By Sayyid Qutb
By Sayyid Qutb
Commentary by Friday 8 August 2008 (05 Sha`ban 1429)
In the Name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever Merciful
Are you not aware that God sends down water from the skies, with which We bring forth fruits of different colours? In the mountains there are streaks of white and red of various shades, as well as others jet-black. Similarly, human beings, beasts and cattle have various colours. It is those who are endowed with knowledge that stand truly in awe of God. Indeed God is Almighty, Much-Forgiving. (The Originator, Fatir, 35: 27-28)
These two Verses begin a new passage composed of readings from the book of the universe and the revealed book. We look at the wonderful pages of this book: Its great variety of colours, species and kinds; fruits of every colour; mountains with colourful passages, as also people, animals and cattle of different hues. It is a highly effective touch, drawing our attention to the wonderful and natural world of colour that we tend to overlook.
The passage adds readings from God’s revealed book, confirming the truth it contains and an endorsement of what had gone before it of revelations. It speaks about how this book has been granted to the Muslim community as its rightful legacy, making it clear that the heirs are of different classes, but that they all expect to receive God’s pardon and forgiveness of sins. An image of their enjoyment of God’s favours in the life to come is painted to contrast with an image of what punishment awaits the unbelievers. This round, rich in colour, is concluded by a statement that all takes place in accordance with God’s knowledge.
“Are you not aware that God sends down water from the skies, with which We bring forth fruits of different colours? In the mountains there are streaks of white and red of various shades, as well as others jet-black. Similarly, human beings, beasts and cattle have various colours. It is those who are endowed with knowledge that stand truly in awe of God. Indeed God is Almighty, Much-Forgiving.” This is a remarkable touch confirming the source of the Qur’an. It looks at the entire world with a special focus on colour, pointing out its great variety in fruits, mountains, people, animals and cattle. It only takes a few words to group together animate and inanimate objects throughout the Earth, leaving us in full amazement at this wonderful exhibition.
It all begins with water being sent down from the skies, and the fruits that it brings forth with their rich variety of hue. Because the exhibition intended here concentrates on visual imagery, the only quality given to the fruits is their colour: “We bring forth fruits of different colours.” The colours of these fruits combine a grading that cannot be reproduced, even partially, by any painter. No two types of fruits are of the same colour. In fact, no two pieces of the same type of fruit are identical in colour. Good scrutiny will reveal variation even on such a scale.
The Surah then switches, almost suddenly, to refer to the colours of mountains. A close palette study, however, shows that this is a perfectly natural switch. There is a close similarity between the richness of colour in fruits and its richness in mountain rocks. Some rocks may even resemble fruit both in shape and in size, so that they can sometimes be mistaken for fruit.
“In the mountains there are streaks of white and red of various shades, as well as others jet-black.” The “streaks” refer to lines and courses in mountains. The text here refers to a fine point: The white lines contain different shades of whiteness, while the red ones contain different red shades, and both differ in the richness of colour and in the mix of other colours that give them their special appeal. There are other streaks of very black colour.
The switch to this colour diversity in rocks, after having highlighted such diversity in fruits has a profound effect. It alerts in us a refined aesthetic sense, which sees beauty in a rock just as it appreciates it in a fruit, despite the great difference between the two in nature and function. In this way we are reminded to better appreciate our surroundings, not least their aesthetic beauty.
The Surah also mentions people’s colours, which are not limited to the major categories that distinguish different racial groups. Indeed every human being has a distinctive colour separating him or her from the rest of their race. Indeed, it distinguishes each twin from the other. The same applies to animals and cattle. Cattle, which include camels, cows, sheep and goats, are mentioned as a separate category of fauna because they are much closer to man. They also demonstrate a similarly great diversity of colour.
The universe is thus shown as a splendidly colourful book, which the Qur’an opens and looks through. It then says that scholars who read, appreciate and comprehend this book are the ones who have a true God-fearing sense: “It is those who are endowed with knowledge that stand truly in awe of God.”
The universe is a superb book of which the Surah has shown but a few pages. It takes a good measure of knowledge to appreciate this wonderful book and to get to truly know God through His creation and power. People who do so realize the measure of His greatness by appreciating His work.
Therefore, they are truly God-fearing, and they worship Him in true submission. This is not the result of a mysterious feeling that we sometimes experience when we look at a splendid natural scene; rather, it is the product of true and direct knowledge. The pages of this universal book that the Surah has shown are only a sample.
The great diversity of colour it has mentioned serves only as an indicator of the great variety and meticulous harmony available everywhere in the universe. It can, however, only be appreciated by people endowed with knowledge and by those who feel the value of their knowledge deep in their hearts, and who do not leave it in a cold, dry academic corner.