Quranic Reflection No. 556. Ayat 7:58 – Level of receptivity

وَالْبَلَدُ الطَّيِّبُ يَخْرُجُ نَبَاتُهُ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِ وَالَّذِي خَبُثَ لَا يَخْرُجُ إِلَّا نَكِدًا

كَذَٰلِكَ نُصَرِّفُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَشْكُرُونَ ۚ

Walbaladut-tayyibu yakhruju nabātuhu bi-idhni rabbihi walladhī khabutha lā yakhruju

illā nakidā; kadhālika nusarriful-āyāti liqawmin yashkurūn.

The good land—its vegetation comes out by the permission of its Lord, and as for the bad – it does
not come out except sparsely. Thus, do We explain the signs variously for a people who give thanks.

(Sūrat al-A‘rāf , No 7, Āyat 58).

This verse explains the fact that when rain falls on the earth, each land responds
according to its own characteristics. The land that is soft and clean will produce
abundant foliage. But the land that is hardened will produce very little or no growth.
This verse outlines an important principle that is manifested everywhere, in this world
as well as in the hereafter. The action of the doer is not sufficient in bringing a matter
to fruition. The potential and acceptance of the receiver is also required. Drops of rain
have amazing life-giving properties.  In one place it can give rise to lush vegetation
and beautiful flowers. In another place all it can produce is weeds and sparse plants.
Land that is tayyib is clean, pure, and fertile. Khabutha means it is or has become dirty
and polluted.  Nakida refers to a person who is miserly and does not like to give to
others. Even when he gives, it is something that is of very little value. The
unproductive lands have been analogized in the above verse to such a person. 
Agha Muhsin Qarā’atī in Tafsīr Nūr says that when looking at this verse from a wider
perspective, the example of the pure land that produces good foliage can be applied to
a pure family. It produces worthy individuals. He also says that when verses of Quran
are recited, pure hearts will overflow with faith and there will be awareness, love and
understanding. But hardened hearts, like the bad land, will produce very little emotion
at hearing the same verses. 
The Prophet sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam has said: My being raised with knowledge and
guidance is just like the rain that is absorbed by some parts of the land and rejected by some. Some
people will take in the teachings and become knowledgeable and wise. Others will not accept the
guidance and will be deprived of the honour in it. (Hadith quoted in Tafsīr Nūr part of which
is also found Muniyah al-Murīd, p. 102). Thus, the verse shows the difference between
a believer and one who rejects faith. The Almighty has sent inner and outer guidance

for all. One who follows the truth, like the good land, will grow towards perfection.
One who remains stubborn and resistant is like the land that is bad and will not
benefit from the truth. It will only bring loss for him. 
Note that the words ‘by the permission on its Lord’ shows that although there is a
system established in nature, it takes place under the supervision and control of the
Almighty. Allah ‘azza wajall has allowed such a system to be in place, and He can
withhold it if He wishes so. 
Essentially land has the inherent quality that makes it receptive to water and it absorbs
rain naturally. The hardened land is incidental. Evidence of this in the above verse is
that the good land is described with an adjective al-balad al-tayyib – the good land –
while the land that is bad is described with a verb khabutha, meaning to come bad. An
adjective describes an existing state while a verb describes an occurrence.
The use of examples is one way which Allah employs to explain His signs, so people
understand the truth. People who are grateful will incline towards them and
understand them. They will realize the value of guidance and receptivity and will be
thankful for those blessings. 
Let this verse be a reminder of the purity necessary to absorb God’s words. The
struggle to stay away from spiritual pollution is so the heart does not become
hardened like the bad land. It is an important struggle in the attempt to achieve
closeness to Allah.
Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh
Agha Muhsinn Qarā’atī, Tafsīr Nūr; Ustādh Abul Fadhl Bahrampour, Tafsīr yek jild
Mubīn, and Lughat Nāmaye Tafsīrī; http://www.alketab.org/