In the following translations, the bold section confuses me, for they do not sound the same:

Sahih International: Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah ? Then will you not be reminded?

Yusuf Ali: Then seest thou such a one as takes as his god his own vain desire? Allah has, knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart (and understanding), and put a cover on his sight. Who, then, will guide him after Allah (has withdrawn Guidance)? Will ye not then receive admonition?

Shakir: Have you then considered him who takes his low desire for his god, and Allah has made him err having knowledge and has set a seal upon his ear and his heart and put a covering upon his eye. Who can then guide him after Allah? Will you not then be mindful?

Muhammad Sarwar: Have you seen the one who has chosen his desires as his lord? God has knowingly caused him to go astray, sealed his ears and heart and veiled his vision. Who besides God can guide him? Will they, then, not take heed?

Mohsin Khan: Have you seen him who takes his own lust (vain desires) as his ilah (god), and Allah knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. Who then will guide him after Allah? Will you not then remember?

(See for example here)

The translations, as given, do not make complete sense, neither do they agree with each other. (And it is not just a minor variation. For example the Sahih International translation where it says due to knowledge means nothing at all!) One Turkish translation I came across made complete sense but I did not see it elsewhere, where the relevant section was translated as: Allah let him go astray [because he chose to go astray with his free will despite his knowledge and the fitrah inside of him] ...

Can someone shed more light?


1 Answer 1


To simplify let us look at that specific part of the verse alone with a simple word by word translation:

وَأَضَلَّهُ ٱللَّهُ عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ

And Allah caused him to go astray upon knowledge

The question is whether the "upon knowledge" describes "Allah" or describes "him." So, the two options are:

And Allah with Allah's knowledge caused him to go astray.

And Allah caused the disbeliever to go astray while the disbeliever is with knowledge.

Describes Allah

Imam At-Tabari says:

يقول تعالى ذكره: وخذله عن محجة الطريق، وسبيل الرشاد في سابق علمه على علم منه بأنه لا يهتدي، ولو جاءته كل آية.

Allah says: And He refrained from helping him to the correct course and the path of guidance in His pre-existing knowledge about him that he would not be guided even if every sign came to him. (Tafsir At-Tabari 93/21)

Then, he quotes a narration from Ibn Abbas with this interpretation:

عن ابن عباس ﴿وَأَضَلَّهُ اللَّهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ﴾ يقول: أضله الله في سابق علمه.

Ibn Abbas said (on) {And Allah caused him to go astray upon knowledge}: Allah caused him to go astray in His pre-existing knowledge. (Tafsir At-Tabari 93/21)

An-Nahhas in his Ma'aani Al-Quran says:

رُوي عن ابن عباس أنه قال: ﴿عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ﴾ قد عَلِمَه عنده.

It is narrated from Ibn Abbas that he said: {upon knowledge} which He already knew from before. (Ma'aani Al-Quran 437/6)

Here, the meaning is that Allah caused him to go astray knowing that the man would not accept guidance.

Describes "him"

An-Nahhas also adds:

وقيل: ﴿عَلَىٰ عِلْمٍ﴾ أنه لا ينفعه، ولا يضرُّه.

And it is said: {upon knowledge} that it (his gods or desires) will neither benefit nor harm him. (Ma'aani Al-Quran 437/6)

In this interpretation, the verse means that the man was already given knowledge about the falsehood of his beliefs but he suppressed or ignored it.


It seems the first is a more popular interpretation which is why the translations you quoted use it more. However, in my opinion, the double meaning is intended.

Imam Qurtubi says:

ثُمَّ قِيلَ: "عَلى عِلْمٍ" يَجُوزُ أَنْ يَكُونَ حَالًا مِنَ الْفَاعِلِ، الْمَعْنَى: أَضَلَّهُ عَلَى عِلْمٍ مِنْهُ بِهِ، أَيْ أَضَلَّهُ عَالِمًا بِأَنَّهُ مِنْ أَهْلِ الضَّلَالِ فِي سَابِقِ عِلْمِهِ. وَيَجُوزُ أَنْ يَكُونَ حَالًا مِنَ الْمَفْعُولِ، فَيَكُونُ الْمَعْنَى: أَضَلَّهُ فِي حَالِ عِلْمِ الْكَافِرِ بِأَنَّهُ ضَالٌّ.

Then, it is said: "upon knowledge" can be a description of the subject, the meaning: He led him astray upon the knowledge of His about him i.e. He led him astray knowing that he is from the people of misguidance in His pre-existing knowledge.

And it can be a description of the object, so the meaning would be: He led him astray in the state that the Kafir knows that he is astray. (Tafsir Qurtubi 169/16)

Both meanings are in essence true. Allah knows everything (which I don't need to prove). And people are misguided after knowledge comes to them. Allah says:

And We gave them clear proofs of the matter [of religion]. And they did not differ except after knowledge had come to them - out of jealous animosity between themselves. Indeed, your Lord will judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that over which they used to differ. (45:17)

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