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Towards Understanding the Quran
With kind permission: Islamic Foundation UK
Introduction to Tafheem | Glossary | Verbs
Other resources: Maarif | Dawat 

 Surah Al-Hijr 15:16-18 [2/6]
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Verse Summary -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
وَلَقَدْAnd verily
جَعَلْنَاWe have placed
ٱلسَّمَآءِthe heavens
وَزَيَّنَّـٰهَاand We have beautified it
لِلنَّـٰظِرِينَfor the observers.
وَحَفِظْنَـٰهَاAnd We have protected it
مَنِ(one) who
ٱلسَّمْعَthe hearing,
فَأَتْبَعَهُۥthen follows him
شِهَابٌa burning flame

وَلَـقَدۡ جَعَلۡنَا فِى السَّمَآءِ بُرُوۡجًا وَّزَيَّـنّٰهَا لِلنّٰظِرِيۡنَۙ‏   وَحَفِظۡنٰهَا مِنۡ كُلِّ شَيۡطٰنٍ رَّجِيۡمٍۙ‏  اِلَّا مَنِ اسۡتَرَقَ السَّمۡعَ فَاَ تۡبَعَهٗ شِهَابٌ مُّبِيۡنٌ‏ 
(15:16) We have indeed set constellations in the heavens8 and have beautified them for the beholders,9 (15:17) and have protected them against every accursed satan10 (15:18) save him who may eavesdrop,11 and then a bright flame pursues him.12

8. In the preceding( Ayats 14-15) it was stated that the disbelievers had become so hardened against the Quran that they would not have believed in it even if they had ascended the Heaven and seen with their own eyes the signs mentioned in it. Now in (Ayats 16-22), some of the signs are being cited in order to convince there of its truth.

Buruj (mansions of stars) are signs of Allah. For it is not possible to pass through one sphere of the Heaven into another, as each sphere of the space has been fortified by invisible boundaries. In this connection, it may be noted that literally the Arabic word burj means a fortified place, but as a technical term of ancient astronomy this stood for each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, which marked the sun’s path through the heavens. This has led some of the commentators to form the opinion that in this verse the word buruj refers to the same. But there are some others who think that it means stars or planets. However, if we consider this word in the context of (Ayat 19), we are led to the conclusion that probably it stands for spheres.

9. “We have beautified it”: We have placed a shining star or planet in each of these spheres and made them look beautiful. In other words, it means; We have not made the boundless universe dismal, desolate and frightful, but so beautiful that one finds marvelous order and harmony in it everywhere, and sights therein are so attractive that each one of these charms hearts and minds. This wonderful structure of the universe is a clear proof of the fact that its Creator is not only Great and All-Wise but is also a perfect Artist. The Quran has also stated this aspect of the Creator in (Surah As-Sajadah, Ayat 7): (Allah is) that God Who has created in perfect beauty everything He has created.

10. That is, these spheres are so fortified that they are beyond the reach of every Satan, for all Satans including those of jinns, have been confined to that sphere in which the Earth has been placed and they enjoy no more access to visit other spheres than the other dwellers of this sphere. This has been mentioned in order to remove a common misunderstanding. The common people believed, and still believe, that Satan and his descendants have a free access to every place in the universe. On the contrary, the Quran says that Satans cannot go beyond a certain limit and they have no unlimited power of ascension.

11. This is the answer to the false claim of the soothsayers, diviners, hermits, conjurers and the like who pretended to receive communications from the Heaven. The Quran says that in fact they do not possess any means of obtaining information about unseen things. Satans, however, try to eaves-drop because they are by nature more like angels than human beings, but in reality, they succeed in obtaining very little information about it.

12. In Arabic the word shihab-i-mubin literally means a fiery flame. In Surah (As-Saffaat, Ayat 10), the same thing has been called shihab-i-thaqib (flame that pierces through darkness). This may or may not necessarily be a meteor for it is just possible that it may be some type of rays such as cosmic rays or even a stronger type which we have not been able to discover as yet. Anyhow, if the fiery flame that pursues Satans may be taken to be a meteor, a countless number of these can form a fortification around our sphere of the universe. Scientific observations made with the help of the telescope have shown that billions of these meteors are rushing from space in a mass of rainfall. towards the earth's atmosphere. Such a scene was witnessed in an eastern pan of North America on November 13, 1833.

This is so strong a fortification that it can prevent Satans from passing through any fortified sphere. With the help of the above, one can form a mental picture of the "fortified spheres" . Though there is no visible "wall" to keep distinct and separate one sphere from the others, Allah has securely guarded each of these spheres by invisible "walls" against each other. That is why our "planet" has remained safe in spite of the occasional "rainfall" of countless meteors. For as soon as they cross the protective wall of our sphere, they are burnt to ashes. But sometimes a meteorite reaches the earth from outer space as if to warn the dwellers of this planet of the existence of the "power" of the Creator. For instance, the biggest of these weighs 645 pounds and it is obvious from this that if the earth had not been made safe and secure by means of "fortified spheres" the rain of the shooting stars would have utterly annihilated it long long ago. It is these "fortified spheres" which the Qur'an calls "buruj."