وَلَوْ عَلِمَ اللَّهُ فِيهِمْ خَيْرًا لَأَسْمَعَهُمْ
Walaw ‘alimallāhu fīhim khayran la-asma‘ahum
Had Allah known any good in them, He would have surely made them hear
(Sūrat al-Anfāl, No 8, Āyat 23)
In this verse Allah ‘azza wajall tells us that if there is some good in a person, He helps the person to understand the truth when he hears it. When there is potential and capacity for growth Almighty Allah facilitates it. It could be compared to a person who invites people to his home. Those who he knows are inclined to accept could receive an invitation with details and a personal encouragement to attend. He would not do the same for those he knows are not going to accept his invitation. He would not go the extra mile in his invitation for them.
One of the ways of guidance is helping those who are ready to listen and understand, those who wish to know the truth and will act upon it. Such people deserve extra assistance. This is the tawfīq (Divine help and success) that is granted to deserving people by God. He enables them to open the ears of their hearts and listen to understand and follow. It is a special grace of God given only to those who are worthy of it. Amirul Mu’minīn Imam Ali bin Abī Tālib alayhis salām said: Knowledge does not benefit without tawfīq, i.e. divinely granted success (Ghurar, H. 7020). He (a) also said: striving is useless without tawfīq (Ibid, H. 1235).
According to some traditions the cause of revelation of this verse was when a group of the idol worshippers came to the Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam and said that if he could raise one of their elders Qusay bin Kilāb from the dead, and the man gave witness to the truth of the Prophet’s mission, they would believe in him. This verse was then revealed, showing that if they really meant what they said God would have allowed that to happen. But they only made false claims to justify their rejection of the truth.
To really listen to the truth and respond to it requires a certain purity of heart. Not all people have that purity and thus remain deprived of the chance to listen. Listening and responding to the truth can be of different types:
• Those who do not want to listen and stop others from listening too. The Quran says: And those who disbelieve say: Do not listen to this Quran and make noise therein, perhaps you may prevail (Q 41:26).
• Those who listen but have no intention of acting upon what they hear. Such hypocrites are described in the Quran: And there are those of them who seek to listen to you, until when they go forth from you, they say to those who have been given the knowledge: What was it that he said just now? These are they upon whose hearts Allah has set a seal and they follow their low desires (Q 47:16)
• Those who listen but are unable to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Their inner capacity to see and hear has been sealed. The Quran says: The parable of the faithless is that of someone who shouts after that which does not hear [anything] except a call and cry: deaf, dumb, and blind, they do not exercise their reason (Q 2:171).
Believers strive to keep purity alive in themselves. That way they can receive the grace of God that allows them to listen and respond to the truth. Let this verse remind you of the help of God that comes when there is good within.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; http://www.alketab.org; https://hadith.academyofislam.