Parable of the Hypocrites – Part 1

Allah, Exalted is He, says in Surah al-Baqarah concerning the hypocrites:

“The likeness is that of one who kindled a fire, and then when it had lit up all around them, Allah removed their light and left them in darkness, unable to see. Deaf, dumb and blind, they will not return. Or that of a storm-cloud in the sky, full of darkness, thunder and lightening. They thrust their fingers in their ears against the thunderclaps, fearful of death. Allah encompasses the disbelievers. The lighting all but snatches away their sight. Whenever they have light, they walk therein but whenever darkness covers them, they halt. If Allah wished, He could take away their hearing and their sight; for Allah has power over all things.” (Surah al-Baqarah: 17-20)

Allah, Glorious is He, has proposed a parable for His enemies, the hypocrites, with a people who ignited a fire in order to acquire light and benefit – for they were a people on a journey who has lost their way. When fire had alighted and lit up their surroundings, they were able to see the right path, they were able to see what would benefit them and what would harm them; but then, suddenly, the light was extinguished and they were left in darkness: all three routes to guidance were barred them. ”Deaf, dumb and blind,” guidance comes to a servant from three doors: what he hears with his ears; what he sees with his eyes; and what he understands with his heart; these people’s hearts are unable to comprehend, they cannot see, and neither can they hear. It is also said that because they gained no benefit from their ears, sight and hearts; they were as good as those who had no faculty of hearing, seeing, and comprehension; and hence were described as such. Both these opinions are of the same meaning and go hand-in-hand. ”They will not return,” in the light they had seen the path of guidance, but when the light left them, they did not return to that guidance.

Allah, Glorious and Exalted is He, said, ”Allah removed their light,” placing the particle ‘ba’ before the word ‘light’ and there is a notable reason for this. That is that this usage serves to show that Allah has removed from them His special closeness that is reserved for the believers only. Therefore, after His removing their light, He neither stays ‘close’ to them or ‘with’ them. They have no place on His sayings,

“Do not be despondent, Allah is with us.” (Surah at-Tawbah:40)

“He said, ‘Never!’ My Lord is with me and He will guide me.” (Surah ash-Shuara:62)

Ponder carefully His saying, “then when it had lit up all around them,” how this light is clearly shown to be distinct and separate from them, for it had been a light that was intrinsic to them, it would not have left them, it was something fleeting whereas the darkness was something permanent and intrinsic to them. Hence the light returned to its source and the darkness remained in its source, all of this was done as a proof from Allah and for an all-encompassing wisdom that none but those endowed with understanding can see.

Ponder carefully His saying, “Allah removed their light,” how He did not say, “Allah removed their fire,” such that the wording would conform to that found at the beginning of this verse. Why is this? Fire has both the property to give light and the property to burn, so its property of light was removed leaving only the property to burn and harm.

Ponder carefully His saying, “their light” how He did not say “their glow (daw) ” despite the fact that He said, “then when it had lit up all around them,” employing the words ‘daw‘. The word ‘daw’ refers, essentially to that light which is extraneous to basic light. So if Allah had said that He had taken away their ‘daw’ it would have suggested that only the extraneous light has been taken away and not the basic light. Now because light, ‘nur’, is the basis upon which ‘daw’ is built, to say that the ‘nur’ has been taken away automatically presupposes that the ‘daw’ has also been taken away. This then stresses the fact that they are people of darkness and have no light in any of its forms: the Book which Allah has called light; the Messenger which Allah has called light; His religion which Allah has called light; His guidance which Allah has called light; one of His Names is ‘The Light’; and the prayer which is light. Allah’s taking away their light means that He took all this away for them.

Ponder carefully how this parable corresponds completely to the previously given parable,

“Those are the people who have sold guidance for misguidance. Their trade has brought them no profit and they are not guided.” (Surah al-Baqarah:16)

how they acquired this misguidance at the expense of guidance, giving it away happily; and here how they happily acquired darkness – misguidance – at the expense of light – guidance. Hence they have sold light and guidance and bought darkness and misguidance… what a wretched transaction!

Ponder carefully how Allah says, “Allah removed their light,” but says, “and left them in darkness” mentioning light in the singular and darkness in the plural. The truth is one, and that is Allah’s Straight Path: the only path that leads to Him: worshipping Allah Alone in accordance to what has been legislated upon the tongue of His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him; not with one’s own desires and innovations. However the ways of falsehood are many and this is who Allah mentions the truth in its singular form but falsehood its plural,

“Allah is the protector of those who believe. He brings them out of the darkness into the light. But the disbelievers have false gods as protectors, they take them from the light into the darkness…” (Surah al-Baqarah:257)

“This is My Path and it is straight, so follow it. Do not follow other ways or you will become cut off from His Way. That is what He instructs you to do so that hopefully you will have taqwa.” (Surah al-Anam:153)

This does not contradict His saying:

“By it Allah guides those who follow what pleases Him to the ways of Peace.” (Surah al-Maidah:16)

for this verse makes reference to the ways and routes that can be taken to please Him, all of which are contained within His one path, the Straight Path. It is authentically reported that the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, drew a straight line on the ground and said, “This is the path of Allah,” then he drew lines to the left and to the right of that line and said ”These are the other paths, at the end of every path is a devil calling to it,” he then recited the verse,

“This is My Path and it is straight, so follow it. Do not follow other ways or you will becomes cut off from His Way. That is what He instructs you to do so that hopefully you will have taqwa.” (Surah al-Anam:153)

It is also said in explanation to this first parable that it is a similitude for what the hypocrites kindle of the fire of trial and tribulation that they seek to covertly spread amongst the Muslims, as such it would be in the same vein as His saying,

“Each time they kindle the fire of war, Allah extinguishes it.” (Surah al-Maidah:64)

So “Allah removed their light” would have the same meaning as, “Allah extinguishes it”; the foiling of their efforts and the falsification of their claims would have the same meaning as leaving them in darkness and confusion: deaf, dumb, and blind.

It is problematic that this latter explanation be the correct exegesis to this verse, even though it, in and of itself is true. The context does not lend itself to this explanation. The one who kindles the fire of war does not have light that surrounds him, and the one who kindles the fire of war does not have light that could be taken from him. The fact that they have been left in darkness, unable to see, means that they moved from a state in which they could see knowledge and guidance to a state of doubt and disbelief, not that they kindled the fire of war.

Al-Hasan said, ‘It refers to the hypocrite: he saw, then became blind, he knew, then rejected.’ This is why He says, ‘they will not return,’ i.e. they will not return to the light that they left. Allah says with regards the disbelievers,

“Deaf – dumb – blind. they do not use their intellect.” (Surah al-Baqarah:171)

and thereby negated comprehension from them as they are not people of faith and insight, not having entered Islam. But with regards the hypocrites, He negated the fact that they would return because they had believed, then disbelieved, and would not return to faith.

Paragons of the Qur’an by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah Pages 112-120

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