The second type of people are like layers of darkness accumulated one over the other, and they are those who recognise the truth and guidance but preferred over it, the darkness of falsehood and misguidance. So over them accumulated layers of darkness – the darkness of their natures and the darkness of their souls, the darkness of their ignorance and the darkness of following deviation and vain desires. This was because they did not really comprehend (the truth) despite knowing about it, so they become ignorant. Their condition is like that of the one who is in a deep sea with no shoreline, and he has been overcome by waves upon which are dark clouds, so he is surrounded by the darkness of the sea and the darkness of the waves and the darkness of the clouds, such (darkness) corresponds to the state he (the person described in the example) is in, which Allah has not removed him from – into the light of man (faith). And these two examples – the mirage that he thought was water, which is the element of life; and the darkness which is the direct opposite of light – are examples that are in correspondence to the two examples given (earlier) regarding the hypocrites and the believers that are the example of water and the example of fire where He made the believers’ share of it, life and light – and the hypocrites share the darkness (which is the opposite of light) and death (the opposite of life).
Similarly in the two examples (described in this section), the share of the believer of the water is the mirage that deceives the one looking at it while it actually does not exist; and also in their share is the layers of darkness. It is possible that the intended meaning is the condition of every group of disbelievers and that they have cancelled out the element of life and illumination by their turning away from the Divine Revelation – in which case the two examples give different characteristics for the same group. It is also possible that the two examples refer to the varying conditions of (different types of) disbelievers, and that those upon whom the first examples apply to, are those who performed deeds without knowledge or foresight, and in fact on ignorance and mere good assumption on the actions of some predecessors, thinking that they are doing well. And those upon whom the second example applies are the ones who have preferred misguidance over guidance and falsehood over truth, and have gone blind to it (i.e. the truth and guidance) after they had been able to see it, and rejected it after they had known it. This is the condition of the ones who have received (Allah’s) Wrath, and these are the people surrounded by layers of darkness, while the former (example) was the condition of those who went astray.
The condition of those who have His Grace bewstowed upon them is different: i.e. those described in the ayat,
“Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His Light is like a niche within which is a lamp, the lamp is within a glass, the glass as if it were a pearly [white] star lit from [the olive oil] a blessed olive tree, neither of the east nor of the west, whose oil would almost glow even if untouched fire. Light upon light. Allah guides to His Light whom He wills. And Allah sets forth examples for mankind, and Allah is All-Knower of all things.” (Surah Al-Nur:35)
To the ayah,
“That Allah may reward them [according to] the best of what they did, and increase them from His bounty. And Allah gives provision to whom he wills without account.” (Surah Al-Nur:38)
These ayat contain in them the attributes of the three groups: those who have (Allah’s) Grace bestowed upon them whose example is given by light, those who have gone astray whose example is given by the mirage and those upon whom Allah’s Wrath has descended whose example is given by the layers of darkness, Allah knows best. The first example from among the two groups of falsehood is of those people who perform deeds that are void and do not fetch them any benefit – and the other group is that of unbeneficial deeds in addition to false creed and beliefs. Both of these are in direct opposition to the guidance and true religion; and this is why the condition of the second group with the “crashing waves” of doubtful and obscure matters and contaminated knowledge in their hearts is compared with the crashing waves of doubt and ambiguity in their darkened hearts; hearts over which layers of clouds of deviation and vain desires and falsehood have settled.
Let the sensible person then contemplate the condition of the two groups and compare between them and the two examples, and let him realise the greatness of the Qur’an and its splendour; that this Revelation is from One who is Wise and Praiseworthy. He informs that the necessary consequence of this (contemplation) is that; He did not provide them with light, rather left them in the darkness in which they were made from which He did not remove them and bring to the light (of guidance). For Allah is the Supporter of those who believe, removing them from darkness into light, and in the Musnad (of Imam Ahmad) on the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar, that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, said,
“Allah made the creation in darkness and cast upon them from His Light, whoever got something from this light was guided by it, and whomever (the light) missed went astray.” (Ahmad 27761)
This is why I say, the pens have dried on what is in Allah’s Knowledge. Allah, Exalted is He, made the Creation in darkness and whomever He wished guidance, He made for him existent light, which enlivened his heart and his spirit, just like the body has life because of the spirit that is breathed into it. So life is of two types – the life of the body due to the ruh (spirit) that is breathed into it and the (spiritual) life of the spirit and the heart with light (of guidance), and this is why Allah has called the Revelation (a ruh) because of the dependence of real life upon it, as Allah, Exalted is He said,
“He sends down the Angels with the run (Revelation) of His Command unto whom He wills of His Slaves.” (Surah Al-Nahl:2)
“He casts the run (Revelation) of His command upon whom He will of His Slaves..” (Surah Ghafir:15)
“And this We have inspired you (O Muhammad) a ruh (Revelation) of Our Command. You knew not what the Book was nor what faith is. But We have made it (Qur’an) a light whereby We guide whom We will of Our Slaves.” (Surah al-Shura:52)
He therefore made the Revelation a “ruh” and a guiding light – and whomsoever He did not give life with this ruh, he is (in reality) dead, and whomsoever He did not provide light from it (i.e. the Revelation) he is in darkness without light. From among these examples, the ayah,
“Or do you deem that most of them hear or understand? They are but as cattle, nay, but they are further astray from the path (than cattle).” (Surah Al-Furqan:44)
In which Allah likened the majority of people with cattle, and the common equating factor between the two is in not accepting guidance and not being led by it. He described the majority of these people as actually being more astray than cattle, because beasts can at least be led by their ride so they find their way to flow the path without deviating from it right or left. As for the majority of people, the Messengers called them to the right path but they neither respond nor are guided, and cannot differentiate while cattle can at least distinguish between the plants on the routes that harm it so they avoid and prefer over it what is beneficial in these. Though Allah neither created cattle with hearts that comprehend not with tongues that can speak, while He gave it those people, but still they did not benefit from what He bestows upon them of mind, heart, tongue and hearing and sight and makes them even more astray than animals.
The one who is not guided to the straight path even with indicators towards it, is more misguided and worse in conditions from the one who is not guided because there are no indications for him.
Another example related to this section is the ayah,
“He strikes a similitude of you own selves. Have you, from among those whom your right hand posses, partners to share as equals in the wealth We have bestowed on you, so that you fear them as you fear each other? Thus We explain the signs for people who have sense.” (Surah Al-Rum:28)
And this is analogical proof that Allah had brought forth against the polytheists who have put up partners for Him from among His slaves and His dominion. He had established against them a proof whose truthfulness they know deep inside themselves not requiring anything other than it – and from among the clearest and far-reaching proofs is one that a person takes from his own self and then establishes against him proof that is universally established and accepted. So, He said to them, “have you from among those who your right hand posess, partners in the wealth and family” do your slaves have (an equal) share in your wealth and families such that you and they are the same in their share, causing you to fear that they will partake and divide up from your wealth and misappropriate part of it? As the associate or partner fears his associate?
Ibn Abbas commented (about the ayah) “you fear that they may inherit you like you do among each other (i.e. within your families)”, the meaning of His statement is that, would any of you be pleased that his slave be his partner and share-taker in your money and wealth, having equal hand in its use and disposal? Rather he fears that he (the slave) may monopolise his wealth in the process, just as he fears his other associates and those from he free individuals (i.e. non-slaves). So if you are not pleased with such a situation for yourself, why have you made Me (Allah) equal to objects from my creation who belong to Me totally?
Thus if this situation is instinctively and logically inconceivable to you – even though it is in reality permissible for you and conceivable by your right, since your slaves are not in reality possessed by you, rather they are your brothers whom Allah has given you authority over and both you and they are My slaves – then how is it that you deem such a situation permissible with Me, even though those whom you have assigned as My “partners” are in fact my slaves, My property and My created beings. And this is how the ayat ought to be explained to those of sound mind.
Paragons of the Qur’an by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah Pages 38-46