He Gave You Hearing, Sight, and Hearts That You Might Give Thanks: Tafsir ibn Kathir

Allah says in surah al-Nahl:

وَاللَّـهُ أَخْرَجَكُم مِّن بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ شَيْئًا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

And Allah has brought you out from the wombs of your mothers knowing nothing. And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks. [16:78]

al-Haafidh Ismaa’eel ibn Kathir wrote the following under his commentary of this ayah:

ذكر تعالى منته على عباده ، في إخراجه إياهم من بطون أمهاتهم لا يعلمون شيئا ، ثم بعد هذا يرزقهم تعالى السمع الذي به يدركون الأصوات ، والأبصار اللاتي بها يحسون المرئيات ، والأفئدة – وهي العقول – التي مركزها القلب على الصحيح ، وقيل : الدماغ ، والعقل به يميز بين الأشياء ضارها ونافعها . وهذه القوى والحواس تحصل للإنسان على التدريج قليلا قليلا ، كلما كبر زيد في سمعه وبصره وعقله حتى يبلغ أشده .ـ

Allah mentions how He has blessed His slaves by bringing them out of their mothers’ stomachs when they did not know anything and then after that providing them with the hearing with which they can grasp sounds and the vision with which they can perceive things and the minds (al-af’idah) – i.e. the intellects, which are housed in the heart according to the most correct position, though some say that they are housed in the brain – and intellects by which one can distinguish between harmful and beneficial things. These abilities and senses come to a person in stages bit by bit. As he gets older and older his hearing, vision and intellect continue to improve until he reaches maturity.

وإنما جعل تعالى هذه في الإنسان ؛ ليتمكن بها من عبادة ربه تعالى ، فيستعين بكل جارحة وعضو وقوة على طاعة مولاه ، كما جاء في صحيح البخاري ، عن أبي هريرة ، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال : ” يقول تعالى : من عادى لي وليا فقد بارزني بالحرب ، وما تقرب إلي عبدي بمثل أداء ما افترضت عليه . ولا يزال عبدي يتقرب إلي بالنوافل حتى أحبه ، فإذا أحببته كنت سمعه الذي يسمع به ، وبصره الذي يبصر به ، ويده التي يبطش بها ، ورجله التي يمشي بها ، ولئن سألني لأعطيته ، ولئن دعاني لأجيبنه ، ولئن استعاذ بي لأعيذنه ، وما ترددت في شيء أنا فاعله ترددي في قبض نفس عبدي المؤمن ، يكره الموت وأكره مساءته ، ولا بد له منه ” . ـ

The only reason why Allah has given these faculties to mankind is so that they would enable people to worship their Lord, so they could make use of every limb and capacity one has to obey their Master. This is just as comes in Saheeh al-Bukhari on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Messenger of Allah said:

Allah says: Whoever shows enmity to a walee of mine, then I have declared war on him. And My slave does not draw nearer to Me with anything better than fulfilling what I have made obligatory for Him, and my slave then continues to draw nearer to Me through optional deeds until I love him. Then when I love him, I become his hearing with which he hears and his seeing with which he sees and his hand with which he strikes and his feet with which he walks. If he asks of Me I grant it to him, and if He supplicates to Me I respond to him, and if he seeks refuge in Me I grant Him protection. And I do not hesitate about anything as I hesitate to take the soul of one of My believing slaves for he hates death and I hate to harm him, but it must happen.

فمعنى الحديث : أن العبد إذا أخلص الطاعة صارت أفعاله كلها لله عز وجل ، فلا يسمع إلا الله ، ولا يبصر إلا الله ، أي : ما شرعه الله له ، ولا يبطش ولا يمشي إلا في طاعة الله عز وجل ، مستعينا بالله في ذلك كله ؛ ولهذا جاء في بعض رواية الحديث في غير الصحيح ، بعد قوله : ” ورجله التي يمشي بها ” : ” فبي يسمع ، وبي يبصر ، وبي يبطش ، وبي يمشي ” ؛ ولهذا قال تعالى : { وجعل لكم السمع والأبصار والأفئدة لعلكم تشكرون } ، كما قال في الآية الأخرى : { قل هو الذي أنشأكم وجعل لكم السمع والأبصار والأفئدة قليلا ما تشكرون قل هو الذي ذرأكم في الأرض وإليه تحشرون } [ الملك : 23 ، 24 ] . ـ

The meaning of this hadeeth is that when a slave makes his obedience purely for Allah, then all of his actions become for the sake of Allah. So he does not hear anything except Allah or see anything except Allah – meaning: except for what Allah has legislated for him. And he does not strike anything or walk anywhere unless it is in obedience to Allah, all the while seeking Allah’s aid in doing so. That is why we find in some narrations of this hadeeth found outside Saheeh al-Bukhari the phrase:

So by Me he hears, and by Me he sees, and by Me he strikes, and by Me he walks

after the phrase “and the feet with which he walks”. So that is why Allah said:

وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۙ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَشْكُرُونَ

And He gave you hearing, sight, and hearts that you might give thanks. [16:78]

just as He mentioned in another ayah:

قُلْ هُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَكُمْ وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ ۖ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ * قُلْ هُوَ الَّذِي ذَرَأَكُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَإِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ

Say it is He Who has created you, and endowed you with hearing, seeing, and hearts. Little thanks you give. * Say: “It is He Who has created you from the earth, and to Him shall you be gathered.” [67:23-24]

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 4/590]

See also: Studying the Qur’an and the Softening of Hearts: ibn Kathir

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