Who are the people over whose hearts veils were set?

Details of the Question

Who are the people addressed by verse 57 of the chapter of al-Kahf?
Can we understand whether we are among those people or not? Is leaving the Quran at home in dust included in its scope?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The meaning of the verse in question is as follows:

“And who doth more wrong than one who is reminded of the Signs of his Lord, but turns away from them, forgetting the (deeds) which his hands have sent forth? Verily We have set veils over their hearts lest they should understand this, and over their ears, deafness, if thou callest them to guidance, even then will they never accept guidance.” (al-Kahf, 18/57)

- The addressees of the verse above are the polytheists and unbelievers of the time when the verse was revealed. Allah informed them about his signs (verses) but they turned away from them. The word “ayat” (signs/verses) means miracles showing that the Quran is Allah’s word and Hz. Muhammad is the true prophet as well as Quranic and prophetic advice giving information about the bad ending of unbelief and rebellion. 

- The unbelievers are described as oppressors (those who do wrong the most) since they turned away from the miraculous expressions showing that the Quran is Allah’s word as well as the verses giving information about the bad ending of unbelief and rebellion.

For, those who did not try to understand the truths displayed before their eyes by the Quran are oppressors; in addition, those who do not think about the verses giving information about the bad ending of unbelief and rebellion and forgot them were punished severely; therefore, they inflicted the biggest oppression upon their own souls. However, if they had thought about those verses instead of turning away from them due to their conceit and heedlessness, they would have seen the truths. For, a mind that is given time to think can understand the truths that are expressed clearly  (see Tabari, Razi, Baydawi, Qurtubi, Biqai, Ibn Kathir, Maraghi, Ibn Ashur, the interpretation of the verse in question)

- Although the real addressees are the unbelievers, there are also lessons to be taken by Muslims.

The lesson to be taken from the verse above by Muslims is to read the Quran, to think about and meditate on the verses and read the interpretations (tafsirs) made by Islamic scholars. The unbelievers turned their hearts and minds away from the Quran; Muslims should think about the evil of turning away from the Quran actually by not reading it though they do not turn away from it in terms of belief.

It is bad not to read the Quran and leave the Quran (Mushaf) on the shelf in dust; it is a kind of turning away (though not unbelief) not to obey the orders and prohibitions of the Quran.

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