Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’ān; Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad (1980)

and neither has their bargain brought them gain, nor have they found guidance [elsewhere].
(17) Their parable is that of people who kindle a fire: but as soon as it has illumined all around them, God takes away their light and leaves them in utter darkness, wherein they cannot see: (18) deaf, dumb, blind – and they cannot turn back.
(19) Or [the parable] of a violent cloudburst in the sky, with utter darkness, thunder and lightning: they put their fingers into their ears to keep out the peals of thunder, in terror of death; but God encompasses [with His might] all who deny the truth. (20) The lightning well-nigh takes away their sight; whenever it gives them light, they advance therein, and whenever darkness falls around them, they stand still.
And if God so willed, He could indeed take away their hearing and their sight:12 for, verily, God has the power to will anything.

(21) O mankind! Worship your Sustainer, who has created you and those who lived before you, so that you might remain conscious of Him (22) who has made the earth a resting-place for you and the sky a canopy, and has sent down water from the sky and thereby brought forth fruits for your sustenance: do not, then, claim that there is any power that could rival God,13 when you know [that He is One].
(23) And if you doubt any part of what We have bestowed from on high, step by step, upon Our servant [Muḥammad],14 then produce a sūrah of similar merit,

12 The obvious implication is: “but He does not will this” – that is. He does not preclude the possibility that “those who have taken error in exchange for guidance" may one day perceive the truth and mend their ways. The expression “their hearing and their sight” is obviously a metonym for man’s instinctive ability to discern between good and evil and, hence, for his moral responsibility. – In the parable of the “people who kindle a fire" we have, I believe, an allusion to some people’s exclusive reliance on what is termed the “scientific approach” as a means to illumine and explain all the imponderables of life and faith, and the resulting arrogant refusal to admit that anything could be beyond the reach of man’s intellect. This “overweening arrogance”, as the Qurʾān terms it, unavoidably exposes its devotees – and the society dominated by them – to the lightning of disillusion which “well-nigh takes away their sight", i.e., still further weakens their moral perception and deepens their “terror of death”.

13 Lit., “do not give God any compeers" (andād, pl. of nidd). There is full agreement among all commentators that this term implies any object of adoration to which some or all of God’s qualities are ascribed, whether it be conceived as a deity “in its own right” or a saint supposedly possessing certain divine or semi-divine powers. This meaning can be brought out only by a free rendering of the above phrase.

14 I.e., the message of which the doctrine of God’s oneness and uniqueness is the focal point. By the use of the word “doubt” (rayb), this passage is meant to recall the opening sentence of this sūrah: “This divine writ – let there be no doubt about it…”, etc. The gradualness of revelation is implied in the grammatical form nazzalnā – which is important in this context inasmuch as the opponents of the Prophet argued that the Qurʾān could not be of divine origin because it was being revealed gradually, and not in one piece (Zamakhsharī).

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Muhammad Asad, The Message of the Qur’ān; Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad, Dar Al-Andalus Limited, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar, Consulted online at “Quran Archive - Texts and Studies on the Quran” on 05 Dec. 2022: