37:21 [And they will be told] “This is the Day of Distinction [between the true.
Cf. verse 27 above and the corresponding note 11. Like the mutual reproaches of the sinners in that passage, the “conversation” of the blessed which follows here is, of course, allegorical, and is meant to stress the continuity of individual consciousness in the hereafter.
37:22 [And God will thus command] “Assemble all those who were bent on evildoing, together with others of their ilk and [with] all that they were wont to worship.
According to the lexicographers, the noun zaqqam (which occurs, apart from the present instance, in 44:43 and in 56:52 as well) denotes any “deadly food”; hence, the expression shajarat azzaqqum, a symbol of hell, maybe appropriately rendered as “the tree of deadly fruit” (undoubtedly identical with “the tree cursed in this Qur’an”, mentioned in 17:60), symbolizing the fact that the otherworldly sufferings which the Qur’an describes as “hell” are but the fruit – i.e., organic consequence – of one’s evil deeds done on earth.
37:23 Instead of God, and lead them all onto the way to the blazing fire.
It cannot be often enough repeated that all Qur’anic references to hell and paradise – and, for that matter, all descriptions of men’s conditions in the hereafter – are, of necessity, highly allegorical (see Appendix I) and therefore liable to be grossly misunderstood if one takes them in their literal sense or, conversely, interprets them in an arbitrary manner (cf. 3:7 and the corresponding notes 5, 7 and 8): and this, to my mind, explains why the symbol of the “tree of deadly fruit” – one of the metonyms for the suffering of the sinners in the hereafter – has become “a trial (fitnah) for evildoers” (or “for men” in 17:60). See in this connection 74:31, which is the earliest Qur’anic instance of this concept of “trial”.
37:24 And halt them [there]!” [And then,] behold, they shall be asked.
According to Zamakhshari, “this purely verbal metaphor (isti’arah lafziyyah) is meant to express the ultimate in repulsiveness and ugliness … inasmuch as Satan is considered to be the epitome of all that is evil”.
37:25 “How is it that [now] you cannot succor one another?”
Lit., “and upon it, behold, they will have an admixture [or “confusion”] of hamim”. (For my rendering of the last term as “burning despair”, see surah 6, note 62.)
37:26 Nay, but on that Day they would willingly surrender [to God].
See surah 6, note 3.
37:27 But [since it will be too late] they will turn upon one another, demanding of each other [to relieve them of the burden of their past sins].
i.e., blind imitation (taqlid) of the – obviously absurd – beliefs, valuations, and customs of one’s erring predecessors, and disregard of all evidence of the truth supplied by both reason and divine revelation, is here shown to be the principal cause of the suffering referred to in the preceding passage (Zamakhshari).
37:28 Some [of them] will say “Behold, you were wont to approach us [deceptively] from the right!”
Sc., “and are, therefore, in need of prophetic guidance”: which explains the subsequent mention of stories relating to several of the prophets. The story of Noah, which is briefly referred to here, appears in greater detail in 11:25-48.
37:29 [To which] the others will reply “Nay, you yourselves were bereft of all faith!
i.e., the Deluge.
37:30 Moreover, we had no power at all over you: nay, you were people filled with overweening arrogance!
Lit., “and We left upon him”, sc., “this praise or “remembrance”, expressed in the salutation