In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.
57:1 All that is in the heavens and on earth extols God’s limitless glory, for He alone is Almighty, Truly Wise!
i.e., His Being is eternal, without anything preceding His existence and without anything outlasting its infinity: an interpretation given by the Prophet himself, as recorded in several well-authenticated Traditions. Thus, “time” itself – a concept beyond man’s understanding – is but God’s creation.
57:2 His is the dominion over the heavens and the earth, He grants life and deals death, and He has the power to will anything.
i.e., He is the transcendental cause of all that exists and, at the same time, immanent in every phenomenon of His creation – cf. the oft-repeated Qur’anic phrase (e.g., in verse S), “all things go back unto God [as their source]”; in the words of Tabari, “He is closer to everything than anything else could be”. Another – perhaps supplementary – rendering could be, “He is the Evident as well as the Hidden”: i.e., “His existence is evident (zahir) in the effects of His activity, whereas He Himself is not perceptible (ghayr mudrak) to our senses” (Zamakhshari).
57:3 He is the First and the Last, and the Outward as well as the Inward, and He has full knowledge of everything.
Cf. the identical phrase in 7:54 and the corresponding note 43.
57:4 He it is Who has created the heavens and the earth in six aeons, and is established on the throne of His Almightiness. He knows all that enters the earth, and all that comes out of it, as well as all that, descends from the skies, and all that ascends to them. And He is with you wherever you may be, and God sees all that you do.
See 4 note 1 on 34:2.
57:5 His is the dominion over the heavens and the earth, and all things go back unto God [as their source].
Implying that all that man “possesses” is but held in trust from God, since “all that is in the heavens and on earth belongs to Him”, whereas man is allowed only its usufruct.
57:6 He makes the night grow longer by shortening the day, and makes the day grow longer by shortening the night, and He has full knowledge of what is in the hearts [of men].
God’s “taking a pledge” is a metonymic allusion to the faculty of reason with which He basendowed man, and which ought to enable every sane person to grasp the evidence of God’s existence by observing the effects of His creativeness in all nature and by paying heed to the teachings of His prophets (Zamakhshari). See in this connection 7:172 and the corresponding note 139.
57:7 Believe in God and His Apostle and spend on others out of that of which He has made you trustees, for, those of you who have attained to faith and who spend freely [in God’s cause] shall have a great reward.
Lit., “if you are believers”: implying, according to Razi, “if you can believe in anything on the basis of sound evidence”.
57:8 And why should you not believe in God, seeing that the Apostle calls you to believe in [Him who is] your Sustainer, and [seeing that] He has taken a pledge from you? [Why should you not believe in Him] if you are able to believe [in anything]?
i.e., “that to God belongs all that is …”, etc.: see note 5 above; also note 22 on 15:23.
57:9 It is He who bestows from on high clear messages unto [this] His servant, to lead you out of the deep darkness into the light: for, behold, God is most compassionate towards you, a Dispenser of Grace.
i.e., before the conquest of Mecca in 8 H., when the Muslims were still weak and their future uncertain.
57:10 And why should you not spend freely in the cause of God, seeing that God’s [alone] is the heritage of the heavens and the earth? Not equal are those of you who spent and fought [in God’s cause] before the Victory [and those who did not do so], they are of a higher rank than those who would spend and fight [only] after it – although God has promised the ultimate good to all [who strive in His cause]. And God is aware of all that you do.
The above principle applies, of course, to the relative merits of believers of all times who strive in God’s cause before and after success has been achieved.