Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LIV.: ENTITLED SURAT AL QAMR (THE MOON). Revealed at Makkah - The Quran, vol. 4
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER LIV.: ENTITLED SURAT AL QAMR (THE MOON). Revealed at Makkah - Mohammed, The Quran, vol. 4 
A Comprehensive Commentary on the Quran: Comprising Sale’s Translation and preliminary Discourse, with Additional Notes and Emendations (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co., 1896). 4 vols.
Part of: The Quran, 4 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ENTITLED SURAT AL QAMR (THE MOON).
This chapter owes its title to the statement in ver. 1 that the moon shall be split in sunder as a sign of the approach of the judgmentday.
In style and matter this chapter so closely resembles chapter xi. that it might be called a compend of it. Noëldeke, however, points out that this is the first chapter in chronological order in which the Qurán gives the histories of several prophets together. This being so, we may regard the longer chapter as presenting a more detailed account of the events briefly described here.
The purpose of the revelations of this chapter was to meet the charge of imposture brought by the Quraish against Muhammad. No direct refutation is attempted. The stories of the destruction of other nations and peoples who had rejected their prophets are briefly narrated. Throughout these stories the prophets Noah, Húd, Sálih, Lot, and Moses are represented as messengers of God in all respects like Muhammad, as opposed by unbelievers of the same character as the Quraish, and as charged by the infidels of their day with imposture. The inference from each story is that Muhammad is a true prophet, and that his persecutors are doomed to destruction for their impiety in rejecting him.
After each of the stories related save the last, the following words occur as a sort of refrain: “Now have we made the Qurán easy for admonition, but is any one admonished thereby?” This sad refrain, together with the command to withdraw from the infidels (ver. 6), shows that Muhammad despaired of the conversion of his townsmen.
Probable Date of the Revelations.
This chapter belongs to Makkah. Some Muslim writers, supposing ver. 45 to point to the battle of Badr, and vers. 47-49 to relate to the Christian embassy of Najrán, have thought the whole chapter to be Madínic; but the circumstances of the Prophet, the attitude of his opponents, the matter of the revelations, and the style of composition, all point to Makkah.
As to the date of the revelations, Noëldeke places this chapter at the very beginning of his second period—the fifth year of the call. This seems to me to be too early. It is true that persecution of the Muslims is not positively mentioned in this chapter. If, however, the stories of the prophets reflect the circumstances of the Muslims at the time they were here recorded, we may fairly infer that persecution of the Muslims had already begun. Then the command to withdraw and the despair of the Prophet regarding the conversion of the Quraish, point to a later date. Identifying the “withdrawal” with the retirement to the sheb of Abu Tálib, I would fix the date of this chapter at about b.h. 6 or 7. This agrees essentially with Muir, who places it near the beginning of his fourth stage.
IN THE NAME OF THE MOST MERCIFUL GOD.
∥ (1) The hour of judgment approacheth, and the moon hath been split in sunder; (2) but if the unbelievers see a sign, they turn aside, saying, This is a powerful charm. (3) And they accuse thee, O Muhammad, of imposture, and follow their own lusts: but everything will be immutably fixed. (4) And now hath a message come unto them, wherein is a determent from obstinate infidelity;(5)the same being consummate wisdom: but warners profit them not; wherefore do thou withdraw from them. (6)(6) The day whereon the summoner shall summon mankind to an ungrateful business, (7) they shall come forth from their graves with downcast looks, numerous as locusts scattered far abroad; (8) hastening with terror unto the summoner. The unbelievers shall say, This is a day of distress. (9) The people of Noah accused that prophet of imposture before thy people rejected thee: they accused our servant of imposture, saying, He is a madman; and he was rejected with reproach. (10) He called, therefore, upon his Lord,saying, Verily I am overpowered; wherefore avenge me. (11) So we opened the gates of heaven, with water pouring down, (12) and we caused the earth to break forth into springs; so that the water of heaven and earth met, according to the decree which had been established. (13) And we bare him on a vessel composed of planks and nails; (14) which moved forward under our eyes: as a recompense unto him who had been ungratefully rejected. (15) And we left the said vessel for a sign: but is any one warned thereby? (16) And how severe was my vengeance and my threatening! (17) Now have we made the Qurán easy for admonition: but is any one admonished thereby? (18) Ád charged their prophet with imposture; but how severe was my vengeance, and my threatening! (19) Verily we sent against them a roaring wind, on a day of continued ill-luck; (20) it carried men away as though they had been roots of palm-trees forcibly torn up. (21) And how severe was my vengeance and my threatening! (22) Now we have made the Qurán easy for admonition; but is any one admonished thereby?
∥ (23) Thamúd charged the admonitions of their prophet with falsehood, (24) and said, Shall we follow a single man among us? verily we should then be guilty of error and preposterous madness: (25) is the office of admonition committed unto him preferably to the rest of us? Nay; he is a liar and an insolent fellow. (26) But God said to Sálih, To-morrow shall they know who is the liar and the insolent person; (27) for we will surely send the she-camel for a trial of them: and do thou observe them, and bear their insults with patience; (28) and prophesy unto them that the water shall be divided between them, and each portion shall be sat down to alternately.(29) And they called their companion; and he took a sword and slew her. (30) But how severe was my vengeance and my threatening! (31) For we sent against them one cry of the Angel Gabriel; and they became like the dry sticks used by him who buildeth a fold for cattle. (32) And now have we made the Qurán easy for admonition; but is any one admonished thereby?
∥ (33) The people of Lot charged his preaching with falsehood; (34) but we sent against them a wind driving a shower of stones, which destroyed them all except the family of Lot; whom we delivered early in the morning, (35) through favour from us. Thus do we reward those who are thankful. (36) And Lot had warned them of our severity in chastising; but they doubted of that warning. (37) And they demanded his guests of him, that they might abuse them: but we put out their eyes, saying, Taste my vengeance and my threatening. (38) And early in the morning a lasting punishment surprised them. (39) Taste, therefore, my vengeance and my threatening. (40) Now have we made the Quran easy for admonition; but is any one admonished thereby?(41) The warning of Moses also came unto the people of Pharaoh; (42)but they charged every one of our signs with imposture: wherefore we chastised them with a mighty and irresistible chastisement. (43) Are your unbelievers, O Makkans, better than these? Is immunity from punishment promised unto you in the scriptures? (44) Do they say, We are a body of men able to prevail against our enemies?(45) The multitude shall surely be put to flight, and shall turn their back. (46) But the hour of judgment is their threatened time ofpunishment; and that hour shall be more grievous and more bitter than their afflictions in this life. (47) Verily the wicked wander in error, and shall be tormented hereafter in burning flames. (48) On that day they shall be dragged into the fire on their faces; and it shall be said unto them, Taste ye the touch of hell. (49) All things have we created bound by a fixed decree: (50) and our command is no more than a single word, like the twinkling of an eye. (51) We have formerly destroyed nations like unto you; but is any of you warned by their example? (52) Everything which they do is recorded in the books kept by the guardian angels; (53) and every action, both small and great, is written down in the preserved table. (54) Moreover, the pious shall dwell among gardens and rivers, (55) in the assembly of truth, in the presence of a most potent king.
[(1) ]The moon hath been split. “This passage is expounded two different ways. Some imagine the words refer to a famous miracle supposed to have been performed by Muhammad; for it is said that, on the infidels demanding a sign of him, the moon appeared cloven in two, one part vanishing and the other remaining; and Ibn Masúd affirmed that he saw Mount Hará interpose between the two sections. Others think the preter tense is here used in the prophetic style for the future, and that the passage should be rendered, ‘The moon shall be split in sunder;’ for this, they say, is to happen at the resurrection. The former opinion is supported by reading, according to some copies, wa kad inshaqqa ’lqamaro, i.e., ‘since the moon hath already been split in sunder;’ the splitting of the moon being reckoned by some to be one of the previous signs of the last day.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(2) ]A powerful charm. “Or, as the participle here used may also signify, ‘a continued series of magic,’ or ‘a transient magic illusion.’ ”—Sale.
[(3) ]They accuse thee . . . of imposture. See notes on chaps. iii. 185. and vii. 203.
[(4) ]A message, i.e., “the Qurán, containing stories of former nations which have been chastised for their incredulity and threats of a more dreadful punishment hereafter.”—Sale.
[(5, 6) ]This looks like a later Makkan revelation pointing to the withdrawal from Makkah to Madína. It may, however, refer to the withdrawal which took place along with the Ban against the Háshimites.
[(6) ]The summoner shall summon. “That is, when the Angel Israfíl shall call men to judgment.”—Sale.
[(9) ]We here again see how Muhammad represents the former prophets as being like unto himself. See Introduction to chaps. xi. and xxi.
[(10) ]Wherefore avenge me. “This petition was not preferred by Noah till after he had suffered repeated violence from his people; for it is related that one of them having fallen upon him and almost strangled him, when he came to himself he said, ‘O Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ ”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(14) ]Under our eyes, i.e., “under our special regard and keeping.”—Sale.
[(15) ]Rodwell thinks that Muhammad owed the statement of this verse, “We left the said vessel for a sign,” to a Jewish tradition “as to the collection of pitchfrom the wood of the ark in the time of Berosus for amulets, and of the wood itself in the time of Josephus (Ant. i. 3, 6; c. Apion, i. 19).”
[(19) ]A roaring wind. “Or a cold wind.”—Sale.
[(20) ]“It is related that they sought shelter in the clefts of the rocks and in pits, holding fast by one another, but that the wind impetuously tore them away, and threw them down dead.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(27) ]See notes on chap. vii. 74-79.
[(28) ]Between them. Between the Thamúdites and the she-camel. See note on chap. xxvi. 155.
[(29) ]Their companion, namely, “Kídár Ibn Salíf, who was not an Arab, but a stranger dwelling among the Thamúdites.”—Sale. See also notes on chap. vii. 74-79.
[(31) ]Dry sticks, &c. “The words may signify either the dry boughs with which, in the East, they make folds or enclosures to fence their cattle from wind and cold, or the stubble and other stuff with which they litter them in those folds during the winter season.”—Sale.
[(37) ]We put out their eyes. “So that their sockets became filled up even with the other parts of their faces. This, it is said, was done by one stroke of the wing of the Angel Gabriel. See chap. xi. 80.”—Sale.
[(38) ]A lasting punishment. “Under which they shall continue till they receive their full punishment in hell.”—Sale.
[(41, 42) ]See notes on chap. vii. 104-136.
[(45) ]“This prophecy was fulfilled by the overthrow of the Quraish at Badr. It is related, from a tradition of Omar, that when this passage was revealed, Muhammad professed himself to be ignorant of its true meaning; but on the day of the battle of Badr he repeated these words as he was putting on his coat of mail.”—Sale, Baidháwi.
[(46) ]Threatened time, &c., i.e., “the time when they shall receive their full punishment; what they suffer in this world being only the forerunner or earnest of what they shall feel in the next.”—Sale.
[(50) ]A single word, viz., “ ‘Kun,’ i.e., ‘Be.’ The passage may also be rendered, ‘The execution of our purpose is but a single act, exerted in a moment. Some suppose it refers to the business of the day of judgment.”—Sale, Baidháwi.