In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

THE conventional designation of this very early surah (most probably the seventh in the order of revelation) is derived from the verb kuwwirat, which occurs in the first verse and introduces the symbolic image of the Last Hour and, hence, of man's resurrection.
1. WHEN THE SUN is shrouded in darkness,
2. and when the stars lose their light,
3. and when the mountains are made to vanish, (1)

1 - See 20:105-107 and the corresponding note 90; also note 63 on 14:48.

4. and when she-camels big with young, about to give birth, are left untended,
5. and when all beasts are gathered together, (2)

2 - I.e., when they crowd together in terror of the manifestation of the Last Hour, or as Mutazili commentators maintain - in order to be indemnified by God for man's cruelty to them (Razi). It is also said that the animals which were loved by human beings will live in the hereafter together with those who loved them (Zamakhshari). This interpretation is evidently based on 6:38 - "there is no beast that walks on earth and no bird that flies on its two wings which is not [God's] creature like yourselves" - followed almost immediately by the wordss, "Unto their Sustainer shall they [all] be gathered."

6. and when the seas boil over,
7. and when all human beings are coupled [with their deeds], (3)

3 - I.e., when none will be able to divest himself of responsibility for his past deeds.

8. and when the girl-child that was buried alive is made to ask
9. for what crime she had been slain, (4)

4 - The barbaric custom of burying female infants alive seems to have been fairly widespread in pre-Islamic Arabia, although perhaps not to the extent as has been commonly assumed. The motives were twofold: the fear that an increase of female offspring would result in economic burdens, as well as fear of the humiliation frequently caused by girls being captured by a hostile tribe and subsequently preferring their captors to their parents and brothers. Before Islam, one of the foremost opponents of this custom was Zayd ibn Amr ibn Nufayl, a cousin of Umar ibn al-Khattab and spiritually a precursor of Muhammad (cf. Bukhari, Fada'il Ashab an-Nabi on the authority of Abd Allah ibn Umar); he died shortly before Muhammad's call to prophethood (Fath al-Bari VII, 112). Another man, Sasaah ibn Najiyah at-Tamimi - grandfather of the poet Farazdaq - achieved equal fame as a saviour of infants thus condemned to death; he later embraced Islam. Ibn Khallikan (II, 197) mentions that Sasaah saved about thirty girls by paying ransom to their parents.

10. and when the scrolls [of men's deeds] are unfolded,
11. and when heaven is laid bare,
12. and when the blazing fire [of hell] is kindled bright,
13. and when paradise is brought into view:
14. [on that Day] every human being will come to know what he has prepared [for himself].
15. BUT NAY! I call to witness the revolving stars,
16. the planets that run their course and set,
17. and the night as it darkly falls,
18. and the morn as it softly breathes:
19. behold, this [divine writ] is indeed the [inspired] word of a noble apostle, (5)

5 - By "calling to witness" certain natural phenomena which are familiar to man because of their permanent recurrence, attention is drawn to the fact that what we call "laws of nature" are but the observable elements of God's plan of creation - a plan in which His revelations (referred to in this and the subsequent verses) play a decisive role: and so, by implication, the divine writ granted to Muhammad is as intrinsically "natural" as any other phenomenon, concrete or abstract, in the realm of God's creation.

20. with strength endowed, secure with Him who in almightiness is enthroned (6)

6 - Lit., "with Him of the throne of almightiness". It is to be noted that the Qur'anic term arsh - of which the above is the earliest occurrence in the order of revelation - invariably signifies God's absolute sovereignty and almightiness (cf. note 43 on 7:54).

21. [the word] of one to be heeded, and worthy of trust!
22. For, this fellow-man of yours is not a madman: (7)

7 - See surah 68, note 3. The characterization of Muhammad as "this fellow-man of yours" is meant to stress his absolute humanness, and thus to counteract any possibility on the part of his followers to deify him. (See also note 150 on 7:184.)

23. he truly beheld [the angel - beheld] him on the clear horizon; (8)

8 - This is evidently a reference to the Prophet's vision of the Angel Gabriel which ended the break in revelation (fatrat al-wahy) mentioned in the introductory note to surah 74. See also 53:5 ff. and the corresponding notes.

24. and he is not one to begrudge others the knowledge [of whatever has been revealed to him] out of that which is beyond the reach of human Perception. (9)

9 - Sc., "and so he conveys this revelation to you".

25. Nor is this [message] the word of any satanic force accursed. (10)

10 - For my occasional rendering of shaytan as "satanic force", see first half of note 16 on 15:17.

26. Whither, then, will you go?
27. This [message] is no less than a reminder to all mankind
28. to everyone of you who wills to walk a straight way.
29. But you cannot will it unless God, the Sustainer of all the worlds, wills [to show you that way]. (11)

11 - I.e., "you can will it only because God has willed to show you the right way by means of the positive instincts which He has implanted in you, as well as through the revelations which He has bestowed on His prophets": implying that the choice of the right way is open to everyone who is willing to avail himself of God's universal guidance. (Cf. a similar passage in 76:29-30.)