The Surah takes its name Ad-Duha from the very first word.
Period of Revelation
Its subject matter clearly indicates that it belongs to the earliest period at Makkah. Traditions also show that the revelations were suspended for a time, which caused the Holy Prophet (upon whom be Allah's peace) to be deeply distressed and grieved. On this account he felt very anxious that perhaps he had committed some error because of which his Lord had become angry with him and had forsaken him. Thereupon he was given the consolation that revelation had not been stopped because of some displeasure but this was necessitated by the same expediency as underlies the peace and stillness of the night after the bright day, as if to say: "If you had continuously been exposed to the intensely bright light of Revelation (Wahi) your nerves could not have endured it. Therefore, an interval was given in order to afford you peace and tranquility." This state was experienced by the Holy Prophet in the initial stage of the Prophethood when he was not yet accustomed to hear the intensity of Revelation. On this basis, observance of a pause in between was necessary. This we have already explained in the introduction to Surah Al Muddaththir; and in E. N. 5 of Surah Al-Muzzammil also we have explained what great burden of the coming down of Revelation he had to bear. Later, when the Holy Prophet developed the power to bear this burden, there was no longer any need for long gaps.
Theme and Subject Matter
Its theme is to console the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) and its object to remove his anxiety and distress, which he had been caused by the suspension of Revelation. First of all, swearing an oath by the bright morning and the stillness of night, he has been reassured, so as to say: "Your Lord has not at all forsaken you, nor is he displeased with you." Then, he has been given the good news that the hardships that he was experiencing in the initial stage of his mission, would not last long, for every later period of life for him would be better than the former period, and before long Allah would bless him so abundantly that he would be well pleased. This is one of the express prophecies of the Quran, which proved literally true, afterwards, whereas when this prophecy was made there seemed not to be the remotest chance that the helpless and powerless man who had come out to wage a war against the ignorance and paganism of the entire nation, would ever achieve such wonderful success.
Then, addressing His Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) Allah says:"O My dear Prophet, what has caused you the anxiety and distress that your Lord has forsaken you, and that We are displeased with you? Whereas the fact is that We have been good to you with kindness after kindness ever since the day of your birth. You were born an orphan, We made the best arrangement for your upbringing and care: you were unaware of the Way, We showed you the Way; you were indigent, We made you rich. All this shows that you have been favored by Us from the very beginning and Our grace and bounty has been constantly focused on you."Here, one should also keep in view vv. 37-42 of Surah Ta Ha, where Allah, while sending the Prophet Moses to confront a tyrant like Pharaoh, encouraged and consoled him, saying: "We have been looking after you with kindness ever since your birth; therefore, you should be satisfied that you will not be left alone in this dreadful mission. Our bounty will constantly be with you."
In conclusion, Allah has instructed His Prophet (upon whom be peace) telling him how he should treat the creatures of God to repay for the favors He has done him and how he should render thanks for the blessings He has bestowed on him.
Here, the word duha has been used in contrast to the night; therefore, it implies the bright hours of the day. A precedent of it are vv. 97-98 of Surah Al-A'raf, which say: Do the people of the settlements now feel secure that Our punishment will not come to them all of a sudden at night, while they might be fast asleep? Or, do they feel secure that Our punishment will not smite them all of a sudden during the day while they might be engaged in pastimes?" In these verses also since the word duha has been used in contrast to the night, it implies the day and not just forenoon.
2The word raja in the original does not only signify the spreading of darkness but it also contains the meaning of stillness and peace that prevails at night. This quality of night deeply relates to the theme that follows.
3Traditions show that Revelations to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) had remained suspended. for some period of time. Different traditions have mentioned different durations of this period. Ibn Juraij has mentioned it to be 12 days, Kalbi 15 days, Ibn 'Abbas 25 days, and Suddi and Muqatil have stated that it extended to 40 days. In any case the period was so long that it made the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) sorrowful, and the opponents also had the opportunity to taunt him. For whenever a new Surah came down, the Holy Prophet would recite it before the people. Therefore, when he did not recite any new Revelation to them for quite some days, the opponents thought that the fountainhead from where the revelation came, had dried up. Jundub bin 'Abdullah al-Bajali has related that when Gabriel (peace he on him) stopped coming, the pagans started saying that Muhammad (upon whom be Allah's peace and blessings) had been forsaken by his Lord. (Ibn Jarir, Tabarani, 'Abd bin Humaid, Sa'id bin Mansur, Ibn Marduyah). Other traditions show that Umm Jamil, wife of Abu Lahab, who was an aunt of the Holy Prophet and whose house adjoined his, said to him: "It appears your satan has forsaken you." `Aufi and Ibn Jarir have related, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas, that when Gabriel did not visit him for several days, the Holy Prophet became anxious and distressed, and the pagans began to say that his Lord had become angry with him and had forsaken him. In the mursal traditions of Qatadah and Dahhak almost the same theme has been expressed. The Holy Prophet's extreme grief and anguish in this condition has also been referred to in several traditions. And this was natural. The apparent indifference on the part of the beloved, the apparent deprivation of the contact with the source of power, which was his chief support, in the soul-destroying conflict between belief and unbelief, and above all, the taunts and jeers of the enemy, when all these things combined they must have caused great anguish to the Holy Prophet, and he must be thinking that because of some error that he might have committed his Lord had become displeased with him and had forsaken and left him to fight the battle between truth and falsehood alone.
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. "
4This good news was given by Allah to the Holy Prophet (upon whom be peace) in a state when he had only a handful of Muslims with him, the entire nation was hostile and there was no remote chance of success even. The candle of Islam was flickering only in Makkah and storms were brewing all around to blow it out. At that juncture Allah said to His Prophet "Do not at all grieve at the hardships of the initial stage: every later period of life will be better for you than the former period. Your power and glory, your honor and prestige, will go on enhancing and your influence will go on spreading. This promise is not only confined to the world, but it also includes the promise that the rank and. position you will be granted in the Hereafter will be far higher and nobler than the rank and position you attain in the world. " Tabarani in A wsat and Baihaqi in Ad-dala il have related, on the authority of Ibn `Abbas .that the Holy Prophet said: "All the victories which would be attained by my Ummah after me, were presented before me. This pleased me much. Then, Allah sent down this Word, saying: 'The Hereafter is fat better for you than the world'."
5That is "Although it will take some time, yet the time is not far when your Lord will bless you with so much that you will be well pleased "This promise was fulfilled during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet and all Arabia, from the southern coasts to the Syrian frontiers of the Byzantine empire and the Iraqi frontiers of the Persian empire in the north, and from the Persian Gulf in the east to the Red Sea in the west, carne under his control. For the first time in the history of Arabia this land became subject to one law and rule. Whichever power clashed with it was doomed to destruction. The slogan La ilaha ill-allah-u Muhammad ur-Rasul-Allah reverberated throughout the land where the polytheists and the followers of the earlier scriptures had tried their utmost to keep their false creeds and slogans aloft till the last. The people not only bowed their heads in obedience, their hearts also were conquered, and their .beliefs, morals and acts were revolutionized. There is no precedent in human history that nation sunk in paganism might have completely changed in only 33 years. Then the movement started by the Holy Prophet gathered such power that it spread over a large part of Asia, Africa and Europe and its influence reached every nook and corner of the world. This much Allah gave His Messenger in the world, the glory and extent of what he will give him in the Hereafter cannot be imagined." (Also see E.N. 112 of Surah Ta Ha).
6That is, "There can be no question of forsaking you and being displeased with you; We have, in fact, been good to you ever since the time you were born an orphan." The Holy Prophet's father passed away three months before his birth; thus he was an orphan at birth. But Allah did not leave him without support even for a day. Up to six years of age his mother nourished and looked after him. After her death, his grandfather took him and brought him up with great love. He would proudly tell the people; "My this son has a great future.' When he also died, his uncle, Abu Talib, became his guardian and treated him with such rare love that one father could treat his son better. So much so that when after his proclamation to be a Prophet the entire nation turned hostile, Abu Talib alone stood firm as his chief supporter for as long as ten years.
7The word daallan as used in the original is derived from dalalat, which has several meanings in Arabic. Its one meaning is to be lost in error and deviation; another, to be unaware of the way and to be bewildered at the crossroads as to which way one should choose; still another meaning is of being lost and astray. The tree also is daallah which stands alone and lonely in the desert; the word dalal is also used for a thing which is wasting in unfavorable and uncongenial condition and climate, and also for heedlessness, of which there is an example in the Qur'an itself: La yadillu Rabbi wa la yansa:. "My Lord is neither heedless nor He forgets." ('Ta Ha: 52). Out of these different meanings. The first meaning does not apply here, for in the historical accounts of the Holy Prophet's life, from childhood till just before Prophethood, there is no trace that he ever might have been involved in idolatry, polytheism or atheism, or in any of the acts, customs and practices of paganism prevalent among his people. Therefore, inevitably wa wa. jadaka daallan cannot mean that Allah had found him erring and astray in respect of creed or deed. The other meanings, however, can be applicable here in one or other aspect, and possibly all are applicable in their own particular aspect. Before Prophethood the Holy Prophet was certainly a believer in the existence of Allah and His Unity, and his life was free from sin and reflected excellent morals, yet he was unaware of true Faith, its principles and injunctions, as it has been pointed out in the Qur'an: "You did not know at all what was the Book and what was the Faith." (Ash-Shura: 52). This verse may also mean that the Holy Prophet was lost in a society, engrossed in ignorance, and his personality as a guide and leader was not in anyway prominent before Prophethood. It may as well mean that in the desert of ignorance, he was standing like a lonely tree, which had the capability to bear fruit and turn the whole desert into a garden, but this capability was not being put to any use before Prophethood. It may also imply that the extraordinary powers that Allah had blessed him with, were going waste in the unfavorable environment of ignorance. Dalal can also be taken in the meaning of heedlessness, so as to say: "You were heedless of the truths and sciences of which Allah made you aware after Prophethood." This thing also has been referred to in the Qur'an itself: "Though before this you were utterly unaware of these truths." (Yusuf: 3). (Also see AI-Baqarah: 282, Ash-Shu'ara: 20).
8The Holy Prophet's father had left only a she-camel and a slave-girl in heritage for him; so he started his life in a state of poverty. Then a time came when the wealthiest lady among the Quraish, Hadrat Khadijah, first made him her partner in trade, then married him, and he took charge of all her trade and business. Thus, he not only became wealthy but his riches in no way were dependent on the resources of his wife; his own hard work and ability had gone a long way towards promoting her trade and commerce.
9That is, "As you yourself have been an orphan, and Allah graced you with the bounty that he made the best possible arrangements to help you in that state, therefore, in gratitude you should see that no orphan is treated unjustly and harshly."
10It has two meanings.
If sa'il is taken in the sense of a needy person, who asks for help, it would mean that if you can,, you should help him; if you cannot you should excuse yourself politely, but should never scold him. In this sense the instruction corresponds to Allah's this favor: "You were poor, then Allah enriched you. "
And if sa'il is taken in the sense of the one who inquires, i. e. asks for enlightenment on a religious matter or injunction, it would mean that even if such a person be extremely ignorant and ill-mannered and might put the question, or present his problem, impolitely, you should in any case answer him politely and kindly, and should not turn him away like the rude people proud of their knowledge.
In this meaning, the instruction corresponds to Allah's this favor: "You were unaware of the Way, then he guided you." Hadrat Abud-Darda`, Hasan Basri, Sufyan Thauri and some other scholars have preferred this second meaning, for in view of the order and sequence this instruction corresponds to: wa wajadaka daalllan fa hada.
11The word ni 'mat . (bounty) is general, which also implies those bounties, which Allah had bestowed on His Messenger until the revelation of this Surah as well as those which He bestowed on him afterwards according to the promise made in this Surah, which He fulfilled completely. Then, it is enjoined:"O Prophet, mention and proclaim every bounty that Allah has favored you with." Now, obviously, there can be different forms and ways of mentioning and proclaiming the bounties and every bounty in view of its nature, requires a special form or its mention and proclamation. As a whole, the way of proclaiming the bounties is that Allah be thanked with the tongue and the truth be acknowledged that all the bounties received are only due to His grace and favor and none is the result of any personal excellence and merit on his part. The blessing of Prophethood can be proclaimed by preaching and conveying its message in the best way possible. The blessing of the Qur'an can be proclaimed by publicizing it widely and impressing its teachings on the peoples minds as far as one can. The blessing of Allah's guidance can be proclaimed by showing the right way to the people who are gone astray and by enduring patiently all the bitternesses and hardships of the way. The favor that Allah has done of helping during orphanhood, demands that the orphans be treated well. The favor that Allah did of enriching after poverty requires that Allah's needy servants be helped and supported. In short, this is a very comprehensive instruction which Allah gave His Messenger (upon whom be His peace) in this brief sentence after having described His bounties and blessings.