﴿ وَآيَةٌ لَّهُمُ اللَّيْلُ نَسْلَخُ مِنْهُ النَّهَارَ فَإِذَا هُم مُّظْلِمُونَ ﴾ 37
And a sign for them is the night; I remove the day, and behold, they are in darkness.
نَسْلَخُ means ‘to peel off’, and it was used to describe the peeling of the skin off an animal’s body by a butcher. The day is ‘peeled off’ from the body of the night, and we’re left with darkness.
وَالشَّمْسُ تَجْرِي لِمُسْتَقَرٍّ لَّهَا ۚ ذَٰلِكَ تَقْدِيرُ الْعَزِيزِ الْعَلِيمِ 38
And the Sun runs on its course to a place of settling. That is the decree of the All-Mighty, the All-Knowing.
Allaah’s Messenger (pbuh) asked one day, ‘Do you know where the sun goes?’
The companions replied, ‘Allaah and His Messenger know best.’ He explained, ‘Indeed, it glides until it reaches its resting place under the Throne. Then it prostrates and remains there until it is told to rise up and return to the place it came from. It then returns and rises from its place of rising and then glides to its resting place beneath the Throne and prostrates. It continues to prostrate until it is told to rise up and return to the place it came from. It then returns and rises from its place of rising and glides in such a normal way that people will not discern anything unusual until it reaches its resting place under the Throne. Then it will be told to rise up and emerge from its setting place and it will rise from its place of setting.’ He then asked, ‘Do you know when that will happen? It will happen at the time when faith will not benefit one who has not previously believed or derived any good from its faith.’ [Sahih Muslim]2
وَالْقَمَرَ قَدَّرْنَاهُ مَنَازِلَ حَتَّىٰ عَادَ كَالْعُرْجُونِ الْقَدِيمِ39
And I have fixed phases for the moon (to traverse) until it returns curved like an old date stalk.
Manaazil means ‘the places one arrives at’, i.e. the stages of the moon. When there were no calendars available, and no mobile phones with which to check them, we had the moon to know what day it is.
Allah the Exalted says in another verse,
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the new moons. Say, ‘They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj.’ [2:189]
It is He who made the sun a shining light and the moon a derived light and determined for it phases – that you may know the number of years and account [of time]. [10:5]
This changing of the moon’s stages is a comparison to the lifespan of human beings as described in the verse:
Allah is the one who created you from weakness, then made after weakness strength, then made after strength weakness and white hair. [30:54]
لَا الشَّمْسُ يَنبَغِي لَهَا أَن تُدْرِكَ الْقَمَرَ وَلَا اللَّيْلُ سَابِقُ النَّهَارِ ۚ وَكُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ40
It is not possible for the sun to overtake the moon, nor for the night to overtake the day. Each of them swims in a separate orbit.
Ibn Kathir quotes Mujahid: ‘Each of them has a limit which it does not transgress or fall short of. When the time of one comes, the other goes away, and when the time for one to prevail comes, the time of the other ceases.’
This is in contrast with the Day of Judgment, when the sun and moon will collide with each other, as mentioned in the following ayah:
وَجُمِعَ الشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ
And the sun and the moon are joined [75:9]
Ibn Kathir quoted Ad-Dahhak having said,’ ‘The night does not depart from here until the day comes from here –’ and he pointed to the east.’
وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ اللَّيْلَ وَالنَّهَارَ وَالشَّمْسَ وَالْقَمَرَ ۖ كُلٌّ فِي فَلَكٍ يَسْبَحُونَ
And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming. [21:33]
The floating implies it is not moving on its own accord. The night and day, the sun and the moon are all floating in their own orbits in the heaven. This fact, mentioned fourteen hundred years ago by an illiterate prophet, is today proven by modern sign.
Now pause for a moment and reflect, why does Allah mention all these everyday phenomena which we have become so used to that we don’t even notice? It is for us to pay attention to these amazing miracles in nature which are all around us, and which are manifest witnesses of the perfection of the Creator.
Understand every word in salah to get from ritual to spiritual – by understanding the meaning of each word in your 5 daily prayers, your salah will never be the same again, in sha Allah.