56:11 They who were [always] drawn close unto God!
See note 10 on 53:14.
56:12 In gardens of bliss [will they dwell].
See note 74 on 4: 57
56:13 A good many of those of olden times.
Or “[they will rest on] couches raised high”. The rendering adopted by me is regarded as fully justified by some of the most outstanding commentators (e.g., Baghawi, Zamakhshari, Razi, Baydawi, etc.), and this for two reasons: firstly, because in the classical Arabic idiom, the term firash (lit., “bed” or “couch”) is often used topically to denote “wife” or “husband” (Raghib; also Qamus, Taj al-‘Arus, etc.); and, secondly, because of the statement in the next verse that God “shall have brought them (hunna) into being in a life renewed” (In the context of this interpretation, Zamakhshari quotes also 36:56, which thus refers to the inmates of Paradise: … in happiness will they and their spouses on couches recline”. There is no doubt that the “spouses raised high” i.e., to the status of the blest – are identical with the hur mentioned in verse 22 above as well as in 44:54, 52:20 and 65:72.
56:14 But [only] a few of later times.
Lit., “and We shall have made them virgins”. According to a number of authentic Traditions (quoted in full by Tabari and Ibn Kathir), the Prophet stated on several occasions that all righteous women, however old and decayed they may have been on earth, will be resurrected as virginal maidens and will, like their male counterparts, remain eternally young in paradise.
56:15 [They will be seated] on gold-encrusted thrones of happiness.
i.e., equal in dignity with all other inmates of paradise. As regards the term atrab (sing. tirb), rendered above – as well as in 38:52 and 78:33 – as “well-matched”, there is no doubt that it primarily denotes “[persons] of equal age” (a meaning adopted by most of the commentators); however, as pointed out by all philological authorities, this term is also used in the sense of “[persons] equal in quality”, that is, “well-matched”: a significance which, to my mind, is eminently appropriate here inasmuch as it is meant to stress the equal excellence of all who have attained to righteousness, whether they be men or women; or, alternatively, the equal attraction towards one another and, thus, a mutual fulfillment of their spiritual and emotional needs; or both of the above meanings.
56:16 Reclining upon them, facing one another [in love].
In contrast with “the foremost”, who has always been “drawn close unto God” – and of whom there are less and less as time goes on (see note 4 above) – there will always be many of those who attain to righteousness after initial stumbling and sinning (see note 10).
56:17 Immortal youths will wait upon them.
i.e., until their death. Literally, the phrase reads, “those on the left hand” (see note 3 above).
56:18 With goblets, and ewers, and cups filled with water from unsullied springs.
For this rendering of hamim, see surah 6, note 62.
56:19 By which their minds will not be clouded and which will not make them drunk.
i.e,, to the exclusion of all moral considerations. For the meaning of the term mutraf, see surah 11, note 147.
56:20 And with the fruit of any kind that they may choose.
See note 22 on 37:62.