72:11 Just as [we do not know how it happens] that some from among us are righteous, while some of us are [far] below that, we have always followed widely divergent paths.
With this assertion ends, according to all classical commentators, the “confession of faith” of the beings described at the beginning of this passage as jinn. Whatever be the real meaning of this term in the present instance – whether it signifies “unseen beings” of a nature unknown to man or, alternatively, a group of humans from distant lands – matters little, for the context makes it abundantly clear that the “speech” of those beings is but a parable of the guidance which the Qur’an offers to a mind intent on attaining to “consciousness of what is right”.
72:12 And, withal, we have come to know that we can never elude God [while we live] on earth and that we can never elude Him by escaping [from life].
Lit., “water abundant”: a metaphor of happiness, echoing the allegorical reference, so frequently occurring in the Qur’an, to the “running waters” of paradise (Abu Muslim, quoted by Razi).
72:13 Hence, as soon as we heard this [call to His] guidance, we came to believe in it: and he who believes in his Sustainer need never have fear of loss or injustice.
i.e., God’s bestowal of blessings is not just a “reward” of righteousness but, rather, a test of man’s remaining conscious of, and therefore grateful to, Him.
72:14 Yet [it is true] that among us are such as have surrendered themselves to God – just as there are among us such as have abandoned themselves to wrongdoing. Now as for those who surrender themselves to Him – it is they that have attained to the consciousness of what is right.
Lit, “the places of worship” (al-masajid): i.e., worship as such.
72:15 But as for those who abandon themselves to wrongdoing – they are indeed but fuel for [the fires of] hell!'”
Lit, “would almost be upon him in crowds (libad, sing. libdah )” – i.e., with a view to “extinguishing God’s [guiding] light” (Tabari, evidently alluding to 9:32). Most of the commentators assume that the above verse refers to the Prophet Muhammad and the hostility shown to him by his pagan contemporaries. While this may have been so in the first instance, it is obvious that the passage has a general import as well, alluding to the hostility shown by the majority of people, at all times and in all societies, to a minority or an individual who stands up for a self-evident – but unpopular – moral truth. (In order to be understood fully, the above verse should be read in conjunction with 19:73-74 and the corresponding notes).
72:16 [Know] Then, that if they [who have heard Our call] keep firmly to the [right] path, We shall certainly shower them with blessings abundant.
Lit., “except through an announcement” (illa balaghan). In this instance, however, the particle illa is evidently a contraction of in la (“if not”): thus, the above phrase signifies “if I do not [or “if should fail to”] convey…”, etc. (Tabari, Zamakhshari, Razi).
72:17 So as to test them by this means, for he who shall turn away from the remembrance of his Sustainer, him will He cause to undergo suffering most grievous.
This obviously relates to “those who are bent on denying the truth” – i.e., consciously – and thus destroy their own spiritual identity. The people alluded to in this particular instance are those who “would gladly overwhelm God’s servant with their crowds” (verse 19).
72:18 And [know] that all worship is due to God [alone], hence, do not invoke anyone side by side with God!
i.e., on the Day of Judgment. Cf. the second paragraph of 19:75, which is similarly phrased.
72:19 Yet [thus it is] that whenever a servant of God stands up in prayer to Him, they [who are bent on denying the truth] would gladly overwhelm him with their crowds.
Lit., “is weaker as to helpers and less in numbers” – i.e., less significant despite its greater numbers.
72:20 Say “I invoke my Sustainer alone, for I do not ascribe divinity to anyone besides Him.”
The possessive pronoun “His” in the phrase ala ghaybihi evidently indicates God’s exclusive knowledge of “that which is beyond the perception of any created being” (al-ghayb): hence the above, somewhat free, rendering of this truly untranslatable phrase.
72:21 Say “Verily, it is not in my power to cause you harm or to endow you with a consciousness of what is right.”
Cf. 3:179 – “And it is not God’s will to give you insight into that which is beyond the reality of human perception: but [to that end] God elects whomsoever He wills from among His apostles”.
72:22 Say, Verily, no one could ever protect me from God, nor could I ever find a place to hide from Him.
For an explanation of this rendering of the phrase min bayni yadayhi wa-min khalfihi (lit., “from between his hands and from behind him”), see note 247 on 2:255. In the present context, the phrase implies that the very fact of his being graced by divine revelation protects every apostle, spiritually, in all concerns of his life, irrespective of whether these concerns are obvious to him or are beyond his ken.
72:23 If I should fail to convey [to the world whatever illumination comes to me] from God and His messages. Now as for him who rebels against God and His Apostle – Verily, the fire of hell awaits him, therein to abide beyond the count of time.
Lit., “all that is with them”, i.e., of knowledge and wisdom.
72:24 [Let them, then, wait] until the time when they behold that [doom] of which they were forewarned: for then they will come to understand which [kind of man] is more helpless and counts for less!
72:25 Say “I do not know whether that [doom] of which you were forewarned is near, or whether my Sustainer has set for it a distant term.”
72:26 He [alone] knows that which is beyond the reach of a created being’s perception, and to none does He disclose aught of the mysteries of His Own unfathomable knowledge.
72:27 Unless it be to an apostle whom He has been pleased to elect [therefore] and then He sends forth [the forces of heaven] to watch over him in whatever lies open before him and in what is beyond his ken.
72:28 So as to make manifest that it is indeed [but] their Sustainer’s messages that these [apostles] deliver, for it is He who encompasses [with His knowledge] all that they have [to say], just as He takes count, one by one, of everything [that exists].