own inborn nature, from which he may receive effulgence, as has been discussed. If you’re not convinced by this, there may, in the view of others, be [light] on his tongue, or according to himself, in order to obtain worldly benefits. If you’re still not persuaded, [the dissemblers may have had a light] because some of them believed at first, then apostatized. If this doesn’t convince you, it may be that the light here alludes to what they benefited from, while the fire indicates the dissension [they caused]. And if you’re not satisfied with this either, the fact that guidance was possible through the revelation [of the Qur’an] [meant] it was existent, as is indicated by the [preceding] verse, “These are the people who have purchased error [at the price of] guidance. (Ūlā’ika alladhīna ishtaraw al-ḍalālata bi’l-hudā.)” For this is the close neighbour of the comparison.
Now for the positioning of [and relationships between]
the phrases of the verse:
Consider this: the positioning of the phrase “who kindle a fire (alladhī istawqada nāran)” is absolutely fitting. For the lighting of fire in this way was entirely consistent with the situation of the first people the Qur’an was addressing. They were the inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula and without exception had experienced such a situation, or had heard about it, and had suffered its upsetting effects. They had taken refuge in the night from the sun’s tyranny, travelling in darkness. Very often the skies would press down on them and they would feel the weariness of travel, and sometimes their road would lead them to the abyss. They would also roam in the gloom of caves filled with noxious creatures. Then they would lose their way and need to kindle a fire or light a lamp to see their companions or feel close to them even, and to see their possessions and protect them, and make out the path they should take, and so that ferocious beasts and other perils would be visible to them and they could avoid them. Then, when they were well lit up with the light it would be suddenly extinguished at a blow from the heavens. Filled with hope and about to accomplish their goals, they would be cast into the deepest despair. [The Qur’an] states this clearly with the words: “but as soon as it has illumined all around them, Allah takes away their light (fa-lamma aḍā’at mā ḥawlahu dhahaba Allāhu bi-nūrihim).”
The “but (fa-)” at the beginning of the phrase indicates that they kindled the fire for light and it lit up [all round them] and they felt confident at this. But they were immediately overcome by frustration and disappointment. How powerfully effective is this being thwarted at the very moment of