The story of Adam: a call for a secular, pluralistic society

The story of Adam a call 1The story of Adam a call 2

 
Adam literally means a human, i.e. ‘a potentially rational, loving man living in harmony with others’. While Adam thus symbolises humankind in general, the Garden of Adam is the ideal abode of man (2:35). It is our Human Earth of infinitely diverse minds, the multi-coloured garden of One Humanity which is constantly watered by one divine inspiration (2:22-23, 2:25, 2:35, 2:221, 2:265-268).

It is this great garden of pluralism and multifaceted Truth, where one heavenly rain is yielding through countless minds all sorts of fruits of all colours – whereby One divine light (the Truth) is split into infinite human colours (a truth’s) (2:22-87, 2:136-164, 16:2-69, 23:17-32, 30:9-24, 35:19-28, 39:18-69).

In sociological terms, it is the secular, open, tolerant, inclusive, multicultural, multireligious, multiethnic, pluralistic society where all people from all backgrounds live in peace and harmony with one another. An Utopia as probably envisioned by the Medina Charter.

This garden of bliss, this perfect dwelling of humanity, is lost when humans ‘fall’ from this higher station of One Humanity (10:19), because of ‘eating’ from the Tree of Discord and Division under the influence of the Evil Urge (2:34-36), thereby getting split up into conflicting factions: Descend you all, as enemies to one another. 2:36 (cf. 2:30, 2:72, 2:84-85, 2:178, 2:213; also 5:27-32; 7:19-27, 31, 35, 199-201; 10:19; 17:53).

And this lost paradise can be regained by following the Divine messages of ONENESS revealed through the messengers (2:37-39, 7:35, 7:59-84, 20:121-123, 38:12-65). Messages of Oneness of humans, Oneness of life, Oneness of the universe, and, above all, Oneness of the Divine (6:106; 6:1, 6:13, 6:14, 6:73-79; cf. 2:111-112, 21:92-94, 22:78, 57:25, 98:5).

A final word

The story of Adam calls for a secular, pluralistic society (the Garden of Adam) as the ideal abode of humanity.

Related reading: The meaning of the story of Adam

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Quran, the messenger of peace and tolerance

Quran, the messenger of peace

 

The Quran, the living messenger:

● insists on the ultimate Oneness of Humanity and asks people not to divide into conflicting factions (2:36-38, 2:208, 3:103, 3:105, 4:1, 6:159, 7:189, 15:89-90, 18:110, 23:52, 28:4, 30:19-22, 30:32, 42:13, 49:13);

● declares that humans have been made into nations and groups so that they may know and understand each other – and not to convert or subjugate others (49:13);

● acknowledges equal human rights and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their status and identities, and recognizes superiority only by awareness (2:30-34, 3:195, 4:32, 17:70, 33:35, 46:19, 49:13, 95:4);

● calls on people to focus on their common goals as humans and to strive with one another as in a race in good works (2:139, 2:148, 2:208, 5:48, 10:41, 29:2);

● acknowledges the rainbow of the collective human consciousness, or mind’s universe, which is knit with countless heavenly paths (6:107-108, 6:149, 13:17, 23:17-20, 23:32, 51:7-8, 70:3-5);

● asserts that there are infinite ways that lead to the Divine and spiritual awareness (‘plural paths’, 29:69; cf. 2:111-115, 2:274, 3:199, 11:52, 16:9, 18:24, 70:3-5, 92:4-10);

● states that, while there is only one universal principle of islam (peace-seeking), there are plural paths of peace to achieve that principle (subul as-salaam, 5:16; cf. 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:177, 3:57, 3:199, 4:94, 5:69, 6:52-53, 13:17, 19:96, 70:3-5);

● upholds the notions of a pluralistic society with peaceful intercommunal coexistence and cooperation (2:208, 2:136-139, 2:143, 2:208, 3:64, 3:103, 5:2, 5:48, 15:70, 17:84, 21:71, 23:52, 26:164-165, 42:8-10, 42:15);

● condemns prejudice and bigotry and promotes acceptance of the differences (2:111-113, 2:148, 3:75, 4:94, 5:48, 5:65-66, 10:99-101, 18:29, 42:15, 74:11);

● recognizes the right of everyone to enjoy the full freedom of thought, opinion and expression, without being controlled by others, since everyone’s caretaker is God (2:272, 2:42, 3:71, 6:102-104, 6:107-108, 42:5-6);

● promotes the concepts of peaceful coexistence of all religions, or religious pluralism, and multidimensionality of the Truth (2:135-136, 2:148, 3:57, 3:64, 5:48, 5:65-66, 6:52-53, 6:149, 6:159, 13:4, 21:92-94, 22:17, 22:67, 23:17-32, 24:41, 42:8-10, 42:15, 70:3-5, 74:11);

● recognizes the sanctity of all places of worship – monasteries, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and the likes (2:114-115, 5:48, 22:40, 22:67, 24:36, 24:41, 72:18);

● offers complete freedom of choice either to accept or reject the guidance (2:256, 2:272, 10:108-109, 18:29, 32:13, 39:41, 73:19, 74:11, 109:6);

● denounces coercion in matters of faith and supports everyone’s right to freedom of creed, religion and vision (2:256, 6:102-104, 6:149, 10:99-101, 18:29, 22:40, 39:41, 42:8-10, 50:45, 73:19, 74:11, 88:21-22, 109:6);

● asks not to insult others’ gods lest others insult God out of ignorance (6:108);

● acknowledges the need to allow people to worship their chosen idols – for the sake of intercommunal peace and harmony (7:150, 14:35-36, 20:90-94, 37:95-96, 38:5, 74:11, 109:6);

● asks to focus on our own behaviour, instead of judging other people’s behaviour, while leaving the final judgment to God alone (2:113, 2:141, 5:105, 6:149, 20:135, 22:17, 22:67, 27:78, 45:14, 49:11, 68:7, 74:11);

● recommends peaceful engagements and dialogues with differing religious groups by means of wisdom and in the kindest manner (3:159, 10:99-101, 16:125, 17:53-54, 20:43-44, 29:46);

● asks to avoid conjecture and not to argue with differing groups in matters of which one has little information (3:66,10:36, 2:111, 6:116, 18:22-26, 21:24, 45:24, 49:6, 53:28);

● calls for tolerance and peaceful cooperation even if dialogues fail or messages fall on deaf ears (3:186, 5:2, 6:70, 7:199, 10:41, 109:6);

● asks to always resort to a better response and repel evil with good, which could turn an enemy into a friend (3:103, 7:199, 13:22, 28:54-55, 41:34, 73:10-11);

● instructs to deal with mockers and bullies in a most peaceful manner – with patience, tolerance and restraint (25:63, 25:72, 4:140, 6:68, 3:186, 25:63, 25:71-72, 33:48, 109:6);

● prescribes no blasphemy law and no punishment for apostasy or rejection, while reassuring that there is always room for repentance (3:89, 3:85-90, 4:10, 4:137, 6:54, 7:180, 33:57);

● unequivocally denounces any act of hatred, aggression, corruption, homicide and mischief on Earth (2:11, 2:60, 2:190, 5:2, 5:32, 7:33, 7:56, 7: 74, 13:25, 16:90, 26:151-152,  26:183, 27:48 -49, 28:77, 42:42 , 47:22 -23);

● asks to always stand for justice, without influence of hatred or bias, even if this goes against ourselves or our parents or relatives, or against rich or poor (3:18, 4:135, 5:2, 5:8, 6:152, 16:90);

● asks to speak to each other only that which is best and kindest (17:53-54, 20:43-44, 41:33-36);

● tells to do good to all people, including those who are bad (2:224, 2:272, 4:36, 4:85-86, 9:6, 16:90, 28:77, 42:23);

● asks to help others by spending from the goodies and not to give them things that we dislike for ourselves (2:267);

● asks to make due allowance for human nature, which is inherently weak and forgetful, and not to be harsh with those who err (4:28, 7:199, 9:6, 11:115, 20:115, 73:9-10);

● tells to restrain anger and forgive others for their wrong doings, and thereby to let go of resentments and move forward (2:109, 2:263, 3:134, 4:149, 5:13, 7:199, 15:85, 24:11, 24:22, 42:37, 42:40, 42:43,  45:14,  64:14);

● asks to make things easy for people – without causing them undue hardship or demanding of them excessive efforts (2:286, 6:152, 7:42, 23:62, 42:23);

● calls on to deal kindly and equitably with everyone, unless one has to address an aggressor (4:36, 16:90, 42:23, 60:8-9);

● calls on to stand up for human rights against oppression and persecution; and thus sanctions war only for self-defense and as the last resort, while reminding that hostilities must be brought to an end as quickly as possible and the minute the enemy sues for peace (2:190-193, 2:216-217, 4:75, 8:61-65, 22:39-40, 42:41, 60:7-8; cf. 2:216, 4:89, 5:33, 8:12, 8:39, 9:5, 9:29, 9:123, 47:4);

● asks not to hold people captive unless necessitated by military considerations (8:67) and demands that prisoners of war are always released, either by way of kindness or by ransom (e.g. prisoner exchange), even while the war is ongoing (47:4);

● tells to protect anyone who seeks safety and peace, even if s/he is from the hostile camp and in times of war (9:6, 60:7-9);

● encourages to continuously strive for making peace with all and also to mediate peace processes with opponents, especially with those who come with an offer of peace (2:208, 2:224, 4:85-86, 4:90, 4:94, 8:61-62);

● asks to greet with peace everyone, including idolaters, mockers and rejecters (6:54, 13:24, 20:47, 33:44, 24:61, 28:55, 43:89, 51:25);

● advises to return any greeting of peace with ‘a better greeting or at least a similar one’ (4:86);

● asks to observe the balance throughout the universe and to become an epitome of this balance by following the golden mean (2:143, 2:219, 2:238, 17:29, 25:67, 55:7-9, 68:28);

● asks in all dealings to measure with a just balance and not to deprive others of what is rightfully theirs (2:188, 2:274-275, 3:18, 4:29-30, 6:152, 26:181 -183, 53:38-41);

● portrays God mainly as an infinitely merciful and all-forgiving god rather than a cruel, vengeful deity, which requires us to incarnate these divine attributes of mercy and compassion in our interactions with others (1:1-3, 2:274, 6:12, 15:56, 36:58, 39:53, 53:38-41, 17:20, 40:7, 42:5-6); and

● constantly emphasizes that there are infinite paths that lead to the ultimate Good and so towards salvation (2:62, 2:111-115, 2:121, 2:135-136, 2:140-141, 2:148, 2:286, 3:57, 3:64, 3:195, 3:199, 4:94, 5:16, 5:43-45, 5:46-48, 5:69, 5:77, 6:52, 6:107-108, 6:165, 10:41, 11:115, 16:9, 18:24, 19:96, 21:92-94, 22:17, 22:40, 22:67-69, 24:41, 29:46, 29:69, 39:10-11 , 42:15-16, 42:23, 45:15, 49:13, 53:39, 70:3-5, 92:4).

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Here are some of the verses cited above:

The Quran calls for peace and tolerance: verse examples

Why light is one and darknesses are many

 

Why light is one and darknesses are many

 

The word light (‘nur’), in all its 43 occurrences in the Quran, always appears in singular form and never as plural. While its antonym darknesses (‘zulumat’), in all its 23 occurrences, always appears in plural form and never as singular.

But why does light appear as singular, and darknesses as plural?

Light, as the symbol of knowledge and guidance, leads us through one right path towards the Truth (1:6, 5:16). Darknesses, as the symbol of ignorance and bewilderment, on the other hand, lead us through many wrong paths away from the Truth (1:7, 5:16, 14:1, 14:5, 33:43, 57:9, 65:11).

The right path, the straight line, travelling in a constant direction towards the destination, is the shortest distance to it and therefore is one. The wrong paths, the curved lines, do not move in this constant direction and therefore are longer and numerous.

Thus, because the word light denotes the right path, it is always singular. And, because the word darknesses denotes all other paths that deviate from it, it is always plural.

A straight line is one. Curved lines are many. The Truth is one. Untruths and ‘a truth’s’ are many. A lie has many variations, the truth none. The Fountain of truth, God, is one. The sources of falsehood, gods, are many.

This contrast between the oneness of light and the multiplicity of darknesses is beautifully highlighted in the Quran in The famous Light Verse and its homologous, neighbouring verse, the verse of darknesses (24:35, 24:40). While the former defines light as awareness of God’s oneness, which manifests itself as a self-glowing lamp that illuminates the mind’s Universe by generating multi-layered consciousness (24:35, 37:4-6), the latter describes darknesses as mental stages of ignorance or spiritual blindness, comparable with stages of increasing blackness through the depths of an ocean (24:40; cf. 24:35). Due to successive disappearance of colours of penetrating sunlight – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – the ocean at its depths gradually becomes bluer and darker, eventually becoming completely black at the end of a process where darkening occurs progressively at levels or layers.

In other words, while light refers to the one, single, full colour white (24:35, 7:108; cf. 27:12; full consciousness), darknesses refers to the endless colours of the spectrum that deviate from the white (24:40, 35:27; layers of blindness/ partial consciousness). And this is how the concept multi-layered darknesses, which signifies the multidimensionality of the Truth in human comprehension, is expressed in the Quran in terms of colours (35:25-28).

This also reveals the Meaning of ‘colours’ in the Quran. Thus, while the word ‘light’ represents ‘white’ or full colour and implies ‘the Truth’, i.e., the whole truth of the Oneness (24:35), the word ‘colours’ in the Quran implies ‘a truth’s’ (e.g., religions), which are fragmented, partial expressions of ‘the Truth’ and deviations from it (16:13, 16:69, 30:22, 35:27, 35:27, 35:28, 39:21; cf. 2:69, 2:69; 2:138, 2:138; 23:20). They variously contain together with light (24:35) also some darknesses, caused by obstacles, i.e., IDOLS as associates (24:40). Here it is important to note that The Quran allows shirk as a necessary evil and that The Quran promotes religious pluralism.

Confined to this world of multiplicity, our minds are overcrowded and overwhelmed by numerous IDOLS sculpted by our own imagination. The light of Oneness is constantly shattered into the colours of many by the darknesses of multiplicity. And this is how One light (the Truth) is split into many colours (a truth’s).

Why light is one and darknesses are many 2

 

Final thoughts

Because the word light denotes the right path, it is always singular. And, because the word darknesses denotes all other paths that deviate from it, it is always plural.

This implies the singularity of the straight path towards God (white; ‘the Truth’) and the multiplicity of the layers of deviation from it caused by associates (colours; ‘a truth’s’).

Various colours in the Quran

Various colours in the Quran 1


The great diversity of colours

While referring to the infinite diversity of colours and shades of various objects and events in nature – in inanimate, animate and human world, the Quran insistently calls us to observe the beauty and depth of this diversity (e.g. And all that He has multiplied for you in the Earth of diverse colours; verily there is a message in this for a people who recollect. 16:13; cf. 16:69. 35:27, 35:28, 39:21).

The multifaceted Quranic references to colours range from the varied colours of honey, produced by the bees ‘instinctively feeding from all fruits’ (16:69), to the endless nuance of various colours and shades in rocks, plants, flowers, crops, fruits, animals and humans (35:27-28). And from the great diversity in outer and inner traits of the evolving man (30:22, 5:48, 11:118, 16:93, 35:27-28, 42:8, 49:13) to the never-ending ‘colours’ of countless minds (35:19-28, 16:13, 2:136-139, 30:9-24).

Please note that the word ‘colours’ in the Quran is attached with profound meaning and intent. On one hand, it refers to the persistent emphasis on the concepts of pluralism and multidimensionality of the Truth: One LIGHT (‘the Truth’) is split into many COLOURS (‘a truth’s’). On the other hand, it implies that, while there is only one universal principle of ‘islam’, there are infinite paths (‘PLURAL PATHS of peace’, subul as-salaam, 5:16) to achieve that principle: The Quran promotes religious pluralism

The full spectrum of colours

This appears in the famous ‘Colour Verses’:

See you not that God sent down water from the Heaven? With it We then bring out produces of various colours. And in the mountains are streaks of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27

And so amongst men and animals and livestock, are they of various colours. As such, only the knowledgeable among His servants stand in awe of God: surely God is Mighty, Forgiving. 35:28

Please observe how the above precisely portrays the full spectrum of all very different colours (‘of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27’).

After mentioning the full colour WHITE, which contains all the colours of light’s visible spectrum, and then the primary colour RED, which is the most distinct colour and is at the outermost end of the visible spectrum, it descends through ‘OTHER COLOURS’ (‘various colours’) of the range towards the inner end – i.e. orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – and approaches the pure BLACK (‘and intense blacks’), which, being without colour and at the other end of the continuum, is the complete opposite of white.

This tremendous diversity of colours and hues in nature (16:13) includes not only the full range of visible colours (35:27-28), or ‘invisible colours’ as various radiations of electromagnetic spectrum (35:19-21), but also the infinite nuances of human minds, along with all the ‘spiritual colours’ (35:19-28): We are called to observe the colours

Below we will try to go through the various colours specifically mentioned in the Quran.

Colours mentioned in the Quran

All the three primary colours of light – red, yellow and blue, wherefrom all other colours can be obtained by mixing – appear in the Quran, each with its precise, idiosyncratic meaning/s and intent.

RED occurs in the Quran only once, in the ‘Colour Verses’ quoted above (35:27-28; ‘of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks.’). Here red gets special importance as chosen out of all the colours of the rainbow, apparently as the first and the most distinct colour of the visible spectrum. Notably, the words whites, reds and blacks appear here in plural, indicating that there is not just one white or one red or one black, but there are countless intermediate shades and grades of each of them.

This Quranic categorisation of all colours into whites (layers of consciousness, 24:35), reds (and ‘various colours’, layers in-between, 35:27) and blacks (layers of ignorance, 24:40), with their spiritual connotations, is comparable to sattva, rajas and tamas of Bhagabadgita.

YELLOW, in all forms, occurs total five times in the Quran (2:69, 30:51, 39:21, 57:20, 77:33). Yellow, when golden bright, is a very attractive colour that tempts greed and materialistic pursuits (2:69). But when it is a colour of fiery flame, it is a terrifying reminder of the nature’s law of recompense (77:33).

Then yellow, when appears in the parable of fading plants, is also a colour of decline and degeneration (incl. spiritual degeneration: Then He grows therewith produce of various colours: then it withers; you see it grow yellow … 39:21; 30:51, 39:18-22, 57:20), thereby signifying the transitory nature of everything in this universal flux (27:88, 28:88, 39:21, 55:26-27, 57:20, 84:16-20).

BLUE is used once in the Quran, in an allegory about the hereafter to denote ‘blurred (blue) vision’ (The day the horn is blown, and We gather the offenders on that day blue. 20:102; cf. 20:124, 17:71-72). Here blue, as the least distinct in the visible spectrum, represents blurriness or relative blindness, spiritual blindness in this occasion. It may also imply ‘blueness’ (cyanosis) related to the panic felt by a convict in the face of divine judgment.

Apart from the primary colours, the Quran also specifically mentions the following mixed colours, as well as black, the non-colour:

GREEN recurrently appears throughout the Quran as a delightful colour that symbolises life (6:99, 12:43, 12:46, 18:31, 22:63, 36:80, 55:76, 76:21). This is evidently because ‘green’, by turning light energy into life energy and converting inorganic (dead) into organic (living) matter, represents the ultimate source of all life on Earth (22:63-66; cf. 18:32, 26:148).

The Quran describes the natural phenomenon of storage of solar energy in the form of fuel, via ‘green’, and then its rebirth into activated life-forces and flames through kindling of fire, as a proof and reminder of God’s ability to resurrect the dead: Every kindling of fire is a reminder!

Also, while identifying ‘green’ as the fountain of an endless range of harvests of all colours (6:99), the Quran asks us to ponder on this unity in diversity as an evidence of God’s oneness and greatness and His infinite creative and re-creative power (17:44, 57:1, 36:77-82; cf. 16:10-13): One ‘green’ with many products

A shower of divine rain provides our insight with perception of ‘green’, where ‘green’ functions as a metaphor for spiritual life (22:63).

PINK appears in the Quran to denote the alarming colour of a disintegrated sky (55:37).

Here is a way we can rationalize it. The sky is primarily black, unless secondarily illuminated by light-emitting objects (79:29).  However, due to the particles in our atmosphere, the sky appears to us blue during the day and red at sunrise and sunset. The day sky appears blue because molecules in the air scatter sunlight’s blue (short waves) more than they scatter red (long waves), leaving the blue to prevail. The sky is red at sunrise and sunset because, as the light then comes through the atmosphere at an angle, the blue light gets filtered or scattered out in its long journey, leaving the red to prevail. Also, an evening sky often looks red because of air pollution, since dust, vapour, and other floating particles in the air act as a filter on the sunlight.

Thus, while the apparent blueness of the sky is due to the integrity of the atmosphere, a worsening environmental pollution with increasing global warming and ozone hole expansion is likely to shatter this integrity, making the blue sky appearing ‘red’ instead (Then, when the Heaven is split asunder, and it turns rosy like murky oil. 55:37). Is this verse, with mention of ‘murky oil’, somehow warning us about the environmental dangers from the misconsumption of fossil fuels in our time?

DARK GREEN occurs in the Quran only once (55:64). As the colour of dense foliage, it allegorically portrays the thriving life of eternal garden.

WHITE appears in the Quran mainly to describe states of minds reflecting light of spiritual awareness (2:187, 7:108, 20:22, 26:33, 27:12, 28:32, 35:27, 37:46, 37:49; 3:106, 3:107, 12:84) .

BLACK, on the other hand, occurs mainly to describe states of minds lacking light of spiritual awareness (2:187, 16:58, 35:27, 39:60, 43:17, 3:106, 3:106).

Even when allegedly related to human appearance, these words, white and black, bear no more than a purely mental or spiritual connotation, with no reference to physical colour. See Black and White in the Quran

In brief, while ‘white’ in the Quran represents the mental state of enlightenment, i.e. the awareness of God’s oneness, and ‘black’ does the opposite, the word ‘colours’ describes the states in-between: Meaning of ‘colours’ in the Quran

Black and White in the Quran

Black and White in the Quran

 
The word BLACK appears in the Quran in seven instances: 2:187, 16:58, 35:27, 39:60, 43:17; as verb 3:106, 3:106.

The word WHITE, on the other hand, appears in twelve instances: 2:187, 7:108, 20:22, 26:33, 27:12, 28:32, 35:27, 37:46, 37:49; as verb 3:106, 3:107, 12:84.

Only three out of all these occurrences of black and white describe natural objects, though with figurative undertones (white thread and black thread 2:187; eyes white with grief 12:84; white rock and black rock 35:27). The rest function as idioms, mostly within spiritual allegories.

‘Black’ and ‘White’ describe states of awareness

Thus, it is interesting to observe that the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ in the Quran, even when allegedly related to human face or appearance, bear no more than a purely mental or spiritual connotation, with no reference to physical or skin colour.

These occurrences are often in line with the Arabic expressions ibyadda wajhuhu (‘his face/ countenance became whitened/ brightened’) and iswadda wajhuhu (‘his face/ countenance became blackened/ darkened’), which idiomatically describe faces or minds expressing happiness and grief. For example:

When one of them is given news of a female, his face is blackened/ darkened and he is in grief. 16:58 (cf. His eyes were whitened with grief. 12:84)

On the Day when faces are whitened/ brightened and faces are blackened/ darkened. 3:106

Also, it is the lack of ‘divine light’ that will make a soul ‘darkened’ on ‘the day of resurrection’:

On the day of resurrection you will see those who lied about God that their faces are blackened/ darkened. …

And the Earth shall shine with the light of its Sustainer. 39:60, 69

So, as a general trend, white or shining and black or gloomy signifies states of minds reflecting or lacking light of spiritual awareness. This conforms with our earlier observation that, while ‘white’ in the Quran represents the mental state of enlightenment, i.e. the awareness of God’s oneness (24:35), and ‘black’ does the opposite (24:40), the word ‘colours’ describes the states in-between (35:27-28).

‘White’ as the first of the ‘nine messages’

We get a similar spiritual connotation when the term ‘white’ occurs in the parable of Moses:

And he drew out his hand, and it became white for the deep observers. 7:108

Above, the idiosyncrasy of this otherwise invisible white, perceived only by the ‘deep observers’, indicates the allegorical nature of the narration (7:108, 26:33; cf. 20:22, 27:12, 28:32). Thus ‘white’ once again symbolizes the mental state of enlightenment (sattva), i.e. the awareness of God’s oneness and uniqueness (24:35). This is the foremost of the ‘nine messages’ of Mosaic Law (Exod 20:2, Deut 5:6):

Place your hand into your bosom; it will come out white without blemish: one of the nine messages to Pharaoh and his people. 27:12

Here the Quran appears to confirm the nine specific commandments or ethical principles out of the ‘ten commandments’ of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. The prohibition of making graven images, one of the ‘ten commandments’ (Exod 20:2-17, Deut 5:6-8), is absent in the Quran (2:83, 6:151-152, 17:101).

An important note

The Quran not only approves but also appreciates and encourages all the beauty of life and even promotes creation of images, paintings, statues and sculptures, of both animate and inanimate. See: The Quran promotes art and aesthetics

Summary

The words ‘white’ and ‘black’ in the Quran mainly describe states of minds reflecting or lacking light of spiritual awareness. Even when allegedly related to human appearance, these words bear no more than a purely mental or spiritual connotation, with no reference to physical colour.

While ‘white’ in the Quran represents the mental state of enlightenment, i.e. the awareness of God’s oneness (24:35), and ‘black’ does the opposite (24:40), the word ‘colours’ describes the states in-between (35:27-28).

Further reading: We are called to observe the colours

One ‘green’ with many products

One Green with many products


WHY ‘GREEN’ IS SO IMPORTANT

GREEN is common in nature and is abundant in growing grass and leaves that contain the green pigment chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll is a complex biomolecule that is critical in photosynthesis. It is green because it absorbs other colours of visible light, like red and blue, while reflecting green.

Now, photosynthesis is a process whereby the ‘green‘ in the plant utilizes sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates, or sugars, which allows the plant to grow. The process also releases oxygen.

These carbohydrates, i.e. simple and complex sugars, are then stored in grains, fruits and various parts of the plant. They provide the basic energy source for all life on Earth for its survival and sustenance.

THE VERSE OF ‘GREEN’

At this point we come across the Verse of ‘Green’ (‘the Photosynthesis Verse’):

And He it is who has sent down water from the Heaven; and therewith have We brought forth all living growth, then have We brought forth out of it GREEN, from which We produce grain heaped up; and out of the date-palm, out of its sheaths, clusters low-hanging; and gardens of grapes and olives and pomegranates: each alike yet unlike. Deeply observe the fruit thereof, when it comes to fruition, and its ripening! Most surely in all this there are messages for people who acknowledge! 6:99

Note in the above the stress on ‘GREEN’ (‘khadir’), the very central word which the description actually starts with and revolves around.

Here ‘green’ unmistakably reminds a modern reader about the green pigment chlorophyll, the basis of photosynthesis, which  produces all food for virtually all living creatures on Earth (‘We brought forth out of it GREEN, from which We produce …’).

The rest of the verse continues with the description about the photosynthetic products of green.

This involves various fruits, their appearances and properties and the processes of fruition and ripening.

It is interesting to observe how the Quran precisely describes all different fruits and grains as the products of ‘GREEN’.

The Verse of ‘Green’ is better understood when read together with the Colour Verses (35:27-28; see We are called to observe the colours).

PRODUCTS OF ‘GREEN’

The main product of photosynthesis is GLUCOSE, which is the fundamental building block of all carbohydrates.

Thus all carbohydrates are eventually produced through photosynthesis. They include monosaccharides (glucose and fructose e.g. in ‘grapes’), disaccharides (sucrose in ‘dates … grapes … pomegranates’), starch (sugar polymer in ‘grain’) and cellulose (sugar polymer in ‘sheaths’).

The water-soluble sugars like glucose, fructose and sucrose are used for immediate energy. The insoluble sugars like starches are stored (‘grain heaped up’) as tiny granules in various parts of the plant – chiefly the leaves, roots, and fruits – and can be broken down again when energy is needed. Cellulose is used to build the rigid cell walls representing the principal supporting structure of plants.

Photosynthesis manufactures, apart from carbohydrates – i.e. sugars, starches and cellulose – also acids (e.g. in ‘olives’ and unripe fruits: ‘deeply observe the… ripening!’) including amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and derive from the intermediate products of photosynthesis.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There is an emphasis in 6:99 on ‘green’ (‘khadir’), depicted as the fountain of an endless range of harvests.

This is in line with the constant call in chapter 6 (see Abraham’s observation of the Universe), as well as throughout the Quran, to observe the One in the Many (‘each alike yet unlike’).

The emphasis on green in 6:99 is elaborated by a rich description of multiple fruits and grains as the products of green. Rendered into modern scientific language, the verse also alludes to various carbohydrates (sugars) including monosaccharides, disaccharides, starch and cellulose.

Obviously, ‘green’ in this specific context concurs with our current understanding about chlorophyll, i.e. the green pigment in the plants, and its vital role in the process of photosynthesis, which is the basis of all life on Earth.

Then, importantly, we are called to reflect on the divine messages in ‘photosynthesis’, in this great miracle of nature (‘in all this there are messages …’). These messages are expounded throughout the Quran in many other places.

For instance, 36:77-82 describes the natural phenomenon of storage of solar energy in the form of fuel, via GREEN, and then its rebirth into activated life-forces and flames as a proof of God’s ability to resurrect the dead (see Every kindling of fire is a reminder!).

Thus the messages in ‘photosynthesis’ are not only about the unity in diversity (16:10-13) but also about God’s oneness and greatness and His infinite creative and re-creative power (17:44, 57:1, 36:77-82).

We are called to observe the colours

We are called to observe the colours

 

VISIBLE COLOURS

Here we come across the famous ‘Colour Verses’ (35:27-28) of the Quran:

See you not that God sent down water from the Heaven? With it We then bring out produces of various colours. And in the mountains are streaks of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27

And so amongst men and animals and livestock, are they of various colours. As such, only the knowledgeable among His servants stand in awe of God: surely God is Mighty, Forgiving. 35:28

It is fascinating to observe how the above briefly portrays the full spectrum of all very different colours (‘of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27’).

After mentioning the full colour WHITE, which contains all the colours of light’s visible spectrum, and then the primary colour RED, which is the most distinct colour and is at the outermost end of the visible spectrum, it descends through ‘OTHER COLOURS’ (‘various colours’) of the range towards the inner end – i.e. orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet – and approaches the pure BLACK (‘and intense blacks’), which, being without colour and at the other end of the continuum, is the complete opposite of white.

Scientifically, this description of colours is both precise and accurate.

An object reflecting all the colours of light is perceived as white, an impression in the brain due to stimulation of all the three types of colour-sensitive visual receptors. On the other hand, an object that absorbs all the colours of light, and hence reflects none of them, appears black, as it creates impression in the brain of no visible light reaching the eye.

Thus – while white represents all colours and black represents no colour – red and then all other colours are in-betweens.

People who behold only seven colours in the rainbow may like the ‘coincidental’ recurrence of 7 in the numerology of the Colour Verses (35:27-28), where 27 contains 7, while 35 and 28 are multiples of 7. They also may appreciate that the plural word ‘colours’ (alwan) occurs 7 times in the Quran (16:13, 16:69, 30:22, 35:27, 35:27, 35:28, 39:21).

However, rather than 7 colours, which is but an illusion, the rainbow or visible spectrum is actually a continuum of infinite number of colours, with no clear distinctions in-between. Thus the rainbow presents as an example how ‘seven’ can be equivalent to ‘innumerable’, which is also a connotation of ‘seven’ in Arabic (cf. our interpretation elsewhere of ‘God is He who created seven Heavens and of the Earth the like of them. 65:12’).

Please note that, following the reference to the whites and reds, of various colours’, the word ‘and’ in the phrase ‘and intense blacks’ appears as ‘and of exclusion’ (‘wa mugha’ira’). This excludes black from the category of colours.

Thus we are being told that there are streaks of multiple colours, ranging from whites to reds to many other colours, gradually approaching intense black as the ultimate limit.

Interestingly, the words whites, reds and blacks appear here in plural, indicating that there is not just one white or one red or one black, but there are countless intermediate shades and grades of each of them.

Mountains, which may sometimes signify also clouds (24:43), are specially mentioned in this description of visible spectrum. This is due to the obvious reason that it is in the rocks and clouds where the endless nuance and effect of colours may be particularly observed. Along with rocks and clouds, however, the verses also depict the diversity of colours in plants, flowers, fruits, crops and animals, including livestock and men, as well as in human minds.

Translated here as ‘streaks’, the word ‘judad’ in the phrase ‘judadun beedun wahumrun’ (‘streaks of whites and reds …’) also means tracts or fast-moving rays (sar’i-us-sair)45. This concurs with some of the dynamic concepts of modern physics regarding light and colours, including the high speed of light and those relating colours with the frequencies of the electromagnetic waves.

Thus, first observing white, which is dissociable into all the colours of light’s visible spectrum, and then looking at red, the primary colour and the most distinct visual impression caused by the longest waves (630-750 nm), if we gradually descend via yellow and green towards blue and violet (380-450 nm), i.e. through the shorter waves towards the inner end of the visible spectrum, we eventually reach the domain of black, the non-colour. Elsewhere, the Quran mentions blue (zurk), the least visible of all colours, to denote blurred vision or relative blindness (20:102).

INVISIBLE COLOURS

The Colour Verses (35:27-28; colours incl. reds) are better understood when read together with the Light Verse (24:35; whites) and the Verse of Darknesses (24:40; blacks). While the Light Verse depicts the mental state of enlightenment emanating from a self-glowing lamp that generates multilayered consciousness, the Verse of Darknesses illustrates the mental state of ignorance as multi-layered darkness in the depths of an ocean.

This Quranic categorisation of all ‘COLOURS’ into whites, reds and blacks is comparable to sattva, rajas and tamas of Bhagabadgita.

Now, for further insight, we will read the Colour Verses (35:27-28) in context:

The blind and the seeing are not equal; 35:19

Nor are the darknesses and the light; 35:20

Nor are the shade and the burning heat. 35:21…

And if they reject you, so did their predecessors, to whom came their messengers with clear proofs and scriptures and the enlightening Book. 35:25…

See you not that God sent down water from the Heaven? With it We then bring out produces of various colours. And in the mountains are streaks of whites and reds, of various colours, and intense blacks. 35:27

And so amongst men and animals and livestock, are they of various colours. As such, only the knowledgeable among His servants stand in awe of God: surely God is Mighty, Forgiving. 35:28

Here the Quran calls us to observe the numerous ‘colours’, i.e. the infinitely diverse ‘hues’ of various objects and events in nature – in inanimate, animate and human world.

And so we are also asked to observe the endless spectrum of colours of human’s infinitely diverse minds.

Please note the parallel mention of invisible and visible, and darkness and light, and shade and burning heat, and light and heat (35:19-21) – and physical and spiritual light (35:25). Note this is then followed by a description of various colours (35:27-28).

Rendered into our present scientific knowledge, this comprises a full range of various radiations of electromagnetic spectrum. From the visible spectrum of light to the many forms of invisible radiations (‘invisible colours’), exemplified here by ‘solar radiations’ (‘the shade and the burning heat’), which we currently understand as electromagnetic waves ranging from infrared to ultraviolet rays.

Some animals, such as bees, can see parts of the spectrum like ultraviolet and infrared that remain invisible to us: the world does not appear to them as to us. Interestingly, we read in 16:2-69 an analogy between ‘inspired messengers bringing various scriptures’ (16:43-44) and ‘inspired bees producing honey with diverse colours’ (16:68-69).

Please note that a deeper connotation of ‘light’ in 35:25 gives the description a spiritual dimension. Thus the references to sight (35:19), sunlight (35:20), solar heat (35:21) and then cognitive light (35:25) constitute a prelude to the description of the sight-giving divine light as ‘a heavenly rain descending from the High and yielding produces of various colours’ (35:27), a description oft-repeated throughout the Quran (35:19-28, 30:9-24, 16:2-69, 39:18-69, 2:22-87, 2:136-164, 23:17-32).

Here the important link between messengers, heavenly light and earthly colours implies the unity in the diversity of the numereous minds of all times and places.

A LIFELONG JOURNEY THROUGH THE INFINITE COLOURS

So there is a call in the Colour Verses (35:27-28) to observe the many colours.

Here the target audience is everyone29: a farmer who appreciates the colours of the soil to get information about its use; a scientist who observes the colourful stripes that bear witness about different geologic strata and provide biological and archaeological evidences; a painter who loves colours of nature as excellent artworks worth imaging in a canvas; a miner who values the colour of the Earth as the colour of gold and rock; and a poet or a mystic who finds the wisdom in the jet-black raven sitting on the edge of a hill as profound and marvellous.

But the Colour Verses ask us to behold the infinitely diverse ‘colours’ and ‘hues’ of the things that involve not only their outward forms and appearances but also their inward contents and attributes.

More than a mere perceiving of the colours, the special call here is to observe the endless ‘hues’ in nature and in human minds to behold in them the splendour, wonder and beauty (‘the beauty of many hues’); and to read therein the messages or ayats that declare God’s oneness, greatness and infinite creative power, including power to re-create (‘only the knowledgeable among His servants stand in awe of God. 35:28’; cf. 16:13, 30:22).

To this end, we need to undertake a lifelong journey through the infinite colours, where we tour from one domain of knowledge to another, starting, for example, with various branches of science. From physics and optics to study the colours and energies; to chemistry to study the arrangements of atoms and molecules forming properties of different substances; to geology to study the various rocks; to biology to study the staggeringly diverse plants and animals with their unlimited heterogeneity in size, shape, appearance and way of survival; to genetics to study the variance of genes of the virtually never-ending forms of life; to psychology to study the infinite nuance in the emotions and thoughts in human minds; and so on.

In our venture to fathom the mysteries of the multiple colours, we need also to travel through various cultures, religions, spiritual concepts and schools of thought. This will further extend our mental horizons, eventually endowing us with the holistic awareness that the observable phenomena do not represent the whole of reality. That we ultimately belong to a realm of unknown dimensions (al-ghayb) that extends beyond the ordinary range of perception and transcends our limited, mortal comprehension.