¡ By those ranged in ranks,
* and the drivers driving,
+ and the reciters of a reminder,
1-3 These verses are in the form of a Divine oath, common in the Quran, in which God swears by various created phenomena. The three verses can be understood as
descriptions of a single reality or of three different realities (R). Most read them as references to three sets of angels: angels ranged in ranks before God, angels who drive the clouds, and angels who recite the Quran (IJ, Q, Ṭ, Z). Ranged in ranks renders ṣāffāt ṣaffan, which can also mean “the spreaders spreading,” a reading that may refer to the angels spreading their wings (R) or to birds, as in 24:41, by the birds spreading their wings (ṣāffāt; cf. 67:19; Z). Drivers can also mean the angels who drive human beings away from committing acts of disobedience or who drive the satans away from human beings (Aj, R). Driving renders zajara, which can also mean “to rebuke.” In light of this interpretation, some understand reminder as a reference to the Quran, by which God rebukes the disbelievers (Ṭ), or to everything that rebukes those who are disobedient to God (Z). Reciters is then read to mean anyone who recites the Book of God (Z). Additionally, these three verses could also be read as a description of the stages in prayer: ranged in ranks refers to people as they stand for prayer; driving refers to the recitation of the formula “I seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan” (aʿūdhu bi’Llāhi min al-shayṭān al-rajīm), which is recited at the beginning of the prayer and at the commencement of the recitation of the Quran (see 16:98c); and the reciters of a reminder refers to the recitation of the Quran during the prayer (R). A few more speculative interpretations relate these groups to different types of scholars (AJ, R, Z), mujtahids (interpreters of Islamic Law; R), types of Quranic verses (R), or spiritual types (Aj).