In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
The love of worldly desires, such as women and offspring, heaped-up treasures of gold and silver, horses of high mark, cattle and plantations, is made alluring to man. These are the comforts of this life. With Allah is the best of all goals.(The House of Imran, “Aal Imran”: 3;14)
Commentary by Sayyid Qutb, Translated by A.A. Salahi & S.A. Shamsi.
This verse belongs to that part of the Qur’an which is concerned mainly with educating the Muslim community. It points out a number of subtle natural incentives which may cause people to deviate from the right path, unless they are properly controlled. In order to control them, one must always be on the alert, look up to more sublime horizons and aspire to those comforts which remain with Allah, for these are indeed far superior to worldly comforts.
Pursuing worldly pleasures and giving priority to personal desires and pleasures will no doubt distract a person’s mind and prevent him from reflecting on what fruits one is bound to reap or what lessons one can learn from the facts of life. People are thus drowned in easy, physical pleasures, unable to see what lies beyond: better and superior comforts. They are thus deprived of the enjoyment of looking beyond the cheap, physical pleasure, and the enjoyment of being preoccupied with the nobler concerns which fit with the great role of man on this earth and are worthy of a creature whom Allah has appointed as vicegerent in this great dominion, the earth.
Those physical pleasures and worldly comforts and incentives are, nevertheless, naturally infused in man by the Creator to fulfil for man the essential role of preserving the continuity of life. Hence, Islam does not approve of their suppression. It advocates that they should be regulated, moderated and brought under control. Islam wants man to be able to control these desires, not to be controlled by them. Islam promotes the feeling of the sublime in man and helps him look up to what is higher and superior.
Hence, the Qur’anic statement which is concerned with the education of the Muslim community mentions all these comforts and pleasures, but portrays alongside them a variety of physical and spiritual pleasures which are provided in the life to come for those who control their natural incentives in this life, maintaining their noble human standard, and do not allow themselves to be overwhelmed by the cheap, physical enjoyments of this world.
In a single verse, the Surah groups together the most enjoyed pleasures of this life: women, children, endless wealth, splendid horses, fertile land and cattle.
These are the total sum of worldly pleasures. Either by themselves or because of what they can provide for their owners of other pleasures. In the following verse, the pleasures of the hereafter are mentioned: Gardens beneath which rivers flow, spouses renowned for their chastity, and what is much more: Allah’s good pleasure. These are in store for anyone who looks beyond the pleasures of this world, maintains his good relationship with Allah in the manner portrayed by the two verses which follow in this passage: “ The love of worldly desires, such as women and offspring, heaped-up treasures of gold and sliver, horses of high mark, cattle and plantations, is made alluring to man. These are the comforts of this life. With Allah is the best of all goals. Say : shall I tell you of better things than these? For the God-fearing there are, with their Lord, gardens beneath which rivers flow where they shall dwell forever, and wives of perfect chastity, and Allah’s good pleasure. Allah is mindful of His servants, those who say: Our Lord, we have indeed accepted the faith. Forgive us our sins and keep us safe from the torments of the fire. They are the patient in adversity, true to their word, the devoted who spend in the cause of Allah, and those who pray for forgiveness at the time of dawn.” “The love of worldly desires.. is made alluring to man.” In the original Arabic text, the verb in this sentence is expressed in the passive voice which indicates that this love is part of their nature. Hence, this is a statement of fact. Man certainly loves to enjoy these pleasures. There is no need, then, either to deny that love or to denounce and condemn it. It is essential for human life so that it may continue and progress. But there is certainly another side which is also infused in human nature to balance that love and to guard man against being totally consumed by it to the extent that he loses the great effects of the spiritual element in his constitution. That aspect provides man with the ability to look up to the sublime and control his desires and fulfil them in a befitting and appropriate measure. He can thus achieve his fulfilment and aspire at the same time to elevate human life to the standard he can achieve through his spiritual nature and look forward to the life to come where he can enjoy Allah’s good pleasure. This ability can hold the worldly desires in check, purify them and keep them within safe limits so that the physical pleasure does not overwhelm the human soul and its aspirations. To turn to Allah and to fear Him show the way to the achievement of those aspirations.
The verse speaks of those worldly desires as being made alluring to man. There is no suggestion, implicit or explicit, that they are contemptible or that they should be treated as such. We are only called upon to understand their nature in order to place them in their appropriate place in our lives and not allow them to suppress what is superior to and nobler than them. We are indeed called upon to aspire to higher horizons after we have taken what is sufficient and necessary for us of those pleasures.
Islam is distinguished by its realistic approach to human nature and its attempt to elevate, not to suppress it. Those who speak nowadays about the harmful effects of the “suppression” of natural desires, or about the inferiority complexes which result from such suppression agree that the main reason for such complexes of inferiority is the suppression of natural desires, not their control. Suppression comes from the condemnation of natural desires or looking down on them with contempt. This places the individual under two types of pressure which pull in opposite directions. There is first the pressure of his feeling, formulated by social traditions or religion, that physical desires are contemptible and should not have existed in the first place. They are portrayed as sinful and evil. There is, on the other hand, the pressure of these desires themselves which cannot be overcome because they are deeply rooted in human nature, having an essential role in human life. Indeed, they have not been made part of human nature in vain. As this conflict rages within man, it gives rise to “inferiority complexes.” This is the opinion held by the scientists specialized in psychology. Assuming that their theory is correct, we still find that Islam has kept man safe from this conflict between the two parts of the human soul, the temptation of desire and pleasure and the aspirations to desire and pleasure and the aspirations to a nobler existence. It caters for the fulfilment of both, combining continuity with moderation.
The Qur’an uses the word Kufr to denote people who cover up or hide realities. The Qur’an uses this word to identify those who denied Allah’s favours by not accepting His Dominion and Authority. Kufr thus is an antonym for Iman or disbelief in Allah and a Kafir is a non-believer. This type of Kufr is called AL-KUFRUL AKBAR or major kufr. There are many types of Al-Kufrul Akbar
Disbelief out of stubbornness. This applies to someone who knows the truth and admits to knowing the truth and admits to knowing it with his tongue, but refuses to accept it and refrains from making a declaration.
Allah(swt) says: Throw into Hell every stubborn disbeliever [Surah Qaaf (50), Ayah 24]
Disbelief out of denial. This applies to someone who denies with both heart and tongue.
Allah(swt) says: They recognize the favours of Allah, yet they deny them. Most of them are disbelievers. [Surah Nahl(16), Ayah 83]
Disbelief out of arrogance and pride. The disbelief by the devils (Iblis) is an example of this type of Kufr.
Disbelief out of rejection. This applies to someone who acknowledges the truth in his heart, but rejects it with his tongue. This types of kufr is applicable to those who calls themselves Muslims but who reject any necessary and accepted norms of Islam such as Salaat and Zakat.
Allah (swt) says: They denied them (OUR SIGNS) even though their hearts believed in them , out of spite and arrogance. [Surah Naml(27), Ayah 14]
Disbelief out of hypocrisy. This applies to someone who pretends to be a believer but conceals his disbelief. Such a person is called a MUNAFIQ or hypocrite. Allah( swt) says: Verily the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of Hell. You will find no one to help them. [Surah An Nisaa (4), Ayah 145]
Disbelief out of trying to make HARAM into HALAL. This applies to someone who accepts as lawful (Halal) that which Allah has made unlawful (Haram) like alcohol or adultery. Only Allah(swt) has the prerogative to make things Halal and Haram and those who seek to interfere with His right are like rivals to Him and therefore fall outside the boundries of faith.
Disbelief out of detesting any of Allah’s (swt) commands. Allah(swt) says: Perdition (destruction) has been consigned to those who disbelieve and He will render their actions void. This is because they are averse to that which Allah has revealed so He has made their actions fruitless. [Surah Muhammad (47), Ayah 8-9]
Disbelief due to mockery and derision. Allah (swt) says: Say: Was it at Allah, His signs and His apostles that you were mocking? Make no excuses. You have disbelieved after you have believed. [Surah Taubah (9), ayah 65-66]
Disbelief due to avoidance. This applies to those who turn away and avoid the truth. Allah(swt) says: And who is more unjust than he who is reminded of his Lord’s signs but then turns away from them. Then he forgets what he has sent forward (for the Day of Judgement) [Surah Kahf (18), Ayah 57]
Disbelief because of trying to substitute Allah’s Laws. This could take the form of:
(a) Rejection of Allah’s law (Shari’ah) without denying it
(b) Denial of Allah’s law and therefore rejecting it, or
(c) Substituting Allah’s laws with man-made laws.
Allah (swt) says: Or have they partners with Allah who have instituted for them a religion which Allah has not allowed. [Surah Shuraa (42), Ayah 8]
Allah(swt) says: Say not concerning that which your tongues put forth falsely (that) is lawful and this is forbidden so as to invent a lie against Allah. Verily, those who invent a lie against Allah will never prosper. [Surah Nahl (16), Ayah 116]
The following information was excerpted from TAFSIR IBN KATHIR.