53:21 Why – for yourselves [you would choose only] male offspring, whereas to Him [you assign] female.
Namely, of the real nature and function of the category of beings spoken of in the Qur’an as angels, inasmuch as they belong to the realm of al-ghayb, “that which is beyond the reach of human perception”. Alternatively, the pronoun in bihi may relate to God, in which case the phrase could be rendered as “they have no knowledge whatever of Him” – implying that both the attribution of “progeny” to Him and the belief that His judgment depends on, or could be influenced by, “mediation” or “intercession” is the result of an anthropomorphic concept of God and, therefore, far removed from the truth.
53:22 that, lo and behold, is an unfair division!
Lit., “that is their sum-total [or “goal”] of knowledge”.
53:23 These [allegedly divine beings] are nothing but empty names which you have invented – you and your forefathers – [and] for which God has bestowed no warrant from on high. They [who worship them] follow nothing but surmise and their own wishful thinking – although right guidance has now indeed come unto them from their Sustainer.
i.e., whereas good deeds will be rewarded with far more than their merits may warrant, evil will be recompensed with no more than its equivalent (cf. 6:160), and either will be decided by the Almighty without the need of “mediation” or “intercession”.
53:24 Does man imagine that it is his due to have all that he might wish for.
Lit., “save for a touch [thereof]”: a phrase which may be taken to mean “an occasional stumbling into sin” – i.e., not deliberately – followed by sincere repentance (Baghawi, Razi, Ibn Kathir).
53:25 Despite the fact that [both] the life to come and this present [one] belong to God [alone]?
Sc., “and of your inborn weakness” – an implied echo of the statement that “man has been created weak” (4:28) and, therefore, liable to stumble into sinning.
53:26 For, however many angels there be in the heavens, their intercession can be of no least avail [to anyone] – except after God has given leave [to intercede] for whomever He wills and with whom He is well-pleased.
Lit., “out of the earth”: see the second half of note 47 on 3:59, as well as note 4 on 23:12.
53:27 Behold, it is [only] such as do not [really] believe in the life to come to that regard the angels as female beings.
i.e., “never boast about your own purity”, but remain humble and remember that “it is God who causes whomever He wills to remain pure” (4:49).
53:28 And [since] they have no knowledge whatever thereof, they follow nothing but surmise, yet, behold, never can surmise take the place of truth.
My rendering of the above two verses (together with the two interpolations between brackets) is based on Razi’s convincing interpretation of this passage as a return to the theme touched upon in verses 29-30.
53:29 Avoid thou, therefore, those who turn away from all remembrance of Us and care for no more than the life of this world.
i.e., “How can he be so sure that there is no life in the hereafter, and no judgment?”
53:30 Which, to them, is the only thing worth knowing. Behold, thy Sustainer is fully aware as to who has strayed from His path, and fully aware is He as to who follows His guidance.
Cf. 2:124 and the corresponding note 100. It is obvious that the names of Abraham and Moses are cited here only by way of example, drawing attention to the fact that all through human history God has entrusted His elect, the prophets, with the task of conveying certain unchangeable ethical truths to man.