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And a few
the later (people),

Wa qaleelum minal aa khireen

Sahih International:

And a few of the later peoples,

1 A. J. Arberry

and how few of the later folk)

2 Abdul Haleem

and a few from later generations.

3 Abdul Majid Daryabadi

And a few from the later generations.

4 Abdullah Yusuf Ali

And a few from those of later times.

5 Abul Ala Maududi

and a few from later times.

6 Ahmed Ali

And a few of later ages,

7 Ahmed Raza Khan

And a few from the latter.

8 Ali Quli Qarai

and a few from the latter ones.

9 Ali Ünal

And a few from the later (generations).

10 Amatul Rahman Omar

While a few (of them will hail) from the later ones.

11 English Literal

And little/few from the others/lasts .

12 Faridul Haque

And a few from the latter.

13 Hamid S. Aziz

And a few of those of later times.

14 Hilali & Khan

And a few of those (foremost) will be from the later time (generations).

15 Maulana Mohammad Ali

A multitude from among the first,

16 Mohammad Habib Shakir

And a few from among the latter.

17 Mohammed Marmaduke William Pickthall

And a few of those of later time.

18 Muhammad Sarwar

and only a few of them from the later generations.

19 Qaribullah & Darwish

but only a few from the later generations.

20 Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri

And a few of those will be from the later ones.

21 Wahiduddin Khan

and a lesser number from the later generations.

22 Talal Itani

And a small band from the latecomers.

23 Tafsir jalalayn

and a few from the later ones, from among the community of Muhammad (s), being the foremost from among the communities of old and this community (the predicate [is the following, `al sururin mawdnatin]),

24 Tafseer Ibn Kathir

A multitude of those (foremost) will be from the first ones. And a few of those will be from the later ones),

this news became hard for the Companions of the Prophet when these Ayat, were revealed. The Prophet then said,

إِنِّي لَاَرْجُو أَنْ تَكُونُوا رُبُعَ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ ثُلُثَ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ بَلْ أَنْتُمْ نِصْفُ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ أَوْ شَطْرُ أَهْلِ الْجَنَّةِ وَتُقَاسِمُونَهُمُ النِّصْفَ الثَّانِي

I hope that you will comprise a quarter of the residents of Paradise, a third of the residents of Paradise. Rather, you are a half of the residents of Paradise, and will have a share in the other half.

Imam Ahmad also recorded this.

However, this opinion that Ibn Jarir chose is questionable, rather it is a deficient interpretation. This is because this Ummah is the best of all nations, according to the text of the Qur'an. Therefore, it is not possible that the foremost believers from earlier nations are more numerous than those of in this Ummah; the opposite is true.

The latter opinion is the correct one, that,
ثُلَّةٌ مِّنَ الاَْوَّلِينَ
(A multitude of those will be from the first ones), refers to the earlier generations of this Ummah, while,
وَقَلِيلٌ مِّنَ الاْخِرِينَ
(And a few of those will be from the later ones), refers to the latter people of this Ummah.

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that As-Sari bin Yahya said that Al-Hasan recited this Ayah,

وَالسَّابِقُونَ السَّابِقُونَ
أُوْلَيِكَ الْمُقَرَّبُونَ
فِي جَنَّاتِ النَّعِيمِ
ثُلَّةٌ مِّنَ الاَْوَّلِينَ

And those foremost will be foremost. These will be the nearest (to Allah). In the Gardens of Delight. A multitude of those will be from the first ones,

Then he commented,

"A multitude from the earlier generation of this Ummah."

Ibn Abi Hatim also recorded that Muhammad bin Sirin commented;

ثُلَّةٌ مِّنَ الاَْوَّلِينَ
وَقَلِيلٌ مِّنَ الاْخِرِينَ

A multitude of those will be from the first ones. And a few of those will be from the later ones,

"They stated, or hoped that they will all be from this Ummah."

Therefore, these are the statements of Al-Hasan and Ibn Sirin that those foremost in faith are all from this Ummah.

There is no doubt that the earlier generations of each nation were better than the latter generations. In this pretext, this Ayah might include all previous believing nations. In this regard, it is confirmed in the authentic Hadith compilations, from more than one route, that the Messenger of Allah said;

خَيْرُ الْقُرُونِ قَرْنِي ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُمْ ثُمَّ الَّذِينَ يَلُونَهُم

The best people are my generation, then the next generation, then the next generation....

He also said;

لَاا تَزَالُ طَايِفَةٌ مِنْ أُمَّتِي ظَاهِرِينَ عَلَى الْحَقِّ لَاا يَضُرُّهُمْ مَنْ خَذَلَهُمْ وَلَاا مَنْ خَالَفَهُمْ إِلَى قِيَامِ السَّاعَة

A group of my Ummah will always remain on the truth and dominant, unharmed by those who fail to support them and those who defy them, until the Last Hour begins.

In another narration;

حَتَّى يَأْتِيَ أَمْرُ اللهِ تَعَالَى وَهُمْ كَذلِك

..until Allah's command comes while they are like this.

This Ummah is more honored than any other Ummah. The foremost believers of this Ummah are more numerous and hold a higher rank than those of other nations, due to the status of their religion and Prophet.

In a Mutawatir Hadith, the Prophet mentioned that seventy thousand of this Ummah will enter Paradise without reckoning.

In another narration of this Hadith, the Prophet added,

مَعَ كُلِّ أَلْفٍ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفًا

With each thousand, another seventy thousand.

In yet another narration, he said,

مَعَ كُلِّ وَاحِدٍ سَبْعُونَ أَلْفًا

With every one of them is another seventy thousand.

Allah's statement,

عَلَى سُرُرٍ مَّوْضُونَةٍ