In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.
37:1 Consider these [messages] ranged in serried ranks.
Regarding the adjurative particle wa and my rendering it as “Consider”, see the first half of note 23 on 74:32. – Most of the classical commentators assume that verses 1-3 refer to angels – an assumption which Abu Muslim al-Isfahani (as quoted by Razi) rejects, stating that the passage refers to the true believers among human beings. However, Razi advances yet another (and, to my mind, most convincing) interpretation, suggesting that what is meant here are the messages (ayat) of the Qur’an, which – in the commentator’s words – “deal with various subjects, some speaking of the evidence of God’s oneness or of the evidence of His omniscience, omnipotence, and wisdom, and some setting forth the evidence of [the truth of] prophetic revelation or of resurrection, while some deal with man’s duties and the laws [relating thereto], and yet others are devoted to the teaching of high moral principles; and these messages are arranged in accordance with a coherent system above all [need of] change or alteration so that they resemble beings or things standing ‘in serried ranks.”
37:2 And restraining [from evil] by a call to restraint.
Sc., “and of sunset” (cf. 55:17 and the corresponding note 7). The stress on the various “points of sunrise” (al-mashariq) brings out the endless variety of all created phenomena as contrasted with the oneness and uniqueness of their Creator. The mention of “the points of sunrise” and the omission of “the points of sunset” in the wording (though not in the meaning) of the above phrase alludes, I believe, to the light-giving quality of the Qur’an spoken of in verses 1-3.
37:3 And conveying [to all the world a reminder.
For an explanation of this passage, see note 16 on 15:17.
37:4 Verily, most surely, your God is One.
i.e., the angelic forces, whose “speech” is a metonym for God’s decrees.
37:5 The Sustainer of the heavens and the earth and of all that is between them, and the Sustainer of all the points of sunrise!
Lit., “excepting [or “except that”] anyone who …”, etc. However, as pointed out by some authorities (e.g., Mughni), the particle illa is occasionally synonymous with the simple conjunction wa, which in this case has the significance of “but”.
37:6 Behold, We have adorned the skies nearest to the earth with the beauty of stars.
For the meaning of this phrase, see note 17 on 15:18. After the stress on God’s oneness in verses 4-5, the passage comprising verses 6-l0 points to the fact that human beings are precluded from really grasping the variety and depth of the universe created by Him. We have here an echo of 34:9 – “Are they, then, not aware of how little of the sky and the earth lies open before them, and how much is hidden from them?” and, thus, a new, oblique approach to the theme of resurrection, which is taken up in the sequence in the form of an indirect question.
37:7 And have made them secure against every rebellious, satanic force.
i.e., out of primitive substances existing in their elementary forms in and on the earth (see surah 23, note 4) substances which are as nothing when compared with the complexity of “the heavens and the earth and all that is between them”: hence, man’s individual resurrection is as nothing when compared with the creation of the multiform universe.
37:8 [So that] they [who seek to learn the unknowable] should not be able to overhear the host on high but shall be repelled from all sides.
i.e., at God’s creative power as well as at the blind arrogance of those who deny it.
37:9 Cast out [from all grace], with lasting suffering in store for them [in the life to come].
See note 6 on 77:13.
37:10 But if anyone does succeed in snatching a glimpse [of such knowledge], he is [henceforth] pursued by a piercing flame.
According to almost all of the earliest authorities – including ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas, Qatadah, Mujahid, As-Suddi, Sa’id ibn Jubayr, Al-Hasan al-Basri, etc., – the expression azwaj denotes here “people resembling one another (in their dispositions)”, or “people of the same kind” or “of the same ilk”.