Parables in the Quran ~ Al-ʿIzz bin ʿAbd al-Salām

The following comes from al-ʿIzz bin ʿAbd al-Salām al-Sulamī’s booklet Nubadhun min maqāṣid al-kitāb al-ʿazīz (“Overview of the Objectives of the Quran”). More of the book is available through Patreon.

Parables [and likeness and examples] are never separated from promises, threats, praise, censure, blame, or reprimand.

An example of promising the compounding of rewards for good deeds is Allah Most High saying

“The example of those who spend their wealth in the path of Allah is as the likeness of a grain which grows seven spikes, each spike containing one hundred grains. Allah multiplies [rewards] for whomever He wills”⁠[1]

“And the example of those who spend their wealth in search of Allah’s pleasure seeking to confirming [rewards] for themselves, is as the likeness of a garden on high ground which is hit by a downpour so it yields its fruits twofold”⁠[2]

With these two parables, He likened the compounding of rewards for spending in order to encourage spending.

He likened disbelief voiding pious works in order to drive [them] away from disbelief and to strongly warn that it removes the reward of the pious deeds they have performed. Thus, He said

“The likeness of those who disbelieve in their Lord: Their works are as ashes which the wind blows furiously on a stormy day”⁠[3]

“The likeness of what they [disbelievers] spend in this worldly life is as the likeness of a biting, icy wind which strikes the harvest of a people who have wronged themselves, and devastates it”⁠[4]

Similarly, He likened disbelievers presuming that their works will benefit them on Judgment Day to someone thirsty who sees a mirage and thinks it is water, but when he arrives at it he finds that it is nothing, so Allah punishes him there. Similarly, on Judgment Day, He will punish the disbelievers who presumed their deeds will save them therein from destruction.⁠[5]

He likened [uttering] phrases of disbelief to a bad tree in order to drive away from it[s utterance] and to censure it. And He likened [uttering] phrases of belief to a goodly tree to urge and praise those phrases.⁠[6]

And, likewise, He likened belief to lights and life in other to encourage it. And He likened disbelief to darknesses and death to deter it.

As for reprimand, it occurs in, for example, Allah Most High saying

“He set forth for you a parable of yourselves. Are any of those whom your right hands possess partners in the wealth We have bestowed upon you so that you [and them] are equals therein and you fear them as you fear one another? Thus do We explain the signs in detail to people who use reason”⁠[7]

Allah Majestic asks how, when it comes to yourselves, do you reject that your slaves are partners in your wealth; yet, when it comes to your Lord, you do not reject that idols are partners in being divine? Indeed, you accept your Lord’s servants being partners in His divinity while rejecting the same for yourselves when it comes to your slaves being partners in your wealth.

Likewise, He likened the nobility of truth and its constancy to [the likeness of] rains, gold and silver ornaments, and all other tools; in order to encourage it [i.e., truth and its constancy].

He likened the vileness of falsehood and how quickly it abates to [the likeness of froth from flowing water and] slag from [smelting ore for] ornaments and tools and how quickly they abate from the watercourse and from the jewels. [He made those two likenesses] in order to drive [people] away from it [i.e, falsehood].[8]

And, likewise, He likened the quickness of hypocrites heading into darknesses in the afterlife to [the likeness of] the quickness of extinguishing a kindled fire [leaving] what it has illuminated around him [in darkness]. [He made this likeness] in order to drive away from hypocrisy and to warn against it.⁠[9]

1 Al-Baqarah, 2:261.
2 Al-Baqarah, 2:265.
3 Ibrāhīm, 14:18.
4 Āl ʿImrān, 3:117.
5 cf. Al-Nūr, 24:39.
6 cf. Ibrāhīm, 14:24–26.
7 Al-Rūm, 28.
8 cf. Al-Raʿd, 13:17.
9 cf. Al-Baqarah, 2:16–17.

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