Why does God use allegories in the Quran?

According to 3:7, the Quran contains two types of verses:

1- Straightforward verses, which are the foundation of the Book. These are primarily the verses which outline the Law of God. They are all the verses which contain the rituals and practices of the religion plus all the prohibitions.

2- Verses which can be interpreted in more than one way, plus other verses which are allegorical.

Why does God use multiple meaning and allegorical verses in the Quran? Some may inquire as to why were not all the verses in the Quran written in simple one-meaning form? There are at least four reasons as to why there are multiple-meaning and allegorical verses in the Quran:

First: In order for any test to be valid, the receiver of the test must have the option of different choices. If the receiver had no choice there would be no test. The choice of the receiver determines his success or failure in the test that has been set.

As an example, suppose you would like to test your 6 year old son and see whether he will obey you or not. You take him to his room and ask him not to leave the room. You leave the door open so he is given the choice whether to obey you and stay in his room, or to disobey you and leave the room. The fact that you have given him two choices: the good (obey you), and the bad (disobey you) means that there was a valid test.

Now let us suppose you gave your son the same instruction of remaining in his room, but this time you locked the door. In this case your son does not have the option of disobeying you. You come back after one hour and find him still inside the room, but this time, was he really tested? The answer is no, because your son had no option of disobeying you, and thus he was not really tested.

When we import this logic to the multiple-meaning verses in the Quran, we find that among various other ways God has tested us, one test is by deliberately including the multi-meaning verses in the Quran.

He is the One who brought down upon you the Book, containing clear-cut verses that constitute the foundation of the Book, and others which allow multiple-meaning. As for those who harbour deviation in their hearts, they pursue the multiple-meaning verses seeking to cause discord and seeking to interpret it, but none knows its true interpretation except God. 3:7

The ones whose hearts are perverse will abuse these multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, so in these verses there is a deliberate test set by God.

This same test (giving the human the choice of good or bad) started with the very first test, when God commanded Adam not to eat from the forbidden tree. God could have created Paradise without that tree if He willed, but then the test would not have been possible. God could have created the world without the pig , which He commanded us not to eat its flesh, and so on.

God could have disallowed all the hadith from being written (6:112), but for the same purpose, God allowed the hadith to exist in order for the test to exist (6:113). The summing up of this truth is found in the following words:

And the self and what fashioned it, then He inspired it with its depravity and its reverence. 91:7-8

Second: God uses the multiple-meaning and allegorical verses to facilitate our comprehension of various issues that are beyond our understanding. Such issues cannot be described in simple words, thus the need for allegory.

Suppose you wanted to describe the taste of chocolate to someone who has never tasted it before? What would you say? You can only say it tastes like this, or like that, but you can never describe the exact taste accurately in simple words. The same principle would apply to issues like Paradise and Hell and their descriptions. God uses allegories to describe these places because the human being will never comprehend the nature of these places, if indeed they are places in the physical sense.

This applies to God's description of all other matters which are beyond our understanding. For example God speaks of angels as having two wings, three wings and four wings (35:1). Do angels really have wings? To answer this question, we must first understand why there is a need for wings in the first place. The obvious answer is to fly. If we take the example of birds, birds need wings to create lift and thrust, and also to counter weight (gravity) and drag.

Do angels have to counter gravity? Do angels have to counter drag? Are angels subject to the physical limitations of the universe in which we humans are trapped in? The answer is no. The allegory of wings in 35:1 could very well be a way of saying that some angels are given greater powers and authority by God than others.

Third: The third reason why God uses multiple-meaning verses in some Quranic verses is to shed more light on a certain issue, whereas if only literal words were used the meaning would not be as comprehensive. The following is a good example:

Be monotheist for God, associating none with Him. Whoever associates others with God will be as though he has fallen down from the sky, then to be snatched up by the birds or to be blown away by the wind to a remote place. 22:31

It is clear that God is giving us an allegory in the above words, for in reality, no idol worshippers will jump out of a plane (without a parachute) nor will be literally snatched by birds in the sky!

God could have simply said that idol worshippers will be at a great loss, or words to that effect, but with the above glorious words, we get much more precise information than if 22:31 was worded in simple words:

a- The person who is falling from the sky is in what is known as 'free fall', and the greatest natural fall we know is that of 'free fall' where the full force of gravity takes over. This allegory gives us the knowledge that whoever commits idol worship will experience the greatest fall (loss).

b- Since 'free fall' is a state where there is no resistance to gravity, it produces weightlessness, or 'zero-G'. The state of weightlessness is allegorical to someone with virtually no resistance or defence against any danger, a totally vulnerable state.

c- The words "to be snatched up by the birds" in 22:31 are also very significant. The same words, "snatched up by the birds", which indicate birds of prey, is allegorical to the devils. These words indicate that anyone who harbours the seeds of idol worship will be easy prey for the devils and their idolatrous invitations. The devils know which humans have idolistic tendencies and they prey on them, they are easily snatched up.

d- When we are on the ground our weight is supported by the earth below us, but a person in free fall has no support whatsoever for his plunging body, and is thus heading towards assured death. This is the case of an idol worshipper who sets up partners with God, he has no support whatsoever from God (since idol worship is the only unforgivable sin 4:48) and is thus heading for assured damnation:

God does not forgive the association of anything with Him, and He forgives other than that for whomever He wills. Anyone who sets up partners with God has forged a gross sin. 4:48

In contrast, God always supports the believers to lead them out of the darkness into the light:

He is the One who supports you, as well as His angels, to bring you out of the darkness and into the light. He is Merciful towards the believers. 33:43

Fourth: The fourth reason is one of a scientific nature. The Quran contains a wealth of scientific information, and most of this information was not common knowledge at the time of the revelation of the Quran. Straightforward words in this type of verse would not have made much sense in those early days before the discovery of the relevant scientific knowledge. As a result, we find these verses worded in allegorical fashion. Many centuries later, when the scientific knowledge contained in such verses is discovered, these verses become of great scientific significance.

The following is one example:

Whomever God wishes to guide, He renders his chest receptive to Submission, and whomever He wishes to send astray, He renders his chest tight and constricted as if he is ascending into the sky. 6:125

In a research by Dr Salah Al-Deen El-Magrabi, a member of the American society of Space Medicine, he outlined the condition of the human chest and what happens to it when the human climbs up in the higher layers of the atmosphere. He stated that the vesicles inside our chest play the key role. When we breathe, oxygen enters these vesicles causing them to fill up and get enlarged. But if we climb up in the atmosphere the pressure decreases. Consequently, the vesicles shrink, and as a result the chest becomes constricted and breathing becomes more difficult.

It is for these dangers that aircrafts are supplied with extra oxygen plus means of adjusting the air pressure inside the plane. These measures are crucial for insuring that the cabin where people are located is adapted for natural breathing as the plane soares at heights of 30,000 to 35,000 feet above sea level.

This knowledge is detailed very accurately in the Quranic words:

He renders his chest tight and constricted, as if he is ascending into the sky.

This scientific information is common knowledge today, however the Quran was revealed fourteen centuries ago, long before man invented flying machines that could take him to these vast heights to be able to discover this phenomenon.

The scientific content in 6:125 was only understood many centuries after the revelation of the Quran, hence the use of an allegory in that verse.


The words in 24:35 provide another good example of how God uses an allegory to speak of a scientific knowledge that was not known at the time of the revelation of the Quran. The details of the allegory in 24:35 is found at the following page under item 13: Glorious Quranic Verses

Allegories and the believer:

Following the above presentation for the use of allegorical and multiple-meaning verses in the Quran, we may well ask another important question:

Do the multi-meaning verses offer differing meanings to different persons?

The reply to this question requires us to distinguish between those who believe the Quran unconditionally, and those who say they do but in reality they do not. It may seem a given that all Muslims believe the Quran unconditionally, but in reality very few actually do! The following are some examples:

a- We are told in 6:114 that the Quran is fully detailed, and in 6:38 we are told that nothing has been left out of the Book, and in 16:89 we are told that the Quran gives the explanations of all things.

Sadly, all hadith followers do not believe any of the above! They insist that the Quran contains only the headlines whilst the details of the religion can only be found in the hadith! As a result, they do not believe the Quran!

b- In 2:197 we are given a very clear message stating that the Hajj can be observed anytime during the specified months. These are four months which God calls "hurum" months (9:36). These four months are given the name "hurum" because they are the months where the 'ihram' (abstention) of Hajj is observed.

Sadly, Muslims today have totally ignored this message in 2:197 and have restricted the observance of Hajj to the first 10 days of the month of Zhu Al-Hijjah. Do they believe 2:197? Once again the answer is no.

When they are asked why do they not heed the message in 2:197 they will come up with the most ridiculous explanations! The details can be seen at: Duration of Hajj

Interestingly, when such Muslims are asked why they cannot accept the simple literal meaning of 6:114 or 6:38 or 2:197, or many other simple verses, they will say that the Quran is not easy to understand and that only the inspired scholars can decipher its words! In other words, they have reduced the nature of such verses from being straightforward and clear to understand into being allegorical ambiguous verses! What this means is that for them, there are many more allegorical and ambiguous verses in the Book!

Many other examples can be cited to show how many so-called Muslims do not believe the Quran, but the above is sufficient for now.

The relevance of the above is that it tells us that those who choose not to believe simple words in the Quran (even though they claim they do) will have much more multiple-meaning verses to contend with than the genuine believer who believes God's words without ifs and buts.

God grants the genuine believers the blessing of understanding the Quran. For them there will be less multiple-meaning verses. On the other hand, God blinds the idol worshippers from understanding the Book, that is because they reject the simple meaning of God's words. No wonder they describe the Quran as a Book that is difficult to understand! In contrast, God says:

We have made it easy to understand, and in your own tongue, so that they may be reminded. 44:58

Allegories and God

Although we have numerous verses in the Quran that can have more than one meaning for the reader, in absolute terms, every Quranic verse has one definite meaning, but only God knows the exact meaning of every Quranic verse. This is confirmed in 3:7 with the words:

None knows its true interpretation except God.

God, the Author of the Quran, knows the correct meaning of every verse in the Quran. For God there is only one correct meaning to every Quranic verse.

One of the many glorious names of God is Al-Mumin (The Believer). Many wonder as to how can God call Himself the Mumin (Believer). God created all things, so what is He required to believe in?

This can be explained by the fact that for God there is no doubt surrounding the meaning or the truth, not only of every Quranic verse, but in everything that exists. For the human being, there will always be an element of doubt in all matters unseen, but for God there is zero doubt and 100% certainty (yaqeen). That is why God calls Himself the (absolute) Believer.