This means the "Muslims" of every age who believed in the Prophets of Allah and His Books up to the time of Prophet Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him): they included both the sincere Muslims and the wavering Muslims.
See E.N. 72 of Chapter IV (An-Nisa).
"Sabaeans": In ancient times two sects were known by this title:
(1) The followers of Prophet John, who were found in upper Iraq in large numbers and practiced baptism.
(2) The worshipers of stars, who ascribed their creed to Prophets Shith and Idris (peace be upon them) and believed that the elements were governed by the planets and the planets by the angels. Their center was at Harran with branches spread all over Iraq. These people have been well known for their knowledge of philosophy and science and their achievements in medicine.
Probably here the first sect is referred to, because the second sect was not known by this name at the time the Qur'an was revealed.
See E. N. 36 of Chapter V (AI-Ma'idah).
That is, the fire-worshipers of Iran, who believed in two gods -one of light and the other of darknesses-and regarded themselves as the followers of Zoroaster. Their creed and morals were so corrupted by Mazdak that a brother could easily enter into matrimony with his sister.
That is, "The mushriks of Arabia and of other countries, who had no special name like those mentioned above."
That is, "Allah will pass His judgment on the Day of Resurrection in regard to all the differences and disputes which take place between different people and different religions and will decide which of them was right and which was wrong. "
See E.N. 25 Chapter XIII (Ar-Ra`d) and E.N. 41 of Chapter XVI (An-Nahl).
That is, "Angels, stars, planets, etc. and all the creation that exists in other parts of the universe, whether it is rational and possesses freedom of will and choice like man, or irrational like animals, vegetation, solid matter, air and light.
That is, "A large number of the people bow down before Allah not by compulsion but willingly. On the other hand, there are many other people who bow down before Him under compulsion along with everything else in the universe, but they deserve punishment because they refuse to obey Allah in those spheres of life in which they have the choice to obey or not to obey.
That is, though the Final Judgment will be passed on the Day of Resurrection, a discerning eye can see even today those "who have already deserved the torment." For instance, the man who rejects the Message of the open book of Nature and the Message of the Prophets and adopts self-made false creeds and then disputes about them with the Believers, proves himself to be in manifest error in this world as well.
In this verse "honor" and "disgrace" mean the acceptance of the Truth and its rejection. It is obvious that the one who does not see manifest realities is doomed to disgrace: for Allah lets him attain what he desires and works for; and when Allah does not bestow on anyone the honor of following the Truth, there is none else who can bestow it on him.
Here it is obligatory to perform a sajdah (prostration), which is agreed upon by all Jurists. For further details please See E.N. 157 of Chapter VII (Al-A'raf).