يُجَادِلُونَ فِي آيَاتِ اللَّـهِ بِغَيْرِ سُلْطَانٍ أَتَاهُمْ ۖ كَبُرَ مَقْتًا عِندَ اللَّـهِ وَعِندَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا
Yujādilūna fī āyāti-llāhi bighayri sultānin atāhum, kabura maqtan ‘indallāhi wa-‘indalladhīna āmanū
Those who dispute the signs of Allah without any authority that may have come to them— [that is] greatly outrageous to Allah and to those who have faith.
(Sūrat al-Ghāfir, No 40, Āyat 35)
The message of this verse is that the action of those who argue against God and His signs with no logical proof or sound reasoning is appalling to God and His true servants. The arguers wish to falsify the signs without having any clear proof of its falsity. They have no proof or authority that has been given to them to do that. Rather it comes from a choice they make not only to reject the signs but also to argue against them.
The word ‘maqtan’ signifies a loathsome act and is mentioned twice by itself – without an adjective – in the Quran:
• Do not marry any of the women whom your fathers had married, excluding what is already past. That is indeed an indecency, an outrage and an evil course (Q 4:22).
• The unfaith of the faithless does not increase them with their Lord [in anything] except disfavor (Q 35:39).
The words ‘kabura maqtan’ emphasizing the evilness of the outrageous act, are mentioned twice in the Quran:
• In the above verse, i.e. Q 40:35
• O you who have faith! Why do you say what you do not do? It is greatly outrageous to Allah that you should say what you do not do. (Q 61:2-3)
The action described in the verse above is greatly outrageous due to many reasons. Arguing baselesly against the signs of God is a rebellion against God. It is an indicator of internal veils that have covered the true nature of the human being. The stubborn arguments lead to even more misguidance for the arguers themselves and their chances of getting guidance become slim. It also spreads to others in society. People listen to them and become affected. The arguers will also try hard to convince others and justify their stance. They will spread their distorted thinking in society and disguise it as logic, freedom, intelligence. They seek to extinguish the light of truth on earth and establish falsehood. Thus, the consequences of their arguments can have wide repercussions for society.
The mention of the believers also reacting with outrage to the false arguments shows the qualities of true believers. They are not indifferent to how others react to God and His signs. Those who purposely reject God and seek to make fake arguments for their rejection spark outrage in the hearts of believers. This part of the verse is a praise of believers for it links their response to God’s response.
This verse is part of a passage that talks about Mu’min of Āli Fir‘awn, also known as Hizqīl who spoke up, when Fir‘awn planned to kill Prophet Mūsā (a). He argues against it and tries to dissuade Fir‘awn from that evil act. Mentioning the believers’ anger in this verse could be a message to the people of Fir‘awn that their baseless arguments would incite the supporters of Prophet Mūsā and turn them against them.
Let this verse remind you of how believers react to the false and illogical arguments of those who reject God. We cannot be indifferent to it and must regard it as outrageous. This strong reaction will garner counter strategies and reduce its spread in society.
Sources: ‘Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr