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Surahs Fajr-Balad
Qur'anic Exegesis
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi
(Tr. by:Dr. Shehzad Saleem)


Both these two surahs form a pair with regard to their subject-matter. Both address the leaders of the Quraysh, yet aversion and indifference exudes from their style of address. A study of their subject-matter shows that, like the previous surahs, they were also revealed in Makkah in the phase of indhar ‘am of the Prophet’s (sws) preaching mission.

The theme of both the surahs is to reprimand the leaders of the Quraysh for the rebellious attitude and arrogant behaviour they had adopted with regard to God and their fellow human beings after being bestowed with favours and riches.




Surah Fajr

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

وَالْفَجْرِ (١) وَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ (٢) وَالشَّفْعِ وَالْوَتْرِ (٣) وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ (٤) هَلْ فِي ذَلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِي حِجْرٍ (٥)

In the name of God, the Most-Gracious, the Ever-Merciful.

The dawn bears witness,1 and [every] ten nights [of the moon],2 and the even and odd [month3], and the night [also] when it departs4 [that the dawn of the Day of Judgement is certain to come5]. Is there in this an evidence for the sensible?6 (1-5)



أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ (٦) إِرَمَ ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ (٧) الَّتِي لَمْ يُخْلَقْ مِثْلُهَا فِي الْبِلَادِ (٨) وَثَمُودَ الَّذِينَ جَابُوا الصَّخْرَ بِالْوَادِ (٩) وَفِرْعَوْنَ ذِي الْأَوْتَادِ (١٠) الَّذِينَ طَغَوْا فِي الْبِلَادِ (١١) فَأَكْثَرُوا فِيهَا الْفَسَادَ (١٢) فَصَبَّ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّكَ سَوْطَ عَذَابٍ (١٣) إِنَّ رَبَّكَ لَبِالْمِرْصَادِ (١٤)

Did7 you not see how your Lord dealt with the ‘Ad8? These Iram9 of the pillars10 equal to whom no nation had been created among the counties of the world?11 And with the Thamud who carved huge rocks in the valley?12 And with the Pharaoh of the tent-pegs.13 These were the people who were rebellious in their lands and spread great disorder therein. So, your Lord let loose on them the lash of His punishment. In reality, [for such rebellious people], your Lord is waiting in ambush.14 (6-14)



فَأَمَّا الْإِنسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ رَبُّهُ فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِ (١٥) وَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلَاهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ (١٦) كَلَّا بَل لَّا تُكْرِمُونَ الْيَتِيمَ (١٧) وَلَا تَحَاضُّونَ عَلَى طَعَامِ الْمِسْكِينِ (١٨) وَتَأْكُلُونَ التُّرَاثَ أَكْلًا لَّمًّا (١٩) وَتُحِبُّونَ الْمَالَ حُبًّا جَمًّا (٢٠)

But as for man,15 when his Lord tests him and [for this] honours him and bestows favours on him, he says puffed up: “My Lord has exalted me.” But when He tests him and [for this] restricts his subsistence, he says: “My Lord has humiliated me.”16 [No this is not so] certainly not! in fact, [this is to test you and your attitude is that ] you do not honour the orphans17 and do not urge each other to feed the poor18 and greedily lay hands on inheritance and become mad with the love of wealth (15-20)


كَلَّا إِذَا دُكَّتِ الْأَرْضُ دَكًّا دَكًّا (٢١) وَجَاء رَبُّكَ وَالْمَلَكُ صَفًّا صَفًّا (٢٢) وَجِيءَ يَوْمَئِذٍ بِجَهَنَّمَ يَوْمَئِذٍ يَتَذَكَّرُ الْإِنسَانُ وَأَنَّى لَهُ الذِّكْرَى (٢٣) يَقُولُ يَا لَيْتَنِي قَدَّمْتُ لِحَيَاتِي (٢٤) فَيَوْمَئِذٍ لَّا يُعَذِّبُ عَذَابَهُ أَحَدٌ (٢٥) وَلَا يُوثِقُ وَثَاقَهُ أَحَدٌ (٢٦)

[Man thinks that he will not be held accountable for this attitude].19 Certainly not! when the earth is pounded even,20 and your Lord manifests Himself such that the angels will stand in rows21 and Hell shall be brought near. On that Day, man shall come to understand. But then what will this understanding avail him? He will say: “Ah! Would that I had done something for [this] life!” Then, on that Day, none shall punish as that Lord punishes and none shall bind as He binds. (21-26)


يَا أَيَّتُهَا النَّفْسُ الْمُطْمَئِنَّةُ (٢٧) ارْجِعِي إِلَى رَبِّكِ رَاضِيَةً مَّرْضِيَّةً (٢٨) فَادْخُلِي فِي عِبَادِي (٢٩) وَادْخُلِي جَنَّتِي (٣٠)

[To the others He shall say]: “O you whose heart remained content22 return to your Lord, such that He is pleased with you and you are pleased with Him. [So,] enter among My servants and enter My Paradise. (27-30)





Surah Balad

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيْمِ

لَا أُقْسِمُ بِهَذَا الْبَلَدِ (١) وَأَنتَ حِلٌّ بِهَذَا الْبَلَدِ (٢) وَوَالِدٍ وَمَا وَلَدَ (٣) لَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ فِي كَبَدٍ (٤)

In the name of God, the Most-Gracious, the Ever-Merciful.

No! [They were never always like this23] I call to witness just this city [O Prophet] – [and this city is not alien to you;] you are its inhabitant24 – and [I call to witness] the father and his progeny25 [who populated this city] that when We created man [in this valley] he was indeed in great toil [at that time.]26 (1-4)


أَيَحْسَبُ أَن لَّن يَقْدِرَ عَلَيْهِ أَحَدٌ (٥) يَقُولُ أَهْلَكْتُ مَالًا لُّبَدًا (٦) أَيَحْسَبُ أَن لَّمْ يَرَهُ أَحَدٌ (٧)

[Now that he is leading a life of affluence] does he think that no one has power over him? [When he is asked to spend,] he says: “I have thrown away a lot of money.”27 Does he think that no one has seen him? (5-7)


أَلَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ عَيْنَيْنِ (٨) وَلِسَانًا وَشَفَتَيْنِ (٩) وَهَدَيْنَاهُ النَّجْدَيْنِ (١٠) فَلَا اقْتَحَمَ الْعَقَبَةَ (١١) وَمَا أَدْرَاكَ مَا الْعَقَبَةُ (١٢) فَكُّ رَقَبَةٍ (١٣) أَوْ إِطْعَامٌ فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍ (١٤) يَتِيمًا ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ (١٥) أَوْ مِسْكِينًا ذَا مَتْرَبَةٍ (١٦) ثُمَّ كَانَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ (١٧) أُوْلَئِكَ أَصْحَابُ الْمَيْمَنَةِ (١٨) وَالَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا بِآيَاتِنَا هُمْ أَصْحَابُ الْمَشْأَمَةِ (١٩) عَلَيْهِمْ نَارٌ مُّؤْصَدَةٌ (٢٠)


Have We not given him two eyes [that he could see the reality28] and a tongue and two lips [that he could urge others to do good29]? and not shown him the two ways [that he could understand the good and the evil?30] But he did not attempt the steep path.31 And what do you understand what this steep path is?32 [It is] the freeing of a slave33 or feeding, in days of famine, of an orphan near of kin or an indigent [down] in the dust.34 Then he be of those who accept faith and who urge one another to remain steadfast [on it] and who urge one another to be sympathetic [with others].35 These are the fortunate. [They will be in Paradise.36] And those who denied our revelations, it is they who are the unfortunate. The fire shall close in on them. (8-20)



Kuala Lumpur

4th March 2010












1. This refers to the time when the light of the day in the form of a white strip becomes distinct from the black strip of the night.

2. The actual word is: لَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ. It is an undefined noun because each of the ten from among the thirty nights of this month can be implied. This, in a very subtle style, points, to the waxing and waning of the moon. This is because in the first ten nights of a month it starts in the shape of a thin finger-nail and increases in size till more than half of it becomes bright. In the second ten nights of a month its brightness is at its pinnacle and in the last ten nights of a month it starts to move to its end until, in the words of the Qur’an, it becomes like a withered palm-twig. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi while commenting on this expression of the Qur’an writes:

In this verse, the moon is portrayed as if it is an obedient camel whose reins are in the hands of a divine impeller who makes it ascend to a certain height in various steps and then from there makes it descend in various steps so much so that this tiring journey transforms it into a withered thorn. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 348)

3. This is because at times a month consists of thirty days and at times twenty nine in which the moon completes all its phases in which it waxes and wanes.

4. The actual words are: إِذَا يَسْرِ. This condition has been imposed so that attention is directed right at the time when the night is about to leave and the signs of dawn appear on the horizon.

5. Ie., the way the night after passing through various stages culminates in the dawn and the way the moon completes its journey in each of the ten nights of a month at times in twenty nine days and at times in thirty shows that a wondrous law of gradual progression which is based on great purpose exists. Also evident is that all these things are subservient to God and it is He Who takes them to a destination and then starts the process all over again. Viewed thus, no sensible person should  hesitate in accepting the claim of the Qur’an that this world of ours will also reach its fate one day and the dawn of the Day of Judgement is certain to come. The dead will be raised to life in it again. The fact that the moon appears every month and at night while it departs every day reminds us of it.

6. An interrogative style is adopted in the verse. This signifies anger and rebuke and also conclusive communication of the truth. The implication is that if man uses his intellect there exists great evidence in the signs around man; however, is there any sensible person among these arrogant leaders of the Quraysh?

7. After alluding to the signs around man, attention is directed to historical arguments.

8. This refers to the ancient ‘Ad who are called as the ‘Ad al-Ula (the first ‘Ad) by the Qur’an and  in Arab history.

9. They are called ‘Ad Irum because they belonged to the branch of the Semites which began with Iram ibn Sam ibn Nuh. The reason that they are mentioned with respect to Iram is that from Iram began their great feats of construction and military development.

10. This word actually symbolically refers to their great advancement in the field of construction just as the words وَجِفَانٍ كَالْجَوَابِ وَقُدُورٍ رَّاسِيَاتٍ (13:34) (basins as large as watering-troughs, and built-in cauldrons, (34:13)) symbolically refer to the generosity of Solomon (sws).

11. Ie., besides their feats in construction, no one could parallel them in their time with regard to their tall stature and physical strength.

12. The actual word is: الْوَادِ. The valley referred to is the place called Wad al-Qura where these people had carved out buildings and castles from mountains – the way their ancestors had done.

13. Armies generally live in tents and tents are erected with the help of nails. The Qur’an has used this epithet to signify the large number of the Pharaoh’s army much like it has used the epithet “Iram of the pillars” to signify their feats of construction.

… In ancient times, armies were not formally maintained by a state. At the time of an offensive or for defence, young men of various families and tribes would come forward and present their services and once the need was fulfilled, they would go back to their work. However, it is evident from the Torah that the Pharaoh had commissioned a formal standing army for the protection of his country. This army would keep patrolling various areas with its tents. He had even made it mandatory on his nobles and affluent people to maintain a certain number of horses, keep a certain quantity of weapons and chariots so that in times of need they could efficiently help the government. For this distinctive feature, the Pharaoh is called “he of the pegs”. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 355)

 14. Ie., for the rebellious towards whom messengers were sent and in spite of conclusive communication of the truth to them they rejected the messengers and continued with their attitude of spreading disorder. This is an argument for the Quraysh to validate the Day of Judgement and also a warning that a messenger has been sent to them. The disorder they had let loose in the land of Arabia would not be tolerated for long. According to His established practice, their Lord was waiting in ambush for them. If they continued to increase their mischief, the lash of God’s punishment would also strike them the way it had struck various nations before them.

15. From here onwards the misconception which led nations to this fate is explained. The gradual progression of the discourse will show that the addressees are the leaders of the Qurasyh; however, what is said is said in general terms: the attitudes of vanity on opulence and despair in straitened subsistence generally are the source of a people failing the test of this world.

16. Ie., one of them is afflicted with pride and vanity and the other with despair and frustration and in this way loses the strength and courage to live or in the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi adopts ways to chance his luck which take him far away from God and Satan gets the better of him.

17. It is not said that they do not help the orphans; what is said is that they do not honour the orphans. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

The verse says that kindness should be shown to orphans, which means that the Almighty does not merely require of the affluent to spend on orphans; the real requirement is that orphans should hold a respectable status in the society. Orphans should not be left to the mercy of adverse circumstances; people should honour and respect them; they should realize that the only value a person’s wealth may have in the eyes of the Almighty is that it is used for the service and welfare of orphans; otherwise, this wealth will actually become a source of their humiliation and disgrace. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 358) 

18. The implication is that their society does not show the vigour to serve the needs of the poor that should be present in a living and vibrant society.

19. Ie., in spite of this attitude of theirs they shall be left free and not be held accountable.

20. Ie., the earth of which the embellishments and adornments lure man will be pounded even one day. In the words of Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi, its seas and mountains, valleys and orchards, buildings and pavilions all will be destroyed and it will become a level stretch of land.

21. This is from among the matters of the mutashabihat. According to the Qur’an (3:7), people who have sound knowledge do not go after such.

22. This address needs special attention. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

… Those worthy of Paradise will be addressed with these words. Evident from this address is a special feature of the souls of such people on the basis of which they had actually become worthy of Paradise. In verses 15-16 above, a feature of the weak and the mean is mentioned: when they are blessed with favours, pride and vanity overcomes them and when they are tested by restriction of resources, they lose hope in God and start complaining to Him and end up in despair and despondency. Their fate is then stated. Here, in contrast, the fate of people who strongly adhered to the truth both in ease and discomfort is mentioned. If they are blessed with favours, they think that they are being tested as to whether they show gratitude to the Almighty or not and instead of resorting to insurgency and anarchy they try to succeed in this trial of the Almighty and show kindness to others just as the Almighty has remained kind to them. Similarly, if they are faced with hard times, then instead of despairing and losing faith in God, they regard this to be a trial of their perseverance and go as far as to risk their lives in succeeding in this trial; they do this so that they are not faced with embarrassment before their conscience in this world nor before the Almighty in the next world. Since these people remain content and pleased with their God in both ease and hardship, comfort and adversity, they are called “the contented souls.” These are the people who will dwell in Paradise. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 361)

23. The particle of negation at the beginning of the surah is meant to refute a whole premise which is evident from the subject matter of the later verses. I have revealed it in my translation. The implication is that these people did not come to this barren valley with the wealth and affluence, grandeur and majesty they now possess. When Abraham (sws) settled his son Ishmael (sws) in this valley it was totally barren and infertile and also was an insecure place. The way they had become affluent and prosperous by the time of the advent of the Prophet (sws) was not how they always were. This prosperity given to them was a result of the House of God; however, so inflicted were they with megalomania that they regarded it to be their right.

24. Ie., this is not the testimony of some far flung land. It is the account of the Prophet’s own city of which he is well aware; its history is his history. The place is not unknown to him.

25. Ie., Abraham (sws) and his progeny. The word والد is not defined by the article alif lam to magnify what it signifies.

26. This is a reference to the time when Ishmael (sws) and his progeny populated this barren valley. Verses 35-37 of Surah Ibrahim and Surah Quraysh discuss this subject in more detail.

27. Ie, in order to silence those who urge him to spend in the way of God, he says that he has spent heaps undern such heads.

28. The implication is that the only right benefit of the eyes was that they should have been used to learn and seek a lesson. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

These verses prod them: they should reflect that the Almighty had blessed them with two eyes so that they could observe their surroundings and see that on the one hand the Almighty has blessed them with wealth and status and on the other they can see that right under their noses are orphans and the needy, poor and helpless, weak and sick, the physically handicapped and the deprived who have nothing to eat and nothing to wear. The reason that the Almighty has blessed them with eyes is so that they observe all this around them and learn a lesson and become grateful to the Almighty. Merely as a favour to them, He did not make them go through such trying circumstances. Hence, the favours made it an obligation on their part to generously spend their money to fulfil the needs of the deprived lot – the money which was given in their custody by the Almighty with a share for such people. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 373)

29. The two lips are mentioned with the tongue because the tongue is only able to speak because of the lips. The implication of the verse is that the Almighty blessed him with a tongue and also two lips to speak carefully and cautiously; however, such is the misfortune of these people that they used their tongues to deny the truth and indulge in foolish talk, and kept it silent at instances when it was really needed. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

Another thing which becomes evident from this verse is that the awareness of virtue in a person should entail that he should not only adopt that virtue himself but urge others to do so as well. This is included in his obligation otherwise his virtuous deed will in fact be incomplete. Urging others to adopt virtue is the responsibility of every individual of the society without which he will be held accountable before the Almighty. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 374)

30. After alluding to the faculties of sight, cognizance, speech and conversation, the faculty of distinguishing between good and evil is referred to here. The two ways here refers to the two ways mentioned in Surah Dahr and Surah Shams in the following words respectively: إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا (٣:٧٦) (We showed him the path. If he wants, he can be grateful or ungrateful. (76:3)) and وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا (٩١: ٧-٨) (And the soul bears witness and the perfection given to it. Therefore, [He] inspired it with its evil and its good. (91:7-10)).

31. Sympathizing with human beings and worshipping God requires that one give up the immediate gains and pleasures of life. Hence both these things weigh down heavily on man. This is the reason the Qur’an has called them tantamount to climbing a steep path.

32. This style has already been explained before. Such questions are meant to express the grandeur and majesty of something or its horror and dreadful nature.

33. Ie., slaves should be liberated. The Qur’an has placed this at the top of the list of virtuous deeds. Every person can estimate the importance of this directive as a result. This is the first step by the Qur’an to eradicate this menace. Later, directives given in Surah Muhammad, Surah Nur and Surah Tawbah totally eradicated it. It is another matter that people still refused to follow this directive for centuries after the Qur’an was revealed. It was only at the beginning of the previous century that the directive of the Qur’an was finally fulfilled and this curse was abolished from this world.

34. Food obviously is one of their basic needs. However, this does not merely mean food; it refers to all needs that have to be fulfilled. The adjective فِي يَوْمٍ ذِي مَسْغَبَةٍ is meant to make the appeal more effective. The adjectives ذَا مَقْرَبَةٍ and ذَا مَتْرَبَةٍ with orphans and needy respectively also serve the same purose.

35. The actual words are: وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالصَّبْرِ وَتَوَاصَوْا بِالْمَرْحَمَةِ. Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi writes:

Here the word مَرْحَمَةِ (sympathy) is mentioned together with صَبْرِ (patience) the wayحَقٌ  (truth) is mentioned together with صَبْرِ (patience) in Surah ‘Asr. The reason for this is the nature of the deeds of virtue which I have referred to while explaining the expression الْعَقَبَةَ اقْتَحَمَ in verse eleven: these deeds are generally against one’s inner desires and hence a person has to counter this obstacle while doing such deeds and it is like climbing a slope. Only those can climb this slope who have the quality of patience in them. In Arabic the real meaning of صَبْرِ is “perseverance and steadfastness.” Those who are devoid of this quality lack valour and bravery; hence, it was deemed necessary that those who have been urged to do virtuous deeds should also be urged to be patient and steadfast. (Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i Qur’an, vol. 9, 377) 

36. These words are suppressed because of parallelism.

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