70:11 Though they may be in one another’s sight [for] everyone who was lost in sin will on that Day but desire to ransom himself from suffering
at the price of his own children.
This warning against pharisaic self-righteousness implies that however “good” a person may be, there is always a possibility of his or her having done a moral wrong (e.g., an injury to a fellow being) and then conveniently “forgotten” this sin. Elliptically, this warning contains a call to increasing consciousness in all one’s doings – for, “temptation to evil (fitnah) does not befall only those who are bent on denying the truth” (8:25), but may also befall people who are otherwise righteous.
70:12 And of his spouse, and of his brother.
Lit., “who guard their private parts”.
70:13 And of all the kinsfolk whoever sheltered him.
See the identical passage in 23:5-7, as well as the corresponding note 3, in which I have fully explained the reasons for my rendering of the phrase aw ma malakat aymanuhum as “that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock]”. As regards this interpretation, see al Razi’s comments on 4:24, as well as one of the alternative interpretations of that verse, advanced by Tabari on the authority of ibn Abbas.
70:14 And of whoever [else] lives on earth, all of them – so that he could but save himself.
This, again, connects with the statement in verse 19, “man is born with a restless disposition (see note 7 above). People who do not want to see the truth of God’s existence and have, therefore, no solid basis on which to build their worldview, are, by the same token, unable to conceive any definite standards of personal and social ethics. Hence, whenever they are confronted with anyone’s positive assertion of faith, they “run about to and fro” in spiritual confusion, trying, in order to justify themselves intellectually, to demolish the premises of that faith by means of many-sided, contradictory arguments – an endeavor depicted in the metaphor, “coming upon thee from the right and from the left”; and since they derive all their strength from conformity with shallow mass opinions, they can do this only “in crowds”
70:15 But nay! Verily, all [that awaits him] is a raging flame.
i.e., “Do they hope to achieve inner peace and fulfillment by ‘disproving’ another person’s faith?”
70:16 Tearing away his skin!
Namely, out of “dust” – i.e., out of the same primitive organic and inorganic substances as are found in and on the earth: the implication being that only spiritual consciousness and endeavor can raise man above the mere material form of his existence, and thus enable him to achieve the inner fulfillment metaphorically described here as “a garden of bliss”.
70:17 It will claim all such as turn their backs [on what is right], and turn away [from the truth].
i.e., of all the variation, throughout the solar year, of the points at which the sun “rises” and “sets”: thus stressing the fact that He is the Ultimate Cause of all orbital movement in the universe and, hence, its Creator (cf. 37:5 and 55:17).
70:18 And amass [wealth] and thereupon withhold [it from their fellow-men].
The implication is that it is not His will to replace “those who are bent on denying the truth”, in this world, by believers, inasmuch as such a “replacement” would not be in accord with His design of multiform human existence, in which faith is always challenged and tested by unbelief, and vice versa.
70:19 Verily, man is born with a restless disposition.
i.e., their philosophizing about a supposedly “uncreated” world and a hypothetical “self-generation” of life, as well as their blatant “denial”, unsupported by any factual evidence, of a life after death or even of the existence of God.
70:20 [As a rule] whenever misfortune touches him, he is filled with self-pity.
The concept of “again and again” – i.e., by a succession, through the ages, of prophetic revelations – is implied in the auxiliary verb kanu, which usually connotes repetition and/or duration.