Those Who Threw Off the Guidance that Allah Gave Them: Tafsir al-Sa’di

Allah says in surah al-A’raaf:

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا فَانسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ * وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا وَلَـٰكِنَّهُ أَخْلَدَ إِلَى الْأَرْضِ وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ ۚ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِن تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَث ۚ ذَّٰلِكَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا ۚ فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ * سَاءَ مَثَلًا الْقَوْمُ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَأَنفُسَهُمْ كَانُوا يَظْلِمُونَ * مَن يَهْدِ اللَّـهُ فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِي ۖ وَمَن يُضْلِلْ فَأُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

Recite to them the news of the one to whom We gave Our signs, but he threw that off and so the shaytaan followed him up, so he was one of those who went astray. * And if We had wished, We could have raised him up by them, but he clung to the earth and followed his desire. The likes of this one is the likes of a dog: if you drive it away it pants and if you leave it alone it pants. Those are the likes of the people who deny Our signs. So relate this story so that they might reflect. * What an evil likeness – the people who denied Our signs and used to wrong themselves. * Whoever Allah guides, then he is the guided one, and whoever Allah leads astray, then they are the losers. [7:175-178]

Commenting on this passage in his book of tafsir, sheikh ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sa’di wrote:

يقول تعالى لنبيه صلى الله عليه وسلم: وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا أي: علمناه كتاب اللّه، فصار العالم الكبير والحبر النحرير. فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ أي: انسلخ من الاتصاف الحقيقي بالعلم بآيات اللّه، فإن العلم بذلك، يصير صاحبه متصفا بمكارم الأخلاق ومحاسن الأعمال، ويرقى إلى أعلى الدرجات وأرفع المقامات، فترك هذا كتاب اللّه وراء ظهره، ونبذ الأخلاق التي يأمر بها الكتاب، وخلعها كما يخلع اللباس. فلما انسلخ منها أتبعه الشيطان، أي: تسلط عليه حين خرج من الحصن الحصين، وصار إلى أسفل سافلين، فأزه إلى المعاصي أزا. فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ بعد أن كان من الراشدين المرشدين. ـ

Allah is telling His Prophet:

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ الَّذِي آتَيْنَاهُ آيَاتِنَا

Recite to them the news of the one to whom We gave Our signs

i.e. We taught this person the Book of Allah and so he became a major scholar and learned religious leader

فَانْسَلَخَ مِنْهَا فَأَتْبَعَهُ الشَّيْطَانُ

but he threw that off and so the shaytaan followed him up

i.e. he shed being truly imbued with knowledge of Allah’s signs, for true knowledge of Allah’s signs causes a person to be characterized by noble mannerisms and excellent behavior and raises him to the highest level and most elevated station. But he threw the Book of Allah behind his back and discarded the character that the Book commanded him to have, so he removed it from himself it just as one would take off a piece of clothing. So once he shed it from himself, the shaytaan followed him up – meaning: the shaytaan gained some authority over him after he had left that strong protective fortress. He then became the lowest of the low and the shaytaan would keep coming to him, tempting him to sin.

فَكَانَ مِنَ الْغَاوِينَ

So he was one of those who went astray

after having been one of the rightly-guided people who had been a guide to others.

وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا بأن نوفقه للعمل بها، فيرتفع في الدنيا والآخرة، فيتحصن من أعدائه. وَلَكِنَّهُ فعل ما يقتضي الخذلان، فَأَخْلَدَ إِلَى الأرْضِ، أي: إلى الشهوات السفلية، والمقاصد الدنيوية. وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ وترك طاعة مولاه، فَمَثَلُهُ في شدة حرصه على الدنيا وانقطاع قلبه إليها، كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِنْ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَثْ أي: لا يزال لاهثا في كل حال، وهذا لا يزال حريصا، حرصا قاطعا قلبه، لا يسد فاقته شيء من الدنيا. ذَلِكَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا بعد أن ساقها اللّه إليهم، فلم ينقادوا لها، بل كذبوا بها وردوها، لهوانهم على اللّه، واتباعهم لأهوائهم، بغير هدى من اللّه. فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ في ضرب الأمثال، وفي العبر والآيات، فإذا تفكروا علموا، وإذا علموا عملوا. ـ

وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لَرَفَعْنَاهُ بِهَا

And if We had wished, We could have raised him up by them

by making his actions match with that knowledge, which would have elevated him in both this life and the next and protected him from his enemies.

وَلَكِنَّهُ

… but he …

engaged in actions which bring about humiliation

فَأَخْلَدَ إِلَى الأرْضِ

… he clung to the earth …

i.e. he clung to his lowly desires and worldly pursuits

وَاتَّبَعَ هَوَاهُ

… and followed his desires

while abandoning the obedience of their master!

فَمَثَلُهُ

The likes of this one …

in terms of his extreme thirst for this worldly life and how he has turned his entire attention to it

كَمَثَلِ الْكَلْبِ إِنْ تَحْمِلْ عَلَيْهِ يَلْهَثْ أَوْ تَتْرُكْهُ يَلْهَثْ

… is the likes of a dog: if you drive it away it pants and if you leave it alone it pants.

meaning that it never stops panting regardless of the circumstances. So this one never stops having that thirst, a thirst which completely dominates the heart and which nothing in this world can satisfy.

ذَلِكَ مَثَلُ الْقَوْمِ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا

Those are the likes of the people who deny Our signs

after Allah had brought them understanding. But they did not fall in line with those commands. On the contrary, they denied and rejected them due to their lack of reverence towards Allah and as a result of following their own desires rather than following Allah’s guidance.

فَاقْصُصِ الْقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ

So relate this story so that they might reflect

So that they might reflect on the parable that has been struck here and the lessons to take from these signs. For if they reflect they will come to know, and if they know they will act accordingly.

سَاءَ مَثَلا الْقَوْمُ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَأَنْفُسَهُمْ كَانُوا يَظْلِمُونَ أي: ساء وقبح، مثل من كذب بآيات اللّه، وظلم نفسه بأنواع المعاصي، فإن مثلهم مثل السوء، وهذا الذي آتاه اللّه آياته، يحتمل أن المراد به شخص معين، قد كان منه ما ذكره اللّه، فقص اللّه قصته تنبيها للعباد. ويحتمل أن المراد بذلك أنه اسم جنس، وأنه شامل لكل من آتاه اللّه آياته فانسلخ منها. وفي هذه الآيات الترغيب في العمل بالعلم، وأن ذلك رفعة من اللّه لصاحبه، وعصمة من الشيطان، والترهيب من عدم العمل به، وأنه نـزول إلى أسفل سافلين، وتسليط للشيطان عليه، وفيه أن اتباع الهوى، وإخلاد العبد إلى الشهوات، يكون سببا للخذلان. ـ

سَاءَ مَثَلا الْقَوْمُ الَّذِينَ كَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا وَأَنْفُسَهُمْ كَانُوا يَظْلِمُونَ

What an evil likeness – the people who denied Our signs and used to wrong themselves.

i.e. how evil and despicable is the likeness of those who deny Allah’s signs and wrong themselves with all sorts of sins, for their likeness is an evil likeness.

Regarding this person to whom Allah give His signs, it could be that a specific person who did what is mentioned is being referred to here, and so Allah tells us his story to serve as a warning to His slaves. Or, it could be that it is just a certain type of person who is intended here and that this description applies to anyone to whom Allah gave His signs and who then threw them off.

This ayah contains an encouragement to act in accordance with one’s knowledge, and that doing so will result in the person being elevated by Allah and will protect him from the shaytaan. It also contains a warning against not acting in accordance with one’s knowledge, and that this would lead to one dropping to the lowest of the low and having the shaytaan gain authority over him. This ayah also indicates that following one’s desires and clinging to one’s lowly cravings are factors which lead to humiliation.

قال تعالى مبينا أنه المنفرد بالهداية والإضلال: مَنْ يَهْدِ اللَّهُ بأن يوفقه للخيرات، ويعصمه من المكروهات، ويعلمه ما لم يكن يعلم فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِي حقا لأنه آثر هدايته تعالى، وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ فيخذله ولا يوفقه للخير فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ لأنفسهم وأهليهم يوم القيامة، ألا ذلك هو الخسران المبين. ـ

Allah then makes it clear that He is the only One who gives guidance and misguidance by saying:

مَنْ يَهْدِ اللَّهُ

Whoever Allah guides …

by giving him the accord to do good and protecting him from evil actions, and teaching him what he did not know

فَهُوَ الْمُهْتَدِي

… then he is the guided one …

a truly guided one, for he has given precedence to Allah’s guidance [over his own desires]

وَمَنْ يُضْلِلِ

… and whoever Allah leads astray …

by leaving him to his own devices and not facilitating good for him

فَأُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ

… then they are the losers

who lose themselves and their families on the Day of Judgement. That certainly is the clear loss.

[Taysir al-Kareem al-Rahman pg. 350-351]

Read more explanations of the Parables of the Qur’an in our Parables of the Qur’an series

See also: Those Who Hear Nothing But Calls and Cries: Tafsir al-Sa’di

One thought on “Those Who Threw Off the Guidance that Allah Gave Them: Tafsir al-Sa’di

  1. Pingback: Those Who Hear Nothing But Calls and Cries: Tafsir al-Sa’di | Tulayhah

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