Bismillāh. 30 September 2022/3 Rabī‘ al-Awwal, 1444
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وَلَئِنْ أَذَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِنَّا رَحْمَةً ثُمَّ نَزَعْنَاهَا مِنْهُ إِنَّهُ لَيَئُوسٌ كَفُورٌ
Wala-in adhaqnal-insāna minnā rahmatan thumma naza‘nāhā minhu innahu laya’ūsun kafūr.
And if We give man a taste of mercy from Us and then We withdraw it from him, indeed, he is despairing and ungrateful.
(Sūrat Hūd, No 11, Āyat 9)
When the Almighty grants a human being a blessing of this world, it is just a glimpse of what real blessings are. The blessings and mercy of the Hereafter are the real ones. What is given in this world is a tiny part of it. The above verse tells us that human beings are given a ‘taste’ of mercy. When someone wants to find out what something is like, they taste it first. Just a small part is tried to understand what the rest would be like. Tasting is quick and fleeting and is a harbinger of what is to come. Pleasures of this world are exactly like that, a taste of what lasting pleasures will be like in the Hereafter. Allah ‘azza wajall says: O my people, this worldly life is only [temporary] enjoyment, and indeed, the Hereafter – that is the home of [permanent] settlement (Q 40:39).
The verse talks about a taste of mercy rather than a taste of blessings. That is because every blessing is a mercy from Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā. It fulfills a need of the recipient and is granted even though the person is not deserving of it.
When human beings lose a blessing that was given to them, they despair and become ungrateful. They despair because they lose hope and do not think it is possible for them to get that blessing again. To lose hope and despair of the mercy of Allah (swt) is a major sin. Sayyid Dastghayb Shīrāzī says in his book Greater Sins: ‘Despair is a form of hidden disbelief. It is the result of ignorance about the greatness of one’s Lord. Giving in to despair is equivalent to disbelieving in one’s Lord which is a Greater Sin. One should therefore be extremely cautious and guard against putting oneself in such a woeful state. The noble Quran explains this in the verse: Surely none despairs of Allah’s Mercy except the unbelieving people. (Q 12:87)’.
A person who loses a blessing also becomes ungrateful. They only think about what has been lost and don’t see the mercy behind being given it in the first place. It is almost as if they feel they have the right to it, and it was unjustly taken away from them. They don’t see Allah as the Owner of the blessing, who gives and takes as He pleases.
This verse reveals a weakness of the human being. He is low in tolerance, impatient and reacts strongly to losing something he had enjoyed for a while. It brings out the unrighteous qualities of despair and ingratitude. Only those who nurture and discipline their souls can overcome this weakness. The human soul needs to understand that being granted blessings or losing blessings are both tests in this world. They are not always a sign of Allah’s pleasure or displeasure. Each is meant to nurture potential in the human being to achieve purity and perfection. Thus, each must be accepted without too much emotional reaction.
This verse is a reminder when we undergo loss of any type. It must not bring out despair and ingratitude in us. The blessing itself was just to taste what it will be like to receive lasting mercy of Allah (swt).
Sources: Allāmah Muhammad Husayn Tabātabā’ī, Tafsīr al-Mīzān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh.