44:11 Enveloping all mankind [and causing the sinners to exclaim] Grievous is this suffering!
Lit., “lest you throw stones at me”. It is to be noted that the verb rajama is used in the physical sense of “throwing stones” as well as, metaphorically, in the sense of “throwing aspersions or reviling”.
44:12 O our Sustainer, relieve us of suffering, for, verily, we [now] believe [in Thee]!
Or: “cleft” – the expression rahwan having both these connotations (Jawhari, with especial reference to the above phrase). See also notes 33 and 35 on 26:63-66.
44:13 [But] how shall this remembrance avail them [at the Last Hour], seeing that an apostle had previously come unto them, clearly expounding the truth.
Sc., “to repent their sins”.
44:14 Whereupon they turned their backs on him and said, “Taught [by others] is he, a madman?”
For this rendering of the term musrif, see surah 10, note 21.
44:15 [Still] Behold, We shall postpone this suffering for a little while, although you are bound to revert [to your evil ways, but].
i.e., according to all commentators, above all people of their time, because at that time the children of Israel were the only people who worshipped the One God: which is the reason for the frequent Qur’anic references to the story of their delivery from bondage. The stress on God’s having “chosen them knowingly” alludes to His foreknowledge that in later times they would deteriorate morally and thus forfeit His grace (Zamakhshari and Razi).
44:16 On the Day when We shall seize [all sinners] with a most mighty onslaught, We shall, verily, inflict Our retribution [on you as well]!
Lit., “as would have in them a manifest test”: an allusion to the long line of prophets raised in their midst, as well as to the freedom and prosperity which they were to enjoy in the Promised Land. All this presaged a test of their sincerity with regard to the spiritual principles which in the beginning raised them “above all other people” and, thus, of their willingness to act as God’s message-bearers to all the world. The formulation of the above sentence implies elliptically that they did not pass that test inasmuch as they soon forgot the spiritual mission for which they had been elected, and began to regard themselves as God’s “chosen people” simply on account of their descent from Abraham: a notion which the Qur’an condemns in many places. Apart from this, the majority of the children of Israel very soon lost their erstwhile conviction that life in this world is but the first and not the final stage of human life, and – as their Biblical history shows – abandoned themselves entirely to the pursuit of material prosperity and power. (See next note.)
44:17 And, Indeed, [long] before their time did We try Pharaoh’s people [in the same way], For there came unto them a noble apostle, [who said].
Although, on the face of it, by “these people” the Israelites are meant, the reference is obviously a general one, applying to all who hold the views expressed in the sequence, and in particular to the pagan contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad. Nevertheless, there is a subtle connection between this passage and the preceding allusion to the “test” with which the children of Israel were to be faced: for it is a historical fact that up to the time of the destruction of the Second Temple and their dispersion by the Roman emperor Titus, the priestly aristocracy among the Jews, known as the Sadducees, openly denied the concepts of resurrection, divine judgment, and life in the hereafter, and advocated a thoroughly materialistic outlook on life.
44:18 Give in unto me, O God’s bondmen! Verily, I am an apostle [sent] unto you, worthy of trust!
i.e., “it is a final death, with nothing beyond it”.
44:19 And exalt not yourselves against God, for, Verily, I come unto you with a manifest authority [from Him].
i.e., “bring our forefathers back to life and let them bear witness that there is a hereafter”. This ironic demand accords with the saying of the unbelievers mentioned in 43:22 and 23, “We found our forefathers agreed on what to believe – and, verily, it is in their footsteps that we find our guidance!” Thus, in the last resort, the fact that their ancestors did not believe in a hereafter is to them as conclusive an argument against it as the fact that nobody has as yet come back to life to confirm the truth of the resurrection.
44:20 And, behold, it is with my Sustainer – and your Sustainer – that I seek refuge against all your endeavors to revile me.
“Tubba'” was the title borne by a succession of powerful Himyar kings who ruled for centuries over the whole of South Arabia, and were finally overcome by the Abyssinians in the fourth century of the Christian era. They are mentioned elsewhere in the Qur’an (50:14) as having denied the truth of the resurrection and God’s judgment.