Muslims believe that the Holy Quran is a miracle for all time. Its beauty has also deeply impressed many non-Muslim critics of literature.
Although not purported to be a piece of literature, it nonetheless abounds in delicate literary usage and style which help bring home the divine massage with lucidity and clarity. Imagery is one of the genres used in this behalf so as to facilitate the understanding of the meaning of the Word of Allah.
It comprises figurative illustration of a theme. Generally speaking, it makes use of language to represent objects, actions, feelings, thoughts, ideas or extra sensory experience. It, however, does not use imagery as a measure of art for art’s 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 to illustrating 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 its 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 Allah in nature which inevitably beckons the human mind towards their Creator. For example, the following verse portrays wondrous celestial order created by 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 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 conceals it (the sun), the heaven, and as (He built it, the earth and 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, 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 you and your cattle” -- 80:25-32. The simple narration provides food for thought for those who care to reflect about divine bounties.
Allah warns man that the life of this world is transient. It is 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 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, Allah poses again and again the question: “So, which of the favour of your Rab (Guardian Lord) will you both 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, Allah invites us to reflect and choose our way. Only if the choice is right, all the going will be good.
We owe our thankful gratitude to Allah for His lofty message of truth delivered to mankind, and for the excellence of emotive and impressionable style in which the message is couched— full of picturesque imageries so as to make it easy to understand the holy Quran. Allah’s Book does not project exalted poetry or idle tales, or ancient myths. Its style aids man’s intuitive perception and insight of the ultimate reality.