“We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance”

In surah Fussilaat, Allah briefly mentions some details of the story of the people of Thamud when He says:

وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ فَاسْتَحَبُّوا الْعَمَىٰ عَلَى الْهُدَىٰ فَأَخَذَتْهُمْ صَاعِقَةُ الْعَذَابِ الْهُونِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ * وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ

And as for Thamud, We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance, so the thunderbolt of humiliating punishment seized them for what they used to earn. And We saved those who believed and used to fear Allah. [41:17-18]

Commenting of this, Imam al-Sa’di writes:

وأما ثمود وهم القبيلة المعروفة الذين سكنوا الحجر وحواليه، الذين أرسل اللّه إليهم صالحًا عليه السلام، يدعوهم إلى توحيد ربهم، وينهاهم عن الشرك وآتاهم اللّه الناقة، آية عظيمة، لها شرب ولهم شرب يوم معلوم، يشربون لبنها يومًا ويشربون من الماء يومًا، وليسوا ينفقون عليها، بل تأكل من أرض اللّه،

And as for the Thamud, they were a well-known tribe which resided in al-ijr and thereabouts, to whom Allah sent aalih (‘alaihis salaam). He called them to taweed of their Lord and forbade them from shirk. And Allah gave them the camel as an amazing ayah (sign, miracle). For it was drinking and for them was drinking on known days (i.e. alternating days of access to the water sources for the camel and the people of Thamud). They drank from its milk one day and they drank from the water another day, and they did not spend on it (i.e. its provision). Rather it ate from the land of Allah.

ولهذا قال هنا‏:‏ ‏{‏وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُم‏}‏ أي‏:‏ هداية بيان، وإنما نص عليهم، وإن كان جميع الأمم المهلكة، قد قامت عليهم الحجة، وحصل لهم البيان، لأن آية ثمود، آية باهرة، قد رآها صغيرهم وكبيرهم، وذكرهم وأنثاهم، وكانت آية مبصرة، فلهذا خصهم بزيادة البيان والهدى‏.‏

And concerning this He said here, “And as for Thamud, We guided them” – meaning: guidance of clarification. And this was only a stipulation against them, and indeed so it was for most of the destroyed nations that a proof had been established against them. And the clarification was conveyed to them, for the ayah of Thamud was a marvelous ayah; it was seen both both their youths and their elders, both their males and females, and it was a visual ayah, and this was specifically for them in order to increase the clarification and guidance.

ولكنهم ـ من ظلمهم وشرهم ـ استحبوا العمى ـ الذي هو الكفر والضلال ـ على الهدى ـ الذي هو‏:‏ العلم والإيمان ‏{‏فَأَخَذَتْهُمْ صَاعِقَةُ الْعَذَابِ الْهُونِ بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ‏}‏ لا ظلمًا من اللّه لهم‏.‏

However, as a result of their injustice and evilness, they preferred blindness – which is kufr and misguidance – over guidance – which is ‘ilm and eemaan. “So the thunderbolt of humiliating punishment seized them for what they used to earn” with no injustice from Allah towards them.

‏{‏وَنَجَّيْنَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَكَانُوا يَتَّقُونَ‏}‏ أي نجى اللّه صالحًا عليه السلام ومن اتبعه من المؤمنين المتقين للشرك، والمعاصي‏.‏

And We saved those who believed and used to fear Allah” – meaning Allah saved aalih (‘alaihis salaam) and those who followed him of the believers, those who exercised taqwa (caution, piety) towards shirk and disobedience.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 879]

And imam al-Shawkāni also adds some useful insights about the meaning of guidance in this passage when he writes:

وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فهديناهم أي: بينا لهم سبيل النجاة، ودللناهم على طريق الحقّ بإرسال الرسل إليهم، ونصب الدلالات لهم من مخلوقات الله، فإنها توجب على كل عاقل أن يؤمن بالله، ويصدّق رسله

And as for Thamud, We guided them” – meaning: We clarified the path of salvation to them, and We showed them the way of the truth by sending messengers to them, and We manifested the proofs to them from the creations of Allah, for verily it is incumbent upon every person of sound and functioning intellect to have eemaan in Allah and to affirm His messengers.

[Fat al-Qadeer pg. 1314]

Imam al-Baghawi further adds:

{وَأَمَّا ثَمُودُ فَهَدَيْنَاهُمْ} دعوناهم، قاله مجاهد، وقال ابن عباس: بينا لهم سبيل الهدى. وقيل: دللناهم على الخير والشر، كقوله: {هديناه السبيل} [الإنسان- 3]، }.

And as for Thamud, We guided them” [meaning] We called them in invitation, as Mujaahid said. And Ibn ‘Abbaas said [that it means], “We clarified the path of guidance to them.” And it is said, “We showed them good and evil”, such as His statement, “Indeed, We guided him to the way…” [76:3].

[Tafsir al-Baghawi pg. 2216]

For more on the story of aalih and his da’wah to the people of Thamud, see also: “They Became Two Parties Quarreling with One Another”: Tafsir

See also: The Story of Saalih as explained by Mujahid and Qatadah

See also: The Understanding of the Disbelievers is Limited to this Life: Imam al-Shinqitee

See also: Shall We Force You to Believe?: Tafsir al-Shinqitee

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4 thoughts on ““We guided them, but they preferred blindness over guidance”

  1. Pingback: “To divide the people with the truth is better than having them unite upon falsehood.” | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: And even if they see all the signs, they will not believe in them: Tafsir al-Qurtubi | Tulayhah

  3. Pingback: The Understanding of the Disbelievers is Limited to this Life: Imam al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

  4. Pingback: Shall We Force You to Believe?: Tafsir al-Shinqitee | Tulayhah

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