235

CHAPTER LXXXVI.

ENTITLED SURAT AL TARIQ (THE STAR WHICH APPEARED BY NIGHT).

Revealed at Makkah.

INTRODUCTION.

ACCORDING to al Wakidi, the first three verses of this chapter, which, by the way, give it a title, were revealed when Abu Talib was frightened by seeing a shooting star. This story receives some colouring from the mention of the guardian angel in ver. 4, as the shooting stars were supposed to be darts cast at the devils by the angels guarding the gates of heaven. NoŽldeke, however, thinks the words point to a planet or fixed star.

This chapter seems to us to be composed of two small Suras or fragments of Suras, vers. 11-17 being the second, belonging to a later period, because of the mention of plots against Muhammad, which point to the time preceding the first emigration to Abyssinia.

Probable Date of the Revelations.

The first part of this chapter certainly belongs to the earliest period of Muhammad's ministry. Muir and NoŽldeke place the whole chapter there; but, for the reason stated above, we prefer to regard vers. 11-17 as belonging to about the fourth year of the ministry at Makkah.

Principal Subjects.

Oath by the star of piercing brightness . . . 1-3
Every soul has its guardian angel . . . 4
God the Creator, and therefore can raise the dead ... 5-8
The judgment-day shall reveal secret thoughts . . . 9,10
Oaths by heaven and earth that the Quran is God's word... 11-14
Muhammad exhorted to bear patiently with the unbelievers plotting his ruin ...15-17


236

IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.

R 1/11.

(1) By the heaven, and that which appeareth by night: (2) but what shall cause thee to understand what that which appeareth by night is? (3) it is the star of piercing brightness: (4) every soul hath a guardian set over it. (5) Let a man consider, therefore, of what he is created. (6) He is created of seed poured forth, (7) issuing from the loins and the breast-bones. (8) Verily God is able to restore him to life, (9) the day whereon all secret thoughts and actions shall be examined into; (10) and he shall have no power to defend himself nor any protector. (11) By the heaven which returneth the rain, (12) and by the earth which openeth to let forth vegetables and springs, (13) verily this is a discourse distinguishing good from evil, (14) and it is not composed with lightness, (15) Verily the infidels are laying a plot to frustrate my designs; (16) but I will lay a plot for their ruin. (17) Wherefore, O Prophet, bear with the unbelievers I let them alone a while.

(3) The star, &c. "Some take the words to signify any bright star, without restriction, but others think some particular star or stars to be thereby intended; which one supposes to be the morning star (peculiarly called 'al Tariq,' or 'the appearing by night '), another Saturn (that planet being by the Arabs surnamed 'al Thakib,' or 'the piercing,' as it was by the Greeks ' Phaenon,' or 'the shining'), and a third, the Pleiades."-Sale.

(7) Loins and breast-bones. "From the loins of the man and the breast-bones of the woman."-Sale, Baidhawi.

(9) Secret thoughts and actions. The judgment-day shall reveal all such thoughts and actions, but some Muslims deny a moral character to mere thoughts so long as they are not manifested in words or actions.

(11) Which returneth rain. "Or, as some expound it, 'which performeth its periodic motion, returning' to the point from whence it began the same. The words seem designed to express the alternate returns of the different seasons of the year."-Sale.


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