The Qur’an’s Wisdom and Modern Scientific Thought
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)
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)
And the heavens rolled up in His right hand, (39:67)
He created the heavens and the earth in six days, (7:54)
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!’
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!
By Ali Unal,
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.
- 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.