The following is from a work-in-progress called The Qur'an: a Book Report, in which I read each surah of the Qur'an and write about what I learn.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the last 20 or so surahs of the Qur'an's are very short--some of them being only a few lines. One pattern I've noticed is that many of these surahs begin with an oath, in which the speaker swears on something like the stars, the morning, the night, etc. This surah takes its title from this opening oath, which is quite poetic:
"By the sun in its morning brightness,
and by the moon as it follows it,
by the day as it displays the sun's glory,
and by the night as it covers it,
by the sky and how He built it,
and by the earth and how He spread it,
by the soul and how He formed it
and inspired it [to know] its own rebellion and piety...
the one who purifies his soul succeeds
and the one who corrupts it fails."
This surah ends with an oft-repeated story of the rebellious people of Thamud, who didn't believe the messenger God sent to them, and went so far as to kill his camel. For this breach of hospitality, God destroyed them. This story is similar to the story of Lot and the angels who visited the city of Sodom in the book of Genesis. For the people's breach of hospitality, and rejection of divine messengers, they were destroyed.