Even though the use of symbols in language has long faded in history, we still use them in modern communication, more in the sense of ‘application’ and ‘information’, whether in industry, governance, or just societal norm. In this regard, they are used to convey an informative message, not knowledge per se. For instance, a symbol of a triangle with an exclamation mark conveys a message of ‘caution’ or ‘warning’. A symbol of skull and bones conveys ‘danger’. If the symbol is recognized and interpreted correctly, harm can be avoided, or the correct route can be navigated. Symbols are morphed and shaped together to build ‘signs’ much needed in the navigation of our modern lifestyle. Different signs represent different things, and many are universally known, such that no matter the spoken tongue, a visual glance is enough to recognize and comprehend.
But what does any of that have to do with the Qur’an?
It is as Dr. Zakir Naik always says, ‘The Holy Qur’an is not a book of science. It is a book of Signs.’
Signs. Ayaat. ايات. Not chapters and verses and sentences and quotes. Not numerical marvels. Not scientific predictions. Signs and symbols that have a breathing essence. A Language that bears meaning and knowledge that can be relayed, recognized, and understood. And Almighty Allah continually repeats;
إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَأَيَـٰتٍ۬ لِّقَوۡمٍ۬ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (Raad 13:3)
Verily, in this are Signs for a people who Think
كَذَٲلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ ٱللَّهُ لَكُمُ ٱلۡأَيَـٰتِ لَعَلَّكمۡ تَتَفَكَّرُونَ (Baqarah 2:219)
Thus Allah makes clear His Signs upon those who Think
كَذَٲلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ ٱلۡأَيَـٰتِ لِقَوۡمٍ۬ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (Yunus 10:24)
Thus do We explain the Signs for a people who Think
إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَأَيَـٰتٍ۬ لِّقَوۡمٍ۬ يَعۡقِلُونَ (Nahl 16:12)
Verily in this are Signs for a people who can Reason
إِنَّ فِى ذَٲلِكَ لَأَيَةً۬ لِّقَوۡمٍ۬ يَذَّكَّرُونَ (Nahl 16:13)
Verily in this are Signs for a people who Heed
Signs that require thought, that require reason, deep reflection, deep philosophy, to interpret and understand What our Creator is saying, How He is saying it, and more importantly Why He is saying it. Because He has also declared that the Revelations of these Signs explain all things;
وَنَزَّلۡنَا عَلَيۡكَ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ تِبۡيَـٰنً۬ا لِّكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ وَهُدً۬ى وَرَحۡمَةً۬ وَبُشۡرَىٰ لِلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ
And we sent down to you this book (of Signs), so that it may explain all things, and as a guidance, and a mercy, and glad tidings unto those who submit to the Will of Allah (Nahl 16:89)
Understand then that this Qur’an, and only this Qur’an, as the final testament upon mankind, can explain everything within this last cycle of human history, and therefore it can explain the strange world we live in.
It is here that a Philosophy of language can be applied to understand exactly what Allah is saying, because a literal translation would avail لِلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ as ‘those who are Muslims’. This becomes an incorrect interpretation, because not every Muslim can read Arabic, hence not every Muslim can perceive the Signs. It truly is a sad reality, that even though many Signs heralding the Last Hour have already manifested around us, a vast majority are either in denial, in wild speculation, or else completely clueless. Giving evidence to the state that they have not recognized the signs, and even if some have, they have done nothing to acknowledge the truth. Mortgages, investments, socially dictated lifestyles, desires, wealth, ambitions. It is one thing to read the Qur’an, read the Hadith, listen to overly dramatic lectures, and marvel at the Signs of the Last Hour like an Epic-fantasy/Sci-fi anecdote. It is an entirely different matter to penetrate the depth and truly understand, and thereby accept the hard truth in order to navigate a righteous path. The weak of heart will never be able to change and morph away from the decadent lifestyles so desired, so accustomed to.
No, what that symbol denotes is the essence of Islam as ‘Submission to the Will of Allah’. That for the Signs to be perceived and acknowledged, one not only has to become Muslim, but submit his entirety to the Will of Allah. Become as helpless as the infant striving to survive. The complete and utter surrender that only He can give true knowledge. Only He can deliver the Nur نور with which to navigate the darkness of the Dajjalic age. And so, in a bid to unravel an explanation and understanding of our lives, one must acquire an outward perception as well as an insight that can only come through first recognizing the Signs, interpreting and understanding the Signs with the correct Epistemology, and navigating a righteous path thereon.
Almighty Allah explains how He has revealed the Qur’an in Surah Al-Imran 3:7;
هُوَ ٱلَّذِىٓ أَنزَلَ عَلَيۡكَ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ
He it is who has revealed unto you the Book (of Signs)
مِنۡهُ ءَايَـٰتٌ۬ مُّحۡكَمَـٰتٌ
Wherein are Clear and Concise Signs of Hukm (Ayaat Muhkamaat)
هُنَّ أُمُّ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبِ
They are the anchor of the Book
And other (Signs) that are Allegoric and Interpretive
He then elaborates those who have wrongful intent in their hearts, who would ignore the Muhkamaat and take the Mutashaabih, subjecting the Qur’an to what they call a “progressive interpretation”, and thus do we see this bid to modernize and liberalize Islam to suit the norms of a modern and deceptive age. Where things like mortgages and loans can be technically justified through ‘Islamic banking and finance’. And yet Allah Himself says that only He can justify the True interpretations of His Signs. The rightfully guided will always affirm a strong belief in the Signs, whether they understand or not. Whether it agrees with a rationale or not. In the end, Almighty Allah provides a sound explanation as to who can truly perceive His signs, both the Concise and the Interpretive;
وَمَا يَذَّكَّرُ إِلَّآ أُوْلُواْ ٱلۡأَلۡبَـٰبِ
And none will take heed (comprehend), except those of understanding.
The Ulul-Albaab أولو الألباب, are individuals of higher rank in knowledge and wisdom, people of deep understanding and firm grounding in Faith and Religious practice. It is not only that the entire Qur’an is in their brains, by virtue of memorization, but that it has entered their hearts and created an abode therein. A Huffadh حفاظ of the Qur’an should also recognize that merely reading and memorizing the Book does not endow one with a knowledge of the Qur’an, if he has not allowed it to enter the Heart. We want to be an Ummah of Knowledge and Understanding. Not, forgive me for saying it, ‘tape recorders’.
This is an entirely different branch of study, and InshaAllah, we will dedicate a separate script for it. For further reading, I strongly recommend Imam AbuHamid Al-Ghazzali’s Ihyaa-Uloomu-Deen إحياء علوم الدين .
From these two categories of Clear and Concise Signs, and Allegorical Interpretive Signs, the Qur’an can further be categorized in three comprehensive parts;
Signs that deliver knowledge of the Law and Legislation of Allah, with which religious structure can be formed and abided by.Signs that deliver knowledge of Creation and the dynamics of creation, with which physical and metaphysical meanings and essences of creation can be understood.Signs that deliver knowledge of the Unseen and Unknown, which includes realms beyond our three-dimensional perception, and the unseen future.
The Signs that Allah reveals to us are meant to bring a sense of orientation and coordination to the human ‘self’ bound to the biological plane, so that we may navigate our path, our journey through life. Where ‘life’ itself serves the purpose of ‘being’ in ‘existence’, the way ahead needs to be comprehended in order to have purpose.
This particular section is much broader and deeper than can ever anticipated, because Allah’s Signs are not only revealed in the Qur’an and other Scriptures, rather His Signs encompass… everything. One could say that Allah also speaks through His creation, such that each one recognizes the other as a Sign of His Power. This is the essence of what is meant by all the Ayaat quoted above. The Ayaat are Signs representing His spoken word, His declaration, His statement, which when once He has spoken it, it enters the Created world. But the Ayaat also elaborate that He Allah has placed Signs in everything He has created, for us to see, think, ponder, and understand, what our purpose is, and where our final destination lies. Look at your fellow man and ponder the Signs of Allah’s Creation. This being of such complexity. A biological machine that cannot be replicated by anyone or anything else. How deluded is the fool that would assume the ‘spontaneity’ and ‘chance’ of life? A tree, for instance, is of His creation, and the human who observes and studies the tree, questions its origin. What is this object of green and brown? Of soft and hard? How does it sprout from the ground and reach for the sky? Why does it exist? Who brought it into existence?
The ultimate question asked by any knowledge seeker is always ‘Who…eventually takes responsibility for all that exists and the reason for existence?’ The faithful arrives at One Supreme Creator and Lord of the Worlds, as every one of the Signs that He Himself has placed, all point to Him.