The view of the Quran and philosophy on life
Why does the Quran not mention the universe in the same way as philosophy does?
Let us understand the answer to this question through a parable. Once, a religious and very artistic king wanted to write something that was suitable for the holiness of the Quran and the miraculousness of its words and to clothe its miraculous body with a nice garment.
That artistic person wrote the Quran in a wondrous way. He used all precious gems while writing it. In order to attract attention to its various realities, he wrote some letters with diamonds and emeralds, some with pearls and onyx, some with brilliant and coral and some with gold and silver.
He decorated it in such a style that both those who could read and those who could not read were amazed by it. It seemed to be a very precious antique piece of work to experts since the outward beauty of the book was an indication of the bright beauty of its meaning.
Then, he showed that wise, artistic and decorated book to a philosopher and a Muslim scholar. He ordered each of them to write a book about the wisdom of the book in order to test and to reward them.
First, the philosopher then the scholar wrote a book about it. The book of the philosopher mentioned only the adornment of the letters, the connection between words, their positions and the properties of its gems. It did not mention its meaning. For, the foreign philosopher did not know how to read Arabic. He did not regard the ornamented Quran as a book and as a writing that had a meaning. He saw it as an ornamented antique work. The philosopher did not know Arabic but he was a good engineer, a fine artist, a skilled chemist and an expert jeweler. He wrote the book based on the arts and sciences he knew.
When the Muslim scholar looked at it, he saw that it was the glorious and wise Quran. He did not pay attention to the external adornments; he was not interested in the ornamented letters. Rather, he became preoccupied with something that was a million times higher, more elevated, more subtle, more noble and more beneficial. For, mentioning the sacred truths and lights of the mysteries beneath the veil of the decorations, he wrote a truly fine commentary.
Then the two of them took their works and presented them to the illustrious king. The king first took the philosopher's work. He looked at it and saw that that self-centered and nature-worshipping man had worked very hard, but he had written nothing of true wisdom. He had understood nothing of its meaning. Indeed, he had confused it and been disrespectful towards it, and ill-mannered even. For, supposing that the source of truths, the Quran, to be meaningless decoration, he had insulted it as being without value in regard to its meaning. And so the wise king hit him over the head with his work and expelled him from his presence.
Then he looked at the work of the other, the truth-loving, scrupulous scholar, and saw that it was an extremely fine and beneficial commentary, a most wise composition full of guidance. He said, "Congratulations! May God bless you! This is wisdom and they call those who possess it knowledgeable and wise. As for the other man, he was a craftsman who had exceeded his authority.
Then, in reward for the scholar's work, he commanded that in return for each letter ten gold pieces should be given him from his inexhaustible treasury.
And so, if you have understood the parable, look at its reality and see this:
The ornamented Quran in the parable is this artistically fashioned universe, whose ground is ornamented with flowers, and whose sky is decorated with stars.
And the king is Allah, who is ruler of the pre-eternity and post-eternity.
As for the two men, the first one, that is the foreigner, is philosophy and philosophers, and the other is the Quran and its students.
Yes, the Quran is the most eloquent translator of the book of the Universe. Yes, it instructs man and the jinn concerning the signs of creation inscribed by the pen of power on the pages of the universe and on the leaves of time. And it looks at beings, each of which is a meaningful letter, as bearing the meaning of another, that is, it looks at them on account of Allah, who creates them.
For instance, you can look at a mirror in two ways:
1- To look at the mirror to see the mirror itself; this looking is called literal meaning.
2- To look at the mirror to see the thing or person that appears on it. This second look is called signified meaning. In this look, the mirror is of no importance. What matters is what is seen on the mirror.
Philosophy looks at the universe, which is like a mirror, with literal meaning, that is, on account of beings.
The Quran looks at the mirror of the universe to see the artist that becomes manifest on that mirror. It has discovered His names and attributes and said, "How beautifully they have been created; they show the beauty of Allah, their Maker, in the best way."
On the other hand, philosophy has plunged into the decorations of the letters of the universe and beings and has become bewildered. Instead of looking at the universe on account of Allah, it has looked at the universe on account of beings; instead of saying, "How beautifully they have been made", it has said, "How beautiful they are" and has exceeded its boundaries.
We can understand the difference of these two views through the following parable:
If we put an antique chair, before philosophers, they would start to examine it. They would search its shape, structure, the type of the tree, when it was made, etc. They would never think about who made this chair and why it was made. They would act as if that chair came into being as a coincidence.
However, the Quran and its students would be interested in the maker of the chair rather than the ornament of the chair and the quality of the tree. They would focus on questions like, “Who made this chair? Why did he make it? What is the meaning of this chair? What is the name of the maker of this chair and what are his attributes? Does he have any commands for us?”
When a philosopher and his students saw a horse tied to a stake pushed into the ground, they would be interested in the stake, the horse and the rope. They would write many books about them. However, they would not be interested in the issues of wisdom like, “Who does the horse belong to? Who pushed this stake into the ground? Why did he tie the horse here? Where did the rope come from? What does the person who did it want to say?" However, the Quran is interested in real wisdom and teaches people the answers to the questions above.
The world and the things in it are works of art that have been made artistically. The world and the other stars are connected to the sun with spiritual ropes and rotate around it. Philosophy is interested only in the outward appearance of this world and the things in it. It mentions the laws that connect them to each other.
It does not think about why and by whom these wonderful things were created and who imposed these laws. However, the Quran sees everything as a window leading to the artist of everything, Allah. It tries to make people know Allah through those things and looks at the beings on account of Allah. It discovers Allah's names and attributes in everything, from a fly to the sun. Everything looks like a letter and a poem, including the names of their artists. Everything looks like a treasure in which divine attributes are kept.
Thus, philosophy looks at the universe with literal meaning, that is, on account of beings. The Quran looks at it with signified meaning, that is, on account of its maker, Allah. The expressions of the Quran and philosophy, which look at the universe with different reasons and through different windows, about the universe will definitely be different.
The Quran removes the veil of heedlessness and the veil of ordinariness and habituation placed by philosophy on the simple things that are regarded as worthless in the universe but that are actually extraordinary and miracles of Allah's power; it shows those extraordinary beings to sane people attracting their look on them and showing them an endless treasure of knowledge and science.
For instance, the Quran says the following:
“Do they not look at the Camels, how they are made?― And at the Sky, how it is raised high?
And at the Mountains How they are fixed firm?―
And at the Earth, how it is spread out? It is He who sendeth down rain from the skies.
With it We produce vegetation of all kinds: from some We produce green (crops), out of which We produce grain, heaped up (at harvest).
Out of the date-palm and its sheaths (or spathes) (come) clusters of dates hanging low and near: and (then there are) gardens of grapes, and olives, and pomegranates each similar (in kind) yet different (in variety).
When they begin to bear fruit, feast your eyes with the fruit and the ripeness thereof. Behold! In these things there are signs for people who believe”
Thus, with the verses above and similar ones, the Quran attracts attention to the things that are regarded as ordinary and worthless. It emphasizes that they are extraordinary works of art. It orders us to look at them, to think about their subtleties and to know Allah, who is their artist.
As for philosophy, it hides the miracles and works of Allah's power under the veil of custom and habituation, and mentions them inattentively. It pays attention to rare individuals that are exceptions.
For instance, it regards the creation of man, which is a miracle of divine power, as normal and ordinary and looks at it indifferently. However, it displays a man with three legs or two heads.
Philosophy regards the nutrition of young animals and humans regularly by Allah's treasure of mercy as normal and ordinary, and hides it under the veil of ingratitude. However, it sees the exceptional nutrition of an insect living alone under the sea by a green leaf and wants to make all fishermen cry through the grace and generosity that become manifest on it.
This is the wealth and richness of the Quran in terms of knowledge, wisdom and making Allah known; and this is the poverty and bankruptcy of philosophy in terms of knowledge, taking lessons and making Allah known.
- First Principle: The viewpoints of the Qur'an and philosophy towards the universe. The explanation of the following notions: "the meaning which looks to the thing itself" and "significative meaning".
- Second Gleam: The Qur’an’s and Philosophy’s points of view on the world.
- Why is philosophy condemned? Can a Muslim oppose philosophy?
- What are the various definitions of man according to Islam?
- Since living creatures are manifestations of God’s names, can we not think that the mixture of all things is God? In that case, does God resemble anything?
- First Aim: The nature of “I” (ego).
- Second Aim: The duties of atoms and molecules in forming various matters.
- What are the principles of the education system in the Islamic civilization?
- What are the causes that lead man to deception?
- Third Gleam: A comparison between the works of scholars who take lessons from the Qur’an and the Qur’an itself.