UNDER KAUTHAR’S MERCY: LESSON 5- THE CASE OF THE “HOURIS”
“There is nothing more delicious on a hot afternoon or cool evening than a ball of soft banku and spicy-grilled tilapia with fresh pepper and shito to kill your hunger.”
Tell me I got you imagining !!!
If I should guess right, when you read the above description, your mind indirectly began to imagine how the food would look like when brought before you (hmmmnnnn, yummy!!!)
And then your tummy starts rumbling…you evoked the feeling of hunger.
Interestingly, how the food described on menus in restaurants is crafted to do just that. This is because when you are not evoked with something enticing; that something that creates a very attractive image in your mind, you will not respond to the main aim of communicating that way; which is to get you to buy the food.
Trust me, this art, isn’t an easy one. It requires thorough knowledge of the targeted audience. For instance, there is a unique way to attract the mind of my good friend who is an Akan when he reads your menu (make sure its fufu and there’s goat meat in the “ab3nkwan” soup). For the Dagomba man, it’s got to be Tuozafi and “cooka” or “green green”, with chunks of either guinea fowl meat or cow meat. Look into their eyes and you will see this spark. It’s because they have a special connection with the food. Switch the two dishes and you may be down by two customers. It may not evoke that feeling which will lead them to act: to buy or patronise the food.
Now, keep this case in mind….it’ll come in handy (smiles).
“Verily the God-fearing shall be in secure place. Amidst gardens and springs. Attired in silk and brocade, they shall be arrayed face to face. Thus shall it be: and We shall espouse them to fair, wide-eyed maidens”
Try to view these sentences under the lens of the case I started this write up with.
Take a good look at them. You see something?
Let me help you a bit.
The above sentences are verses from the concluding verses in the Chapter titled “The Smoke” in the Holy Qur’an (Al Dukhan Vs 51-54).
This “secure place” is Allah’s indirect way of describing to us the atmosphere of Jannah (Paradise). He further describes what one who is lucky to get to this serene place will see gardens and springs and describes the exact type of material they will be dressed in – Brocade and Silk.
“and We shall espouse them to fair, wide eyed maidens”
And yep, we just hit our winning verse!!!
When you flip through the Qur’an, there are a number of verses that bear a similar message. However, these verses have been a cause for controversy not just for critics, but Muslims themselves, most especially, Muslim women. Whilst critics describe such verses as inciting erotic thoughts in the minds of Muslim men, many Muslim ladies are like “Yeah, so do we get to have guys with ‘packed chests’ if the men are getting beautiful women?”. (…on a lighter note).
The maidens are called “Houris” in Arabic (Hence, the name of today’s Lesson).
But tell you what: somewhere within there, you have met Pathos. And Allah is clearly teaching us the importance of using it, but probably we can’t see it…yet (Smiles).
It’s clearly seen when you try to draw a link between my first scenario and the second one.
Let’s get something straight.
First, it’s important to realise that Allah always reveals verses with a target audience in mind. And from Lesson 2, we have already learnt how important it is to have a clearly defined target audience. The word “Maidens” used gives us a clue that Allah is targeting Men.
Now, remember what I said about having a thorough knowledge of the target audience?
Here is Allah, with a creation He knows extremely well men are moved by the beauty or the physique of a woman. Any man will tell you the difficulty of controlling themselves when it has to do with the sight of a woman which if not controlled, can automatically lead them to sin against Allah (committing Fornication).
But here’s the thing: He still wants them to make it to Jannah. So what does He do?
He uses what they are moved by, but gives moderate yet attractive descriptions of it. And this is the point we miss; the aim of communicating that way (just like in the food scenario) is to evoke an emotion of desire for a better deal, which will automatically lead them to act; i.e. sacrifice the desire to fornicate for Jannah and a much more desirous woman in sight.
It then doesn’t seem so surprising that where such verses are found, they are connected to Jannah; very strategic location.
Few things we need to note here; first of all, it’s not like Allah was taking the men through a “Women Physique 101” class. Men already encounter those sights (beauty of women). However, Allah was only being ethical in speech about what they already know to achieve an aim.
Second thing, probably the most important is the aim of the message. It’s simple, to benefit the men themselves! It’s not like Allah gets any smaller if they decide to sin. They end up either gaining or losing depending on the choice they make.
And really, think about it.
What makes people throng towards acclaimed competitions? Exactly. What’s a competition reward if it’s not tempting enough and does not connect with your deepest desires that much to excite you take part in it? The more tempting the reward and the more it is line with your greatest desires, the more likely you are to take part in such a competition. Same here. Guys really got a lot of things going on (really, they do). And hence, whatever the reward, it’s reeaally gotta be that enticing to make them willing to not yield to the pressure of a ‘sweet taboo’.
So if you’re a lady, don’t sweat it. It’s just Allah applying one of the deep sides of Rhetorics. And besides, though the verse is directed to men, you’re not left out on the aim. Whether Allah really mentioned you’ll be getting guys with packed chests or kept silent on the issue is of little essence. What’s clear however, is that for every sacrifice of an illegal carnal desire, there is a great reward.
And besides, there’s a reason why Allah calls Himself “Al- ‘Adl” (The All – Just)…smiles.
Those descriptions that evoke an action…is the application of Pathos all along.
“Pathos” comes from the Greek word “suffering” or “experience” but it’s meaning is different from our general understanding of the word “Pathos”. It describes the speaker’s appeal to his audience’s sense of emotions and their interests. Pathos means appealing to the audience by arousing their emotions. With the help of Pathos, the speaker can get connected emotionally with his audience.
The use of metaphors/literary, parables, the vivid descriptions of Jannah and Jahannam which we find in the Qur’an, is Allah’s way of flaunting to us His flair in the application of Pathos. Yep, they are all there for a reason; to get you to connect emotionally with Allah.
The relation of parables/literary devices/vivid descriptions evokes thoughtfulness, which when combined with Logos (facts), begins to create a very strong impression in the mind of the reader. This influences highly absorption levels of the message with almost negligible presence of doubt. And that is why Allah keeps referring to the Qur’an as a Book full of wisdom.
Now, what we’re going to be doing next week (before we tackle “Ethos”), In Shaa Allah, is to take a practical example of how Allah uses Pathos and Logos (what we learned in our last lesson (4)), within some surahs of the Holy Qur’an. This is gonna be my favourite because it’ll help us appreciate most of the previous lessons we’ve taken so far. This is where you’re really going to appreciate the oratory of the book of Allah and get your Eeeman shooting high, In Shaa Allah.
And yep, your English Translated Qur’an will definitely come in handy next Wednesday.
Tell me, what have you learnt from the last 4 lessons and this one so far?
Sharing is Sunnah, you know…
From the bank of Kauthar, its Salaamu alaikum for now…!
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