AL-ADIYAT (THE CHARGERS)
THE HUNDREDTH SURAH
Total Verses: 11
REVEALED after surah 103. For an explanation of the symbolism of "the chargers", see note 2 below.
IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE MOST GRACIOUS, THE DISPENSER OF GRACE:
1) Oh, 1 the chargers that run panting,
(2) sparks of fire striking,
(3) rushing to assault at morn,
(4) thereby raising clouds of dust,
(5) thereby storming [blindly] into any host! 2
(6) VERILY, towards his Sustainer man is most ungrateful 3 –
(7) and to this, behold, he [himself] bears witness indeed:
(8) for, verily, to the love of wealth is he most ardently devoted.
(9) But does he not know that [on the Last Day,] when all that is in the graves is raised and brought out,
(10) and all that is [hidden] in men's hearts is bared –
(11) that on that Day their Sustainer [will show that He] has always been fully aware of them?
1 Since the subsequent clauses refer to a parabolic, imaginary situation, the adjurative particle wa is more suitably rendered here as "Oh", instead of the rendering "Consider' usually adopted by me, or the adjuration "By" appearing in most other translations.
2 I.e., blinded by clouds of dust and not knowing whether their assault aims at friend or foe. The metaphoric image developed in the above five verses is closely connected with the sequence, although this connection has never been brought out by the classical commentators. The term al-adiyat undoubtedly denotes the war-horses, or chargers, employed by the Arabs from time immemorial down to the Middle Ages (the feminine gender of this term being due to the fact that, as a rule, they preferred mares to stallions). But whereas the conventional explanation is based on the assumption that "the chargers" symbolize here the believers' fight in God's cause (jihad) and, therefore, represent something highly commendable, it takes no account whatever of the discrepancy between so positive an imagery and the condemnation expressed in verses 6 ff., not to speak of the fact that such a conventional interpretation does not provide any logical link between the two parts of the surah. But since such a link must exist, and since verses 6-11 are undoubtedly condemnatory, we must conclude that the first five verses, too, have the same – or at least, a similar - character. This character becomes at once obvious if we dissociate ourselves from the preconceived notion that the imagery of "the chargers" is used here in a laudatory sense. In fact, the opposite is the case. Beyond any doubt, "the chargers" symbolize the erring human soul or self - a soul devoid of all spiritual direction, obsessed and ridden by all manner of wrong, selfish desires, madly, unseeingly rushing onwards, unchecked by conscience or reason, blinded by the dust-clouds of confused and confusing appetites, storming into insoluble situations and, thus, into its own spiritual destruction.
3 I.e., whenever he surrenders to his appetites, symbolized by the madly storming chargers, he forgets God and his own responsibility to Him.