Section 2: A Believer and Disbeliever Cannot Be Equal
وَلَوْ تَرَي إِذِ الُمُـجْرِمُونَ نَاكِسُوا رُؤُوسِهِمْ عِندَ رَبّـِهِمْ رَبَّنَآ أَبْصَرْنَا وَسَمِعْنَا فَارْجِعْنا نَعْمَلْ صَالِحاً إِنَّا مُوقِنُونَ
12. “And if you could see when the guilty hang down their heads before their Lord (saying): ‘Our Lord! We have seen and we have heard (what You had promised), therefore send us back (to the world) we will do righteousness, verily (now) we are certain.”
The present arrogance of the guilty results to their shame in Hereafter, since the Hereafter Day is the Day of manifestation of facts and it is the time when the eyes and the ears will work properly.
So, this verse says:
At that time, you will wonder, and verily you will surprise that whether these regretful persons who have cast down their heads are the same arrogant ones who did not accept any fact in the world.
But now that they see the scenes of Hereafter and reach the state of intuition, they change their situation. Even this change of situation and awareness is temporary and, according to some other verses of the Qur’an, if they return to this world they will continue their own previous manner.1
The Arabic term /nakis/ is derived from /taks/ in the sense of ‘turning something upside down’, and here it means ‘to hang down one’s head’.
The Qur’anic term /’absirna/ (we have seen) is mentioned before the term /sami‘na/ (we have heard) and it is for the sake that on the Hereafter Day at first man encounters the scenes and then he hears the judgment of Allah and His angels.
Any how, it is understood from what was said that the purpose of the word ‘guilty’ here is disbelievers and the deniers of Hereafter in particular.
However, this is not the first time that we see in the verses of the Holy Qur’an that when the guilty see the fruit of their deed and observe the signs of Allah’s punishment they will become seriously regretful and ask to return to the world, while from the point of Allah’s way of treatment such a return is surely impossible.
It is similar to the fact that the return of a child to the mother’s womb is impossible and the return of the picked fruit to the tree is not possible either.
This point is also noteworthy that the guilty ask to return to the world in order to do only righteous deeds. This matter makes it clear that on Hereafter Day the only man’s capital for becoming delivered is righteous deeds, the deeds that are done by a pure heart, full of faith, and sincere intention.
وَلَوْ شِئْنَا لأَتَيْنَا كُلَّ نَفْسٍ هُدَاهَا وَلَكِنْ حَقَّ الْقَوْلُ مِنّـِي لأَمْلأَنَّ جَهَنَّمَ مِنَ الْجِنَّةِ وَالنَّاسِ أَجْمَعِينَ
13. “And if We had pleased We would certainly have given to every soul its guidance, but the true word (which has gone forth) from Me, certainly will I fill Hell with the jinn and men together.”
The acceptance of guidance must be done voluntarily not compulsorily. Since there are abundant persistence and a lot of emphasis for accepting faith, it may bring this allusion that Allah is not able to cast the light of faith into their hearts, then in this verse He says:
It is sure that Allah has such a power, but the faith which is produced by means of Allah’s prohibition is not so worthy, and Allah’s Will is in that humankind should be honoured with the bounty of being ‘free’ and pave the path of the verse He says:
Yes, they have paved this evil way by their own abuse authority and deserve Divine punishment, so Allah has decisively decided to fill Hell with them.
Regarding to what was said in the above, and regarding to hundreds verses of the Qur’an that have counted man as a free being who has authority, and is obliged to do some duties, and is responsible for his own deeds, and he is worthy of being guided and refined by Divine prophets (as), and is worthy of purification of the carnal soul and self-improvement, so any misconception indicating that the above verse is an evidence upon fatalism, as Fakhr-i-Razi and the like have considered, is not acceptable.
The above decisive and severe sentence may point to this fact that you should not imagine that the mercifulness and beneficence of Allah (s.w.t.) is a hinder for the guilty and polluted criminals to be punished, and no one should be proud of the verses of Divine mercy so that he exempt himself from the punishment of Allah, because His Mercy has a place and His Wrath another place.
Regarding to the Arabic signs of emphasis in the Qur’anic term /la’amla’anna/ (certainly will I fill), surely Allah will fulfil His promise and He will fill the Hell with these hellish people, because if He does not, it will be contrary to His wisdom.
فَذُوقُوا بِمَا نَسِيتُمْ لِقَآءَ يَوْمِكُمْ هَذَآ إِنَّا نَسِينَاكُمْ وَذُوقُوا عَذَابَ الْخُلْدِ بِمَا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ
14. “So taste (the recompense) because you neglected the meeting of this day of yours; verily We, too, forsake you; and taste the abiding chastisement for what you were doing.”
Attributing forgetfulness to Allah (s.w.t.) is meaningless. Therefore, the objective meaning of the Qur’anic term /nasina/ (We forsake) is that Allah’s reaction with those who has forgotten the Hereafter is the reaction of the one who has forsaken you.
So, it is understood from this holy verse that forgetfulness of the just court of Hereafter is the main origin of man’s wretchedness, and it is in this case that he finds himself free in front of injustice and breaking laws. And also this verse makes it clear that the eternal chastisement is for the evil deeds that man commits, not something else.
By the way, forsaking of Allah (s.w.t.) due to His servants is a kind of heedlessness and abandonment of His support and succour, else the whole universe is always with the Providence, and forgetfulness concerning Him does not mean.
إِنَّمَا يُؤْمِنُ بِاَيَاتِنَا الَّذِينَ إِذَا ذُكّـِرُوا بِهَا خَرُّوا سُجَّداً وَسَبَّحُوا بِحَمْدِ رَبّـِهِمْ وَهُمْ لاَ يَسْتَكْبِرُونَ
15. “Only those believe in Our signs who, when they are reminded of them, fall down prostrating in obeisance and celebrate the praise of their Lord, and they are not proud,”
In its own style of teaching, when illustrating the feature of the wrong doers, the Qur’an mentions the signs of the true believers, too. Therefore, after explaining some things about the wrong doers and disbelievers in the former verses, here the Holy Qur’an refers to some outstanding qualities of the true believers.
It briefly states their creedal principles and practical programs through two verses by mentioning eight qualities of theirs.2
The application of the Arabic word /’innama/, which is usually used for restriction, points to this matter that when someone claims faith and he is not qualified with the specialties mentioned in this noble verse he is not on the row of the true believers. He is a person of a weak faith who can not be counted among true believers.
In this holy verse four qualities of theirs are mentioned:
1- As soon as they hear the word ‘Allah’ they fall in prostration. The application of the term /xarru/ in place of /sajadu/ points to a tender matter, saying that this group of believers, whose hearts are vigilant, at the time of hearing the verses of the Qur’an will be so absorbed to the words of Allah that they voluntarily fall in prostration and lose their soul and heart in this way.
Yes, their first specialty is their ardent love and interest to the word of their believed and their object of worship. This very quality has been mentioned in some other verses of the Holy Qur’an, too, as one of the most outstanding qualities of the Divine prophets. Concerning a group of great Prophets, He says:
The verses are mentioned here absolutely, but it is clear that its purpose is mostly the verses that invite to Monotheism and struggle against polytheism.
2 and 3- Their second and third signs are celebration and praise unto Allah. From one side, they count Allah exempt from imperfection, and, from other side, they praise Him for His attributes of perfection and beauty.
4- Their other quality is modesty and abandoning any kind of arrogance, since pride is as the first step of the ladder of blasphemy and faithlessness, while modesty, in regard to the truth, is the first step of faith.
Those who pave the path of pride and egotism neither prostrate before Allah nor do they glorify and praise Him, nor do they formally respect the rights of His servants. They have a great idol and it is their selves.
At the end, there are four verses of the Qur’an that at the time of recitation of them, it is obligatory for us to fall ourselves in prostration.
The concerning Suras of these verses are: Fussilat, No. 41, An-Najm, No. 53, ‘Alaq, No. 96, and As-Sajdah, No. 32, and idiomatically they are called ‘Aza’im (incantations).
According to the school of Ahlul Bayt (as) the recitation of these four Suras in prayer, after Al-Hamd, is not permissible, and those who are in the state of major ritual impurity and monstrous women must not recite even one verse of these four Suras.
تَتَجَافَي جُنُوبُهُمْ عَنِ الْمَضَاجِعِ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُمْ خَوْفاً وَطَمَعاً وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ
16. “Their sides draw away from (their) beds, they call upon their Lord in fear and in hope, and they spend (in charity) out of the sustenance that We have bestowed on them.”
Getting up in midnight and separating from one’s bed is one of other signs of the believers. Therefore, this verse says:
They, get up in midnight and begin uttering invocation in the presence of Allah.
Yes, when the eyes of the negligent people are asleep, they awaken and spend a part of night in praying and supplicating.
At that time when the ordinary programs are suspended, mental occupations reach to the lowest point, quietness and quietude dominate everywhere, the danger of polluting worship to hypocrisy can exist less than other times, and, shortly speaking, the conditions of heart’s attention is available, they go to Allah with their whole entity and they tell Him what they have in mind.
They are alive with His remembrance, and they keep the container of their hearts full of His love.
Then, the Qur’an says:
Yes, their other qualities are ‘fear’ and hope’.
They neither feel security from the punishment of Allah, nor are they disappointed from His Mercy. The balance of this fear and hope, which is the warrant of their perfection and progression in the path of Allah, is always found in them, because when fear overcomes, hope in a man will fall in hopelessness and weakness.
The increase of hope and desire draws man toward pride and negligence, and these two are both the enemies of man’s developing movement alongside his way towards Allah.
The last and the eighth quality of theirs is donation.
The verse says:
They not only spend out of their own wealth for the needy ones, but also bestow their knowledge, power, correct judgment, experience, and good thoughts on those people who are in need of them.
They are as a centre of goodness and blessing, and they work as a flowing spring of benedictions from which the thirsty men can drink and remove their own indigence as much as they can afford.
Yes, their qualities are known as a collection of: firm belief, strong faith, and ardent love to Allah, worship and obedience, struggle and movement, helping the servants of Allah in all its dimensions.
فَلاَ تَعْلَمُ نَفْسٌ مَآ اُخْفِيَ لَهُم مِن قُرَّةِ أَعْيُنٍ جَزَآءً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
17. “And no person knows what (important reward) is hidden for them of the joy of the eyes, in recompense for what (good) they were doing.”
The act of being vigilant at midnight, the midnight prayer, and helping the needy and deprived people bring the best rewards, Imam Sadiq (as) said:
“The reward of every good deed has been mentioned in the Qur’an except the reward of the midnight prayer and none knows its reward but Allah.”
Then he recited this verse.4
However, this holy verse refers to the great and important reward of the true believers who have the signs and qualities mentioned in the previous two verses. With an interesting statement which denotes to the extraordinary importance of their reward, it says:
This extraordinary great reward is the recompense of the good deeds that they used to do. The verse continues saying:
The application of “no person knows” and the application of the Arabic phrase: /Qurrat-i-’a‘yun/ (of the joy of the eyes) show the endless dignity of these rewards, specially with regard to this fact that the Arabic word /nafs/ has been mentioned in the form of an undefined noun and with a negative style which denotes to generality and it encompasses all of the souls, even the Divine near-stationed angels and the friends of Allah.
The application of the Arabic phrase: /qurrat-i-’a‘yon/ (of the joy of the eyes) without annexation to the word /nafs/ points to this fact that these Divine bounties, which have been appointed for the abode of Hereafter as the rewards of the true believers, are in such a state that they are the cause of the joy of the eyes of everybody.
The Arabic word /qurrah/ is derived from /qurr/ in the sense of ‘cold’ and ‘coolness’, and since it is known that the tear of joy is cold and the tear of sorrow is warm, then the application of /qurrat-i-’a‘yon/ in the Arabic language means something that causes the man’s eyes to become cold; that is, it makes the tear of joy flow down from his eyes, and this is a tender allusion for the utmost happiness.
1- Imam Sadiq (as) in a tradition said:
“There is not any good deed but there has been stated a reward for it except the midnight prayer that Allah, the Mighty, has not stated its reward for the sake of its importance and He has said: ‘And no person knows what (important reward) is hidden for them of the joy of he eyes…’”5
But besides all of these things, as we said before, too, the world of Hereafter is an extraordinary vaster world than this world, and it is even vaster than the life of this present world comparing the world of foetus in Mother’s womb, and in principle, its vastness is not comprehensible for us, the prisoners of this world, and it is not imaginable for anyone.
We only hear something about it and see an adumbration of it from far distance, but it is impossible for us to understand its importance until we get a kind of seeing and understanding resembled to that of that world, as supposing the child in the mother’s womb had a complete intellect and wit he could never understand the merits and bounties of this world.
This very meaning has been cited about the martyrs in the way of Allah.
When a martyr falls on the ground, the ground says:
“Well done for the pure soul that flies from a pure body. This glad tiding is for you that you will have a thing that no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no man’s heart has ever perceived.”6
2- The Messenger of Allah (S) said:
“The two-unit prayer that a person establishes in the middle of night is better for him than the world and what is in it; and if it were not difficult for my Ummah I would certainly enjoined those two on them.”7
Imam Rida (as) said:
“Be aware of the midnight prayer.
There will not be any servant who gets up at the end of night and establishes eight units of night prayer, two units of Shaf‘ prayer, and one unit of Watr prayer and in his Qunut (personal prayer) seventy times asks forgiveness from Allah except that Allah will save him from the punishment of the grave, the punishment of the Fire and prolongs his lifetime, and enlarges his living for him.”
Then he (as) said:
“The houses wherein night prayer is established at night, its light glitters for the inhabitants of the heaven in the same way that the light of stars glitters for the inhabitants of the earth.”8
أَفَمَن كَانَ مُؤْمِناً كَمَن كَانَ فَاسِقاً لاَ يَسْتَوُونَ
18. “Is he then who is a believer like him who is a transgressor? They are not equal.”
The way of comparison is one of the best educational ways. In this verse, the comparison which was mentioned in former verses is made more clear.
This sentence has been stated in a positive interrogation with a negative form the answer of which emerges from the intellect and nature of any person indicating that these two are never equal. Yet, in order to emphasize, the Qur’an specifies this inequality.
In this verse, the Qur’anic word /fasiq/ (transgressor) has been mentioned versus /mu’min/ (believer), and this is an evidence for the fact that the Arabic word /fisq/ has a vast scope of meaning which encompasses both infidelity and other sins.
This word originally is taken from the Arabic phrase /fasaqat-iθ-θamarah/ (the fruit has come out from its cover, or the stone of the date has separated from the date and has come out from it).
Then it has been used for coming out from the obedience of the command of Allah and wisdom; and we know that whoever blasphemes or commits a sin has come out of the command of Allah and wisdom.
This point is also notable that as long as a fruit is inside its cover it is safe, but when it comes out from its cover it will decay. Therefore, when a person becomes a transgressor, he has indeed become decayed.
A group of great commentators concerning this verse have cited that one day Walid-ibn-‘Aqabah told Hadrat Ali (as):
“I am more elegant than you from the point of tongue, and my sword is sharper than yours.”
(He wanted to say, as he thought, he was better than him (as) both in speech and fighting.) In answer to him, Imam Ali (as) said:
“It is not such that you say, O’ evil-doer!”
(He implicitly said that he was the same person that at the time when he was gathering alms from the tribe of Ban-il-Mustalaq he accused them to opposition against Islam and Allah rejected him and called him evil-doer in Surah Al-Hujurat, No. 49, verse 7 where the Qur’an says:
This tradition has been cited in Majma‘ul-Bayan by the Late Tabarsi, in the Commentary of Qurtabi, and in Rouh-ul-Bayan by Fadil-i-Barsu’i.
It is notable that we recite in ‘’Usd-ul-Qayah fi Ma‘rifat-is-Sahabah’ that there is no contradiction between the commentators of the Qur’an that this recent verse (49:7) has been sent down about Walid-ibn-‘Aqabah in the event of the tribe of Ban-il-Mustalaq.
أَمَّا الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ فَلَهُمْ جَنَّاتُ الْمَأْوَي نُزُلاً بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ
وَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ فَسَقُوا فَمَأْوَاهُمُ النَّارُ كُلَّمَآ أَرَادُوا أَن يَخْرُجُوا مِنْهَآ اُعِيدُوا فِيهَا وَقِيلَ لَهُمْ ذُوقُوا عَذَابَ النَّارِ الَّذِي كُنتُم بِهِ تُكَذِّبُونَ
19. “As for those who believe and do righteous deeds, the gardens (of bless) are their abiding-place, and entertainment for what they used to do.”
20. “And as for those who transgress, their abode is the Fire. Whenever they desire to go out of it, they shall be brought back into it, and it shall be said to them: ‘Taste the chastisement of the Fire which you used to deny’.”
In the previous verse (No. 18) it was simply asked whether a believer and an evil-doer are equal. The above verse explains the fate of both of them.
Then it implicitly adds that these gardens of abiding-place are the means of Allah’s entertainment instead of the good deeds they did.
The verse continues saying:
The Arabic word /nuzulan/ is usually used for something which is provided for the guest. This is a narrow indication for this reason that the believers will ceaselessly be entertained in Paradise like some guests, while the people of the Hell, as will be said through the next verse, are like some prisoners that whenever they wish to come out from it they will be brought back into it.
And if we see that Surah Al-Kahf, No. 18, verse 102 says:
it is, indeed, from the kind of
This indirectly says that instead of entertaining them they will be punished and instead of giving them glad tidings it threatens them.
Some commentators believe that /nuzul/ (an entertainment) is the first thing by which a new entered guest is entertained. Thus, it is a tender indication to this fact that the gardens of bless as their abiding-place, with all the bounties therein, are the first entertainment of these Divine guests, and after them there will be many other merits of which no one is aware but Allah.
The application of the Qur’anic phrase: /lahum jannatun/ can be a hint to this matter that Allah does not give them these gardens as a loan, but they will be in their possession eternally, in a way that the probability of the transience of these bounties never disturbs the calmness of their thought.
The next verse speaks about the opposite group who disobey Allah, where it says:
They will be prisoners in this terrible abode forever in a way that:
Again we see here that the Divine punishment has been appointed for infidelity and rejection, which is a recompense for one’s deed. This matter points to this fact that faith alone is not enough but it must be a motive for action, while disbelief alone is enough for the punishment although there is not any action accompanied with it.
وَلَنُذِيقَنَّهُم مِنَ الْعَذَابِ الأَدْنَي دُونَ الْعَذَابِ الأَكْبَرِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ
21. “And indeed We make them taste of the nearer chastisement (in this world) before the greater chastisement (in Hereafter) that haply they may return (to Allah).”
The worldly punishment is both near and small, while the punishment of Hereafter is both far and great. The Messenger of Allah (S) said:
“The purpose of /‘aŏabil ’adna/ (the nearer chastisement) is afflictions, sicknesses, and labours that man face with in this world.”9
So, following the discussion mentioned in previous verses about the sinners and their painful punishment, in this verse the Holy Qur’an points to one of the secret favours of Allah concerning them which is exactly the small and awakening punishments of this world in order that it shows that Allah never wishes that His servants may be involved in the eternal punishment; for this reason He uses all the awakening means for their deliverance.
He sends the Divine messengers; He sends down heavenly Books; and He gives blessings. So, such evil-doers will not have any fate but the Fire of Hell. It says:
Certainly, the Qur’anic phrase /‘aŏab-il-’adna/ has a vast meaning which envelops many of the probable meanings that the Islamic commentators have separately mentioned upon its commentary. Among them is that its purpose is the afflictions, pains, and troubles.
Or it is the violent famine and draught that the pagans were faced with in Mecca for seven years, so terribly that they had to feed from corpses.
Or it is the hard stroke that they received in the Battle of Badr; and the like of them.
But some commentators have thought that the purpose of it may be ‘the punishment of grave’ or ‘the chastisement in Raj‘at (return to life in this world after death). This idea does not seem correct, because it is not consistent with the Qur’anic holy sentence /la‘allahum yarji‘un/ (haply they may return (to Allah)).
This matter must be noted, of course, that there are some sudden chastisements in this world, too, that when they come the doors of repentance will be shut. This chastisement is the unchangeable punishment which comes for the incorrigible persons to annihilate them, and, of course, as a subject this kind of chastisement is not naturally inside the discussion of this verse.
The Qur’anic phrase /‘aŏab-il-’akbar/ (the Divine greater chastisement) refers to the punishment of the Hereafter Day, which is greater and more painful than any other chastisement.
The reason why the word /’adna/ (nearer) is mentioned versus /’akbar/ (greater) while the word /’adna/ must be said either versus /’ab‘ad/ (farther), or /’asqar/ (smaller) versus /’akbar/, there is a point in it that some commentators have explained it.
The punishment of the world has two qualities: it is small and it is near; and at the time of threat it is not appropriate that its being small to be emphasized but its being near is emphasized.
And the punishment of the Hereafter Day has also two qualities: it is far and it is great, and concerning that it is appropriate that it should be emphasized on its ‘being great’, not on its ‘being far’.
The application of the Arabic word /la‘alla/ (haply) at the end of the verse, as we said before, is for the sake that tasting the chastisements that are given as warnings are not the whole sufficient cause for awakening, but it is a part of the cause, and it needs preparation and a receptive ground without which there will not come any result. So the word /la‘lla/ points to this fact.
By the way, hereby one of the important philosophies of the existence of afflictions, disasters, and calamities, which is very sensitive in the discussions concerning Monotheism, theology, and justice of the Lord, will be made clear.
Not only in this verse, but also in some other verses of the Qur’an this fact has been pointed out, including Surah Al-’A‘raf, No. 7, verse 94 which says:
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن ذُكّـِرَ بِاَيَاتِ رَبّـِهِ ثُمَّ أَعْرَضَ عَنْهَآ إِنَّا مِنَ الْمُـجْرِمِينَ مُنتَقِمُونَ
22. “And who is more unjust than he who is reminded of the signs of his Lord, then he turns away from them? We shall take vengeance upon the guilty.”
Turning away from the revelations of Allah is a crime, and the guilty will be involved in the Divine vengeance.
This verse implies that if none of the awakening means, even the punishment of Allah, is of no avail, there will be no way but the Divine vengeance upon this group of people who are the most unjust ones.
Therefore, the verse says:
These people, in fact, are those ones on whom the Divine merits and blessings have not affected, nor do His punishment and affliction give them as a warning. Therefore there is not any one more unjust than them, and if they are not taken vengeance of, then of whom vengeance must be taken?
It is clear that, regarding the former verses, the purpose of ‘the guilty’ here is the deniers of Origin or Resurrection and the faithless sinners.
The verses of the Qur’an have repeatedly introduced a group of people as the most unjust ones, though the form of the sentences is different, but, in fact the root of them all returns to infidelity, polytheism and disbelief. Therefore, the usage of ‘the most unjust’, which is a superlative form, is not improper.
The application of the Arabic word /θumma/ in the above verse, which is usually used for distance, may point to this fact that such persons will be given enough respite here in order to search, and their first oppositions will not bring the vengeance of Allah (s.w.t.). But after the end of sufficient respite, they will deserve the Divine vengeance.
By the way, it must be noted that the application of ‘vengeance’ from the point of Arabic lexicon means ‘to punish’, though in daily usages the concept of ‘healing the heart’ is understood from it but this meaning is not found in its main lexicographical concept.
This meaning has numerously been applied in the Holy Qur’an in respect of Allah, the Mighty, while He is above these concepts and He acts only according to His Wisdom.
- 1. Surah Al-An‘am, No. 6, verse 28
- 2. It should be noted that the above verse is the first verse of ‘obligation prostration in the Qur’an, and all of it is recited or is heard it is obligatory that one prostrates. Of course, ablution is not necessary in it but the obligatory precaution is in that the forehead should be put on something upon which prostration is correct.
- 3. Surah Maryam, No. 19, verse 58
- 4. Majma‘-ul-Bayan, Al-Mizan, and Burhan, following the verse.
- 5. Majma‘-ul-Bayan, Following the verse.
- 6. Majma‘-ul-Bayan, following verse 171 from Surah ’Al-i-‘Imran, No. 3
- 7. Kanz-ul-‘Ummal, Vol. 7, No. 21405, P. 785 (published in 18 Vols.)
- 8. Bihar-ul-’Anwar, Vol. 87, P. 161
- 9. Nur-uth-Thaqalayn and Kanz-ud-Daqa’iq, the commentaries