It comprises figurative illustration of a theme. Generally speaking, it makes use of language to represent object, actions, feelings, thoughts, ideas or extra-sensory experience. It, however, does not use imagery as a measure of art for arts sake, but to heighten the impact of the divine message on the imaginative and receptive human mind. Quranic imagery is not a literary pursuit, but a means of illustrating Almighty Allah’s intent and purpose of creation in a figurative, poignant and pithy manner of speech.
It aims not at any poetic ornamentation of words or ideas. It has been applied to picturesquely reveal the truth in letter and spirit. Herein, the literal, perceptual and conceptual are integrated together. The sublime simplicity, piercing force, pictorial narration and enchanting beauty of the Holy Quran lie fundamentally in the message itself. The literary expression is subservient to divine purpose. It is not meant to override or overshadow the purport of the basic message.
We give below a few examples of Quranic imageries to explain this point of view:
The Holy Quran speaks again and again about signs of Almighty Allah in nature that inevitably beckon the human mind towards its Creator. For example, the following verse portrays wondrous celestial order created by Almighty Allah: “Allah it is Who raised the heavens without pillar as you see, then He established (Himself) supreme upon the Arsh (the Divine Throne), and pressed into service the sun and the moon; each one runs according to a set time. He directs the affairs (and) reveals the signs in details, so that you feel certain of the meeting with your Lord” (13:2). The meeting with the Creator is to take place on the Day of Resurrection.
A pictorial passage touching on Almighty Allah’s mighty work of nature reads as follows: “By the sun and its rising radiance, the moon when follows it, the day when it reveals the splendour of the sun, the night when it conceals it (the sun), the heaven, and as (He) built it, the Earth as (He) spread it and the Nafs (man), and as (He) fashioned it; then He inspired into him the sense of wickedness and piety. Indeed prospered he who purified himself; and truly failed he who corrupted himself” (91:1-10)
Food is one of life’s basic needs. About food production, Almighty Allah illustrates the process thus: “Indeed We poured down water in abundance; then We split the Earth in clefts; then We grew therein grains, grapes and vegetables, and olives and dates, and luxuriant orchards, and fruits and pastures, as a provision for your cattle and you” (80:25-32). The simple narration provides food for thought for those who care to reflect about divine bounties.
Almighty God wants man that the life of this world is transient. It is a temporary show of material pomp and glory and destined eventually to decline and fall. The signs and phenomena of nature point to the supremacy of Almighty Allah and to His exquisite creation. The divine purpose is to educate man for his spiritual betterment and to make him reflect as to realise his station in life and offer his grateful thanks to his munificent Creator. To the doubting ones, Almighty Allah poses again and again the question: “So, which of the favours of you Lord will you deny” (55:13).
Paradise will be the home of the righteous in the Hereafter. They are called at one place: “Companions of the right hand”. In sharp contrast comes the word picture of the hell, the final abode of those who disbelieve and lead a vicious life in this world.
Having given us the senses, intellect and reason and having explained the phenomena of life and death, good and evil, right and wrong, piety and sin, paradise and hell, Almighty Allah invites us to reflect and choose our way. Only if the choice is right, will the going be good.
Khwaja Mohammed Zubair is a former Khaleej Times staffer
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