In The Name of Allah, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful.
1. By the Sun and its (glorious) splendour.
2. By the Moon when she follows it.
3. By the Day when it displays the Sun’s brightness.
4. By the Night when it blankets the Sun.
5. By the Firmament and its (wonderful) construction.
6. By the Earth and how It has been stretched out.
7. By the Soul and That which proportioned it.
8. And inspired it with its good and bad.
9. successful indeed is he who purifies it.
10. And he has indeed failed who corrupts it.
“By the Sun and its (glorious) splendor” - Mujahid says: This means its light. And Qatadah says: Its “light” or “brightness” means the day itself. Ibni Jareer says: The correct interpretation is that Allah took an oath by the sun and its daylight, because the manifestation of the Sun’s rays is actually daylight.
“By the moon when she follows it” - Mujahid said: It follows the sun. And Ibni Abbas said: It (the moon) follows daylight. And Qatadah states: When the moon follows the sun during the beginning of the lunar month, because when the sun sets the crescent can then be sighted. And Ibni Zaid says: The moon follows the sun during the first half of the lunar month. Thereafter, the sun follows the moon for the second half of the month, while the latter remains in front of the former.
“By the day when it displays the sun’s brightness” - Mujahid says: It projects the Sun’s light. And Qatadah says: (This is found) when the daylight spreads around the Sun.
Some have interpreted this to mean: “By the day when it dispels darkness”, since the wordings indicate such a meaning. I (i.e. the author, Ibni Katheer): say: It would be preferable for the subscriber to this view to interpret the verse to mean: “By the day when it lights up the earth”. Then his interpretation in the following verse: “By the night when it blankets the sun” (meaning the night that envelopes the earth) would be correct and far more sound. Allah knows best. For this reason Mujahid stated: The statement of Almighty Allah “By the day when it lights up…” is exactly like the other statement of Allah “By the day when it shines” (Surah Al-Layl, verse 2) Ibni Jareer though has opted to refer the pronoun in all these verses to the sun, since its mention is continuous throughout.
“And he has indeed failed who corrupts it” - This corruption means spoiling the soul so that it becomes addicted to sin and abandons the obedience of Allah. Another possible meaning is: “Successful indeed is he whom Allah has purified.” “And he has indeed failed whom Allah has corrupted”; such is the view of Ibni Abbas.
Ibni Abi Haatim narrates from Abu Huraira, who says: “I heard the Messenger of Allah recite the verse: “And he inspired it with its good and bad”. Then he said: “O Allah! Grant my soul its piety, and purify it, for You are the Best to purify it. You are its Guardian and Master.” In another narration from Ayesha, it is reported that one night she woke to find the Messenger of Allah not in his bed. She groped around for him in the dark until her hand touched him while he was in prostration. He was saying: “O My Lord! Grant my soul its piety and purify it, for You are the best to purify it, You are its Guardian and Master.”
Another tradition: Imam Ahmad narrates from Zad bin Arqam who says: “The Messenger of Allah used to say: ‘O Allah! I seek protection in you from weakness, indolence, senility, cowardice, niggardliness, and from the punishment of the grave. O Allah! Grant my soul its piety, and purify it, for You are the Best to purify it. You are its Guardian and Master. O Allah! I seek your protection from a heart that has no fear, from a soul that gets no satisfaction, from knowledge that does not benefit, and from prayers that go unanswered.’ Zaid says: “The Messenger of Allah would teach us this prayer, and we are now teaching it to you.”