Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 6 & 7
Chapter 2, verses 6 & 7
In the previous session, we explained that the disbelievers are of two types. Those who deny God at first, but accept faith when they receive His message. And those who benefit and thrive from disbelief, disregarding the mounting evidence of their error. Their power and affluence are based on injustice and transgression, so they see faith as a great obstacle. In the verse we discussed ‘Those who willfully persist in unbelief: it is alike to them whether you warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe’. God is referring to the second type of people.
This verse also makes it clear that the true reason for their disbelief is not that God’s message did not reach them, nor because they were awaiting a Messenger to guide them. Rather they regard disbelief as a business and a way of life because it frees them from the constraints of truth and justice. A person who adheres to disbelief for the sake of prestige and wealth in this world will never accept faith regardless of any warning or clear evidence.
God continues in the next verse:
Allah has set a seal on their hearts, and on their ears and over their eyes there is a dark covering, and for them is great torment. (2:7)
What does it mean to place a seal on a person’s heart? Sealing the heart means preventing the departure of disbelief from the heart and preventing faith from entering it. The first question that comes to mind is: If God had sealed the hearts of the disbelievers, then why did the Prophet (peace be upon him) invite them to accept faith?
To answer this question, we should remind ourselves that God Almighty is free from all need. So whoever dispenses with faith and chooses to embrace disbelief, then God dispenses with him and leaves him for what he has chosen for himself. God refers to this in a sacred narration:
"I treat My servant as he hopes that I would treat him. I am with him whenever he remembers Me: if he remembers Me in his heart, I remember him in Mine; if he remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering far better; if he draws near towards Me a hand's span, I draw near towards him an arm's length; if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a mile; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running."
God facilitates for you whatever path you choose for yourself. The Noble Quran accurately depicts that the disbelievers have made their choice willingly. God placed a seal on their hearts only as a consequence of their choice.
In the Quran, Allah explains to us the faculties and organs we use for perception and decision making. God says:
And God has extracted you from the wombs of your mothers not knowing a thing, and He made for you hearing and vision and intellect that perhaps you would be grateful. (16:78)
We use our eyes, ears and mind to perceive our environment and to make decisions. Once an idea is well thought, it becomes a belief and settles in the heart. God Almighty knows that the disbelievers received his message, chose infidelity with their intellect, and accepted this decision into their hearts. God sealed their hearts after they made up their minds. At this point, it does not matter what the eye sees or the ear hears. God describes the condition of the disbelievers in the following verse:
Deaf, mute, blind, so they do not return. (2:18)
Why did all of their faculties of perception become nonfunctional –you may ask-? We answer with an example that we have all experienced. I am sure that at some point you have felt great anger…….Anger and rage that engulfed your whole being, blinded you, and afflicted all your senses. Similarly, the dark cloud that surrounds the disbeliever engulfs all the senses and blinds that person from seeing God’s signs and from hearing the teaching of the Prophet.
And just as the disbelievers chose to abandon God and his messages, so does God. He abandons them and makes easy for them the wrong path they selected for themselves as the following verse illustrates:
Whoever willfully ignores the remembrance of the All-Merciful, We assign to him a devil, who becomes his closest comrade. (43:36)
And in another verse:
Shall I tell you upon whom the devils descend? They descend upon every habitual liar and great sinner (26:221-222)
Keep in mind that God’s knowledge of the believer and the disbeliever does not interfere with or affect that person’s choice. For example, God sent Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) to guide his people towards the straight path. Noah continually delivered the message over 950 years. God says:
It was revealed to Noah: ‘None of your people will believe except those who already have faith; so do not sorrow for what they used to do. Build the ark before Our eyes and by Our revelation, and do not plead with Me for those who are wrongdoers: they shall indeed be drowned.’ (11:36-37)
Allah, through the vastness of His knowledge, knows who will persist on disbelief and who will heed the message. If this truly is the case, then why did God ask His Messenger to continue to convey the message and the scriptures? It is so the disbelievers may bear witnesses against themselves on the day of resurrection. They cannot approach the Lord on that day and argue: if only we were given a chance…..if we just had a messenger or a book. God made sure that his message had reached them repeatedly, and they had plenty of time to contemplate His teachings with their intellect. Sadly, many made the conscience decision to ignore it, and even to fight it. Once the disbelief settled in their heart and became the natural state of being for them, God placed a seal on their hearts. Allah says:
Have they not traveled over the land so that they may have hearts by which they may apply reason, or ears by which they may hear? Indeed it is not the eyes that turn blind, but the hearts turn blind —those that are in the chests! (22:46)
When the heart becomes blind regarding the issue of faith, the eyes are unable to see God’s signs and the ears unable to hear His words.
For those who made this terrible choice for themselves, God has prescribed great torment and humiliation in the hereafter. The severity of any punishment is directly proportional to the ability of the one who punishes. When a small child hits you, the pain he or she causes is minimal, because the abilities of a child are minimal. God, on the other hand, is limitless in His ability and power; therefore, His punishment is severe beyond description. In addition to this physical torment, God adds humiliation and disgrace. The disbelievers, who gained status and wealth by transgressing over the rights of people, will be disgraced in the hereafter in front of all to see. God replaces there ill gotten status in this world with eternal humiliation in the hereafter.