Divine Illustrations: A Reflection on Allegories in the Qur’an

In this Qur’an We have presented every kind of illustration for people but man is more contentious than any other creature (Q. al-Kahf, 18:54).

Comparisons, allegories, and examples from the world around us are used in the Qur’an by God to not only illustrate a point, but evoke emotion.  These examples enrich the lessons, by associating a concept (like resurrection) to the world around us (like plant life after rainfall); and through them higher meanings become more familiar and recognizable. Yet, human beings, who are the most contentious of creatures, do not always reflect.  Led instead by passion—and the seeking of lower desires—human beings become blind to not just these examples within the Qur’an, but also the world around them from which these examples are drawn.  They do not witness the signs (ayāt) in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of night and day.  Nor do they recognize the examples within the Qur’an (like those following) but, instead, ask “by this what does God mean?”

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In Every Design There is A Sign

As the seasons change it is a cause for reflection, like in the “alternation of Night and Day”, these are “indeed signs for those of pure understanding” (Al-Imran; 3:190). Like in the very “creation of the heavens and the earth” and “the sailing of ships upon the sea”, and “the rain which Allah sends down from the skies”, and “and the beasts of all kinds”, and in ”the change of the winds and the clouds which they trail like their slaves”. These indeed are signs “for a people that are wise” (Al-Baqarah; 2:164).

To what knowledge is it that these signs do point, and who are the “wise” that can read them with “pure understanding”?

The Qur’an repeatedly calls our attention to the universe and the many signs around us, but how do we read them?

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