In The Name of God, The Most Gracious, The Dispenser of Grace.
38:1 Sad.’ Consider this Qur’an, endowed with all that one ought to remember!
See Appendix II.
38:2 But nay – they who are bent on denying the truth are lost in [false] pride, and [hence] deeply in the wrong.
For an explanation of this rendering of the adjurative particle wa, see the first half of note 23 on
38:3 How many a generation have We destroyed before their time (for this very sin]! And [how] they called [unto Us] when it was too late to escape!
Or: “endowed with eminence” (Zamakhshari), since the term dhikr (ht., “reminder” or “remembrance”) has also the connotation of “that which is remembered”‘ i.e., “renown”, “fame” and, tropically, “eminence”. As regards the rendering preferred by me, see 21:10, where the phrase fihi dhikrukum (relating, as above, to the Qur’an) has been translated as “wherein is found all that you ought to bear in mind”, i.e., in order to attain to dignity and happiness.
38:4 Now these [people] deem it strange that a warner should have come unto them from their own midst – and [so] the deniers of the truth are saying, “A [mere] spellbinder is he, a liar!
i.e., they refuse to acknowledge the fact of divine revelation because such an acknowledgment would imply an admission of man’s responsibility to God – and this their false pride, manifested in their arrogant belief in man’s “self-sufficiency”, does not allow them to do. The same idea is expressed in 16:22 and, in a more general way, in 2:206. Cf. also 96:6-7.
38:5 Does he claim that all the deities are [but] one God? Verily, a most strange thing is this!”
It is to be noted that the term qarn signifies not merely a “generation” but also – and quite frequently in the Qur’an – people belonging to a particular period and environment”, i.e., a “civilization” in the historical connotation of this word.
38:6 And their leaders launch forth [thus] “Go ahead, and hold steadfastly onto your deities, this, behold, is the only thing to do!
Lit., “while there was no time for escaping”.
38:7 Never did we hear of [a claim like] this in any faith of latter days! It is nothing but [a mortal man’s] invention!
Although this passage describes, in the first instance, the attitude of the pagan Quraysh towards the Prophet, it touches upon the reluctance of most people, at all times, to recognize “a man from their own midst” – i.e., a human being like themselves – as God-inspired. (See note 2 on 50:2).
38:8 What! Upon him, alone from among all of us should a [divine] reminder have been bestowed from on high?” Nay, but it is My Own reminder that they distrust! Nay, they have not yet tasted the suffering which I do impose!
Divorced from its purely historical background, this criticism acquires a timeless significance, and maybe thus paraphrased: “Does he claim that all creative powers and qualities are inherent exclusively in what he conceives as ‘one God’?” – a paraphrase which illustrates the tendency of many people to attribute a decisive influence on human life – and, hence, a quasi-divine status – to a variety of fortuitous phenomena or circumstances (like wealth, “luck”, social position, etc.) rather than to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence, in all observable nature, of God’s unique existence.
38:9 Or do they [think that they] own the treasures of thy Sustainer’s grace [the grace] of the Almighty, the Giver of Gifts?
Lit., “a thing desired” or “to be desired”, i.e., a sensible course of action.
38:10 Or [that] the dominion over the heavens and the earth and all that is between them is theirs? Why, then, let them try to ascend [to God-like power] by all [conceivable] means!
i.e., “in any of the faiths prevalent in our days”: an oblique reference to Christianity and its dogma of the Trinity, which contrasts with the Qur’anic concept of God’s oneness and uniqueness, as well as to any other faith based on the belief in a multiplicity or multiform incarnation of divine powers (e.g., Hinduism with its triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva).