In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.
71:1 Behold, We sent Noah unto his people [saying] “Warn thy people ere grievous suffering to befall them!
Namely, until the end of each person’s life – implying that although they might be forgiven all sins committed before their postulated change of heart, they would henceforth, until their death, be held fully accountable for their behavior in the light of that new-found faith. Cf. 4:18 – “repentance shall not be accepted from those who do evil deeds until their dying hour and then say, Behold, I now repent'”.
71:2 [And Noah] said “O my people! I am but a plain warner to you, [sent to tell you].
Lit., “has not increased them in anything but flight”.
71:3 That you should worship God [alone] and be conscious of Him, “Now do pay heed unto me.
For the reason of the above interpolation – which endows the concept of “garments” with a metaphorical meaning – see note 2 on 74:4; cf. also the expression “garment of God-consciousness” (libas attaqwa) in 7:26.
71:4 So that He may forgive you some of your sins, and grant you respite until a term known [to Him alone]: but, behold, when the term appointed by God does come, it can never be put back – if you but knew it!”
Lit., “He will let loose the sky over you with abundance” (but see also note 76 on 11:52).
71:5 [And after a time, Noah] said, “O my Sustainer! Verily, I have been calling unto my people night and day.
The two last-mentioned blessings are an allusion to the state of happiness in the hereafter, symbolized in the Qur’an as “gardens through which running waters flow”
71:6 But my call has only caused them to flee farther and farther away [from Thee].
i.e., “that you refuse to believe in God” (Zamakhshari). Some authorities (e.g., Jawhari) give to the above phrase the meaning, “that you will not fear God’s majesty”, which, too, implies a lack of belief in Him.
71:7 And behold, whenever I called unto them with a view to Thy granting them forgiveness, they put their fingers into their ears, and wrapped themselves up in their garments [of sin], and grew obstinate, and became [yet more] arrogant in their false pride.
i.e., by a process of gradual evolution, in the mother’s womb, from a drop of sperm and a fertilized germ-cell (the female ovum), up to the point where the embryo becomes a new, self-contained human entity (cf. 22:5): all of which points to the existence of a plan and a purpose and, hence, to the existence of a conscious Creator.
71:8 And behold I called unto them openly.
Cf. 67:3 and the corresponding note 2.
71: And, behold I preached to them in public, and I spoke to them secretly, in private.
See 10:5, where the sun is described as “a [source of] radiant light” (diya’) and the moon as “light [reflected]” (nur); both these interpolations are explained in note 10 on 10:5.
71:10 And I said, Ask your Sustainer to forgive you your sins – for, Verily, He is all-forgiving!
This phrase has a twofold meaning. In the first instance, it alludes to the evolution of the individual human body out of the same substances – both organic and inorganic – as are found in and on the earth as well: and in this sense, it enlarges upon the creation of the human individual “in successive stages” referred to in verse 14 above. Secondly, it alludes to the evolution of the human species, which, starting from the most primitive organisms living on earth, has gradually ascended to ever higher stages of development until it has finally reached that complexity of body, mind, and soul evident in the human being.