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More Astray than Cattle – Understanding the Misguided Status of the Disbelievers 

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

An interpretation of the parable of disbelievers’ misguidance.

Allāh said:

أمْ تَحْسَبُ أَنَّ أَكْثَرَهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ أَوْ يَعْقِلُونَ ۚ إِنْ هُمْ إِلَّا كَالْأَنْعَامِ ۖ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ سَبِيلًا

Or do you think that most of them hear or use their reason (in order to comprehend what they are being called to)? They are but like cattle (who only hear a call without applying reason). Rather, they are even more astray from the path (than cattle, who at least respond to the call of their owner).
(Al-Furqān, 25:44)

وَلَقَدْ ذَرَأْنَا لِجَهَنَّمَ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنسِ ۖ لَهُمْ قُلُوبٌ لَّا يَفْقَهُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ أَعْيُنٌ لَّا يُبْصِرُونَ بِهَا وَلَهُمْ آذَانٌ لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ بِهَا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ كَالْأَنْعَامِ بَلْ هُمْ أَضَلُّ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْغَافِلُونَ

“And surely, We have created many of the jinns and mankind for Hell. They have hearts wherewith they understand not, they have eyes wherewith they see not, and they have ears wherewith they hear not (the truth). They are like cattle, nay even more astray; those! They are the heedless ones.”
(Al-Aʿrāf, 7:179)

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751 AH) comments:

Allāh has likened the majority of people to cattle. The attribute inherent in both cattle and people is complete rejection of guidance, refusing to submit to it. Then, He informs us that most of them are even more astray than cattle. This is because cattle are guided by means of the farmer who herds them. In response, they are guided and follow the path set out for them, not straying from it to the right or left. Comparatively, most people are called by the messengers who seek only to guide them to the straight path. However, they refuse to answer them, being from among the misguided. They lack even the ability to discern between what benefits and harms them, while cattle are able to achieve such discernment in relation to the vegetation that surrounds them, and the path along which they tread. They avoid that which harms them and are attracted to that which holds benefit to them. All the while Allāh—the Most High—did not create cattle with hearts capable of deep understanding, or tongues to express themselves, however He granted them intuition. The people of misguidance, however, refuse to derive benefit from their intellects, hearts, tongues, and faculties of hearing and seeing. Thus, they are more misguided than cattle. For indeed, the misguidance of the one who refuses to accept guidance to the straight path—even in the presence of that which may be used as evidence to prove it—is more severe and detestable than the misguided one who completely lacks any evidence.

Source: Al-Amthāl: 200-201
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: June 20, 2024
Edited: June 20, 2024

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