43:21 Or have We, perchance, vouchsafed them, before this one, a revelation [to the contrary] to which they are still holding fast?
i.e., a revelation which would allow a man to worship other beings besides God, or to attribute “offspring” to Him: a rhetorical question implying its own negation.
43:22 Nay, but they say, “Behold, We found our forefathers agreed on what to believe – and, verily, it is in their footsteps that we find our guidance!”
For this rendering of the term mutraf (derived from the verb tarafa), see note 147 on 11:116.
43:23 And thus it is, whenever We sent, before thy time, a warner to any community, those of its people who had lost themselves entirely in the pursuit of pleasures would always say, “Behold, we found our forefathers agreed on what to believe – and, verily, it is but in their footsteps that
Commenting on this passage, Razi says: “Had there been in the Qur’an nothing but these verses, they would have sufficed to show the falsity of the principle postulating [a Muslim’s] blind, unquestioning adoption of [another person’s] religious opinions (ibtal al-qawl bi’t-taqlid): for, God has made it clear [in these verses] that those deniers of the truth had not arrived at their convictions by way of reason, and neither on the clear authority of a revealed text, but solely by blindly adopting the opinions of their forebears and predecessors; and all this God has mentioned in terms of blame and sharp disparagement.”
43:24 [Whereupon each prophet) would say, “Why, even though I bring you a guidance better than that which you found your forefathers believing in?” – [to which] the others would reply, “Behold, we deny that there is any truth in [what you claim to be) your messages!
Whereas in some of the readings of the Qur’an the opening word of this verse is vocalized as an imperative, qul (“say”), the reading of Hafs ibn Sulayman al-Asadi – on which this translation is based – gives the pronounciation qala (“lie said” or, since it is a repeated occurrence, “he would say”)
43:25 And so We inflicted Our retribution on them: and behold what happened in the end to those who gave the lie to the truth!
Namely, the inadmissibility of blindly accepting the religious views sanctioned by mere ancestral tradition and thus prevalent in one’s environment, and regarding them as valid even though they may conflict with one’s reason andlor divine revelation. Abraham’s search after truth is mentioned several times in the Qur’an, and particularly in 6:74 if. and 21:51 ff.
43:26 And when Abraham spoke to his father and his people, [he had this very truth in mind] “Verily, far be it from me to worship what you worship!
i.e., God did not impose on them any moral obligations before making the meaning of right and wrong clear to them through a revealed message. Primarily, this is an allusion to the pagan contemporaries of the Prophet, and to the prosperity which they had been allowed to enjoy for a long time (cf. 21:44); in its wider sense, however, this passage implies that God would never call people to task for any wrong they may have done so long as they have not been clearly shown how to discriminate between good and evil (cf. 6:131-132).
43:27 None [do I worship] but Him who has brought me into being, and, behold, it is He who will guide me!”
See note 12 on 74:24, where this connotation of sihr appears for the first time in the course of Qur’anic revelation.
43:28 And he uttered this as a word destined to endure among those who would come after him so that they might [always] return [to it].
i.e., Mecca and Ta’if – implying that if it were really a divine revelation it would have been bestowed on a person of “great standing”, and not on Muhammad, who had neither wealth nor a position of eminence in his native city.
43:29 Now [as for those who did come after him] I allowed them – as [I had allowed) their forebears – to enjoy their lives freely until the truth should come unto them through an apostle who would make all things clear.
Since “man has been created weak” (4:28), it is almost a “law of nature” that whenever he is exposed to the prospect of great wealth he is liable to lose sight of all spiritual and moral considerations and to become utterly selfish, greedy and ruthless.
43:30 But now that the truth has come to them, they say, “All this is mere spellbinding eloquence – and, behold, we deny that there is any truth in it!
The primary meaning of the noun zukhruf is “gold”; its application to “ornaments” or (as in 10:24) to “artful adornment” is only secondary (Taj al-‘Arus).