37:11 And now ask those [who deny the truth] to enlighten thee: Were they more difficult to create than all those [untold marvels] that We have created? – for, behold, them have We created out of [mere] clay commingled with water!’
Cf. the contrasting – though verbally identical – passage in verses 50 ff. of the present surah. Whereas in the latter instance the verb yatasa’alun has its primary connotation of “asking one another [about something)”, it signifies here “demanding [something) of one another” – as the sequence shows, to assume responsibility for their erstwhile denial of the truth.
37:12 Nay, but whereas thou dost marvel, they [only] scoff.
i.e., “claiming that what you were asking us to do was right and good”. The idiomatic phrase approaching one from the right” is more or less synonympus with “pretending to give morally good advice”, as well as “approaching another person from a position of power and influence” (Zamakhshari).
37:13 And when they are reminded [of the truth]; they refuse to take it to heart.
For an explanation see 28:62-64 and the corresponding notes.
37:14 And when they become aware of a [divine] message, they turn it to ridicule.
Lit., “for [or “for the sake of”) a mad poet” – thus alluding to the allegation that the Qur’an is a product of Muhammad’s mind (see note 38 on 36:69). The reference to “deities” comprises, in this context, everything that man may “worship” in both the literal and the metaphorical senses of this word
37:15 And say: “This is clearly nothing but [a mortal’s] spellbinding eloquence!
See surah 2, note 5. It is to be borne in mind that this refers to the fundamental teachings, which have always been the same in every true religion, and not to the many time-bound laws evident in the earlier religious codes.
37:16) Why – after we have died and become mere dust and bones, shall we, forsooth, be raised from the dead?
Lit., “sincere servants”. In contrast to the principle that “a bad deed will be required with no more than the like thereof”, implied in the preceding verse, the Qur’an states here that he who “shall come [before God] with a good deed will receive ten times the like thereof” (see 6:160).
37:17 And perhaps also our forebears of old?”
Lit., “a known sustenance”. For a tentative explanation of this phrase, see note 17 on 2:25.
37:18 Say: “Yea, indeed – and most abject will you then be!” –
For my occasional rendering of the plural noun surur as “thrones of happiness”, see note 34 on 15:47.
37:19 For that [resurrection which they deride] will be [upon them of a sudden as if it were] but a single accusing cry – and then, lo! they will begin to see [the truth].
See note 46 on 38:52, where the expression qasirat at-tarf (lit., “such as restrain their gaze”) appears for the first time in the chronology of Qur’anic revelation.
37:20 And will say: “Oh, woe unto us! This is the Day of Judgment!”
This is an ancient Arabian figure of speech derived from the habit of the female ostrich, which buries its eggs in the sand for protection (Zamakhshari). Its particular application to the women who attain paradise becomes clear from 56:34 ff., which states that all righteous women, irrespective of their age and condition at the time of death, will be resurrected as beautiful maidens.