Can the blind and the seeing be alike?

The Details of the Question

- The expression above is mentioned in the verses of the Quran. Is it not an expression that offends some people?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The word “ama” lexically means “a person who has completely lost his sight by being blind in two eyes”; and it also has figurative meanings such as “imprudent, thoughtless and ignorant”. (see Lisanul-ʿArab, “ama” item)

The word ama is generally used in the sense of imprudence, spiritual shortsightedness in the Quran; it is also used in the sense of visually impaired in some verses.

The expression in the question does not mean visually impaired; it means “spiritual blindness, blindness of the eye of the heart, lack of foresight, indifference and stubbornness in the face of the truth, perversion, being deprived of Allah’s guidance and mercy”. (see Fussilat 41/17, 44)

The blindness mentioned in the verse “Can the blind and the seeing be alike?” means “lack of prudence, lack of thought”. The effects of this spiritual blindness on the individual and society are described in the Quran.

The Quran, which appeals to man’s power of understanding, encourages him to use that important ability by making various comparisons and states that his eternal salvation depends on making good use of that ability; it reminds man that not only the eyes on the face but also the eye of the heart can atrophy and that the latter is more dangerous than the former. (see al-Hajj 22/46)

According to the Quran, the real blind person is not the one who has lost his sight, but the one who has lost prudence and cannot see the truth. The difference between those who keep their eye of the heart open and use their mind and intellect to find the truth and guidance, and those who are imprudent and perverted is as great as the difference between a person who sees and a blind person, between light and darkness, and between life and death. (see Fatir 35/19; al-An’am 6/50; ar-Ra’d 13/19)

We will give the translations and brief explanations of verses 19-24 of the chapter of Fatir as examples:

The blind and the seeing are not alike.

What is meant by the blind and one who sees is an unbeliever and a believer. It is also said that the meaning of blind is idol, and the meaning of the one who sees is Allah, and that it used as a simile.

“Nor are the depths of Darkness and the Light.”

That is, falsehood and truth are not the same.

“Nor are the (chilly) shade and the (genial) heat of the sun …”

Reward and punishment are not the same.

 The repetition of the word “la” in the verse is generally for confirmation. The word “harur” mentioned in the verse means “hot wind”. In addition, the hot wind blowing during the day is called “samum”, and the one blowing at night is called “harur”.

“Nor are alike those that are living and those that are dead.”

Those expressions are also metaphors for believers and unbelievers. It is more eloquent than the first one; therefore, the word “alike” is repeated in the verse. It is also said that what is meant by the dead and the living are scholars and ignorant people.

“Allah can make any that He wills to hear.”

Allah makes His guidance be heard by whomever He wishes; thus, He enables him to understand His verses and to learn from the advice given.

“but thou canst not make those to hear who are (buried) in graves.”

This part of the verse is a tarshih for comparing those who insist on unbelief to the dead, and it is an effective expression in despairing of them.

Tarshih is the literary art of using new expressions depending on the metaphor used during the metaphorical expression. In the verse, unbelievers are first compared to dead people, and then tarshih is used with the sentence “You cannot make those to hear who are buried in graves”.

“Thou art no other than a warner.”

Your duty is only to warn. It is not your duty to make them hear and accept.

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