Monthly Archives: June 2011

A first comparison between Plato’s ‘Politeia’ and Qur’anic texts

The Sun is the highest source of light and goodness; God is the Sun, according to Plato. We now know that the Sun isn’t the highest source of light, thanks to our measuring equipment and space voyages.  Plato admits that geometry and three dimensional arithmetics are ‘difficult’, but also thinks that in order to know the real truth of things numbers and calculations, stripped from real objects, are enough. Objects are confusing because distance, shape, color and material blur our observation. Apparently the Greeks had no real conception of what the stars are, let alone that they are at greater distance from the Earth and Sun and usually a lot bigger too. The Holy Qur’an, however, gives us a better idea of the Sun, Earth, Moon and other celestial bodies and denies them any divine nature:

‘He kindles the light of dawn. He has ordained the night for rest and the Sun and the Moon for reckoning. Such is the ordinance of Allah, the Mighty One, the All-knowing. It is He that has created for you the stars, so that they may guide you in the darkness of land and sea. We have made plain Our revelations to men of wisdom.’ Q:6:95,96

‘On the Earth He has fashioned for you objects of various hues: surely in this there is a sign for prudent men. It is He who has subjected to you the ocean, so that you may eat of its fresh fish and bring up from it ornaments with which to adorn your persons. Behold the ships ploughing their course through it. All this He has created, that you may seek His bounty and render thanks to Him. He set firm mountains upon the Earth lest it should move away with you; and rivers, roads, and landmarks, so that you may be rightly guided. By the stars, too, are men directed.’ Q:16:15,16

‘Are the disbelievers unaware that the heavens and the earth were one solid mass which We tore asunder, and that We made every living thing of water? …’ Q:21:30

‘It was He who created the night and the day, and the Sun and the Moon: each moves swiftly in an orbit of its own.’ Q:21:33

‘Do you not see how your Lord lengthens the shadows? Had it been His will He could have made them constant. But He makes the Sun their guide; little by little He shortens them.’ Q:25:45,46

‘Blessed be He who decked the sky with constellations and set in it a lamp and a shining moon. He makes the night succeed the day: a sign to those who would take heed and render thanks.’ Q:25:61,62

‘… He made the Sun and the Moon obedient to Him, each running for an appointed time. …’ Q:39:5

‘In two days He formed the sky into seven heavens, and to each heaven He assigned its task. We decked the lowest with brilliant stars and guardian comets. …’ Q:41:12

‘Among His signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. But do not prostrate yourselves before the sun or the moon; rather prostrate yourselves before Allah, who created them both, if you would truly serve Him.’ Q:41:37

‘The Lord of the two easts is He, and the Lord of the two Wests. …’ Q:55:17

‘It is Allah who has created seven heavens, and earths as many. His commandment descends through them, so that you may know that Allah has power over all things, and that He has knowledge of all things.’ Q:65:12

We better understand now the role of perspective and light: a nearby light has a stronger impact than a light at great distance and these verses do justice to that. Sun and Moon are nearer to us than the stars, yet these latter influence our vision too, as a source of light.

However, Plato’s cave parable resembles Qur’anic verses in so far, that it explains how light casts shadows and how travel and knowledge enlarge our perspective on things. When we look behind the horizon, we see new things and calculations help us position ourselves amongst it all. Yet, Qur’anic approach doesn’t exclude practical use from a high or educational position. The simple everyday things may teach us gratitude towards the source they came from: the creator. Qur’an acknowledges the value of mathematics and arithmetics, but abandoned them as chief source of wisdom.


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