This Sura was written after Mohammed and his bandits were ejected from Mecca by Mohammed's tribe the Quraysh, and took up residence in the largely Jewish city of Yathrib, renamed by Muslims to Medina. Its intent is to justify Mohammed as a prophet and to reiterate the support of Allah, the moon deity, for his chosen interpreter on earth. If you don't follow Mohammed you are committing a sin, and will be punished in Hell, “...If (this teaching) be from Allah, and you reject it...Truly Allah does not guide a people unjust.” [46:10] Trust in Mohammed and Allah's promise of after-life bliss will be yours. Allah would not lead you astray now would he ?
The winding sand tracts references the waste lands of Arabia. It is easy to get lost, and die of thirst and starvation in such an inhospitable topography. In Arab mythology 'warners' were 'prophets' who used analogies to educate their people against doing wrong; or against imperiling themselves or their tribes in a hostile environment. The shifting sands and tracts of dunes were an intraversible environment, and only those who have some divine guidance could hope to navigate safely through them. They were used as analogies for the brutality, the violence and the endless warring of pagan Arabia. The only way to survive in such a setting was through the use of the sword, and tribal strength:
“..behold, he warned his people about the winding Sand-tracts: and there have been Warners before him and after him: 'You worship none other than Allah: truly I fear for you the Penalty of a Mighty Day.” [46:21]
Mohammed is thus the messenger who can lead the Arabs through the winding sand tracts to both spiritual and political-economic salvation and avoid the destruction of the 'Mighty Day' of judgement and also elude the devastation of pre-modern Arabia's violent and quite barbaric conditions. He has Allah's blessing and powers to turn the poor, frightened polytheists and the pagans of Arabia into strong, prosperous monotheists, devoted to 'god' and avoiding Hellfire on judgement day:
“He (Mohammed) said: 'The Knowledge (of when it will come) is only with Allah: 'I proclaim to you the mission on which I have been sent: but I see that you are a people in ignorance!'....Then, when they saw the (Penalty in the shape of a cloud traversing the sky, coming to meet their valleys, they said, 'This cloud will give us rain!' 'Nay, it is the (calamity) you were asking to be hastened!- a wind wherein is a Grievous Penalty'” [46:24]
Mohammed thus uses a normal storm pattern to reinforce his claim that Allah's supernatural powers supports his mission. It mimics of course God's aid to Moses initiated by the divinely inspired 10 plagues which terrorized Ramses II's reign. The moon guy is as equally powerful as Moses' backer, and in the Koran, both are conflated of course to be the same. The Jewish God replaced by the Arab. Thus the deity of Moses is also the master organizer behind Mohammed.
Mohammed also commands that Muslim sons love and obey their Muslim parents. The Koran and its theology once embraced by the parents, must also be accepted by their progeny:
“..Do you (the parents) hold out the promise to me that I shall be raised up, even though generations have passed before me (without rising again)? And they (the parents) seek Allah's aid, (and rebuke the son): 'Woe to you! Have Faith! For the promise of Allah is true.” [46:17]
If the son reject's the parents ideology he is one of 'the losers' [46:18] and will be placed, along with all the other Unbelievers, “before the Fire....today you shall be recompensed with a Penalty of humiliation...” [46:20] Disobeying your Muslim parents will rank you with the Jews and Christians and guarantee your demise.
The same is true of the entire Quraysh tribe of Mecca, if they continue to reject Islam. In actual fact Mohammed's familial tribe converted after the capture by the Muslim forces of Mecca in 630 AD. The Quraysh were thus saved. But this Sura, written obviously before 630 AD, made it clear that an evil fate awaited the Quraysh if they did not embrace Mohammed as their religious leader:
“We destroyed (aforetime) populations round about you; and We have shown the Signs in various ways, that they may turn (to Us).” [46:27]
Allah willed that the Muslims destroy through war and terror their enemies. The Quraysh were being forewarned that the fate of the major Jewish tribes – annihilated, enslaved, exiled – awaited the Meccans.
The ability of Mohammed to patiently build up his Medinian army through the raiding of caravans, brigandage and terror, which greatly increased his wealth, prestige and political power is given in the Koran as a blessing and a lesson for all Muslims;
“Therefore patiently persevere, as did (all) Messengers of inflexible purpose; and be in no haste about the (Unbelievers).....proclaim the Message: but shall any be destroyed except those who transgress?” [46:35]
Like Mohammed the pious Muslim needs only to accrete strength and wait. Allah will burn the infidel in Hellfire anyways. Islam will triumph. It is only a matter of time, tactics, strategy, and patience. Mohammed improbably took a fringe cult of a few dozen brigands and robbers and conquered Arabia in the name of the moon deity. Why not then the entire world after some time ? Allah wills it. And his will shall be done.
[Note: This sura is taken from 'The Holy Quran', translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, reprinted in 1995, Goodword Books. Regarded as one of the best translations from Arabic to English of the Koran.]