مَثَلُهُمْ كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي اسْتَوْقَدَ نَارًاۚ فَلَمَّا أَضَۤاءَتْ مَا حَوْلَهُ ذَهَبَ اللّٰهُ بِنُورِهِمْ وَتَرَكَهُمْ ف۪ي ظُلُمَاتٍ لَا يُبْصِرُونَ
“They are like him who (while traveling with company in the desert, halted for the night and) kindled a fire (for light and warmth and protection). However, when the fire had just lit all around him (and the company had become comfortable but were not properly appreciative of the fire and failed to guard it against wind, the fire was extinguished. Thus) God took away their light and left them in darkness, unseeing.” (Al-Baqarah 2:17)
This verse vividly illustrates the inner world of the hypocrites in a simile comparing it to the state of those unappreciative of the light in the darkness of the night. The hypocrites of the early years of Islam coexisted with Muslims; thus they could occasionally glimpse the light of faith, at least out of the corner of their eyes. Nevertheless, the dissent in their hearts and minds did not allow them to be adequately nourished from this light.
These hypocrites looked but could not see the torch in the hand of the blessed Prophet, for either their frivolous gaze undermined and dimmed the light, or deceit dulled their natural disposition and aptitudes. On the outside they appeared to be looking, but in the face of the dazzling light of the torch, instead of intensifying their focus to see, with doubts and suspi-cions they neutralized the dynamism that was activated in their soul, ren-dering it completely inefficient. Furthermore, far from making use of the light to be able to progress on their path, they conceived of plans as to how they could start a fire out of it; the word “kindle” in the verse seems to refer to both of these interpretations.
Unbelievers, on the other hand, had not been acquainted with faith and its illuminating lights. They had never experienced its enchanting and blissful atmosphere. This is why once unbelievers had felt the light of faith, they would never abandon it, and they strove to maintain a life of sincere devotion. This is because there is a black-and-white difference between disbelief and belief. For the unbelievers, it was like waking up to a new life and leaving behind another that was totally different, and they could observe Islam with all its charm. Even the comparison of the Muslims who are born and live in Muslim lands with those who embrace Islam later in life would reveal this reality.