(Translated from Tadabbur-i-Qur'ān by Shehzad Saleem)
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ تَنْزِيلًا(23)فَاصْبِرْ لِحُكْمِ رَبِّكَ وَلَا تُطِعْ مِنْهُمْ آثِمًا أَوْ كَفُورًا(24)
(We alone have revealed this Qur'ān to you in an elaborate manner. So with perseverance wait for the judgement of your Lord and pay no heed to any sinner or ingrate among them.)
These verses occur in this sūrah with exactly the same purpose and stress as the following verse of Sūrah Qiyāmah: لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ (75: 16) (to swiftly learn it, do not hastily move your tongue to read it, (75:16)). The purpose and stress is that once the fate of the believers and the disbelievers has been stated, the Prophet (sws) is asked to show patience and to wait for the decree of the Almighty. He should carry out his duties with perseverance and wait for God's judgement. Whatever the Qur'ān is informing these people shall necessarily come before them.
The verse إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ تَنْزِيلًا addresses the Prophet (sws) and tells him that he has not authored the Qur'ān and presented it before people nor has he asked God to send it down to him so that it is his responsibility to prove the truths and premises it presents and to make people see the realities it presents. The fact of the matter is that it is the Almighty Who has revealed it to Him in an elaborate and profound manner. One should keep in mind the stress sounded by the words إِنَّا نَحْنُ (It is We). The implication is that when the Almighty has revealed the Qur'ān to the Prophet, he should not worry about the opposition and idle talk of people. It is the responsibility of the Almighty to deal with these people and He is sufficient to do this.
The emphasis sounded by the word تَنْزِيل is that this Qur'ān has not a request put forth by its presenter nor is it something baseless which will disappear into nothingness because of the animosity of people. On the other hand, it has been painstakingly and thoroughly revealed by the Almighty. Every single word of it will come true both in this world and in that to come.
In the section of the verse فَاصْبِرْ لِحُكْمِ رَبِّكَ, the preposition لafter فَاصْبِرْ shows that the latter word encompasses the meaning of wait in it. The implication is that when the Prophet (sws) has not demanded that such a book be sent down to him, why is he worried about the objections and demands of the people; his responsibility is only to communicate this Book to them which he should keep on discharging and wait for the judgement of the Almighty; he should not the least worry about the demand of these wretched and worthless people regarding being shown the punishment that the Qur'ān is warning them of. The word here connotes "paying heed". I have explained this shade of its meaning elsewhere. In Sūrah 'Alaq, it has been used in this very meaning in the following verse: كَلَّا لَا تُطِعْهُ وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِبْ (96: 19) (do not pay heed to him and bow down in prostration and draw near, (96:19)).
Consider next the words آثِمًا أَوْ كَفُورًا. In verse three, occur the words شَاكِر and كَفُور: إِنَّا هَدَيْنَاهُ السَّبِيلَ إِمَّا شَاكِرًا وَإِمَّا كَفُورًا (We showed him the path. It is now up to him to be grateful or ungrateful). Here آثِمًاoccurs as an opposite to شَاكِر. The word آثِمًاis used for the person who usurps the rights of others. These rights are of two types: rights of God and rights of fellow human beings. The word كَفُورًا is used for the person who usurps the rights of God and the word آثِمًاis used for the person who usurps the rights of fellow human beings. These two attributes are generally inseparable for a person who usurps the rights of his fellow human beings will never be the one who discharges the rights of the Almighty. However, there are differences in the inclinations and proclivities of people. This malady manifests itself in people in various forms. In some, it produces stinginess, greed and callousness which makes them an enemy of virtue. In some others, it produces egotism, selfishness and arrogance which stops them from bowing down before the truth. In the Quryash, we find characters of both these types in the persons of Abū Lahab and Abū Jahal respectively. While keeping both these characters in consideration come the words: وَلَا تُطِعْ مِنْهُمْ آثِمًا أَوْ كَفُورًا and explain to the Prophet (sws) that his adversaries are of two types: either they are the one who are caught in lust and greed of worldly pleasure and as such have become its enemies or are the ones who have been overcome by egotism which is not letting them acknowledge the truth; both these types of people are not worthy of paying heed to; their malady has no remedy.
وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا(25)وَمِنْ اللَّيْلِ فَاسْجُدْ لَهُ وَسَبِّحْهُ لَيْلًا طَوِيلًا(26)
(And remember the name of your Lord from dawn to dusk and prostrate yourselves before Him in the night and glorify Him till late at night.)
The previous verse which urges people to be patient. These verses now prescribe the way to be patient. The words "dawn to dusk" are all-encompassing and remembrance is used in the general sense and includes the daily prayers as well as various general utterances of remembering God. The words وَسَبِّحْهُ لَيْلًا طَوِيلًا (and glorify Him till late at night) refer to the tahajjud prayer. Details of this prayer are found in preceding sūrahs especially Sūrah Muzzammil.
إِنَّ هَؤُلَاءِ يُحِبُّونَ الْعَاجِلَةَ وَيَذَرُونَ وَرَاءَهُمْ يَوْمًا ثَقِيلًا(27)
(These people only love this world of immediate benefits and ignore a heavy Day that is to come.)
Here an assurance is sounded to the Prophet (sws) by informing him of the real malady of his opponents: these people are merely trying to cover up the reality by raising doubts on his preaching. Their real malady is that they are slaves to worldly pleasures and do not have the courage the give up these pleasures which are immediate as compared to those of the Hereafter. However hard the Day of Judgement may be, they raise some artificial objections on it in order to conceal their lust for this world. By doing so, they actually want to give the impression to their people that if they are not accepting the Prophet's message, it is not because of stubbornness and selfishness; it is rather because of some genuine reasons.
نَحْنُ خَلَقْنَاهُمْ وَشَدَدْنَا أَسْرَهُمْ وَإِذَا شِئْنَا بَدَّلْنَا أَمْثَالَهُمْ تَبْدِيلًا(28)
(We alone created them and strengthened their joints and whenever We intend We will replace them in exactly the same form they are in.)
This verse sounds a threat to the Prophet's adversaries as well as answers their greatest objection on the Day of Judgement: their greatest doubt mentioned in the Qur'ān is about the possibility of being recreated when they die and their remains decay in the dust. The verse says that when the Almighty has created them and He alone has strengthened their joints and muscles and when He has done all this and they cannot deny this, why can't He repeat this act when He wants to. When creating the first time was not a bother for Him, how can it become difficult for Him the second time.
The words شَدَّ اَسْراً refer "to strongly mould joints and tissues together" and the words بَدَّلْنَا أَمْثَالَهُمْ point to the fact that it is in the power of the Almighty to recreate these very joints and tissues they have been given in this world.
إِنَّ هَذِهِ تَذْكِرَةٌ فَمَنْ شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَى رَبِّهِ سَبِيلًا(29)
(This is a reminder. So whoever wishes he should take the path of his God Allāh.)
This verse is an expression of God's self-sufficiency: This reminder which is being sounded to them is merely for their own well-being and sympathy. Neither is there any personal benefit for God nor some personal motive for the Prophet (sws) in it. It is on the discretion of people to accept it and adopt the path that leads to God. Otherwise he should get ready to face the consequences this Book is informing them of.
وَمَا تَشَاءُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَشَاءَ اللَّهُ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ عَلِيمًا حَكِيمًا(30)يُدْخِلُ مَنْ يَشَاءُ فِي رَحْمَتِهِ وَالظَّالِمِينَ أَعَدَّ لَهُمْ عَذَابًا أَلِيمًا(31)
(And you will not wish until Allah wishes. Indeed, Allah is all-knowing, wise. He admits into His mercy whomever He wishes. And for the wrongdoers, He has prepared a grievous punishment.)
This is a reference to the established practice of God regarding the urge a person has in embracing faith. I have explained it at various places in this tafsīr: All works of the Almighty are based on His knowledge and wisdom. He blesses only that person with the will and urge to seek guidance who uses his higher faculties and values his innate awareness of good and evil to which verses two and three of this sūrah refer. As far as those people are concerned who waste these abilities and become blind and deaf, they never receive guidance. For them, the Almighty has prepared Hell. They will be cast into it because they made themselves worthy of this treatment by wronging their souls. God Almighty is knowing and wise. He is never unjust to His servants.
With the grace of God, I come to the end of this sūrah's tafsīr. فالحمد لله على إحسانه (gratitude be to God for His favour).
13th February, 1979 AD
15th Rabī 'al-Awwal 1399 AH