37:41 [in the hereafter] theirs shall be sustenance which they will recognize.
i.e., the moral significance of Abraham’s dream-vision consisted in a test of his readiness to sacrifice, at what he thought to be God’s behest (see preceding note), all that was dearest to him in life.
37:42 As the fruits [of their life on earth]; and honored shall they be.
i.e., a trial of this severity clearly implied that Abraham would be capable to bear it, and thus constituted a high moral distinction – in itself a reward from God.
37:43 In gardens of bliss.
The epithet ‘azim (“tremendous” or “mighty”) renders it improbable that this sacrifice refers to nothing but the ram which Abraham subsequently found and slaughtered in Ishmael’s stead (Genesis xxit, 13). To my mind, the sacrifice spoken of here is the one repeated every year by countless believers in connection with the pilgrimage to Mecca (al-hajj), which, in itself, commemorates the experience of Abraham and Ishmael and constitutes one of the “five pillars” of Islam. (See 22:27-37, as well as 2:196-203).
37:44 Facing one another [in love] upon thrones of happiness.
See note 30 on verse 78.
37:45 A cup will be passed around among them [with a drink] from unsullied springs.
i.e., commit evil. With this prediction, the Qur’an refutes, as in so many other places, the spurious contention of the Jews that they are ‘the chosen people” by virtue of their descent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and therefore a priori ‘assured”, as it were, of God’s acceptance. In other words, God’s blessing a prophet or a saint does not, by itself, imply the conferment of any special status on his descendants.
37:46 Clear, delightful to those who drink it.
i.e., in consideration of their own merit, and not because of their descent from Abraham and Isaac (see preceding verse and note).
37:47 No headiness will be in it, and they will not get drunk thereon.
i.e., “the Torah, wherein there was guidance and light … unto those who followed the Jewish
37:48 And with them will be mates of modest gaze, most beautiful of eye.
The Hebrew prophet Elijah (Ilyas in Arabic) is mentioned in the Bible (I Kings xvii if. and 11 Kings i-ii) as having lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah – i.e., in the ninth century B.C. – and having been succeeded by Elisha (Al-Yasa in Arabic). The above stress on his, too, having been “one of the message-bearers” (min al-mursalin) recalls the Qur’anic principle that God makes “no distinction between any of His apostles” (cf. 2:136 and 285, 3:84, 4:152, and the corresponding notes).
37:49 [As free of faults] as if they were hidden [ostrich] eggs.
As regards this rendering of ahsan al-khaliqin, see surah 23, note 6. – The term ba’l (conventionally spelt Baal in European languages) signified “lord” or “master” in all branches of ancient Arabic, including Hebrew and Phoenician; it was an honorific applied to every one of the many “male” deities worshipped by the ancient Semites, especially in Syria and Palestine. In the Old Testament this designation has sometimes the generic connotation of “idol-worship” – a sin into which, according to the Bible, the early Israelites often relapsed.
37:50 And they will all turn to one another, asking each other [about their past lives].
The form Il-Yasin in which this name appears in the above verse is either a variant of Ilyas (Elijah) or, more probably, a plural – “the Elijahs” – meaning “Elijah and his followers” (Tabari, Zamakhshari, et al). According to Tabari, ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud used to read this verse as “Peace be upon Idrasin”, which, apart from giving us a variant or a plural of Idris (“Idris and his followers”), lends support to the view that Idris and Ilyas are but two designations of one and the same person, the Biblical Elijah. (See also note 41 on 19:56).