6. “Verily, those who disbelieve, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe.
7. Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearings, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be a great torment.”
After Allah had explained in the previous verses that the book is from Allah in truth and that there is no doubt in it, and after He (subhaanahu) explained the status of those who are guided by it and have taqwa, that they are from the successful ones. Then He (subhaanahu) explained in these two verses the situation of those who reject; that warning does not benefit them, as Allah has sealed their hearts.
As if it was an answer to one in confusion about his command, asking why did He not guide the disbelievers? That is because if the Arabs said “inna ‘Abdallah qaaim” “verily, Abdullah is standing”, then that was an answer to one questioning about Abdullah’s standing and he is doubtful about it. So, when Allah (subhaanahu) begins the verse with إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ سَوَاءٌ , that will linguistically be according what was mentioned.
[your saying: “Abdullah qaaim” (Abdullah is standing) is information about his standing. Your saying: “inna Abdullah qaaim” (verily Abdullah is standing) is an answer to one questioning about his standing and he is doubtful about it. And your saying: “inna Abdullah la-qaaim” is an answer to one questioning and he is denying the standing. … Mubarad said this.]
The appearance of the hamzat ut-tasweeyah (أ) along with أَمْ (or) makes them free from the meaning of enquiry, to establish the equality between them both. i.e. with regards to the disbelievers, it is the same whether you warn them or not, they won’t believe – thus, equalising between the two situations.
[If the word سَوَاءٌ ‘whether’ has the alif al-istifhaam (alif of enquiry) after it, then it must come with أَمْ (or) e.g. سَوَاءٌ عليّ أقمت أم قعدت ’it is the same to me whether you stood or sat’. If one of two names were joined (عطف) after it, they are عطف joined with و ‘and’, none other, e.g. سَوَاءٌ عندي زيد وعمرو ‘Zaid and Amr are the same to me’. If there was after it two verbs and no istifhaam, then they are عطف joined together with أَوْ (or) e.g. سَوَاءٌ عليّ قمت أو قعدت ’it is the same to me whether you stood or sat’. If there were two verbal nouns after it, e.g.
سَوَاءٌ عليّ قيامك و قعودك ’it is the same to me your standing or your sitting’, then they are عطف joined with و ‘and’ or with أَوْ (or).]
Here there arises the following issues:
1. The term الَّذِينَ (those who) is from the forms of generality, so with this meaning Allah (subhaanahu) informs us that those who disbelieve will not become a believer, whatever the warning or bringing Islam to them. So, is this matter left general or is it specified at all?
It is certain that this matter is not left general, as Rasul Allah (saw) was sent with Islam to bring it to the people who are disbelievers. Whoever believed from them became a believer and whoever remained, remained on kufr. Therefore, this general text is specified, with the specification being completed here with the mind. The mind can specify the shariah text if the subject matter was the aqeedah, i.e. kufr and iman, because the mind is the way to iman. Similarly, the mind specifies His (ta’ala) saying:
ذَلِكُمُ اللَّهُ رَبُّكُمْ خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ لَّا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ فَأَنَّى تُؤْفَكُونَ
“That is Allah, your Lord, the Creator of all things, none has the right to be worshipped but He, where then you are turning away” [ghafir:62]
So, كُلِّ شَيْءٍ “all things” is general, but it is specified by the mind to other than Allah (swt).
From here, the verse إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ “those who disbelieve” is specified, by the mind, to the tribes of the disbelievers whom Rasul Allah (saw) was told that they would never become believers. It is authentically narrated from Ibn Abbas (ra) that he said: “this verse is about the learned Jews who were at the time of Rasul Allah (saw) and did not become believers.” Ar-Rabee’ bin Anas said: “it was sent down about some men from Quraysh who were killed at Badr.”
Others said that it is about specific kuffar like Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl …
[Tafsir at-Tabari 1:109]
2. Referring the ‘sealing’ back to Allah خَتَمَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهمْ is from the mutashabih (having more than one interpretation). The stronger opinion is that the meaning is that those specific kuffar insisted on their kufr, objecting to the truth, so that was cemented in their hearts, such that it was as if they were created with locked closed hearts that do not accept iman nor guidance. It follows then, that the meaning is majaz metaphorical for solidifying their hearts’ insistence on kufr, as though Allah created them with that attribute.
The الخَتَمَ seal and الغِشَاوَةٌ the covering can be used to indicate their dominant determination to disbelieve, so it is as though they are deaf dumb and blind, as in the verse:
صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ
“deaf, dumb and blind. So they do not understand” [al-baqarah:171]
Allah (subhaanahu) mentioned الخَتَمَ the seal for القلب the heart and السمع the hearing, and mentioned الغِشَاوَةٌ the covering for the sight, due to the suitability of الخَتَمَ, which is locking and stamp with a seal, for the heart (the mind).
[because of that, the complete pause after سَمْعِهِمْ:
خَتَمَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهمْ وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ وَعَلَى أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ
is preferred rather than continuing the recitation, because الخَتَمَ is for السمع and القلوب, with
the و ‘and’ after it is for initiating a new statement, hence غِشَاوَةٌ has two Damma (the grammatical indicator of the beginning part of a new sentence)]
[القلب is used metaphorically here to mean the mind, due to their similarity in importance to the body. In the language of the Arabs the heart is used metaphorically to mean the mind in more than one situation. The Qur'an was sent down in the language of the Arabs and this usage was in more than one verse. Allah talked of the mind by mentioning the heart in verses. From them is:
فَتَكُونَ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ يَعْقِلُونَ بِهَا
“and have they hearts wherewith to understand” [al-hajj:46] ]
Because, comprehending with these two is not limited to only one angle such as the sight is. You hear matters from more than one angle and understand from more than one side, yet you see with your two eyes what is in front of you, i.e. only one angle. So, الخَتَمَ was suitable for القلب and السمع to lock from more than one angle, while الغِشَاوَةٌ the covering was suitable for الأبصار the sight to lock from one angle. Therefore, الخَتَمَ is not used to describe the eyes at all in the book of Allah, nor in the narrations of Rasul Allah (saw), nor does it exist in the language of anyone of the Arabs, as far as I know.
3. Allah (jalla sha’nahu) repeated the word عَلَى “upon”
خَتَمَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهمْ وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ وَعَلَى أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ
to emphasise the severity of الخَتَمَ, as though الخَتَمَ was completed in two places, القلب the heart and السمع the hearing, which is stronger than الخَتَمَ in one place. Like the one who protects something by putting it into a locked container inside a locked house, which is stronger protection than putting it into a locked container inside an unlocked house. It is here like that. Repeating عَلَى necessitates noticing the meaning of the related action (خَتَمَ), as though it was mentioned twice (i.e. خَتَمَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهمْ وخَتَمَ َعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ). Therefore, they said about the sentence “مررتُ بزيد وعمرو I happened upon Zayd and Amr” that it is one occasion, whereas the sentence “مررتُ بزيد وبعمرو I happened upon Zayd and upon Amr” that they are two occasions, as though when you repeated the particle you said “مررتُ بزيد ومررتُ بعمرو I happened upon Zayd and I happened upon Amr.” That is stronger in meaning the two occasions than using just the عطف joining together without repeating the genitive particle, due to what is in the عطف joining together of meaning one occasion or two.
4. Allah brought the words القلوب hearts and الأبصار sight in their plural forms, while He (subhaanahu) brought the word السمع hearing in the singular. The word السمع does not come in the whole of the Qur’an al-kareem except in the singular. Some said about that: “السمع is a verbal noun in origin: it is said سمعت الشيئ سمعا وسماعا and the verbal nouns do not come as plurals as they are the names of categories”, except that this is not precise, because “الاسماع” did come in the language of the Arabs, but it is rare, seldom heard.
The preferred opinion is that the differences between people’s thinking and minds in relation to matters, and also their differences in seeing things with the eyes, is more common than their differences in hearing these matters, so the hearts (minds) and sight were made plural, while the hearing was left singular.
Because of that, when العلم i.e. اليقين certainty is mentioned in another verse, such that العلم indicates the lack of differences, so, the hearing, sight and the heart all come in the singular:
وَلاَ تَقْفُ مَا لَيْسَ لَكَ بِهِ عِلْمٌ إِنَّ السَّمْعَ وَالْبَصَرَ وَالْفُؤَادَ كُلُّ أُولـئِكَ كَانَ عَنْهُ مَسْؤُولاً
“And follow not that of which you have no knowledge of. Verily! The hearing, and the sight, and the heart, about each of those you will be questioned.”
* * *
On the subject of the heart, hearing and sight:
1. In the Qur’an al-kareem comes the mentioning of the hearts first, then the hearing and the sight when the matter is linked to iman, as the mind is its tool
خَتَمَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهمْ وَعَلَى سَمْعِهِمْ وَعَلَى أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عظِيمٌ
Allah has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearings, and on their eyes there is a covering. Theirs will be a great torment.” [al-baqarah:7]
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ
“Verily, those who disbelieve, it is the same to them whether you warn them or do not warn them, they will not believe.” [al-baqarah:6]
ذَلِكَ بِأَنَّهُمُ اسْتَحَبُّواْ الْحَيَاةَ الْدُّنْيَا عَلَى الآخِرَةِ وَأَنَّ اللّهَ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ 107 أُولَـئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللّهُ عَلَى قُلُوبِهِمْ وَسَمْعِهِمْ وَأَبْصَارِهِمْ وَأُولَـئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ
107. “That is because they loved and preferred the life of this world over that of the Hereafter. And Allah guides not the people who disbelieve.
108. They are those upon whose hearts, hearing and sight Allah has set a seal. And they are the heedless!” [an-Nahl:107-108]
2. If the matter was about other than iman and was about following the warning and guidance, hearing was brought forward, because it is the direct tool for the transmission. Allah (subhaanahu) says:
أَفَرَأَيْتَ مَنِ اتَّخَذَ إِلَهَهُ هَوَاهُ وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ وَخَتَمَ عَلَى سَمْعِهِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَجَعَلَ عَلَى بَصَرِهِ غِشَاوَةً فَمَن يَهْدِيهِ مِن بَعْدِ اللَّهِ أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ
“Have you seen him who takes his own lust as his god, and Allah knowingly, left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. Who then will guide him after Allah? Will you not then remember?” [al-jathiyah:23]
It is transgression due to not heeding the warnings, therefore the end of the verse came with أَفَلَا تَذَكَّرُونَ, so it was suitable here to bring forward the hearing.
3. When Allah (subhaanahu) mentioned His favours for his servants, by creating them, He mentioned the hearing, the sight and the heart in order, which points to the order of creating these organs. He (subhaanahu) says:
وَاللّهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ الْسَّمْعَ وَالأَبْصَارَ وَالأَفْئِدَةَ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ
“And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers while you know nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks.” [an-Nahl:78]
وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ
“It is He, Who has created for you hearing, sight, and hearts. Little thanks you give.” [al-mu’minoon:78]
قُلْ هُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَكُمْ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ
“Say it is He Who has created you, and endowed you with hearing, seeing, and hearts. Little thanks you give.” [al-mulk:23]
ثُمَّ سَوَّاهُ وَنَفَخَ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِهِ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ
“Then He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him the soul, and He gave you hearing, sight and hearts. Little is the thanks you give!”