“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)
After propounding this parable of fire, Allah propounds another parable for the hypocrites, this time of water. Sayyib mentioned in the verse refers to driving rain which pours down from the sky. Here the guidance with which He guided His servants has been likened to water because guidance gives life to the hearts as water gives life to the earth. The portion that the hypocrite gets from this guidance is the same as one who is caught in this storm cloud but gets nothing from it save darkness, thunder, and lightening; having no notion of its many benefits such as life for the earth – its animals and vegetation – springs forth after rain. The darkness, thunder, and lightening in a storm-cloud are not matters that are desired in and of themselves, rather they are matters that lead to the accomplishment of what is desired from this cloud. The ignoramus suffices with merely seeing the outward effects of this cloud: the darkness, the thunder, the lightening, the cold, and the fact that he is prevented from travelling, but has no inkling of the huge benefit that comes as a result of this rain. This is true of every short-sighted, dull witted person; his perception does not go deeper than seeing the outward form of things and he does not see what is behind them. This is the state of the majority of creation except for a few amongst them. When the short-sighted sees the hardship and toil that is to be found in Jihad, when he sees the fact that he could be wounded, censured by certain people, and excite enmity in others; he does not go forth for Jihad. He is unable to probe deeper and realise the great benefits, the praiseworthy goals, and great rewards it contains. When one of them desires to perform the pilgrimage and sees the hardships entailed in the journey, the living of the comfort of his home and town, and difficulties to be faced, he cannot see beyond this to what lies at the end of this journey and as such falters and does not undertake it.
This is the state of those who lack spiritual insight and are weak of faith: those who see the threats, promises, commands, and prohibitions that are to be found in the Qur’an as ordinances that are too heavy for their egos which desire only to follow their lusts. These ordinances wean the soul of its base qualities. Weaning is truly difficult for the child; and all men are children with respect to their intellects with the exception of those who have weaned and regulated them, and as such have comprehended the truth by way of knowledge and action. It is such people who are able to see what is behind this storm-cloud; what is behind the darkness, thunder, and lightening; it is such people who realise that this storm cloud is the source of life for existence.
Az-Zamakhshari said, “The religion of Islam has been likened to the cloud, because hearts are given life by it as the heath is by water, disbelief has been likened to darkness; threat and promise has been likened to thunder and lightening; and trials and tribulations that terrify the disbelievers have been likened to thunderclaps. The meaning of “or that of a storm-cloud” is ‘or that of people caught in a storm-cloud.’
Both these parables contain great points of wisdom:
- The one who is seeking light from something else, not from himself; when that light goes, he remains in that original darkness. This is the state of the hypocrite; he affirms belief on his tongue but does not believe or have love in his heart; as such what light he acquires as a result of this is borrowed.
- Fire requires fuel to keep it alight. This fuel is comparable to food that is required to sustain animal life. Likewise the light of faith requires fuels so as to maintain it: beneficial knowledge and righteous action. If this fuel is taken away, it dies out.
- Darkness is of two types: perpetual darkness which is not preceded by light and a temporal darkness which is preceded by light. It is the later of these two which is most severe upon the one who faces it. The darkness of the hypocrites is of the second type for they saw the light and then were plunged into darkness.
- This parable points to their state in the Hereafter for there they will be given a superficial light just as their light in this world was superficial. Then at the time when they need light most, it will suddenly die: they will halt on the Bridge and be unable to cross it for only those with firm light may do so. That light is only made firm with beneficial knowledge and righteous actions. Therefore their parable which describes their state in this life corresponds to their state in the Hereafter: when light is apportioned the people before the Bridge, the light of the believers will remain and the light of the hypocrites will die. When this is understood one understands why Allah said, “Allah removed their light” employing the ‘ba‘ and did not say ‘adh-habaAllahu Nurahum“. For further detail one can read the hadith recorded by Muslim on the authority of Jabir bin Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him. He was asked about the crossing of the Bridge to which he replied, “We would come on the Day of Judgement on a hill standing above the people. Then the people will be summoned along with the idols that they used to worship, one after another. Then our Lord, Blessed and Exalted, would come to us and say, ‘Who are you waiting for?’ They would say, ‘We are waiting for our Lord’ He would say, ‘I am your Lord.’ They say, ‘We are not sure until we look upon You.’ He would then manifest Himself and laugh, and would leave them with the following. Every person among them, and the believer and the hypocrite, would be given light. On the Bridge spanning Hell there would be hooks and spikes which would die out and the believers would secure salvation. This first group saved would consist of seventy thousand people whose faces would have faces like the stars of the sky, and so on. The intercession would commence till the point that there would come out of the Hellfire the one who said, ‘None has the right to be worshipped save Allah,’ and there was only in his heart a barley grain’s worth of faith. They would be brought to the courtyard of Paradise and inhabitants of Paradise would sprinkle water over them…” to the end of the hadith. Ponder carefully His saying ‘…and would leave with them following. Every person among them, the believer and the hypocrite, would be given light…” and ponder carefully His saying, “Allah removed their light and left them in darkness unable to see” and ponder their state of darkness whereas the believers proceed on, following their Lord. Ponder his, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, saying in the hadith concerning the intercession, ”Every nation will follow the god that they used to worship,” the polytheist will follow his god and the person of Tawhid will follow Allah. Ponder his saying, “The Day the shin will be uncovered and they are summoned to prostrate but they will not be able to.” (Surah Al-Qalam:42) He, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, mentioned this verse in the hadith of intercession on this occasion talked about in the previous hadith and in the hadith he said, “..so He will uncover His shin,’ and thereby made clear that it was His shin that was being talked about in the verse. Ponder all of this and you will come to understand a secret from the secrets of Tawhid, understanding the Qur’an, and how Allah deals with the people of Tawhid as compared to the people of shirk.
- The first parable deals with them acquiring darkness which is a similitude for misguidance and confusion, the opposite of which is guidance. The second parable deals with their acquiring fear, the opposite of which is safety and security. The hypocrites are not guided and neither are they safe, “Those who believe and do not mix their faith with any wrongdoing, they are the one who are safe; it is they who are guided.” (Surah Al-Anam:82) Ibn Abbas and other exegetes said, “the similitude of these people’s hypocrisy is that of a person who kindled a fire in a dark night on a terrifying occasion. He warms himself up, sees what is around him, and is saved from what he feared; then while in that state, the fire is suddenly extinguished and he remains once again in that darkness in a state of fear and utter confusion. The hypocrites, but they outwardly testifying to faith, have secured their wealth and children, they marry the believers, they inherit from them, and they acquire a portion of the war booty. This is their light, but when they die, they return once again to darkness and fear.’
- Mujahid said, ‘The fire alighting for them means their going towards the Muslim and guidance. Their light being taken away means their going towards the polytheists and misguidance.’
The acquiring of light and its removal has been explained variously to take place in this life, or the life of the grave, or in the Hereafter. The correct position is that it occurs in all three stages of life, for they are recompensed for their state in this world in three stages with, “.. a fitting recompense.” (Surah an-Naba:26) “Your Lord does not wrong His slaves” (Surah Fussilat:46)
In the resurrection a person shall reap what he sowed in this world and that is why it is called the Day of Recompense, “Those who are blind in this world will be blind in the Hereafter and even further off the Path.” (Surah al-Isra:72) “Allah augments those who are guided by giving them greater guidance” (Surah Maryam:76)
To return to the discussion at hand… Allah the Blessed and Exalted, has propounded two parables, one for fire and one for water, in Surah al-Baqarah, Surah al-Rad and Surah al-Nur. This is because life comes about through water and light; the believer has a living and illuminated heart, and the hypocrite has a dead heart. Allah, Exalted is He says,
“Is someone who was dead and whom We brought to life, supplying him with light be which to walk among people, the same as someone who is in utter darkness, unable to emerge from it?” (Surah al-Anam:122)
“The blind and the seeing are not he same, nor are the darkness and the light, nor are cool shade and fierce heat. The living and dead are not the same, Allah makes anyone He wills to hear but you cannot make those in the grave hear.” (Surah Fatir:19-22)
Therefore He considered those who follow His guidance, and illuminate themselves with His light to be active, taking refuge under a shade that saves them from the heat of doubts, misguidance, innovation, and shirk. And he considered one who does not do so to be blind and dead, submerged in the heat of disbelief, shirk and misguidance, engulfed in layer after layer of darkness. And Allah knows best.
Paragons of the Qur’an by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyyah Pages 120-128
This is the end of Paragons of the Qur’an la hawlah wa la quwatta illah billah.