AND [even] before thee, Lo Muhammad,] We never sent as Our message-bearers any but [mortal men,] who indeed ate food [like other human beings] and went about in the market-places: for [it is thus that] We cause you [human beings] to be a means of testing one another.'16
able to endure [this test] with patience? For [remember, O man,] thy Sustainer is truly all-seeing!
This elliptic passage undoubtedly alludes to the fact that the appearance of each new prophet had, as a rule, a twofold purpose: firstly, to convey a divinely-inspired ethical message to man, and thus to establish a criterion of right and wrong or a standard by which to discern the true from the false (al-furqan, as stated in the first verse of this surah); and, secondly, to be a means of testing men's moral perceptions and dispositions as manifested in their reactions to the prophet's message - that is, their willingness or unwillingness to accept it on the basis of its intrinsic merit without demanding or even expecting any "supernatural" proof of its divine origin. Indirectly, in its deepest sense, this passage implies that not only a prophet but every human being is, by virtue of his social existence, a means whereby the moral qualities of his fellow-men are put to a test: hence, some of the earliest commentators (among them Tabari) give to the above phrase the connotation of "We caused you human beings to be a means of testing one another".
I.e., "you men" or, more specifically, "you whom the message of the Qur'an has reached".