Surah Shams

Surah Shams

Surah ash-Shams is the only surah in the Noble Quran with the highest number of oaths. God, the Almighty wants to make an important claim; hence, He swears upon some of His unique creations to draw man’s attention to what He is about to say.

Facts about Surah Shams

Ash-Shams is the 91st surah of the Quran, situated in Juz’ 30 , consisting of 15 verses. This Meccan surah includes the most number of oaths sworn in a surah. Most of the eleven solemn oaths refer to astronomical phenomena initiating with the sun, giving it the name ash-Shams, “the sun”. The final oath is to the soul of the human being, building the climax of the surah in verses 7-10. Surah ash-Shams concludes with the story of the people of Thamud who betrayed their soul and were destined to destruction, eternal silence and total annihilation.

91 Surah no.

Juz’ 30 Place

Makki Makki/Madani

26 Order of revelation

15 No. of verses

54 No. of words

253 No. of letters


Arabic Text and Translation of Surah Shams


بِسْمِ ٱللَّهِ ٱلرَّحْمَٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيم

In the name of Allah, the most compassionate, most merciful

وَ الشَّمْسِ وَ ضُحاها ﴿1﴾

By the sun and her forenoon splendor,

وَ الْقَمَرِ إِذا تَلاها ﴿2﴾

by the moon when he follows her,

وَ النَّهارِ إِذا جَلاَّها ﴿3﴾

by the day when it reveals her,

وَ اللَّيْلِ إِذا يَغْشاها ﴿4﴾

by the night when it covers her,

وَ السَّماءِ وَ ما بَناها ﴿5﴾

by the sky and Him who built it,

وَ الْأَرْضِ وَ ما طَحاها ﴿6﴾

by the earth and Him who spread it,

وَ نَفْسٍ وَ ما سَوَّاها ﴿7﴾

by the soul and Him who fashioned it,

فَأَلْهَمَها فُجُورَها وَ تَقْواها ﴿8﴾

and inspired it with [discernment between] its virtues and vices:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاها ﴿9﴾

one who purifies it is felicitous,

وَ قَدْ خابَ مَنْ دَسَّاها ﴿10﴾

and one who betrays it fails.

كَذَّبَتْ ثَمُودُ بِطَغْواها ﴿11﴾

The [people of] Thamoud denied [Allah’s signs] out of their rebellion,

إِذِ انْبَعَثَ أَشْقاها ﴿12﴾

when the most wretched of them rose up.

فَقالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ناقَةَ اللَّهِ وَ سُقْياها ﴿13﴾

But then the apostle of Allah said to them,” Let Allah’s she-camel drink!”

فَكَذَّبُوهُ فَعَقَرُوها فَدَمْدَمَ عَلَيْهِمْ رَبُّهُمْ بِذَنْبِهِمْ فَسَوَّاها ﴿14﴾

But they impugned him and then hamstrung her, so their Lord took them unawares by night because of their sin, and levelled it.

وَ لا يَخافُ عُقْباها ﴿15﴾

And He does not fear its outcome.

Surahs with oaths

  • There are surahs where there is only one oath, such as surah al-Asr (103):

وَالْعَصْرِ ﴿1﴾

By time! 1

  • Where there are two oaths:

وَالضُّحَىٰ ﴿1﴾

By the morning brightness,

وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا سَجَىٰ ﴿2﴾

and by the night when it is calm. 2

  • Three oaths:

وَالْعَادِيَاتِ ضَبْحًا ﴿1﴾

By the (Steeds) that run, with panting (breath),

فَالْمُورِيَاتِ قَدْحًا ﴿2﴾

and strike sparks of fire,

فَالْمُغِيرَاتِ صُبْحًا ﴿3﴾

and push home the charge in the morning. 3

  • Four oaths:

وَالتِّينِ وَالزَّيْتُونِ ﴿1﴾

By the fig and the olive,

وَطُورِ سِينِينَ ﴿2﴾

and the mount of Sinai,

وَهَـٰذَا الْبَلَدِ الْأَمِينِ ﴿3﴾

and this City of security. 4

  • and five:

وَالْفَجْرِ ﴿1﴾

By the dawn,

وَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ ﴿2﴾

by the ten nights,

وَالشَّفْعِ وَالْوَتْرِ ﴿3﴾

by the Even and the Odd,

وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ ﴿4﴾

by the night when it departs! 5

  • The only surah where there are eleven solemn oaths is surah ash-Shams. What does God want to convey.

Ash-Shams and the sure way to salvation

A fundamental question that people have been in search of all through history is what leads to their salvation. How should one shape his life and basically how should one live, so that eventually he would end up happily ever after?

The Quran provides the answer. Pay attention to the choice of words.

یا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ارْكَعُوا وَاسْجُدُوا وَاعْبُدُوا رَبَّكُمْ وَافْعَلُوا الْخَيْرَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ ﴿77﴾

O you who have faith! Bow down and prostrate yourselves, and worship your Lord, and do good, so that you may be felicitous. 6

Acts of righteousness “may” get you to happiness yet there is a sure way introduced to us in surah ash-Shams:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاها ﴿9﴾

One who purifies it is (definitely) felicitous,

After nine times swearing by the jewels of the universe, such as the life-giving sun, moon, the day, the night, the sky and the earth, God swears by the soul and informs us of a liberating news in surah ash-Shams. He has inspired this soul with a precious gift: its ability in discerning between its virtues and vices 7 . However, there is a condition. It needs to be purified.

Practical steps into attaining felicity

Elsewhere the noble Quran interprets the definition of purifying one’s soul as the means of attaining felicity.

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْمُؤْمِنُونَ ﴿1﴾

Certainly, the faithful have attained salvation. 8

Surah ash-Shams and salvation

What are the qualities of the faithful? 9

Surah ash-Shams and the qualities of the faithful

So many restrictions to purify one’s soul!

One may say that it is such a hard thing to purify one’s soul. It entails a lot of restrictions and many acts on the part of the purifier. One has to give from one’s wealth to others; when it is praying time, he/she has to leave what is one doing and start to pray, restrain one’s eyes from enjoying so many fun scenes, limit one’s sexual relationship with others and even watch what one says. These are so difficult.

When you go to university, you have to pay for tuition, force yourself out of your warm bed on cold winter days, take a shower, get dressed, spend about an hour getting to your class, stay concentrated on the subject matter for two hours and spend many sleepless nights for exams. Isn’t that difficult?! But it is worth it. When you get your degree, you have more qualifications, can get a better job and earn more money. How is that?

The same story goes for the soul

There are three gains in purifying the soul:

  1. The power of discerning between right and wrong:
    When one takes care of one’s soul and protects it against rusting and all other kinds of unwanted filth, it acts as an accurate compass, leading one in the dark stormy moments of life to the safe shore.
  2. More material and spiritual growth:
    God says in the noble Quran,

مَن جَاءَ بِالْحَسَنَةِ فَلَهُ عَشْرُ أَمْثَالِهَا

Whoever brings virtue shall receive [a reward] ten times its like. 10

Elsewhere we read:

قُلْ يَا عِبَادِ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ ۚ لِلَّذِينَ أَحْسَنُوا فِي هَـٰذِهِ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةٌ ۗ وَأَرْضُ اللَّـهِ وَاسِعَةٌ ۗ إِنَّمَا يُوَفَّى الصَّابِرُونَ أَجْرَهُم بِغَيْرِ حِسَابٍ ﴿10﴾

Say, ‘[Allah declares:] “O My servants who have faith! Be wary of your Lord. For those who do good in this world there will be a good [reward], and Allah’s earth is vast. Indeed the patient will be paid in full their reward without any reckoning.” ’ 11

3. And everlasting felicity:

قَدْ أَفْلَحَ مَنْ زَكَّاها ﴿9﴾

one who purifies it is felicitous,

How fake deities (Taqut) define felicity?

In the story of Prophet Moses (AS) and his confrontation with the magicians, the pharaoh, the super power of his time, tells them:

فَأَجْمِعُوا كَيْدَكُمْ ثُمَّ ائْتُوا صَفًّا ۚ وَقَدْ أَفْلَحَ الْيَوْمَ مَنِ اسْتَعْلَىٰ ﴿64﴾

“Therefore concert your plan, and then assemble in (serried) ranks: He wins (all along) today who gains the upper hand.” 12

Winning at any cost and reaching one’s aim, be it standing against the truth to prove one’s power, is defined as victory and felicity. However, the question is, how far reaching is your aim? Does it include merely this material life? How about the eternal abode? What are your provisions for then?

Surah ash-Shams: manifestation of creation of pairs

As a general rule in the manifestations of nature, we see the existence of pairs as exemplified in surah ash-Shams. It mentions the sun and the moon, the night and the day and the earth and the sky. Elsewhere the noble Quran attests to this fact:

وَمِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَا زَوْجَيْنِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ ﴿49﴾

In all things We have created pairs so that you may take admonition. 13

In the same way that either member of a pair needs its complement to become meaningful, the world that we live in also is incomplete unless it is viewed together with its complement: the Day of Reward and Punishment. That is where one sees the result of the purification of one’ soul.

When only one individual takes up an action, but a whole community has to suffer…

Imam Ali (as) has said:

“… only one individual killed the camel of Thamood, but Allah punished all of them, because all of them joined him by their acquiescing in their contentment to it. Thus, Allah, the glorified has said:

فَعَقَرُوهَا فَأَصْبَحُوا نَادِمِينَ ﴿157﴾

But they hamstrung her, whereupon they became regretful. 14

As mentioned in commentaries, Allah sent an equal destruction upon them all so that no one could escape.

One cannot be living in a society and claim that I will only care about my own life and all else is insignificant to me. A society is like a ship that a group of individuals are sailing in. They are all moving towards one destination, hence, one cannot embark on digging a hole and claim that I am only destroying my own spot.

Surah ash-Shams and the people of Thamud

The people of Thamud were a tribe skillful in making magnificent stone houses in northern regions of the Arabian Peninsula. Archaeological findings have confirmed their existence. Some exegetes including Allamah Tabataba’ie take verse 80 in surah Hijr to refer to the people of Thamud who denied every apostle coming to enjoin them to the right:

وَ لَقَدْ كَذَّبَ أَصْحابُ الْحِجْرِ الْمُرْسَلينَ ﴿80﴾

Certainly the inhabitants of Hijr denied the apostles. 15

Surah ash-Shams and the miracle for the people of Thamud

The people of Thamud have been referred to as polytheists in the Quran for whom Prophet Salih (AS) came as a messenger and guide. They asked for a miracle and God gifted them with a she-camel they were ordered to respect and allow to have access to their water supply every other day.

The day that the she-camel drank from the water, she produced abundant milk for the people of the tribe. Despite all the blessings they received from this divine miracle, they hamstrung her and were given three last days to live and hopefully repent.

فَلَمَّا جَاءَ أَمْرُنَا نَجَّيْنَا صَالِحًا وَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَعَهُ بِرَحْمَةٍ مِّنَّا وَمِنْ خِزْيِ يَوْمِئِذٍ ۗ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ الْقَوِيُّ الْعَزِيزُ ﴿66﴾

So when Our edict came, We delivered Salih and the faithful who were with him by a mercy from Us and from the [punishment and] disgrace of that day. Your Lord is indeed the All-strong, the All-mighty.

وَأَخَذَ الَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا الصَّيْحَةُ فَأَصْبَحُوا فِي دِيَارِهِمْ جَاثِمِينَ ﴿67﴾

The Cry seized those who were wrongdoers, and they lay lifeless prostrate in their homes. 16

The virtue of reciting Surah ash-Shams

The messenger of God (S) says about surah ash-Shams,

“He who recites it (Surah ash-Shams) is like he who has given charity (in the way of Allah) to all things that the sun and the moon shine upon.” 17

Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (AS) says,

The body limbs and the adjacent objects near he who recites surah ash-Shams will testify in favor of him on Judgement Day and God, the Almighty, shall say to them, ‘I will accept your testimony about my servant and shall reward him. Accompany him to heaven and he shall select that which pleases him.’ 18

According to other narrations, the recitation of surah ash-Shams is also beneficial for increasing one’s memory, sustenance and popularity in the eyes of people.


References

  1. [103:1] Qarai translation.
  2. [93:1-2] Qarai translation.
  3. [100:1-3] Yusuf Ali translation.
  4. [95:1-3] Yusuf Ali translation.
  5. [89:1-4] Qarai translation.
  6. [22:77] Qarai translation.
  7. [91:8]
  8. [23:1] Qarai translation.
  9. Refer to the noble Quran [23:1-9].
  10. [6:160] Qarai translation.
  11. [30:10] Qarai translation.
  12. [20:64] Yusuf Ali translation.
  13. [51:49] Qarai translation.
  14. [26:157] Qarai translation.
  15. Qarai translation.
  16. [11:65-67] Qarai translation.
  17. Majma’ al-Bayan, vol. 10, p. 496.
  18. Thawab al-‘Amal, p. 123.

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Radiyah Shameli
Radiyah Shameli
I am Radiyah Shameil. I write for the blog and am a team member in providing content for courses on “Family in the Quran”. I have a Ph.D. in Islamic studies and am a researcher in the field of women and family in Islam. I teach and research mostly in this area. Currently, I am working on the course “Family in the Quran” and “Parenting”

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