This is post #26 in our series on Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma (click the link to see all posts in this series).
Surahs are usually named by something unique in their content. But the sun (ash-shams) is mentioned in several surahs; so why is this one called Surah Shams?
The reason is because, in it, the sun is mentioned four times..
Yes, I said four times. Count ‘em. Allah says:
وَالْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَاهَا
وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّاهَا
وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَاهَا
Translation:By the sun and its brightness, and [by] the moon when it follows it. And [by] the day when it displays it, and [by] the night when it covers it. [Surah Ash-Shams, verses 1-4]
You notice “it,” “it,” “it,” … in Arabic, the pronoun used is haa (هَا), which is feminine. And “coincidentally,” all the other nouns referred to are masculine; which only leaves Ash-Shams–the sun–which is a feminine word; that’s the “it” referred to in the first four ayaat.
What’s even more amazing is that Allah testifies by himself:
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا
Translation: And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it, … [verse 7]
Wow! Allah really wants us to pay attention here. What is He testifying to? What’s the maqsoom ‘alayh?
The answer is:
وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا
فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا
قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا
وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا
Translation: And [by] the soul and He who proportioned it, and inspired it [with discernment of] its wickedness and its righteousness. He has succeeded who purifies it, And he has failed who instills it [with corruption]. [Verses 7-10]
The phrase “qad” (قَدْ) is a form of emphasis. Notice there is testification after testification, and emphasis on top to boot! That should really make you stop and think and ponder about the meaning–that’s the maqsoom ‘ayah, verses 9-10.
He has succeeded who purifies it, And he has failed who instills it [with corruption].
And the word translated as “instills it,” dassaahaa (دَسَّاهَا) means to step on something to hide it–like someone hiding something shameful behind their back or stepping on it.
And then comes an excerpt from the story of Prophet Salih (alayhi salaam):
كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِطَغْوَاهَا
إِذِ انبَعَثَ أَشْقَاهَا
فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ نَاقَةَ اللَّهِ وَسُقْيَاهَا
فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُم بِذَنبِهِمْ فَسَوَّاهَا
وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَاهَا
Translation: Thamud denied [their prophet] by reason of their transgression, When the most wretched of them was sent forth. And the messenger of Allah [Salih] said to them, “[Do not harm] the she-camel of Allah or [prevent her from] her drink.” But they denied him and hamstrung her. So their Lord brought down upon them destruction for their sin and made it equal [upon all of them]. And He does not fear the consequence thereof. [verses 11-15]
This was the sign of Prophet Salih (alayhi salaam)–they said, “Tell your God to make a she-camel come out of that mountain and then we’ll believe.” So he (alayhi salaam) asked.
And Allah sent a camel. But not just any camel, but a huge she-camel, like a mountain.
And Salih (alayhi salaam) said: Naaqata Allah! Allah’s she-camel! And everytime Allah links something to Himself, that shows the great honour and majesty of it. And he said: leave it alone! (verse 12)
And the camel was so huge, they would take turns drinking from the water sources. One day, Thamud drinks. The next day, the she-camel drinks. And then Thamud. And then the she-camel. And so on.
So then everybody believed, they all accepted Islam, and everybody went home happy and, eventually, to Jannah. Right?
Not only did they disbelieve–Allah says “kadh-dhabat” (كَذَّبَتْ), with shadda on the dhaal, a more intense form of lying than just kadhaba–but they, the person whom they sent, hamstrung it. Hamstrung means you cut down the back of the person’s (or camel’s, in this case) legs, forcing it to the ground. Because, again, it was huge, tall, and great.
And then they killed it.
And then Allah says: fa damdama. The fa indicates IMMEDIATE and SWIFT punishment, right on the heels of their killing of the she-camel. If I said “Muhammad entered, fa-Ahmed,” it means Ahmed entered right on the heels of Muhammad.
So Allah didn’t waste any time; but he sent their punishment, immediately. And he utterly obliterated and annihilated them.
And in the final verse, Allah says: he does not fear retaliation. Like the Jews in Israel–whenever they bomb a Muslim school, or a hospital, or a village, they close down their shops and houses and hide out of fear of retaliation.
Well, Allah says, He does NOT fear retaliation. Because nobody can harm Allah even an atom.
Nice story, huh? Well, it’s not just for passing time. There’s a very, very clear lesson here–above and beyond just obedience to Allah and His messengers. Think about this:
Only one person killed the she-camel. But ALL of them were wiped out.
“But wait,” you say, “I know some ‘aqeedah! Isn’t Allah Al-’Adl, the All-Just? Why would He wipe out one whole nation, for only one guy killing the she-camel?”
And the answer is, because they knew about the plans, but they didn’t stop him. “Oh he’s going to kill the she-camel. That’s nice. Let’s see what else is on TV.”
Think about it. Connect the dots! You have a responsibility to stop evil. If you don’t, you can be held accountable in the court of Allah.
Which raises the question of, in your country, what kind of sins are happening? What are people doing to disobey Allah? Are you doing your part? Are you advising the people, guiding the people, calling the people to Allah and away from evil?
Well, you might be accountable if you’re not. Just like Thamud. They were wiped out.
Think about it.
May Allah give us all the tawfeeq to live and implement these lessons in our lives (ameen). Wallahi they’re not just stories for entertainment. They’re deep, real-life lessons from history.
- Hold Them Back. Think of one person in your family, near or extended, who’s doing something against Allah and His messenger. Now, come up with a plan to correct them. Do it gently; take the time to build rapport, and find the best way to correct and advise them, without humiliating or hurting them. Then play your move.
- Touched by an Angel: Tafseer of Juz ‘Amma. By Muhammad Alshareef. 2009.