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In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 86

In the Shade of the Qur'an - Surah # 86
Syed Qutb
Sura # 86
                             THE NIGHT VISITOR

              In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

  By heaven and by the night visitor. Would that you knew what the night
  visitor is! It is the star of piercing brightness. For every soul there
  is a guardian who watching over it. Let man then reflect of what he is
  created: he is created of gushing water which issues from between the
  loins and the chest bones. Allah is well able to bring him back (to
  life). On the day when men's consciences are tried, he shall be
  helpless, with no supporter. By the heaven with its returning rain,
  by the earth ever splitting with verdure, this is surely, decisive
  word; it is no frivolity. They try and scheme against you, but I too
  have My schemes. So give respite to the disbelievers; leave them alone
  for a while.

                         In the Shade of the Qur'an

  It has been stated in the introduction to this thirtieth part of the
  Qur'an that its surahs are like continuous loud and violent knocks, or
  like shouts addressed to people who are fast asleep. Both knocks and
  shouts repeatedly strike their senses with the same message and the
  same warning:
    Wake up! rise! reflect! look around! think! consider! There is a God.
    There is an organisation and a deliberate system of  creation. There
    is trial and liability, reckoning and reward, severe  chastisement
    and endless happiness.
  The present surah is a typical  example of these qualities. Its tone is
  sharp. The scenes portrayed, the rhythm chosen, the sounds of the
  individual words and their meanings  all contribute to this sharpness
  of tone. The scenes include the night  visitor, the star piercing with
  brightness, the gushing water, the  returning rain and the splitting
  earth. The meanings include watching  over souls: "For every soul there
  is a guardian who watches over it";  the lack of strength and help: "On
  the day when men's consciences are  tried, he shall be helpless, with no
  supporter"; the complete  seriousness: "This is surely a decisive word;
  it is no frivolity."  The same characteristics apply to the warnings
  given in this surah: They try and scheme against you, but I too have My
  schemes. So give respite to the disbelievers; leave them alone for a

  There is complete harmony between the scenes of the universe portrayed
  in the surah and the facts it states. The harmony becomes abundantly
  clear when the surah is carefully considered. 'By heaven and by the
  night visitor. Would that you knew what the night visitor is! It is
  the star piercing with brightness. For every soul there is a guardian
  who watches over it. " This oath includes a scene of the universe and a
  fact of faith. It opens by mentioning heaven and the night visitor and
  fact that statement by the form of exclamation made familiar in the
  Qur'an; "Would that you knew what the night visitor is!" This form of
  exclamation gives the impression that it is mysterious, beyond

  The Qur'an then states its nature and form: "It is the star of piercing
  brightness." It pierces darkness with its penetrating rays. The
  description applies to all stars. There is no need to attach it to a
  particular star. Generality is more useful in this kind of context. It
  makes the meaning read like this: "By heaven and its stars which
  pierce darkness and penetrate through that veil covering all things."
  Thus, this reference sheds its own light on the facts outlined in this
  surah and the scenes it portrays, as will be discussed later on.
  Allah swears by heaven and its piercing stars that every soul has an
  observer appointed by Allah to watch it: "For every soul there is a
  guardian who watches over it." This particular mode of expression
  implies a strong assertion that there is an agent appointed by Allah to
  watch every soul and to keep a record of its actions and thoughts.
  The watch is over the soul because it is there that thoughts and secrets
  which are responsible for action and its reward lie. Thus, people are
  not left to roam about over the earth, or to do as they wish without
  someone to watch what they do. On the contrary, an accurate and immediate
  record is kept, on the basis of which the reckoning is made.

  The awesome inference becomes clear as the soul feels that it is never
  alone even when without company. There is always the watcher who remains
  nearby even when one hides from all and is secure against any visitor or
  intruder. There is the watcher who penetrates all covers and has access
  to all concealed things, in the same way as the piercing star tears
  through the night cover. For Allah's method of creation is the same
  with regard to human souls and the wide horizons. This touch which
  unites the human soul with the universe is followed by another which
  emphasises the truth of organised creation and deliberate planning to
  which Allah has sworn by heaven and the night visitor The early stages
  of man's creation constitute a proof of this fact and suggest that man
  is not forgotten as an insignificant lost item:
    Let man then reflect of what he is created: he is created of gushing
    water, which issues from between the loins and the chest bones.

  Let man consider his origins and what has become of him. It is a very
  wide gulf which divides the origins from the final product, the gushing
  water from man the intelligent, rational being with his highly
  sophisticated organic, neurological, mental and psychological systems.
  The reference to this great gulf which the gushing water crosses in order
  to be made into a communicating being suggests that there is a power
  beyond the province of man which moves that shapeless and powerless
  fluid along its remarkable and impressive journey until it is shaped
  into its magnificent ultimate form. It implies that there is a guardian
  appointed by Allah to look after that moist germ, and to guide it through
  its remarkable journey, which is full of wonders much greater than those
  met by man throughout his life.
  This one fertilising cell, of which there are millions in every gush, is
  hardly visible under the microscope. It is a creature without support,
  reason or will. But as soon as it settles in the womb it proceeds to
  search for its food. The guarding hand of Allah equips it with a quality
  which enables it to convert the lining of the womb around it into a pool
  of blood, to supply it with fresh nourishment. Once it is sure of the
  availability of food it starts another process of continuous division
  to produce new cells. This shapeless and powerless creature which has no
  reason or will, knows exactly what it is doing and what it wants. The
  guarding hand watching over it provides by with guidance, knowledge,
  power and will to enable it to know its way. It Is charged with the
  task of making every group of the newly produced cells specialise in
  building a part of the magnificent structure of the human body. One
  group proceeds to produce the skeleton; another group forms the muscles;
  a third the nervous system; a fourth the lymphatic system. The same
  applies to every major part of the human structure. But the matter is
  not as simple as that: it involves a higher degree of specialisation;
  for every bone, every muscle and every nerve is unique and dissimilar
  to every other. The structure is accurately planned, and has a wide
  range of functions. Hence, as every group of cells proceeds to fulfil
  its appointed task in building this structure. it learns to break up
  into specialised subdivisions, each having its particular function in
  the general set up. Every little cell proceeds knowing its way,
  destination and function. Those cells entrusted with the task of forming
  the eye know that the eye must be in the face, and that it cannot be
  situated in the abdomen or the foot or the arm, despite the fact that
  any of these localities is a suitable place for forming an eye. If the
  first cell charged with making the eye was taken off course and planted
  in any of these localities, it would have fulfilled its mission and made
  an eye there. But when it sets out on its mission it simply goes to the
  exact spot specified for the eye. Who then has told this cell that this
  structure needs its eye to be that particular spot? It is Allah the
  watching Guardian who guides it, looks after it and shows it its way.

  All the cells work individually and collectively within a framework set
  for them by certain elements functioning inside the cells. These
  elements are known as the genes which preserve the general characteristics
  of the species and the distinctive traits of the parents and forefathers.
  When the eye cell divides and proliferates in order to form the eye, it
  endeavours at the same time to preserve Its shape and particular features
  so that it turns out to be a human eye and not an eye of any animal.
  Furthermore, it endeavours to make it an eye of a human being whose
  forefathers had certain features and characteristics which distinguished
  their eyes. The slightest error in designing that eye, whether in shape
  or qualities, forces the forming cell out of its set course. So who has
  endowed power, ability and knowledge to this insignificant cell which has
  no reason, will or power of its own? It is Allah Who taught it to design
  and produce what all mankind can never design or produce. For mankind
  cannot design an eye or a part of it, if they are charged with this task,
  while an insignificant cell or group of cells in the human body can
  accomplish this great mission.

  This is merely a quick glance at parts of the remarkable journey which
  transforms the gushing water into the communicative human being. But
  there is indeed a great multitude of wonders in the physiological
  functions of the various organs and systems. It is beyond the scope of
  this work to trace these wonders but they all constitute evidence of the
  elaborate planning and organisation and bear the stamp of Allah's
  guarding, helping and guiding hand. They emphasise the first fact in
  the surah sworn to by heaven and the night visitor, and prepare for the
  next fact, namely, the resurrection, which was not believed by the
  polytheists who were among the first to be addressed by the Qur'an.

    Allah is well able to bring him back, on the day when men's
    consciences are tried, he shall be helpless, with no supporter.
  Allah, Who has created him and looked after him, is well able to bring
  him back to life after death. The first creation is evidence of His
  ability as well as His elaborate planning and organisation. Unless
  there is a return for a trial of the secrets in order to accord everyone
  his fair reward then the highly sophisticated and wise creation would be
  in vain .
                On the day when men's consciences are tried.
  The Arabic terms used by the Qur'an have much wider connotations than
  "conscience and trial. " They suggest that that part of the human soul
  where secrets are safely deposited will be thrown open, searched and
  exposed in the same way as the night visitor penetrates the covering
  darkness of the night. As the guarding watcher penetrates through the
  soul hidden under multiple covers, secrets are tried when man finds
  himself powerless and without support:
                   He shall be helpless, with no supporter.
  Standing bare with no cover and being without strength adds to the strains
  and hardships of the situation. The description has a deep effect on the
  reader's perception, as it moves from talking of the universe and the
  human soul to man's creation and his remarkable journey, until he reaches
  the end when his secrets are exposed and he stands alone, powerless and
  without support.
    By the heaven with its returning rain; by the earth ever splitting with
    verdure; this is surely a decisive word; it is no frivolity.
  The rain which comes from the sky again and again and the vegetation
  which splits the earth and springs out are two images describing one
  of the many manifestations of life, the life of plants and their
  origins. Water which pours down from heaven and verdure which springs
  out from the earth, are akin to the water gushing between loins and the
  breast bones and to the embryo springing out from the darkness of the
  womb. It is the same life, the same scene, the same movement. It is
  one system indicating a Maker Who has no competitors. The rain and
  verdure scene is not dissimilar to that of the night visitor, the
  piercing star as it splits covers and curtains. It is also similar to
  the scene of consciences being searched and all concealment's being
  thrown open. It is again the same style of structure which tells of
  the Maker. Allah swears by these two creations and their two events,
  the heaven of the returning rains and the earth splitting with verdure.
  The impact of the scene portrayed combines with the rhythm to strike a
  strong note of finality and decisiveness. The oath is that this word,
  or the Qur'an generally, which states that there is a return and a trial,
  is the decisive word which admits of no frivolity. It puts an end to all
  argument and to all doubts and uncertainties. It is a true and final word,
  to which both the heaven of the returning rain and the earth splitting
  with verdure are witnesses When this final statement of the return and
  trial is made, there follows an address to Allah's Messenger. At the
  time of revelation he was with the few believers who supported him in
  Makka. They were suffering the brunt of the hostility of the polytheists
  and their plots against the Islamic call. The polytheists were tirelessly
  trying to smother the call. The address is made to the Messenger to
  encourage and reassure him, and to disparage what the schemers devise.
  It states that the scheming is temporary; the battle is in Allah's hand
  and under His command. So, let the Messenger persevere and be patient,
  and let him and the believers be reassured:
    They try and scheme against you, bur I too have My schemes. So give
    respite to the disbelievers; leave them alone for a while.

  Those people who are created out of gushing water issuing between the
  loins and the breast bones, brought forth without any strength, ability
  or will of their own, guided along their long journey by the Divine power
  and destined to that return when the secrets are searched and tried and
  where they have no strength or support - are devising a scheme against
  the Prophet and the Muslims! I - the Creator who guides, preserves,
  directs, brings back to life and puts to trial; the Able; the Victor
  Who has made the sky, the night visitor, the gushing water and man; the
  Maker of the heaven with its returning rain and the earth splitting with
  verdure, I, Allah, am devising a scheme of My own. So, there are the two
  schemes and a battle. It is, in truth, a one-sided battle but described
  as one between two sides for the sake of sarcasm.

  So give respite to the disbelievers; leave them alone for a while." Do not
  be impatient. Do not precipitate the end of the battle when you have seen
  its true nature. There is a wisdom behind this respite and delay which is
  short even though it may take up the whole length of this first life; for
  how short this life appears when compared with a life of limitless
  duration. Allah's benevolent and compassionate attitude to His Messenger
  is noticeable in the final verse:
     So give respite to the disbelievers; leave them alone for a while.
  He is addressed here as if he were the final authority, or as if he were
  the one who decides or approves that they may have a short respite. But
  the Messenger has no such authority; it is merely an expression of kind
  and benevolent tenderness which blows an air of compassion over his heart.
  It is a Divine tenderness which suggests that the Messenger has a say in
  the whole matter as if he had a share or an interest in it. It lifts all
  barriers between the Messenger and the Divine domain, where all matters
  are judged and settled.





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