This chapter explains the three fundamental principles of religion. It begins with prophethood and describes the condition of the people in accepting or rejecting the prophetic call. It explains that the goal of the true prophetic call is reviving a people through bringing them onto the path of happiness and proving true the word against others. In other words, it hastens people in completing their journey – towards ultimate happiness or ultimate despair, whichever path they choose.
Then the chapter proceeds to a discussion of the oneness of God and enumerates the entirety of the signs of God’s oneness. Then it proceeds to a reminder of the hereafter and the resurrection for the sake of granting people their just recompense and sifting out the criminals from the God-conscious on that day. It describes what it will be like for both groups.
Then it returns to what it began with and summarizes and proves the three principles. With that, the chapter comes to an end. Among the marvels of the chapter, are the verses:
Whenever He wills something, he says to it “Be!” and it is. So glory be to the one in whose hands is dominion over all things, and to whom you shall return. (36:82-83)
Regarding the verse 36:82, Imam Al-Rida is reported to have said:
“When human beings will something, they do so in their minds; then, their will is expressed via their acts. However, God’s will is His creational act, for He does not talk, mull over things, or ruminate. For He is above doing such things; these are things that created beings do. God’s will is nothing but His act. That is what is meant by the verse “be” and it is. He does not speak with words or a tongue, nor does he consider or ponder. He does not use anything outside Himself [such as an external apparatus or an external metaphysical quality] to enact His will, for He [is singular and] does not have any such things.”
The chapter has a lofty status. It fuses the root principles of truth with the things that branch from them. Both Sunni and Shi‘i narrations say: “Everything has a heart, and the heart of the Qur’an is [Sūra] Yā Sīn.”
The content of the verses indicates that the chapter is Meccan.