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Muhammad Asad   
BUT, ALAS, among those generations [whom We destroyed] before your time there were no people endowed with any virtue - [people] who would speak out against the [spread of] corruption on earth -except the few of them whom We saved [because of their righteousness], whereas those who were bent on evildoing only pursued pleasures which corrupted their whole being, and so lost themselves in sinning
The Clear Quran, Dr. Mustafa Khattab   
If only there had been among the ˹destroyed˺ peoples before you, ˹O believers,˺ virtuous individuals who forbade corruption in the land—other than the few We had saved ˹from the torment˺. But the wrongdoers ˹only˺ pursued their ˹worldly˺ pleasures, becoming wicked.
Safi Kaskas   
If only-among the generations before your time-there had been people with good sense to speak out against corruption on earth, [as did] the few of them whom We saved. [Instead,] the unjust only pursued pleasures that corrupted their entire beings, and that led them to sin

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Source Arabic and Literal tools
Arabic   
‏فَلَوْلَا كَانَ مِنَ ٱلْقُرُونِ مِن قَبْلِكُمْ أُو۟لُوا۟ بَقِيَّةٍۢ يَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ ٱلْفَسَادِ فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ إِلَّا قَلِيلًۭا مِّمَّنْ أَنجَيْنَا مِنْهُمْ ۗ وَٱتَّبَعَ ٱلَّذِينَ ظَلَمُوا۟ مَآ أُتْرِفُوا۟ فِيهِ وَكَانُوا۟ مُجْرِمِينَ ‎
Transliteration (2021)   
falawlā kāna mina l-qurūni min qablikum ulū baqiyyatin yanhawna ʿani l-fasādi fī l-arḍi illā qalīlan mimman anjaynā min'hum wa-ittabaʿa alladhīna ẓalamū mā ut'rifū fīhi wakānū muj'rimīn
Word for Word
Dr. Shehnaz Shaikh, Ms. Kauser Katri, and more
  
So why not had been of the generations from before you (those) possessing a remnant, forbidding from the corruption in the earth except a few of those We saved among them? But followed those who did wrong what luxury they were given therein, and they were criminals.

Generally Accepted Translations of the Meaning
Muhammad Asad   
BUT, ALAS, among those generations [whom We destroyed] before your time there were no people endowed with any virtue - [people] who would speak out against the [spread of] corruption on earth -except the few of them whom We saved [because of their righteousness], whereas those who were bent on evildoing only pursued pleasures which corrupted their whole being, and so lost themselves in sinning
M. M. Pickthall   
If only there had been among the generations before you men possessing a remnant (of good sense) to warn (their people) from corruption in the earth, as did a few of those whom We saved from them! The wrong-doers followed that by which they were made sapless, and were guilty
Yusuf Ali (Saudi Rev. 1985)   
Why were there not, among the generations before you, persons possessed of balanced good sense, prohibiting (men) from mischief in the earth - except a few among them whom We saved (from harm)? But the wrong-doers pursued the enjoyment of the good things of life which were given them, and persisted in sin
The Clear Quran, Dr. Mustafa Khattab   
If only there had been among the ˹destroyed˺ peoples before you, ˹O believers,˺ virtuous individuals who forbade corruption in the land—other than the few We had saved ˹from the torment˺. But the wrongdoers ˹only˺ pursued their ˹worldly˺ pleasures, becoming wicked.
Safi Kaskas   
If only-among the generations before your time-there had been people with good sense to speak out against corruption on earth, [as did] the few of them whom We saved. [Instead,] the unjust only pursued pleasures that corrupted their entire beings, and that led them to sin
Wahiduddin Khan   
Why, then, were there not among the generations before you upright men who would speak out against the [spread of] corruption on earthexcept for the few whom We saved? But the wrongdoers pursued their worldly pleasures and thus became guilty
Shakir   
But why were there not among the generations before you those possessing understanding, who should have forbidden the making of mischief in the earth, except a few of those whom We delivered from among them? And those who were unjust went after what they are made to enjoy of plenty, and they were guilty
Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar   
Why had there not been among the generations before you imbued with abiding wisdom, prohibiting corruption in and on the earth, but a few of those whom We rescue from among them? And those who did wrong followed what they were given ease in it. And they had been ones who sin.
T.B.Irving   
If there had only been a few persons with a little [sense] left to forbid corruption on earth out of those We saved among the generations before you! They followed those who did wrong in whatever they had been luxuriating in, and were criminals.
Abdul Hye   
If there had not been among the generations before you, people having wisdom, prohibiting others from mischief in the earth, except a few of those whom We saved from among them. Those who did wrong, pursued what they were provided with good things in it (worldly life), and they were sinners.
The Study Quran   
So why were there not among the generations before you those possessing merit, who would forbid corruption upon the earth, other than a few of those whom We saved among them? Those who did wrong pursued the luxuries they had been given, and they were guilty
Dr. Kamal Omar   
Then why not there became out of the generations before you (who were) custodians of Baqiyyatin, (as those who were) prohibiting against Al-Fasad in the land? The majority did not do it except a very few out of those whom We saved from amongst them. And the wrong doers remained attached (to) whatever fun and enjoyment they were provided in this (worldly life); and they remained Mujrimun
M. Farook Malik   
Why were there not among the generations before you, good persons who could forbid the people from making mischief in the land, except a few of those whom We delivered from among them? The wrongdoers, however, pursued the worldly pleasure they were provided, and became confirmed criminals
Talal A. Itani (new translation)   
If only there were, among the generations before you, people with wisdom, who spoke against corruption on earth—except for the few whom We saved. But the wrongdoers pursued the luxuries they were indulged in, and thus became guilty
Muhammad Mahmoud Ghali   
So, if only there been of the generations even before you, (remaining nations) endowed with (i.e., of understanding) forbidding corruption in the land-only a few of them whom We delivered. And the ones who did injustice closely followed whatever luxury they were made to live in; and they were criminals
Muhammad Sarwar   
Why were there no people of understanding among those people of the destroyed towns of the past except for a few, whom we saved from destruction, to prevent people from committing evil in the land? The unjust among them indulged in worldly pleasures and so became guilty
Muhammad Taqi Usmani   
Then, why is it that there were no people, among the generations before you, who would have enough remnants of wisdom to stop others from creating disorder in the land, except a few among them whom We saved (from Our punishment)? And the wrongdoers pursued the luxuries they were involved in, and they became sinners
Shabbir Ahmed   
(Here is a lesson for the future of humanity.) Alas, among the older generations there were few people of virtue, those who would take a stand against corruption and disorder in the land. Except the few whom We saved for their righteousness. Whereas most people indulged in violation of human rights, enjoying the fleeting delights of the world and thriving on the fruit of others' toil
Dr. Munir Munshey   
Why was it that the towns before you did not have people with wisdom _ except a few whom We rescued _ who could prevent the spread of mischief in the land? The evildoers persued the enjoyment of luxury and wealth. They were criminals
Syed Vickar Ahamed   
Why were there not, from generations before you, persons with balanced wisdom (and good sense), who prohibited (men) from mischief in the earth— Except a few of them whom We saved (from harm)? But the wrongdoers chased the enjoyment of the good things of life that were given to them and continued in sin (as criminals)
Umm Muhammad (Sahih International)   
So why were there not among the generations before you those of enduring discrimination forbidding corruption on earth - except a few of those We saved from among them? But those who wronged pursued what luxury they were given therein, and they were criminals
[The Monotheist Group] (2011 Edition)   
If only there was from the previous generations a people with wisdom who deterred from the corruption on Earth, except the few that We saved of them. And those who were wicked followed the enjoyment they were in, and they were criminal
Abdel Haleem   
If only there had been, among the generations before your time, people with a rem-nant of good sense, to forbid corruption on the earth! We saved only a few of them, while the unjust pursued the enjoyment of plenty, and persisted in sin
Abdul Majid Daryabadi   
Why were there not of the generations before you owner of wisdom restraining others from corruption on the earth, except a few of those whom We delivered from amongst them! And those who did wrong followed that in which they luxuriated, and they had been sinners
Ahmed Ali   
If only there had been men endued with virtue in the ages before you, who could preserve men from doing evil in the world, other than the few We saved from among them. Those who were wicked followed that which made them dissolute, and became sinners
Aisha Bewley   
Would that there had been more people with a vestige of good among the generations of those who came before you, who forbade corruption in the earth, other than the few among them whom We saved. Those who did wrong gladly pursued the life of luxury that they were given and were evildoers.
Ali Ünal   
If only there had been among the generations before you (of whom some We destroyed) people with lasting qualities (such as faith, knowledge, virtue, and good deeds, whose goal was what is lasting with God, the eternal life of the Hereafter, and) who would warn against disorder and corruption on earth! Among them only a few, included among those whom We saved, did this. But those who did wrong (against God by associating partners with Him, and against people by violating their rights) were lost in the pursuit of pleasures without scruples, and were criminals committed to accumulating sins
Ali Quli Qara'i   
Why were there not among the generations before you a remnant [of the wise] who might forbid corruption in the earth, except a few of those whom We delivered from among them? Those who were wrongdoers pursued that in which they had been granted affluence, and they were a guilty lot
Hamid S. Aziz   
If only there had been, among the generations before you, men endowed with a remnant of virtue (balance, sobriety, righteousness, good sense) forbidding (warning, preventing) men from corruption in the earth, as did the few whom We saved from them. But t
Ali Bakhtiari Nejad   
Why there were not men of insight among the generations before you to prohibit from the corruption in the earth, except a few of those whom We saved among them? And those who did wrong followed what they took pleasure in it, and they were guilty.
A.L. Bilal Muhammad et al (2018)   
Why were there not among the generations before you, people of balance and good sense, prohibiting the people from doing wrong on the earth, except a few among them whom We saved? But the wrongdoers pursued the enjoyment of the good things in life which was given to them, and persisted in harmful deeds
Musharraf Hussain   
If only there had been more righteous people in the previous generations who prevented corruption in the land! We saved few of them whilst the wrongdoers enjoyed the luxuries of life and continued sinning.
Maududi   
Why were there not, out of the generations that passed away before you, righteous men who would forbid others from causing corruption on the earth? And if such were there, they were only a few whom We had saved from those generations, or else the wrong-doers kept pursuing the ease and comfort which had been conferred upon them, thus losing themselves in sinfulness.
[The Monotheist Group] (2013 Edition)   
If only there was from the previous generations a people with wisdom who prohibited corruption on the earth, except the few that We saved of them. And those who were wicked followed the enjoyment they were in, and they were criminal.
Mohammad Shafi   
If only there were, among the generations before you, more men of understanding forbidding mischief on earth! There were but a few men of understanding of those whom We saved from among them. And those who were unjust were preoccupied with the luxuries they were given. And they sinned

Controversial or status undetermined works
Ahmed Raza Khan (Barelvi)   
Then why there were not among generations before you persons possessing some virtue who would have forbidden mischief in the earth, Yes there were few of them whom We delivered'? And the unjust remained behind the same luxury that was given to them, and they were sinners
Rashad Khalifa   
If only some of those among the previous generations possessed enough intelligence to forbid evil! Only a few of them deserved to be saved by us. As for the transgressors, they were preoccupied with their material luxuries; they were guilty.
Hasan Al-Fatih Qaribullah   
If (only) there had been except for a few among them whom We saved among the generations that have gone before you, some that remained forbidding corruption in the land, but the wrongdoers pursued the ease they had been given to delight in and became sinners
Maulana Muhammad Ali   
Why were there not then among the generations before you those possessing understanding, forbidding mischief in the earth, except a few among them whom We delivered? And the unjust pursued the enjoyment of plenty, and they were guilty
Muhammad Ahmed & Samira   
So where it not for (owners) of a remainder/remnant , from the generations/centuries from before you, (who were) forbidding/preventing from the corruption in the earth/Planet Earth, except a few from whom We saved/rescued from them; and those who caused injustice/oppression followed what they were luxuriated ungrateful and arrogant in it, and they were criminals/sinners
Bijan Moeinian   
What a shame that in the past there were not good people who would forbid the people of making mischief. If there were any, there were very few who were saved from [the punishment imposed upon] those nations. As for the wrong-doers, they were absorbed with their materialistic pre-occupations and ended up as criminals
Faridul Haque   
So why were not there some people, from the generations before you, who had some goodness remaining in them in order to prevent (others) from causing turmoil in the earth? Except a few among them - the very ones whom We had rescued; and the unjust remained pursuing what they were given, and they were guilty
Sher Ali   
Why, then, were there not among the generations before you persons possessed of understanding, who would have forbidden corruption in the earth, except a few among them whom WE saved? But the wrongdoers pursued the enjoyment of the good things which they were given in plenty, and they became guilty
Dr. Mohammad Tahir-ul-Qadri   
So why were there not amongst the communities, that preceded you, men of superior morality and wisdom, who would stop people from mischief-mongering in the land, except a few of them whom We delivered? And the unjust stuck to (the same path of) luxury and lustfulness they were addicted to. And they were (regular) criminals
Amatul Rahman Omar   
Why, then, were there not among the generations that preceded you persons possessed of excellence who would forbid the perpetration of evil in the land. But there were only a few of those (who acted righteously and) whom We had saved from among them. And (all others) who had committed wrong pursued that (wanton) ease and plenty they were afforded with (and this led to their rebellion and disobedience), and they became those who cut off their ties (with Allah)
Muhsin Khan & Muhammad al-Hilali   
If only there had been among the generations before you, persons having wisdom, prohibiting (others) from Al-Fasad (disbelief, polytheism, and all kinds of crimes and sins) in the earth, except a few of those whom We saved from among them. Those who did wrong pursued the enjoyment of good things of (this worldly) life, and were Mujrimoon (criminals, disbelievers in Allah, polytheists, sinners, etc.)

Non-Muslim and/or Orientalist works
Arthur John Arberry   
Or if there had been, of the generations before you, men of a remainder forbidding corruption in the earth -- except a few of those whom We delivered of them; but the evildoers followed the ease they were given to exult in and became sinners
George Sale   
Were such of the generations before you, indued with understanding and virtue, who forbad the acting corruptly in the earth, any more than a few only of those whom We delivered? But they who were unjust followed the delights which they enjoyed in this world, and were wicked doers
Edward Henry Palmer   
And were there among the generations before you any endowed with a remnant (of piety) forbidding evildoing in the earth, save a few of those whom we saved; but the evildoers followed what they enjoyed, and were sinners
John Medows Rodwell   
Were the generations before you, endued with virtue, and who forbad corrupt doings on the earth, more than a few of those whom we delivered? but the evil doers followed their selfish pleasures, and became transgressors
N J Dawood (2014)   
Was there, among the generations that have gone before you, a remnant that forbade corruption in the land, except the few We had delivered from among them? The wrongdoers pursued their worldly pleasures and were sinful

New, Partial, or In Progress Translations
Linda “iLHam” Barto   
Why were there, among generations before you, no people with enough common sense to prohibit evil upon the earth, except for those few people We saved? The sinners pursued the enjoyment of the good things of life, which were given to them, and persisted in sin.
Irving & Mohamed Hegab   
If there had only been a few persons with a little [sense] left to forbid corruption on earth out of those We saved among the generations before you! They followed those who did wrong in whatever they had been luxuriating in, and were criminals.
Sayyid Qutb   
If only there had been among the generations that have gone before you some people of virtue to speak out against the spread of corruption on earth, as did the few whom We saved from among them! The wrongdoers pursued what ensured for them a life of comfort and plenty; they were hardened in sin.
Ahmed Hulusi   
Should not those who remain from the generations before you stop corruption on earth? Except for a few of those who We saved among them (none of them did this)... The wrongdoers pursued the luxury with which they were spoilt... They became guilty!
Sayyed Abbas Sadr-Ameli   
But why were there not, among the generations before you, persons possessed understanding(and authority), prohibiting(people)from mischief in the earth, except a few whom We saved from among them And those who were unjust pursued what they were made to enjoy and they were guilty.
Al-muntakhab fi tafsir al-Qur‘an al-Karim   
If only there had been among the preceding generations a class of persons virtuous, strong and influential enough to warn people against corruption and to forbid mischief on earth and prohibit perversion as did the few of them whom We saved. But the wrongful of actions pursued pleasure, and lust after the mundane vanity they were entangled with, and were steeped in crime
Mir Aneesuddin   
So among the generations before you, why, persons retaining (religious understanding) did not come (forward) to forbid (people) from being corrupt in the earth, except a small number of those whom We had saved from among them? And those who were unjust pursued that which was made for their enjoyment therein, and (thus) they became criminals. those whom We had saved from among them? And those who were unjust pursued that which was made for their enjoyment therein, and (thus) they became criminals.

Obsolete and/or older editions
Yusuf Ali (Orig. 1938)   
Why were there not, among the generations before you, persons possessed of balanced good sense, prohibiting (men) from mischief in the earth - except a few among them whom We saved (from harm)? But the wrong-doers pursued the enjoyment of the good things of life which were given them, and persisted in sin
OLD Literal Word for Word   
So why not had been of the generations before you those possessing a remnant, forbidding from the corruption in the earth except a few of those We saved among them? But followed those who did wrong what luxury they were given therein, and they were criminals
OLD Transliteration   
Falawla kana mina alqurooni min qablikum oloo baqiyyatin yanhawna AAani alfasadi fee al-ardi illa qaleelan mimman anjayna minhum waittabaAAa allatheena thalamoo ma otrifoo feehi wakanoo mujrimeena