By the heavens and al-Taariq!
There are different interpretations as to the meaning of al-Taariq:
- Muhammad bin al-Hasan mentioned in his tafsir that it is Zuhal, which is a star in the seventh heaven.
- ibn Zaid said that it is al-Thurayyaa i.e. Pleiades.
- ibn ‘Abbas said that is al-Jady i.e. the North Star.
It is related from ibn ‘Abbas and ‘Ali radiyallahu ‘anhumaa, as well as al-Farra’, that it is a star in the seventh heaven. No other stars inhabit that heaven. Then when the other stars take their places in the heavens, it descends to be with them. Thereafter it returns to its place in the seventh heaven. It is Zuhal. So it is a taariq (traveler by night) when it descends, and a taariq when it ascends.
Abu Salih relates from ibn ‘Abbas who said, “The Messenger of Allah was sitting with Abu Talib when a star died. The earth was filled with light and Abu Talib became afraid, saying, ‘What is this?’ He replied, ‘This is star by which things are pelted. And it is a sign [ayah] from the signs of Allah.’ Abu Talib was amazed at this. Then ‘Wassamaa’i wat taariq‘ was revealed.”
It is also related from ibn ‘Abbas that ‘Wassamaa’i wat taariq‘ means ‘By the heavens and those things which travel [yatruqu] in them.’
It is related from ibn ‘Abbas and ‘Ata that ‘al-Najm al-thaaqib‘ means that by which the shayateen are pelted.
Qatadah said that it is general, referring to all stars, because they rise at night. And everything which arrives at night is a taariq.
And in the authentic (narrations) it is said that al-Taariq is the star which is named the morning star [kawkab al-subh].
(al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an by Imam al-Qurtubi)