13:11 [Thinking that] he has hosts of helpers – both such as can be perceived by him and such as are hidden from hi- that could preserve him from whatever God may have willed. Verily, God does not change men’s condition unless they change their inner selves; and when God wills people to suffer evil [in consequence of their own evil deeds], there is none who could avert it: for they have none who could protect them from Him.
i.e., while it is amazing that one can refuse to believe in God despite all the evidence, accessible to human observation, of the existence of a definite purpose in all life phenomena, and thus of the existence of a conscious Creative Power, it is no less amazing to see people who, while vaguely believing in God, can yet refuse to believe in the individual resurrection: for, if God has created the universe and the phenomenon of life as such, He obviously has the power to re-create life – and its requisite physical vehicle – in a new act of creation.
13:12 He it is, who displays before you the lightning, to give rise to [both] fear and hope, and calls heavy clouds into being.
By denying the possibility of resurrection, they implicitly deny God’s Almightiness, and thus, in effect, His reality.
13:13 And the thunder extols His limitless glory and praises Him, and [so do] the angels, in awe of Him; and He [it is who] lets loose the thunderbolts and strikes with them whom He wills. And yet, they stubbornly argue about God, notwithstanding [all evidence] that He alone has the power to contrive whatever His unfathomable wisdom wills!
A metaphor of man’s wilful self-abandonment to false values and evil ways, and of the resulting enslavement of the spirit (cf. Zamakhshari, Razi, Baydawl).
13:14 Unto Him [alone] is due all prayer aiming at the Ultimate Truth since those [other beings or powers] whom men invoke instead of God cannot respond to them in any way – [so that he who invokes them is] but like one who stretches his open hands towards the water, [hoping] that it will reach his mouth, the while it never reaches him. Hence, the prayer of those who deny the truth amounts to no more than losing oneself in grievous error.
Lit., “they ask thee to hasten the evil before the good”: i.e., instead of willingly accepting the guidance offered them by the Prophet, they mockingly challenge him to bring about the exemplary punishment with which, according to him, God threatens them. (For a fuller explanation of this “challenge”, referred to here and in several other places in the Qur’an, see 6:57-58 and 8:32, as well as the corresponding notes).
13:15 And before God, they prostrate themselves, willingly or unwillingly, all [things and beings] that are in the heavens and on earth, as do their shadows in the mornings and the evenings.
Cf. the first sentence of 10: 11 and the corresponding note 17.
13:16 Say: “Who is the Sustainer of the heavens and the earth?” Say: “[It is] God.” Say: “[Why,] then, do you take for your protectors, instead of Him, such as have it not within their power to bring benefit to, or avert harm from, themselves?” Say: “Can the blind and the seeing be deemed equal? – or can the depths of darkness and the light be deemed equal?” Or do they [really] believe that there are, side by side with God, other divine powers that have created the like of what He creates so that this act of creation appears to them to be similar [to His]? – Say: “God is the Creator of all things, and He is the One who holds absolute sway over all that exists.”
i.e., to prove that he (Muhammad) is really a prophet inspired by God. But the Qur’an makes it clear in several places (e.g., 6:7 and 111, 10:96-97 or 13:31) that even a miracle would not convince those who are “bent on denying the truth”.
13:17 [Whenever] He sends down water from the sky, and [once-dry] river-beds are running high according to their measure, the stream carries scum on its surface; and, likewise, from that [metal] which they smelt in the fire in order to make ornaments or utensils, [there rises] scum. In this way does God set forth the parable of truth and falsehood: for, as far as the scum is concerned, it passes away as [does all] dross; but that which is of benefit to man abides on earth. In this way does God set forth the parables.
According to the classical commentators, this sentence lends itself to several interpretations: (1) “Thou art only a warmer; and every nation has had a guide like thee (i.e., a prophet)”- which would be in consonance with the Qur’anic doctrine of the continuity of prophetic guidance; or (2) “Thou art only a warmer – but [at the same time] also a guide unto all people” – which would stress the universality of the Qur’anic message as contrasted with the time-bound and ethnically limited missions of the earlier prophets; or (3) “Thou art only a warmer bound to do no more than delivering the message entrusted to thee, while it is God alone who can truly guide men’s hearts towards faith”. Since the last of the above three interpretations is the most plausible and has, moreover, the support of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Abbas, Sa’id ibn Jubayr, Mujahid and Ad-Dahhak, I have adopted it in my rendering. According to Zamakhshari, this interpretation is further strengthened by the subsequent reference to God’s omniscience.
13:18 Of those who have responded to their Sustainer with a goodly response, and of those who did not respond to Him. [As for the latter,] if they possessed all that is on earth, and twice as much, they would surely offer it as a ransom [on the Day of Judgment]: the evilest reckoning awaits them, and their goal is hell: and how evil a resting-place!
The term untha denotes any female being, whether human or animal. The “falling short” may refer either to a shortening of the usual period of gestation (e.g., to seven months in human beings) or to a falling short of the completion of pregnancy, i.e., a miscarriage; it is to be noted that the noun ghayd signifies “an abortive foetus” (Taj al-Aras), i.e., in human beings, a foetus less than seven months old. The “increase”, on the other hand, may mean either the completion of gestation or its being in excess of the average period (as, for instance, the occasional lengthening of human pregnancy from the usual period of about 280 days to 305 or, according to some medical authorities, even 307 days). In addition to this, God’s knowledge of “what any female bears [in her womb]” obviously relates also to the sex of the unborn embryo as well as to the number of offspring involved in one pregnancy.- As the sequence shows, this reference to the mysteries of gestation, fully known only to God, is meant to bring out the idea that He who knows what is in the wombs knows also the innermost disposition of every human being and the direction in which
that human beings will develop.
13:19 Can, then, he who knows that whatever has been bestowed from on high upon thee by thy Sustainer is the truth be deemed equal to one who is blind? Only they who are endowed with insight keep this in mind:
Lit., “according to a measure” (bi-miqdar) -i.e., in accordance with the particular purpose for which it has been created, the exigencies of its existence and the role which it is destined to play within God’s plan of creation.
13:20 they who are true to their bond with God and never break their covenant.
See surah 6, note 65.