“(O Prophet!) You cannot grant guidance to whom you please. It is Allah Who guides those whom He wills. He knows best who are amenable to guidance.”
(Al Qur’ān – 28:56)
This ayah occurs after mentioning the acceptance of Islam by the Abyssinian Christians. Although the statement was ostensibly addressed to the Messenger ﷺ, it was basically meant for the Makkan unbelievers. It exposes their folly and virtually tells them: ‘See how unfortunate you are! Others are coming from distant lands to receive the benefit of True Guidance from the spiritual stream which is flowing in your own land, and yet you remain deprived of it.’ But the manner it has been said is as follows: ‘O Muhammad, you wish that your people, your kith and kin, your fellow-tribesmen should benefit from this spring of life; but your wishes do not matter, for Guidance ultimately rests with God and He grants it only to those who are worthy of receiving of it. If your relatives are not worthy of that Guidance, how can they receive it?’
According to Bukhari and Muslim, this ayah was revealed with regard to Abū Ṭālib, the Messenger’s uncle. When his last moment came, the Messenger ﷺ tried his best to persuade him to pronounce the shahādah, ‘There is no god but Allah,’ so that his end might be good. But Abū Ṭālib preferred to die with the religion of his ancestor, ‘Abd al-Muṭṭalib. It was in this context that God revealed the present ayah.