VERILY, unto those who give the lie to Our messages and scorn them in their pride, the gates of heaven shall not be opened;31
and they shall not enter paradise any more than a twisted rope can pass through a needle's eye:32
for thus do We requite such as are lost in sin.
According to Ibn 'Abbas (as quoted by Razi), this metaphor signifies that God will not accept any of the good deeds of such sinners, nor their subsequent supplications.
Lit., "until (hatta) a twisted rope passes through a needle's eye"; since this phrase is meant to express an impossibility, the rendering of hatta as "any more than" seems to be appropriate here. As for the word jamal occurring in this sentence, there is hardly any doubt that its translation, in this context, as "camel" is erroneous. As pointed out by Zamakhshari (and confirmed by other classical commentators, including Razi), Ibn 'Abbas used to read the word in the spelling jummal, which signifies "a thick rope" or "a twisted cable"; and the same reading is attributed to 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (Taj al-'Arus). It is to be noted that there are also several other dialectical spellings of this word, namely, jumal, juml, jumul and, finally, jamal (as in the generally-accepted version of the Qur'an) - all of them signifying "a thick, twisted rope" (Jawhari), and all of them used in this sense by some of the Prophet's Companions or their immediate successors (tabi'un). Ibn 'Abbas is also quoted by Zamakhshari as having said that God could not have coined so inappropriate a metaphor as "a camel passing through a needle's eye" - meaning that there is no relationship whatsoever between a camel and a needle's eye whereas, on the other hand, there is a definite relationship between the latter and a rope (which after all, is but an extremely thick thread). On all accounts, therefore, the rendering of jamal as "a twisted rope" is, in this context, infinitely preferable to that of "a camel". The fact that the latter rendering occurs in a somewhat similar phrase in the Greek version of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew xix, 24, Mark x, 25 and Luke xviii, 25) does not affect this contention. One should remember that the Gospels were originally composed in Aramaic, the language of Palestine at the time of Jesus, and that those Aramaic texts are now lost. It is more than probable that, owing to the customary absence of vowel signs in Aramaic writing, the Greek translator misunderstood the consonant spelling g-m-l (corresponding to the Arabic j-m-l), and took it to mean "a camel": a mistake repeated since, with regard to the above Qur'an-verse, by many Muslims and all non-Muslim orientalists as well.