Consequently, there are several types of people. There are the believers whom the first four Ayat (2:2-5) in Surat Al-Baqarah describe. There are the disbelievers who were described in the next two Ayat. And there are two categories of hypocrites: the complete hypocrites who were mentioned in the parable of the fire, and the hesitant hypocrites, whose light of faith is sometimes lit and sometimes extinguished. The parable of the rain was revealed about this category, which is not as evil as the first category.
This is similar to the parables that were given in Surat An-Nur (chapter 24). Like the example of the believer and the faith that Allah put in his heart, compared to a brightly illuminated lamp, just like a rising star. This is the believer, whose heart is built on faith and receiving its support from the divine legislation that was revealed to it, without any impurities or imperfections, as we will come to know, Allah willing.
Allah gave a parable of the disbelievers who think that they have something, while in reality they have nothing; such people are those who have compounded ignorance. Allah said,
﴿ وَٱلَّذِينَ ڪَفَرُوٓاْ أَعۡمَـٰلُهُمۡ كَسَرَابِۭ بِقِيعَةٍ۬ يَحۡسَبُهُ ٱلظَّمۡـَٔانُ مَآءً حَتَّىٰٓ إِذَا جَآءَهُ ۥ لَمۡ يَجِدۡهُ شَيۡـًٔ۬ا ﴾
(As for those who disbelieved, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert. The thirsty one thinks it to be water, until he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing) (24:39).
Allah then gave the example of ignorant disbelievers, simple in their ignorance. He said;
﴿ أَوۡ كَظُلُمَـٰتٍ۬ فِى بَحۡرٍ۬ لُّجِّىٍّ۬ يَغۡشَٮٰهُ مَوۡجٌ۬ مِّن فَوۡقِهِۦ مَوۡجٌ۬ مِّن فَوۡقِهِۦ سَحَابٌ۬ۚ ظُلُمَـٰتُۢ بَعۡضُہَا فَوۡقَ بَعۡضٍ إِذَآ أَخۡرَجَ يَدَهُ ۥ لَمۡ يَكَدۡ يَرَٮٰهَاۗ وَمَن لَّمۡ يَجۡعَلِ ٱللَّهُ لَهُ ۥ نُورً۬ا فَمَا لَهُ ۥ مِن نُّورٍ ﴾
(Or (the state of a disbeliever) is like the darkness in a vast deep sea, overwhelmed by waves, topped by dark clouds, (layers of) darkness upon darkness: if a man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it! And he for whom Allah has not appointed light, for him there is no light) (24:40).
Therefore, Allah divided the camp of the disbelievers into two groups, advocates and followers. Allah mentioned these two groups in the beginning of Surat Al-Hajj,
﴿ وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يُجَـٰدِلُ فِى ٱللَّهِ بِغَيۡرِ عِلۡمٍ۬ وَيَتَّبِعُ ڪُلَّ شَيۡطَـٰنٍ۬ مَّرِيدٍ۬ ﴾
(And among mankind is he who disputes about Allah, without knowledge, and follows every rebellious (disobedient to Allah) Shaytan (devil) (devoid of every kind of good)) (22:3), and,
﴿ وَمِنَ ٱلنَّاسِ مَن يُجَـٰدِلُ فِى ٱللَّهِ بِغَيۡرِ عِلۡمٍ۬ وَلَا هُدً۬ى وَلَا كِتَـٰبٍ۬ مُّنِيرٍ۬ ﴾
(And among men is he who disputes about Allah, without knowledge or guidance, or a Book giving light (from Allah)) (22:8).
Furthermore, Allah has divided the group of the believers in the beginning of Surat Al-Waqi`ah (56) and at the end. He also divided them in Surat Al-Insan (76) into two groups, the Sabiqun (those who preceded), they are the "near ones" (Muqaribun) and Ashab Al-Yamin (the companions of the right), and they are righteous (Abrar).
In summary, these Ayat divide the believers into two categories, the near ones and righteous. Also, the disbelievers are of two types, advocates and followers. In addition, the hypocrites are divided into two types, pure hypocrites and those who have some hypocrisy in them. The Two Sahihs record that `Abdullah bin `Amr said that the Prophet said,
« ثَلَاثٌ مَنْ كُنَّ فِيهِ كَانَ مُنَافِقًا خَالِصًا، وَمَنْ كَانَتْ فِيهِ وَاحِدَةٌ مِنْهُنَّ كَانَتْ فِيهِ خَصْلَةٌ مِنَ النِّفَاقِ حَتَّى يَدَعَهَا: مَنْ إِذَا حَدَّثَ كَذَبَ، وَإِذَا وَعَدَ أَخْلَفَ، وَإِذَا ائْتُمِنَ خَان »
(Whoever has the following three (characteristics) will be a pure hypocrite, and whoever has one of the following three characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy, unless and until he gives it up. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie. Whenever he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous. Whenever he is entrusted, he breaches the trust)Hence, man might have both a part of faith and a part of hypocrisy, whether in deed, as this Hadith stipulates, or in the creed, as the Ayah (2:20) stipulates.
Imam Ahmad recorded Abu Sa`id saying that the Messenger of Allah said
« الْقُلُوبُ أَرْبَعَةٌ: قَلْبٌ أَجْرَدُ فِيهِ مِثْلُ السِّرَاجِ يَزْهَرُ وَقَلْبٌ أَغْلَفُ مَرْبُوطٌ عَلى غِلَافِهِ وَقَلْبٌ مَنْكُوسٌ وَقَلْبٌ مُصْفَحٌ، فَأَمَّا الْقَلْبُ الْأَجْرَدُ فَقَلْبُ الْمُؤْمِنِ فَسِرَاجُهُ فِيهِ نُورُهُ، وَأَمَّا الْقَلْبُ الْأَغْلَفُ فَقَلْبُ الْكَافِرِ، وَأَمَّا الْقَلْبُ الْمَنْكُوسُ فَقَلْبُ الْمُنَافِقِ الْخَالِصِ عَرَفَ ثُمَّ أَنْكَرَ وَأَمَّا الْقَلْبُ الْمُصْفَحُ فَقَلْبٌ فِيهِ إيمَانٌ وَنِفَاقٌ وَمَثَلُ الْإيمَانِ فِيهِ كَمَثَلِ الْبَقْلَةِ يَمُدُّهَا الْمَاءُ الطَّيِّبُ وَمَثَلُ النِّفَاقِ فِيهِ كَمَثَلِ الْقُرْحَةِ يَمُدُّهَا الْقَيْحُ وَالدَّمُ فَأَيُّ الْمَادَّتَيْنِ غَلَبَتْ عَلَى الْأُخْرَى غَلَبَتْ عَلَيْه »
(The hearts are four (types): polished as shiny as the radiating lamp, a sealed heart with a knot tied around its seal, a heart that is turned upside down and a wrapped heart. As for the polished heart, it is the heart of the believer and the lamp is the light of faith. The sealed heart is the heart of the disbeliever. The heart that is turned upside down is the heart of the pure hypocrite, because he had knowledge but denied it. As for the wrapped heart, it is a heart that contains belief and hypocrisy. The example of faith in this heart, is the example of the herb that is sustained by pure water. The example of hypocrisy in it, is the example of an ulcer that thrives on puss and blood. Whichever of the two substances has the upper hand, it will have the upper hand on that heart). This Hadith has a Jayid Hasan (good) chain of narration.
﴿ وَلَوۡ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمۡعِهِمۡ وَأَبۡصَـٰرِهِمۡۚ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدِيرٌ۬ ﴾
(And if Allah willed, He would have taken away their hearing and their sight. Certainly, Allah has power over all things). Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas commented on Allah's statement,
﴿ وَلَوۡ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَذَهَبَ بِسَمۡعِهِمۡ وَأَبۡصَـٰرِهِمۡۚ ﴾
(And if Allah willed, He would have taken away their hearing and their sight), "Because they abandoned the truth after they had knowledge in it.''
﴿ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدِيرٌ۬ ﴾
(Certainly, Allah has power over all things). Ibn `Abbas said, "Allah is able to punish or pardon His servants as He wills.'' Ibn Jarir commented, "Allah only described Himself with the ability to do everything in this Ayah as a warning to the hypocrites of His control over everything, and to inform them that His ability completely encompasses them and that He is able to take away their hearing and sight.''
Ibn Jarir and several other scholars of Tafsir stated that these two parables are about the same kind of hypocrite. So the `or' mentioned in,
﴿ أَوۡ كَصَيِّبٍ۬ مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ ﴾
(Or like a rainstorm from the sky) means `and', just as the Ayah,
﴿ وَلَا تُطِعۡ مِنۡہُمۡ ءَاثِمًا أَوۡ كَفُورً۬ا ﴾
(And obey neither a sinner or a disbeliever among them). Therefore, `or' in the Ayah includes a choice of using either example for the hypocrites. Also, Al-Qurtubi said that `or' means, "To show compatibility of the two choices, just as when one says, `Sit with Al-Hasan or Ibn Sirin.' According to the view of Az-Zamakhshari, `so it means each of these persons is the same as the other, so you may sit with either one of them.' The meaning of `or' thus becomes `either.' Allah gave these two examples of the hypocrites, because they both perfectly describe them.''
I (Ibn Kathir) say, these descriptions are related to the type of hypocrite, because there is a difference between them as we stated. For instance, Allah mentioned these types in Surat Bara'ah (chapter 9) when He repeated the statement, "And among them'' three times, describing their types, characteristics, statements and deeds. So the two examples mentioned here describe two types of hypocrites whose characteristics are similar. For instance, Allah gave two examples in Surat An-Nur, one for the advocates of disbelief and one for the followers of disbelief, He said,
﴿ وَٱلَّذِينَ ڪَفَرُوٓاْ أَعۡمَـٰلُهُمۡ كَسَرَابِۭ بِقِيعَةٍ۬ ﴾
(As for those who disbelieved, their deeds are like a mirage in a desert) (24:39), until,
﴿ أَوۡ كَظُلُمَـٰتٍ۬ فِى بَحۡرٍ۬ لُّجِّىٍّ۬ ﴾
(Or (the state of a disbeliever) is like the darkness in a vast deep sea) (24:40).
The first example is of the advocates of disbelief who have complex ignorance, while the second is about the followers who have simple ignorance. Allah knows best.
﴿ يَـٰٓأَيُّہَا ٱلنَّاسُ ٱعۡبُدُواْ رَبَّكُمُ ٱلَّذِى خَلَقَكُمۡ وَٱلَّذِينَ مِن قَبۡلِكُمۡ لَعَلَّكُمۡ تَتَّقُونَ • ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَ لَكُمُ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ فِرَٲشً۬ا وَٱلسَّمَآءَ بِنَآءً۬ وَأَنزَلَ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مَآءً۬ فَأَخۡرَجَ بِهِۦ مِنَ ٱلثَّمَرَٲتِ رِزۡقً۬ا لَّكُمۡۖ فَلَا تَجۡعَلُواْ لِلَّهِ أَندَادً۬ا وَأَنتُمۡ تَعۡلَمُونَ ﴾