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Session Three: Oaths in the Qur’an

October 9, 2008


Alhamdulillah third day of class was last night, and I was literally blown away by the gem br Nouman shared with us subhanAllah…by far the best that I have heard. O Allah we ask You for the proper understanding of Your Book and Your Deen, Ameen.

Here it is:

Al-Aqsaam (Oaths) in the Qur’an

In the Qur’an, there is a relationship between oaths and what follows the oaths. When Allah ta’ala swears by something, it shows the importance of the object He is swearing by and that object will be elevated. Furthermore, whatever comes after the oath is very important as well. There are many examples in the Qur’an, here are two of them:

Allah ta’ala says in Suratul ‘Aadiyaat,

وَالْعَادِيَاتِ ضَبْحًا
فَالْمُورِيَاتِ قَدْحًا
فَالْمُغِيرَاتِ صُبْحًا
فَأَثَرْنَ بِهِ نَقْعًا
فَوَسَطْنَ بِهِ جَمْعًا

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

Striking sparks of fire (by their hooves),

And scouring to the raid at dawn

And raise the dust in clouds the while,

Penetrating forthwith as one into the midst (of the enemy). (100:1-5)

Makkee surahs have amazing imagery, and these first five verses are dedicated to horses in battle. Back in the day when there was no TV, movies, picture books, all that was available was one’s imagination, especially when the audience of the Qur’an were people from a desert with nothing to look at. Allah azza wa jal is painting a magnificient scene in the mind of the Quraysh:

The horses being described here are feminine (الْعَادِيَاتِ), why? The Arabs preferred the female horses in battle because they were faster. Allah azza wa jal is describing the horses in the morning time, when there is still moisture in the air and instead of the dust rising as it does in a desert, the moisture causes the dust to settle. Imagine: these horses who are fast by nature, running so fast that they are causing the dust to rise up–even with the moisture, sparks are flying even though there is moisture on the rocks, and they don’t see infront of them because of the dust in the air–not knowing if there is an enemy or spear waiting on the other side.

Think of the amazement of the non Muslims listening to the Prophet alayhi salaatu wa salaam recite these verses…Anyone amongst them who has a horse realized how loyal their horse is to them; how it will even die for its owner just out of submission to the master.

Then right after these amazing images, Allah ta’ala says:

إِنَّ الْإِنْسَانَ لِرَبِّهِ لَكَنُودٌ

Indeed man is not loyal to his Rabb! (100:6) Just as this horse submits to its master, going into the enemy range without even knowing what is there, completely loyal to the Master…Allah ta’ala reminds them: man is not loyal to his Rabb.

Not only that he’s not loyal but also:

وَإِنَّهُ عَلَىٰ ذَ‌ٰلِكَ لَشَهِيدٌ

And to that fact he bears witness (100:7)

Man bears witness to the fact that he is not loyal! He knows! How? Allah azza wa jal just reminded them of the loyalty of the steeds to their owner in the previous verses; if your horse submits to you, then why do you not submit to your Owner?


Another example of oaths in the Qur’an is Surah Mursalaat.

There is a difference of opinion if ‘mursalaat’ refers to angels or winds, but in a literary context, ‘winds’ is a more appropriate definition.

Allah azza wa jal says:

وَالْمُرْسَلَاتِ عُرْفًا and by the winds that scatter : ‘urf literally means the mane of a horse. If a horse has no reins, the rider only has the mane to hold on too, and if the rider let’s go, the horse will go wild.

This first ayah is showing how if Allah ta’ala let a wind go, it would spread wildly without control.

فَالْعَاصِفَاتِ عَصْفًاand by the winds that blow violently: the “fa” at the beginning of this verse shows reason, due too, because of the mursalaati ‘urfaa: al-‘aasifaati ‘asfa. ‘asf literally means inconsiderate movement, such as a bulldozer. (Think of a car coming straight at you on the highway, if that car doesn’t move, and rams right into you–that is ‘asf) It is a merciless wind that destroys everything in its path.

In these two verses, Allah ta’laa is talking about winds that brings destruction. Why? This is a makkee surah, and Allah ta’ala is reminding the Quraysh–those who mock at the Prophet sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam to bring the punishment–these winds of punishment CAN be let go and it has been done before, no intricate planning or arrangement is required for your destruction. In Suratul Haqqah, Allah ta’ala describes the scene of ‘Aad who were destroyed by a wind: for eight days their whole city were being tossed around like it was nothing.

Then Allah ta’ala says in the next ayah:

وَالنَّاشِرَاتِ نَشْرًا and by the winds that scatter: this ayah begins with a ‘wa’ so we know it is a new oath. Allah ta’ala swears by the winds that do nashr. Nashr means to spread randomly allover, such as the act of taking seeds and scattering them on the soil. An-naashiraat are those winds that distribute. What do they distribute? Clouds that bring the rain. If these winds did not distribute the clouds, then cities would suffer from drought. Modern science learns now that pollen is also distributed by winds, so without these winds there would be no vegetation. These naashiraat distribute from both the sky (rain) and the ground (vegetation).

This verse shows the life that the winds carry, while the first two verses displayed death and destruction.

Allah azza wa jal continues:

فَالْفَارِقَاتِ فَرْقًا and by those winds that separate: farq means to distribute and separate, with a very precise division.

These winds distribute mercy, just as the first two winds sent punishment. This verse shows us that all of these winds, either bringing mercy or punishment, are precisely distributed.

فَالْمُلْقِيَاتِ ذِكْرًاand by those that deliver a message: Both of these winds, the ones of mercy and the ones of destruction, carry a reminder for the people. The winds of mercy remind us that these winds bring rain, which is a rizq (provision) from the sky, showing we are totally dependent on Allah ta’ala, such as a man who is feeding a caged animal–the animal is totally dependent on the master. These verses remind us no matter how disobedient or how wild we are: we depend totally on Allah. When the rain falls from the sky that these winds have scattered, we see the dead earth being brought to life, reminding us that we will be resurrected just as the dead land.

These reminders are:

عُذْرًا أَوْ نُذْرًا as a justification or to warn: ‘uthra means to receive an excuse or a lesson, or an ignoring. There are two people mentioned in this verse: those who take a reminder of these winds, and those who ignore the reminder.

But either way:

إِنَّمَا تُوعَدُونَ لَوَاقِعٌ Surely, what you have been promised will definitely come to pass: the promise of the Day of Judgment, of Resurrection and the destruction of those who disobey Allah. Those who enjoy the mercy of these winds, the rain, the vegetation, the rizq, they will be destroyed.

May Allah ta’ala make us among those who benefit from the reminder, Ameen.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2008 12:20 pm

    as salamu`alayki

    SubhanAllah you have an amazingly beautiful blog mashaAllah.

  2. October 15, 2008 3:49 pm

    wa alayki assalam wa rahmatullah ukhtee,

    Right back at ya 🙂 wa lillahil hamd.

  3. sisterindeen permalink
    November 3, 2008 7:16 pm

    “if your horse submits to you, then why do you not submit to your Owner?”

    subhanAllah! Amazing!

  4. Nidaa permalink
    November 20, 2008 11:14 am

    Subhaanallaah, beautiful explanation.
    I’d like to know the source of this Tafseer though: a companion’s saying…?

  5. November 20, 2008 11:21 am

    ukhti Nidaa, if you look in any classical Arabic tafseer, you can find this explanation. Specifically, ibnul Qayyim rahimahullah has a small treatise on Aqsaam in the Qur’an, and it can also be found there. here it is: wa Allahu a’lam.

  6. Abdullah Shaikh permalink
    September 8, 2009 8:01 am

    “and by those that deliver a message”..

    does this imply the phenomenon that it is air which is responsible for sound (messages) propagation. Sound waves can only travel through air (or wind) , the corollary for which is that sound cannot travel in vaccum.

    Therefore, winds are mediums through which messages are delievered.

    Just wondering…

    Subhan Allah

  7. February 20, 2013 11:49 pm

    Reblogged this on Seeking Knowledge to know Allah.

  8. Mohammed Iqbal Essa permalink
    July 3, 2018 6:11 am


    In my humble view, in Suratul ‘Aadiyaat, Allah SWT is reminding us that the horses plunge themselves into the battle at the command of their masters without thinking about their fate that may follow. This is an example of unparalleled loyalty and total submission exemplified by the horses for their masters. Now, because Allah SWT stamps his Oath on the action of these horses, Allah SWT is reminding us that we (Maumins) too should plunge ourselves into action without flinching / hesitation for the cause of Allah SWT. As such, our lives should at all times be lived at the total command of Allah SWT, exemplified to us so perfectly by our beloved Nabi-e-Karim Prophet Muhammad SAW.

    In the following surat وَالنَّاشِرَاتِ نَشْرًاi where Allah SWT proclaims another Oath, where he is reminding us of his power through winds and clouds that he is the Supreme Mater in Control of all matters, the mankind should therefore not step-out of line and should at all times know that Allah SWT is his Supreme Creator and Master and to whom we shall all return to and be accountable for every action and inaction we have done in this world.

    May Allah SWT gives us all greater understanding so that we submit to his will at all times.

    I sign off in full knowledge that our Creator and Master, Allah SWT, knows best.

    I offer my sincere Salaams and Duaas to All.

    Your humble brother in Islam

    Iqbal Essa – UK


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