The purpose of this chapter is to remind the reader and call them to reflect about the three fundamental roots of the Islamic faith, namely the doctrines of monotheism, Prophethood and Resurrection. In its first part, the chapter confirms and describes the divine revelation received by the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family). In the second part, it asserts God’s Unity and Oneness and sharply condemns the worship of idols and the association of partners to Him. In this segment, it also proclaims God’s dominion over all creation and its affairs including humankind’s life, its death, its joys, its sorrows, its prosperity, its satisfaction, its destruction, its chastisement, its call to Heaven and its warning from the Hellfire. In the third and final part, the discourse concludes by referring to the inevitability of Resurrection and commands the reader to prostration and worship.
The context of the verses of this chapter show that it is Meccan. For this reason, the claim made by some that this chapter is Medinan, in part or in whole, cannot be accepted. Some have said that Surah al-Najm is the first chapter read publicly by the Prophet before an audience of both believers and disbelievers. Note that this chapter contains some of the cardinal Quranic verses, namely:
- and that the terminus is toward your Lord (53:42) and
- and that nothing belongs to man except what he strives for (53:39).
Verses 1 to 18 correspond to the first of the three parts of the chapter, as listed above. They are the verses that confirm and describe the divine revelation received by the Prophet. More specifically, there is an abundance of narrations from the Imams that particularize the revelation referred to by these verses to be that which was revealed from God to the Holy Prophet on the Night of Ascension (the nocturnal journey) in a most unmediated and personal way. Hence, these verses hold an account of the event of Ascension. Further, the apparent meaning of the verses clearly support the said narrations. More so, this understanding is also confirmed by sayings of a number of companions of the Prophet including Ibn Abbās, Anas, Abī Saʿīd al-Khidrī and others. Finally, while all exegetes have accepted that verses 1 to 18 do allude to the event of Ascension, they greatly disagreed in their interpretation of their words and sentences.