Makkah Period

Revealed in Makkah, this sūrah of 22 verses derives its name from the word al-burūj (the constellations) in the first verse. It calls the believers to patience in the face of the persecutions they have suffered, and reminds them that those who resisted the Messengers of God perished; it suggests that the opponents of the Qur’ān will not succeed.

  1. By the heaven with its constellations,1
    1. For the constellations, see sūrah 15: 16–18, note 5.
    2. And by the Promised Day,
    3. And by the one who witnesses and that which is witnessed.2

2. The verses that follow are concerned with the persecutions carried out against the believ- ers, and the end that awaits the persecutors, as well as the reward that the persecuted believ- ers will receive. So, by swearing by the heaven with constellations, God suggests that, as stated in 15: 16–18, just as the devils attempting to ascend the heaven are repulsed from it, so too will the devilish people persecuting the believers ultimately be repulsed and receive their due on the Promised Day (of Judgment). So, the phrase, one who witnesses, refers to the believers and the Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, in particular: i.e., those who witness the evil deeds of the wrongdoing unbelievers and who will witness their trial and punishment on the Judgment Day. The phrase, that which is witnessed, means the persecutions the believers suffer and those who carry them out, and the punishment dealt to the persecutors in the Hereafter.

    1. Ruined were the people of the ditch,3

3. What is common for all the traditions about the people of the ditch is that they were tyrants who dug deep ditches to burn alive those believers who refused to renounce their Religion.

    1. Of the fire kept burning with fuel.
    2. When they were seated over it,
    3. And were themselves witnesses of what they did to the believers.
    4. They detested them for no other reason than that they believed in God, the All-Glorious with irresistible might, the All-Praiseworthy,

Surah 85                                         Al-Buruj (The constellations)                                   1156

    1. (They believed in) Him, to Whom belongs the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. God is indeed a witness over everything.
    2. Those who persecute the believing men and the believing women and then do not repent, for them there surely is the punishment of Hell, for them there is the punishment of burning fire.
    3. But those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, for them there are Gardens through which rivers flow. That is the great triumph.
    4. Surely the grip of your Lord is indeed severe.
    5. Surely He – He originates and brings forth anew.4

4. The verse implies that it is God Who surrounds all creation with His Knowledge and Power, and every creature is under His absolute dominion. So no one can escape His grip.

    1. And He is also the All-Forgiving, the All-Loving;
    2. The Lord of the Throne, the All-Sublime.
    3. One Who freely does whatever He wills.
    4. Has there come to you the report of the hosts –
    5. The Pharaoh and the (tribe of ) Thamud (whom God seized and punished severely)?
    6. Yet those who disbelieve (among your people) persist in denying (the Divine Message).
    7. But all the while God encompasses them from all sides.
    8. Indeed it is a glorious Qur’an (– a sublime Book revealed and recited),
    9. In a Preserved Tablet5 (guarded from every accursed devil, and secure from any falsehood)!

5. For the Supreme Preserved Tablet, see sūrah 6: 59, note 13; 13: 39, note 13; 17: 14, note 10.