Nitpicking the verses

Qur’an is an interesting book. It makes claims which are difficult to understand for the modern mind yet is considered by Muslims, by and large, to be the final word of God until the end of time.

One of my peculiar habits has been to read the Qur’an and reflect on it with modern sensibility. More than often, I end up going down a rabbit hole of confusion and see no easy way out of it. As a case in point, there’s a particular verse in the Qur’an which goes like this:

And all things We have created by pairs, that haply ye may reflect. (Pickthall)

The is the 49th verse of Surah Adh-Dhariyat (The winnowing winds), which is the 51st chapter of the Qur’an. Many Muslims use this verse to assert that all living things have been created in pairs. That is, there is a male and female in for all living organisms. Clearly, such is claim is not scientifically accurate. For example, there is no male or female gender in bacteria. Likewise, the New Mexico whiptail is a female-only species of lizard.

The transliteration of the actual phrase used in the Qur’an to refer to all things is ‘kulli shay-in’. Kul means all and shay-in means things. The verse from Surah Adh-Dhariyat could not just mean only living things. If the Qur’an meant all living things, it would have said  ‘kulla shay-in hayyin’ as it did in Surah Al-Anbya, Chapter 21, Verse 30. The word hayyin means living. 

As far as I see, the everything of 51:49 seems to suggest everything that possibly exists or at least everything that is present in this Universe of which we can possibly know about. It, therefore, makes me wonder how on earth are mountains created in pairs, or rivers, trees and planets, for that matter.

Image credit: Sophie James via Getty Images

This indeed appears to be a problem for someone who thinks. Again, thinking is exhorted in Qur’an as per Verse 29 of Chapter 38, which urges us to reflect on the verses of the Qur’an.

At the same time, Qur’an declares itself to be a clear book, in Arabic, full of wisdom so that people may understand, according to Verse 2-4 of Chapter 43It seems like a quagmire. If the Qur’an is indeed a clear book, then why is there ambiguity about Verse 49 of Chapter 51, which upon reflection seems to suggest that which makes little sense?

This is just one example of the complexity and obfuscation that reflection on the verses of the Qur’an entails. Some would argue that I am unnecessarily nitpicking or that I am quoting the verses out of context. I don’t have much to say to such accusations except that Qur’an is not an easy book to understand and makes little sense in light of modern methods of thinking. As I wrote in one of my earlier posts, the onus of understanding the mind of the Allah is a bit too much for mere mortals like us. In any case, the journey of reflection on Qur’anic verses continues!


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