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The Disbelievers’ Hearts are Sealed – They Hear The Message But It Does Not Avail Them

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim

Merely hearing discourse holds no benefit, and perhaps may be a ḥujjah upon a person, for understanding the true meanings of the speech of Allāh is the job of the hearts.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim [d. 751 AH] said:

“The eighth [type of guidance] is the level of acquaintance. Allāh says:

وَلَوْ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا لَّأَسْمَعَهُمْ ۖ وَلَوْ أَسْمَعَهُمْ لَتَوَلَّوا وَّهُم مُّعْرِضُونَ ‎﴿٢٣﴾‏

‘Had Allāh known any good in them [the disbelievers], He would have made them hear. And if He had made them hear, they would [still] have turned away, while they were refusing.’
[Al-Anfāl, 8:23]

and Allāh also says:

وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْأَعْمَىٰ وَالْبَصِيرُ ‎﴿١٩﴾‏ وَلَا الظُّلُمَاتُ وَلَا النُّورُ ‎﴿٢٠﴾‏ وَلَا الظِّلُّ وَلَا الْحَرُورُ ‎﴿٢١﴾‏ وَمَا يَسْتَوِي الْأَحْيَاءُ وَلَا الْأَمْوَاتُ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُسْمِعُ مَن يَشَاءُ ۖ وَمَا أَنتَ بِمُسْمِعٍ مَّن فِي الْقُبُورِ ‎﴿٢٢﴾ ‏إِنْ أَنتَ إِلَّا نَذِيرٌ ‎﴿٢٣﴾‏

‘Not equal are the blind and the seeing, Nor are the darknesses and the light, Nor are the shade and the heat, And not equal are the living and the dead. Indeed, Allāh causes to hear whom He wills, but you cannot make hear those in the graves. You, [O Muhammad [ﷺ]], are not but a warner.’
[Fāṭir, 35:19-23]

This type of acquaintance is more specific than its general form of deliverance [of the message] and its evidences. For such general deliverance has occurred [for the disbelievers], and with it the case is raised against them [for their rejection of it]. However, that is merely deliverance to their ears, and this [level] relates to the delivery [of the message] to the heart. For truly, speech is derived from words and meaning. It possesses a certain relation to the ears and hearts [of man] and an attachment to both. As for simply hearing discourse itself, this is fulfilled by the ears alone. Hearing the true meaning [of that speech] and all that it entails is managed only by the heart. For He the Exalted has negated that the disbelievers should ever understand the true meanings [of His words] and all that it stipulates, which is the job of their hearts. He confirms their acquaintance with His words with their ears in His saying:

مَا يَأْتِيهِم مِّن ذِكْرٍ مِّن رَّبِّهِم مُّحْدَثٍ إِلَّا اسْتَمَعُوهُ وَهُمْ يَلْعَبُونَ ‎﴿٢﴾‏

‘No mention comes to them anew from their Lord except that they listen to it while they are at play.’
[Al-Anbiyāʾ, 21:2]

This hearing holds no benefit for the individual except by raising a case against them, or facilitating their access to the evidence that has been raised.

As for the intent behind what has been heard, its true benefit, and what is being requested in actuality, such matters can never coincide with a heart so full of nonsensical desires, complete oblivion, in a perpetual state of objection.

Imām Ibn al-Qayyim [d. 751 AH]

Rather, such a person hears [the message] but leaves saying:

وَمِنْهُم مَّن يَسْتَمِعُ إِلَيْكَ حَتَّىٰ إِذَا خَرَجُوا مِنْ عِندِكَ قَالُوا لِلَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْعِلْمَ مَاذَا قَالَ آنِفًا ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَاتَّبَعُوا أَهْوَاءَهُمْ ‎﴿١٦﴾‏

‘“What did he (Muḥammad) say just now?”, (out of mockery, or out of ignorance and lack of comprehension). They are the ones over whose hearts Allāh has sealed (making them devoid of comprehension and sincerity).’
[Muḥammad 47:16]

Source: Al-Tafsīr al-Qayyim: 43-44
Translated by: Riyāḍ al-Kanadī

Published: October 26, 2022
Edited: October 27, 2022

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