Rafed English

Interpretation of Sura Takwir - Verses 15-25

15. No, I swear by the orbiting planets,

16. That run their course, (and) set,

17. And (by) the night when it ends,

18. And (by) the morning when it breathes.

19. Surely it is the word of a gracious Messenger,

20. Endowed with power in the presence of the Lord of the Universe;

21. One (to be) obeyed, moreover faithful in trust.

22. And (O people) your companion (Our Messenger) is not mad.

23. Indeed he saw him (angel Gabriel) on the clear horizon.

24. And he does not withhold concerning the unseen,

25. Nor is it the word of the accursed Satan.


Gabriel, the Bringer of Allah's Message Descends to him.

In the previous verses the Resurrection and preliminary events, with some other incidents of that Great Day, were discussed. The following verses speak about the importance of the Qur'an, showing how the Qur'anic Revelation is true, was revealed through the angel Gabriel, and was not merely ravings or rhapsodies from one possessed. In fact, they confirm what was said about the Resurrection, in the former verses, and emphasize on the matter while giving some additional information.

No, I swear by the orbiting planets,

That run their course, (and) set.

The term /Khunnas/ is the plural form of /khanis/ based on /khans/ which originally means: 'shrink, hide away' and Satan is called 'khannas' because he hides himself at the name of Allah, as one tradition we find that it says: Satan tempts the servants of Allah and when His name is mentioned he slinks out of sight.

The term /jawar/ is the plural form of /jariyah/, which has the meaning: 'running'.

The term /kunnas/ is the plural form of /kanas/ based on /kans/ which means 'to lie in hiding', and the term /kinas/ from the same root word is called both 'the nest of birds' and 'the hiding place of deer and wild beasts'.

Different opinions have been introduced for the meaning of these oaths. Many commentators believe that they refer to the five planets: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Mercury, which are visible with the naked eye.

If we look to the sky over several nights in succession, we see that all of the stars gradually appear, but, they sit all together without having apparent change in the distance between them. It looks like a piece of black cloth on which a great number of pearls have been sewn having defined spaces, and the cloth is pulled up from one side and taken down from another side depicting day and night. Only five planets are exceptions to this regulation. They move through the stars as if there were five unsewn pearls on the cloth that move freely among the others.

On the one hand, the above mentioned five planets are the very ones which are among the family members of the solar system. We see their movements, because they are close to us in comparison with the other stars in the sky; which also have similar movements, but we can not see this because of their very far distances.

On the other hand, these planets seem to have no retrograde and forward motion; apparently looking like they move forward for a length of time, then, they return a little and, again, continue moving forward. The causes for this status are discussed in astronomy.

The above verses may point to the same matter; that these planets move forward: /aljawar/, and along their way, they, apparently, and at last, in the morning at dawn, hide away: /kunnas/ like the deer which move in the deserts to find food at night, but conceal themselves in their hiding places; kunas, in the day time, from beast of prey.

It is probable that the meaning of /kunnas/ is that, when rotating round the sun, the planets hide or disappear completely at a point behind the sun, or are otherwise invisible. Astronomers call this case /ihtiraq/ in the Arabic language. This is a delicate point which can be understood with careful attention.

Some also believe that /konnas/ refers to the settlement of these planets in the Zodic which resemble the deer concealing themselves in their brush-homes. It is obvious, of course, that the planets of the solar system are not limited to these five planets, but there are three more planets among them which are visible only by telescope and have been named Neptune, Uranus and Pluto. All of them, together with the Earth, form the nine planets of our solar system. (Of course, some of the nine planets have a moon or moons which are different from the planets themselves) .

By the way, the term /jawari/, the plural form of /Jariyah/ (one of the meanings is 'ships in motion') , is a delicate analogy which compares the movement of these planets, in the ocean of sky, with the movement of ships on the surface of the oceans.

It seems that the Qur'an, by stating these meaningful oaths with a kind of ambiguity, tends to stir minds and make them contemplate and pay attention to the exceptional and various status of these planets from the millions of stars around them, in order to better understand the greatness of the Creator of this lofty establishment.

Others have suggested some commentaries on these verses which we will not mention here.

A narration, on the commentary of these verses, denotes that Amir-al-Mo'mineen (p.b.u.h.) said: They are five stars: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury.

And (by) the night when it ends.

The term /'as'as/ is based on /'as'asah/ which originally means 'pale darkness' and since darkness is lesser at the beginning and at the end of the night this word is used for the coming and going of night, and that is why, in Arabic, 'he who goes round by night to keep watch' , is called /'asas/.

Although, as was mentioned before, the term has two quite opposite meanings, here, and by the evidence of the next verse, it means the end of night. In fact, it is similar to the oath mentioned in Sura Muddathir, No.74, verse 33: And by the Night as it refreateth.

Night is one of the great gifts from Allah and it is both the cause of Man's spiritual and bodily tranquility, as well as an adjustment for the Sun's heat and, consequently, the continuation of vitality in living creatures. The emphasis put on 'the end of night' may be for the reason that night moves toward light and brightness and it is the best time for praying to and the worshipping of Allah. Dawn, in this world, is the beginning of movement and struggle for living creatures.

And (by) the morning when it breathes.

What an interesting analogy! Morning resembles a living creature whose first breath is dawn and blows vitality into all creatures, as if it had been captured in the grip of night and now with the first glow of day, becomes free and breathes.

This sense is similar to what is mentioned in Sura Muddathir. No.74, verse 34 which occurs after the oath to the night, which says: And by the Dawn as it shines forth. It is as though the gloom of night like a veil, has fallen on the face of morning which is removed now, at dawn, and the morning's glittering face, which is a sign of life, is shown to all in this world.

In the next verse, what all these oaths are for is mentioned:

Surely it is the word of a gracious Messenger.

This verse is an answer to those who accuse the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) by saying that the Qur'an is from him; not from Allah.

In this verse and the following verse there are five characteristics mentioned for Gabriel, the courier of Allah, which are necessary, indeed, for any qualified messenger.

The first attribute of Gabriel is that he is 'gracious' which shows his worthiness. Verily, he is a worthy creature with Allah the Great.

Then, another characteristic of Gabriel is mentioned; it says:

Endowed with power in the presence of the Lord of the Universe.

The term /thil'arsh/ 'the Lord of the Universe' refers to Allah. He is the Lord of all, but since the Universe, with whatever definition it has, is in a higher position than that of other things, so, He is characterized by the Universe.

The term /th-quwwah/ 'endowed with power' is used to characterize Gabriel for the reason that taking such a great Message and carefully communicating it needs a great power. And, as a matter of fact, any messenger should have an authority fitting with his mission or the message. He must be especially free from any forgetfulness of the message that he is responsible for.

The term /makin/ means 'one whose rank is firmly established' , and, basically, a messenger should be a great and outstanding person who can fulfill his mission and should be quite close and beloved. And, surely, the term /'ind/ 'in the presence of' does not have the meaning of a special presence, because Allah does not exist in any one location; but it is the 'rank presence' and 'spiritual nigh'.

One (to be) obeyed, moreover faithful in trust.

The term /Thumma/ moreover' points to the fact that the bringer Of Allah's Message, the Archangel Gabriel, has an angelic authority among angels and is obeyed there, and, beyond these, he is faithful to his trust in conveying the Message.

It is understood from some narrations that when Gabriel was conveying the revelation he was accompanied by a large number of angels who obeyed him.

There is a tradition which says that when these verses were descended, the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) told Gabriel:

How well your Lord praised you when he said: 'Endowed with power in the presence of the Lord of the Universe, ' 'One (to be) obeyed, more over faithful in trust'. Then, what is your power? And what is your faithfulness in trust?

Gabriel answered him that his power was such that he was told to destroy the four cities of Lot's people, each of which had four hundred thousand fighters; excluding their children. He destroyed those cities and took them to Heaven, so that the angels of Heaven even heard the sound of the peoples' animals, then he returned them to the Earth and turned them upside down.

Gabriel continued, in this way, so that there was no instruction that he did not fully carry Out.

Furthermore, to tell people that the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is honorable and trustworthy, it says:

And (O people) your companion (Our Messenger) is not mad.

The term /sahib/ means 'companion, friend', and besides pointing to the humility of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) , toward all people, and that he did not seek any superiority for himself, it appeals to the people to take note of their own 'companion' , the Prophet, (p.b.u.h.) who had been born among them and had lived with them for many years. He was known to be a wise, honorable, truthful, and trustworthy man. How could he be mad? The only thing is that, with his Prophecy, he brought some instructions to teach 'you' but, they are disagreeing with 'your' prejudices, blind imitations and low desires. So, to flee from obeying his instructions 'you' accuse him of demonical possession.

According to the verses of Qur'an, all Prophets were accused, by their enemies, of being mad: Similarly, no apostle came to peoples before them, but they said (of him) in like manner 'A sorcerer or one possessed; Sura Zariyat, No. 51, verse 52) .

They thought the wise man was he who would fulfill their vices and follow their lusts, knew well on which side the bread was buttered, and would avoid any revolutionary development. Then, on this level, all the Prophets seemed, to them, to be mad.

For laying stress on the relation between the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and Gabriel, it says: Indeed he saw him (angel Gabriel) on the clear horizon. The meaning of the terms /ufuq-il-mubin/ 'clear horizon' is the same as 'the highest part of the horizon', where the angels were made manifest and where the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) saw Gabriel.

Some believe that Sura Najm, No. 53, verse 7 which says: While he was in the highest part of the horizon; is an evidence for this commentary, but this verse, as well as the other verses of that Sura, talks about another fact.

Also, some have said that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) saw Gabriel twice in his genuine appearance: once, at the beginning of his prophetic appointment, and whose greatness made him (p.b.u.h.) elated. He appeared to him (p.b.u.h.) on the highest horizon.

The second time was on the Nocturnal Journey of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) where he saw Gabriel in the high heavens, in his real appearance, to which the current verse refers.

It is also probable that it refers to the Prophet's observation of Allah through a vision of inspiration.

And he does not withhold concerning the unseen.

Whatever he has, he puts it within the reach of the people. He is not like those who insist on keeping secret an important fact which they have gained and is in their own control and it sometimes happens that they withhold it until they die.

The Prophet (p.u.b.h.) is not such a person. He gives what he has received, as revelation, to all the needy and even to those who stand in opposition to him and value him naught, in hopes that they may be guided to the right path.

The term /danin/ is based on /dinnah/ in the sense of 'stinginess for the precious things', which is a characteristic that Prophets never have, because the source of their knowledge is Allah; Who is infinite.

Nor is it the word of the accursed Satan.

These Qur'anic verses are not like the statements of necromancers and soothsayers who take them from the devils. Those statements are full of lies and mistakes, and based on their own wishes; which come with envy, spite, greed, or other vices, but these verses are full of clear truth, under divine inspiration whose signs are apparent in them. These two are completely different from each other, of course. It has been shown that the Qur'an is not the word of a mortal, but that it is full of divine wisdom; that its teaching is not that of a mad man, but from one sane to the core and in accordance with human needs.

The term /rajim/ is originally based on /rajm/ and /rijam/ which means 'stoned' and then, it is used in the sense of throwing stones in order to drive a person or an animal away. And it is used in the sense of any rejection or driving away. The Arabic term /shaytan ir-rajim/ means 'Satan who is driven away with stones from the rank of those close to Allah'.


The Characteristics of a Qualified Messenger:

The five characteristics, regarding the hierarchy, mentioned in the above verses for Gabriel, who was sent to the Prophet (p.u.b.h.) of Islam by Allah, are required for every messenger, regarding the hierarchy.

1. Graciousness is the first spiritual characteristic which respectfully makes Gabriel deserving of being a great Messenger.

2. Then his endowed power for the fulfillment of his responsibility comes forth which means that he is aloof from any weakness and feebleness or lassitude in bringing the Message.

3. His third highest rank, with the sender of the Message, is noteworthy in order to take all of the Message completely, and communicate them fearlessly.

4. If the Message is about an important thing, the messenger may have some assistants to help him on the errand; the ones who follow him obediently.

5. The fifth characteristic is that his messenger is qualified as being 'faithful in trust' so that the persons who are to receive the message, from him, trust in him and count on his words; the same as the words of the one who has sent them.

When someone is qualified with these five characteristics, he will be the most fitting messenger The Prophet of Islam (p.u.b.h.) used to choose his messengers carefully from those who were qualified among them. A clear example of his messengers is that of Amir-al-Mo'mineen Ali (p.u.b.h.) who was sent, under that difficult situation, by the Prophet (p.u.b.h.) to the pagans of Mecca to communicate the beginning verses of Sura Taubah, No.9.

Adapted from the book: "The Light of The Holy Qur'an; Interpretation of Sura Nazi'at and Abasa and Takwir" by: "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and A Group of Muslim Scholars"

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