Surah ad-Duhaa – the morning after night

وَالضُّحَىٰ
وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا سَجَىٰ
مَا وَدَّعَكَ رَبُّكَ وَمَا قَلَىٰ
By the morning brightness
And by the night when it is still (or darkens);
Your Lord (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him)) has neither forsaken you nor hated you.
[The opening of Surah ad-Duhaa]

Surah ad-Duhaa is an incredibly uplifting Surah, and was revealed at a time when revelation had paused. During this time, the pagans would mock the Prophet (ﷺ) saying that his God had forsaken him, leaving to face his hardships alone and unaided. It was then that this treasure was sent down, with powerful imagery and a consolation that is wholesome, optimistic and revitalising. What follows below are tafaseer which comment on this in much more eloquence than I am capable of.

Syed Abul’Ala Mawdudi explains:

“…This was the state when this Surah was sent down to console the Holy Prophet. In it, swearing an oath by the light of the day and the peacefulness of the night, he has been told: “Your Lord has neither forsaken you, nor is He displeased with you.” The relevance of the oath by these two things to the theme is: “Just as brightening up of the day and spreading of the night with darkness and stillness is not for the reason that Allah is pleased with the people during the day and displeased with them during the night but both states are based on supreme wisdom and expedience, so sending down of revelation to you at one-time and suspending it at another time, also is based on wisdom and expedience; it has nothing to do with Allah’s being pleased with you when He sends down revelation and his being displeased with you when He suspends it. Besides, another relevance of the oath to the subject is that if man is constantly exposed to the light of days it wearies him; so, it is necessary that night should fall after the day has remained bright for a certain period so that man may have rest and peace in it. Likewise, if you are constantly exposed to the light of revelation, your nerves would not stand it. Therefore, fatrah (break or gap in the revelation) also has been provided by Allah on account of expedience so that the effects of the strain of revelation that you have to bear pass away and complete peace is restored to you. In other words, rising of the sun of -revelation is analogous to the bright day and the period of the fatrah to the stillness and peace of the night.”

[Tafheem al-Quran]

Ameen Ahsan Islahi also expounds on this:

“الضُّحَىٰ refers to the time of mid-morning when people begin their daily routines and after resting the whole night start their day with a new vigour.

The Qur’ān has presented the night as an evidence on various aspects depending upon the context, as is evident from this tafsīr. Here the wordsِ إِذَا سَجَىٰ qualify it. The word سَجَىٰ َ means “to become stationary” and “to come to a standstill”. This shows that that part of the night is implied here which becomes still and silent from the noise and clatter of the day and of the early part of the night and is able to provide comfort to man. In other words, in contrast to the part of the day which is referred to by the word الضُّحَىٰ َ
the words وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا سَجَىٰ refer to the corresponding part of the night.

A little deliberation shows that the day and the night are totally different from one another with regard to their outlook, nature and the effects they produce; however, despite this difference, man needs both, and this world, in its collective capacity, also needs both the night and the day for its sustenance. It is God’s great mercy that He created the night with the day and the day with the night, and both work in complement to each other to keep this world in existence. The Qur’ān has referred to this complementary nature of day and night at various instances:

He it is who has made the night dark for you so that you can receive
comfort in it and made the day bright. (10:67)

And of His mercy is that He has made the night and day so that you
can receive comfort in the night and seek His bounty in the day so
that you become grateful [to Him]. (28:73)

It is to validate this premise that oaths are sworn by various phenomena of the physical world in the previous verses. The implication is that just as in this world the heat and light of the sun are essential and so are the darkness and stillness of the night, in a similar manner, the trials of happiness and sorrow, ease and difficulty, affluence and poverty are essential for the spiritual and moral development of man. It is through these circumstances that the Almighty tests a person whether he becomes thankful in hard times and patient in bad ones. In other words, the Prophet (sws) is assured that if at that time he was facing stiff opposition and had little following and meager resources and divine guidance and revelation were also not to his satisfaction, then this does not mean that his Lord had abandoned him or was displeased with him: these circumstances are a trial and test to train and instruct him in order to fully prepare him to bear his responsibilities.”

[Taddabur-e-Quran]

Syed Qutb describes it too, in his tafseer:

“This sūrah, in subject matter, expression, images, connotations and rhythm provides a touch of tenderness and mercy. It is a message of affection, the touch of a benevolent hand to soothe pain and remove hardship. At the same time, it generates an air of contentment and confident hope.

The sūrah is dedicated in its entirety to the Prophet (peace be upon him). It is a message from his Lord which touches his heart with pleasure, joy, tranquillity and contentment. All-in-all, it proffers mercy and compassion to his restless soul and suffering heart.

Several accounts mention that the revelation of the Qur’ān to the Prophet came, at one stage, to a halt and that the angel Gabriel stopped coming to him for a while. The unbelievers therefore said, “Muĥammad’s Lord has bidden him farewell!” God therefore revealed this sūrah.

Revelation, Gabriel’s visits and the link with God were the Prophet’s whole equipment along his precarious path. They were his only solace in the face of hard rejection and his sole comfort against outright repudiation. They were the source from which he derived his strength to stand steadfast against the unbelievers who were intent on rebuff and refusal, and on directing a wicked, vile attack against the Prophet’s message and the faith he preached.

So when the revelation was withheld, the source of strength for the Prophet was cut off. His life spring was sapped and he longed for his heart’s friend. Alone he was left in the wilderness, without sustenance, water, or the accustomed companionship of his beloved friend. It was a situation which heavily taxed human endurance.

Then this sūrah was revealed and it came as a river of compassion, mercy, hope, comfort and reassurance. “Your Lord has neither forsaken you, nor does He hate you. Surely the life to come will be better for you than this present life. And, certainly, in time your Lord will be bounteous to you and you will be well pleased.” (Verses 3-5) Your Lord has never before left you or rejected you, or even denied you His mercy or protection. “Has He not found you an orphan and given you a shelter? And found you in error, and guided you? And found you poor and enriched you?” (Verses 6-8)

Do you not see the proof of all this in your own life? Do you not feel it in your heart? Do you not observe it in your world? Most certainly, “your Lord has neither forsaken you, nor does He hate you.” (Verse 3) Never was His mercy taken away from you and nor will it be. “Surely the life to come will be better for you than this present life.” (Verse 4) And there will be much more: “And, certainly, in time your Lord will be bounteous to you and you will be well pleased.” (Verse 5)

This statement, is given in the framework of a universal phenomenon: “By the bright morning hours, and the night when it grows still and dark.” (Verses 1-2) The expression spreads an air of affection, kindliness and complete satisfaction. “Your Lord has neither forsaken you, nor does He hate you. Surely the life to come will be better for you than this present life. And, certainly, in time your Lord will be bounteous to you and you will be well pleased. Has He not found you an orphan and given you a shelter? And found you in error, and guided you? And found you poor and enriched you?” (Verses 3-8) Such tenderness, mercy, satisfaction and solace are all felt in the sweet and soothing words which softly thread along the sūrah echoing the morning hours and still night, the times most conducive to clarity. During these periods one’s reflections flow like a stream, and the human soul is best able to communicate with the universe and its Creator. It feels the universe worshipping its Lord and turning towards Him in praise with joy and happiness. In addition, the night is described as growing still and dark. It is not the dark gloomy night as such but the still, clear and tranquil night, covered with a light cloud of sweet longing and kind reflection. It is a picture similar to that of the orphan’s life. More still, the night is cleared away by the crossing morning and thus the colours of the picture beautifully match those of the framework, making for perfect harmony.”

[Fee dhilal al-Quran]

So often do we succumb to struggles of life, so often are we left feeling abandoned and doomed. Yet the Quran eloquently, using only 3 short ayaat, powerfully enriches the believers’ spirits and reaffirms that our Rabb is All-Aware and that we need only to keep faith in Him, to entrust our affairs unto Him and to realise that what He does is in our best interests – whether we can understand this at the time, or not.

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