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By those who range themselves in ranks,

Tauhid: The Oneness of Allah is the first subject

The Surah has been initiated by a description of the belief in Tauhid,
the Oneness of Allah and the real purpose of the first four verses is to
state: (surely your God is but One – 37:4). But, before this is
asserted, three oaths are sworn ahead of it. A simple literal translation of
these oaths is given below: “( I swear ) by those who stand in rows, [1]
then by those who prevent firmly [2], then by those who recite the dhikr.

Who are these people identified as “those who stand in rows,” then,
“those who prevent firmly” and then, “those who recite the dhikr?” There
is no clarification in the words of the noble Qur’an about it. Therefore,
different views have been expressed to explain it. Some respected
commentators say that these refer to living warriors who come out to
wage Jihad in the way of Allah and who stand in rows after rows, so that
they prevent the aggression of the forces of the false, and even when they
file in readiness for combat, even then, they remain engaged in dhikr, tasbih and the recitation of the Qur’an as well.

Some others have said that they mean the performers of prayers who
stand in rows in the Masjid and prevent Satanic thoughts denying access
to them by means of a total concentration on dhikr and the recitation of
the Qur’an (Tafsir Kabir and Qurtubi). Other than these, there are some
explanations that do not bear much congruity with the actual words of
the Quran.

But, the Tafsir or explanation which found the widest acceptance with
the majority of commentators was that the reference here is to angels, and
given here are three attributes credited to them:

  1. The first attribute is: (those who stand in rows). This
    expression comes from the word: (saff) and it means ‘to align some
    group on a straight line’ (Qurtubi). Thus, it means precisely as it has been
    translated above.

That the angels stand in the formation of rows has also been
mentioned later in this very Surah: (and We, surely We are
those who stand in rows – 37:165). When are these rows formed? In
answer to that, some respected commentators – such as, Sayyidna lbn
‘Abbas, Hasan al-Basri and Qatadah – have said that angels are always
standing in their rows in space awaiting the command of their Lord, and
when it comes, they carry it out (Mazhari). Some others particularize it
with the time of worship, that is, when the angels are engaged in ‘ibadah,
dhikr and tasbih (worship, remembrance and glorification of Allah), they
are in a row formation (Tafslr Kabir).

Why has the statement been sworn by the angels?

The reason why angels have been sworn by in the Surah particularly as already submitted lies in the central theme of this Surah. It aims at refuting the peculiar kind of shirk (ascribing of partners in the pure
divinity of Allah) based on which the people of Makkah used to call angels
the daughters of Allah. Accordingly, at the very beginning of the Surah,
by swearing in the name of the angels, described there were their unique
attributes that demonstrated their perfect servitude. In other words, the
sense is that should you ponder over these angelic attributes of servitude,
they will themselves become a witness before you that their relationship
with Allah Ta’ala is not that of a father and daughter, instead, it is that of
servants and the Master.

References:

Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .7 surah 37 verses 1)English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-7.pdf (islamicweblibrary.com)

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