examples of admirable men, suggesting that sincerity may be attained by following them.
The word “the people (al-nās)” contains two points, which induce the conscience to always enjoin the good. For “as other people believe (ka-mā āmana an-nās)” intimates: “Follow the mass of the people, for to oppose them is an error that the heart is not so bold as to commit.”
Secondly, it infers that those who do not believe should not be counted as true men; only believers are true human beings, as though the others are human only in form. For the believers have advanced in perfections and true humanity is particular to them, and the rest have fallen from the level of humanity.
The phrase: “they say: shall we believe as the weak-minded believe? (qālū a’ nu’minu ka-mā āmana al-sufahā’)” has this meaning: “We don’t accept advice. How could we be like those lowly wretches? How can we people of standing be put on a par with them? We look on them as dim-wits?”
Thus, the word “they say (qālū)” hints at their self-justification, their spreading their views, their disdain for advice, and their arrogance and presumption.
The rhetorical question “shall we believe (a’ nu’minu)” indicates their obstinately sticking to their ignorant views. As though, using the interrogative form, they are saying to the one advising them: “Consult your conscience! Can you in all fairness accept that we reject [religion]?”
Moreover, “they say (qālū)” contains three consecutive aspects; that is: first of all they address themselves, then their fellows, then the one offering them guidance, for it is usual when offered advice for a person first of all consult himself, then his fellows, then to refer back to you with the results of his reasoning. Hence, when they are told what was said, they examine their corrupted hearts and rotten consciences and are shown the way of denial. What they say is an interpretation of what is in their hearts. Then with a view to making mischief they refer to their brothers, and are again shown the way of denial, and they begin holding secret confabulations. Then by way of making excuses and to mislead they turn back to the one giving them advice and say provocatively: “The difference between us is so great we can’t be compared with them. They are poor and have to be strong in religion and Sufism; they simply have to be like that. But we are people of high rank and standing.” In their arrogance they call on the one offering them advice to be fair, and as a ruse and stratagem say deceitfully: “Don’t