38:51 Wherein they will recline, [and] wherein they may [freely] call for many fruits and drink.
i.e., the prophets and the righteous, who – as the Qur’an points out in many places – have always been derided by people enamored of the life of this world and, therefore, averse to all moral exhortation.
38:52 Having beside them well-matched mates of modest gaze.”
For the allegorical contention of the angels (“the host on high”) against the creation of man, see 2:30 ff. and the corresponding notes 22-24. The allegory of man’s creation, of God’s command to the angels to “prostrate themselves” before the new creature, and of Iblis’ refusal to do so appears in the Qur’an six times (2:30-34, 7:11 ff., 15:28-44, 17:6l-65, 18:50, and 38:69-85), each time with an accent on a different aspect of this allegory. In the present instance (which is undoubtedly the earliest in the chronology of revelation) it is connected with the statement, in 2:31, that God “imparted unto Adam the names of all things”, i.e., an endowed man with the faculty of conceptual thinking (see note 23 on 2:31) and, thus, with the ability to discern between what is true and what false. Since he possesses this faculty, man has no excuse for not realizing God’s existence and oneness – the “message tremendous” – referred to in the preceding passage.
38:53 This is what you are promised for the Day of Reckoning.
Lit., “otherwise than that I be (illa annama ana) a plain warner” – i.e., of the prospect of spiritual self-destruction inherent in a willful disregard of the fact of God’s existence and oneness, which is the core of all religious cognition and, hence, of all true prophethood.
38:54 This, verily, shall be Our provision [for you], with no end to it!
For this rendering of idh, see surah 2, note 21.
38:55 All this [for the righteous], but, verily, the most evil of all goals awaits those who are wont to transgress the bounds of what is right.
See note 24 on 15:26.
38:56 Hell will they have to endure – and how vile a resting-place!
See 15:29 and the corresponding note 26.
38:57 This, [then, for them] so let them taste it, burning despair and ice-cold darkness.
See note 26 on 2:34 and note 31 on 15:41.
38:58 And, coupled with it, further [suffering] of a similar nature.
Cf. the metaphorical phrase “the things which Our hands have wrought” in 36:71, explained in the corresponding note 42. In the present instance, the stress lies on the God-willed superiority of man’s intellect – which, like everything else in the universe, is God’s “handiwork” – over the rest of creation (see note 25 on 2:34).
38:59 [And they will say to One another, “Do you see] this crowd of people who rushed headlong [into sin] with you?”‘ No welcome to them! Verily, they [too] shall have to endure the fire!”
This “question” is, of course, only rhetorical, since God is omniscient. The phrase interpolated by me (“to bow down before another created being”) reflects Zamakshari’s interpretation of this passage.
38:60 [And] they [who had been seduced] will exclaim, “Nay, but it is you! No welcome to you! It is you who have prepared this for us: and how vile a state to abide in!”
i.e., out of something non-corporeal and, therefore (in the view of Iblis), superior to the “clay” out of which man has been created. Inasmuch as “fire” is a symbol of passion, the above “saying” of Iblis contains, I believe, a subtle allusion to the Qur’anic concept of the “satanic forces” (shayatin) active within man’s own heart: forces engendered by uncontrolled passions and love of self, symbolized by the preceding characterization of Iblis, the foremost of the shayatin, as “one of those who think only of themselves as high” (min al-‘alin).