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Chapter 86: At-Tariq (The Comer by Night)
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Chapter 86:

The Comer by Night

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful.

  1. By the heaven and the Comer by night!
  2. And what will make thee know what the Comer by night is?
  3. The star of piercing brightness —
  4. There is not a soul but over it is a keeper.
  5. So let man consider of what he is created.
  6. He is created of water pouring forth,
  7. Coming from beneath the back and the ribs.
  8. Surely He is able to return him (to life).
  9. On the day when hidden things are manifested,
  10. Then he will have no strength nor helper.
  11. By the cloud giving rain,
  12. And the earth opening (with herbage):
  13. Surely it is a decisive word,
  14. And it is not a joke.
  15. Surely they plan a plan,
  16. And I plan a plan.
  17. So grant the disbelievers a respite — let them alone for a while.

This chapter, At-Tariq (The Comer by Night), was revealed in the holy city of Makkah and in this chapter, great emphasis has been laid on the fact that deeds are never destroyed. In this chapter, too, we learn further that Allah has provided the necessary arrangements for the preservation of man's deeds upon which his future life hinges and it was to manifest this truth that our Holy Prophet (sas) was sent to this world. So Allah says:

1-4. By the heaven and the Comer by night!
And what will make thee know what the Comer by night is?
The star of piercing brightness -
There is not a soul but over it is a keeper.

Here, "guarding" or "keeping" refers to the preservation of actions as is evident from these verses of the Holy Qur'an:

And surely there are keepers over you, honourable recorders (82:10-11).

In the Arabic language, at-ta-riq means the one who comes at night and knocks at the door to awaken the sleeping ones regardless of whether he has come as a guest or for some other purpose. The authentic commentators of the Holy Qur'an have applied this designation to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas) because he had appeared at a time when the world was steeped in pitch darkness and misguidance. This is quite true, but what is the meaning of swearing by the evidence of the heavens? Just as at-Tariq (the Comer by night) makes evident one aspect of the Holy Prophet's glory, in the same way the heavens make manifest another side of his magnificent lustre. In short, anyone who comes by night and knocks at the door can do so for two reasons: he can come for some need of his own or else to warn the sleeping ones of some imminent danger. One can come at night for some compelling reason - either for the caller to satisfy a personal need, or to benefit those who are in deep sleep behind closed doors. And having perceived this, someone may come in the nick of time to give warning and to alert the sleepers by knocking at the door.

Let us emphasise here that the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas) on this night of error and misguidance, and his awakening of the people of the world who were heedless and in deep sleep, was not for any personal benefit of his. Rather, it was only the mercy and compassion of the Creator of the worlds that commanded that he knock at the doors of those negligent ones and wake them up from their sleep and warn them of their evil end; for let it be known that so powerful was the connection of the Holy Prophet with Allah, Most High, and so far removed was he from the ambitions and passions of this world, that if, on account of this sublime exaltation and self-effacement in Allah he were to be called "Heaven", it would not be an exaggeration. And just as no damage is done to heaven by any destruction on earth, so, too, what harm can come to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas) from the destruction and deviation of the people of this world? In fact, so intense was his compassion and mercy for Allah's creation that, eschewing all personal ease and comfort, he came on this black night of corruption to wake up the heedless ones from their slumber by knocking repeatedly on their doors and trying ceaselessly to make these negligent people avert a bitter end.

Hazrat Shah Wali'ullah related a vision of his thus:

“There appeared before me the form of a triangle whose base was pointed upwards and its apex downwards like this:

Triangle, apex downwards

The figure then disappeared and another triangle appeared, but this time, the apex was above and the base below like this:

Triangle, apex upwards 

Then, this figure, too, disappeared and was replaced by a rectangular form like this:


Then, this, too, vanished and after that, the Holy Prophet (sas) came into view. He asked me: 'Do you know the meaning of these figures?'

I replied in the affirmative saying that those figures were really a manifestation of the Holy Prophet himself, whereupon he asked me to elucidate. I explained that the meaning of the first figure,

Triangle, apex downwards

was that His Excellency (that is, the Holy Prophet) had formed such a strong connection with the Above, that is, Allah, that his self-extinction was complete and so elevated was his degree of self-annihilation that it appeared as if he had no connection with the lower region, that is, Allah's creation on earth. (The point at the apex of the triangle signifies non-existence.)

The second figure, which was like this:

Triangle, apex upwards

meant that His Excellency was so lost in his love and compassion for Allah's creatures that it seemed as if he had no connection with the upper world.

The third symbol,


that is, the rectangle, signified that His Highness' connection with Allah on the one hand, and his tenderness and solicitude for mankind on the other, had reached such a point of perfection that it seemed as if both loves had coalesced into one, and this indeed is the magnificence of a true and perfect intercessor.

On receiving this reply, the Holy Prophet (sas) smiled and said: 'O Wali'ullah, you are extremely intelligent and your understanding is excellent.' ”

Thus, here, too, in the words, By the heaven and the Comer by night, we find a perfect manifestation of these two aspects of the Holy Prophet's glory — on the one hand, so complete was his connection with Allah and his self-effacement in Him that he was, as it were, Heaven, as regards spirituality, and so completely independent was he of all worldly needs — in fact, his love for mankind was so consuming, that he gave precedence to this work over all his personal needs - that on this night of error and misguidance he abandoned all concerns for his own peace and tranquillity to run hither and thither knocking at the doors of those negligent, sleeping people so that they may not be destroyed and may not ruin this present life of theirs and the next.

These Arabs were people whose hospitality was legendary, yet when the guest of Allah appeared amongst them they snubbed him and treated him with contempt, even though he came for their benefit and at the most opportune moment, too! At this time, when the world was stumbling about in the darkness of error and there was an urgent need of heavenly light, he came and made his appearance like a star of piercing brilliance and brought with him his heavenly light and guidance, the gist of which was, And there is not a soul but there is a keeper over it, telling the world that man, even after he dies, does not become extinct, but, in fact, his future existence was preserved within his deeds and thus he should rectify and strengthen his actions so that the next life, which is the real and eternal one, may be filled with peace and happiness for him.

This is a subtle point which every human being should constantly keep in mind and make his heartfelt ambition. Thus, as it were, the true purpose of the Holy Prophet's being sent to this world was to impress on people that they should focus their attention on good deeds, for on this depended the fate of their future life.

This, then, was the guidance and the light of his nature which appeared in this dark world much like a brilliant star from which people receive light in their darkness and direction, too.

5-7. So let man consider of what he is created.
He is created of water pouring forth,
Coming from beneath the back and the ribs.

There is a reason for this description which is connected with the verses above, and that is, that in the verses quoted above, it has been pointed out that man's deeds are being kept preserved for his future life, for these very deeds are like hidden seed for his next life - whether this is a visible seed from which his present existence came into being, or whether it is a latent seed of deeds from which his future life will be built.

Man, in his negligence, treats both kinds of seed in a careless and offhand manner. Little does he care that the essence of a human being is contained in this sperm, which if kept well-preserved in the womb, eventually gives birth to a new life and existence. In like manner, he gives little consideration to his deeds.

Each day provides testimony that just as a man pays no importance to the discharge of his visible seed and he evinces no caution or prudence in sowing this seed, so, too, does he behave as regards his actions, although these very actions are like hidden seed for his future life and which, if kept safe like the physical sperm, will form the basis on which his life hereafter will be fashioned.

Every sensible person knows that if human sperm is saved from destruction and is preserved in the womb then it will be the cause of a new life coming into existence. That is, a new life from a sperm-drop depends solely on keeping it safe.

Accordingly, Allah announces here that to create our future existence, He has made distinct and ample provision for the preservation of deeds: a record is being kept of whatever action man performs and this is being well-guarded, too.

Thus, man should ponder on the semen and the life that comes from it and should perform his duties with due care and deliberation because every deed of his acts like a seed for his future life and all his deeds are being well-preserved. And since the birth of his next life and existence is already well-established, it is hardly necessary for me to repeat that investigations of scientific researchers have also proven this very point, that every word and action of ours is being recorded in the ether.

Nothing is destroyed. Instead, everything is being preserved. And this is what the Almighty is telling us, together with the fact that these recorded deeds act as the seed and semen of our life in the hereafter. And this is a fact, for the preservation of deeds must have some purpose and result, and that is the life hereafter.

8. Surely He is able to return him (to life).

Today, scientists are lamenting the fact that we do not possess the means of reading the hidden book that is being recorded in the ether otherwise we would have been able to tell the true history of the world. Let alone their reading it, look how subtly Almighty God has informed us that to reproduce for us the entire book of our deeds is easy for Him for there is no difficulty in bringing back something that is well-guarded.

Take, for example, the gramophone by means of which voices are preserved. On a black disk are recorded the softest words which no one can read, yet when it is placed on a sound box and spun, every word is recalled and comes alive and every word which is spoken or sung can be heard. And, so, if man can bring back his recorded voice, is it difficult for Almighty God to reproduce His preserved book of records? Indeed, this is a secret which is still impossible for man to unravel.

9-10. On the day when hidden things are manifested,
Then he will have no strength nor helper.

Allah says that one day this secret will be disclosed and the book of deeds will be brought back. But on that day, man will have no intrinsic power to save himself from the consequence of those deeds, nor will there be any external helper to save him from the evil repercussions of his actions. Thus, man should be extremely careful when he is filling the record with deeds. Even when making an ordinary speech, see how careful a man is. And at the time of filming a motion picture, look at how cautious an actor is for he knows that every act of his will be revealed again, and publicly, too. So consider then, how great the need is for caution in man regarding this extraordinary Divine record, for remember, the Holy Qur'an warns us: So he who does an atom's weight of good will see it, and he who does an atom's weight of evil will see it (99:7-8).

11-14. By the cloud giving rain,
And the earth opening (with herbage):
Surely it is a decisive word,
And it is not a joke.

Allah says here that the preservation of deeds is a serious and decisive matter and certainly not a groundless assertion. In this very world, He discloses to us to some extent the consequences of actions. For example, just as when rain falls the seeds that are beneath the soil burst and sprout into luxurious vegetation, so, too, when Allah's prophet comes into the world, he brings a spiritual rain which enlivens and causes to flourish the capacities that lie latent in the hearts of men. As a result, there bursts forth and comes into view, in the record of deeds for each person, whatever kind of seed is preserved and hidden in his heart, whether good or bad. So, the deeds of men, whether good or evil, flourish on this very earth and bring forth in a small measure their own fruits and consequences. Thus, up to a limit, a picture of Judgement Day is seen right here, and in this very world we get a sight of the triumph and success that attend good deeds and the destruction and abasement that result from evil deeds. And all this happens so as to provide convincing and irrefutable proof of the consequences of actions and of the reality of the next life. So, for our benefit, this example is also most beautifully exemplified in the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas).

15-17. Surely they plan a plan,
And I plan a plan.
So grant the disbelievers a respite — let them alone for a while.

Allah says that the unbelievers are continually engaged in devising stratagems for the destruction of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sas) and his mission, but He, Allah, is also making plans for the preservation and victory of Islam. So the consequences will be seen after a while - that is, who will be triumphant and who will become useless and ruined. It takes time for a seed to grow into a tree. Therefore, some time should be allowed for the unbelievers' deeds to grow and bear fruit and from the record of their deeds they will come to know that the preservation of deeds is an indisputable fact and thus, however short it may be, a respite should be given. Now, it is also an indisputable fact that Prophet Muhammad's swift and total victory over his enemies is unparalleled in the annals of religious history. In fact, this respite was not long, but in a very short space of time their deeds bore their own fruit.

In short, as regards the preservation of deeds, in this chapter the philosophical and scientific arguments are put forward and then examples from natural phenomena and the visible laws they obey are presented as evidence by Allah. Then He makes this open proclamation to the opponents and objectors that in this very life He will expose to view, to some degree, the consequences of whatever evil plans they were hatching against Muhammad (sas), the Messenger of Allah. And He will cause them to taste and to see, in this very world, a little of the fruits of their deeds so that they may obtain certain knowledge of this fact that deeds definitely carry their own consequences. So, in order that these consequences may not be attributed to the vagaries of time, He has therefore made this prophecy long in advance, at the same time issuing the challenge that they should put all their effort into their secret plots and stratagems to forestall whatever repercussions He had prophesied. On the other hand, He Himself has a plan and that is simply that in a short while they will taste, right here on earth, some of the consequences of their actions. After this announcement, you will observe that in spite of all their exertions, the aftermath of their deeds was so frighteningly destructive that all their plans were ground to dust. The bad met their fate and the good received their reward - which served to prove and to establish and to provide tangible evidence that deeds are preserved and that actions bear fruit - and all this was made in the announcement long before the events came to pass.

In addition to the deeper meanings given above, the verses,

By the cloud giving rain,
And the earth opening (with herbage)

contain many profound and subtle proofs concerning the everlasting nature of human life and the consequences of actions, also. In the coming of rain again and again from the heavens there is irrefutable proof that just as water turns into vapour and is never destroyed, but only its form is altered, and when Allah wills, these vapours return as rain from the clouds and fall down upon the earth as water again, similarly, the soul of man, when separated from his body, does not become extinct but only its condition is changed and it will return to Allah at an appointed time.

Indeed, just as rain water, in addition to earthly properties, contain heavenly ones which contain within themselves life and the potential for growth, in the same way, the soul of man, at the time of its return to its Lord, will also include traces of heavenly influence and life.

The second point of comparison is that just as seeds sprout from the earth and when mixed with rain water grow luxuriantly and bear fruit according to their God-given nature, in like manner, in the Hereafter, the seed of deeds together with the human soul which contains the potential of a heavenly life, will combine and sprout and flourish and will bear fruit, each according to its deeds, and thus will the life after death be fashioned.

Next: Chapter 87: Al-Ala (The Most High)
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