Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(The lightning), i.e. fire, (almost snatcheth away their sight from them), i.e. from the unbelievers. Similarly, the exposition of the Qur'an almost snatched away their error. (As often as it flasheth forth), the lightening, (for them they walk therein) in the brightness of lightening, (and when it darkeneth against them they stand still) they remain in darkness. Likewise, when the hypocrites declared themselves to be believers, they went along with that which the believers went along with because their outward faith was accepted. But when they died, they remained in the darkness of the grave. (And if Allah willed, He could destroy their hearing), take away the thunder, (and their sight) the lightening. Likewise, if Allah willed, He could take away the hearing of the hypocrites and Jews through the rebukes and threats contained in the Qur'an, and He could also take away their sight through the exposition contained therein. (Indeed Allah is able to do all things) in terms of destroying their hearing and sight.
The lightning well-nigh, almost, snatches away their sight, that is, takes it away swiftly; whensoever it gives them light, they walk in it, in its light; and when the darkness is over them, they stop, that is, they stand still: a simile of the perturbation that the Qur’ānic arguments cause in their hearts, and of their acknowledging the truths of what they love to hear and recoiling from what they detest; had God willed, He would have taken away their hearing and their sight, that is, the exterior faculty, in the same way that He took away their inner one; Truly, God has power over all things, [that] He wills, as for example, His taking away of the above-mentioned.
The lightning, namely, the luminous flash, well-nigh snatches away their sight, that is, their intellects veiled as they are by slumber from the light of guidance and unveiling, for the intellect is the eye of the heart; whensoever it gives them light, they walk in it, that is, they rise [in status] and come closer to accepting the truth and guidance; and when the darkness is over them, they stop, that is, they remain fixed in their [state of] bewilderment in that darkness of theirs; had God willed, He would have taken away their hearing and their sight, He would have obliterated their understanding and intellect and effaced the light of their preparedness as in the case of the former group, and so they are not even affected upon hearing the revelation in the first place. Truly, God has power over all things, [be it] an externally existent thing, necessary or contingent, as well as a mentally existent thing, contingent or impossible. For a non-thing is purely a non-existent, neither in the mind nor externally [sc. in the created universe]; but His power specifically relates to that which is contingent and not to what is necessary or what is impossible, this [is clear] by rational proof. This concludes the discussion of the seven categories in undifferentiated form and a separation between the two groups of wretched ones. The mention of the first group is brief and kept to a minimum because discussion of them is of no use and is fully gleaned from the mention of the second group. Thus the criticism, reviling and censure entailed in the depiction of their status, as well as their being threatened and promised punishment and the condemnation of their conduct and their habits is on account of the possibility of their accepting guidance and the disappearance of the sickness that afflicts them and the kindling of the light of their innate dispositions by the aid of the divine granting of success, that perhaps such rebuke might break the strength of their obstinacy and that such scolding might extirpate the roots of their despicable acts so that their inner aspects might then be purified, their hearts illumined by the light of the will whereafter they follow the path of truth. Perhaps their friendly and gentle attitude towards the believers and their keeping company with them might incline them towards their [the believers'] good nature awakening some love and desire within them by which their hearts then soften to the remembrace of God [cf.
[Q. 39:23] and their souls become obedient to the commands of God, repenting thereafter and making amends, just as God, exalted be He, says: Verily the hypocrites will be in the lowest level of the Fire and you will never find a helper for them, save those who repent and make amends and hold fast to God and make their religion purely God's; those are with the believers and God will certainly give the believers a great wage [Q. 4:145-6].
This is another parable which Allah gave about the hypocrites who sometimes know the truth and doubt it at other times. When they suffer from doubt, confusion and disbelief, their hearts are,
(Like a Sayyib), meaning, "The rain", as Ibn Mas`ud, Ibn `Abbas, and several other Companions have confirmed as well as Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, `Ata', Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah, `Atiyah Al-`Awfi, `Ata' Al-Khurasani, As-Suddi and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas. Ad-Dahhak said "It is the clouds." However, the most accepted opinion is that it means the rain that comes down during,
(darkness), meaning, here, the doubts, disbelief and hypocrisy.
(thunder) that shocks the hearts with fear. The hypocrites are usually full of fear and anxiety, just as Allah described them,
يَحْسَبُونَ كُلَّ صَيْحَةٍ عَلَيْهِمْ
(They think that every cry is against them) (63: 4), and,
(They swear by Allah that they are truly of you while they are not of you, but they are a people who are afraid. Should they find refuge, or caves, or a place of concealment, they would turn straightway thereto in a swift rush) (9:56-57).
(The lightning), is in reference to the light of faith that is sometimes felt in the hearts of the hypocrites,
(They thrust their fingers in their ears to keep out the stunning thunderclap for fear of death. But Allah ever encompasses the disbelievers), meaning, their cautiousness does not benefit them because they are bound by Allah's all-encompassing will and decision. Similarly, Allah said,
(Has the story reached you of two hosts. Of Fir`awn (Pharaoh) and Thamud Nay! The disbelievers (persisted) in denying. And Allah encompasses them from behind!) (85:17-20).
Allah then said,
يَكَادُ الْبَرْقُ يَخْطَفُ أَبْصَـرَهُمْ
(The lightning almost snatches away their sight) meaning, because the lightning is strong itself, and because their comprehension is weak and does not allow them to embrace the faith. Also, `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas commented on the Ayah,
يَكَادُ الْبَرْقُ يَخْطَفُ أَبْصَـرَهُمْ
(The lightning almost snatches away their sight), "The Qur'an mentioned almost all of the secrets of the hypocrites.'' `Ali bin Abi Talhah also narrated that Ibn `Abbas said,
كُلَّمَآ أَضَآءَ لَهُم مَّشَوْاْ فِيهِ
(Whenever it flashes for them, they walk therein), "Whenever the hypocrites acquire a share in the victories of Islam, they are content with this share. Whenever Islam suffers a calamity, they are ready to revert to disbelief.''. Similarly, Allah said,
(Whenever it flashes for them, they walk therein, and when darkness covers them, they stand still), "They recognize the truth and speak about it. So their speech is upright, but when they revert to disbeleif, they again fall into confusion.'' This was also said by Abu Al-`Aliyah, Al-Hasan Al-Basri, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas and As-Suddi, who narrated it from the Companions, and it is the most obvious and most correct view, and Allah knows best.
Consequently, on the Day of Judgment, the believers will be given a light according to the degree of their faith. Some of them will gain light that illuminates over a distance of several miles, some more, some less. Some people's light will glow sometimes and be extinguished at other times. They will, therefore, walk on the Sirat (the bridge over the Fire) in the light, stopping when it is extinguished. Some people will have no light at all, these are the hypocrites whom Allah described when He said,
(On the Day when the hypocrites ـ men and women ـ will say to the believers: "Wait for us! Let us get something from your light!'' It will be said to them; "Go back to you rear! Then seek a light!'') (57:13).
(On the Day you shall see the believing men and the believing women ـ their light running forward before them and by their right hands. Glad tidings for you this Day! Gardens under which rivers flow (Paradise)) (57:12), and,
(The Day that Allah will not disgrace the Prophet (Muhammad ) and those who believe with him. Their Light will run forward before them and (with their Records ـ Books of deeds) in their right hands. They will say: "Our Lord! Keep perfect our Light for us and do not put it off till we cross over the Sirat (a slippery bridge over the Hell) safely and grant us forgiveness. Verily, You are Able to do all things'') (66:8).
Ibn Abi Hatim narrated that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud commented on,
نُورُهُمْ يَسْعَى بَيْنَ أَيْدِيهِمْ
(Their Light will run forward before them), "They will pass on the Sirat. according to their deeds. The light that some people have will be as big as a mountain, while the light of others will be as big as a date tree. The people who will have the least light are those whose index fingers will sometimes be lit and extinguished at other times.'' Ibn Abi Hatim also reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "Every person among the people of Tawhid (Islamic Monotheism) will gain a light on the Day of Resurrection. As for the hypocrite, his light will be extinguished. When the believers witness the hypocrite's light being extinguished, they will feel anxious. Hence, they will supplicate,
رَبَّنَآ أَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُورَنَا
(Our Lord! Keep perfect our Light for us).'' Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim said, "On the Day of Resurrection, everyone who has embraced the faith will be given a light. When they arrive at the Sirat, the light of the hypocrites will be extinguished. When the believers see this, they will feel anxious and supplicate,
رَبَّنَآ أَتْمِمْ لَنَا نُورَنَا
(Our Lord! Keep perfect our Light for us).''
Types of Believers and Types of Disbelievers
Consequently, there are several types of people. There are the believers whom the first four Ayat (2:2-5) in Surat Al-Baqarah describe. There are the disbelievers who were described in the next two Ayat. And there are two categories of hypocrites: the complete hypocrites who were mentioned in the parable of the fire, and the hesitant hypocrites, whose light of faith is sometimes lit and sometimes extinguished. The parable of the rain was revealed about this category, which is not as evil as the first category.
This is similar to the parables that were given in Surat An-Nur (chapter 24). Like the example of the believer and the faith that Allah put in his heart, compared to a brightly illuminated lamp, just like a rising star. This is the believer, whose heart is built on faith and receiving its support from the divine legislation that was revealed to it, without any impurities or imperfections, as we will come to know, Allah willing.
Allah gave a parable of the disbelievers who think that they have something, while in reality they have nothing; such people are those who have compounded ignorance. Allah said,
(Or (the state of a disbeliever) is like the darkness in a vast deep sea, overwhelmed by waves, topped by dark clouds, (layers of) darkness upon darkness: if a man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it! And he for whom Allah has not appointed light, for him there is no light) (24:40).
Therefore, Allah divided the camp of the disbelievers into two groups, advocates and followers. Allah mentioned these two groups in the beginning of Surat Al-Hajj,
(And among men is he who disputes about Allah, without knowledge or guidance, or a Book giving light (from Allah)) (22:8).
Furthermore, Allah has divided the group of the believers in the beginning of Surat Al-Waqi`ah (56) and at the end. He also divided them in Surat Al-Insan (76) into two groups, the Sabiqun (those who preceded), they are the "near ones" (Muqaribun) and Ashab Al-Yamin (the companions of the right), and they are righteous (Abrar).
In summary, these Ayat divide the believers into two categories, the near ones and righteous. Also, the disbelievers are of two types, advocates and followers. In addition, the hypocrites are divided into two types, pure hypocrites and those who have some hypocrisy in them. The Two Sahihs record that `Abdullah bin `Amr said that the Prophet said,
(Whoever has the following three (characteristics) will be a pure hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following three characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy, unless and until he gives it up. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie. Whenever he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous. Whenever he is entrusted, he breaches the trust)
Hence, man might have both a part of faith and a part of hypocrisy, whether in deed, as this Hadith stipulates, or in the creed, as the Ayah (2:20) stipulates.
Types of Hearts
Imam Ahmad recorded Abu Sa`id saying that the Messenger of Allah said
(The hearts are four (types): polished as shiny as the radiating lamp, a sealed heart with a knot tied around its seal, a heart that is turned upside down and a wrapped heart. As for the polished heart, it is the heart of the believer and the lamp is the light of faith. The sealed heart is the heart of the disbeliever. The heart that is turned upside down is the heart of the pure hypocrite, because he had knowledge but denied it. As for the wrapped heart, it is a heart that contains belief and hypocrisy. The example of faith in this heart, is the example of the herb that is sustained by pure water. The example of hypocrisy in it, is the example of an ulcer that thrives on puss and blood. Whichever of the two substances has the upper hand, it will have the upper hand on that heart). This Hadith has a Jayid Hasan (good) chain of narration.
(And if Allah willed, He would have taken away their hearing and their sight), "Because they abandoned the truth after they had knowledge in it.''
إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَىْءٍ قَدِيرٌ
(Certainly, Allah has power over all things). Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah is able to punish or pardon His servants as He wills.'' Ibn Jarir commented, "Allah only described Himself with the ability to do everything in this Ayah as a warning to the hypocrites of His control over everything, and to inform them that His ability completely encompasses them and that He is able to take away their hearing and sight.''
Ibn Jarir and several other scholars of Tafsir stated that these two parables are about the same kind of hypocrite. So the `or' mentioned in,
أَوْ كَصَيِّبٍ مِّنَ السَّمَآءِ
(Or like a rainstorm from the sky) means `and', just as the Ayah,
وَلاَ تُطِعْ مِنْهُمْ ءَاثِماً أَوْ كَفُوراً
(And obey neither a sinner or a disbeliever among them). Therefore, `or' in the Ayah includes a choice of using either example for the hypocrites. Also, Al-Qurtubi said that `or' means, "To show compatibility of the two choices, just as when one says, `Sit with Al-Hasan or Ibn Sirin.' According to the view of Az-Zamakhshari, `so it means each of these persons is the same as the other, so you may sit with either one of them.' The meaning of `or' thus becomes `either.' Allah gave these two examples of the hypocrites, because they both perfectly describe them.''
I (Ibn Kathir) say, these descriptions are related to the type of hypocrite, because there is a difference between them as we stated. For instance, Allah mentioned these types in Surat Bara'ah (chapter 9) when He repeated the statement, "And among them'' three times, describing their types, characteristics, statements and deeds. So the two examples mentioned here describe two types of hypocrites whose characteristics are similar. For instance, Allah gave two examples in Surat An-Nur, one for the advocates of disbelief and one for the followers of disbelief, He said,
(As for those who disbelieved, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert) (24:39), until,
أَوْ كَظُلُمَـتٍ فِى بَحْرٍ لُّجِّىٍّ
(Or (the state of a disbeliever) is like the darkness in a vast deep sea) (24:40).
The first example is of the advocates of disbelief who have complex ignorance, while the second is about the followers who have simple ignorance. Allah knows best.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The parable means that when a person, Muhammad (Allah's peace be upon him), spread the light of Truth that discriminated right from wrong and virtue from vice, those who used their faculties properly began to distinguish between these things. But the hypocrites, who were blinded by self-interest, could not see the right path even with the help of this light. "Allah took away the light from their eyes" should not cause one the misunderstanding that the responsibility of not seeing the truth did not lie on them. Allah deprives of the sight only him who is not himself a seeker after truth, who chooses error for himself instead of guidance, who shuts his eyes to the truth. When they themselves turned away from the light of truth and chose to wander only in the darkness of falsehood, Allah also let them go astray.
"Deaf" to hear the Truth, "dumb" to speak the Truth and "blind" to see the Truth.
By thrusting their fingers into their ears, they delude themselves for a while that they have escaped destruction. But they cannot, in fact, save themselves because Allah, with all His powers, is encircling them on all sides.
The first parable depicts those hypocrites who in their inmost hearts did not believe in Islam at all, but had become 'Muslims' for the sake of self-interest or expediency. The second parable gives a description of those hypocrites who were suffering from doubt, suspicion and lack of faith. Though they were not wholly unbelievers, they practised Islam only to the extent which might not involve them in trouble. In this parable rainfall stands for Islam which came as a blessing to humanity; pitch darkness, thunder and lightning stand for the impending obstacles, the threatening dangers and the glaring difficulties which were being experienced on account of the strong resistance from the opponents of Islam. When the situation eased a little, they began to move onward on the path of Islam, but when the clouds of difficulties began to appear, or when they were given such commands as were against their self-interest or their superstitious beliefs and prejudices, they again stood still in sheer perplexity.
That is, Allah could, if He so willed, totally deprive these hypocrites also of the power to see the Truth just as He deprived the hypocrites described in the tirst parable. But Allah does not do so because it is His will to give them respite to see the Truth and hear the Truth to the extent they want to see and hear it. That is why He left them with only as much power as they made use of in seeing and hearing the Truth.
The lightning well-nigh snatches away their sight; whensoever it gives them light they walk in it; and when the darkness is over them; they stop; had God willed He would have taken away their hearing and sight; Truly God has power over all things. Part of the similitude of the hypocrites-as also the heedless-is that when they are present at public sermons or their hearts incline to gentleness or some terror overwhelms them their states move closer to repentance and their longing to turn [to God] becomes stronger. But when they revert to their own planning and seek counsel from those close to them their family and offspring urge them to return to their world. They offer their advice frightening them with weakness and dependency so that their resolve becomes weak their spiritual desire irāda declines and they become as it is said: Whenever he repents he returns to his ignorance just as the one who is feeble suffers a relapse. He said “had God willed He would have taken away their hearing and sight” meaning the outward hearing and seeing of the hypocrites as well as their being deaf and blind inwardly. The same [is true] for the heedless and those who are content with the external aspects of Islam-God most high has the power to negate the positive outcome tawfīq of their practice of outward acts of obedience ẓāhir al-Ṭāʿāt just as He has the power to negate the realization taḥqīq of what they have discovered from the most felicitous states ṣafāÌ al-ḥālāt.