Ayah

Word by Word
فَلَوۡلَا
So why not
كَانَ
had been
مِنَ
of
ٱلۡقُرُونِ
the generations
مِن
before you
قَبۡلِكُمۡ
before you
أُوْلُواْ
those possessing a remnant
بَقِيَّةٖ
those possessing a remnant
يَنۡهَوۡنَ
forbidding
عَنِ
from
ٱلۡفَسَادِ
the corruption
فِي
in
ٱلۡأَرۡضِ
the earth
إِلَّا
except
قَلِيلٗا
a few
مِّمَّنۡ
of those
أَنجَيۡنَا
We saved
مِنۡهُمۡۗ
among them
وَٱتَّبَعَ
But followed
ٱلَّذِينَ
those who
ظَلَمُواْ
did wrong
مَآ
what
أُتۡرِفُواْ
luxury they were given
فِيهِ
therein
وَكَانُواْ
and they were
مُجۡرِمِينَ
criminals
فَلَوۡلَا
So why not
كَانَ
had been
مِنَ
of
ٱلۡقُرُونِ
the generations
مِن
before you
قَبۡلِكُمۡ
before you
أُوْلُواْ
those possessing a remnant
بَقِيَّةٖ
those possessing a remnant
يَنۡهَوۡنَ
forbidding
عَنِ
from
ٱلۡفَسَادِ
the corruption
فِي
in
ٱلۡأَرۡضِ
the earth
إِلَّا
except
قَلِيلٗا
a few
مِّمَّنۡ
of those
أَنجَيۡنَا
We saved
مِنۡهُمۡۗ
among them
وَٱتَّبَعَ
But followed
ٱلَّذِينَ
those who
ظَلَمُواْ
did wrong
مَآ
what
أُتۡرِفُواْ
luxury they were given
فِيهِ
therein
وَكَانُواْ
and they were
مُجۡرِمِينَ
criminals

Translation

Why were there not, among the generations before you, persons possessed of balanced good sense, prohibiting (men) from mischief in the earth - except a few among them whom We saved (from harm)? But the wrong-doers pursued the enjoyment of the good things of life which were given them, and persisted in sin.

Tafsir

If only there had been among the generations, past communities, before you men possessing a remnant [of good sense], men of religion and virtue, forbidding corruption in the earth (this [statement] is intended to be a negation, in other words, 'there never were such [men] among them'), except, but, a few of those whom (mimman: min is explicative) We delivered from among them, did forbid [corruption] and were thus delivered. But those who did wrong, through corruption and neglecting to forbid, followed that by which they were made profligate, and were sinners.

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