In the name of god, the most gracious, The dispenser of grace: (1)

1 - According to most of the authorities, this invocation (which occurs at the beginning of every surah with the exception of surah 9) constitutes an integral part of "The Opening" and is, therefore, numbered as verse I. In all other instances, the invocation "in the name of God" precedes the surah as such, and is not counted among its verses. - Both the divine epithets rahman and rahrm are derived from the noun rahmah, which signifies "mercy", "compassion", "loving tenderness" and, more comprehensively, "grace". From the very earliest times, Islamic scholars have endeavoured to define the exact shades of meaning which differentiate the two terms. The best and simplest of these explanations is undoubtedly the one advanced by Ibn al-Qayyim (as quoted in Mandr I, 48): the term rahman circumscribes the quality of abounding grace inherent in, and inseparable from, the concept of God's Being, whereas rahrm expresses the manifestation of that grace in, and its effect upon, His creation-in other words, an aspect of His activity.

TAKING its name from the word al-mursalat which appears in the first verse (and which obviously refers to the gradual revelation of the Qur'an), this surah may be placed chronologically between surahs 104 (Al-Humazah) and 50 (Qaf), i.e., almost certainly in the fourth year of the Prophet's mission.
1. CONSIDER these [messages,] sent forth in waves (1)

1 - I.e., one after another: an allusion to the gradual, step-by-step revelation of the Qur'an. By contrast, the next clause (verse 2) obviously relates to the impact of the divine writ as a whole. For my rendering of the adjurative particle wa as "Consider", see sūrah 74, first half of note 23.

2. and then storming on with a tempest's force!
3. Consider these [messages] that spread [the truth] far and wide,
4. thus separating [right and wrong] with all clarity, (2)

2 - Lit., "with [all] separation" (farqan). Cf. 8:29 and the corresponding note; also note 38 on 2:53.

5. and then giving forth a reminder,
6. [promising] freedom from blame or [offering] a warning! (3)

3 - I.e., showing what leads to freedom from blame - in other words, the principles of right conduct - and what is ethically reprehensible and, therefore, to be avoided.

7. BEHOLD, all that you are told to expect (4) will surely come to pass.

4 - Lit., "that which you are promised", i.e., resurrection.

8. Thus, [it will come to pass] when the stars are effaced,
9. and when the sky is rent asunder,
10. and when the mountains are scattered like dust,
11. and when all the apostles are called together at a time appointed. . . (5)

5 - Sc., to bear witness for or against those to whom they conveyed God's message (cf. 4:41-42, 5:109, 7:6 or 39:69).

12. For what day has the term [of all this] been set?
13. For the Day of Distinction [between the true and the false]! (6)

6 - This is chronologically the earliest occurrence of the expression yawm al-fasl, which invariably relates to the Day of Resurrection (cf. 37:21, 44:40, 78:17, as well as verse 38 of the present surah): an allusion to the oft-repeated Qur'anic statement that on resurrection man will gain a perfect, unfailing insight into himself and the innermost motivation of his past attitudes and doings (cf. 69:1 and the corresponding note 1).

14. And what could make thee conceive what that Day of Distinction will be?
15. Woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth!
16. Did We not destroy [so many of] those [sinners] of olden days?
17. And We shall let them be followed by those of later times: (7)

7 - The use of the conjunction thumma - which in this case has been rendered as "And" - implies that suffering in the hereafter is bound to befall the sinners "of later times" (al-akhirun) even if God, in His unfathomable wisdom, wills to spare them in this world.

18. [for] thus do We deal with such as are lost in sin.
19. Woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth!
20. Did We not create you out of a humble fluid
21. which We then let remain in [the womb's] firm keeping
22. for a term pre-ordained?
23. Thus have We determined [the nature of man's creation]: and excellent indeed is Our power to determine [what is to be]! (8)

8 - The process of man's coming into being (illustrated, for instance, in 23:12-14) clearly point to God's creative activity and, hence, to His existence. Consequently, lack of gratitude on mans part amounts to what the Qur'an describes as "giving the lie to the truth".

24. Woe, on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth!
25. Have We not caused the earth to hold within itself
26. the living and the dead? (9)

9 - This refers not merely to the fact that the earth is an abode for living and dead human beings and animals, but is also an allusion to the God-willed, cyclic recurrence of birth, growth, decay and death in all organic creation - and thus an evidence of the existence of the Creator who "brings forth the living out of that which is dead, and brings forth the dead out of that which is alive (3:27, 6:95, 10:31 and 30:19).

27. and have We not set on it proud, firm mountains, and given you sweet water to drink? (10)

10 - Parallel with the preceding, this verse refers to God's creation of inanimate matter, and thus rounds off the statement that He is the Maker of the universe in all its manifestations, both organic and inorganic.

28. Woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth!
29. GO ON towards that [resurrection] which you were wont to call a lie!
30. Go on towards the threefold shadow (11)

11 - I.e., of death, resurrection and God's judgment, all three of which cast dark shadows, as it were, over the sinners' hearts.

31. that will offer no [cooling] shade and will be of no avail against the flame
32. which behold!- will throw up sparks like [burning] logs,
33. like giant fiery ropes! (12)

12 - Lit., "like yellow twisted ropes", yellow being "the colour of fire" (Baghawi). The conventional rendering of jimalat (also spelt jimalat and jimalah) as "camels", adopted by many commentators and, until now, by all translators of the Qur'an, must be rejected as grossly anomalous; see in this connection note 32 on the second part of 7:40 - "they shall not enter paradise any more than a twisted rope can pass through a needle's eye". In the above verse, too, the plural noun jimalah (or jimalat) signifies "twisted ropes" or "giant ropes" - a connotation that has been forcefully stressed by Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Said ibn Jubayr and others (cf. Tabari, Baghawi, Razi, Ibn Kathir; also Bukhari, Kitab at-Tafsir). Moreover, our observation of the trajectory of shooting stars fully justifies the rendering "giant fiery ropes", Similarly, my rendering of qasr, in this context, as "[burning] logs" - instead of the conventional (and utterly meaningless) "castles", "palaces", etc. - goes back to all of the above-mentioned authorities.

34. Woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth
35. that Day on which they will not [be able to] utter a word,
36. nor be allowed to proffer excuses!
37. Woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth
38. that Day of Distinction [between the true and the false, when they will be told]: "We have brought you together with those [sinners] of olden times;
39. and if you [think that you] have a subterfuge left, try to outwit Me!"
40. Woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth!
41. [AS AGAINST this,] behold, the God-conscious shall dwell amidst [cooling] shades and springs,
42. and [partake of] whatever fruit they may desire;
43. [and they will be told:] "Eat and drink in good cheer in return for what you did [in life]!" (13)

13 - For this symbolism of the joys of paradise, see Appendix I.

44. Thus, behold, do We reward the doers of good;
45. [but] woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth!
46. EAT [your fill] and enjoy your life for a little while, O you who are lost in sin! (14)

14 - Lit" "behold, you are lost in sin (mujrimun)".

47. [But] woe on that Day unto those who give the lie to the truth,
48. and when they are told, "Bow down [before God]", do not bow down:
49. woe on that Day unto those who give the to the truth!
50. In what other tiding, then, will they, after this, believe?