The Tafsīr of Sūrah al-Shams (The Sun)

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

A concise explanation of Sūrah al-Shams.
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Allāh says:

وَالشَّمْسِ وَضُحَاهَا ‎﴿١﴾‏ وَالْقَمَرِ إِذَا تَلَاهَا ‎﴿٢﴾‏ وَالنَّهَارِ إِذَا جَلَّاهَا ‎﴿٣﴾‏ وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَغْشَاهَا ‎﴿٤﴾‏ وَالسَّمَاءِ وَمَا بَنَاهَا ‎﴿٥﴾‏ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا طَحَاهَا ‎﴿٦﴾‏ وَنَفْسٍ وَمَا سَوَّاهَا ‎﴿٧﴾‏ فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا ‎﴿٨﴾‏ قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَن زَكَّاهَا ‎﴿٩﴾‏ وَقَدْ خَابَ مَن دَسَّاهَا ‎﴿١٠﴾‏ كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِطَغْوَاهَا ‎﴿١١﴾‏ إِذِ انبَعَثَ أَشْقَاهَا ‎﴿١٢﴾‏ فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ نَاقَةَ اللَّهِ وَسُقْيَاهَا ‎﴿١٣﴾‏ فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوهَا فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُم بِذَنبِهِمْ فَسَوَّاهَا ‎﴿١٤﴾‏ وَلَا يَخَافُ عُقْبَاهَا ‎﴿١٥﴾‏

‘By the sun and its (warm) brightness (when it rises). And (by) the moon, when it follows (the sun) (during the first half of the month). And (by) the day when it displays (the sun and its brightness). And (by) the night, when it conceals (the sun and its brightness). And (by) the heaven and its construction (or: He who constructed it). And (by) the earth, and He who spread it out (as a vast expanse). And (by) the soul (the person of Ādam) (or: all Jinn and Men) and how He proportioned it (with harmony and gave it its natural inclination). And then inspired it with (knowledge of good and evil so that it knows) its (deeds) of sinfulness and its (deeds of) piety. (By the preceding seven mighty oaths), he will have succeeded who has purified it (from sins). And he will have failed; those who have corrupted it (with disbelief, polytheism, sin and disobedience). (The people of) Thamūd rejected (their prophet) by way of their transgression. When the most wicked man among them was sent forth (to kill the she-camel). So the Messenger of Allāh—(Ṣāliḥ)—said to them: “(Do not harm) the she-camel of Allāh (nor prevent her from) her drink. But they rejected him (and his warning of punishment) and killed her. So their Lord gave them over to destruction because of their sin and brought it upon all of them equally. And He feared not the consequence (of destroying them) (or: he—the one sent forth to kill her—feared not the consequence of his wicked deed) (or: he—the Prophet Ṣāliḥ—feared not the consequence of his people’s rejection and harm).’
[Al-Shams, 91]

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim [d. 751 AH] said:

[Allāh] has mentioned in this sūrah the [people of] Thamūd rather than any other disbelieving nation. Our Shaykh [Shaykh al-Islām Ibn Taymiyyah] said [concerning this]:

‘This is—and Allāh knows best—from a way of cautioning from that which is lowly before that which is more significant. For there has not been a disbelieving nation whose sin and punishment was lighter than them. The sin that is mentioned from them is not comparable to the likes of [the people of] ʿĀd, or Madyan, or the People of Lūṭ, or other than them. So if this is His punishment for them [Thamūd], their sin being, in addition to shirk [polytheism], the killing of one she-camel which Allāh had made a sign for them—then the one who disturbs the sanctity of that which Allāh has made forbidden, and trivialises His orders and prohibitions, slaughtering His slaves and spilling their blood—must be deserving of an even greater, more grievous torment.

Whomever contemplates the conditions of this world, both past and present, and the ramifications for the one who actively spreads mischief in the land, spilling blood without right, facilitating discord and temptation, carelessly belittling and disparaging that which Allāh has made forbidden, will know that indeed true safety [from Allāh’s punishment] in this life and the hereafter is borne only out of true belief [in Allāh] and out of fear of Him.’

I say [concerning this]:

In specifically mentioning the [people of] Thamūd rather than any other [nation] there is another lesson. It is that they rejected the guidance that came to them after they had gained assurance of it, becoming deeply acquainted with its contents. They allowed their chest to freeze over regarding it, while their very souls had achieved unwavering certainty concerning its [truthfulness]. They actively selected blindness and misguidance [over it]. As the Most High said describing them:

وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ فَاسْتَحَبُّوا الْعَمَىٰ عَلَى الْهُدَىٰ ‎﴿١٧﴾‏

‘And as for Thamūd, We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance,’
[Fuṣṣilat, 41:17]

and the Most High also said:

وَآتَيْنَا ثَمُودَ النَّاقَةَ مُبْصِرَةً ‎﴿٥٩﴾‏

‘And We gave Thamūd the she-camel as a visible sign,’
[Isrāʾ,17:59]

[This verse] confirms that the truth was made clear to them with unwavering certainty.

Such is the state of all destroyed nations, but Allāh has never destroyed a people except after the displaying of clear evidence to them, except that Thamūd were allotted an even greater proportion of guidance and insight [than other nations]. For this reason, when they were mentioned in conjunction with [the people of] ʿĀd [in sūrah Fuṣṣilat], [Allāh] said:

فَأَمَّا عَادٌ فَاسْتَكْبَرُوا فِي الْأَرْضِ بِغَيْرِ الْحَقِّ ‎﴿١٥﴾‏

‘As for ʿĀd, they were arrogant upon the earth without right.’
[Fuṣṣilat, 41:15]

Then He said:

وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ فَاسْتَحَبُّوا الْعَمَىٰ عَلَى الْهُدَىٰ ‎﴿١٧﴾‏

‘And as for Thamūd, We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance,’
[Fuṣṣilat, 41:17]

Thus, [the people of] ʿĀd showed arrogance, and collectively said to their prophet:

‘You have not brought us clear evidence’

while Thamūd could not make such a claim. As they could see the embodiment of clear evidence before them, to where it was comparable to observing the sun and the moon, so they rejected this guidance after seeing it before them and gaining complete certainty regarding it.

So in specifically mentioning them [in this sūrah] there is a cautionary lesson to all those who know the truth and follow other than it.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

For such is the sickness of most of those in ruin, and the most common, encompassing ailment afflicting the people of this world. And Allāh, the Exalted, the Most High, knows best.

Source: Al-Tibyān: 37-39
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: October 11, 2022
Edited: October 11, 2022

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