The positioning of the phrase “whereas those who reject faith (wa ammā alladhīna kafarū):”
Having pointed out the way to understand the wisdom in the parables, which is to look with the light of belief from the point of view of the Necessary Existent, it explains here the opposite way, which is the source of delusions and distractions. This is because it looks from the side of the soul, through the darkness of unbelief, which imagines everything to be dark, and with a sickness of the heart that causes even the slightest delusion to become oppressive. Then [such a person] strays from the path of truth, then he vacillates, then he starts to ask questions, and then he denies. So concisely and allusively, indicating [the disbelievers’] questioning that smacks of denial, the Qur’an says, “‘What could Allah mean by this parable?’ (mādhā arāda Allāhu bi-hādhā mathalan)” instead of ‘they do not know,’ although clearly this would have corresponded to [the “they know” in] the previous phrase.
The positioning of the phrase “By it He causes many to go astray, and many He guides aright (yuḍillu bihi kathīran wa yahdī bi-hi kathīran):”
This is the answer to [the unbelievers’] question [in the previous phrase]. For to be exceedingly concise, it makes the result [of the parable; that is, guidance and misguidance] the ultimate reason for it (al-‘illa al-ghā’iyya), [that is, guidance and misguidance are not the underlying reason for the parable; its purpose is to admonish and offer guidance to the people] and they are asking: “Why is it like that? Why isn’t its miraculousness obvious? Why doesn’t it have to be Allah’s word? Why does it provide the opportunity for doubts and delusion through these parables?” So the Qur’an [dispels all these questions] saying: “By it He causes many to go astray, and many He guides aright.”
This is because [the Qur’an] increases in light those who ponder over [the parables] in the light of belief, while it increases in darkness those who ponder over them in the darkness of disbelief [with a view to] criticizing them. And this is because [the Qur’an] is speculative (naẓarī) and not obvious (badīhī). And this is so that elevated, pure spirits may be distinguished from lowly turbid ones. And this is so that eminent dispositions may be differentiated through their progress from wicked ones. And this is so that sound natures may be picked out through their development, striving, and exertion from among corrupted rotten ones. And this necessitates man’s examination. And this requires his being tested and tried. And this demands his accountability due to the obligations laid on him (al-taklīf), to perfect him and his happiness. How concisely the Qur’an replies!