In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.
50:1 Qaf. Consider this sublime Qur’an!
Chronologically, the above is the second occurrence (after surah 68) of one of the disjointed letter symbols which precede some of the Qur’anic surahs. For the theories relating to these symbols, see Appendix II. As regards my rendering of the adjurative particle wa which opens the next sentence as “Consider”, see the first half of note 23 on 74:32, where this adjuration appears for the first time in the chronological order of revelation.
50:2 But nay – they deem it strange that a warner should have come unto them from their own midst; and so these deniers of the truth are saying, “A strange thing is this!
This is the earliest Qur’anic mention – repeated again and again in other places of people’s “deeming it strange” that a purportedly divine message should have been delivered by someone “from their own midst”, i.e., a mortal like themselves. Although it is undoubtedly, in the first instance, a reference to the negative attitude of the Meccan pagans to Muhammad’s call, its frequent repetition throughout the Qur’an has obviously an implication going far beyond that historical reference: it points to the tendency common to many people, at all stages of human development, to distrust any religious statement that is devoid of all exoticism inasmuch as it is enunciated by a person sharing the social and cultural background of those whom he addresses, and because the message itself relies exclusively on – as the Qur’an does – on an appeal to man’s reason and moral sense. Hence, the Qur’an explicitly mentions people’s “objections” to a prophet “who eats food [like ordinary mortals] and goes about in the market-places” (25:7; see also note 16 on 25:20).
50:3 Why – [how could we be resurrected] after we have died and become mere dust? Such a return seems far-fetched indeed!”
Lit., “what the earth diminishes of them” – implying that God’s promise of resurrection takes the fact of the dead bodies’ decomposition fully into account. Consequently, resurrection will be like “a new creation” (cf. 10:4, 21:104, 30:11, 85:13, etc.), recalling the recurrent process of creation and re-creation visible in all organic nature (cf. 10:34, 27:64, 30:27).
50:4 Well do We know how the earth consumes their bodies, for with Us is a record unfailing.
Since they reject a priori all thought of life after death, they are perplexed by the lack of any answer to the “why” and “what for” of man’s life, by the evident inequality of human destinies, and by what appears to them as senseless, blind cruelty of nature: problems which can be resolved only against the background of a belief in a continuation of life after bodily “death” and, hence, in the existence of a purpose and a plan underlying all creation.
50:5 Nay, but they [who refuse to believe in resurrection] have been wont to give the lie to this truth whenever it was proffered to them, and so they are in a state of confusion.
Lit., “and it has no gaps [or “breaks”j whatever”.
50:6 Do they not look at the sky above them – how We have built it and made it beautiful and free of all faults?
See note 33 on 25:38.
50:7 And the earth – We have spread it wide, and set upon it mountains firm, and caused it to bring forth plants of all beauteous kinds.
The term “brethren” (ikhwan) is used here metonymically, denoting a group of people who share the same views or, alternatively, the same environment. Since the people referred to formed Lot’s social environment (cf. 7:83 or 11:77-83), they are described as his “brethren” although his moral concepts and inclinations were entirely different from theirs.
50:8 Thus offering insight and a reminder unto every human being who willingly turns unto God.
Regarding “the people of Tubba'”, see 44:37 and the corresponding note. The “dwellers of the wooded dales” are the people of Madyan (the Biblical Midian), as is evident from 26:176 ff. Their story is found in the Qur’an in several places; for the most detailed version, see 11:84-95.
50:9 And We send down from the skies water-rich in blessings and cause thereby gardens to grow, and fields of grain.
I.e., by the creation of the universe or, more specifically, of man.
50:10 And tall palm trees with their thickly-clustered dates.