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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 jewelry. 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.


This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.