The Polytheist in Comparison to the Monotheist – A Parable From the Qur’aan


الحمد لله رب العالمين، وصلى الله وسلم على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وأصحابه أجمعين، أما بعد


Allaah, The Most High, said:


ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا رَّجُلًا فِيهِ شُرَكَاءُ مُتَشَاكِسُونَ وَرَجُلًا سَلَمًا لِّرَجُلٍ هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا ۚ الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

((Allaah puts forth a similitude: a [slave] man owned by quarreling partners, and a [slave] man belonging exclusively to one man. Are those two equal in comparison? Praise be to Allaah! But most of them do not know.)) (Az-Zumar: 29)


In his explanation of this aayah, Ibn al-Qayyim (rahimahullaah) said:


“This is a parable which Allaah, The Glorified, put forth for the polytheist and the Monotheist. So the polytheist is in the position of a slave who is under ownership of a group that are contentious, at variance, that hold one another in rancour. The person who is quarrelsome is: of constricted impatient temperament, hence the polytheist – due to his worshipping numerous Gods, he has been likened to a slave who is under ownership of a group who are at rivalry with regard to his service, for it is not possible for him to attain their pleasure altogether.[1]

Whilst the monotheist, due to his worshipping Allaah alone, then his example is the example of a slave belonging to a single man, he is secured exclusively for him and knows of his aims and is acquainted with the way that leads to his happiness. Thus he is at ease from the enmity of associates in regard to him, rather he is completely secure/assured for his master without contention in regard to him, together with the compassion of his master for him and his mercy for him and his solicitude over him as well as his benevolence to him and his assuming responsibility for his matters of welfare.[2]

So are these two slaves equal?

This is from the most emphatic of parables, since the faithfully devoted one to a single master is indeed deserving of his assistance and his benefaction and his consideration for him and of his attending to his well-being – that which is not deserving of by an associate of quarrelsome partners.

الْحَمْدُ لِلَّهِ ۚ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ

((Praise be to Allaah! But most of them do not know.))[3]



(Taken from: At-Tafseer al-Qayyim p.423)



[1] Shaikh Muhammad bin Saalih al-‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said: “Meaning that they are contentious and disagreeing, each of them saying ‘I am his master, I am the one that wants to make use of him,’ and the like of that. So they are always in strife and in dispute, because each of them wants to have him exclusively (to himself) against the other.” (At-Tafseer ath-Thameen vol 8 p.350)

[2] Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said: “The second man is a man who is exclusively secure with respect to a man, secure – meaning: completely secure/assured for this man, he does not associate anyone in regard to him. This man who is secure with respect to a man, is there anyone else that is partners with him in his ownership? No. Is there anyone that contends with him? No. Therefore it is essential that we are aware of the difference between the slave under possession of partners, partners that are quarrelsome, and the salve under possession in which there is no partnership in it. Then upon it we correlate with: the one who is faithfully devoted to Allaah, who worships Allaah alone, and the one who worships others besides Allaah, it is due to this that He said:

هَلْ يَسْتَوِيَانِ مَثَلًا

((Are those two equal in comparison?))


Meaning: are the two men equal; one of them has quarrelsome partners with regard to him whilst the other is exclusively secure with respect to a man, are these two equal? The answer is: No.” (At-Tafseer ath-Thameen vol 8 p.350-351 – with abridgement)

[3] Shaikh ‘Uthaimeen (rahimahullaah) said: “He, The Mighty and Majestic, praises Himself due to the perfectness of His Attributes and the perfectness of His Favours, and from His Favours is; that he puts forth parables for mankind in the Qur’aan so they may be reminded, even though He, The Mighty and Majestic, is not in need of them, whoever disbelieves then indeed Allaah is not in need of the creation – all of them. However His Mercy insists that He makes clear to His servants that which they would be in need of in the affairs of their religion and their worldly affairs, and due to this, He said after this perfect illustration in the parable: Praise be to Allaah.” (At-Tafseer ath-Thameen vol 8 p.351)

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