22:11 And there is, too, among men many a one who worships God on the border-line [of faith]: thus, if good befalls him, he is satisfied with Him; but if a trial assails him, he turns away utterly, losing [thereby both] this world and the life to come: [and] this, indeed, is a loss beyond compare.
By failing to commit himself unreservedly to the faith which he professes, man is often inclined to attribute to all manner of extraneous forces, be they real or imaginary, a decisive “influence” on his own destiny, and thus invests them, as it were, with divine qualities.
22:12 [By behaving thus] he invokes, instead of God, something that neither harm nor benefits him, [and] this is indeed the utmost one can go astray.
Lit., “this, this (dhalika huwa) is the straying far-away”. For an explanation of my paraphrase, see note 25 on the last sentence of 14:18.
22:13 [And sometimes] he invokes [another human being] one that is far more likely to cause harm than benefit, vile, indeed, is such a patron, and vile the follower!
The interpolation of “another human being” in the opening clause of this verse is necessitated by the relative pronoun man (“one that” or “who”), which almost always relates to an animate person – in this case, a human being who, by allowing himself to be idolized by those who “worship God on the border-line of faith”, causes infinite spiritual harm to himself and to his followers.
22:14 Verily, God will admit those who have attained to faith and have done righteous deeds into gardens through which running waters flow: for, behold, God does whatever He wills.
i.e., that God is not enough to succor him: obviously an allusion to the type of man who “worships God on the border-line of faith” (verse 11 above) and therefore doubts His power to guide men towards happiness in this world and in the hereafter. The assumption of the majority of the commentators that the personal pronoun “him” relates to the Prophet Muhammad is, to my mind, very far-fetched and certainly not warranted by the context.
22:15 If anyone thinks that God will not succor him in this world and in the life to come, let him reach out unto heaven by any [other] means and [thus try to] make headway: and then let him see whether this scheme of his will indeed does away with the cause of his anguish.
The rendering of la-yaqta’ as “let him [try to] make headway” is based on the accepted, tropical use of the verb qata’a (lit., “he cut”) in the sense of “traversing a distance”: and this is the interpretation of yaqta by Abu Muslim (as quoted by Razi). The expression “by any [other] means” (bi-sabab) relates to what has been said in verses 12-13 above.
22:16 And thus have We bestowed from on high this [divine writ in the shape of clear messages: for [thus it is] that God guides him who wills [to be guided].
Lit., “that which causes anger” or “exasperation”, i.e., anguish at finding himself helpless and abandoned.
22:17 Verily, as for those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], and those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Sabians, and the Christians, and the Magians, [on the one hand,] and those who are bent on ascribing divinity to aught but God, [on the other,] verily, God will decide between them on Resurrection Day: for, behold, God is witness unto everything.
Or: “God guides aright whomever He wills”. For an explanation of the rendering adopted by me, see note 4 on 14:4.
22:18 Art thou not aware that before God prostrate themselves all [things and beings] that are in the heavens and all that is on earth – the sun, and the moon, and the stars, and the mountains, and the trees, and the beasts? And many human beings (submit to God consciously], whereas many [others, having defied Him,] will inevitably have to suffer [in the life to come]; and he whom God shall scorn [on Resurrection Day] will have none who could bestow honor on him: for, verily, God does what He wills.
See surah 2, note 49.
22:19 These two contrary kinds of men have become engrossed in contention about their Sustainer. But [thus it is:] as for those who are bent on denying the truth- garments of fire shall be cut out for them [in the life to come]; burning despair will be poured over their heads.
Al-Majus: the followers of Zoroaster or Zarathustra (Zardusht), the Iranian prophet who lived about the middle of the last millennium n.c. and whose teachings are laid down in the Zend-Avesta. They are represented today by the Gabrs of Iran and, more prominently, by the Parsis of India and Pakistan. Their religion, though dualistic in philosophy, is based on belief in God as the Creator of the universe.
22:20 Causing all that is within their bodies, as well as the skins, to melt away.
The Christians and the Magians (Zoroastrians) are included in the first category, for although they do ascribe divine qualities to other beings besides God, they regard those beings, fundamentally, as no more than manifestations – or incarnations – of the One God, thus persuading themselves that they are worshipping Him alone; whereas “those who are bent on ascribing divinity to beings other than God” (alladhina ashraku) by obvious implication reject the principle of His oneness and uniqueness.