1. Ibn Abbas, Ikrimah, Dahhak, Hasan Basri and Sufyan bin Uyainah have opined that it means, “O man”, or “O person”. Some other commentators have regarded it as an abbreviation of “Ya Sayyid” as well, which, according to this interpretation, would be an address to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
2. To begin a discourse like this does not mean that the Prophet (peace be upon him), God forbid, had some doubt about his Prophethood, and Allah had to say this in order to reassure him of it. But the reason is that the disbelieving Quraish at that time were most vehemently refusing to believe in his Prophethood. Therefore, Allah at the very beginning of the discourse has said: You are indeed one of the Messengers, which implies that the people who deny your Prophethood are misled and mistaken. To further confirm the same, an oath has been taken by the Quran and the word “wise” has been used as an epithet of the Quran, which means this: An obvious proof of your being a Prophet is this Quran, which is full of wisdom. This itself testifies that the person who is presenting such wise revelations is most surely a Messenger of God. No man has the power to compose such revelations. The people who know Muhammad (peace be upon him) can never be involved in the misunderstanding that he is himself forging these discourses, or reciting them after having learned them from another man. For further explanation, see (Surah Yunus, Ayats 16-17, 37-39); (Surah Bani-Israil, Ayat 88); (Surah An-Naml, Ayat 75); (Surah Al-Qasas, Ayats 44-46, 85-87); (Surah Al-Ankabut, Ayats 49-51); (Surah Ar-Rum, Ayats 1-5) and the relevant E.Ns.
3. Here, two of the attributes of the Sender of the Quran have been mentioned. First, that He is All-Mighty; second, that He, is All-Merciful. The first attribute is meant to impress the reality that the Quran is not the counsel of a powerless preacher, which if you overlook or ignore, will not bring any harm to you; but this is the Edict of that Owner of the Universe, Who is All-Mighty, Whose decrees cannot be withheld from being enforced by any power, and Whose grasp cannot be avoided by anyone. The second attribute is meant to make one realize that it is all due to His kindness and mercy that He has sent His Messenger for your guidance and instruction and sent down this great Book so that you may avoid errors and follow the right path which may lead you to the successes of the world and the Hereafter.
4. Another translation can be: You should warn the people of the same of which their forefathers had been warned, because they live in heedlessness. If the first meaning, as given above in the text, is taken, the forefathers would imply the forefathers of the immediate past, for in the ancient time several Prophets had appeared in Arabia. And if the second meaning is adopted, it would imply this: Revive and refresh the message that had been conveyed to the forefathers of this nation by the Prophets in the past, for these people have forgotten it. Obviously, there is no contradiction between the two translations, and, as to meaning, each is correct in its own place.
A doubt may rise here: How could the forefathers of a nation to whom no warner had been sent at a particular time in the past, be held responsible for their deviation at that time? The answer is: When Allah sends a Prophet in the world, the influence of his message and teaching spreads far and wide, and is handed down by one generation to the other. As long as this influence remains and there continue arising among the followers of the Prophet such people as keep his message of guidance fresh, the period of time cannot be said to be without the guidance. And when the influence of the Prophet’s teaching dies out, or the teaching is tampered with, the appointment of another Prophet becomes inevitable. Before the advent of the Prophet (peace be upon him) the influence of the teachings of the Prophets Abraham, Ishmael, Shuaib and Moses and Jesus (peace be upon all of them) could be seen everywhere in Arabia and from time to time there had been arising among the Arabs, or coming from outside, men, who revived their teachings. When the influence was about to die out, and the real teaching was also distorted, Allah raised the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and made such arrangements that his message can neither be wiped out nor tampered with. (For further explanation, see (E. N. 5 of Surah Saba).
5. This is about those people who were being obstinate and stubborn with regard to the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and had made up their minds not to listen to him at all. This is because: They have already deserved the torment; therefore, they do not believe. It means: The people who do not heed the admonition, and persist in their denial and hostile attitude to the truth in spite of the final warning from Allah conveyed through the Prophets, are themselves overwhelmed by the evil consequences of their misdeeds and deprived of every opportunity to believe. The same thing has been expressed more clearly in (verse 11 )below: You can only warn him who follows the admonition and fears the Merciful God though he cannot see Him.
6. “Shackles” in this verse implies their own stubbornness which was preventing them from accepting the truth. “Reaching to chins” and “so they are made stiff-necked” implies the stiffness of the neck which is caused by pride and haughtiness. Allah means to impress this: We have made their obstinacy and stubbornness the shackles of their neck, and their pride and haughtiness has made them so stiff-necked that they will not pay heed to any reality, however clear and evident it may be.
7. Setting a barrier before them and a barrier behind them, means that the natural result of their stubbornness and pride is that they neither learn any lesson from their past history nor ever consider the consequences of the future. Their prejudices have so covered them from every side and their misconceptions have so blinded them that they cannot see even those glaring realities which are visible to every right-thinking and unbiased person.
8. This does not mean that it is futile to preach, but it means: Your preaching reaches every kind of people. Some of them are the ones mentioned above, and some others those who are being mentioned in the next verse. When you come across the people of the first kind and you see that they continue to persist in their denial, pride and antagonism, you should leave them alone, but at the same time you should not feel disheartened so as to give up your mission, for you do not know exactly where among the multitudes of the people are those sincere servants of God, who would heed your admonition and fear God and turn to the right path. The real object of your preaching, therefore, should be to search out and collect this second kind of the people. You should ignore the stubborn people and gather this precious element of the society about you.
9. This shows that three kinds of the entries are made in the conduct-book of men. First, whatever a person does, good or bad is entered in the divine register. Second, whatever impressions a man makes on the objects of his environment and on the limbs of his own body itself, become recorded, and all these impressions will at one time become so conspicuous that man’s own voice will become audible and the whole history of his ideas and intentions and aims and objects and the pictures of all of his good and bad acts and deeds will appear before him. Third, whatever influences he has left behind of his good and bad actions on his future generation, on his society and on mankind as a whole, will go on being recorded in his account as far as they reach and as long as they remain active and operative. The full record of the good and bad training given by him to his children, the good or evil that he has spread in the society, and its impact on mankind as a whole, will go on being maintained till the time that it goes on producing good or evil results in the world.