35:11 And [remember] God creates [every one of] you out of dust, then out of a drop of sperm, and then He fashions you into either of the two genders. And no female conceives or gives birth unless it be with His knowledge, and none that is long-lived has his days lengthened – and neither is aught lessened of his days – unless it be thus laid down in [God’s] decree: for, behold, all this is easy for God.
For this rendering of al-bahran, see note 41 on 25:53.
35:12 [Easy is it for Him to create likeness and variety] thus, the two great bodies of water [on earth] are not alike – the one sweet, thirst-allaying, pleasant to drink, and the other salty and bitter, and yet, from either of them do you eat fresh meat, and [from either] you take gems which you may wear, and on either thou canst see ships plowing through the waves, so that you might [be able to] go forth in quest of some of His bounty, and thus have cause to be grateful.
See surah 13, note 5.
35:13 He makes the night grow longer by shortening the day, and He makes the day grow longer by shortening the night, and He has made the sun and the moon subservient [to His laws], each running its course for a term set [by Him]. Thus is God, your Sustainer, unto Him belongs all dominion – whereas those whom you invoke instead of Him do not own so much as the husk of a date-stone!
The Qur’an states in many places that all false objects of worship – whether saints, angels, relics, fetishes, or deified forces of nature will ‘bear witness” against their one-time worshippers on Resurrection Day, and will “disown” them: a symbolic allusion to man’s perception, at the end of time, of the ultimate reality.
35:14 If you invoke them, they do not hear your call; and even if they could hear, they would not [be able to] respond to you. And [withal] on the Day of Resurrection they will utterly disown your having associated them with God. And none can make thee understand [the truth] like the One who is All-Aware.
See note 27 on 14:19.
35:15 O men! It is you who stand in need of God, whereas He alone is Self-sufficient, the One to whom all praise is due.
i.e., on Judgment Day – for “whatever [wrongly any human being commits rests upon him alone” (6:164, which is followed by a sentence identical with the one above).
35:16 If He so wills, He can do away with you and bring forth new mankind [in your stead].
Thus, any transfer of moral responsibility from one person to another is shown to be impossible. Whereas the first part of the above statement implies a negation of the Christian doctrine of “original sin” with which mankind is supposedly burdened, the second part categorically refutes the doctrine of the “vicarious atonement” of that sin by Jesus. (See also 53 :38 and the corresponding note 31).
35:17 Nor is this difficult for God.
For an explanation of this rendering of bi’l-ghayb, see surah 2, note 3. The meaning is that only those “who believe in the existence of that which is beyond the reach of human perception” can really benefit by the “warning” inherent in the preceding statement. (See also 27:80-8l and 30:52- 53).
35:18 And no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden, and if one weighed down by his load calls upon [another] to help him carry it, nothing thereof may be carried [by that other], even if it he one’s near of kin. Hence, thou canst [truly] warn only those who stand in awe of their Sustainer although He is beyond the reach of their perception, and are constant in prayer, and [know that] whoever grows in purity, attains to purity but for the good of his own self, and [that] with God is all journeys’ end.
One of the meanings of the term ummah (preferred by Zamakhshari in his commentary on the above verse) is “people of one time” or “age”; another, “people of one kind”, i.e., “a nation” or “a community” (which is adopted by me in this context). Taking into consideration a third, well-established meaning, namely, “a [particular] way of life” or ‘of behavior” (Jawhari), the term “community” comes, in this instance, close to the modern concept of “civilization” in its historical sense. – The stress on the warners’ (i.e., prophets) having “passed away” is meant to emphasize the humanness and mortality of each and all of them.
35:19 For [thus it is] the blind and the seeing are not equal.
Cf. 16:13, where the splendor of nature (“the beauty of many hues”) is spoken of as evidence of God’s creative power.
35:20 Nor are the depths of darkness and the light.
i.e., spiritual knowledge, born of the realization that the phenomena which can be observed do not comprise the whole of reality, inasmuch as there is “a realm beyond the reach of a created being’s perception” (cf. surah 2, note 3).