Quranic Reflection No. 514. Ayat 57:13 – The Divide between believers and hypocrites
ضُرِبَ بَيْنَهُم بِسُورٍ لَّهُ بَابٌ بَاطِنُهُ فِيهِ الرَّحْمَةُ وَظَاهِرُهُ مِن قِبَلِهِ الْعَذَابُ
Dhuriba baynahum bisūrin lahu bābun bātinuhu fīhir-rahmatu wazāhiruhu min qibalihil-‘adhāb
Then there will be set up between them a wall with a gate, with mercy within and punishment without.
(Sūrat al-Hadid, No 57, Āyat 13)
When the Quran talks about the believers and the hypocrites on the Day of Judgement, one of the things it brings up is a dividing wall which will be set up between the two groups. When the hypocrites will ask the believers for light, they will be told they can only get it if they can go back to the world as the light is derived from the actions performed in the world. Then, as mentioned in the above verse, a wall is set up between the two groups. The wall has a door in it, with mercy on the inside of the wall and punishment on the outside.
Many questions have been asked about this wall. What exactly is this wall? Why is there a door in it? Who will be on either side of the wall? Imam Muhammad al-Bāqir ‘alayhis-salām was asked about the meaning of this verse. He said: Humanity will face many excruciating pressures on the Day of Judgment. The Almighty will place a wall and fort of darkness in front of them. On the inside of it there will be light and mercy, and on the outside, there will be darkness and punishment. We and our followers will be given a place on the inside, and those who have opposed us will be on the outside (al-Burhān fil-Quran, taken from alketab.org).
The word sūr, used here to denote the wall, was a word used for a fence that would be put up around a city for protection so the inhabitants could live in peace. Believers on the inside of this wall on the Day of Judgment, like the inhabitants of the fenced city, live in undisturbed tranquility. The hypocrites are like aliens, not permitted to enter.
In the world the believers and hypocrites lived together in society but with a great divide between them. The wall in the world was faith and good deeds. The spiritual consciousness of the two groups was quite different and divided them in all matters of life. Faith gave the believers inner peace and tranquility, while the hypocrites lived with restlessness and frustration. Their continuous plotting and evil wishes gave them no respite. Thus, the divide in the world also had peace inside and punishment outside. On the Day of Judgement this divide will take on a material form.
It is interesting to note that there is a door in the wall. Just like in the world, when the hypocrites had interactions with the believers, the ‘door’ to join them was always present. But they chose not to enter and accept faith. What is the purpose of this door on the Day of Judgment? Perhaps it is to facilitate the conversations that will take place between the two groups. The door is a place for people on the outside to witness what is going on inside. It is also possible that the door is an entry for those from outside who may be allowed to enter. These are the people whose spiritual pollution was limited and will be cleansed from it after some time.
Let this verse remind us of the great divide between believers and hypocrites, both in this world and the hereafter. The two groups have completely different worldviews, and the separation exists eternally.
Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma‘ al Bayān; Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh; alketab.org