“Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur)” (al-Baqara, 2/7), it is Allah who makes people unbelievers; so, what is the fault of an unbeliever / atheist?

The Details of the Question

According to the following verse, “Allah hath set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a veil; great is the penalty they (incur)” (al-Baqara, 2/7), it is Allah who makes people unbelievers; so, what is the fault of an unbeliever / atheist?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Sealing of the heart is defined as the inability of a heart to accept belief due to hardening and darkening with unbelief and disobedience. The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) states the following:

“A black spot occurs in the heart with every sin.”

The following is stated in a verse:

 “Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth.” (an-Nisa, 4/48)

According to what we understand from the hadith and verse above, the biggest blackness that darkens the heart is shirk (polytheism), that is, associating partners with Allah. If a person advocates shirk and engages in a struggle with believers on the issue, the blackness in his heart gets darker and larger day by day. It envelops the whole heart. It becomes almost impossible for that person to accept belief and tawhid (oneness). As Nursi puts it,

“He becomes incapable of reform and unreceptive to good.”

The verse in question was revealed about the polytheists (mushriks) who opposed the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) and struggled against him. The complete domination of shirk in the hearts of those polytheists and leaving no room for tawhid is expressed as “sealing of the heart”. Those for whom the door of guidance has been closed are the polytheists who reach that point. Otherwise, it is not in question for the door of guidance to be closed for every person who commits sins, oppresses others, or engages in polytheism. Then, how can we explain the conversion of tens of thousands of people who used to worship idols to Islam in the Age of Bliss? If the heart of every person who committed shirk had been sealed, no polytheist would have been able to embrace Islam. That is, those whose hearts are sealed are those whose return to tawhid has become impossible. And they fall into that pit by misusing their own will.

We would like to briefly mention a very important point:

In the Nur Collection, unbelief is examined in two parts: non-acceptance and denial. Regarding non-acceptance, that is, “not accepting the realities of belief” the following is stated: “It is indifference, a closing of the eyes to something, an ignorant absence of judgement.” In denial, on the other hand, a matter of advocating unbelief and trying to prove the wrong creed is in question. This second group is on the side of unbelief and fights against the people of belief. The sealing of the heart is generally in question for such people.

We say generally” because there are those who attained the right path and choose Islam among those people, though a few. Undoubtedly, for those whose unbelief has been fully revealed, it does not matter whether you frighten them (with Allah’s punishment) or you do not frighten them; it is the same for them; they will not believe. However, that frightening and not frightening are not the same for you; it is not “equal for you” but “equal for them” because you will have fulfilled your duty and have shown and explained the evidence of Allah; the thawab will be yours and the sin will be theirs. As for that equality, the reason for their unbelief, is that Almighty Allah has sealed their hearts and ears. They no longer have the ability to sense the truth by themselves, to think and find it, to listen and hear, and to accept it.

There is an original heart but they have lost their solidity in the first creation and have acquired another habit that covers it with their bad habits. Allah Almighty made them acquire it. They no longer turn and look spontaneously at anything other than their own wishes and desires, personal and spiritual goals. All the activities and abilities of those hearts, which were created to understand the truth, are suffocated by the desires of the nafs (soul), whether for their future interests or the realities of the unseen other than their present desires; they are covered with stubbornness.

“…Did We not give you long enough life so that he that would should receive admonition?...” (Fatir, 35/37)

In accordance with the verse above, they have completed the period of thinking given by Allah, and now unbelief has become their full-fledged earnings, habits and second nature. They do not think about the truth, the evidence of the soul like the heart, or a clear spiritual and mental miracle like the Quran. They do not listen or want to listen to them; they do not want to know; even if they know, they will not accept...

Even if they want to look, they cannot see true visible evidence such as the shape of the realm, the formation of mines, the state of plants and animals, and anatomy in the visible realm because their eyes are veiled. They are covered by the veil of heedlessness, lust, evil and selfishness. For example, such a person looks at the sky every day, sees the view that the heart likes, but he does not see and does not think how the tiny pupil of this tiny eye in that body, in this body sees and understands the great outside view in such a far and wide distance with a momentary light. When he is hungry, he rushes to the bread, but does not think and see how he perceives the bread outside and how and by what means he can adapt to it... Thus, they are deprived of all of the three reasons that are essential for understanding the truth for knowledge: heart and mind, sound senses, hearing the news.

- How is the heart sealed?

As it is known, to be sealed is in question for things like envelopes, containers, covers and doors. People’s hearts are like the envelopes and containers of knowledge and information. All of our understandings are hidden there. The ear is like a door; the things that are heard enter from there. The news about the past, the future and the present in particular, and the concepts in the books are known through hearing. So, the sealing of the heart is similar to the sealing of the envelope, the sealing of the ear and the sealing of the door. The Prophet (pbuh) states the following in a hadith:

“When a slave commits sin, a black spot appears on his heart. If he repents, gives up that sin and seeks forgiveness, his heart will be polished. However, if the sin increases, the black spot increases and starts to cover the whole heart in parallel with the sins that are committed. This issue is indicated in the following verse of the Quran: ‘By no means! But on their hearts is the stain of the (ill) which they do.’” (al-Mutaffifin, 83/14) That is the word “rayn” in the verse.” (see Tirmidhi, Tafsiru Sura, 83, 1; Ibn Majah Zuhd 29)

The hadith above shows that as long as sins continue, they cover the hearts like a sheath. Then, as it is stated in the verse above, a seal is made by Allah. That stain is imprinted on that heart. Initially, it is like ink that can be erased and poured on a glossy writing paper, but after that it becomes printed and indelible. In other words, it habitually becomes another trait. It is neither erased nor removed; and then, there remains no way of belief, nor is there any way to get rid of unbelief.

The acquisition of that sealing and printing is from the servant, and its creation is from Allah. Therefore, the attribution of the sealing to Allah is not a rational metaphor, but a fact as it is understood by Ahl as-Sunnah, and there is no compulsion. The hadith and the verse above explain the issue of habit in ethics very well. They explain that the value of ethics and religion are in continuity and habit. That point is the secret of the issue of education. That is the difference between insisting on a sin in terms of religion and not insisting. That is the reason why it is unbelief to regard a sin as halal and a haram as halal. The result of that habit for unbelievers in the issue of belief, that second trait and that sound ability are the same for believers in terms of deeds.

One gets used to good deeds habitually. Bad deeds become another tough trait with habit. The flow of life means the acquisition of that habit. In the first creation, human will has no involvement. However, its first share is important in the habit. Nevertheless, the creation as a result of it belongs to Allah. Therefore, there is no compulsion related to those issues like the first creation. Besides, man does not have creativity; he only has acquisition. On the one hand, man receives what has been created and on the other hand, he acquires what is to be created; his heart is the path of Allah’s creature and creation. Man is not the essence; he is a proxy. If Allah had not given man a heart in the beginning or if He had given it in a sealed form, it would have been compulsion. However, the verse does not say so.

In that case, trying to accuse those verses of compulsion, as some Europeans do, means not understanding the verse. Allah Almighty holds such unbelievers responsible for belief even though He knows that they will not believe. However, since there will be nothing contrary to Allah’s knowledge, the following question is asked: “Is that belief not a belief that is insurmountable?” Nevertheless, it should be understood as follows: That offer is not insurmountable for the first creation; therefore, it is made. It is insurmountable according to the second habit but it is not made for it; it is only known. According to the wisdom of the Quran and Islamic principles, there is no compulsion in knowledge. They also speak of it as “there is no rational necessity”. Compulsion and necessity are the works of will and creation.

Allah’s knowing something beforehand or afterwards does not mean that He does it and forces it to be done. The knower is not obliged to do; nor the known is obliged to be done. Even the realization of a wish depends on power and creation along with power. Therefore, we find sciences that are not dependent on will and even many wills that have not been put into action even though we have power.

All those show us that knowing, wanting, power and creation are a group of attributes. Therefore, the fact that Allah knows them does not mean that He forces people to do them. Allah Almighty created the seal after the second habit of the servant and the power that is mentioned, and the aforementioned offer eventually becomes insurmountable in a temporary and variable way. It is both possible and usual. And it fits to be so.

In short, qadar (predestination) is not compulsion. They became unbelievers not because Allah knew; Allah knew and ordained them that way because they would be unbelievers. If the meaning of the predestination of the one who is not mistaken is considered, it will be understood easily. There is no salvation for them, there is a great punishment because they do not have the faith and belief in the hereafter described above. As Allah, the book of Allah, the prophet and the hereafter are mentioned, those sealed hearts wriggle and beat, those sealed ears hum, and those veiled eyes tremble and stagger. After they die, they suffer the torment of Hell.

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