Those who are hardened in their disbelief and whose hearts are sealed are likened to a group of people travelling by night in total darkness.
One of them had the foresight to light up a fire to provide them with some light.
But when the fire had illuminated the surrounding area, some of them refused to open their eyes to the light. Instead, something happened to deprive them of their eyesight.
All their faculties were rendered useless as a result.
This example is akin to the light brought into the life of the Arabs, an unlettered nation, by Muhammad (peace be upon him) after a long period of time in which no prophet had come to any community.
This light illuminated those hearts that opened up to receive it.
However, those who persisted in their erring ways, arrogantly preferring to live in the darkness of ignorance, have not opened their eyes to the new light.
Instead, they adopted the attitude of one who is deaf and blind.
“Say: To the believers, this Qur’an is a guidance and a source of health; but as for those who will not believe – they have deafness in their ears, and to them, it is a [cause of] blindness.”(41: 44.)
The hypocrites who were bent on deception are likened to a community of people on a night of thunderstorms and torrential rain.
They leave the rain water to be wasted, making no use of it for their drinking needs, or for irrigation, or for their cattle.
They give their full attention to the lightning, thunder and the total darkness of the night.
Time after time, they wait for the lightning so that they may walk, then when it is over and the darkness overwhelms them again, they stand still, waiting for the next lightning so that they may continue to walk.
This example refers to the Qur’an, which gives life to people’s hearts in the same way as rain brings forth life from the earth.
Its fruits are seen in good deeds, fine manners and a proper sense of morality.
It sets for the believers the test of jihad, patience in adversity and endurance of hardship, in peace or war, victory or defeat. Some people profess to accept it, but do not truly believe in it.
They do not experience the fulfilment it gives to their hearts and souls. They only look at it from the narrow angle of what they stand to make of gain or loss.
They are prepared to change their attitude to it on the basis of personal interest.
If they expect an easy gain to come out of a comfortable trip, they will follow the lure of expected riches.
Thus, they are quick to join the believers.
When war breaks out and the risks of death or defeat loom large, however, they do not hesitate to desert, giving any excuse they think to be plausible.
If the situation before them is blurred, neither offering prospects of gain nor raising risks of loss, they will stick to the middle ground, making no real commitment.
They will wait for the result so that they may side with the winner:
“If triumph comes to you from God, they say, ‘Were we not on your side?’ – whereas if the unbelievers are in luck, they say to them, ‘Have we not earned your affection by defending you against the believers?’”” (4: 141.)
“There are among you such as would lag behind, and then, if calamity befalls you, say, ‘God has bestowed His favour on me in that I was not present with them!’ But if good fortune comes to you from God, such a person is sure to say – just as if there had never been any question of love between you and him – ‘Would that I had been with them so that I might have a share in their great success.’”(4: 72-73.)
This is the typical attitude of the hypocrites in all situations. Whenever they expect an easy gain, they will go after it wherever it happens to be.
If they expect harm or loss, they will turn away. They will sacrifice nothing for any cause.
When the prospects are unclear, they stand in the middle, making no commitment.
In this they are totally different from the believers who choose to follow the truth, ready to sacrifice for it whatever they are called upon to sacrifice.
Thus, the introduction is completed, having given the right description of the Qur’an, and having truthfully described those who follow it and those who deny its truth.
The description of all three groups, as they choose their attitudes towards the Qur’an, will undoubtedly emphasise the status of the Qur’an.
As its followers are described as following right guidance and as sure to prosper, while those who deny it are followers of error who will end up in ruin, then there is no doubt that the Qur’an embodies the truth.
What is this truth followed only by rightly guided people who are certain to prosper and denied only by the losers?
Indeed, what is this truth that is here likened to bright light and abundant rain?
Such descriptions serve to enhance people’s interest to learn what the Qur’an preaches. The surah now outlines the main beliefs of Islam.
Here we have a very interesting feature of style. So far, the surah has spoken about the Qur’an and the three groups of people using the third person mode.
In ordinary style, this would have been maintained in describing Islamic beliefs. However, this mode is now abandoned and the form of address to all mankind is employed.
The next verse says: “Mankind, worship your Lord, who has created you and those who lived before you…”.(2: 21.)
why does this change occur?
The accurate and precise description of the three groups, believers, unbelievers and hypocrites, has changed their status for the listener. At the beginning, they were absentees, with only their characteristics being delineated.
Now that they have been faithfully and accurately described, they are present in the listener’s mind, as though he is looking at them in a place where they can be addressed.
Hence, it is possible to address them as though they are physically present.
On the other hand, the examples given of the unbelievers have given the listener a very sad picture of them indeed.
He is eager to give them honest advice and sound warning. He wants to call out to them or to hear someone addressing them to open their eyes and follow the path that ensures their safety.
We are, thus, fully prepared for the mode of address when it comes in the next verse:
“Mankind, worship your Lord, who has created you and those who lived before you…”. That is how the surah begins its first purpose which we will discuss presently.
The Main Islamic Beliefs
Remembering that this is the longest surah in the Qur’an, taking no less than 286 verses, we find that the first purpose takes only five verses, 21-25,GO TO Page III