42:21 Is it that they [who care for no more than this world] believe in forces supposed to have a share in God’s Divinity – which enjoin upon them as a moral law something that God has never allowed? Now were it not for [God’s] decree on the final judgment, all would indeed have been decided between them [in this world], but, verily, grievous suffering awaits the evildoers [in the life to come].
i.e., about His attributes and the “how” of His Being, all of which is beyond the grasp of the human mind.
42:22 [In that life to come] thou wilt see the evildoers full of fear at [the thought of] what they have earned, for [now] it is bound to fall back upon them. And in the flowering meadows of the gardens [of paradise thou wilt see] those who have attained to faith and done righteous deeds, all that they might desire shall they have with their Sustainer: [and] this, this is the great bounty.
The above two interpolations are based on 57:25, where the idea underlying this verse has been stated clearly. The implication is that since God Himself has given man, through successive revelations, a standard whereby to discern between right and wrong, it is presumptuous and futile to argue about the nature of His Being and His ultimate judgment: hence the reference, in the second half of this and the next verse, to the Last Hour and, thus, the Day of Judgment.
42:23 That [bounty] whereof God gives the glad tiding to such of His servants as attain to faith and do righteous deeds. Say [O Prophet] “No reward do I ask of you for this [message] other than [that you should) love your fellow-men.” For, if anyone gains [merit of] a good deed, We shall grant him through it an increase of good, and, Verily, God is much-forgiving, ever responsive to gratitude.
This is not merely a reference to the sarcastic demand of Muhammad’s opponents (mentioned several times in the Qur’an) to bring about their “speedy chastisement” in proof of his being God’s message bearer, but also an oblique allusion to unbelievers of all times who, without having any “proof” either way, categorically reject the idea of resurrection and judgment.
42:24 Do They, perchance, say, “[Muhammad] has attributed his own lying inventions to God”? But then, had God so willed, He could have sealed thy heart [forever], for God blots out all falsehood, and by His words proves the truth to be true. Verily, He has full knowledge of what is in the hearts [of men].
i.e., whereas those who live righteously and turn their endeavors towards spiritual ends are sure to receive in the hereafter more than they are hoping for, those who strive exclusively after worldly rewards may – but not necessarily will – achieve something, and not necessarily all, of their aims, without having any reason to expect “a share in the blessings” that await the righteous in the hereafter.
42:25 And it is He who accepts repentance from His servants, and pardons bad deeds, and knows all that you do.
Lit., “Is it that they have partners [of God]” – i.e., “do they believe that circumstantial phenomena like wealth, power, ‘luck’, etc.., have something divine about them?” – the implication being that belief in such “forces” is usually at the root of men’s pursuance of exclusively worldly ends. (For my above explanatory rendering of the term shuraka’ – lit., “partners” or “associates” [of God] – see note 15 on 6:22).
42:26 And responds unto all who attain to faith and do righteous deeds, and [it is He who, in the life to come] will give them, out of His bounty, far more [than they will have deserved], whereas for the deniers of the truth there is [but] suffering severe in store.
i.e., which causes them to abandon themselves with almost religious fervor to something of which God disapproves – namely, the striving after purely materialistic goals and a corresponding disregard of all spiritual and ethical values. For my rendering of din, in this context, as “moral law”, see note 3 on 109:6.
42:27 For, if God were to grant [in this world) abundant sustenance to [all of] His servants, they would behave on earth with wanton insolence, but as it is, He bestows [His grace] from on high in due measure, as He wills, for, Verily, He is fully aware of [the needs of] His creatures, and sees them all.
Lit., “word of decision”; i.e., that His final judgment shall be postponed until the Day of Resurrection (see next note).
42:28 And it is He who sends down the rain after [men] have lost all hope, and unfolds His grace [thereby], for He alone is [their] Protector, the One to whom all praise is due.
i.e., God would have made a clear-cut distinction, in this world, between those who look forward to the hereafter and those who care for no more than worldly success, by granting unlimited happiness to the former and causing the latter to suffer: but since it is only in the hereafter that man’s life is to be truly fulfilled, God has willed to postpone this distinction until then.
42:29 And among His signs is the [very] creation of the heavens and the earth, and of all the living creatures which He has caused to multiply throughout them, and [since He has created them,] He has [also] the power to gather them [unto Himself] whenever He wills.
Lit., “love for those who are near (al-qurba)”. Some commentators take this to mean “those who are near to me”, i.e., Muhammad’s kinsfolk: but quite apart from the objection that such a “personal” demand would conflict with the preceding assurance, “No reward do I ask of you”, the deliberate omission of any possessive pronoun in respect of the term al-qurba indicates that it is not limited to any personal relationship but, rather, alludes to a relationship common to all human beings: namely, the fellowship of man – a concept which implies the fundamental ethical postulate to care for one another’s material and spiritual welfare.
42:30 Now whatever calamity may befall you [on Judgment Day] will be an outcome of what your own hands have wrought, although He pardons much.
See note 103 on 10:82.