In The Name of Allaah, The Most Merciful, The Bestower of Mercy.
Allaah [The Most High] said:
وَٱتۡلُ عَلَيۡهِمۡ نَبَأَ ٱلَّذِىٓ ءَاتَيۡنَـٰهُ ءَايَـٰتِنَا فَٱنسَلَخَ مِنۡهَا فَأَتۡبَعَهُ ٱلشَّيۡطَـٰنُ فَكَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡغَاوِينَ
وَلَوۡ شِئۡنَا لَرَفَعۡنَـٰهُ بِہَا وَلَـٰكِنَّهُ ۥۤ أَخۡلَدَ إِلَى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَٱتَّبَعَ هَوَٮٰهُۚ فَمَثَلُهُ ۥ كَمَثَلِ ٱلۡڪَلۡبِ إِن تَحۡمِلۡ عَلَيۡهِ يَلۡهَثۡ أَوۡ تَتۡرُڪۡهُ يَلۡهَثۚ ذَّٲلِكَ مَثَلُ ٱلۡقَوۡمِ ٱلَّذِينَ كَذَّبُواْ بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَاۚ فَٱقۡصُصِ ٱلۡقَصَصَ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
And recite [O Muhammad] to them the story of him to whom We gave Our Ayat [proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.], but he threw them away, so Shaitan [Satan] followed him up, and he became of those who went astray. And had We willed, We would surely have elevated him therewith but he clung to the earth and followed his own vain desire. So, his description is the description of a dog: if you drive him away, he lolls his tongue out, or if you leave him alone, he [still] lolls his tongue out. Such is the description of the people who reject Our Ayat [proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.]. So, relate the stories, perhaps they may reflect. [Surah Al-A’raaf Aayaat 175-176]
Imaam Ibnul Qayyim [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: Allaah likened him to a dog because he was given knowledge of the Book and taught what was not given to others, but he abandoned it, followed his desires and preferred the Anger of Allaah over the Pleasure of Allaah, preferred the worldly life over the afterlife, and preferred the created beings over the Creator. A dog is considered to be one of the meanest animals- the greediest and most eager (for food), and due to this eagerness it does not roam about except that its nose is placed on the ground, whilst sniffing greedily and eagerly. When it takes possession of a dead animal enough for a hundred dogs, it would not allow another dog to eat anything from it, except whilst growling and seeking to gain the upper hand due to eagerness, greed and covetousness. This person -the one who abandoned the verses of Allaah and followed his desires- did so out of severe eagerness for the worldly life and due to his heart being disconnected from Allaah and the afterlife. He is extremely eager for the dunyah and his eagerness is similar to the constant eagerness of a dog whether it is troubled or left alone.
Ibn Jurayj [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said: “A dog is one of those animals with the least patience when it is thirsty. It lolls its tongue out the most, whether it is standing, sitting, moving or not moving. Its intense desire (i.e. greed) necessitates that it will always loll its tongue. Likewise, this is the affair of that person likened to the dog because the extreme eagerness and burning desire in his heart necessitates that he will always exert himself (for the worldly goods at the expense of the Aakhirah). He still exerts himself whether he is admonished or not”. Mujaahid [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “This is similar to the one given knowledge of the Book, but he does not act upon it. Ibn Abbaas [may Allaah be pleased with him and his father] said: If you direct him towards wisdom, he does not follow it, and if you leave him alone he is not guided towards good, just like the dog that lolls its tongue out whether it is taking a rest or driven away”. Al-Hasan [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “It is the hypocrite. He does not remain firm upon the truth whether he is called or left alone, whether he is admonished or not admonished, just like the dog that lolls its tongue out whether driven away or left alone”.
So, Allaah [The Most High] gave an example of the one who abandoned His Aayaat [proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc], saying: He is misguided, whether he is admonished or left alone, just like the dog that lolls its tongue out, whether driven away or left alone. This Ayah [i.e. Al-A’raaf 176] is similar to the saying of Allaah [The Most High]:
[وَإِن تَدۡعُوهُمۡ إِلَى ٱلۡهُدَىٰ لَا يَتَّبِعُوڪُمۡۚ سَوَآءٌ عَلَيۡكُمۡ أَدَعَوۡتُمُوهُمۡ أَمۡ أَنتُمۡ صَـٰمِتُونَ – And if you call them to guidance, they follow you not. It is the same for you whether you call them, or you keep silent]
Contemplate on the (statements) of wisdom and (significant) meanings found in this parable!
-Allaah [The Most High] said: [ءَاتَيۡنَـٰهُ ءَايَـٰتِنَا- To whom We gave Our Aayaat]- Meaning, Allaah informed us that He was the One Who gave this person knowledge of His Aayaat, for indeed it is a blessing and Allaah is the One Who conferred it upon him. Allaah attributed the source of this blessing to Himself. Then Allaah said: [فَٱنسَلَخَ مِنۡهَا- But he threw them away]-Meaning, he abandoned it in a manner similar to the manner in which a snake leaves its skin. And Allaah did not say, “We threw him away from it” because this person was the one who abandoned t due to following his desires. Then Allaah said: [فَأَتۡبَعَهُ ٱلشَّيۡطَـٰنُ- So shaytaan (satan) followed him up]- Meaning, shaytaan approached and pursued him, just as Allaah stated about Pharaoh’s people: [فَأَتۡبَعُوهُم مُّشۡرِقِينَ- So they pursued them (i.e. Fir’awn and his hosts pursued Bani Israa’eel) at sunrise].
-He used to be protected and guarded against shaytaan through the Aayaat of Allaah, but when he turned away from them, shaytaan overwhelmed him just as a lion overwhelms its prey; [فَكَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡغَاوِينَ- And he became of those who went astray]-Meaning, those who act in opposition to the knowledge they possess and those who know the truth but act in opposition to it, just like the evil scholars.
-Then Allaah said: [وَلَوۡ شِئۡنَا لَرَفَعۡنَـٰهُ بِہَا- And had We willed, We would surely have elevated him therewith]; Allaah informed us that being elevated in His presence is not merely acquired through knowledge, for indeed this person was from the scholars; rather elevation is acquired through adherence to the truth, giving precedence to it and aiming to please Allaah. Indeed, this person was one of the most knowledgeable peiople in his era, but he was neither elevated through his knowledge nor did he benefit from it. We seek Allaah’s protection from knowledge that does not benefit. Therefore, Allaah informs us that He is the One Who will raise a servant- if He wills- with the knowledge He bestows on him, otherwise the servant will be degraded. The Rabb [i.e. Allaah- The Creator, The All- Provider and in Whose Hand is the Dominion of everything] is the One alone Who degrades and raises (His servants), and indeed He degraded this person and did not raise him. [وَلَوۡ شِئۡنَا لَرَفَعۡنَـٰهُ بِہَا- And had We willed, We would surely have elevated him therewith]- Meaning, had we willed, We would have given him preference (over others), ennoble him, and raise his status and rank by way of the Aayaat we gave him.
-[ وَلَـٰكِنَّهُ ۥۤ أَخۡلَدَ إِلَى ٱلۡأَر-But he clung to the earth]: Muqaatil [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “He became pleased with the Dunya. [وَٱتَّبَعَ هَوَٮٰهُۚ- And followed his own vain desire]: Al-Kalbee [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “He pursued the lowly affairs and abandoned the lofty affairs. Abu Rawqa [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “He chose the Dunyah over the Aakhirah”. Ataa [may Allaah have mercybupon him] said, “He wanted the Dunya and obeyed his shaytaan”. Ibn Zayd [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “He followed his desires by joining those who fought Musa [peace be upon him] and his people”.
-This is a description of an evil scholar who acts in opposition to the knowledge he possesses. He went astray after having knowledge, intentionally chose disbelief over Imaan and not out of ignorance; left Emaan in a manner that did not allow him to ever return to it again, because indeed he threw away the Aayaat of Allaah completely just as a snake exits its skin. Had he been left with anything (of Imaan), he would not have been (considered) as one who exited from it completely. Shaytaan overwhelmed him and caught him as his prey.
-He [غوى-strayed] after being upon a state of [الرشد-the right course- well guided in affairs of the religion]. The word [الغي] means to be misguided in knowledge and intention, and it is more specified to corruption in knowledge and action, just as the word [الضلال] is more specified to corruption in knowledge and creed. When one of the two words is mentioned on its own, it includes the meaning of the other; but if mentioned together, then each of them takes its more specific meaning as mentioned above.
-Allaah did not wish to raise him by way of knowledge and that was the cause of his destruction. And because he was not raised by way of knowledge [i.e. due to his own fault], it became a source of anxiety for him. It would have been better for him not to be a scholar and would have lessened the punishment he will receive.
-Allaah informed us of this person’s wicked goal, because he gave preference to the most despicable (path) over the noblest.
-His choice [i.e. preferring the worldly life] was not due to thoughts that crossed his mind and ideas he was unconscious of; rather it was due to [إخلاد إلى الأرض clinging to the earth- following his desires constantly]. Az-Zujaaj [may Allaah have mercy upon him] said, “The root of the words [خلد and أخلد] is [خلود], and it means to be constant in something and to remain upon something”.
-He turned away from guidance and followed his vain desires; made his vain desires a guide for himself and followed it. (End of quote) (1)
Allaahul Musta’aan! We ask Allaah to grant us sincerity, truthfulness, steadfastness and good end; protect us from insincerity, misguidance, evil desires and an evil departure from this worldly life Aameen.
[Ref 1: An Excerpt from بدائع التفسير الجامع لما فسَّره الإمام ابن القيم الجوزية Vol 1. Page: 426-431]