38:41 And call to mind Our servant Job, [how it was] when he cried out to his Sustainer, “Behold, Satan has afflicted me with [utter] weariness and suffering!”
In the words of the Bible (The Book of Job ii, 9), at the time of his seemingly hopeless suffering, Job’s wife reproached her husband for persevering in his faith: “Dost thou still retaip thine integrity? Curse God, and die.” According to the classical Qur’an commentators, Job swore that, if God would restore him to health, he would punish her blasphemy with a hundred stripes. But when he did recover, he bitterly regretted his hasty oath, for he realized that his wife’s “blasphemy” had been an outcome of her love and pity for him; and thereupon he was told in a revelation that he could fulfill his vow in a symbolic manner by striking her once with “a bunch of grass containing a hundred blades or more”. (Cf. 5:89 – “God will not take you to task for oaths which you may have uttered without thought”).
38:42 [And thereupon was told] “Strike [the ground] with thy foot, here is cool water to wash with and to drink!”
Lit., “of the [final] abode”.
38:43 And We bestowed upon him new offspring, doubling their number as an act of grace from Us, and as a reminder unto all who are endowed with insight.
Al-Yasa’ in Arabic – the Biblical prophet who succeeded Elijah (see saiah 37, note 48).
38:44 [And finally We told him] “Now take in thy hand a small bunch of grass, and strike therewith, and thou wilt not break thine oath!” – for, Verily, We found him full of patience in adversity: how excellent a servant [of Ours], who, behold, would always turn unto Us!
For an explanation of this rendering of dhu’l-kifl, see surah 21, note 81.
38:45 And call to mind Our servants Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, [all of them] endowed with inner strength and vision.
In all the eleven instances in which the noun ‘adn occurs in the Qur’an – and of which the present is the oldest – it is used as a qualifying term for the “gardens” (lannat) of paradise. This noun is derived from the verb ‘adana, which primarily denotes “he remained [somewhere]” or “he kept (to something]”, i.e., permanently: cf, the phrase ‘adantu ‘l-balad (“I remained for good [or “settled”] in the country”). In Biblical Hebrew – which, after all, is but a very ancient Arabian dialect – the closely related noun ‘eden has also the additional connotation of “delight”, “pleasure” or “bliss”. Hence the combination of the two concepts in my rendering of ‘adn as “perpetual bliss”. As in many other places in the Qur’an, this bliss is here allegorized – and thus brought closer to man’s imagination – by means of descriptions recalling earthly joys.
38:46 For, Verily, We purified them by means of thought most pure, the remembrance of the life to come.
Lit., “such as restrain their gaze”, i.e., are of modest bearing and have eyes only for their mates (Razi). This allegorical reference to the delights of paradise occurs in the Qur’an three times (apart from the above instance, which is chronologically the earliest, in 37:48 and 55:56 as well). As an allegory, this phrase evidently applies to the righteous of both sexes, who in the life to come will be rejoined with those whom they loved and by whom they were loved in this world: for, “God has promised the believers, both men, and women, gardens through which running waters flow, therein to abide, and goodly dwellings in gardens of perpetual bliss” (9:72); and, “anyone – be it man or woman – who does [whatever he can] of good deeds and is a believer withal, shall enter paradise” (4:124, with similar statements in 16:97 and 40:40). Finally, we are told in 36:56 that in this paradise “will they and their spouses on couches recline” – i.e., will find peace and inner fulfillment with and in one another. (For an explanation of the term atrab, rendered by me as “well-matched”, see note 15 on 56:38.
38:47 And, Behold, in Our sight they were indeed among the elect, the truly good!
Lit., “of its kind”: i.e., corresponding in intensity to what the Qur’an describes as hamim and ghassaq. For my rendering of hamim as “burning despair”, see surah 6, note 62. The term ghassaq, on the other hand, is derived from the verb ghasaqa, “it became dark” or “intensely dark” (Taj al- ‘Arus); thus, al-ghasiq denotes “black darkness” and, tropically, “the night” or, rather, “the black night”. According to some authorities, the form ghassaq signifies “intense [or “icy”] cold”. A combination of these two meanings gives us the concept of the “ice-cold darkness” of the spirit which, together with “burning despair” (hamim), will characterize the suffering of inveterate sinners in the life to come. All other interpretations of the term ghassaq are purely speculative and, therefore, irrelevant.
38:48 And call to mind Ishmael and Elisha, and everyone who [like them] has pledged himself [unto Us], for, each of them was of the truly good!
i.e., “people whom you had seduced, and who thereupon blindly followed you”: an apostrophe stressing the double responsibility of the seducers.
38:49 Let [all] this be a reminder [to those who believe in God] – For, Verily, the most beauteous of all goals awaits the God-conscious.
In Arabic usage, the phrase “no welcome to them” or “to you” (la marhaban bihim, resp. bihum) is equivalent to a curse. In this context – carried on into the next verse – it expresses a mutual disavowal of the seducers and the seduced.
38:50 Gardens of perpetual bliss, with gates wide-open to them.
Cf. 7:38 (and the corresponding notes 28 and 29) as well as 33:67-68.