In order to understand this passage, it should be kept in mind that it criticizes the pagan Arabs for associating partners with Allah in the matter of the birth of children. They have been told to remember that the first man and his mate were brought into being by Allah: and they could not deny this. Then they also knew that it is He Who has arranged the birth of human beings after the first pair: that it is He by Whose will a woman becomes pregnant and who nourishes the child in her womb in a wonderful manner, and that it is He Who imbues it with a sound body and sound mind with various powers and capabilities and lets it come out as a healthy human being. They could not deny that all this is in the power of Allah alone. If Allah willed, He could have created a monkey, a serpent or any other animal in her womb or made the child deformed or physically or mentally defective. They knew that no one had the power to make any change in Allah's creation. That is why all their hopes were centred in Allah during the period of pregnancy and prayers were invoked for the birth of a perfect child. But it is an irony that the pagans as well as the Believers change their whole attitude after the birth of a child, and, instead of being grateful to Allah, they make their grateful offerings to some god or goddess or saint or the like and give such names as smack of shirk-Pir Bakhsh, "Favor of the Saint," or Abdur-Rasul, "Servant of the Prophet" etc.
Though the passage is quite clear, yet a misunderstanding has arisen about it, which has been supported by weak traditions. The mention of the first man and woman (Adam and Eve) in the beginning, and immediately after it of a man and a woman, has led to the confusion that both the pairs were one and the same. Therefore some commentators were of the opinion that the man was Adam and the woman who became pregnant was Eve and that they prayed to Allah for their child in the womb, but when it was born, they associated others with Allah in this favor. Then, with the help of weak traditions they concocted a complete story about it: When several children of Eve died soon after their birth, Satan came to her at the birth of one, and seduced her saying, "If you give him the name of `Abdul Harith, the servant of Satan, he will survive." It is all the more regrettable that some of these traditions have been linked up to the Holy Prophet. But the fact is that all these traditions are unauthentic and are not supported by the wording of the Qur'an and by the context in which they occur. The Qur'an criticizes the pagans for associating others with Allah in the matter of birth, when they themselves acknowledge that it is He Who is the Creator of the children which are born as a result of the cohabitation of a man and a woman. That is why they also invoke Allah for the safe delivery of the child; when they are not sure of the perfection of the child. But after the safe delivery of a sound child, they turn to others with gratitude and offerings. It is thus clear that it is not any particular man and woman who have been admonished for their behavior, but every man and every woman, (including pagan men and women) who behave like that.
In this connection it should also be noted that the condition of the present-day Muslims is even worse than that of the pagan Arabs whom the Qur'an has condemned in this passage. They committed shirk after the delivery of the child, though before this they prayed to Allah for the child. But the Muslims of today, who claim to be the bearers of the creed of Tauhid, go far beyond this. These wretched people pray to others even for the birth of a child and make vows to others during the period of pregnancy, and after the delivery of the child make offerings to the associates they set up with Allah. Yet they consider those Arabs as pagans who deserved Hell, and themselves as Believers in One Allah, for whom Paradise has been guaranteed!
This is to show the helplessness of the deities of the pagans. Not to speak of guiding their worshipers to the Right Way, they themselves are unable to follow the guidance of others. So much so that they cannot give any answer to the call of any one.
It is obvious that here they are being criticized for one of the three kinds of shirk they practiced. First, they worshiped idols, images or some other symbols of the objects of their worship. The second kind of shirk was the worship of some persons or spirits which were represented by idols, pictures, etc. The third kind of shirk consisted of the wrong creeds that were the basis of these practices of shirk. All the three kinds of practices have been criticized severely in the Qur'an at different places. Here it condemns the idols before which the pagan Arabs performed their religious rituals and presented their supplications and made their offerings.