Before starting the details, it is important to mention, that previous ayaat were about qualities of pure believers…now Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is describing attributes of pure disbelievers.
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ
“Indeed, those who disbelieve – it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them – they will not believe.”
Kafaroo [كَفَرُواْ] means to refuse or reject. In Arabic kafir means a person to whom everything is hidden, like the word “night” is also used for a person for whom everything is hidden. This ayah shows the reality of people who refused Muhammad ﷺand his message. Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala said, it does not matter if you (O Muhammad) warn them or not, they would still have disbelieved in what you were sent with.
Out of his genuine concern for his people, the Prophet ﷺ ardently desired guidance for them. He was worried about them and tried his best to reverse their lives. The ayah addresses the Prophet ﷺ that no matter what you do they will not believe whether you warn them or not.
The famous Pakistani poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal symbolizes Nabuwat (Prophethood) with Ummomat. Umm means ‘Mother’ ummomat is motherhood. A Prophet cares about his Ummah like a mother worries about her children. Muhammad ﷺ was the prophet for all mankind. Calling people towards guidance requires love and affection such that people are attracted by your behavior. So, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala told the Prophet ﷺ to not feel sorry for the people who do not heed. It is not his fault and there will be no blame on him. It is their bad luck that they didn’t pay attention.
In Surah Ar-Ra’d, it is said:
“Your duty is only to convey (the Message) and on Us is the reckoning.” (13: 40)
Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala informed him that none would believe except for those whom He decreed happiness, and none would stray away except those for whom Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has decreed so.
خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِمْ ۖ وَعَلَىٰ أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
“Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing, and over their vision is a veil. And for them is a great punishment.”
Khatama Allahu [خَتَمَ اللَّهُ] means, ‘Allah has sealed.’ Qatadah said that this ayah means, Shaytan controlled them when they disobeyed the Messenger ﷺ. Therefore, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala sealed their hearts, their hearing and their sight. They could neither see the guidance nor hear or comprehend it.
Heart never remains in one condition, it changes with the time and circumstances, for example the dress we once liked, or the food that we once ate does not remain our favorite throughout lives. Our likes and dislikes change. It is because the condition of our heart changes. The Prophet salAllahu ‘alayhi wa sallam taught us a beautiful du’a:
يَا مُقَلِّبَ الْقُلُوبِ ثَبِّتْ قَلْبِي عَلَى دِينِكَ
Ya mu-qallibal quloobi thab-bit qalbee ‘alaa deenik
“O turner of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion.”
خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ
“Allah has set a seal on their hearts,” this occurs when sin resides in the heart and surrounds it from all sides, and this submersion of the heart in sin constitutes a stamp, meaning a seal. Quloob is the plural of qulb which means heart,
وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ وَعَلَى أَبْصَـرِهِمْ غِشَـوَةٌ
Samm is used for ears, absar is for vision/sight and ghishawatun means veil. Their hearts are not open for the message of Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala, their eyes are covered and their ears cannot hear anything of truth.
Aadabun is a mental as well as a physical punishment while aatheemun denotes the greatness of that punishment. A big penalty they will face! It will be the similar feeling that occurs during extreme thirst and hunger. Whenever, the word Adeem is used in the Qur’an, it indicates the size and severity.
There was a group in Makkah of Abu Jahl and his followers who refused to believe in the teachings of Islam and Prophethood. These are maghdoob (those who earned Allah’s anger). They acknowledged that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is right and he never lies, but due to their false ego, they refused to accept Islam. They intentionally disagreed with him.
In Surah Jathiya ayah 23, Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala says:
“Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah? Then will you not be reminded?” (45:23)
When a person does not use any of his organ, then after some time that organ stops functioning properly. For instance, if we remain on bed and do not walk, when we will eventually get up our legs won’t be able to carry our burden when we try to stand. Similarly, when heart, ears and eyes get used to false things, they cannot accept the truth about Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala. If a person listens to music a lot and as he tries to leave, it becomes harder for him and his heart remains attracted towards that.
But when Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala wants to give guidance; He can open the seal and change one’s life. We should always welcome the khair, so that our hearts and mind remain open. May Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala keep us away from his punishment and give us guidance (Aameen).