The Parable of the Believer and Disbeliever
The Ayah employs a similitude to focus on two lifestyles. On one side is the state of those who believe in the Qur’an and in the Prophet of Allah, sallAllahu `alayhi wa sallam. And on the other side is the state of those who refuse to believe in them. Also stated here is the good or bad end of both as well as the reality of what a believer or unbeliever stands for, and what belief and disbelief actually are. A believer is like the one who is alive while the unbeliever is like the one who is dead. Emaan is the light while disbelief is darkness.
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says,
In this Ayah two characters have been mentioned. The first is the one who was previously dead meaning wandering in confusion and misguidance. Then, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala brought life to him by bringing life to his heart with emaan, and gave him light. He now walks and lives among people by that life and light. On the other hand is a person who is in darkness and he will never come out of it.
Can these two people be the same?
No. On the one hand is a person who has life and light while on the other hand is the one who is dead and in darkness. They cannot be alike. They differ in their behavior, lifestyle and consequences.
By saying, “And is one who was dead and We gave him life…” it does not mean that the person was previously physically dead. Rather the hint here is to his spiritual death. A dead thing doesn’t produce anything or grow. A spiritually dead person neither produces good deeds nor grows in his emaan. He is stagnant. And if he continues to live the way he does he will eventually finish off himself like a dead thing decomposes.
How was the person dead? It could be because of his lack of knowledge, due to his practicing Shirk and innovations, having desires or by hiding hypocrisy in his heart.
Then how was he returned to life? By giving him hidayah [guidance] to the right path. He became guided regarding where he should go and how to remain on the correct path. The light mentioned in the Ayah refers to the light of the Qur’an, according to Ibn `Abbas. As-Suddi said that the light mentioned here is Islam. Both meanings are correct.
In Musnad Ahmad, it is recorded that the Prophet said,
إِنَّ اللهَ خَلَقَ خَلْقَهُ فِي ظُلْمَةٍ، ثُمَّ رَشَّ عَلَيْهِمْ مِنْ نُورِهِ، فَمَنْ أَصَابَهُ ذَلِكَ النُّورُ اهْتَدَى، وَمَنَ أَخْطَأَهُ ضَل
“Allah created creation in darkness, then He showered His Light upon them. Whoever was struck by that light is guided, whoever it missed is astray.”
Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala has spoken about this light at several places in the Qur’an:
“Allah is the ally of those who believe. He brings them out from darknesses into the light. And those who disbelieve – their allies are Taghut. They take them out of the light into darknesses. Those are the companions of the Fire; they will abide eternally therein.” [Surah al-Baqarah : 257]
“Then is one who walks fallen on his face better guided or one who walks erect on a straight path?” [Surah al-Mulk : 22]
“The example of the two parties is like the blind and deaf, and the seeing and hearing. Are they equal in comparison? Then, will you not remember?” [Surah Hud : 24]
What does the guided person do with his light? He takes it wherever he goes. Meaning he uses that light to guide his day-to-day matters. But what happens in our case? We have two extremes. One person who studies the Qur’an goes on a complete social boycott to avoid the fitnah and temptations. Another person takes the light with himself when going to the masjid but when he is in a worldly gathering he is a completely different person. When we are standing in prayer or reciting the Qur’an we have humility but when we are in argument with someone our humility and manners are all lost. In the masjid, we will acknowledge the value of time and money but when we are in a shopping mall we are doing the opposite of what we learned.
A guided person doesn’t blindly follow people. His light is the Qur’an. He guides his conduct and ascertains matters through this Source only. Moreover, a guided person doesn’t lock himself up. He lives “among the people” with that light. Imagine you are sitting in your room and that is the only place where there is some light. If you shut your bedroom door will other members of the house get any light? They will be deprived of this resource and would not benefit. When Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala blesses guidance to someone he must share it with others so that they too can benefit.
A person who is in disbelief or ignorance doesn’t want to come out of his darkness. Why? It is because if he is shown the right path he will have to change his behavior; leave a few things and adopt some new things.
“Thus it has been made pleasing to the disbelievers that which they were doing,” means like emaan has been adorned for the believers, ignorance and misguidance appears fair to the unbelievers. Therefore in Surah Ar-Rum Ayah 7, it was said, “They know what is apparent of the worldly life, but they, of the Hereafter, are unaware.” They are so content with the dunya that they are completely negligent of their Hereafter.
– We learn that there are only two types of people either someone is spiritually alive or he is spiritually dead. Therefore, their condition has been mentioned over and over again in the Qur’an.
– A person without knowledge and emaan is dead. If a seed is left in a container without any water or soil, will it produce anything? No, it will dry up and eventually die. And if you bury the seed under the soil and water it daily, what will happen? It will split open and life will come out of it. This is the case of every person’s heart as well. Heart of a person is dead. Then Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala guides the person. Wahi [revelation] has also been called rain. When a person receives the guidance of Allah, he turns into a productive person and produces much khair.
– A person who has been given emaan after being far from Allah it is as though he has been given a new life. Life without Qur’an and life with Qur’an is completely different. Therefore, it is incumbent upon him to thank Allah and never take his knowledge for granted or consider it a burden. It is a blessing from Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. If he abandons what he learns this life will be replaced with death.
– A person has to make an effort to come out of darkness because it was said, “…who is in darkness never to emerge therefrom…” this indicates he doesn’t want to come out of the ignorance that he is in. This is why many people don’t change even after studying Qur’an. It is because “they don’t want to”. Their ignorance is more pleasing to them.
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