In
    Catholicism there was the other extreme where monasticism was popular. Monks
    considered the body and its desires to be evil and so would deprive themselves
    of marriage and other comforts like decent clothes.

    In fact even some Muslims in our history have worn exceptionally uncomfortable
    clothing to prevent themselves from feeling the pleasures of this dunya.
    However, it needs to be understood that Allah (swt) made us of two different
    components and He (swt) expects us to give justice to both. So while we have
    obligations to our rooh we should not forget our portion from this life.

    The balance in man is manifested in the inclination towards good and bad and
    there should also be a balance between our spirituality for Allah’s sake and
    in channelling our body’s desires in a permissible way. This is why Allah
    orders us to keep our spiritual duties as well as our worldly duties

    ‘But seek, through that which Allah has given you, the home of the Hereafter;
    and [yet], do not forget your share of the world. And do good as Allah has
    done good to you. And desire not corruption in the land. Indeed, Allah does
    not like corrupters’
(al Qasas 28:77).

    At the centre of the discussion on iman and kufr in the Quran is the word
    qalb. The word Qalb (heart) contains concepts one associates with all the
    emotions and diseases of the heart such as desire, fear, hate, love, anger,
    jealousy etc. Even belief resides in the heart: And know that among you is the
    Messenger of Allah .If he were to obey you in much of the matter, you would be
    in difficulty, but Allah has endeared to you the faith and has made it
    pleasing in your hearts and has made hateful to you disbelief, defiance and
    disobedience. Those are the [rightly] guided (Al Hujurat 49:7).

    This heart is affected by two influences, one from the needs of the body and
    the other the soul. If man listens to the body too much the heart becomes hard
    as a consequence and if it listens to the soul excessively it does injustice
    to the body. These two influences are trying to win over the heart and assert
    it’s authority over it and its important for man to strike a balance between
    the two in this constant battle for the Nafs: And do not pursue that of which
    you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about
    all those [one] will be questioned (Al Israa’ 17:36).

    The bodily desires enter our heart through our sight and hearing and the needs
    of the rooh reach us when we hear and see the truth. When we hear and see the
    truth, we either accept it or reject it and we will accept the truth if our
    fitrah (natural disposition) is intact and the more intact it is, the more
    likely we will accept the message of truth. Our fitrah is called the light
    inside us and the Wahy (revelation) which Allah (swt) sent to humans is also a
    light and of it He said: ‘Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was
    guidance and light’ (Al Ma’idah 5:44).

    Thus, when one hears the revelation the image is of light entering inside of
    us and into the light of our fitrah. Iman is also called light and when the
    light of revelation and the light of iman enters the heart and makes contact
    with the light of the fitrah Allah (swt) refers to it as light upon light.
    Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth.

    The example of His light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is
    within glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the oil
    of] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would
    almost glow even if untouched by fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His
    light whom He wills. And Allah presents examples for the people, and Allah is
    Knowing of all things (Al Noor 24:35).

    The Nafs is thus in a constant conflict and moves between different states.
    The Nafs that sins is called An-Nafs al Ammaarah bis-soo’ (the Nafs that
    commands to evil). The Nafs is constantly being pulled towards the desires of
    the body and it is these very desires that are the hardest to avoid as we are
    constantly being bombarded with them in our day-to-day life. When the Nafs
    strays too far in this direction it feels bad and makes tawba and this is
    called An-Nafs al Lawaamah (the self-blaming soul) and it then pulls itself
    back to An-Nafs al Mutma’inah (the tranquil soul).

    91:8 فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَىٰهَا
    8) And inspired it (to know) its own rebellion and piety

    The word ilham is when there is something in your heart that feels more
    certain than fact and in English is what we would call a gut feeling. Sunrise
    is called Fajr because the morning light tears through the darkness and a
    Faajir is someone who is extremely rebellious and tears through the sanctities
    of Allah’s boundaries without fear of consequence.

    Note that the first armed conflict that the messenger (saw) witnessed took
    place before he had received the message and was called the Fijaar War and was
    called thus because the sanctity of the sacred months and the sacred territory
    of Makkah was violated. Fujoor is the understanding of that which is clearly
    rebellious to Allah (swt).

    Allah (swt) pre-programmed the nafs with an awareness of this evil inclination
    inside it and the evil potential it has for itself (as indicated by the object
    ha) such that it is almost as if an alarm triggers when the nafs heads in the
    direction of evil and rebellion. This alarm is the guilt the nafs feels.

    Whenever someone does something wrong regardless of their faith and whether
    they have studied revelation or not something inside them tells them that this
    act is wrong and they feel bad about it. The one who continually rebels
    against Allah (swt) has programmed themselves to ignore this feeling and their
    guilty conscience.

    How often do we see Muslims when they have erred and feel bad about it seek
    out someone knowledgeable or pious who can condone what they have done and if
    that is not possible then they will keep searching until they can find an
    opinion, no matter how weak or how much of a minority view it is, that will
    state that their action is permitted in certain cases or that it is merely
    repulsive and detested.

    It was however the heart that issued the first fatwa and the heart which
    caused this person to seek a fatwa. Sometimes we should listen to our heart
    and indeed there is a principle and maxim that scholars advocate ‘At-taqwa
    qabl al-fatwa’ (have taqwa before you find a fatwa).

    Allah (swt) also gave this human the ability and awareness to protect itself
    (notice the object ha once more) and taqwa literally means protection and
    precaution. Taqwa is often translated as fear but this is not taqwa although
    fear is an implication of it.

    Taqwa is made up of two qualities, firstly protecting yourself by staying away
    from something bad and secondly protecting yourself from the punishment that
    will come as a result of not keeping away. It is commented that Allah (swt)
    made the human thoroughly aware of these two states and of the beauty in taqwa
    and the ugliness in fujoor.

    Also, the messenger (saw) said ‘Righteousness is in good character, and
    wrongdoing is that which wavers in your soul, and which you dislike people
    finding out about’ (Sahih Muslim). Allah (swt) made man recognise the path of
    evil and the understanding that taking that first and then the subsequent
    steps takes one further along the path of evil and further away from Allah
    (swt) until this person ends up in the worst possible state.

    People often make excuses to justify their behaviour and cite examples of
    people who have done far worse crimes like murder and this is in of itself is
    an acknowledgement of a guilty conscience and that their crime can lead to
    worse. Imagine a dam with a crack in it which allows water to seep through
    until gradually the crack gets wider and wider allowing more water out until
    eventually the dam simply breaks and flood waters overwhelm.

    This is why Allah (swt) says enter the fold of Islam totally and don’t let any
    ‘cracks’ in ‘O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely (and
    perfectly) and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a
    clear enemy’ (Al Baqarah 2:208).

    Allah (swt) also says ‘If you do good, you do good for yourselves; and if you
    do evil, (you do it) to yourselves’ (Al Israa’ 17:7).

    Allah (swt) gave the nafs understanding of rebellion and also of how to
    protect itself from it and this is the reality of the nafs. Its instinct is to
    protect itself and to benefit itself and even an atheist who does not believe
    in heaven and hell will do good as it satisfies his own conscience. In the
    previous surah Allah (swt) reminded us of the blessings he has given us ‘Did
    we not give him eyes? And a tongue and two lips?’ (Al Balad 90:8-9).

    In this surah we learn that as long as your nafs is in the right place you
    will use these gifts for the right things but if the nafs has deviated then
    those same gifts will be misused. Recall also that Allah (swt) showed us the
    two paths in the previous surah ‘And shown him the two ways?’ (Al Balad

    We now clearly understand that the two paths are fujooraha (its evil) wa
    taqwaha (its protection).

    91:9 قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّىٰهَا
    9) The one who purifies his soul succeeds

    The word qad in the Arabic language is used for two reasons; one is to
    illustrate a statement that is already the case, for example qad kharaja
    meaning he already left. Another implication is certitude and is comparable to
    the function of inna. Aflaha is commonly translated as he succeeded but as
    there are multiple words in the Quran used for success we need to appreciate
    why aflaha in particular has been used here.

    The word aflaha comes from iflaah and iflaah is used for a farmer that is
    about to reap harvest. In other words success is attained but not without a
    long duration of labour and usually when aflaha is used you will normally see
    some kind of effort mentioned after it as you will not often find success
    without effort. Allah (swt) is saying that the one who is engaged in purifying
    and cleansing himself has already attained success.

    One can work hard to cleanse his nafs but however hard he strives he will
    never get a pure nafs. Yet as long as he is sincerely engaged in this activity
    the effort itself is called success. The word tazkiyya means to cleanse or
    purify something and you will only ever clean something dirty and thus when
    man recognises that Allah (swt) has instructed him to purify himself he
    realises that he has not been clean his whole life and engages in the act of
    cleansing himself.

    This self-purification involves becoming a better human being by cleansing
    your nafs of problems such as anger or jealousy, lying or cheating. It could
    be the shamelessness with which you don’t guard you eyes or maybe it’s your
    tongue that is not guarded from evil speech.

    In Surah Al A’la verse fourteen Allah (swt) says in a very similar verse
    ‘Indeed whosoever purifies himself shall achieve success’. In that surah the
    word tazzakkaa was used but here zakkaaha is used. In English grammar there
    are transitive and intransitive verbs.

    A transitive verb is one where the action affects someone else (zakkaaha) and
    an intransitive verb is one where the action affects oneself (tazzakkaa). In
    this surah the transitive form of the verb has been used meaning he purified
    it but not himself.

    So, the nafs is mentioned as an entity outside of you and it is almost as if
    you have to think of your nafs as being separate from yourself, an enemy
    inside that you have to fight. This is a subtle reality alluded to in a number
    of places in the Quran such as in Surah An-Naziat 79:40 ‘But as for him who
    feared standing before his Lord and restrained himself from his desires’.

    Elsewhere in the Quran Allah (swt) says that He cleanses whomever He wants
    which is the opposite to this verse where Allah (swt) says we have to cleanse
    ourselves. These two verses are reconciled with the understanding that none of
    us can purify ourselves. We can only try to purify ourselves and when we make
    a sincere effort it is only Allah (swt) Who can grant us that cleanliness from
    sins. This is why we should try our hardest to avoid sin in the hope that
    Allah (swt) will forgive us.

    Unfortunately, there are many Muslims who think they have already attained
    purity to the extent that they may not even feel the need to pray, as they
    consider their heart to be pure. This belief is something that Allah (swt) has
    warned us about ‘Those who avoid the major sins and immoralities, only
    [committing] slight ones.

    Indeed, your Lord is vast in forgiveness. He was most knowing of you when He
    produced you from the earth and when you were fetuses in the wombs of your
    mothers. So do not claim yourselves to be pure; He is most knowing of who
    fears Him’ (An-Najm 53:32). Allah (swt) does not want people to declare
    themselves pure and to be self-righteous in thinking they have attained a
    certain level of iman.

    We assume iman for others but never for ourselves. We should not say someone
    has weak iman but rather you should say he is better than you in iman as Allah
    (swt) has not given us the stature to declare that we are pure.

    Whenever the messenger (saw) used to recite this verse there are many
    narrations that say he used to recite the following dua:

    ‘Allahumma inni a`udhu bika minal-`ajzi wal-kasali, wal-bukhli wal-harami,
    wa `adhabil-qabri. Allahumma ati nafsi taqwaha, wa zakkiha Anta khairu man
    zakkaha, Anta waliyyuha wa maulaha. Allahumma inni a`udhu bika min `ilmin la
    yanfau`, wa min qalbin la yakhsha`u, wa min nafsin la tashba`u, wa min
    da`watin la yustajabu laha`’ (Sahih Muslim and Riyad us-Saaliheen -Chapter
    on Prayers/Invocations).

    O Allah! I seek refuge in You from the inability (to do good),
    laziness, cowardice, miserliness, weakness and torment of the grave. O Allah!
    Grant my nafs its protection (this gift of wanting to protect itself) and
    purify my soul as You are the Best to purify it. You are its Guardian and its
    Protecting Friend. O Allah! I seek refuge in You from the knowledge which is
    not beneficial, and from a heart which does not fear (You), and from a
    conscience which is not satisfied, and from a prayer which is not answered.

    The messenger did not say that Allah (swt) is the only one to cleanse in this
    dua but rather said that He is the best to do so and in doing so puts
    responsibility on us too to try to cleanse ourselves.

    The parallel between the sun and the nafs drawn in this surah is that Allah
    (swt) gives the nafs bright ability to cleanse itself but it can still come to
    a point where it becomes covered with the darkness of sin and misguidance just
    like when the day ends and the night begins. However, even in the night the
    sun still benefits the moon by bringing out its light and in the same way a
    clean nafs benefits not just itself but others by letting its light reach

    So, even in the toughest time of fitna you will still benefit from a clean
    nafs because it will be like the bright moon that shines in the darkness.
    Also, remember that Allah (swt) allows the brightness of the sun to return
    every day and overcome the darkness and in the same way the nafs can repent
    and move back towards doing good. This is the parallel that is drawn between
    the beginning oaths and the trials of the nafs.

    91:10 وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّىٰهَا
    10) And the one who corrupts it fails

    Khaaba is when you run after something and fail to get it or you when you
    desperately want something and finally acquire it, you find it was not what
    you really wanted (e.g. children disappointed with Eid gifts). It includes in
    its meaning disappointment, frustration and failure. The word dassaa means to
    disregard something and its root construct is daal, seen, seen.

    In the Arabic morphology of a word if there is repetition in a letter it is
    sometimes fused together and replaced with a vowel and in this case dassaa has
    an alif at the end. This serves to hyperbolise or exaggerate the meaning
    (mubalagha). Therefore the meaning here is the one who completely and utterly
    disregarded his nafs by not listening to his inner voice and in doing so has
    set himself up for immense disappointment. This diseased nafs put himself in
    the dust because he did not care about his nafs and does not think anyone else
    is going to care either. Allah (swt) asked in the previous surah ‘Does he
    think that no one saw him?’ (Surah Al Balad 90:7).

    This is what happens to the one who assumes that none sees him or controls
    him. The only concern this person with imbalance in his nafs has is seeking
    worldly things like pleasure and greed with no concern of things that balances
    the nafs. Just like the night and the day and the sun and the moon were
    created in balance so too was this nafs but this person has lost control.

    91:11 كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِطَغْوَىٰهَآ
    11) The people of Thamud called (their messenger) a liar through their

    The subject now immediately switches to a nation. A corrupt nation is made up
    of corrupt individuals and when a nation has gone bad the first step to fixing
    it is through fixing the people. We can sometimes exhaust ourselves talking
    about the larger problems in society and the big political picture and give it
    precedence over issues like family values and community cohesion.

    We forget that the root of the problem is in the individual and not the
    collective and if people can better themselves individually then society as a
    whole can be influenced to become better. The messenger (saw) in a short
    period or time created a radical socio-economic change in society. However,
    the greatest change he brought was not in the political or economic sphere but
    rather it was the change he brought to individuals.

    The great accomplishment of the messenger (saw) was the companions. Like seeds
    that are put in the ground eventually coming out as plants strong and firm,
    the companions under the training of the messenger (saw) became mature human
    beings firm in their deen and concerned with cleansing themselves.

    In the previous surah Allah (swt) spoke about the punishment of the next life,
    the consequence of denying Allah’s signs, ‘And the Fire will close in on them’
    (Surah Al Balad 90:20). This surah though deals with the punishment in this
    life. The disbeliever would have dismissed the punishment stated in the
    previous surah thinking he can deal with it later as it seems distant and far
    away. Yet, in this surah he is warned of a closer punishment in this life.

    They think death is far off but a punishment in this life should makes the
    nafs want to guard itself before its destruction. The people of Thamood denied
    the signs of their messenger Salih (as). Although, the verse does not
    explicitly say ‘messenger’ it is understood as Allah (swt) is addressing
    Muhammad (saw) almost as if to say in consolation that Thamood lied too just
    like the Quraysh are doing. Also a missing word makes the listener give
    greater attention to what has been missed out and heightens the lesson.

    Allah (swt) says that the reason they denied the message was because of the
    rebellion (tughyaan) inside their nafs. Thamood did not reject the message
    because they were in doubt of it and lacked conviction or because of a lack of
    knowledge or information. Rather they were shown clear signs and saw with
    their own eyes a she-camel emerge from a boulder and drink the amount of water
    an entire herd would.

    Yet, they ignored it because their nafs was corrupt and this is why tughyaan
    is mentioned. It was because of their rebellion in the light of their
    conviction in the true signs that they lied. Considering the previous surah
    mentioned Fir’aun and ‘Aad as well as Thamood from the previously destroyed
    nations why has only Thamood been highlighted in this surah?

    This is because from amongst these destroyed nations the Arabs knew most about
    the people of Thamood to the extent that they featured in their poetry even
    before the advent of Islam and were famously known by the Arabs for receiving
    punishment and destruction from Allah (swt). If someone was a corrupt leader,
    the Arabs would say ‘The people are following him like the people followed
    Kidaar (a leader of Thamood) who led them to their destruction’.

    Thus, Allah (swt) hits them hardest with the closest example possible. The
    closest and most infamous example known to the Quraysh of punishment in this
    world was Thamood which is why only they have been mentioned here.

    91:12 إِذِ ٱنۢبَعَثَ أَشْقَىٰهَا
    12) When the most wicked man among them rose (against him to kill the

    We have already learnt that the people who do not take advantage of the nafs
    that has been created in balance inside of them and completely disregard it
    are setting themselves up for immense and utter disappointment. Now Allah
    (swt) gives us an example of a horrible nafs in history who falls into this
    category of people.

    Naqata Allah was a she camel which Prophet Salih (as) asked Allah (swt) for on
    the request of Thamood who wanted this as a miracle. The she-camel would drink
    all the water available one day and then the people of Thamood would take all
    the water the next day. The camel would produce enough milk for everyone to
    drink from, however, the people started getting angry at having to be patient
    with the camel.

    These people asked their leaders to prevent the she-camel from drinking the
    water but the leaders were reluctant because of their promise to Salih (as)
    and also because they had seen the miraculous nature of the she-camel.

    The word ba’atha means to rise and idhin ba’atha means that he rose all on his
    own. So, the most wretched (ashqa) and rebellious leader from amongst the
    people of Thamood took the initiative by taking responsibility for dealing
    with the she-camel of Salih (as).

    He did not kill it straight away but rather he killed it a slow death in the
    worst possible way in order to make a statement. This person had no fear of
    consequence and Allah (swt) asked in the previous surah ‘Does he think that no
    one will have power over him?’ (Surah Al Balad 90:5). People such as this do
    not think that anyone can control them or account them for their actions but
    Allah (swt) is aware of all that he does.

    91:13 فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ نَاقَةَ ٱللَّهِ وَسُقْيَٰهَا
    13) The Messenger of Allah said to them: ‘Beware! That is the she-camel of
    Allah! (Do not harm it) and prevent it from having its drink!”

    In this ayah the phrase ‘lahum’ is brought forward in the sentence structure
    (known as muqaddam) to emphasise that Salih (as) especially warned those that
    had the intention of harming the she-camel. Allah (swt) did not mention Salih
    (as) by name rather He said ‘the messenger of Allah’ as this is more likely to
    impact the Quraysh who are listening. They will be able to draw parallels
    between the story of Salih (as) and Thamood and their own selves and Muhammad
    (saw) and learn from it. Thamood were destroyed and their destruction is a
    threat for the Quraysh.

    The fatha on the word naaqata is called mansoob in Arabic grammar and there
    are sixteen reasons for having it. In Arabic one of the reasons this is done
    is to emphasise one thing over everything else and can also be a warning. For
    example, if there is a child playing close to a car, calling out
    ‘as-sayaarata’ is the same as saying ‘there is a car – watch out’.

    This is also how it is used in a hadith where the messenger (saw) warned us
    about speaking inappropriately about the companions when he (saw) said ‘Allaha
    fee as-haabi’ – ‘Watch out for Allah when it comes to talking about my
    companions!’ (Sunan At-Tirmidhi).

    The phrase ‘naaqatallah’ therefore means ‘watch out! this is the she-camel of
    Allah!’. Thus, Salih (as) is going out of his way to warn Thamood that they
    are in danger and don’t realise the consequence of their actions. They must
    not violate the she-camel’s place and time of drink (suqyaha) as this is a
    serious act of evil and rebellion.

    91:14 فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُم
    بِذَنۢبِهِمْ فَسَوَّىٰهَا

    14) But they called him a liar and hamstrung her. Their Lord destroyed them
    for their crime and levelled them

    Thamood commited two crimes. The first was to call Salih (as) a liar and
    ignore his warning and the second was to slaughter the she-camel in a callous
    and cruel way. They stabbed the camel and chopped the bottom parts of its
    limbs hamstringing her making her immobile such that she bled to death.

    This surah according to many mufassiroon suggests that the Quraysh are being
    told that they are already criminals and that Allah (swt) had pre-knowledge
    that they were going to attack the messenger (saw) soon taking them further
    down the path of criminality. Almost as if the Quraysh are being told ‘Oh
    Quraysh – you have already lied to the Messenger, if you harm him or attempt
    to kill him – you will be worse than the people of Thamood. And what
    punishment did the Thamood recieve?’

    The word damdama is to destroy something by pounding it into the ground such
    that it becomes one with the ground. This was Allah’s punishment and notice
    that the word rabb is used and not Allah’s name almost as if to drive home the
    point that Allah (swt) was in control the whole time, their Lord and Master,
    Who always had the power to deal with them but gave them time so that they
    might repent back to Him.

    It was due to their sin that they were destroyed. The Quran uses many words
    for sin but dhanb specifically comes from the word dhanab which refers to the
    tail of an animal. Dhanb is used for any type of sin including big and small
    and is also used for something that should have caused you shame because the
    tail is a place of embarrassment i.e. it is found at the rear of an animal.

    An Arab tribe would boast in its poetry that they were like the nose of a lion
    due to its proud position on the face and in rebuttal another tribe would
    insult them by saying they were more like the tail. So, dhanb here captures
    the meaning that they did something that should have caused them shame,
    something that would have been recognised as wrong by their nafs. So, just
    like Allah (swt) balanced and evened out the nafs He literally crushed these
    people and levelled out their town to the point you would never have known
    there was a settlement at that place. Similarly, just like Allah (swt) created
    the nafs in balance and harmony He destroyed these corrupt people who had
    created disorder in society and thereby restored order.

    91:15 وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَٰهَا
    15) And He (Allah) has no fear of its consequence (of destroying them)

    This surah has been talking about the person who has no fear of the
    consequence of his actions and this is a person who can do something as
    heinous as denying the witnessed miracle of Allah (swt) and call His messenger
    a liar. The majority opinion on the interpretation of this verse is that Allah
    (swt) does not fear the consequence of destroying these people. Only Allah
    (swt) can be free of concern and carefree about the consequence of his plans
    as no one can retaliate or question His authority, ‘He is not questioned about
    what He does, but they will be questioned’ (Al Anbiya 21:23).

    A minority opinion of this verse is that it refers to the worst person
    mentioned in verse twelve who has no fear of consequence but because of the
    instance between the verses it does not seem that plausible, which is why most
    of the mufassiroon prefer the former opinion.

    The word ‘uqba is the mubalagha (exaggerated or emphatic) form of the word
    ‘aaqiba which is used elsewhere in the Quran. Even if there is an enormous
    consequence of Allah’s action and decision, He is not afraid of it. The worst
    consequence you can imagine is not enough for Allah (swt) to be deterred from
    whatever punishment He is going to decide.

    This is an important lesson for us. So often we become certain of the fact
    that Allah (swt) is not going to take us yet. We have so much still to do in
    life, so much unfinished business, my studies have not yet finished, our
    children are not yet fully grown up etc. How can Allah (swt) take me early as
    He knows I am a good person? We constantly make plans and worry about the
    consequences of our unfinished plans but know that Allah (swt) is not afraid
    of the consequences and does not fear when He takes us.

    Muslims worry about who will take care of their family after they are gone and
    will pay the bills and even get scared into taking out home or life insurance.
    The believer should realise that whatever or whenever your family eats it is
    not because of you but because Allah (swt) is providing for them and will
    continue to provide for them after you have gone.

    We might fear the consequences of losing our worldly sustenance and
    approaching death but Allah (swt) does not. Allah (swt) does not fear or delay
    in taking our souls whenever He wants, and no one will scare or prevent Him
    from fulfilling His command. The one who truly seeks to cleanse his nafs
    should seek it through total and true dependence and reliance on Allah (swt).

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