Qur'an and modern civilization

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Can you make a comparison between the Qur'an and modern civilization from different viewpoints?

A parable to understand the fundamental differences between the Qur’anic wisdom and human philosophy:

Once, a religious and skilful, renowned ruler wanted to write the Qur’an as beautifully as required by the sacredness of its meanings and the miraculosness of its wording. He wanted to do this so that he might adorn its wonderful words in a worthy array. So, the artist ruler wrote out the Qur’an in a truly wonderful fashion. In writing it out, he used all kinds of precious jewels. In order to point out the variety of its truths, he wrote some of its letters in diamonds and emeralds, and some in pearls and agate, and others in brilliants and coral, while others he wrote in gold and silver. Also, he adorned and decorated it in such a way that everyone, those who knew how to read and those who did not, were full of admiration and astonishment when they saw it. Especially in the judgment of the people of truth, since the outer beauty was an indication to the brilliant beauty and striking adornment within, that Qur’an became a most precious artwork.

Then the ruler showed the artistically wrought and bejeweled Qur’an to a foreign philosopher and a Muslim scholar. In order to test them and for reward, he commanded them; ‘Each of you write a work about the wisdom of this!’ First the philosopher, then the scholar, composed a book about it. However, the philosopher’s book discussed only the shapes and decorations of the letters and the relationships between them, and the properties of the jewels and the way they were used. He did not make any observations at all about the meaning. He was not even aware that the embellished Qur’an was an invaluable, book having depths of meaning. He rather looked on it as an ornamented art-object. He was well-informed about engineering and chemistry. He had also a great ability to describe things and much knowledge about jewellery. So he composed his book according to these skills.

As for the Muslim scholar, on seeing the book, he understood that it was the Clear Book, the Wise Qur’an. So, he—this truth-loving person—neither paid any attention to its outward ornamentation nor busied himself with the decorations of the letters. He was rather engaged in something else which was millions of times more exalted, more valuable, more worthy of respect, more useful and more comprehensive than the issues with which the other man was occupied. Therefore he composed an interpretation in which he described the sacred truths and secret lights behind the veil of decorations.

Both men—the foreign philosopher and Muslim scholar— presented their works to the renowned ruler. The ruler first took the book of the philosopher, and saw that conceited man had worked very hard but not written anything about the true wisdom of the bejeweled Qur’an. He had not understood its meaning at all, and holding that book, which is a source of truths, to consist in meaningless decorations, showed disrespect for it. Therefore, the wise ruler refused his book.

Then, the ruler looked through the book of the truth-loving, meticulous scholar, and seeing that it was a very beautiful and useful interpretation, a wise and illuminating composition, congratulated him. It was pure wisdom and the one who wrote it was a real scholar, a genuine sage. The other man was an impertinent artificer not knowing his place. Then, he willed that, as reward, for each letter of his work should be given ten pieces of gold out of his inexhaustible treasury.

Now, if you have understood the meaning of the parable, reflect upon its real meaning:

The embellished Qur’an is this artistically fashioned universe. The ruler is the Eternal Sovereign. As for the two men, one represents the line of philosophy and philosophers, the other, the way of the Qur’an and its students. Indeed, the wise Qur’an is the most exalted expander, a most eloquent translator of this macro-Qur’an of the universe. It is the Criterion, which instructs the jinn and men in the signs of creation—Divine laws of the creation and operation of the universe—inscribed by the Pen of Power on the sheets of the universe and pages of time. It looks upon creatures, each of which is a meaningful letter, as bearing the meaning of another, that is, on account of their Maker, and remarks, ‘How beautifully they have been made, and how meaningfully they point to the beauty and grace of the Maker.’ Thus, it shows the real beauty of the universe. As for philosophy, it is absorbed in the design and decorations of the ‘letters’ of creation and, in bewilderment, it has lost the way to truth. While it ought to look upon the letters of this macro-book as bearing the meaning of another, that is, on account of God, it does the reverse. It looks upon them as signifying themselves, that is, on account of themselves, and remarks: ‘How beautiful they are’, not ‘How beautifully they have been made!’ By doing so, it insults the creation and causes it to complain about itself. In truth, materialistic philosophy is a falsehood bearing no truths, and an insult to the creation.

How can you compare the Qur’an and modern civilization and philosophy with respect to the moral training each affords to human personal life?

A sincere student of modern civilization and philosophy is a Pharaoh-like tyrant, but one who abuses himself so far as to bow in worship before the meanest thing to serve his interest. That materialist student is also a stubborn, misleading one: unyielding but so wretched as to accept endless degradation for the sake of a single pleasure; unbending but so mean as to kiss the feet of devilish people for the sake of some base advantage. That student is conceited and domineering, but since he can find no point of support in his heart, he is an utterly impotent vainglorious tyrant. That student is also a self-centered egoist, who strives to gratify his material, carnal desires and pursues his personal interests after certain national interests.

As for the sincere student of the wisdom of the Qur’an, he is a worshipping servant of God, but one who does not degrade himself to bow in worship even before the greatest of the created. He is a dignified servant who does not regard as the goal of worship a thing of even the greatest benefit like Paradise. Also, he is a modest student, one mild and gentle, but he does not lower himself voluntarily before anybody other than his Creator beyond what He has permitted. He is also weak and in want, and aware of his weakness and neediness. Yet he is independent of others, owing to the spiritual wealth which his Munificent Owner has provided for him, and he is powerful as he relies on the infinite Power of his Master. He acts and strives purely for God’s sake, for God’s pleasure, and to be equipped with virtues.

The training the Qur’an and philosophy give may be understood through this comparison of the two students.

How can you compare the Qur’an and modern civilization with respect to human social life?

According to modern civilization:

• The point of support in social life is force or power. Force calls for aggression.

• The aim of life is held to be the realization of self-interests. Seeking the gratification of self-interests causes fighting for material resources.

• Conflict is the principle of relationship in life. Conflict brings strife.

• The bond between communities is racism and negative nationalism. Racism feeds by swallowing others and therefore paves the way for aggression.

• The fruits it produces are the gratification of carnal desires and multiplication of human needs.

It is because of those principles of modern civilization that despite all its advantages and positive aspects, only twenty percent of mankind are superficially contented while the other eighty percent are in hardship and misery.

As for the wisdom of the Qur’an,

• It accepts right, not force, as the point of support in social life. Right calls for unity.

• It holds, in place of the realization of self-interests, virtues, and God’s approval as the aim in life. Virtues bring mutual support and solidarity. The principle of mutual assistance means coming to the aid of one another.

• Instead of conflict, it takes mutual assistance as the principle of relationship in life.

• It accepts, not racism and negative nationalism, but the ties of religion, profession and citizenship, as the bonds between communities. Religion secures brotherhood and mutual attraction.

• Its aim is to put a barrier against the illicit attacks of lusts, to urge the soul to ennoble and satisfy its lofty aspirations, to encourage man to human perfections and so make him truly human. Restraining the carnal self and urging the soul to perfections bring happiness in this world and the next.

Thus, despite its borrowings from the previous Divine religions and especially from the guidance of the Qur’an, which accounts for its agreeable aspects, modern civilization is the losing side in the view of the truth in its controversy against the Qur’an.

Another comparison

The laws and principles of the Qur’an are beyond time and space, therefore they never become out of date like those of modern civilization.

Examples:

► Despite all its charity foundations, institutions of intellectual and moral training, and severe disciplines and laws and regulations, modern civilization has not been able to contend with the Qur’an on the following two matters and has been defeated:

The Qur’an decrees:

• Perform the prescribed prayer, and pay the zakat. (2:43)…

• God has made trading lawful and usury unlawful. (2:275)

As was explained in Signs of (the Qur’an’s) Miraculousness, the cause of all revolutions and social upheavals, and the root of all moral failings, are these two attitudes or approaches.

• I don’t care if others die of hunger so longer as my own stomach is full.

• You must bear the costs of my ease—you must work so that I may eat.

A peaceful social life depends on the balance between the elite and common people or the rich and the poor. This balance is based on care and compassion on the part of the elite, and respect and obedience on the part of the latter. Nevertheless, the first attitude (Let others die of hunger so long as I am well-fed) has driven the rich to wrongdoing, usurpation, immorality and mercilessness, while the second one (You toil so that I may be at ease) has led the poor to hatred, grudges, envy and conflict with the rich. As this conflict has destroyed social peace of mankind for the last two or three centuries, so too, as the result of the century-old struggle between labor and capital, those famous upheavals have taken place in Europe. So, despite all its charitable societies, institutions of moral training and severe laws and regulations, modern civilization has succeeded in neither reconciling these two social classes nor healing those two severe wounds of human life, whereas the Qur’an eradicates the first attitude through the obligation of zakat and heals the wound caused by it, and eradicates the second through the prohibition of all interest-bearing transactions. Indeed, the relevant verses of the Qur’an stand at the door of the world and turn away interest. ‘In order to close the doors to social conflicts and struggles, close the doors of banks or houses of interest,’ it decrees to mankind, and orders its students not to enter through them.

How can you compare the Qur’an and modern civilization with respect to bringing happiness to people?

Together with severely prohibiting idol-worship, the Qur’an also condemns the ‘worship’ of images, which can be a sort of imitation of idol-worship. In an attempt to contest with the Qur’an, modern civilization, by contrast, regards sculpture and making pictures of living beings, which the Qur’an condemns, as one of its virtues. Whereas, forms with or without shadows (sculptures and pictures of living beings) are each either a petrified tyranny (tyranny represented in stone) or embodied ostentation or embodied caprice, which urge people to tyranny, ostentation and capriciousness.

Also, out of compassion, the Qur’an orders women to wear the veil of modesty in order to maintain respect for them, and so that they who are mines of compassion will not be abased under the foot of low desires, nor become the worthless means of exciting lusts. However, modern civilization has drawn women out of their homes, torn aside their veils and led mankind astray into corruption. Whereas, family life is based on mutual love and respect between man and woman, both modestly dressed; modern civilization has destroyed sincere love and respect, and poisoned the family life. Sculptures and pictures, especially obscene ones, have a great share in this moral corruption and spiritual degeneration. Just as to look at the corpse of a beautiful woman deserving of compassion with lust and desire destroys morality, so too looking lustfully at pictures of living women, which are like little corpses, troubles and diverts elevated human feelings, shaking and destroying them.

Thus, besides serving to secure the happiness of mankind in this world, the Qur’anic commandments also serve their eternal happiness. You can compare other subjects with those mentioned.

As modern civilization stands defeated before the Qur’an’s rules and principles concerning social life and mankind, and is bankrupt before the Qur’an’s miraculous content, the European philosophy and scientism, which is the spirit of that civilization, is helpless in the face of the miraculousness of the Qur’an’s wisdom.

How can you compare The Qur’an and modern science and philosophy in viewing the universe?

Philosophy and sciences view existence as permanent and discuss the nature and qualities of creatures in detail. They do not mention their duties towards their Creator; if these are mentioned, it is very brief. It is as if philosophy and science discuss only the designs and letters of the book of the universe but attach no importance to its meaning. As for the Qur’an, it views existence as transient, moving, illusory, unstable and changing, and therefore mentions the nature and outward, physical qualities of creatures quite briefly. By contrast, it elaborates the duties of worship with which their Creator has charged them, and the ways they manifest His Names and their submission to the Divine laws of the creation and operation of the universe. Thus, in order to distinguish which is pure truth, we should see the differences between human philosophy and Qur’anic wisdom related to summarizing and elaborating.

However unmoving, constant and static your body outwardly appears, it is in a continuous movement and change in essence and inwardly, and without any pause it comes to a final stop to be revived again at a determined time. Likewise, being a huge body appearing to be constant and static, the world is unceasingly rolling or revolving in continuous changes and upheavals. Time is the dial of the world, with its two ‘hands’ of night and day showing the passage of its seconds, and its ‘hands’ of years and centuries, showing the passage of its minutes and hours. Time plunges the world into the waves of decay and, leaving the past and future to non-existence, allows existence for the present only. As with respect to time, the world is also changing and unstable with respect to space. For the atmosphere changes speedily, filling with and being cleared of the clouds a few times a day and displaying the changes of weather, thus corresponding to the passage of seconds in time. And the earth, which is the floor of the house of the world, undergoes continuous changes through the cycles of life and death and in vegetation and animals, and like the hand showing the passage of minutes, demonstrates the transience of the world. Like its surface, the inside of the earth, where convulsions and upheavals cause great changes like earthquakes, the emergence of mountains in some places and subsidence in others, also shows, like the hour hand of a clock, the mortality of the world. As for the sky, which is the roof the world, through the like movements of heavenly bodies, the appearance of comets and falling stars, and the solar and lunar eclipses, it demonstrates that it is not stable either, going to a final ruin. However slow—like the passage of weeks—are the changes in it, they also show that the world is mortal and moves to its inevitable end.

Thus, all the ‘pillars’ on which the world was built are continually shaking it. That shaking world considered with respect to its Maker, whose movements and changes are like the movements of the Pen of the Divine Power writing the missives of the Eternally Besought-of-All, all the transformations taking place in the world are like ever-renewed or ever-polished mirrors which reflect the manifestations of Divine Names in all different qualities. However, when considered with respect to itself and being a material, created entity, the world continually convulses and moves to decay and death. Although it moves like a flowing water, heedlessness has frozen it and (philosophical) naturalism has solidified it, making it a veil to conceal and forget the afterlife. The defective philosophy, nourished by modern scientific thought and supported by the alluring amusements of corrupt modern civilization and the intoxicating desires it arouses in people, makes the world more turbid and increases its solidity, causing people to completely forget the Creator and the afterlife.

The Qur’an removes heedlessness which gives rise to naturalism

• Whereas, through its verses like,

The Calamity! What is the calamity? (al-Qari‘a,101.1-2)

When the inevitable event befalls (al-Waqi‘a, 56.1), and

By the Mount, and a Scripture inscribed (al-Tur, 56.1-2),

the Qur’an shatters this world and cards it like cotton or wool.

• Through its statements like,

Have they not considered the dominion and inner aspect of the heavens and the earth? (al-A‘raf, 7.185)

Have they not then observed the sky above them, how We have constructed it? (Qaf, 50.6)

Did not those who do not believe know that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them? (al-Anbiya’, 21.30)

it gives that world a transparency and removes its turbidity.

• Through its bright, light-diffusing ‘stars’ like,

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth (al-Nur, 24.35) and

The life of this world is but a play and amusement (al-An‘am, 6.32)

it melts that solid world.

• Through its threatening verses which recall death, such as,

When the sun is folded up (al-Takwir, 81.1).

When the heaven is cleft asunder (al-Infitar, 82.1).

When the heaven is split asunder (al-Inshiqaq, 84.1).

The Trumpet is blown, and all who are in the heavens and who are on the earth fall down senseless, save those whom God wills (al-Zumar, 39.68).

it utterly destroys the delusion that the world is eternal.

• And through its thunder-like blasts like,

He knows all that enters the earth and all that emerges therefrom and all that comes down from the heaven and all that ascends therein, and He is with you wherever you may be. God sees all that you do (al-Hadid, 57.4).

Say: ‘Praise be to God, Who will show you His signs, so that you shall know them. Your Lord is not unaware of what you do’ (al-Naml, 27.93).

it removes heedlessness which gives rise to naturalism.

Thus, the verses of the Qur’an which are concerned with the universe follow that principle the aspects of which have been mentioned above. They unveil the reality of the world and display it as it is. By showing the ugly face of the world, it turns man away from it, and by pointing out its beautiful face which is turned toward the Maker, it turns man’s face toward it. It instructs mankind in true wisdom and teaches them the meanings of the book of the universe with little attention to its letters and decorations. Unlike corrupt, senseless philosophy, it does not give itself over to what is ugly and, causing people to forget the meaning, lead them to waste their time on meaningless things, in pre-occupation with the decorations of the letters.

Why does the wise Qur’an not speak of beings in the same way as science and materialistic or naturalistic philosophy? It mentions some matters very briefly, and some others it seems to speak of in a simple and superficial way that is easy for the common people to understand and does not weary their minds.

Scientism and materialistic philosophy have strayed from the path of truth. As for the Qur’an, it is not a book of science that it should speak of cosmological matters elaborately. Its purpose in mentioning certain facts of creation is rather to make known the Divine Essence, Attributes and Names, by explaining the meaning of the book of the universe, to make known its Creator. Therefore, it considers the creation not for its own sake, but for the sake of knowledge of its Creator. In addition, science, besides considering the creation only for its own sake, addresses particularly those specialized in it. The Qur’an, however, addresses the whole of mankind. Since it uses creation as evidence and proof to guide mankind, and the majority of mankind are common people, the evidence should be manifest and obvious in order to be understood by the common people easily. Guidance requires that things of little importance should be touched on only and the subtle points be made understandable by means of parables. In order not to mislead people into errors, it should not change things which in their view are obvious in a way which will be of no use or may even be harmful to them.

For example, the Qur’an speaks of the sun as a ‘moving lamp’ because it does not mention the sun for its own sake, but because the sun is the ‘mainstay’ of the order and the center of the system in the universe. Order and system are two means of obtaining the knowledge of the Creator. When the Qur’an says, And the sun runs its course, (36:38) it suggests the well-ordered disposition of Divine Power in the revolutions of winter and summer, and day and night, and therefore implies the majesty of the Maker. Thus, whatever the reality of this ‘running’ is, it does not harm the intended meaning, which is the observed order woven into the structure of the universe.

The Qur’an also says: And He made the sun as a lamp (78:13) By depicting the sun as a ‘lamp,’ the Qur’an calls to mind that the world is like a palace, the contents of which are the decorations, provisions and other necessities prepared for man and for other living creatures, with the sun like a lamp to illuminate it. Therefore it implies the mercy and bounty of the Creator.

Now consider how science and materialistic philosophy deal with the sun: The sun is an enormous mass of burning gases. It causes the planets which have been flung off from it to revolve around it. It is of such and such size, and it is of such and such qualities... It gives to the spirit no perfection of knowledge apart from a terrible dread and bewilderment. It does not approach the matter as the Qur’an does. From this comparison, you can judge the value of the merely scientific and philosophical way of thinking, the former being outwardly splendid but inwardly hollow. So do not be taken in by the outward worth of scientific descriptions and so become disrespectful towards the most miraculous style of the Qur’an!

O God! Make of the Qur’an for us and for all who copy it a cure for all our sickness; a companion to us and to them in life and after death; a friend in the world, a confidant in the grave, and an intercessor on the Day of Judgment. Make it a light on the (Bridge of) Sirat, a veil and a screen from Hellfire, a friend in Paradise, and a guide and a leader to all good deeds, by Your grace, munificence, beneficence, and mercy, O Most Munificent of the Munificent and Most Merciful of the Merciful! Amen.

O God! Bestow blessings and peace on him to whom You sent the wise Qur’an, the Criterion of Truth and Falsehood, and on all his family and Companions! Amen!

How can you compare The Qur’an’s wisdom and human philosophies?

A most true evidence for the nobility of the wise Qur’an, the clearest proof its truth and a most powerful sign of its miracluousness, is this:

The Qur’an contains and explains all the degrees of manifestation of Divine Unity in all its varieties (Unity of Divine Being, Unity of Divine Attributes, Unity of Divine Names, Unity of Divine acts, affirming His ‘positive’ Attributes and affirming Him to be free of any kind of defects and shortcomings, etc.) and with all the requirements of these degrees and varieties, and never detracts from the balance among them. It also maintains the equilibrium among the elevated Divine truths. Moreover, it contains all the commandments and principles required by all of the Divine Names and maintains exact, sensitive relationships among them. Also, it holds together all the acts and functions of God’s Divinity and Lordship with perfect balance (not attaching more importance to some exclusively). Thus, this containing, maintaining and holding with balance is a matchless virtue and characteristic, which is not to be found in the works of even the greatest minds among mankind. It is to be found in neither the works of saints who have penetrated the inner realities of things, nor the books of the ‘Illuminists’ who discerned the inner aspects of things and events, nor the products of the knowledge of wholly purified scholars who have penetrated the world of the Unseen. It is as if, according to the principle of the division of labor, each group have been devoted to one of the branches of the mighty tree of truth, busied with only its leaves and fruits in unawareness or neglect of the others.

The absolute, unlimited truth cannot be comprehended by restricted minds and visions. It can be comprehended only by the vision of the Qur’an which is universal and all-encompassing. The others no matter if they also benefit from the Qur’an, cannot comprehend the universal truth in its entirety, with their limited minds, restricted to only a few parts of it and wholly absorbed in them. They frequently go to extremes, dwelling on one or two points more than the others, thus destroying the balance and accurate relations among the truths. We will try to approach this point with a parable, which is as follows:

A parable to understand the Qur’an’s and human philosophy’s approach to existence

Suppose there were some treasure under the sea, full of numerous jewels of every kind. Divers plunge into the sea to search for those jewels but since their eyes are closed, they try to find them with dexterous use of their hands. One of them seizes a somewhat big diamond and concludes that the treasures consist of that diamond only. When he hears of other jewels from his friends, he thinks that they are facets or embellishments of that diamond. Another one finds a round ruby and still another, a square amber, and so on. Each of them assumes that the treasure consists of what he has found only, the others being its parts, facets or embellishments.

This kind of thought and attitude destroys the balance and accurate relations among truths, and even changes the color of many of them. One is compelled to make forced interpretations and detailed explanations in order to see the true color of truths or show them to others. Some even go so far as to deny or falsify them. Those who make a careful study of the books of the ‘Illuminists’ and the works of the Sufi masters who rely on their visions and illuminations without weighing them on the scales of the Qur’an and the Sunna of the Prophet, will undoubtedly confirm this judgment of ours. Although these have benefited from the Qur’an and generally been taught by it, their teachings have certain shortcomings and are defective because they are not the Qur’an itself. The verses of the Qur’an, which is the ocean of truths, encompass and see the whole of the treasure and describe the jewels in so harmonious and balanced a way that they show their beauty perfectly.

For example, just as the Qur’an sees and shows the grandeur of Divine Lordship expressed by the verses, The whole earth is His handful on the Day of the destruction of this world and building of the next, and the heavens are rolled up in His Right Hand (al-Zumar, 39.67) and The day when We shall roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books (al-Anbiya’, 21.104), so too it sees and shows the all-encompassing Mercy expressed by these: God, nothing on the earth or in the heavens is hidden from Him. He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases (Al ‘Imran, 3.5-6); Not a moving creature but He grasps it by the forelock (Hud, 11.56), and How many a moving creature there is that bears not its own provision. God provides for it and for you (al-Ankabut, 29.60).

Also, just as it sees and points out the vast extent of the creativity expressed by (He) has created the heavens and the earth and made the darkness and the light (al-An‘am, 6.1), so too it sees and shows the comprehensive Divine disposal of things and His encompassing Lordship by He creates you and what you do (al-Saffat, 37.96). It sees and shows the mighty truth expressed by He gives life to the earth after its death (al-Rum, 30.50) and the truth concerning His munificence, expressed by Your Lord has inspired the bee (al-Nahl, 16.68), and the great truth concerning His Sovereignty and command, expressed by The sun and the moon and the stars subservient by His command (al-‘Araf, 7.54).

The Qur’an sees and shows the truth of compassion and administration expressed by Do they not observe the birds above them in ranks, spreading their wings and closing them? None uphold them save the Most Merficul; indeed He sees all things (al-Mulk, 67.19), and the vast truth expressed by His Seat includes the heavens and the earth, and he is never weary of preserving them (al-Baqara, 2.255), and the truth concerning His overseeing, expressed by He is with you wheresoever you may be (al-Hadid, 57.4), and the all-embracing truth expressed by He is the First and the Last and the Outward and the Inward, and He knows all things (al-Hadid, 57.3), and His being nearer to beings than themselves, expressed by Truly, We have created man and know what his soul whispers to him; We are nearer to him than his jugular vein (Qaf, 50.16), and the elevated truth expressed by The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day the span of which is fifty thousand years (al-Ma‘arij, 70.4), and the all-encompassing truth expressed by God enjoins justice and absolute kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbids all shameful deeds, and things abominable to sound conscience, and injustice and rebellion (al-Nahl, 16.90).

In short, the Qur’an sees and shows in detail all the truths concerning this world and the next, pertaining to knowledge and practice, and each of the six pillars of faith. It also points out purposefully and earnestly each of the five pillars of Islam, and all the other principles of securing the happiness in both worlds. It preserves the exact balance and maintains the accurate relationship and proportion among them. The subtlety and beauty originating from the harmony of the entirety of those truths give rise to a form of the Qur’an’s miraculousness.

It is because of this mighty truth that although the scholars of theology are the students of the Qur’an and have written numerous volumes on the pillars of faith, since like the Mu‘tazilites a certain portion of them have preferred reason over transmitted knowledge originating from Divine Revelations, they have not been able to explain them as effectively as even ten verses of the Qur’an. It is simply as though they have dug tunnels under the mountains as far as the end of the world to obtain and convey water. They have gone along with the chains of cause and effect as far as the beginning of time and then, cutting the chains, jumped over to eternity to obtain the knowledge of God, which is the water of life for people, and prove the existence of the Necessarily Existent One. As for the Qur’anic verses, each can extract ‘water’ from every place like the staff of Moses, opening up a window from everything and making known the Majestic Maker. It is also due to this reality that since the leaders of all the heretical groups who have delved into the inner nature of things, who, not following the Sunna of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, but relying instead on their visions, have returned from half way and formed different sects, they have been unable to preserve the proportion and balance of truths, and so fallen into heresy and misguidance and caused the deviation of certain groups of people. Thus, their disability also demonstrates the miraculousness of the Qur’an.

Can you compare the Qur’an’s wisdom and modern scientific thought and philosophy with respect to the teaching and degrees of knowledge each provides?

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

We send down [stage by stage], of the Qur’an, that which is a healing and a mercy to the believers. (17:82)

We have not taught him poetry; it is not seemly for him. (36:69)

If you want to compare the fruits of the Qur’an’s wisdom and modern scientific thought and philosophy, and their instructions and teaching and the degrees of knowledge they provide, then heed the following:

With its penetrating explanations, the Qur’an of Miraculous Expression removes the veil of familiarity and the habitual cast over all creatures in the universe, which are known as ordinary but are each an extraordinary miracle of Divine Power, and revealing these astonishing wonders [of Divine creation] to conscious beings and attracting their gaze to them, opens up an inexhaustible treasury of knowledge.

As for philosophy, it conceals within veils of the commonplace all miracles of Power, which are extraordinary, and overlooks them in ignorance and indifference. It only urges attention to freaks, which are outside the order of creation and deviated from their perfect true natures, and for that reason no longer extraordinary; it offers them to conscious beings as objects of wise instruction. For example: Whereas it views the creation of man as commonplace, who is a most comprehensive miracle of Divine Power, and looks at him indifferently, it exhibits with cries of astonishment, a three-legged or two-headed person who has come out of the perfection of creation, as an object of instruction. Similarly: Whereas it sees as ordinary the regular sustenance of all infants and young from the treasury of the Unseen, which is a most subtle and universal miracle of Mercy, and draws a veil of ingratitude over it, it tries, on seeing an insect left alone under the sea exceptionally isolated from its fellows, feeding on a green leaf, to make the fishermen weep for it because of the favor and grace manifested in it.

So, reflect on the wealth and riches of the Holy Qur’an with respect to wisdom and knowledge of God, and the poverty and bankruptcy of philosophy in regard to learning, instruction and knowledge of the Maker and take heed!

It is because of this, because the Wise Qur’an encompasses infinite brilliant exalted truths, that it is free of the fancies of poetry. Another reason why the Qur’an of Miraculous Expression is not in strict verse, despite its perfect order and arrangement and its expounding in its well-ordered styles the artistic beauty and order in the book of the universe, is that by not entering into the constraints of meter, each verse can form a line of connection with other verses in an encompassing context which binds in relationship the meaning of its different verses. It is as if each separate verse has an eye which looks to most other verses, and a face turned towards them. There are, in this way, thousands of Qur’ans within the Qur’an, each being adopted by a different path or school in Islam. In sura al-Ikhlas, for example, there is a treasury of knowledge of Divine Unity provided by thirty-six suras al-Ikhlas formed of a combination of six sentences, each having many aspects.

This is comparable to the way each star in the sky, unrestricted among the others in an apparent randomness, extends, as if from a center, a line of connection to every other in the area surrounding it, indicating the hidden relation between all creatures. It is as if, like the stars of Qur’anic verses, each single star has an eye which looks to all stars, and a face turned towards them. Reflect, then, on the perfect order in apparent disorder and take a lesson! Understand one meaning of the verse, We have not taught him poetry; it is not seemly for him.

Understand also from the meaning of it is not seemly for him that poetry tends to adorn insignificant and dull facts with grand and shining images and fancies, and make them attractive. Whereas the truths of the Qur’an are so great, elevated, brilliant and splendid that, when compared with them, the greatest and most brilliant imaginings are dull and insignificant. For example, innumerable truths like those in the following verses

On the day when We shall roll up heaven as a scroll rolled for books. (21:104)

He covers the day with night, each pursuing the other urgently. (7:54)

It is only one cry; then behold, they are all arraigned before us. (36:53)

testify to this.

If you want to see and appreciate how, like piercing, bright stars, each of the Qur’an’s verses removes the darkness of unbelief by spreading the light of miraculousness and guidance, imagine yourself in the pre-Islamic Age of Ignorance, the desert of savagery where everything was enveloped in veils of lifeless matter and nature amid the darkness of ignorance and heedlessness. Then suddenly hear from the sublime tongue of the Qur’an, a verse like

All that is in the heavens and earth glorifies God, the Sovereign, the All-Holy, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. (62:1)

and see how those creatures of the world seen before as lifeless and unfeeling spring to life in the minds of those listening at the sound of ‘glorifies’, how they awake and spring up and begin to extol God by praising His Names! Also, at the sound of

The seven heavens and the earth glorify Him. (17:44)

the stars in that black sky, each a solid piece of fire, and the miserable creatures on the earth, represent to the mind of those listening the sky as a mouth and the stars as each a wisdom-displaying word, a truth-radiating light, and the earth as a head with the land and sea each a tongue, and all animals and plants, words of glorification. If you look at each verse in the present context from a modern view-point, that is, after each has spread its light since its revelation, with its content having become (with the passage of time) among already known things after the darkness of ignorance had long been changed into daytime by the ‘sun’ of the Qur’an and the light of Islam, if you look at it through the superficial and stultifying veil of familiarity, you will not truly see what sort of darkness each verse removes by its sweet melody of miraculousness, and you will not appreciate this aspect of its miraculousness among its other aspects.

A parable to understand the highest degrees of miraculousness of the Qur’an

Let us imagine an extremely strange and vast, spreading tree hidden under a veil. As everybody knows, as with the members of a man, there is a relationship, harmony and balance between all parts of a tree, that is, between its branches, flowers and fruits. Each of its parts has a form and shape according to the nature of the tree. If someone appears and draws a picture on a veil corresponding exactly to that hidden tree, giving each part, from the branches to the fruits, from the fruits to the leaves, its exact shape and form in the same relationship with and proportion to one another as the original, no one will doubt that that artist sees the hidden tree with an eye penetrating the unseen, and so depicts it correctly.

In just the same way, the distinguishing explanations of the Qur’an of Miraculous Expression concerning the reality of things, that is, the reality of the tree of creation stretching from the earth to the Divine Throne1 and from particles to the sun, maintain the proportion between the parts to such a degree and give each part and fruit a form so suitable that all exacting and truth-seeking scholars have concluded about the description of the Qur’an: ‘What wonders God has willed! May God bless it! It is only you, O Wise Qur’an, that solves the mystery of creation!’

For God the highest comparison must be put forth—let us represent the Names and Attributes of God, and the acts and qualities of His Lordship, as a tree of light so vast and great that it stretches in time and space to eternity, and includes Divine acts in an infinitely vast sphere stretching from

He comes between man and his heart, (8:24) and

The Splitting of the seed-grain and the date-stone, (6:95)

and It is He Who fashions you in the wombs as He wills, (3:6)

to

And the heavens rolled up in His right hand, (39:67) and

He created the heavens and the earth in six days, (7:54) and

He has subjugated the sun and the moon. (13:7)

The wise Qur’an describes that radiant reality, the truths of those Names and Attributes, and acts and qualities, in all their ramifications and results, in a way so harmonious, so fitting and appropriate to one another, without impeding one another and invalidating the decree of one another, that all those who have penetrated the reality of things and discovered the hidden truths, and all the sages journeying in the realm of the inner dimension of existence have declared in the face of that description: ‘Glory be to God! How right, how conformable with reality, how beautiful, how fitting!’

1. Divine Throne (‘Arsh) and Chair (Kursiyy) are unknown to us. However, since God speaks according to our level of understanding, He usually speaks in parables and metaphors. Elsewhere, Bediuzzaman says that earth is the Throne of Life (‘Arsh al-Hayat), and water, the Throne of Mercy (‘Arsh al-Rahma). This means that in the world God creates most things from earth and water, rain, is, in one respect, the embodiment of His Mercy. So, one of the meanings of ‘Arsh may be all the things combined which God uses in conveying and executing His commands, or it may be an immaterial entity enveloping all creation from which God controls and administers the universe. While ‘Arsh may be related to the Divine ‘Empyrean’ World, Kursiyy may be rather concerned with other unseen worlds of immaterial forms. God knows the best.

The Qur’an describes all the essentials of belief and Islam in miraculously balanced and harmonious way

Take, for example, the six pillars of belief, which are like a single branch of two mighty trees—the sphere of contingency (the realm of material existence) and the sphere of necessity (the realm of Divine Existence). The Qur’an describes the pillars of belief together with all their elements and furthest fruits and flowers, observing the harmony among them to such degree, illustrates them in a way so balanced and well-measured, that the human mind is astonished at and scarcely able to grasp the beauty of it. Also, the Qur’an has established among the pillars of Islam, which are like one twig of the branch of belief, down to their finest details, the smallest of good manners, furthest aims, most profound wisdom, and most significant fruits, a proportion so beautiful, a relationship so perfect, and a balance so complete, that the perfect order and balance, and due proportion and soundness observed in the supreme Shari‘a of Islam, which has originated from the incontrovertible commandments of the all-comprehensive Qur’an, and the secondary meanings, indications and allusions of its statements, are an irrefutable and decisive proof and a just, undeniable witness for it. This means that the explanations of the Qur’an cannot have issued from the partial knowledge of any man, particularly from the knowledge of an unlettered one. They rest, rather, on an all-comprehensive knowledge, and are the Word of One Who is able to see all things together like a single thing and observe at the one, same instant all truths between two eternities. The verse,

Praise be to God Who has sent down unto His servant the Book, and has allowed no crookedness therein, (18:1)

is about this reality.

O God! O One Who has sent down the Qur’an! For the sake of the Qur’an and the one unto whom You sent it down, illumine our hearts with the light of belief and the Qur’an. Amen. O One from Whom help is sought!

Can you compare the Qur’an and modern civilization with respect to literary merits each has?

In the same way as modern civilization is defeated before the scientific and practical miraculousness of the Qur’an, when compared to the Qur’an’s literary merits—which may be likened to the uplifting songs of an elevated lover arising from a temporary separation or heroic epics encouraging to victory and lofty sacrifices—the literature and rhetoric of modern civilization are like either the desperate, grief-stricken wailing of an orphan or the clamor of a drunkard.

In regard to effect, styles of literature and rhetoric give either sorrow or joy. Sorrow is of two kinds. It arises from either loneliness and being without protection and support or from separation from the beloved. The first is despairing and of the kind which modern misguided, naturalist and heedless civilization produces. The second is lofty and exhilarating and of the kind which arouses in man a hope and eagerness for reunion, and which is given by the guiding, light-diffusing Qur’an.

As for joy, it is also of two kinds. The first is of the kind which incites the soul to animal desires. This is what the literature and all forms of the arts of modern civilization do—the ‘fine’ arts, drama and cinema, etc. The second kind of joy restrains the carnal self and urges in a mannerly, innocent way the heart, spirit, intellect, and all other inner senses and faculties of man to lofty things and reunion with his original, eternal abode and his friends who have already gone to this abode. This joy is given by the Qur’an of miraculous explanation, which encourages man to Paradise, to eternal happiness and vision of God, for which it arouses in him eagerness.

Thus, the profound meaning and great truth contained in the verse, Say: ‘If man and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they would never produce its like, not though they backed one another’ (al-Isra’, 17.88), is not, as some careless people of little understanding assert, an exaggerated claim. It is a hundred percent truth and reality, which the long history of Islam has proved.

The challenge the verse contains has two principal aspects. One is that in styles, eloquence, rhetoric, wording, comprehensiveness, conciseness and profundity, no beautiful words of men and jinn which do not originate from the Qur’an can resemble or equal the Qur’an. Nor all the most beautiful, most eloquent words of men and jinn composed together in a well-arranged volume by the most capable among them can in any way be equal to the Qur’an. The second aspect is that, however glittering and apparently profound and beautiful, all of the civilizations, philosophies, literatures and laws, which are the product of the minds of men and jinn, and the result of their studies, are dim and helpless in the face of the Qur’anic commandments, wisdom and eloquence.

 

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