“Thus Does Allah Strike a Parable of Truth and Falsehood”: al-Qurtubi, ibn Taymiyah, and ibn al-Qayyim

Allah strikes the following two parables in one ayah in surah al-Ra’d:

أَنزَلَ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَسَالَتْ أَوْدِيَةٌ بِقَدَرِهَا فَاحْتَمَلَ السَّيْلُ زَبَدًا رَّابِيًا ۚ وَمِمَّا يُوقِدُونَ عَلَيْهِ فِي النَّارِ ابْتِغَاءَ حِلْيَةٍ أَوْ مَتَاعٍ زَبَدٌ مِّثْلُهُ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْحَقَّ وَالْبَاطِلَ ۚ فَأَمَّا الزَّبَدُ فَيَذْهَبُ جُفَاءً ۖ وَأَمَّا مَا يَنفَعُ النَّاسَ فَيَمْكُثُ فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يَضْرِبُ اللَّـهُ الْأَمْثَالَ

Allah sends down rain from the sky and the valleys flow according to their capacity, and a torrent carries the rising foam. And out of that which they heat in the fire, seeking adornments and tools, is a similar foam. Thus does Allah strike a parable of the truth and falsehood. As for the foam, it vanishes, being cast off. But as for they which benefits people, then it remains on the earth. Thus does Allah strike parables. [13:17]

Commenting on this in his book of tafsir, al-Qurtubi wrote:

وهو أن المثلين ضربهما الله للحق في ثباته ، والباطل في اضمحلاله ، فالباطل وإن علا في بعض الأحوال فإنه يضمحل كاضمحلال الزبد والخبث . وقيل : المراد مثل ضربه الله للقرآن وما يدخل منه القلوب ; فشبه القرآن بالمطر لعموم خيره وبقاء نفعه ، وشبه القلوب بالأودية ، يدخل فيها من القرآن مثل ما يدخل في الأودية بحسب سعتها وضيقها . ـ

Allah struck these two parables about the truth and its firmness and falsehood and its transience. For even if falsehood may be ascendant at certain times and situations, it will pass away just as foam and filth pass away.

Some have said that the intended meaning of this parable is about the Qur’an and how it enters into the hearts. Allah likened the Qur’an to water due to how much good it brings and its enduring benefit, and He likened the hearts to river valleys. So the Qur’an enters the heart just as water enters the river valleys – that is, an amount matching with their width or narrowness.

[Jaami’ li-Ahkam al-Qur’an 9/266-267]

Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah also commented on this ayah by writing:

شبه ما ينزل من السماء على القلوب من الإيمان القرآن فيختلط بالشبهات والأهواء المغوية بالمطر الذي يحتمل سيله الزبد وبالذهب والفضة والحديد ونحوه إذا أذيب بالنار فاحتمل الزبد فقذفه بعيدا عن القلب وجعل ذلك الزبد هو مثل ذلك الباطل الذي لا منفعة فيه وأما ما ينفع الناس من الماء والمعادن فهو مثل الحق النافع فيستقر ويبقى في القلب . ـ

Allah likened the eemaan and Qur’an that He sends down to the hearts from above and is then mixed with doubts and misguided desires to

a) the water whose rushing flow carries away foam, and

b) to gold, silver, iron and other such things which are melted by fire. The foam [of impure materials] is then carried away and separated off from the core essence.

So Allah treats that foam as a comparison for the falsehood which contains no benefit. But as for the water and materials that do benefit people, these are like the truth which is beneficial, so it settles and remains in the heart.

[Majmoo’ al-Fatawa 2/419]

Ibn al-Qayyim also said about this ayah:

ومن لم يفقه هذين المثلين ، ولم يتدبرهما ويعرف ما يراد منهما ، فليس من أهلهما ، والله الموفق . ـ

Whoever does not understand these two parables and does not reflect on them or know what they mean, then he does not fall under those being described in them. And Allah is the granter of success.

[A’lam al-Mawqi’een 1/313]

Note: This selection of explanation for this ayah was taken from sheikh Abu’l-Hasan al-Rouqi al-‘Utaybi’s short book al-Wajeez fee Tafsir Amthal al-Kitab al-‘Azeez wherein he gathered brief explanations of the parables of the Qur’an from reliable books of tafsir. This book is the basis and inspiration for our Parables of the Qur’an series.

Read more explanation of surah al-Ra’d here

2 thoughts on ““Thus Does Allah Strike a Parable of Truth and Falsehood”: al-Qurtubi, ibn Taymiyah, and ibn al-Qayyim

  1. Alhamdulillah, it was interesting to hear Ibn Taymiyyah’s explanation on the verse about how our faith and the Quran can be mixed with doubts and desires. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the verse that describes the devil’s attempts to throw something into every recitation by a messenger, with Allah putting an end to each one (22:52).

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