QURANIC PARABLES

“It is He who had bestowed upon you the book: parts of it are locked (precise) verses, which are the mother of the book; and other parts are allegorical. As for those who have perversion in their hearts (minds) they will pursue the allegorical portions of it for the purpose of and interpreting its true meaning. But no one knows their true meaning except God. And those who are well-learned say: ‘we believe in all of it; it’s all from our Lord.’ But only the thoughtful ones can truly heed (7).” Al-Imran (Ch. 3)

Locked verses are those that are very straight forward, like saying “thou shall not kill.” Such verses are referred to as “locked” because both the text and the meaning are fixed (constant). You don’t need a philosopher or a clergyman to explain to you what they mean.

The other verses, hence, contain a variable (unlocked; unfixed) meaning. These are the allegorical type, such as parables and stories, like saying “God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His light is a niche….”

The verse then goes on to tell us that those who have a perversion in their hearts (i.e. minds); who are skewed, corrupt, rotten, etc., they will pursue the allegorical type of verses for the purpose of causing dissension as they try to interpret their true meaning. But no one knows the true meaning of the allegorical verses, says the Quran, except God Himself.

And while those of great learning and understanding may not be able to decipher the true meaning of the allegorical, they are wise enough to see that it is the truth from God, all of it, the allegorical and the locked.

Thus, the ultimate truth can only be conveyed to us, humans, in the form of allegory or parable, because we do not possess the necessary tools to perceive deep reality. Our sense perception is profoundly limited, as science has proven time and again.

Take for example the belief in Heaven and Hell. The Gospel gives us the first parable of heaven and hell in Matthew 13:24-30:

"(24) Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. (25) But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. (26) When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. (27) "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' (28) "'An enemy did this,' he replied. "The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' (29) "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. (30) Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" Matthew 13:24-30

The Quran uses similar parables to describe the afterlife, where God’s barn is a great garden of indescribable beauty, with rivers of honey, milk, and wine, flowing from underneath, as well as fruits and exotic sex mates. The Quran confirms that this Paradise is nothing more than a parable, in chapter 13, “the Thunder”:

“The parable of the garden promised to the righteous: it has rivers flowing from underneath, its shade and fruit are infinite. That is the reward of the righteous. And the fire is the reward of the disbelievers (35)”

Even God, Himself, is described in parable, for there is no way He can be described in human reality:

“God is the light of the heavens and the earth. The parable of his light is like a lamp inside a niche. The lamp is placed within a crystal. The crystal looks like a sparkling planet being lit by a holy olive tree neither from the East nor from the West. Its oil barely shines although no fire ignites it. Light upon light. God guides to his light whomever He wants. God sets parables for people. Know that God is omniscient (35)” The Light (Ch. 24)

Parables, then, are the greatest form of communicating the truth to the human mind. Since the human mind is incapable of perceiving (or even imagining) the ultimate reality of things, only parables can be used: the act of using perceivable objects as metaphors to the unperceivable reality.

“God does not disdain from expressing parables, (even of something as insignificant as) a mosquito or above. As for those who believe, they know these parables are the truth from their Lord. Whereas those who disbelieve, they shall say: ‘what is God’s purpose in expressing such parables, with which He guides many, as well as misguide many?’ But it is only the unrighteous who are misguided by them (26)” The Cow (Ch. 2)

“(10) The disciples came to him [Jesus] and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (11) He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. (12) Whoever has, will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. (13) This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not perceive; though hearing, they do not understand. (14) In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. (15) For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ [Isaiah 6:9-10]. (16) But blessed are your eyes because they perceive, and your ears because they fathom. (17) For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to perceive what you perceive but did not perceive it, and to hear what you hear but did not understand it.” Matthew 13:10-17

“If We had revealed this Quran onto a mountain, you will have seen it humbled and blown asunder from the awe of God. These parables We express to people in hope that they would contemplate (21)” The Cramming (Ch. 59)

“These parables We express to people. No one understands them but the wise (43)” The Spider (Ch. 29)

If you try to interpret the parables in a literal sense, as the Pharisees had done, all you will accomplish would be to transform the allegorical verses into locked verses which are no longer understood by any other space-time other than yours, and the absolute truth cannot afford to be confined within the relative literalist perception. However, if you dive deeper into knowledge you may be able to understand the allegorical relative to your space-time and perceive the truth with the eye of your mind, and you would realize that it cannot be confined by a text, but it is the text that is confined by the truth. It is the human language that is utilized and harnessed to convey the truth to the human mind. Therefore, there is no religion better than another, nor a sect better than another, nor a prophet or messenger better than another, and no scripture better than another. That’s because the truth cannot be contained by any particular form. The truth is the truth, and the Straight Path is the Straight Path. And we are all human, created in His image; equipped by design to recognize the Straight Path and understand the benefits of walking on it, if we were wise enough to choose to do so.


Yin-Yang in the Quran
Chapter 18: The Cave (verses 65 – 82)


Then they met a servant of mine (a man) whom I have bestowed upon of My mercy and taught him of My knowledge (65) Moses said to him: 'may I become your disciple so that you may teach me some of the wisdom you have been taught?' (66) The man answered: 'You won't have the patience. (67) For how can you be patient with what you have no knowledge of?' (68) Moses replied: 'You shall find me, God willing, very patient and I shall not disobey you in any matter." (69) The man replied: 'If you become my disciple, do not ask me about anything until I have spoken to you its meaning.' (70) Then they both went off and when they boarded a ship, he bored a hole in it. Moses said: 'did you puncture it to drown its passengers? You have truly done a very strange thing.' (71) The man rhetorted: 'Didn't I tell you that you will not have patience to be my disciple?' (72) Moses said: 'Do not blame me, I forgot. Don't make this more difficult on me.' (73) Then they went off and came across a young boy, and the learned man killed him. Moses said: 'you killed a pure soul that had not killed anyone! You have committed a horrible thing!' (74) The man rhetorted: 'Didn't I tell you that you will not have patience to be my disciple?' (75) Moses said: 'If I ever ask you about anything after this then don't keep company with me, as I shall have no more excuses.' (76) They went off again until they arrived at a town. They asked its dwellers for food but they were refused any hospitality. Then they found a wall about to fall apart, so the man repaired it, and Moses said to him: 'you could have asked for some payment for this.' (77) The learned man said: 'This is the end of our companionship. Now I shall tell you the meaning of that which you couldn't have patience for. (78) As for the ship, it belonged to a poor people who labored in the sea, and I wanted to cause a defect in it for they have been targeted by a king who forcefully seized every good ship he laid his eyes upon. (79) As for the boy, his parents were believers and I worried that he would overburden them with transgression and rejection. (80) So I wanted for their Lord to replace him with another son more pure and more compassionate (81) As for the wall, it belonged to two young orphans in the city, and underneath it there was a treasure left for them, and their father was a good man. God wanted for these two young orphans to grow up strong then fetch their treasure, a bliss from God, and nothing I have done was of my own accord. That is the meaning in all what you had no patience for.' (82)

There is a big chance that this learned man who was accompanied by Moses was a follower of the Chinese Taoist religion, for what he has done with Moses appears to be so similar to Taoist philosophy. The following is a famous Taoist parable relayed through the generations throughout China: the story of the farmer:

It was said there was a farmer who owned one horse. And one day that horse ran away. The man's neighbor came out to console him on his grave loss. But the farmer said to him: "Who knows, this might be a good thing."

Then after a few months had passed, the horse came back with two beautiful wild horses. The neighbor came out to congratulate him on his great fortune. But the farmer said to him: "Who knows, this might be a bad thing."

A day later the farmer's son was trying to ride one of the wild horses and he fell off and broke his leg. The neighbor heard the screams and came out to comfort him and his son, but the farmer said: "Who knows, this might be a good thing."

After a short while, a war broke out and the landlord gave out the order to draft all able young men into the army. Every young man in the village was conscripted, except the farmer's son who's leg was broken. The neighbor heard the news and came out to congratulate his neighbor for this great luck. But the farmer said yet again: "Who knows, this might be a bad thing."

In the Quran, this Taoist philosophy can be clearly seen in a verse in its second chapter, the Cow:

Fighting has been ordained upon you despite how much you hate it. You may hate something that turns out to be good for you, and you may love something that turns out to be bad for you. God knows and you do not. (216)

As for Taoism, it was started by the mysterious Chinese philosopher Lao Zi. Not much is known about him, for it is said that after he had written the Dao De Jing, the Taoists' holy book, he went into seclusion in the mountains of India and never returned. As for the word "Tao," it is the Cantonese pronunciation of the Mandarin word "Dao," which literally means the Path; connotatively: Guidance. Thus, Taoists are basically called the guided ones (on the path). As for what that Path exactly is, Lao Zi explains in his book as follows:

有物混成
先天地生
寂兮寥兮
独立而不改
周行而不殆
可以为天下母
吾不知其名
字曰“道”

道德经 (第二十五章)

There is a mixture that has become one
It existed before sky and earth
It has no form, no sound, and no body
It is one and unchanging
It encircles everything and it never tires
It is the source of all life under the sky
I do not know its name
So I call it Tao (the path)

The Taoist Holy Book (Chapter 25)

It is from the farmer's parable that we may understand the famous Taoist symbol: the yin-yang. The white represents good, the black represents evil. And as you can see, although balanced, they are not separated by a straight line. They swim around each other replacing one another. Moreover, good is present at the heart of evil, and evil is present at the heart of good, as resembled by the two black and white spots. Lao Zi says that the meaning of all life can be understood just by contemplating this symbol.


 

The Quran Honoring Biblical Parables
Chapter 48: The Liberation (verse 29)ـ


Muhammad, messenger of God, and those with him, are tough against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating; seeking bliss and content from God. Their signs are in their faces from bowing in prayer. That is their parable in the Torah. And their parable in the Gospel is like a seed that sends forth its shoot and strengthens it and rises firm on its stalk, delighting its sower and enraging the disbelievers. God has promised forgiveness and a great reward to those who believe and do good deeds from among them (29)

This verse is talking about the prophet Muhammad, messenger of God (peace be upon him) and those Muslims standing with him, describing them as being tough on the disbelievers and simultaneously merciful among one another. It then describes them as people who pray a lot, so much that it is obvious just by looking at their faces. The verse then tells us why they pray so much: they are seeking God's bliss and acceptance. Then the verse ends with a promise. It is a promise to be granted forgiveness and great reward. This promise was made to those who believe and do good deeds among them. Among who? Among the group of Muslims with Muhammad! That's who! You see that when God describes them as those who constantly pray, no promise is made for them to gain forgiveness or reward. The promise is only made to a specific group among them: the group of those who believe and do good deeds. Those are the ones promised forgiveness and great reward.

And when God speaks of this parable from the Gospel of Christ, He is inviting us to read the full context of that parable as it has actually appeared in the Gospel, found in the Gospel through Matthew, Chapter 13, verses 1 ~ 9 and 18 ~ 23.