13. This is the answer to the objection raised by the unbelievers as stated in verse 3, “Is he any more than a man like you?” Messengers have always been humans (Razi).
Sayyid comments: “Those who suggested during the time of the Prophet that Messengers should have been angels, were similar to those of our times who think that a Messenger should be above human senses, feelings and passions. This kind of people have always been unmindful of the fact that firstly, angels cannot live the life of human beings. They are beings of a different nature altogether. They can never feel like the humans can, who are constitutionally so different from them. On the other hand it was important for the Messengers to have been endowed with the capacity to feel like the humans do, to have the same inner urges, and be affected in the same manner – physically, emotionally and spiritually – as the humans, in order for them to offer workable solutions to their problems.
“Secondly, if Messengers were to be of the angels, they could never evoke among their followers the desire to follow them in their ways and practices being a different species, and of different nature from them.
“Thirdly, those who suggest that Messengers ought to be angels, do not accord as much respect to Man as he deserves and are unaware of the honorable position he occupies with his Lord. (They do not believe humans are worthy of being given revelations).
“Therefore, it has been Allah’s way that He should select human beings for Messengership – such humans as who took birth and died, ate, drank and married, bore hopes and fear, and were affected by other emotions exactly in the manner of the humans. And then Allah made the greatest of His Messenger and the final one, the best of examples in everything that the humans attempt to remain an ideal for them up to the end of time.”
14. The general opinion is that the allusion by the “people of Remembrance” is to the Jews and Christians. ‘Ali’s opinion however is that it is Muslims, “people of the Qur’an” who are intended. Ibn Zayd was also of the same opinion who said, “We are ‘the people of Remembrance.’ Allah (swt) has referred to this revelation as ‘Dhikr’ in several places in the Qur’an (e.g.15: 9: ‘Indeed, We have revealed this Dhikr, and We shall surely guard it (from corruption); and we happen to carriers of the Dhikr.’” (Ibn Jarir).
Imam Razi however thinks that since the argument is about the Prophet, his followers – being one of the party – cannot be asked about his authenticity. Therefore, it is the People of the Book who can be identified as the people of Remembrance.
In either case, it should be clear that the people of Remembrance are to be asked a simple question: were the Prophets of the past humans or not? Their opinion is not to be sought on other religious truths which some people think the present verse allows. This verse is a repetition of verse 43 of Surah al-Nahl where too the suggestion is, ask the people of Remembrance whether Prophets of past were men or not (Au.).
The meaning and application however, adds Qurtubi, is general, and leads us to the rule that following opinions of a scholar (taqlid) is a necessity for common men. It is not allowable for a non-specialist to deliver rulings as he is ignorant of the principles of law, following which something becomes lawful while another unlawful.