Pondering over Similitudes of Truth and Falsehood in the Holy Quran

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. ١٧

“He sends down water from the sky, and riverbeds flow according to their capacity. The current carries swelling froth. And from what they heat in fire of ornaments or utensils comes a similar froth. Thus God exemplifies truth and falsehood. As for the froth, it is swept away, but what benefits the people remains in the ground. Thus God presents the analogies. (17)”

After my reading of classical Arabic texts such as al-Qurtubi and al-Kashaaf among others on interpretation of verse 17 of Surah 13, the Thunder I found that a good rendering of the actual meaning of the verse in the English is as presented by Imam as-Suyuti and the wider range of esoteric interpretations presented by one of the Sufi commentators of works attributed to Ibn ‘Abbaas (ra).


He then strikes a similitude of truth and falsehood, saying: He, exalted be He, sends down water, rain, from the sky, whereat the valleys flow according to their measure, according to their full capacity, and the flood carries a scum that swells, rising above it, and this [scum] is the filth and the like that lies on the surface of the earth, and from that which they smelt (read tūqidūn, ‘you smelt’, or yūqidūn, ‘they smelt’) in the fire, of the earth’s minerals, such as gold, silver or copper, desiring, seeking [to make], ornaments, adornment, or ware, which is useful, such as utensils, when they [the minerals] are melted; [there rises] a scum the like of it, that is, the like of the scum of the flood, and this [latter scum] consists of the impurities expelled by the bellows. Thus, in the way mentioned, God points out truth and falsehood, that is, [He points out] the similitude thereof. As for the scum, of the flood and of the minerals smelted, it passes away as dross, useless refuse, while that which is of use to mankind, in the way of water and minerals, lingers, remains, in the earth, for a time: likewise, falsehood wanes and is [eventually] effaced, even if it should prevail over the truth at certain times. Truth, on the other hand, is established and enduring. Thus, in the way mentioned, God strikes, He makes clear, similitudes.

[Source:Tafsīr al-Jalālayn by: Jalāl al-Dīn al-Maḥallī Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī; Translated by Feras Hamza and edited and with an Introduction by Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal. Published by: The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought Amman, Jordan, 2007.]


Allah then gave a simile of the Truth and falsehood, saying: (He sendeth down water from the sky) He says: He sent Gabriel with the Qur’an and explained therein the Truth and falsehood, (so that valleys flow according to their measure) so the illumined hearts bore the Truth in proportion of their size and light, (and the flood beareth) the darkened hearts bore ((on its surface) swelling foam) much falsehood due to their whims (from that which they felt in the Fire) this is another simile. He says: and of that which you cast in the fire of gold and silver contains adulteration just as the foam of the sea does have salt (in order to make ornaments) which you wear. Allah says here: the Truth is like gold and silver which benefit people, and falsehood is like the impurities which are derived from the casting of gold and silver, which are of no benefit. Likewise falsehood benefits no one (and tools) ore and copper (riseth a foam like unto it) He says: these also have impurities, i.e. just as the foam of the sea. This is another simile. He says: the Truth is like ore and copper from which people benefit, just as people benefit from the Truth. And falsehood is like the impurities resulting from the casting of ore and copper, which are of no benefit, just as falsehood is of no benefit to anyone, (thus Allah coineth (the similitude of)) thus Allah explains (the true and the false. Then, as for the foam, it passeth away as scum upon the banks) it goes just as it comes: it is of no benefit to its owner, (while, as for that which is of use to mankind) pure water, gold, silver, ore and copper, (it remaineth in the earth) it is useful just as the Truth is. (Thus Allah coineth the similitudes) Allah explains the similes of the Truth and falsehood.

[Source: Tanwīr al-Miqbās min Tafsīr Ibn ‘Abbās; Attributed variously to: ‘Abdullāh Ibn ‘Abbās and Muḥammad al-Fīrūzabādī; Translated by Mokrane Guezzou and edited and with a brief Introduction by Yousef Meri. Published by: The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought Amman, Jordan, 2007.]

In conclusion, this verse is a similitude for Truth and Falsehood. Truth is represented by rain which brings a multitude of benefits: to vegetation, wells as well as natural minerals that settle in the valleys [hearts, if taken figuratively] and soil over a long period of time and extracted periodically by people for smelting into various utensils and ornaments. This water, leaves a froth that settles on the surface of the soil and in settles into ponds of clean water with lasting benefits for its users. Unlike the froth which represents ‘Falsehood’ that is thrown away after the smelting of the iron ore extracted from the very earth brought together by the floods over time. That is the example of falsehood. In reality it produces nothing but illusion (a useless froth). When both sources of the scum and foam are compared the first is a direct result of Allah’s sending of the rains and torrents and the second is as a intermediate result of man’s manipulation of the benefits (minerals) and the froth that that produces is thrown away.  While is it true that both froths dissipates in the end one delivers sediments which provides a whole chain of production and products for both human and industrial use the latter is like smog, a pollutant. There are greater emeralds waiting to be discovered in this verse, like for instance the repetition of ‘froth’ or Zabad’ one that settles upon the earth by a natural process and the one that is thrown or cast upon the earth after a process of purification and distillation. Look at the fact that Zabad is used both for ‘Truth and Falsehood’ but towards the end of the verse. The Zabad of Truth – an indication that truth may appear to some viewers as froth-like – but notice how it dissipates into the phase ‘that which benefits people’ and the Zabad of Falsehood becomes Definite. The implied here is (and Allah knows best) is that the roots and veins of Truth’ are deep and therefore produces lasting goodness and ‘Falsehood’ which too can be confusing at times when demarcating it from truth, will eventually disappear and be thrown out, while the former settles and produces clear, clean water. Hence, the suggestion here is that falsehood at times does appear beneficial and may even temporarily bear the upper hand over truth. This simile is consistent with many of the others in the Holy Quran that show the endurance of truth over falsehood as mentioned in Chapter17,verse 81: “And say [O Muhammad] “The truth has come, and falsehood has withered away; for falsehood is bound to wither away.”

See also chapter14,verses24-27: “Do you not see how God presents parable?good word is like good tree—its root is firm, and its branches are in the sky. It yields its fruits every season by the will of its Lord. God presents the parables to the people, so that they may reflect. (25)  And the parable of bad word is that of bad tree—it is uprooted from the ground; it has no stability. (26)  God gives firmness to those who believe, with the firm word, in this life, and in the Hereafter. And God leads the wicked astray. God does whatever He wills. (27)” 

Allah knows best and may He forgive any transgression of mine in commenting upon these verses. 

For more detailed resources and tools for researching the Holy Quran visit the following websites:





Can Transliterated Quranic Sheets Make a Difference to Children’s Quran Memorisation?

Islamic Pedagogy Series 1

A dilemma often faced by co-ordinators of Islamic Education when planning the delivery of Quranic memorisation is whether to begin teaching the children to read Quran first, before setting them on the path to memorisation, or to begin memorisation straight away. For classroom practitioners it all boils down to the time constraints within the curriculum and this often gives way to the use of transliterated Arabic texts. Transliterated sheets must be seen as only a temporary measure, because it does not make sense for children to memorise huge chunks of the Holy Quran and they cannot in the end read it, in Arabic.
Therefore, for those of us who will continue to use transliterated Quranic memorisation sheets a final word of warning: do not throw it at children as if to imply I have done my job to help you, but use it to gradually build the child’s memory and recalling skills, while slowly building their ability to read the Holy book in the language within which, it was revealed.

The following links contains a range of effective tried and tested resources to help you teach children to read the Holy Quran in Arabic. Use them both strategically and wisely.  Please review your success or failer after using them and send in your feedback in writing; it will be most welcomed.

Surah al-Faatiha and the last 10 Surahs transliterated Quranic monitoring sheets.

 Qaa’edah An-Nooraniyah: Nooraniyah Guide for learning to read the Holy Quran

Al-Baghdaadiya: Another great Quranic Reader Guide

Malick Elias

20 Quick, Tried, Tested and Effective Practices for Teaching the Holy Quran to Children

Islamic Pedagogy Series 1

1-    Read and point at the text of the Holy Quran (displayed on the whiteboard) matching symbol with sound, while pupils follow the reading along with you.

Rated: Good for linking text with sound and developing reading skills. This must be done in a slow rhythmic pace.
2-    Randomly point to verses in a Surah written on the board and pupils are required to read it out immediately without hesitation, as a group or individually.
Rated: Good for keeping pupils alert and getting them remember verses quickly if they know that they will be asked.
3-    Select the last ten Surahs, for example, read by a very good reciter and pupils read along miming his recitation as it is being read.
 Rated: Very good for improving and developing pupil’s reading style. They must however read with the same pace as the expert reciter.
4-    Read a verse alone and pupils then follow the reading after stopping.
Rated: Good for drilling the memorisation of the verse. Must be done in a clear voice paying attention to pronunciation rules (Makhaarij al-Huroof).
5-    Read a verse to the class and pupils read the next verse in sequence.
Rated:  Very good. This is done best when most pupils have learnt the Surah, with perfection.
6-    Read to the class and stop at words, which some pupils find difficult, they read that word and you then continue reading.
Rated: Good for checking pronunciation.
7-    Read a verse in a distinctive tone and pupils read the next verse in an alternate tone.
Rated: A good, but very specialist way for drawing pupils’ attention to the intonation and changes of tone and voice in the reading of a Surah. Before doing this pupils must be made aware of the meaning of the Surah and the story it tells.
8-    Select Surahs, which highlight a distinctive rhythmic style, especially those with the ending of verses which rhyme and read it with passion to the pupils.
Rated: Excellent for developing the pupils love for Quranic recitation and its stylistic features.
9-    Begin reading a Surah or random verse and then select a pupil to continue it.
 Rated: An excellent way of checking the depth of memorisation.

10- Read a Surah and pupils have to guess the name of it. This game can be extended to test their knowledge on other details of the Surah, for example, where it was revealed and in which chapter is it located in the Holy Quran …
Rated: Very good for developing pupils general knowledge of the Surahs, especially their names and where they were revealed.
11- Use images to link to verses if relevant. Best done on learning sheets.
Rated:  A good way of allowing visual learner to remember what the Surah is about.
12- Request from pupils the recitation of a specific Surah as they enter the class, standing behind their chairs before they sit.
 Rated:  Excellent technique for pupils to get into the habit. It helps them to consolidate the learning of particular Surahs. You could also develop this around gender lines. Boys begin reading and girls take over the reading at a certain point.
13- Group pupils who are at the same level and learning the same Surah to read the Surah in synchronised manner as one person in front of the class.
Rated: Very good for building the confidence of weaker pupils. But for this to be successful they must all read in chorus together.
14- Group pupils who are at the same level and learning the same Surah to read the Surah verse by verse. Each pupil in the group reads a verse and matches the pace and tone of the last reader.
Rated: Good. This is an advanced way of developing recitation skills of Tajweed and Tarteel.
15- Set a Quranic competition at the end of the lesson for pupils to compete.
Rated: Excellent for developing excitement and love for the learning of Quranic recitation. At a more advance level, give children the opportunity to choreograph their own presentations. Be creative! They love it. This is one of the most successful activities as it reflects popular culture that they can relate with.
16- Use transliterated Quran sheets, but only issue two verses at a time for individual pupils to learn. Let the pupils read to you after they learnt the verses and the teacher put a tick on the sheet and date it.
Rated: Excellent if used properly. It can build pupil confidence and memorisation skills. Pupils sense achievement quickly as they feel that they can learn the Surah. This is a good method for differentiating learning in Quran lessons.
17- Assign the copying of the short Surah or parts or selection from a long Surah in Calligraphic style, if the pupil is advanced. For the less advanced, but capable of reading the Holy Quran in Arabic, they should at least learn how to write Surah al-Fatihah from memory.
Rated:  An excellent way of developing pupils’ precision in reading, but useful also for visual learners.
18- Select pupils to read to the class, while others assess the level of their recitation. They are given levelling criteria: level 1 is recitation with some mistakes; level 2 is recitation without any mistakes but no tajweed and level 3 is recitation with tajweed.
Rated:  A excellent method for getting pupils to gauge the standard of recitation expected from them and to seek to excel in Quranic reading. It really works!
19- Assign a memorisation buddy for each pupil. They listen and check the memorisation of each other before letting you check their recitation and memorisation.
Rated: Excellent tool for classroom management and developing independent learning.
20- Assign the role of Memorisation Inspector to the most advance memorisers and or reciters of the Quran to go around and check the memorisation of others and issue them with a level; they then report back the levels of the pupil’s reading to you.
Rated: Very good method of engaging gifted and talented pupils in the learning process and classroom management aid.

Malick Elias