place matters in the manner of human discussions. But do these people who close their eyes [to the truth] not know that speech looks to the speaker in [only] one respect, and to the one addressed in several, as is required by eloquence, which is [to speak] in accordance with [the understanding] of the one addressed. Thus, since the one addressed is man, and what is discussed is his circumstances, and the aim is to ensure that he understands it, the Qur’an assumes the garb of human style, blended with human emotions and called “divine condescension to the minds of men,” to put man’s mind at rest. You surely know that when you speak with a child, you have to speak in childish language.
• If you were to ask: Aren’t the triviality and baseness of things opposed to the sublimity of [divine] power and purity of [divine] speech?
You would be told: Their insignificance, lowliness, ugliness and so on are only in regard to their outer face (mulk) and the face that looks to us and appears to our superficial view. Apparent causes have been put to act as intermediaries in this aspect, to absolve divine sublimity [of any fault]. However, the inner face of things (malakūtiyyat al-ashyā’) is entirely translucent and exalted. This aspect is the locus of [divine] power, and there is nothing outside it. Thus, on the one hand [divine] sublimity necessitates the placing of causes outwardly, and on the other unity and dignity demand that power and speech encompass all things. However, a Qur’an written in minute particles on an atom is no less eloquent than a Qur’an written in the ink of the stars on the page of the heavens. And the creation of a gnat is of no lesser art than the creation of an elephant. Thus, [divine] speech is the same as [divine] power.
• If you were to ask: What then does the apparent insignificance refer to in these parables?
You would be told: It refers not to the one relating the parables but to the ones portrayed, and the closer the parables are to the things portrayed the better they are and the higher the level of speech and the more elevated the order of the eloquence. Surely you know that if a king gives his shepherd some suitable clothes and throws a dog an appetizing bone, and so on, it cannot be said that what he has done is an innovation (bid‘a) [that is, out of place]; it would be said rather that he had done the best [possible] by giving each what was appropriate. So however insignificant the thing portrayed, its representation is similarly insignificant, and however great it is, its representation is thus. Since idols are the very least of things, Allah sets gnats to pester them. And since worship of them is the most worthless of things, Allah portrays it as a spider’s web.