Answered by Ustadha Shazia Ahmad
In Sura Yasin, verses 8-9, Allah Most High says that he puts shackles on the necks of non-Muslims and puts a barrier in front of them and behind them so that they fail to see the truth. Why does Allah do this? Why does he prevent non-Muslims from joining Islam?
In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
The verses that you mention are translated as follows:
˹It is as if˺ We have put shackles around their necks up to their chins, so their heads are forced up, and have placed a barrier before them and a barrier behind them and covered them ˹all˺ up, so they fail to see ˹the truth.˺ [Quran, 36:8-9]
It says in the Tafsir al-Jalalayn (exegesis) of verse eight:
“Indeed, we have put fetters around their necks to bind their hands because ghull is a fetter that shackles the hands to the neck such that the hands are bound up to the chins. Adhqan is the plural of dhaqan, which is where the two sides of the beard meet so that their heads are upturned they are unable to lower them. This statement is figurative and is meant to indicate their inability to yield to faith or to lower their heads to it.” [Jalal al-Din, Tafsir al-Jalalayn]
And he explains the exegesis for verse nine: “And We have set before them a barrier read saddan or suddan in both instances and behind them a barrier; so We have covered them, so they do not see — this is also figurative depicting how the paths of faith are closed to them.
The story of Abu Jahl
Imam al Baghawi quotes in his tafsir of verse eight of Sura Yasin: “This verse was revealed when Abu Jahl vowed that if he saw the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) praying, he would break his head with a rock. So he came and saw him praying, so he picked up a rock to hit him. But when he raised his hand to his neck to throw it, his arm because paralyzed in that position, and the rock stuck to his hand. He returned to his friends and told them what had happened, and the rock fell from his hand.
Then a man from Bani Makhzum said, “I will kill him with the rock. “So he came to him while praying to hit him with the rock, but Allah Most High blinded him so that he could only hear but not see him. He returned to his friends and couldn’t see them either until they called out to him. “What did you do?” He said, “I couldn’t see him, I could only hear him, and then a camel’s stallion got in my way, swinging its tail. if I had tried to approach him, he made as though he would eat me.” And then Allah revealed the verses, “It is as if we have put shackles around their necks up to their chins, so their heads are forced up.” [Muhammad al-Farra’, Tafseer Baghawi]
Allah Most High does not prevent anyone from becoming Muslim. That is man’s free choice. In the above verses, our Lord explains a parable of the consequences of their choices, not that He prevented them. My teacher taught me that anyone that genuinely searches for the truth and sincerely has an open mind would find it by the grace of Allah.
Please see all the details below about free will and choice, which are excellently explained:
Affirming Free Will and the Divine Decree
How Do I Overcome My Misgivings concerning Divine Decree?
What Is the Nature of Fate?
Do We Have Choice? And Does Allah Prevent That Choice from Being Realized?
May Allah give you the best of this world and the next.
[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqida, fiqh, tajweed, tafsir, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She later moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.