Similitudes and Parables in the Qur’an

Similitudes and Parables in the Qur’an – Intro

Shaykh Jamir Meah introduces his new series: Similitudes and Parables in the Qur’an. It begins this Friday with the first post: Deaf, Mute, and Blind.

Many religious scriptures share the common characteristic of deploying similitudes and parables to convey their message and as a means of illustrating profound, divine truths. The Qur’an does not differ in this sense, and Allah Most High uses many similitudes and parables in His final revelation to mankind.

Parables Are Linguistic Memes

Before mass communication and technology, the oral tradition was an integral part of many societies. Poetry and storytelling were the media of the day and a means to preserve the history of a people. Parables were a common form of teaching, particularly, in matters of belief and morals.

Never before has man been so aware of the power and influence of images on the human mind. The mnemonic power of visualization was recognized by past nations. However, images were set up in the mind by far subtler uses than we have today; using language to create graphic analogies of common things, familiar to all, in order to drive home a particular message. Parables convey spiritual and moral knowledge and can say things symbolically that we humans cannot always say using the spoken word.

Parables and similitudes function as narratives, and everybody enjoys and remembers a good story. Because it creates a visualization in the mind, we learn and retain information better because the subject is associated with something we already know, understand within a familiar context. Because we understand and remember better, there is more chance that we will reflect upon it.

Seeing What You Hear

In the Qur’an, parables and similitudes are used extensively, in a variety of forms and they cover many themes. The lessons in these, which are to be taken away and reflected upon, is the universal message contained with them, so the characters, place, or time, mentioned in them are of minor significance.

In many cases, Allah uses in the Qur’an those things that would have been familiar to the desert Arab folk who were chosen to be the people from whom the final Prophet would arise, and the centre from which Islam would go forth and spread across the earth. Hence, we find many similitudes and parables concerning agriculture, livestock, the sun, the moon and the stars, rain and water, wealth in children, trade, etc.

In this series we will be exploring some of the beautiful similitudes and parables in the Qur’an, with the purpose of reminding ourselves of the lessons to be taken from them and reflect upon them. We will also do this with the intention to reconnect our minds and hearts to the universal message of our Book, for Allah has told us:

We set forth these parables to men that they may reflect. (Sura al Hashr 59:21)