Upon reading the following translations, I am left wondering what the right interpretation is. This story in the Qur'an is meant to illustrate for an enquirer how Allah brings the dead back to life. Please note in this incident that when the man woke up after having sleapt a hundred years, his attention is not drawn by Allah to the ruined city along with it's inhabitants to show that how it converted over time to a city full of life (apparently the city still lay in ruins); Attention is drawn to the man's food (which did not spoil) and his donkey. We also read that Allah wanted to that incident as a Sign for mankind. Then we read about how Allah revives the dead to life by clothing dead bones with flesh and infusing it with life. Most translators take it to mean that the dead donkey was brought back to life in front of the man's eyes to prove how the dead are revived and the power Allah has. QXP, Asad and Perwez do not take that approach (meaning that the donkey did not die) and interpret it to mean Allah is merely drawing the man's attention to man's development in the mother's womb and how it goes through different stages.
My confusion is over how did Allah prove to the questioning man that He has the power to bring dead people, civilisation, cities, animals etc. back to life by only putting him to sleep and waking him up? If the man woke up and found a hustling and busling city full of people, he would have learnt his lesson. Or was he meant to learn his lesson by watching a dead donkey brought back to life??
Or take another example of the one (Prophet Ezra) who passed by a town which had fallen down upon its roofs. He exclaimed: "How can Allah bring this dead township back to life?" Thereupon Allah caused him to die, and after one hundred years brought him back to life. Allah asked: "How long did you remain here?" Ezra replied: "Perhaps a day or part of a day." Allah said: "Nay! You have remained here for one hundred years: now just have a look at your food and drink; they are not rotten; and then look at your donkey and see that his very bones have decayed. We have done this to make you a Sign for mankind. Look at the bones of your donkey how We bring them together then clothe them with flesh and bring him back to life! When this all was shown clearly to him he said: "Now I know that Allah has power over everything."
The similitude of this history is that someone passes by the ruins of a town and wonders if that town could ever come back to life again, and Allah causes him to die for a hundred years and then revives him. He thinks it was only a matter of a day or a part of it. He even finds his food, drink, and donkey standing beside him. Allah creates you in the wombs of your mothers, in bone and flesh. And when the matter became clear to him, he said, "I know now that Allah is Able to do all things.
Free Minds :
Or the one who passed through a town, where all its inhabitants had passed away. He said: "How can God possibly resurrect this after its death?" So God put him to death for one hundred calendar years, then He resurrected him. He said: "How long have you stayed here?" He said: "I have stayed here a day or part of a day." He said: "No, you have stayed here for one hundred calendar years! Look at your food and drink, they have not changed, but look at your mule; and We will make you a sign for the people; and look at the bones how We grow them, then We cover them with flesh." So when it was clear to him what happened, he said: "I now know that God is capable of all things!"
Or [art thou, O man, of the same mind] as he who passed by a town deserted by its people, with its roofs caved in, [and] said, "How could God bring all this back to life after its death?" Thereupon God caused him to be dead for a hundred years; whereafter He brought him back to life [and] said: "How long hast thou remained thus?" He answered: "I have remained thus a day, or part of a day." Said [God]: "Nay, but thou hast remained thus for a hundred years! But look at thy food and thy drink - untouched is it by the passing of years - and look at thine ass! And [We did all this] so that We might make thee a symbol unto men. And look at the bones [of animals and men] - how We put them together and then clothe them with flesh!" And when [all this] became clear to him, he said: "I know [now] that God has the power to will anything!"