43:51 And Pharaoh issued a call to his people, saying “O my people! Does not the dominion over Egypt belong to me, since all these running waters flow at my feet? Can you not, then, see [that I am your Lord supreme]?
43:52 Am I not better than this contemptible man who can hardly make his meaning clear?
43:53 “And then – why have no golden armlets been bestowed on him? – or why have no angels come together with him?”
43:54 Thus he incited his people to levity, and they obeyed him, for, behold, they were people depraved!
As is evident from verses 81 if. above, this is a reference to the truth of God’s oneness and uniqueness, which those who believe in Jesus as “the son of God” refuse, as it were, to acknowledge: thus, the discourse returns here to the question of the “nature” of Jesus touched upon in verses 57-65.
43:55 But when they continued to challenge Us, We inflicted Our retribution on them, and drowned them all.
The verb barama or abrama signifies, literally, “he twined” or “twisted [something] together”, e.g., the strands that are to form a rope; or “he twisted [something] well” or “strongly”. Tropically, it connotes the act of “establishing” or “determining” a thing, a proposition, a course of events, etc. (Jawhari). According to the Lisan al-‘Arab, the phrase abrama al-amr has the meaning of “he determined (ahkama) the case”. In the present context, the term amr, having no definite article, signifies “anything” or – in its widest sense – “anything that should [or “could”] be”: and so, taking the preceding verse into account, we arrive at the meaning of arbitrarily “determining what [the truth] should be” – i.e., in contradiction to what the Qur’an postulates as the truth.
43:56 And so We made them a thing of the past, and an example to those who would come after them.
This is most probably an allusion to the centuries-long subtle Christian controversies on the question as to whether or not Jesus was “the son of God” and, hence, divine. These controversies were often influenced by a subconscious leaning of some of the early Christian thinkers towards ancient, mostly Mithraistic, cults and concepts which were in the beginning strongly opposed by unitarian theologians, foremost among them Arius, Patriarch of Alexandria (about 280-336 C.E.). However, at the politically-motivated Council of Nicaea (325 c.E.), the Arian views – which until then had been shared by the overwhelming majority of articulate Christians – were condemned as “heretical”, and the doctrine of Christ’s divinity was officially formulated in the so-called Nicene Creed as the basis of Christian beliefs. (See also note 60 below).
43:57 Now whenever [the nature of] the son of Mary is set forth as an example, [O Muhammad] lo! thy people raise an outcry on this score.
Lit., “Our messengers”, i.e., angels.
43:58 And say “Which is better – our deities or he?” [But] it is only in the spirit of dispute that they put this comparison before thee, Yeah, they are contentious folk!
Cf. the last clause of surah 9 and the corresponding note 171.
43:59 [As for Jesus] he was nothing but [a human being] a servant [of Ours] whom We had graced [with prophethood], and whom We made an example for the children of Israel.
See note 88 on the last sentence of 6:100.
43:60 And had We so willed, [O you who worship angels] We could indeed have made you into angels succeeding one another on earth!
Evidently, an allusion to the verbal subtleties of the Nicene Creed, and particularly the statement, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten, not made [i.e., not created], by the Father as His only Son, of the same substance as the Father, God of God …”, etc.