God in the Quran informs us that He created everything in pairs.
[43:12] He is the One who created all kinds, in pairs (male and female), and He created for you ships and livestock to ride.
وَالَّذِي خَلَقَ الْأَزْوَاجَ كُلَّهَا وَجَعَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ الْفُلْكِ وَالْأَنْعَامِ مَا تَرْكَبُونَ
The beauty of creating things in pairs is that it gives us two items to compare one another against rather than looking at a thing in isolation.
One kind of study that psychologist love to research are twin studies and most notably scenarios where two identical twins were separated at birth to see how much of their behavior, attitude, and personality is dictated by nature and how much by nurture. Seeing how two people who share almost identical DNA can differ under varying circumstances during their life it sheds light on how much of their upbringing is dictated by their biology and how much by their surroundings.
Because by studying one thing in comparison to another are we able to get a richer understanding of both subjects. And this concept of pairs is also utilized heavily in the Quran and is a primary way that God teaches the believers the lessons of the Quran. This mechanism is perfectly depicted in the following verses:
[35:19] The blind and the seer are not equal. [35:20] Nor are the darkness and the light. [35:21] Nor are the coolness of the shade and the heat of the sun. [35:22] Nor are the living and the dead; GOD causes whomever He wills to hear. You cannot make hearers out of those in the graves.
So by studying darkness in contrast to light, or blindness in contrast to site, or the living to that of being dead can we better understand both phenomenon being discussed. And God informs us that this is one of the mechanisms by which God teaches us the Quran.
[39:23] GOD has revealed herein the best Hadith; a book that is consistent, and points out both ways (to Heaven and Hell). The skins of those who reverence their Lord cringe therefrom, then their skins and their hearts soften up for GOD’s message. Such is GOD’s guidance; He bestows it upon whomever He wills. As for those sent astray by GOD, nothing can guide them.
اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُتَشَابِهًا مَثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ
The expression كِتَابًا مُتَشَابِهًا مَثَانِيَ can be understood as “a book comparing/contrasting pairs.”
The wisdom of discussing abstract concepts using contrasting pairs is that only where there is contrast can the subtleties of the lessons be properly brought to light. For instance, if one takes a look at the below image and verifies it for themselves it would be almost impossible to determine that all two grey dots in the image are actually the exact same color. This is because when the grey dot is superimposed on a light background the darkness of the grey is brought to light and when that same dot is superimposed on a dark background the brightness of the grey is brought to light.
But if there was not a stark contrast then the grey dot would be almost impossible to see.
This is one of the foundational concepts of the Quran, to pull those who believe out of darkness into the light. The challenge is that most people will be completely oblivious they are even in darkness until they contrast themselves against true light and darkness.
[65:10] GOD has prepared for them severe retribution. Therefore, you shall reverence GOD, O you who possess intelligence and believed. GOD has sent down to you a message— [65:11] a messenger who recites to you GOD’s revelations, clearly, to lead those who believe and work righteousness out of the darkness into the light. Anyone who believes in GOD and leads a righteous life, He will admit him into gardens with flowing streams; they abide therein forever. GOD will generously reward him.
Because only when we understand what is light and what is darkness can we, by God’s leave, direct ourselves towards the light. But there are many more examples of these kinds of contrasts depicted in the Quran that are chockfull of wisdom for those who study the Quran.
Pharoah & Wife
When Pharoah was presented with the miracles of God by Moses his response was the following:
[40:36] Pharaoh said, “O Hãmãn, build for me a high tower, that I may reach out and discover.
وَقَالَ فِرْعَوْنُ يَاهَامَانُ ابْنِ لِي صَرْحًا لَعَلِّي أَبْلُغُ الْأَسْبَابَ
[40:37] I want to reach the heaven, and take a look at the god of Moses. I believe he is a liar. Thus were the evil works of Pharaoh adorned in his eyes, and thus was he kept from following (the right) path. Pharaoh’s scheming was truly evil.
أَسْبَابَ السَّمَاوَاتِ فَأَطَّلِعَ إِلَىٰ إِلَٰهِ مُوسَىٰ وَإِنِّي لَأَظُنُّهُ كَاذِبًا وَكَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِفِرْعَوْنَ سُوءُ عَمَلِهِ وَصُدَّ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ وَمَا كَيْدُ فِرْعَوْنَ إِلَّا فِي تَبَابٍ
Pharaoh upon hearing the commandment of God and witnessing the miracles for himself asked his chief architect to build for him a tower in this world because he wanted to exalt himself and belittle “the god (illah) of Moses”. God be glorified!
Now compare this to the wife of Pharoah.
[66:11] And GOD cites as an example of those who believed the wife of Pharaoh. She said, “My Lord, build a home for me at You in Paradise, and save me from Pharaoh and his works; save me from the transgressing people.”
وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا امْرَأَتَ فِرْعَوْنَ إِذْ قَالَتْ رَبِّ ابْنِ لِي عِنْدَكَ بَيْتًا فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنْ فِرْعَوْنَ وَعَمَلِهِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
While Pharoah asked to have a tower built for him in this life to increase his status, Pharoah’s wife asked God to build a house for her in Paradise in the Hereafter to save her from Pharaoh, his works, and the transgressing people.
[35:10] Anyone seeking dignity should know that to GOD belongs all dignity. To Him ascends the good words, and He exalts the righteous works. As for those who scheme evil works, they incur severe retribution; the scheming of such people is destined to fail.
مَنْ كَانَ يُرِيدُ الْعِزَّةَ فَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ جَمِيعًا إِلَيْهِ يَصْعَدُ الْكَلِمُ الطَّيِّبُ وَالْعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ يَرْفَعُهُ وَالَّذِينَ يَمْكُرُونَ السَّيِّئَاتِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ وَمَكْرُ أُولَٰئِكَ هُوَ يَبُورُ
By studying the remarks from this pair of spouses can we see the profoundness of their actions. That while one is using their time in this world to elevate themselves and secure their spot in the lowest pit of Hell, the other is spending their time here trying to secure their spot as close as possible to God in the Hereafter.
Moses & Samaritan
After Moses departed Egypt with the Children of Israel he rushed to God.
[20:83] Why did you rush away from your people, O Moses?
وَمَا أَعْجَلَكَ عَنْ قَوْمِكَ يَامُوسَىٰ
[20:84] He said, “They are close behind me. I have rushed to You my Lord, that You may be pleased.”
قَالَ هُمْ أُولَاءِ عَلَىٰ أَثَرِي وَعَجِلْتُ إِلَيْكَ رَبِّ لِتَرْضَىٰ
While Moses rushed to God in order to seek His pleasure. The Samarian along with the Children of Israel rushed to something else.
[20:85] He said, “We have put your people to the test after you left, but the Samarian misled them.”
قَالَ فَإِنَّا قَدْ فَتَنَّا قَوْمَكَ مِنْ بَعْدِكَ وَأَضَلَّهُمُ السَّامِرِيُّ
[20:86] Moses returned to his people, angry and disappointed, saying, “O my people, did your Lord not promise you a good promise? Could you not wait? Did you want to incur wrath from your Lord? Is this why you broke your agreement with me?”
فَرَجَعَ مُوسَىٰ إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ غَضْبَانَ أَسِفًا قَالَ يَاقَوْمِ أَلَمْ يَعِدْكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ وَعْدًا حَسَنًا أَفَطَالَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْعَهْدُ أَمْ أَرَدْتُمْ أَنْ يَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُمْ مَوْعِدِي
And how exactly did they break their promise, what was it that they rushed to do?
[20:87] They said, “We did not break our agreement with you on purpose. But we were loaded down with jewelry, and decided to throw our loads in. This is what the Samarian suggested.”
قَالُوا مَا أَخْلَفْنَا مَوْعِدَكَ بِمَلْكِنَا وَلَٰكِنَّا حُمِّلْنَا أَوْزَارًا مِنْ زِينَةِ الْقَوْمِ فَقَذَفْنَاهَا فَكَذَٰلِكَ أَلْقَى السَّامِرِيُّ
[20:88] He produced for them a sculpted calf, complete with a calf’s sound. They said, “This is your god, and the god of Moses.” Thus, he forgot.
فَأَخْرَجَ لَهُمْ عِجْلًا جَسَدًا لَهُ خُوَارٌ فَقَالُوا هَٰذَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ وَإِلَٰهُ مُوسَىٰ فَنَسِيَ
They spent their short time to rush and build a sculpted calf made from their luxuries and wealth that God blessed them with. Even the word for calf عِجْلًا / ʿij’lan in Arabic comes from the same root as the word to rush which was used when Moses rushed to God in 20:83-84.
Adam & Satan
Another example of two pairs who have a connection to one another yet portray starkly different outcomes is that of Adam and Satan. Consider that both Adam and Satan defied God’s commandment, yet while Adam recognized his mistake and sought God’s forgiveness and was ultimately redeemed, Satan on the other hand grew in arrogance and vowed to prove his point and secure his position in the bottom pit of hell.
[7:12] He said, “What prevented you from prostrating when I ordered you?” He said, “I am better than he; You created me from fire, and created him from mud.” [7:13] He said, “Therefore, you must go down, for you are not to be arrogant here. Get out; you are debased.” [7:14] He said, “Grant me a respite, until the Day of Resurrection.” [7:15] He said, “You are granted a respite.” [7:16] He said, “Since You have willed that I go astray, I will skulk for them on Your straight path. [7:17] “I will come to them from before them, and from behind them, and from their right, and from their left, and You will find that most of them are unappreciative.” [7:18] He said, “Get out therefrom, despised and defeated. Those among them who follow you, I will fill Hell with you all.
[7:23] They said, “Our Lord, we have wronged our souls, and unless You forgive us and have mercy on us, we will be losers.”