And from among these ayat is His statement,
“And recite unto them the tale of him to whom We gave Our Revelation, but he threw them away, so Satan overtook him and he became of those who went astray. And had We willed We could have raised him by their means, but he clung to the earth and followed his own desires. Therefore his likeness is as the likeness of a dog; if you chase him, he pants with his tongue out, and you leave him he (still) pants with his tongue out. Such is the likeness of the people who deny Our Revelations. Narrate unto them the stories (of the past), perhaps they will give thought.” (Surah Al-Araf:175-176)
Allah in this ayah likens the one to whom He have His Book and taught him knowledge that He excluded others from having, but this person gave it up and chose to follow his own vain desires – choosing Allah’s Wrath over His Pleasure, and the worldly life over the Hereafter, and the created beings over the Creator – with the dog which is from amongst the worst of animals, and the lowest in value; meaning in terms of itself – its desire does not surpass its belly – and is the most keen in safeguarding its own selfish interests. An example of this is that it does not walk except with its snout on the ground, smelling and sniffing – and keeps on sniffing its rear end from among all the parts of the body. If you toss a stone at it, it runs after it, to bite it, with its teeth due to its extreme voracity; it is from among the most despicable of animals, the most tolerant in bearing degradation, and the most content with low things. It prefers stinking putrid carcass to fresh meat and faith to pleasant food; if it comes in possession of a dead animal that would suffice a hundred dogs, it would not allow a single dog to partake of it, growling at it, due to its greed and selfishness.
And from amongst its strange behaviour is that if it sees someone of a shabby appearance and clothes in poor condition, it barks at him and attacks him as if perceiving him to be a contender to its power – while if it sees someone with a good appearance and beautiful attire and a commanding presence, it puts its snout down submissively on the ground to him, even raising its head.
And in Allah’s likening of the one who prefers the worldly life and its hastened pleasures over the final abode – despite his abundant knowledge – to a dog in the intensity of its yearning (for low things), there is a marvellous suability: this person, whose condition as Allah mentioned in regard to his withdrawing from the signs of Allah and choosing to follow his vain desires, it is only due to his heart being cut off from Allah and the final abode. He resembles in this respect the dog in its constant panting, whether it is provoked or left alone. The words “lahf” (yearning) and “lahth” (panting) are siblings in word construction and meaning, Ibn Jurayj said: “The dog is insensate (cut off from emotion and feeling) whether you attack it or leave it alone it simple pants, which is the condition of the one who leaves guidance because he lacks a heart.”
I say: the meaning of its heart being insensate is that it does not have the soundness of heart and mind to be tranquil and leave off it panting; this is the condition of the one who withdraws himself from Allah’s Signs, he does not have left in him the soundness of heart that lets him be patient to help him resist worldly desires and his yearning for them. He years for the world due to his lacking patience, just as the dog pants for water, since the dog is the least patient of animals when it comes to water; if it gets thirsty it even starts eating the soil in an attempt to quell its thirst – although he is more patient when it comes to hunger – but nevertheless, of all animals it is the most intense in its panting, doing it continuously whether standing or sitting or walking. This is due to the severity of its yearning and keenness, the feverish intensity in its liver and yearning necessitates its constant panting and in a corresponding manner, the severe zeal and feverish lusting in its heart (i.e. the person in the example) causes him to be in a state of constant yearning. If you approach him with exhortation and advice he still continues to yearn and if you leave him and do not admonish him, he still yearns.
Mujahid said, “And this is the likeness of the one who is given the Book and does not act according to it.”
Ibn Abbas said, “If you charge him with wisdom he does not accept it and if you leave him, he is not guided to goodness just as a dog that pants whether sitting on it paws or whether it is driven away.”
Al-Hassan al-Basri said, “It is the hypocrite who does not remain firm on the truth, whether he is called to it or not, admonished or not, like the dog who pants whether it is driven away or left… it barks whether you attack it or not.”
Abu Muhammad ibn Qutaybah said, “Every creature that pants does it due to weariness or of thirst except for the dog, which does it in all conditions: fatigue, rest, good health, illness and whether thirsty or not. Therefore Allah has made it an example for the one who belies the signs of Allah.” He also said, “Even if you advise him, he remains astray, and if you leave him alone he still realms astray, just like a dog. If you drive it away or rebuke it, it pants and if you leave it to its condition it still pants. The complement of this likeness is Allah’s statement “And if you call them to Guidance, they follow you not. Whether you call them or are silent is all one to them” (Surah Al-Araf:193)
Paragons of the Qur’an by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah Pages 60-63