In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah [The Most High] said:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا اسْتَجِيبُوا لِلَّهِ وَلِلرَّسُولِ إِذَا دَعَاكُمْ لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ ۖ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحُولُ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَأَنَّهُ إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ
O you who believe! Answer Allaah (by obeying Him) and (His) Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life, and know that Allaah comes in between a person and his heart (i.e. He prevents an evil person to decide anything). And verily to Him you shall (all) be gathered. [8:24]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [rahimahullaah] said:
This Aayah comprises of some affairs: One of them is that a beneficial life is only attained through obedience to Allaah and His Messenger; so whoever does not submit to this call [of Allaah and His Messenger] will have no life [i.e. a rightly guided heart], even though he has life similar to that of the most despicable animals [i.e. only follows desires etc].
Therefore, real and good life is the life of that one who answers the call of Allaah and His Messenger- outwardly and inwardly. They are those who are alive [with Eemaan in this life], or even if they have passed away [i.e. died but their good deeds remain and others follow them]. As for others besides them, they are dead [i.e. heedless hearts], even if their bodies are alive.
And this is why the one with the most perfect life amongst the people is the one with the most perfect response to the call of the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] because there is life in everything he calls to [i.e. upright guidance]; therefore, whoever missed a portion of it, he will miss a portion of life [i.e. upright guidance] and there is life [i.e. upright guidance for the person] in accordance with his response to the (call) of the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam].
Mujaahid [rahimahullaah] stated [regarding the statement of Allaah]: [لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ -To that which will give you life] – meaning, the truth.
Qataadah [rahimahullaah] stated [regarding the statement of Allaah]: [لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ -To that which will give you life]- meaning, this Qur’aan in which is life [i.e. upright guidance], safety and protection in the life of this world and the hereafter.
As-Sadee [rahimahullaah] stated [regarding the statement of Allaah]: [لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ -To that which will give you life]- meaning, Islaam, and they were given life [i.e. upright guidance] by way of it after been dead [i.e. completely misguided] by way of disbelief.
Ibn Ishaaq [rahimahullaah] said: Urwa Bin Zubayr [rahimahullaah] stated [regarding the statement of Allaah]: [لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ -To that which will give you life], meaning, by way of Jihaad- through which Allaah gave you might after being subdued, made you powerful after being weak and protected you against your enemy after being over powered by them. [Jihaad in our times:https://www.abukhadeejah.com/salafi-shaikh-fawzaan-on-jihaad-in-our-times-and-the-guidelines-of-jihaad-according-to-islam/ ]
All these interpretations are of a singular reality, and that is to fulfil that which the Messenger [sallal laahu alayhi wasallam] came with- outwardly [i.e. deeds limbs] and inwardly [i.e. deeds of the heart].
Al-Farraa’i [rahimahullaah] said: “If you are called to that which gives life”: meaning when you are commanded to perform Jihaad against your enemy. He intends by this that the believers become strong through Jihaad, and if they were to abandon Jihaad their authority will become weak and their enemy will gain advantage over them. [Jihaad in our times: https://www.abukhadeejah.com/salafi-shaikh-fawzaan-on-jihaad-in-our-times-and-the-guidelines-of-jihaad-according-to-islam/ ]
Jihaad is one of the greatest of affairs by way of which they [i.e. true believers] are given life in the Dunyaa [i.e. establish and follow the upright religion], in the Barsakh [i.e. a life of bliss in the grave] and in the Aakhirah [i.e. a life of bliss in the afterlife].
As for in the Dunyah, their power and domination over their enemy is by way of Jihaad. [Jihaad in our times: https://www.abukhadeejah.com/salafi-shaikh-fawzaan-on-jihaad-in-our-times-and-the-guidelines-of-jihaad-according-to-islam/ ]
And regarding the Barsakh, Allaah stated:
وَلاَ تَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ قُتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ أَمْوَاتًا بَلْ أَحْيَاءٌ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِمْ يُرْزَقُونَ
Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allaah as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision.[3:169]
As for in the Aakhirah, then indeed the share of the Mujaahideen and Shuhadaa with regards to life and bliss would be greater than that of others besides them. And for that reason Ibn Qutaibah [rahimahullaah] said regarding the statement of Allaah:
[لِمَا يُحْيِيكُمْ -To that which will give you life] means Martyrdom. And some of the Mufassiroon said that it means Paradise because it is the abode of the eternal good life [i.e. life without any difficult, pain, toil etc].
So the Aayah includes all these affairs because Imaan, Islaam, the Qur’aan and Jihaad gives the hearts a good life [i.e. upright guidance] and a perfect life in Paradise, and the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] is a caller to Imaan and Paradise; so he is a caller to life in the life of this world and the hereafter.
The life of the body: It enables the person to be conscious of what benefits and harm, so he chooses that which benefits over what harms him. When deprived of this, he is affected by pain and weakness. And due to this, the life of the sick person, the grief stricken, the one afflicted with anxiety, distress, fear, poverty and humiliation is inferior to the life of the one protected from that.
The life of his heart and soul: It enables the person to distinguish between truth and falsehood, between going stray and being led aright, so he chooses the truth and not its opposite. This life benefits him with the strength to distinguish between benefit and harm in affairs of knowledge, intent and action. It benefits him with strength of Imaan, intent, love for the truth and the strength to abhor falsehood. Therefore, self-consciousness, discernment, love and aversion is [judged in accordance with] what one possesses of this life [of the heart and soul], just as the [state] of the body that is alive is [judged in accordance with] its self-consciousness and perception of what is of benefit and what brings about pain- its inclination towards what benefits and aversion towards that which causes pain is greater.
Therefore, [the first affair] is regarding the life of the body and the [other one] is about the life of the heart. The discernment of the heart ceases when the life of the heart [i.e. upright guidance] ceases. And even if it possesses an aspect of discernment, it will not have the strength by way of which it chooses what benefits over harm [i.e. in an upright manner]. And just as the human being cannot have life [i.e. physically] until the Angel blows the soul into him – because prior to this one was lifeless; likewise is the life of his soul and heart until the Messenger [sallal-laahu-alayhi-wasallam] conveys to him the revelation.
Allaah said: [ يُنَزِّلُ الْمَلاَئِكَةَ بِالرُّوحِ مِنْ أَمْرِهِ عَلَى مَنْ يَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ – He [Allaah] sends down the angels with [Rooh (i.e. revelation)] of His Command to whom of His slaves He pleases (i.e. the chosen Messengers)]. [16:2]
Allaah said: [ وَكَذَلِكَ أَوْحَيْنَا إِلَيْكَ رُوحًا مِنْ أَمْرِنَا مَا كُنْتَ تَدْرِي مَا الْكِتَابُ وَلاَ الإِيمَانُ وَلَكِنْ جَعَلْنَاهُ نُورًا نَهْدِي بِهِ مَنْ نَشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِنَا – And thus We have sent to you (O Muhammad) Roohan (an Inspiration, and a Mercy) of Our Command. You knew not what is the Book, nor what is Faith? But We have made it (this Qur’aan) a light wherewith We guide whosoever of Our slaves We will].[42:52]
Therefore, life [i.e. physical life] is made possible through the angel sent by Allaah to blow the soul into a person and [life of the heart through upright guidance is made possible through] the advent of the human Messenger. So, whoever receives the Rooh [i.e. the physical soul] brought by the Angel Messenger and the Rooh [i.e. revelation conveyed by the human Messenger] will receive two types of life. The one who receives the Rooh [physical soul], but not the [Rooh – revelation conveyed the human Messenger], he will receive one type of life and will miss the other. Allaah said: [أَوَمَنْ كَانَ مَيْتًا فَأَحْيَيْنَاهُ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ كَمَنْ مَثَلُهُ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ لَيْسَ بِخَارِجٍ مِنْهَا – Is he who was dead and We gave him life and set for him a light whereby he can walk amongst men, like him who is in the darkness from which he can never come out?] [6:122]
Therefore, he is given both light and life, just as the one who turns away from the [Book of Allaah] receives both death [i.e. a misguided heart] and darkness [i.e. misguidance]. Ibn Abbaas [radiyallaahu-anhu] and all the Mufassiroon said: Such a one [i.e. the one who is guided] used to be an unbeliever, so Allaah guided him.
And regarding the statement of Allaah: [وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ – And set for him a light whereby he can walk amongst men]. This includes a number of affairs: One of them is that he walks amongst the people with light, whilst the people are in darkness; so his example and theirs is like that of a people who got lost during nightfall and they could not find their way, whilst he had light whereby he could walk in the road, and whereby he could see as well as see what he is to be cautious of. The second affair is that he walks amongst them with his light, so they borrow from it due to their need of it. The third affair is that he walks with his light on the day of judgement on the bridge of As-siraat, whilst the people of Shirk and Nifaaq remain in the darkness of their Shirk and Nifaaq.
And regarding the statement of Allaah: [وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ يَحُولُ بَيْنَ الْمَرْءِ وَقَلْبِهِ وَأَنَّهُ إِلَيْهِ تُحْشَرُونَ – And know that Allaah comes in between a person and his heart (i.e. He prevents an evil person to decide anything). And verily to Him you shall (all) be gathered].
The First Explanation Regarding This Above Aayah: It is well known that Allaah is the one who intervenes between the believer and disbelief, and between the disbeliever and Eemaan, between the people of obedience and their disobedience to Him, and between the people of disobedience and their obedience to Him. This is the saying of Ibn Abbaas and that of the majority of the Mufassiroon.
The Second Explanation is that Allaah is close to the heart of the human [by His knowledge] and no secret is hidden from Him. This was mentioned by Al-Waahidiy from Qataadah. And it appears that this statement [reported from Qataadah] is more in conformity with the context [of the Ayah (i.e. ‘And know that Allaah comes in between a person and his heart]; because the basis of this Istijaabah [i.e. responding to the call of Allaah and His Messenger] is by way of the heart. A bodily response is of no benefit without the response of the heart; because Allaah comes between a person and his heart and knows whether the person has responded to Him with his heart or hides the opposite of that.
And concerning the first saying [i.e. the saying of Ibn Abbaas and the majority of the Mufassiroon], it is with regards to the fact that if you turn away from [responding to the call of Allaah and His Messenger], you will not be safe and thus Allaah comes between you and your hearts as a punishment for abandoning [this response] after the truth had been explained and made clear. So, you will be like what (has been mentioned) in the statement of Allaah: [ وَنُقَلِّبُ أَفْئِدَتَهُمْ وَأَبْصَارَهُمْ كَمَا لَمْ يُؤْمِنُوا بِهِ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ – And We shall turn their hearts and their eyes away (from guidance), as they refused to believe therein for the first time]. [6:110]
And Allaah said: [فَلَمَّا زَاغُوا أَزَاغَ اللَّهُ قُلُوبَهُمْ – So when they turned away (from the Path of Allaah), Allaah turned their hearts away (from the Right Path)].[61:5] And Allaah said: [فَمَا كَانُوا لِيُؤْمِنُوا بِمَا كَذَّبُوا مِنْ قَبْلُ – But they were not such as to believe in that which they had rejected before].[7:101] This ayah is a warning against [failing to respond] with the heart even if response had been made by way of the limbs.
[Source: Al-Fawaa’id. Pages 140-144.slightly paraphrased]