وَالشَّفْعِ وَالْوَتْرِ (and by the even and the odd,...89:3). The Qur'an has not
specified what the words 'the even' and 'the odd' refer to. Therefore, the commentators have assigned different interpretations to them. Nevertheless, it has been mentioned in a Prophetic Hadith narrated by Abu-z-Zubair from Sayyidna Jabir ؓ thus:
(وَالْفَجْرِ ۔ وَلَيَالٍ عَشْرٍ ) ھو الصّبح وعشر النحر والوتر یوم عرفہ والشفع یوم النّحر
'Fajr' refers to the dawn, and 'the ten nights' refer to the first ten nights of Dhul Hijjah [ which include the Day of Sacrifice ], and that al-watr [ the odd ] refers to the day of ` Arafah [ because it falls on the ninth ] and ash-shaf refers to the Day of Sacrifice [ because it falls on the 10th day of Dhul Hijjah ].'
Qurtubi cites this narration and confirms that its chain of authorities is more authentic than the other tradition narrated by Sayyidna ` Imran Ibn Husain ؓ which talks about odd [ three ] and even [ two/four ] units of prayers. Therefore, Sayyidna Ibn ` Abbas ؓ Ikramah and Nahhas رحمۃ علیہما have preferred the view that 'even' refers to the Day of Sacrifice and 'odd' refers to the day of ` Arafah.
Some commentators like Ibn Sirin, Masruq, Abu Salih and Qatadah رحمۃ علیہم said that 'even' refers to the entire creation, because Allah has created them in pairs, and thus He says:
وَمِن كُلِّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقْنَا زَوْجَيْنِ
'And from everything We have created (a pair of) two kinds [ 51:49] '
-belief/disbelief, happiness/unhappiness, light/darkness, night/day, cold/ heat, sky/earth, human/Jinn and male/female as against all of these pairs, Allah is the only One Being 'odd' that does not have a pair:
ھو اللہ الاحد الصَّمَد
'He, is Allah, the One, Besought of all, needing none'
وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا يَسْرِ (and by the night when it moves away...89:4). The word yasr is derived from sara and means 'to walk in the night' or 'travel by night'. The verse says when the night itself moves away. It signifies 'when the night departs and goes away.' After taking oath by these five items, the next verse says:
هَلْ فِي ذَٰلِكَ قَسَمٌ لِّذِي حِجْرٍ (Is there [ not ] in that an oath (enough) for a man of sense?...89:5). An intelligent person is, in a very special style, invited to think and reflect. The word hijr literally denotes 'to prevent'. The intellect has been called hijr because it prevents the person from doing which is unbecoming of him - actions or statements. Are these oaths not sufficient for a man possessed of intellect, sound reasoning, understanding and religious discernment? This sentence is in the form of interrogation to awaken man from his slumber. The subject of oaths is implied, though not stated explicitly. The verse purports to say that when man considers into the Majesty of Allah and reflects on the greatness of objects of oaths, it would be confirmed and verified that everyone has to give account of his deeds, and reward and punishment in the Hereafter is sure. In this connection, reference is made to the destruction of three previous nations: [ 1] the nation of ` Ad; [ 2] the nation of Thamud; and [ 3] the nation of Fir'aun (the Pharaoh). ` Ad and Thamud are two nations whose genealogy link up with Iram. Thus Iram may refer to both, ` Ad as well as Thamud. Here however with ` Ad only the name Iram is linked for genealogical reasons:
أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ فَعَلَ رَبُّكَ بِعَادٍ ۔ إِرَمَ ذَاتِ الْعِمَادِ (Have you not seen how your Lord dealt with [ the people ] ` Ad of Iram, the men of tall pillars...(89:6-7). The word 'Iram' in verse [ 7] is, grammatically speaking, either ` atf bayan (syndetic explicative) or badal (complement). The purpose of the construction is to specify one of the two tribes of ` Ad. This statement specifies that it refers to ` Ad-ul-'ula (the early generation of ` Ad). A remnant from the former generation is referred to as ` Ad-ul-'Ukhra, because they are linked with their great-grand father Iram more closely than ` Ad-ul-'Ukhra. Here the Qur'an refers to the first tribe as ` Ad Iram. In Surah An-Najm, they are described as: عَادًا الْأُولَىٰ (the earlier ` Ad,) [ 53:50] '