In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.
4:1 Alif Lam Ra. A DIVINE WRIT [is this a revelation] which We have bestowed upon thee from on high in order that thou might bring forth all mankind, by their Sustainer’s leave, out of the depths of darkness into the light: onto the way that leads to the Almighty, the One to whom all praise is due.
See Appendix II; also surah 11, note 1.
14:2 to God, unto whom all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth belongs. But woe unto those who deny the truth: for suffering severely.
According to Zamakhshari and Razi, this is the real meaning of the verbal form yastahibbun in the above context – implying that such an all-absorbing, exclusive love of the life of this world leads inevitably to a denial of moral truths.
14:3 Awaits those who choose the life of this world as the sole object of their love, preferring it to [all thought of] the life to come, and who turn others away from the path of God and try to make it appear crooked. Such as these have indeed gone far astray!
Since every divine writ was meant to be understood by man, it is obvious that each had to be formulated in the language of the people whom the particular prophet was addressing in the first instance; and the Qur’an – notwithstanding its universal import (cf. note 126 on 7:158) – is no exception in this respect.
14:4 And Never have We sent forth any apostle otherwise than [with a message] in his own people’s tongue, so that he might make [the truth] clear unto them;3 but God lets go astray him that wills [to go astray], and guides him that wills [to be guided] – for He alone is almighty, truly wise.
Or: “God lets go astray whomever He wills, and guides whomever He wills”. All Qur’anic references to God’s “letting a man go astray” must be understood against the background of 2:26-27 – “none does He cause to go astray save the iniquitous, who break their bond with God” (regarding which latter expression, see surah 2, note 19): that is to say, man’s “going astray” is a consequence of his own attitudes and inclinations and not a result of an arbitrary “predestination” in the popular sense of this word (cf. surah 2, note 7). In his commentary on the above verse, Zamakhshari stresses this aspect of free choice on the part of man and points out that “God does not cause anyone to go astray except one who, as He knows, will never attain to faith; and He does not guide anyone aright except one who, as He knows, will attain to faith. Hence, the [expression] ‘causing to go astray’ denotes [God’s] leaving [one] alone (takhliyah) and depriving [him] of all favor, whereas [the expression] ‘guidance’ denotes [His] grant of fulfillment (tawfiq) and favor…. Thus, He does not forsake anyone except those who deserve to be forsaken and does not bestow His favor upon anyone except those who deserve to be favored.” Commenting on the identical phrase occurring in 16:93, Zamakhshari states: “[God] forsakes him who, as He knows, will [consciously] choose to deny the truth and will persevere in this [denial]; and … He bestows His favor upon him who, as He knows, will choose faith: which means that He makes the issue dependent on [man’s] free choice (alikhtiyar), and thus on his deserving either [God’s] favor or the withdrawal of [His] aid … and does not make it dependent on compulsion [i.e., predestination], which would rule out [man’s] deserving anything of the above.”
14:5 And [thus], indeed, have We sent forth Moses with Our messages [and this Our command]: “Lead thy people out of the depths of darkness into the light, and remind them of the Days of God!” Verily, in this [reminder] there are messages indeed for all who are wholly patient in adversity and deeply grateful [to God].
In ancient Arabian tradition, the terms “day” or “days” were often used to describe momentous historical events (e.g., ayyam al-‘arab as a metonym for the inter-tribal wars of pre-Islamic Arabia). However, in view of the frequent Qur’anic application of the word “day” to eschatological concepts – e.g., the “Last Day”, the “Day of Resurrection”, the “Day of Reckoning”, and so forth – and, particularly, in view of 45:14, where the expression “the Days of God” unmistakably points to His judgment at the end of time – it is only logical to assume that in the present context this expression bears the same significance: namely, God’s final judgment of man on the Day of Resurrection. The use of the plural form (“the Days of God”) is perhaps meant to bring out the idea that the “Day” of which the Qur’an so often speaks has nothing to do with human time-definitions but, rather, alludes to an ultimate reality in which the concept of “time” has neither place nor meaning.
14:6 And, lo, Moses spoke [thus] unto his people: “Remember the blessings which God bestowed upon you when He saved you from Pharaoh’s people who afflicted you with cruel suffering and slaughtered your sons, and spared [only] your women7 – which was an awesome trial from your Sustainer.
For this rendering of the particle idh, see surah 2, note 21.
14:7 And [remember the time] when your Sustainer made [this promise] known: ‘If you are grateful [to Me], I shall most certainly give you more and more; but if you are ungrateful, verily, My chastisement will be severe indeed!”
Cf. 2:49; also Exodus i, 15-16 and 22.
14:8 And Moses added: “If you should [ever] deny the truth – you and whoever else lives on earth, all of you – [know that] verily, God is indeed self-sufficient, ever to be praised!”
i.e., “even more than you deserve”
14:9 Have the stories of those [deniers of the truth] who lived before you never yet come within your ken – [the stories of] the people of Noah, and of [the tribes of] ‘Ad and Thamud, and of those who came after them? None knows them [now] save God. There came unto them their apostles with all evidence of the truth – but they covered their mouths with their hands and answered: “Behold, we refuse to regard as true the message with which you [claim to] have been entrusted; and, behold, we are in grave doubt, amounting to suspicion, about [the meaning of] your call to us!”
i.e., they have disappeared from the face of the earth, and none save God knows today how many they were and how they lived. See verse 14 and note 18 below.
14:10 Said the apostles sent unto them: “Can there be any doubt about [the existence and oneness of] God, the Originator of the heavens and the earth? It is He who calls unto you, so that He may forgive you [whatever is past] of your sins and grant you respite until a term [set by Him is fulfilled].” [But] they replied: “You are nothing but mortal men like ourselves! You want to turn us away from what our forefathers were wont to worship: well, then, bring us a clear proof [of your being God’s message-bearers]!”
Lit., “they put their hands into their mouths” – an idiomatic phrase indicating one’s inability to refute a reasonable proposition by cogent, logical counter-arguments: for the out-of-hand rejection of the apostles’ message by their recalcitrant compatriots cannot by any means be regarded as an “argument”.