THE DIVINE PARABLES: INTRODUCTION
The Qur’an uses many literary devices to convey its messages & its moral principles, among them are parables. The term “mathal” in Arabic, means parable or similitude. The word “Parable” is from Greek & means “comparison”.
“And indeed We have put forth every kind of example in this Qur’an, for mankind. But, man is ever more quarrelsome than anything” [18:54]
Qur’anic parables are lessons & moral wisdom which make it easier to understand the truth for guidance & righteousness by way of encouragement & warning.
“Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect” [59:21]
“And these similitudes We put forward for mankind; but none will understand them except those who have knowledge (of Allaah & His Signs)” [29:43]
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(1)MAN WHO KINDLED A FIRE [2: 17-18]
Their likeness is as the likeness of one who kindled a fire; then, when it lighted all around him, Allah took away their light and left them in darkness. (So) they could not see. They are deaf, dumb, and blind, so they return not (to the Right Path).
MEANING: It refers to the staunch hypocrites (who in reality are unbelievers) but pretend to be muslims. They think that they are doing the right thing by remaining unbelievers secretly in their heart & they also get benefits from the muslim state because of what they profess outwardly [these 2 states of their mind are represented by the fire giving them light] but, in fact, they have lost their senses because they have deliberately diverted themselves away from the worship of the One True God – Allah.
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(2) RAIN-LADEN CLOUD [2:19 -20]
Or like a rainstorm from the sky, wherein is darkness, thunder, and lightning. They thrust their fingers in their ears to keep out the stunning thunderclap for fear of death. But Allah ever encompasses the disbelievers (i.e. Allah will gather them all together).
The lightning almost snatches away their sight, whenever it flashes for them, they walk therein, and when darkness covers them, they stand still. And if Allah willed, He could have taken away their hearing and their sight. Certainly, Allah has power over all things.
MEANING: It refers to the less staunch hypocrites; who juggle in & out of iman & nifaq. The rain laden cloud may refer to the overpowering attribute of Allah or /& the revelation of Allah to mankind while the darkness & thunder refer to the challenges & responsibilities human beings who claim to believe will face. The lightening is the commandments of Allah, when obeyed, then we will benefit from it as represented by the light (guidance, peace in this world & the hereafter).The hypocrites are afraid to die, fearful of the meeting with Allah on the Last Day because of their unstable believe. Though, the hypocrites know the truth, they try to avoid the challenges & responsibilities that come as a result of believe so, they try to shut out reality by blocking their ears, but Allah’s doom is always around them.
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(3)THE PARABLE OF THE MOSQUITO (2: 26)
“Verily, Allaah is not ashamed to set forth a parable even of a mosquito or so much more when it is bigger (or less when it is smaller) than it. And as for those who believe, they know that it is the Truth from their Lord, but as for those who disbelieve, they say: ‘What did Allah intend by this parable?’ By it He misleads many, and many He guides thereby. And He leaves to go astray only those who are Al-Faasiqoon (the rebellious, disobedient to Allaah”
MEANING: It is a response to the allegations of the unbelievers who rejected & attempted to ridicule the Qur’an by sarcastically wondering what Allah intended by such examples using tiny creatures. In fact, as tiny as these creatures may be, there are many lessons we can learn from their nature & life activities (as seen in numerous science documentaries about bees, spiders etc.). As small as these creatures are, they can cause havoc to huge creatures e.g. humans (remember the story of the affliction caused to Namrud by such small creature) etc. This is further explained by another parable & verse of the Qur’an [22:73] O mankind! A similitude has been coined, so listen to it (carefully): Verily! Those on whom you call besides Allah, cannot create (even) a fly, even though they combine together for the purpose. And if the fly snatched away a thing from them, they would have no power to release it from the fly. So weak are (both) the seeker and the sought.
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(4) GOAT/SHEEP-HERD [2:171] And the example of those who disbelieve, is as that of him who shouts to the (flock of sheep) that hears nothing but calls and cries. (They are) deaf, dumb and blind. So they do not understand.
MEANING: The sense organs of the unbelievers will not lead them to believe in Allah, no matter how much one tries, as their ability to use their instincts, sense organs & intellect have been rendered useless by their refusal to believe. Guidance has different levels e.g. the instincts like among the insects birds, fishes etc. who make beehives, spider webs , travel long distances & do many wonderful things without necessarily possessing advances sense organs & special intellect like human beings, another level of guidance is that based on our advanced sense organs as seen in other bigger creatures & human beings. However, our senses can fail us sometimes e.g. human beings may see a mirage in a desert , then hasten towards it thinking it is water but our intellect eventually make us realise it is a fluke. Our eyes are unable to see without an external light. The intellect is a higher level of guidance which is given to humans to differentiate between right & wrong. However, the intellect also makes mistakes: therefore it needs to function within the perimeter of divine revelation to be fully guided to what the uncreated creator(ALLAH) desires.
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(5) TOWN/HAMLET IN RUINS [2:259] Or like the one who passed by a town and it had tumbled over its roofs. He said: “Oh! How will Allah ever bring it to life after its death?” So Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: “How long did you remain (dead)?” He (the man) said: “(Perhaps) I remained (dead) a day or part of a day”. He said: “Nay, you have remained (dead) for a hundred years, look at your food and your drink, they show no change; and look at your donkey! And thus We have made of you a sign for the people. Look at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh”.When this was clearly shown to him, he said, “I know (now) that Allah is Able to do all things.”
Allah created all the first time & has the power to recreate all again. Those who are raised up from their graves on the Day of Judgement will have no recollection of time or space [which are features exclusive to this ephemeral world] i.e. they won’t be able to say precisely how long they have lain dead, nor will they be able to judge distances.
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(6)GRAIN OF CORN [2:261] The likeness of those who spend their wealth in the Way of Allah, is as the likeness of a grain (of corn); it grows seven ears, and each ear has a hundred grains. Allah gives manifold increase to whom He pleases. And Allah is All-Sufficient for His creatures needs, All Knower.
MEANING: The magnificent reward of spending in the way of Allah exclusively for His sake. Ibn Abbas reported that the messenger (peace be upon him) related from ALLAH (Hadith Qudsi); Verily Allah has recorded the good deeds & evil deeds.” Whoever intends to do a good deed but does not do it, Allah records it with Himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it & does it, Allah records it with himself as (10)ten good deeds, up to 700(Seven hundred) times or more. But if he intends to do an evil deed & does not do it Allah records it with himself as a complete good deed; but if he intends it & does it, Allah records it as one single evil deed.”(Bukhari & Muslim)
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(7) HARD, BARREN ROCK [2:264] O you who believe! Do not render in vain your Sadaqah (charity) by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men, and he does not believe in Allah, nor in the Last Day. His likeness is the likeness of a smooth rock on which is a little dust; on it falls heavy rain which leaves it bare. They are not able to do anything with what they have earned. And Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.
MEANING: Rain falls on a garden (fertile land/ believers) and the plants of the garden grow bigger (reward) similitude for believers who do charity for the sake of Allah. But the hypocrites who do it for the sake of show off & not for Allah; have no rewards, rather their deeds are washed away. The rock (non -fertile /disbelievers) signifies their strong hypocrisy covered with a little dust (little Iman).
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(8) GARDEN ON A HEIGHT. (2: 265) And the likeness of those who spend their wealth seeking Allah’s Pleasure while they in their own selves are sure and certain that Allah will reward them (for their spending in His Cause), is the likeness of a garden on a height; heavy rain falls on it and it doubles its yield of harvest. And if it does not receive heavy rain, light rain suffices it. And Allah is All-Seer of (knows well) what you do.
MEANING: Those who spend seeking exclusively the pleasure of Allah & to strengthen their souls. They have sincerely submitted, patient on the acts of worship & they are like a fertile land willing to accept/absorb whatever amount of water is given to it; it still tries to continue striving in the cause of Allah & achieving good results & getting huge rewards whatever the situation.
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(9) GARDEN BURNT DOWN AT OLD AGE. (2:266) Would any of you wish to have a garden with date-palms and vines, with rivers flowing underneath, and all kinds of fruits for him therein, while he is stricken with old age, and his children are weak (not able to look after themselves), then it is struck with a fiery whirlwind, so that it is burnt? Thus, does Allah make clear His Ayat (proofs, evidences, verses) to you that you may give thought.
MEANING: we should never rely on other than Allah for our success/sustenance in this world & the hereafter, we should not be arrogant & commit not major sins simply because we think we have acquired so much good deeds; because all our good deeds/wealth may be wiped away by committing major sins.
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(10)CREATION OF JESUS & THAT OF ADAM.(3:59) Verily, the likeness of Iesa (Jesus) before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: “Be!” – and he was.
MEANING: Allah’s response to one the questions the Christian deputation from Najran asked the prophet (peace of Allah be upon him). Allah shows that the creation of Jesus was not different from that of Adam because he simply commanded both of them to be & they were. It further proved to them that the miraculous birth of Jesus by Mary without a father does not justify referring to him as god or a part of trinity. Furthermore, if Jesus can be referred to as god on account of having a mother but not a father, then eve(hawwah) could also be a god because she was created from the rib of Adam (?? a father) without a mother. In fact, we should refer to Adam as the greatest begotten son of god or the biggest god because Allah created adam with his own hands & he had neither a father nor a mother. (Allah) said: “O Iblees (Satan)! What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I have created with Both My Hands. Are you too proud (to fall prostrate to Adam) or are you one of the high exalted?” Q 38:75.The insinuations of the Christians that God almighty is the biological father of Jesus is indeed an insult to the uncreated creator as refuted by Allah.”Had Allah willed to take a son (or offspring or children), He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He created. But glory be to Him! (He is above such things). He is Allah, the One, the Irresistible.(39:4) & “He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can He have children when He has no wife? He created all things and He is the All-Knower of everything.6:101.To further remove doubts in the mind of all that Allah is not the biological father of anyone, He did not refer to Himself as father in any of His beautiful names & attributes despite the closeness in Arabic between the word(Lord “Rabb” & Father “Abb”).