[ Abdullah Yusuf Ali ]
Praise be to Allah, Who created (out of nothing) the heavens and the earth, Who made the angels, messengers with wings,- two, or three, or four (pairs): He adds to Creation as He pleases: for Allah has power over all things.
[ Saheeh International ]
[All] praise is [due] to Allah, Creator of the heavens and the earth, [who] made the angels messengers having wings, two or three or four. He increases in creation what He wills. Indeed, Allah is over all things competent.
3869 See n. 3785 to 34:1. When we praise Allah, it means that we understand and bring to mind that His glory and power are exercised for the good of His Creation, and this is the subject matter of the Surah.
3870 As man's knowledge of the processes of nature advances, he sees how complex is the evolution of matter itself, leaving out the question of Life and the spiritual forces, which are beyond the ken of experimental science. But this knowledge itself becomes a sort of "veil of Light"; man becomes so conscious of the proximate causes, that he is apt, in his pride, to forget the primal Cause, the Cause of Causes, the ultimate Hand of Allah in Creation. And then, Creation is such a complex process; see some of the ideas involved explained by different words in n. 120 to 2:117. The word fatara here used means the creation of primeval matter, to which further creative processes have to be added by the Hand of Allah, or Allah "adds to His Creation as He pleases", not only in quantity, but in qualities, function, relations, and variations in infinite ways.
3871 The grosser ideas which men have of angels must be dismissed from our minds. They are beings expressive of qualities or powers, which may be typified by "wings". We need not suppose that angelic "wings" have muscles and feathers, like the wings of birds. If they had, how could there be three, or any odd number? We may suppose "two, three, or four" to refer to pairs of wings. But we must not suppose "two, three, or four" to express precise numbers, for in sacred literature we find mention of angels with six hundred wings. And we can imagine angels with just one pair of wings. They are Messengers or Instruments of Allah's Will, and may have a few or numerous Errands entrusted to them. Cf. the description of the Spirit of Inspiration in 26:193, and of the spirits or angels for executing the Commands of Allah in 79:1-5.
3872 See n. 3870 above, where the complexities of the creative processes is referred to. Allah's creation did not stop at some past time: it continues, for He has all power, and His mercies are ever poured forth without stint.