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Interpretation of Sura al-Fatir - Verses 19-23

19. “And the blind and the seeing are not alike,”

20. “Nor the darkness and the light,”

21. “Nor the shade and the heat”

22. “Neither are the living and the dead alike. Verily Allah makes whom He pleases hear, and you cannot make those hear who are in the graves.”

23. “You are naught but a Warner.”


The believers are some heartily and hale persons who enjoy the real life. Faith gives life to both an individual and society, while disbelief is a factor of spiritual death for both an individual and the society.

Pursuing the discussions about faith and disbelief in the former holy verses, the verses under discussion mention four interesting parables concerning the believers and disbelievers in which the signs of faith and infidelity have been illustrated in the most manifest form.

In the first parable, a disbeliever and a believer are likened to a blind person and a seeing person. It says:

“And the blind and the seeing are not alike,”

Faith is both light and light giver; and it gives light and cognition to man’s whole life in his world-view, belief, action. But infidelity is darkness in which there is neither a correct insight for the whole world of existence, nor a proper conviction, nor a righteous deed.

In this regard, the Qur’a-n in Sura Al-Baqarah, No. 2, verse 257 expressively says: “Allah is the Guardian of those who have faith; He brings them out of darkness into light, and those who reject faith, their guardians are false-deities (T?a-qu-t), who bring them out of light into darkness; they are the inhabitants of the Fire wherein shall they abide forever.”

Then, it implies that since only the seeing-eye is not enough there must be a light, too, so that, by the help of these two factors, the things can be observed. The next holy verse concerning the equality of them, says:

“Nor the darkness and the light,”

The reason of it is that darkness is the cause of mislead. It is the factor of dangers, but light is the source of life, living, movement, growth, and development. If light were destroyed, all sources of energy in the world would be wiped out and death would dominate the whole world of matter. Such is the light of faith in the world of spirituality which is the cause of growth, development and life.

In the third sentence, it continues saying:

“Nor the shade and the heat”

A believer continues to live in peace, security and safety under the shade of his faith, but a disbeliever, because of his infidelity, is in inconvenience and pain. Ra-qib in Mufrada-t

says: “The word /h?aru-r/ means: ‘a hot and blazing wind’, (a drying and fatal wind)”.

Zamakhshary in Kashsha-f says: “The term /sumu-m/ is called to some harmful and fatal winds which blow during the day, while the Arabic word /haru-r/ is called to the same winds whether they blow during the day or at might.” Anyhow, how different is this wind and the cold cheerful shade which gives rest to both soul and body?

And finally through the last similitude in the fourth verse, the Qur’a-n says:

“Neither are the living and the dead alike. …”

The believers are the living ones who usually have effort, endeavour, movement and growth. They are somehow like plants which have leaves, flowers, and fruits; but disbelievers are like pieces of dry wood which have neither greenness nor flower, nor shade, and they are not useful but for burning.

Then, at the end of the verse, the Qur’a-n adds:

“… Verily Allah makes whom He pleases hear, …”

Allah makes him hear in order that he hears the invitation of the truth heartily and answers the call of the callers of Monotheism.

But the more your cry is loud, and your words are pleasant, and the more your statement is expressive, the dead do not perceive anything from it; and those who have lost their human soul as the result of continuously committing sins and being drowned in bigotry, enmity, injustice, and corruption, certainly are not ready to accept your invitation. The verse says:

“… and you cannot make those hear who are in the graves.”

In the fifth verse Allah implicitly says that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) should not be worried and anxious about the lack of faith in them, his duty was to convey it and to warn them. The verse says:

“You are naught but a Warner.”

Two Points

The first is the effects of belief and disbelief

We know that the Qur’a-n considers no importance for the geographical, racial, and classical boundaries which separate groups of human beings from each other. The only boundary in its view is the boundary of ‘Faith’ and ‘blasphemy’. Thus, all of the human societies are divided into two groups: faithful and unfaithful.

For introducing ‘Faith’, in many occurrences, the Qur’a-n has likened it to ‘light’, and ‘disbelief’ into ‘darkness’, and this is the most expressive simile of the Qur’a-n for introducing belief and disbelief. (You may refer to Sura Al-Baqarah, verse 257, Sura Al-Ma-’idah, verses 15 and 16, Ibrahi-m, verses 1 and 5, Sura Az-Zumar, verse 22, Al-Hadi-d, verse 9, and At?-T?ala-q, verse 11) Faith is a kind of perceiving and inner insight. It is a sort of knowledge and cognizance combined with heartily conviction together with movement. It is a kind of belief which has penetrated into the depth of man’s soul and becomes the source of instructive activities.

But disbelief is ignorance, unawareness, and the lack of certainty, the result of which is the absence of feeling of responsibility and the existence of Satanic destructive actions.

The second: Do the dead not perceive any reality?

Regarding to what has been said in the abovementioned verses, there appear two questions: the first is that how does the Qur’a-n say: “… you cannot make those hear who are in the graves”? or that a famous tradition indicates that on the day of the battle of Badr, the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) ordered that the dead bodies of the pagans would be cast into a well at the end of the war. Then he called them and said: “Have you found truth what Allah and His Messenger promised? But I found truth what Allah promised me.”

Here ‘Umar protested and said: “O’ Messenger of Allah! How do you speak with some bodies in which there is no soul?”

The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) said: “You do not hear what I say better than that they do, except that they are not able to answer anything.” 36

Or that one of the rites of a dead is that the right beliefs are indoctrinated him (her). How does this action adapt to the verses under discussion?

With regard to one point, the answer to this question can be made clear. This is a fact that the verses under discussion speak about the lack of understanding in the dead in ordinary natural case, while the tradition of the Battle of Badr is different from the indoctrination of a dead. It relates to some extraordinary conditions by which Allah (s.w.t.) transfers the sayings of His Messenger (p.b.u.h.) extraordinarily to the ears of those dead bodies.

In other words, the communication of man in the purgatory world with this world will be ceased, except in the cases that Allah commands, and then this communication occurs. That is why, in ordinary circumstances we cannot communicate with the dead.

Another Question is: If our sound does not reach the dead, what is the meaning of our greeting to the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) and to the Imams (a.s.), resorting to them, visiting of their tombs, and asking for intercession from them before Allah? Some extravagant Muslims, who are generally known for their thought conventionalism also relying on this very imagination, without considering other verses of the Qur’a-n, and without having any veneration for the abundant traditions narrated from the Prophet (p.b.u.h.), have negated the subject of resorting and, as they think, they have nullified it.


36. Tafsi-r-i-Rauh-ul-Baya-n, under the verse, and Sah)i-h)-Bukha-ri-, Vol. 5, P. 97

Adopted from the book : "The Light of the Holy Qur'an; Interpretation of Surah al-Fatir" by : "Sayyid Kamal Faghih Imani and a Group of Muslim Scholars"

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