Sunday, 21 February 2010

Surah Zalzala [99]

Asalam alaikum warahmatulah wabarakatuh

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Surah Zalzala [99]

There were 3 doubts the deniers had;

1 - How can the world end after having been existant for so long?
2 - How can everything that we do in life be written and recorded in the minutest of details?
3 - Even if a judgement did occur, we have intercessors (angels, saints etc) to hide behind between us and Allah?

This is the psychology of Shirk (associating partners [with Allah]) because a person may do whatever he wants of disobedience to Allah, but then he wants to hide behind someone close to Allah to protect him from Allah's anger. This person will even try to please and overpraise that intercessor, so that the  intercessor will intercede in favour of his case in the court of Allah. Little do these people know that Allah will forgive who He wills on that Day, and this is the sin that Allah does not forgive (of shirk).

This surah removes those doubts, as we will see inshaa' Allah [God willing].

The Surah is short (only 8 aayaat/verses long).

The first part of the surah explains how the world will come to an end;

Ayah 1:

إِذَا زُلْزِلَتِ الْأَرْضُ زِلْزَالَهَا

- Zalzala is repeated twice in the first ayah/verse.

Zalzala is a 4 root lettered word. Some scholars (ie. Raghib al Isfahani) say 4 letter words come from a 3 root lettered word, in this case Zalzala comes from Zal-la  [(زلل) - za,lam,lam], but it has 4 letters for emphasis.

Zal-la (زلل) means - to slip (ie. if you walk, and you slip).

When zal-la (زلل) is repeated (taqrar lafdhi), it becomes Zalzala, so its repetition means (taqrar ma'nawi) 'repeated slipping'.

So yes, Zalzala = Earthquake in arabic language, but its effects are continuous falling and slipping of objects due to instability.

So when Allah says; Idhaa zulzilatil arddu... It implies that the earth will become heavily shaken, becoming unstable for humans and anything on it (the earth) on that day (Judgment Day).

Similarly Allah says in surah Hajj;

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُوا رَبَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ زَلْزَلَةَ السَّاعَةِ شَيْءٌ عَظِيمٌ

Ya ayuhal naas ittaqoo rabakum, ina zalzat-ass-saa'ati shay'un 'azeem (oh mankind, protect yourselves/fear [itaqoo] your Master (rabakum), surely the violent shaking/instability [zalzalah] of the hour is a great thing.

وَتَرَى النَّاسَ سُكَارَىٰ وَمَا هُم بِسُكَارَىٰ

Wa taran-naasa sukaaraa wa maa hum bi sukaaraa.
The day when you will see people drunk (intoxicated/high), but they will not be drunk.

A person will trip over himself, unable to keep balance, shakey, in a daze when drunk, and also do the same when an earthquake is happening. In both situations, the human is out of their mind, almost insane.

إِذَا زُلْزِلَتِ الْأَرْضُ زِلْزَالَهَا

Idhaa zulzilatil arddu zilzaalaha.
When the earth shakes violently (as it should), a terrible shakening.

Earthquakes described in the Quran can be of many different types;

Raj-ja (or Tarjeej): violent jerk/sudden and unexpectedly.

Rajaf - this is used to describe something which changes the state of something normal. Ie. if you throw a stone in water, and ripples are caused. Or if you hold a sheet of cloth from one side and shake it, waves are caused so the original state is changed. Allah uses this word to describe the hypocrites.

(الْمُرْجِفُونَ فِي الْمَدِينَةِ al murjifoona fil madinah [Ahzab 33:60] - because they caused disturbance in the peace of the Muslims in Madinah).

إِذَا زُلْزِلَتِ الْأَرْضُ زِلْزَالَهَا

Idhaa zulzilatil arddu zilzaalaha.
When the earth shakes violently (as it should), a terrible shakening.

The Beginning of Surah Zalzala

The beginning of Surah Zalzala is commenting on the beginning of the ending (ie. of the end of the world and Judgement). In the ending of the previous surah (Bayyinah) it was talking about the end of the end (final destinations of the believers and disbelievers i.e. hell and paradise).

Al Bica'i says: the word Idhaa/izaa )(إِذَا) [When] - is used to remind people of something important that will without a doubt happen (in the future) which people continuously forget.

[past tense for 'when' is Idh/iz (إِذَ), and idhaa (إِذَا) is future tense.]

By saying idhaa (إِذَا), Allah has made Judgement Day a reality because He is saying 'When it happens (for sure in the future)'.

Zulzilat زُلْزِلَتِ - passive form, ie. when the earth is shaken.

He didn't mention Himself shaking the earth. When Passive tense is used in arabic, it implies that its easy to do that without much effort from the doer.

"it will get done" implies its easy to do. Wheras "i will do it" implies 'it will take me some effort'.

الْأَرْضُ al Ard = the Earth.

So by Allah saying Zulzilat, Allah is implying how easy it is for Him to shake the earth for the final Judgement Day without effort.

Aloosi says: (Commenting on Zulzilat); Its a violent, continuous and repetitive earthquake.

This conclusion is based on the rule of Maf'ul Mutlaq: ie. Darabtahu Darban is a phrase meaning "i hit him", literally it would be translated as "i hit him with a hit" = I hit him really really hard. This is maf'ul mutlaq.

This is the technique used in this verse; Idhaa zulzilatil 'ardu zilzalaha [When the earth shakes with its heavy shaking].

An INCREDIBLE Earthquake (more than a normal one).

More examples:

Nasarahu nasran [he aided with a great aid].
And Qatalahu taqteelan [he slaughtered with the most powerful slaughter]. Etc.

إِذَا زُلْزِلَتِ الْأَرْضُ زِلْزَالَهَا
Idha zulzilatil 'ardu zilzalaha [When the earth shakes with its terrible, heavy shaking].

An INCREDIBLE Earthquake (more than a normal one).

Zilzalan would usually be used in maf'ul mutlaq, not Zilzalaha. Why is 'ha' [zilzalaHA] placed at the end instead?

The 'ha' (هَا) at the end of zilzalaha [meaning 'her']  refers the whole issue back to the Earth which we find our safety and refuge in.

Idha zulzilatil 'ardu zilzalaha [When the earth shakes with her heavy shaking].

Why is zilzalaHA more effective than zilzalaN?

Aloosi says: Its an earthquake which is so powerful that no earthquake can be compared to it. So by referring to the earthquake as a specific one that shakes her violently [the earth], its uncomparable to any other earthquake ever before it.

This is such a unique earthquake that its unimaginable (the whole Earth is violently shaking in comparison to the past when only some parts would shake).

The 'ha' could also imply the Promise. Which promise?

Her heavy violent shaking is a promise she had made to Allah, a role which she had to fulfill at the end times to fulfill her destiny when mankinds and jinns world would end.

Idhaa zulzilatil 'ardu zilzalaha [When the earth shakes with her [promised] heavy shaking].

Zamakshari says in al Kashaf: the 'ha' (her) implies that this Earth was made with that exact job in mind, for the purpose of; shaking violently when Allah gave it permission to do so in preparation for a Judgment Day.

It's the end of the journey that matters the most, since that is the purpose of the traveller - to reach his destination and fulfill his final role. It may be that Allah is implying that the purpose of the Earth from the beginning was to shake violently, to lead to the destination of Judgment Day.

The 'ha' [pronoun- iddafa] implies this is an earthquake which is so intense, that an earthquake could not be any more violent before or after it, ever. It has been shaken to its maximum limit by Allah. It is the Earth's heaviest shaking, it is the zulzilatil 'ardu zilzal. It implies that EVERY single part (every inch!) of her [the earth] will violently shake.

Ash-Shanqiti said: the Earth will shake, pause and shake again repetitively, this will continuously happen - The same way the root (huroof) letters are repeated and paused, ie. ZuLZiLatil 'ardu ZiLZaLaha.

(This is also based on the rule of 4 letter words in the arabic language with repeated syllables, which signify the repetition of something. Ie. WaSWaSa is whisperings from satan which are repeatedly used to try to harm (and cause confusion and doubt) amongst people, especially believers. So satan will whisper, go away and approach again to whisper evil again, repeatedly.)

The silence between each syllable signifies a stop, some form of relief, but suddenly it begins again [with the repeat again of the next syllable].

إِذَا رُجَّتِ الْأَرْضُ رَجًّا . Idha rujatil ardu raja wa busatil jibalu bassa. [Waqi'ah 56:4] - When the earth is shaken with a violent shock..

يَوْمَ تَرْجُفُ الرَّاجِفَةُ . تَتْبَعُهَا الرَّادِفَةُ
Yawma tarjufu ar-rajifah. Tatba'u ar radifah [Naazi'aat 79: 6-7] - the day when the Tremor quakes, Followed by the subsequent (commotion)...

Ayah 2:

وَأَخْرَجَتِ الْأَرْضُ أَثْقَالَهَا
Wa akhrajatil ardu athqalaha.

And the Earth will extract her burden.

Wa وَ = and

Akhraja (أَخْرَجَ) = to take something out. Also used in the Quran to describe someone being expelled ie. from a city etc. This is the most generally used word for 'extract' or take something out of something else.

Alternative words which could be used but are not:

Barraza (برز) = take something out and put it infront of someone.
"wa burrizatil jaheemu li man yara" وَبُرِّزَتِ الْجَحِيمُ لِمَن يَرَىٰ (and hell will be pulled out for the one to look at.) [Surah Nazi'at 79:36]

Taradda - to push-away/belittle. طرد
= وَلَا تَطْرُدِ الَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ رَبَّهُم بِالْغَدَاةِ وَالْعَشِيِّ يُرِيدُونَ وَجْهَهُ

Wa la tatrud iladheena yad'oona rabahum:

(and dont expel/drive away those who call upon their Lord) [An'am 6:52] (i.e. Allah commanded His Messenger: Dont belittle (tatrudd illadheena yad'oona rabahum) the believers, no matter what rank in society they are.)

AThQaLa ha (أَثْقَالَهَا ) - Burdens [repeated twice in surah. 2nd time its mentioned is the word miThQaLa later in the surah.

The Earth will pull out her burdens.

ThiQL (ثقل) (plural: Athqal) - the things which are contained within something else - to make it heavy. Ie. Beds, furniture, carpet computer, all things in your home etc. All this makes your house heavy so it is Thiql (the houses burden which it holds).
Thaqeel - heavy.

When you Travel and you carry things = thiql. The Thiql (burden) you carry, you drop and release it after your journey is complete. The Earth is also on a journey, and near its end it will drop and release its burden [iThQaLaha]. This is the burden being mentioned in this surah/chapter.

The Thiql in your homes, the people in the graves, anything hidden in the Earth and in your homes will be expelled and forced out to show its reality on that Day.


Bica'i says: Athqal refers to: treasures, aswell as the dead (the disbeliever would deny that he, and the dead would return and be brought back to this world). But instead, he after his death would return to this world (on Judgment Day), along with the earths treasures which he had been fighting for and chasing after his whole life, but on this Day, no-one cares for these treasures - when before this, that was his only purpose in life which distracted him from building a relationship with Allah.

On this Day, the Earth will be offering itself to the people, when before people would themselves work day and night in the Earth to seek its ; gold, silver, oil, diamonds etc. But on this Day, mankind will realise the reality of the deception of this world, the worthlesness of this wealth, and submit to the fact that final success can only come from Allah's pleasure alone on this Day.

Shawkani said; the IThQaL [burden] also includes Reports of all that was done in the different locations of the Earth during the different times. So this earth is like a video recorder everywhere we are, recording all that we do in public and private. So the angels are witnesses, and Allah is too, but they are unseen to us.

However the Earth is a witness and recorder, and so are our bodies. These are apparent to us and are watching and recording us do our good and bad. Now if something is filled up too much, it will gradually build up and finally burst, spilling out all it contained. The Earth will spill out the records of all deeds done on it

وَأَلْقَتْ مَا فِيهَا وَتَخَلَّتْ
And has cast out all that was in it and become empty [khalat].
[Inshiqaq 84.4]

Khalat (خَلَّتْ) is the word used, and Takhala is the word used to describe a pregnant woman who finally sighs after giving birth [releasing her burden] and her labour pains have come to an end. (the same way the earth finally lets out her burden of the sinful records and sinful people, a final sigh of relief from its pain).

ظَهَرَ الْفَسَادُ فِي الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ بِمَا كَسَبَتْ أَيْدِي النَّاسِ لِيُذِيقَهُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي عَمِلُوا لَعَلَّهُمْ يَرْجِعُونَ

Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea by [reason of] what the hands of people have earned so He may let them taste part of [the consequence of] what they have done that perhaps they will return [to righteousness]. [Surah Rum.41]

Where the earth sometimes releases some of its burden through minor earthquakes or other disasters, as punishments for the evil and corruption mankind commit - so they may return to Allah out of humbleness.

Shanqeeti said: The AthQaL [burdens] being referred to is especially the humans and the jinn, based on the verse in surah Rahman;

سَنَفْرُغُ لَكُمْ أَيُّهَ الثَّقَلَانِ [surah Rahman 55:31]; We will attend to you, We shall turn to reckon with you, O you two heavy ones!, (mankind and jinn.)

ThaQaLaan = humans and jinn are the two real AthQaL [burden upon the Earth].

Doubt 1 has been answered in this surah: Allah is able to destroy the Earth through an Earthquake (Earthquakes are comprehendible to humans and symbolise destruction, so its not unimaginable to believe that Allah will destroy the Earth through this means), and revive mankind, and bring them back to life again as a new creation. The Earth will be re-made, and the men and jinn will be re-made.

Doubt 2:

The Arabs would question; How can everything that we do in life be written and recorded in the minutest of details?

The Body is a witness;

حَتَّىٰ إِذَا مَا جَاءُوهَا شَهِدَ عَلَيْهِمْ سَمْعُهُمْ وَأَبْصَارُهُمْ وَجُلُودُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

وَقَالُوا لِجُلُودِهِمْ لِمَ شَهِدتُّمْ عَلَيْنَا ۖ قَالُوا أَنطَقَنَا اللَّهُ الَّذِي أَنطَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ خَلَقَكُمْ أَوَّلَ مَرَّةٍ وَإِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ

Till, when they reach it (Hell-fire), their hearing (ears) and their eyes, and their skins will testify against them as to what they used to do.

And they will say to their skins, "Why do you testify against us?" They will say: "Allah has caused us to speak, as He causes all things to speak, and He created you the first time, and to Him you are made to return."

[Fussilat 41:20-21]

The Earth is a witness; the earth records the deeds (as a burden/Thaql) of mankind through history. So it is a witness. [Based on Surah Zalzala 99:2 (discussed above)]

Allah is a witness: يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا مَا لَكُمْ ya alyuhaladheena aamanoo ma lakum? [Tawba 9:38]. O you who profess belief, what is wrong with you?

Ayah 3:

On this day man will say:

وَقَالَ الْإِنسَانُ مَا لَهَا
Wa qaal al insanu ma laha? (and man will say what is wrong with it [the earth, when it quakes])

Al Bica'i says: Man will be so shocked this day, that he will forget all the reminders he recieved in this life about such a day. So in shock, fear and anxiety, he will be amazed at what the earth is doing, and ask; "what is wrong with her?"

Wa qaal al Insanu ma laha? (and man [insan] will say what is wrong with her)

Insan comes from Nasiya, which means to be forgetful. Thats why Man will be so shocked this day, that he will forget all the reminders he recieved in this life about such a day and still ask what is wrong with her?

Al Naas is used later in the surah = it is a plural and refers to many people.

Insaan = mankind, but in this context it refers to man, when he is alone, although being amongst many people (all of mankind, from Adam to the last person on Earth).

So man/insan is amongst ALL of humanity, but feels entirely alone on that Day.

Zamakshari says: This is what the disbeliever will say after the 2nd trumpet is blown [for the beginning of Judgment Day], when he sees dead bodies being expelled from the Earth and coming to life after their death. This is when he will ask all these questions in shock. (Maa Laha?! [What is (wrong) with her?])

He (the disbeliever) will also say;

قَالُوا يَا وَيْلَنَا مَن بَعَثَنَا مِن مَّرْقَدِنَا

"Woe to us! Who has raised us up from our place of sleep."

And the believers will say;

هَٰذَا مَا وَعَدَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَصَدَقَ الْمُرْسَلُونَ

"This is what the Most Beneficent (Allah) had promised, and the Messengers spoke truth!"

[Surah Yasin 36:52]

(and man will say what is wrong with it [the earth, when it quakes])...

Ayah 4:

يَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبَارَهَا
Yawma Idhin tuhadithu akhbaraha.

(On that Day, [the earth will] dispel her news.)

Yawma idhin - On that Day... Yawma Idhin: this is a phrase used as a warning, showing Allah's anger at the rejectors.

Yawma idhin tuhadithu akhbaraha. (On that Day, [the earth will] dispel her news.)

tu HaDiThu - from hadatha = to make someone aware of something.

HaDooTh - to make something come into existance which wasnt there before.

HaDaTha/HaDeeTh = to say something new which the people havn't heard before.

It can also mean to re-say something which the people forgot. Or to say something in full detail with the assumption that the hearer is not aware of such information.

The Earth on this day will tuHaDiThu (inform and also remind the forgetful in full detail) akhbaraha (its news [about the deeds the people did in this life]).

The information it gives us will shock us, as if we are hearing such information for the first time.  This is why the word "Hadeeth" is used in preference to other words.
In Surah Kahf;

وَوُضِعَ الْكِتَابُ فَتَرَى الْمُجْرِمِينَ مُشْفِقِينَ مِمَّا فِيهِ وَيَقُولُونَ يَا وَيْلَتَنَا مَالِ هَٰذَا الْكِتَابِ لَا يُغَادِرُ صَغِيرَةً وَلَا كَبِيرَةً إِلَّا أَحْصَاهَا ۚ وَوَجَدُوا مَا عَمِلُوا حَاضِرًا ۗ وَلَا يَظْلِمُ رَبُّكَ أَحَدًا

And the record [of deeds] will be placed [open], and you will see the criminals fearful of that within it, and they will say, "Oh, woe to us! What is this book that leaves nothing small or great except that it has enumerated it?" And they will find what they did present [before them]. And your Lord does injustice to no one. [al Kahf 18:49]

aKhBaRaha - (from the word) KhaBR = News.

Naba' also means News. So what's the difference?

Naba' = something you could never have known without someone telling you. This is why Allah's Prophets are called Nabi (plural: Anbiyaa). They tell info. like what will happen on Judgment Day in detail, and we could not know of this information alone.
- Naba' can be news of either past, present or future.

- Something you CAN'T expect. (ie. In Surah Naba' [78:17-40]; trumpet blown causing total destruction, the skies [sama'] open up like doors, mountains moving, the seeing of hell and paradise etc.)

Khabr = news you could figure out yourself.
- Khabr can only be used for the present or the past, but not the future.
- something you CAN expect. (ie. earthquakes, the records which show details of our own actions and deeds etc.)

So Khabr is more accurate and relevant than Naba'.

The irony is that tuHaDiThu is for something new to us, and khabr is for past/present tense. So humans are being informed about their own past, with a new shocking statement which ironically surprises them (when it really shouldnt since its their own past history!).

Tafsir of this verse:

يَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبَارَهَا

(On that Day, [the earth will] dispel her news.)

Ibn Mas'ud: the Earth will literally speak to Allah and/or to the people, complaining on Judgment Day, to inform what every person from mankind and Jinn has done on it since the beginning of time till its end. This is a valid view of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'ah.

Ayah/Verse 5:

بِأَنَّ رَبَّكَ أَوْحَىٰ لَهَا
Bi ana Rabaka Awha laha (because your Master has inspired for her.)

Awha [commonly translated as "inspiration" in the religious context] - wahy - eeyha = to hint something at someone secretly.
فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ مِنَ الْمِحْرَابِ فَأَوْحَىٰ إِلَيْهِمْ أَن سَبِّحُوا بُكْرَةً وَعَشِيًّ

So he [Prophet Zakariyyah] came out to his people from the prayer chamber and signaled to them to exalt [ Allah ] in the morning and afternoon.

[Surah Maryam 19:11]

وَأَوْحَيْنَا إِلَىٰ أُمِّ مُوسَىٰ أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ ۖ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِي الْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِي وَلَا تَحْزَنِي ۖ إِنَّا رَادُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ الْمُرْسَلِينَ

And We inspired to the mother of Moses, "Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him [one] of the messengers."

[Qasas 28:7]

The hinter and the one being hinted at - both know exactly what is being meant when wahy is being used.

There are Two words used for 'inspiration';

Awha (أَوْحَىٰ) - usually refers to wisdom/knowledge which is inspired. (like we see from Maryam 19:11 Qasas 28:7, knowledge is being hinted.)

Ilhaam (أَلْهم) - usually refers to action which is inspired. (i.e. فَأَلْهَمَهَا فُجُورَهَا وَتَقْوَاهَا - And inspired it (with conscience of) what is wrong for it and (what is) right for it. [ash-Shams 91:8] (These inspirations [Ilhaam] are of action i.e. guidance in showing the opposing good and bad ways.)

The words above are used for inspiration of any type, whereas 2 words are used only for shayateen's [devils] inspiration/hints;

Hamazaat: (وَقُل رَّبِّ أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنْ هَمَزَاتِ الشَّيَاطِينِ (al Muminun 23:97) qul a'udhubi Rabika min hamazaat ash-shayaateen) - And say: "My Lord! I seek refuge with You from the whisperings (suggestions/incitements) of the Shayatin (devils).

Waswasa: - whisperings which appear, go away, and return again. (Surah al Naas 114:4). مِن شَرِّ الْوَسْوَاسِ الْخَنَّاسِ
From the evil of the retreating whisperer.

يَوْمَئِذٍ تُحَدِّثُ أَخْبَارَهَا. بِأَنَّ رَبَّكَ أَوْحَىٰ لَهَا

(On that Day, [the earth will] dispel her news, because your Master has inspired for her.)

Rabaka Awha laha = YOUR (Prophet Muhammad's) Master will inspire for her [the earth].

So the Master of Prophet Muhammad will inspire the earth to speak and give the news of what happened on the Earth, to him and the believers. This is in the 2nd person (for Taqreeb - closeness) of Allah to His Messenger, showing that His Messenger is safe on that Day from all these calamities because his Master is the owner of that disastrous day.

Everything in the surah before was 3rd person (tab'eed - a distanced perspective) to show that He is angry with the disbelievers, so He hasnt spoken to them directly.

Awha LA HA [inspired for her.] Not; (Awha ilayha [inspired to her]):

Ila [to] is usually used in the Quran when Awha [inspiration) is used. Ie. Wa awhayna Ila umi moosa (and We inspired TO the mother of Moosa/Moses) [Qasas 28.7].

However 'Awha LA ha' (inspired FOR her) is used in this surah/chapter, which signifies that Allah has given the Earth permission to speak FOR herself, because the Earth had always wanted to complain due to the oppression done on it for so long, and now - on this Day - she has been given the permission to do so.

The Earth has always wanted to quake, to speak, to complain, and after such long patience has been given permission from Allah to do so.

Ayah 6:

يَوْمَئِذٍ يَصْدُرُ النَّاسُ أَشْتَاتًا لِّيُرَوْا أَعْمَالَهُمْ

Yawma idhin yasdur un-naas.. (the Day mankind will be split up into groups..)

Yawma idhin - this is repeated again in the surah to show Allah's anger. - The Day when..

yaSDuR - SiDR [meaning 'chest'] - Saadir = one who moves on i.e. 'to move onwards' i.e. someone who left home, got water from a well (ie. did only a little) and moved on to come back home straightaway.

قَالَتَا لَا نَسْقِي حَتَّىٰ يُصْدِرَ الرِّعَاءُ i.e. in the verse, two women said to Moses that they were waiting to water their animals; until they [the shepherds] have driven their flocks away [yusdira] from the water’) [Surah Qasas 28:23]

yusdira, ‘to drive away’,

Simply; someone who leaves home and soon comes back. Someone who goes from one place to another and soon goes back again. (the same way the Saadir returns back home after his little exit, and the Saadir human leaves the world he did his deeds in - to the temporary grave - returning back to the Earth on Judgment Day once again.]

Yawma idhin yaSDuR al Naas - On the Day mankind will go back and forth:

[Man was born on Earth, did his deeds on it, he died - and then got buried within the Earth. Then he was brought back (yaSDuR) to the Earth on Judgment Day].

Ashtata - shatta = if something is one piece, and it becomes broken into different pieces.

The Previous surah (Surah Bayyinah) mentions the 2 groups (Sharr ul bariyyah شَرُّ الْبَرِيَّةِ [worst of beings], and Khayrul bariyyah خَيْرُ الْبَرِيَّةِ [best of beings]).

In this surah, Allah mentions that on that Day, mankind will be divided into groups [ashtata] - fulfilliling what was mentioned of mankind being split up in this world too, based on your beliefs, aswell as your good etc.

إِنَّ سَعْيَكُمْ لَشَتَّىٰ - Indeed, your efforts are diverse - Ina sa'yakum la shata. (al-Layl 92:4)

On the earth mankind began as one community [from the time of Prophet Adam];

كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ النَّبِيِّينَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ وَأَنزَلَ مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ فِيمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ

Mankind was [of] one religion [before their deviation]; then Allah sent the prophets as bringers of good tidings and warners and sent down with them the Scripture in truth to judge between the people concerning that in which they differed. [Al Baqarah 2:213]

Then mankind gradually deviated, and was mixed into groups; believers and disbelievers, the good doers, and sinners etc. So a believer might live with some disbelieving relatives etc.

But on this Day they are broken (ashtata) into pieces, the believers will stand with believers, and the disbelievers with the disbelievers, the good are separate from the bad, and even these groups - in each category - are split into further groups according to the level of their deeds.

Ta'Alafa is the opposite to Ashtata - to bring things together.

تَحْسَبُهُمْ جَمِيعًا وَقُلُوبُهُمْ شَتَّىٰ
Tahsabahum jamee'an wa qulubuhum shata - You would think they are united, but their hearts are divided [shata] [Hashr 59:14].

Al Bica'i said: this ashtat will be divided according to their deeds (ie. Al Sabiqoon [the best and Foremost/ahead of the race], As-hab al Yameen [People of the Right hand], as-hab al Shimal [People of the left hand] (mentioned in beginning of Surah al Waqi'ah (56)).

Zamakshari said: People will come out of their graves and enter their MaWQiF [Place of Stop], where they will not be able to move from until their Judgment is over. And the people become apparent, who is successful and who is the loser. This will be show in their faces.

[Some] faces, that Day, will be bright - Laughing, rejoicing at good news. And [other] faces, that Day, will have upon them dust. Blackness will cover them. Those are the disbelievers, the wicked ones. [Surah Abasa 80: 38-42]

And each group will see a path which leads to their Final Destination.

Doubt 3 will now be answered inshaa' Allah;

The disbelievers argument: Even if a judgement did occur, we have intercessors (angels, saints etc) to hide behind between us and Allah.

لِّيُرَوْا أَعْمَالَهُمْ

Li yuraw a'maala hum - So they see their deeds.

Li = [in this context it implies; So] (hafdh 'ajl - gives purpose) [But really Li should be translated as 'for'].

YuRaw = Ra - to see, and the Yu and W at the end signify plurality (i.e. they.)

So they see (Li yuraw..)

A'maala hum (their deeds).

Two words for 'Deeds' are commonly used in the Qur'an;

Fi'l = an action you do, even without thinking about it. Ie. Breathing. Seeing, hearing, blinking etc.

'Aml = an action you do with intent/with conscience. Ie. Your intended actions/deeds; Eating, Seeing with focused intent, hearing with focused intent, reading etc.

A'maala hum (their intended deeds).

So they see their intended/conscious based deeds...

These deeds will be seen altogether like a Record, how much good was done, how much bad was done, was a deed done based on sincerety? Was there a reward or sin for that deed? The whole list of your lifes intended choices and actions will be seen.

Ayah 7:

فَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ خَيْرًا يَرَهُ

Fa man ya'mal mithqaala dharatin khayran yarah.
(So he who does [an] atoms weight [of] good [shall] see it.)

Fa = So.

i.e. In conclusion.

This will link all that has been mentioned earlier in the surah to the final conclusion of what was intended for mankind on this Day.

Man = Who

Ya'mal [he (who does an) intended action].

Really Ya'malu (marfoo') is used in such a sentence, however Ya'mal [without dama/peysh] = "IF THEN (he does that..)" - it becomes conditional [jumlah shartiyyah] to the oncoming statement...

So in conclusion - he who - if he was to do that - did (an) atoms weight (of) good, he (shall) see it (ya RaH)..

Mithqaal - AthQaL (meant burden) (mentioned earlier in the surah).

But what is miThQaL?

It is used to measure something against another. Ie. weights on one side of a scale to measure against other products ie. rice, sugar etc. The weights are miThQaaL, but the word is used to describe the concept of 'weighing one thing against another', more than the actual weight itself.

From the Sarf [Linguistic Morphology] point of view, Mithqaal is an Ism Aala [= Physical Tool].
Any word in arabic which starts with a Mi and has a an Alif (an 'aa' sound) within it, it is a physical Tool that people use.

Ie. Mithqaal (measuring weight), Mathaqeel [plural for mithqal].
Miftaah (key).
Meezaan (weighing scale) etc.

'Aml is repeated again in the surah - an action you do intentionally and consciously, with purpose.

Dharra - smallest thing imaginable. To the arabs, the smallest thing imaginable was the ant's egg, and they called it dharra. We might describe dharra as an atom or speck in the english language. Dharra - the light dust you see floating in the air when the sun is shining - through the window - on a sunny day. Each of these dust particles is a dharra. This signifies the smallest and most lightest imaginable thing being a dharra of good or evil which will be seen on that Day.

The smaller something is, the lighter it is in weight, and the smallest speck may seem worthless, but on that Day there will be full justice on big and the smallest of matters.

Khayran - good. The weight of a speck of good will be shown.
Khayr in arabic means a good which doesnt even require explanation to attest to its goodness. It is known to be good in of itself without explanation.

ya RaH [he (will) See it] - comes from Ra'a.

Basara - to see with insight.
Nazara - look at in focus and detail.

Ru'ya - something seen literally and figuratively.

RaH is used because a person will see his deeds literally, aswell as figuratively because he will become certain and know what each deed implies ie. what results each deed brings for him (good a'maal [intended actions] bring good reward, bad a'mal [intended actions] bring punishment).

Mankind will see every single deed of theirs during this stage on a Record, even the ones that Allah forgave, although we will not have seen our Final Destination (of Paradise or Hell) yet.

Seeing an atoms weight of good will make the believers appreciate Allah's Mercy even more, because a sinner believer may see that Allah forgave some of his sins and multiplied a good deed of his worth only a dharra/speck by 700 or even more.

And Allah is the Forgiving [Ghafoor], Merciful [Raheem]. He is Forgiving for our sins and Merciful for our lack of perfection in worship to Him.

We also see our deed records before we see the actual reward or punishment on that Day.

This can be an amazing or terrible experience based on the results we get. We ask Allah to make our record good.

Ayah 8:

وَمَن يَعْمَلْ مِثْقَالَ ذَرَّةٍ شَرًّا يَرَهُ

wa man ya'mal mithqala dharatin sharran yarah.

[Refer to Ayah 7 above (Zalzala 99:7)].

Sharran - evil (most universally accepted word used for evil). The weight of a speck of evil will be shown.

Sharran in arabic means an evil which doesnt even require explanation to attest to its evil. It is known to be evil in of itself without explanation, even the criminal will know that he is doing an evil [Sharr] himself without anyone telling him that what he is doing is evil.

Sharr - sharaara = spark of fire - something universally accepted as evil due to its harm.

Relation of the beginning of the Surah to its end;

Allah starts the Surah with something BIG; the Earth. And ends it with the smallest thing imaginable; the Dharrah (speck of dust).

This is the end of the literary tafsir of Surah Zalzala [99], and the praise is for Allah.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Qur'an's Challenge & some Poetry of Musaylimah al-Kadhdhab [the Liar]

The Qur'an's Challenge & some Poetry of Musaylimah al-Kadhdhab [the Liar]

Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge: to “Bring Something Like It”

| Prepared by the Research Committee of under the supervision of Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî|

A lot of people misunderstand the Qur’ân’s literary challenge to produce something like it. Many people assume it simply means writing something as “good” as the Qur’ân.

Because of this, many skeptics point out – and rightly so – that literary value judgments are highly subjective. If someone says that he thinks a certain selection of prose or poetry is better than the Qur’ân, who can argue with him? Isn’t it really a matter of personal judgment and taste? Who is to be the arbiter?

The Qur’ân’s challenge, however, is not simply to write something of equal literary merit, but rather to produce something like the Qur’ân.

We can see this in all the verses of challenge:

Allah says: “Say (O Muhammad) if mankind and jinn were to come together to produce something like this Qur’ân, they would not be able to do so, even if they were to help one another.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 88]

Allah says: “Or they say: ‘He has forged it.’ Say: ‘Then bring ten forged chapters like it and If then they do not answer you, know that it is sent down with the Knowledge of Allah, besides Whom there is no other God. Will you then be Muslims?” [Sûrah Hûd: 13]

Allah says: “Or do they say ‘He has forged it.’ Say: ‘Then bring a chapter like it and call and call whoever you can besides Allah if you are truthful’.” [Sûrah Yûnus: 38]

Allah says: “And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call your witnesses besides Allah if you be truthful. If you do not do so – and you will never do so – then fear a fire whose fuel is men and stones prepared for the disbelievers.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 23-24]

Therefore, it is not simply a matter of quality – it does not even have to be of equal merit! Similarity is all that matters. What is required by the challenge is to achieve at least a comparable degree of the literary beauty, nobility, and sublimity of the Qur’ân while at the same time emulating the Qur’ân’s particular style.

It is possible to superficially mimic the style of the Qur’ân, and many people have been successful in doing so – but all such attempts from the days of Musaylimah to the present have proven to be silly and absurd, and have often invoked laughter and derision. This is the unanimous consensus of everyone who has ever heard or read those attempts.

It is, likewise, possible for a person writing in Arabic to reach a great level of literary excellence and, in the most moving of poetry and prose, convey the noblest thoughts and sentiments – but nobody has ever done so using the Qur’ân’s particular style.

And what an elusive style it has proven to be! The Qur’ân is neither in Arabic prose nor in what is acknowledged as Arabic verse. It is not written in a combination of both prose and poetry, but in neither of those modes. It is unique. At the same time, the Qur’ân is internally consistent in maintaining its unique style.

Only the Qur’ân achieves the highest level of literary excellence – so much so that it brings people to ecstasy and tears – while maintaining this style.

This, then, is the acid test: Write something in the exact same style as the Qur’ân and in doing so produce something of arguably similar quality and sublimity.

Still, one could argue that the evaluation of the results is still grounded in subjective literary tastes. This is agreed. However, the second part of the challenge is to bring witnesses to attest to the quality of that evaluation, not just to stand there and make the claim.

Throughout history, people have attempted to write in the style of the Qur’ân. The results have always been so laughable that no one would venture to say that he believes the effort equals the Qur’ân in literary merit. The reason why no one would dare do so is not the fear of reprisal – as some skeptics have suggested – but rather the fear of looking like a complete idiot.

One early example was:
Wa mâ adrâka mal-fîl
Lahu dhanabun radhîl, wa khurtûmun tawîl

which translates as:
The Elephant –
What is the elephant?
And what would have you know what the elephant is?
It has a scraggly tail and a very long trunk.

We can grant that this is a successful attempt at imitating the superficial style of the Qur’ân. It is clearly modeled after the opening verses of Sûrah al-Qâri`ah or Sûrah al-Hâqqah. However, with such fare on offer, it is no surprise that people are unwilling to stake their reputation on attesting to its literary excellence.

We should pause to consider: What other literary style can we think of which has produced an indisputably great work of literaure but is at the same time guaranteed to bring the most wretched failure to anyone else who tries his hand at it?

Generally, it is not a bad idea for a writer to emulate a successful style. However, a challenge to produce a single chapter like the Qur’ân – the shortest chapter being merely three verses of modest length – has proven impossible to meet.

We should remember that not all Arabic speakers are Muslim. Many are Christians and Jews. Some are atheists. They live all over the world. Among all of these non-Muslim Arabs, there are leading poets and prose writers and important literary critics. None of them claim that they or anyone else has produced a literary work that resembles the Qur’ân in both style and quality.

For an Arabic speaker, this is an obvious thing. Any Arab who looks at people’s attempts to write in the Qur’ân’s style usually breaks out in laughter at its awkwardness or banality.

For non-Arabic speakers, though they cannot experience this directly, they can ascertain that no serious literary claim has been made.

Granted, there is subjectivity in any literary evaluation. This would pose a problem in a challenge with a single judge or a panel of judges, or if there is a biased criterion like “only Muslims scholars can be judges”.

However, there is no such restriction in the challenge.

The general consensus of the international Arabic literary community – and the Arab masses – is that nothing exists to meet the challenge. This is an objective yardstick.

And Allah knows best.

Musaylimah Al-Kadhdhab [the Liar]

Some of you might have heard of Musaylimah Al-Kadhdhab (Musaylimah the liar), a man who claimed to be a Prophet himself during the Prophet's (pbuh) time.

Well, here is an example of his 'Quran' which he made up, is this hilarious or what.

ذكروا أن عمرو بن العاص وفد على مسيلمة الكذاب [ لعنه الله ] وذلك بعد ما بعث رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وقبل أن يسلم عمرو فقال له مسيلمة : ماذا أنزل على صاحبكم في هذه المدة ؟ قال لقد أنزل عليه سورة وجيزة بليغة . فقال : وما هي ؟ فقال : " والعصر إن الإنسان لفي خسر إلا الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات وتواصوا بالحق وتواصوا بالصبر " ففكر مسيلمة هنيهة ثم قال : وقد أنزل علي مثلها . فقال له عمرو : وما هو ؟ فقال : يا وبر يا وبر ، إنما أنت أذنان وصدر ، وسائرك حفز نقز . ثم قال : كيف ترى يا عمرو ؟ فقال له عمرو : والله إنك لتعلم أني أعلم أنك تكذب .

They have mentioned that `Amr bin Al-`As went to visit Musaylimah Al-Kadhdhab after the Messenger of Allah was commissioned (as a Prophet) and before `Amr had accepted Islam. Upon his arrival, Musaylimah said to him,

"What has been revealed to your friend (Muhammad) during this time''

`Amr said, "A short and concise Surah has been revealed to him.''

Musaylimah then said, "What is it'' `Amr replied;

﴿وَالْعَصْرِ - إِنَّ الإِنسَـنَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ - إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّـلِحَـتِ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِالصَّبْرِ ﴾

(By Al-`Asr. Verily, man is in loss. Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience.)

So Musaylimah thought for a while. Then he said, "Indeed something similar has also been revealed to me.''

`Amr asked him, "What is it''

He replied, "O Wabr* (a small, furry mammal; hyrax), O Wabr! You are only two ears and a chest, and the rest of you is digging and burrowing.''

Then he said, "What do you think, O `Amr''

So `Amr said to him, "By Allah! Verily, you know that I know you are lying.''

The Wabr is a small animal that resembles a cat, and the largest thing on it is its ears and its torso, while the rest of it is ugly. Musaylimah intended by the composition of these nonsensical verses to produce something which would oppose the Qur'an. Yet, it was not even convincing to the idol worshipper of that time.

(From Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Surat al-Asr)

* Wabr (aka Hyrax):

Ibn Kathir mentions in his famous book Al Bidaayah wal-Nihaayah:

فأظهر الله كذبه ولصق به لقب الكذاب، وأراد إظهار كرامات تشبه معجزات النبي ، فقد ذكر ابن كثير في البداية أنه بصق في بئر فغاض ماؤها، وفي أخرى فصار ماؤها أجاجاً، وسقى بوضوئه نخلا فيبست، وأتى بولدان يبرك عليهم فمسح على رؤسهم فمنهم من قرع رأسه ومنهم من لثغ لسانه، ودعا لرجل أصابه وجع في عينيه فمسحهما فعمي.

Allah exposed his lies and from then on the title of 'The Liar' has always been associated with his name. He wished to show miracles (to the people) similar to the Miracles of the Prophet (peace be upon him)

Ibn Katheer has mentioned in His Book Al-Bidaayah that he (Musailimah) Spat in a well, and its water dwindled and dried up. And he spat in another well and that water turned to bitter salty water.

He watered a date tree with the excess water from his Wudhoo' and the tree dried up and died.

Two boys were brought to him so that he may bless them and so he wiped their heads with his hand, as a result of that, the head of one of them became bald and the other developed a speech defect.

A man who was suffering from an ailment in his eyes came to him (for a cure) but when he wiped them, the man became blind.


Miraculous Qur'an Challenge:

Two individuals came to musaylimah and said: Muhammad gets messages from heaven, so tell us some of what you get: Musaylimah said:

يا ضفدع يا ضفدعين ... نصفك في الماء و نصفك في الطين

"O Frog, O frog ... Half of you is in water, and (the other) half is in dirt/earth."

The two looked at eachother, and then one of them said, verily I testify, that you are a liar, and that Muhammad is truthful.

Questions: How does the Qur’an’s Uniqueness make it a Divine and Miraculous text? Questions: How does the Qur’an’s Uniqueness make it a Divine and Miraculous text? [by Hamza Tzortis]

Questions: How does the Qur’an’s Uniqueness make it a Divine and Miraculous text?

Draft 0.1
Please read this for background information
William Shakespeare, who was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, is often used as an example of unique literature. The argument posed is that if Shakespeare expressed his poetry and prose in a unique manner - and he is a human being - then surely no matter how unique the Qur’an is, it must also be from a human being.

However there are some problems with the above argument. It does not take into account the nature of the Qur’an’s uniqueness and it doesn’t understand the uniqueness of literary geniuses such as Shakespeare. Although Shakespeare composed poetry and prose that received an unparalleled aesthetic reception, the literary form he expressed his works in was not unique. In many instances Shakespeare used the common Iambic Pentameter (The Iambic pentameter is a meter in poetry. It refers to a line consisting of five iambic feet. The word "pentameter" simply means that there are five feet in the line.)

However in the case of the Qur’an, its language is in an entirely unknown and unmatched literary form. The structural features of the Qur’anic discourse render it unique and not the subjective appreciation of its literary and linguistic makeup.

With this in mind there are two approaches that can show that there are greater reasons to believe that the Qur’an is from the divine and a miraculous text. The first approach is rational deduction and the second is the philosophy of Miracles.

Rational Deduction

Rational deduction is the thinking process where logical conclusions are drawn from a universally accepted statement or provable premises. This process is also called rational inference or logical deduction.

In the context of the Qur’an’s uniqueness the universally accepted statement supported by eastern and western scholarship is:

“The Qur’an was not successfully imitated by the Arabs at the time of revelation”

From this statement the following logical conclusions can be drawn:

1. The Qur’an could not have come from an Arab as the Arabs, at the time of revelation, were linguists par excellence and they failed to challenge the Qur’an. They had even admitted that the Qur’an could have not come from a human being.

2. The Qur’an could not have come from a Non-Arab as the language in the Qur’an is Arabic, and the knowledge of the Arabic language is a pre-requisite to successfully challenge the Qur’an.

3. The Qur’an could not have come from the Prophet Muhammad due to the following reasons:

a. The Prophet Muhammad was an Arab himself and all the Arabs failed to challenge the Qur’an.
b. The Arabs linguists at the time of revelation never accused the Prophet of being the author of the Qur’an.
c. The Prophet Muhammad experienced many trials and tribulations during the course of his Prophetic mission. For example his children died, his beloved wife Khadija passed away, he was boycotted, his close companions were tortured and killed, yet the Qur’an’s literary character remains that of the divine voice and character. Nothing in the Qur’an expresses the turmoil and emotions of the Prophet Muhammad. It is almost a psychological and physiological impossibility to go through what the Prophet went through and yet none of the emotions are expressed in the literary character of the Qur’an.
d. The Qur’an is a known literary masterpiece yet its verse were at many times revealed for specific circumstances and events that occurred. However, without revision or deletion they are literary masterpieces. All literary masterpieces have undergone revision and deletion to ensure literary perfection, however the Qur’an was revealed instantaneously.
e. The hadith or narrations of the Prophet Muhammad are in a totally different style then that of the Qur’an. How can any human being express themselves orally over a 23 year period (which was the period of Qur’anic revelation) in two distinct styles? This is a psychological and physiological impossibility according to modern research.

f. All types of human expression can be imitated if the blueprint of that expression exists. For example artwork can be imitated even though some art is thought to be extraordinary or amazingly unique. But in the case of the Qur'an we have the blueprint - the Qur'an itself - yet no one has been able to imitate its unique literary form.

4. The Qur’an could not have come from another being such as a Jinn or Spirit because the basis of their existence is the Qur’an and revelation itself. Their existence is based upon revelation and not empirical evidence. Therefore if someone claims that the source of the Qur’an to be another being then they would have to prove its existence and in this case proving revelation. In the case of using the Qur’an as the revelation to establish Jinns existence then that would mean the whole rational deduction exercise would not be required in the first place, as the Qur’an would already have been established as a divine text, because to believe in Jinns existence would mean belief in the Qur’an in the first place.

5. The Qur’an can only have come from the Divine as it is the only logical explanation as all other explanations have been discarded because they do not explain the uniqueness of the Qur’an in a comprehensive and coherent manner.

Philosophy of Miracles

The word miracle is derived from the Latin word ‘miraculum’ meaning "something wonderful". A miracle is commonly defined as a violation of a natural law (lex naturalis); however this is an incoherent definition. This incoherence is due our understanding of natural laws, as the Philosopher Bilynskyj observes “…so long as natural laws are conceived of as universal inductive generalisations the notion of violation of a nature law is incoherent.”

Natural laws are inductive generalizations of patterns we observe in the universe. If the definition of a miracle is a violation of a natural law, in other words a violation of the patterns we observe in the universe, then an obvious conceptual problem occurs. The problem is: why can’t we take this perceived violation of the pattern as part of the pattern?

Therefore the more coherent description of a miracle is not a ‘violation’ but an ‘impossibility’. The Philosopher William Lane Craig rejects the definition of a miracle as a “violation of a natural law” and replaces it with the coherent definition of “events which lie outside the productive capacity of nature”.

What this means is that miracles are acts of impossibilities concerning causal or logical connections.

The Miraculous Qur’an

What makes the Qur’an a miracle, is that it lies outside the productive capacity of the nature of the Arabic language. The productive capacity of nature, concerning the Arabic language, is that any grammatically sound expression of the Arabic language will always fall within the known Arabic literary forms of Prose and Poetry.

The Qur’an is a miracle as its literary form cannot be explained via the productive capacity of the Arabic language, because all the possible combinations of Arabic words, letters and grammatical rules have been exhausted and yet the Qur’an’s literary form has not been imitated. The Arabs who were known to have been Arab linguists par excellence failed to successfully challenge the Qur’an. Forster Fitzgerald Arbuthnot who was a notable British Orientalist and translator states:

“…and that though several attempts have been made to produce a work equal to it as far as elegant writing is concerned, none has as yet succeeded.”[1]

The implication of this is that there is no link between the Qur’an and the Arabic language; however this seems impossible because the Qur’an is made up of the Arabic language! On the other hand, all the combinations of Arabic words and letters have been used to try and imitate the Qur’an. Therefore, it can only be concluded that a supernatural explanation is the only coherent explanation for this impossible Arabic literary form – the Qur’an.

When we look at the productive nature of the Arabic language to find an answer for the unique literary form of the Qur'an, we find no link between it and the divine text, thus making it an impossibility requiring supernatural explanation. So it logically follows that if the Qur’an is a literary event that lies outside the productive capacity of the Arabic language, then, by definition, it is a miracle.

[1] F. F. Arbuthnot. 1885. The Construction of the Bible and the Koran. London, p 5

Al Quran - the Linguistic Miracle - Hamza Tzortis. And what the Orientalists said about it.

I've bolded the statements of the Orientalists, some who are non muslims (others who converted to Islam) - who admitted that the Qur'an was unmatchable, and a real miracle indeed;

Al Qur’an – the Linguistic Miracle – Hamza Tzortis

Taken from the New Civilisation Magazine
By Hamza Tzortzis

“Neither as Christians or Jews, nor simply as intellectually responsible individuals, have members of Western Civilisation been sensitively educated or even accurately informed about Islam… even some persons of goodwill who have gained acquaintance with Islam continue to interpret the reverence for the prophet Muhammad and the global acceptance of his message as an inexplicable survival of the zeal of an ancient desert tribe. This view ignores fourteen centuries of Islamic civilisation, burgeoning with artists, scholars, statesmen, philanthropists, scientists, chivalrous warriors, philosophers… as well as countless men and women of devotion and wisdom from almost every nation of the planet. The coherent world civilisation called Islam, founded in the vision of the Qur’an, cannot be regarded as the product of individual and national ambition, supported by historical accident.” The book ‘Heart of the Qur’an’ by Lex Hixon, from where this excerpt is taken, intended to stimulate the western reader to return to the Qur’an, the book of the Muslims, with openness and new inspiration. The Qur’an has undoubtedly had an immense impact on global politics as well as the lives of billions of individuals; for a book, its impact has arguably been unparalleled. Its contents range from addressing questions of individual spirituality to articulating intricate systems to govern society. Significantly, the Qur’an presents what can only be described as a unique paradigm of social and political thought that was previously unknown. Margoliouth explains the impact of the Qur’an, “The Koran [sic] admittedly occupies an important position among the great religious books of the world. Though the youngest of the epoch-making works belonging to this class of literature, it yields to hardly any in the wonderful effect which it has produced on large masses of men. It has created all but new phase of human thought and a fresh type of character. It first transformed a number of heterogeneous desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a nation of heroes, and then proceeded to create the vast politico-religious organizations of the Muhammadan world which are one of the great forces with which Europe and the East have to reckon today.”

Linguistically the word ‘Qur’an’ means ‘reading’ and came to be referred to as ‘the text which is read’. The Qur’an also calls itself ‘kitab’, which lexically refers to a written book. Thus the significance of writing, reading and reflecting upon the Qur’an has been emphasised from the very beginning of Islam. The Qur’anic material is divided into ’surahs’ or ‘chapters’. According to Phillip Hitti, the collected written text of the Qur’an was the first book in the Arabic language. It is the supreme authority in Islam being a fundamental and essential source of the Islamic creed, ethics, laws, and guidance. For Muslims, the Qur’an is of divine origin; not the word of the Prophet Mohammed but the speech of the Creator revealed to him in word and meaning.

“Read in the Name of your Lord”. These were the first few words of the Qur’an revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over 1400 years ago. Mohammed, who was known to have been in retreat and meditation in a cave outside Mecca, had received the first few words of a book that would have a tremendous impact on the world we live in today. Not being known to have composed any piece of poetry and not having any special rhetorical gifts, Mohammed had just received the beginning of a book that would deal with matters of belief, legislation, international law, politics, ritual, spirituality, and economics in an ‘entirely new literary form’. Armstrong states,
“It is as though Muhammad had created an entirely new literary form that some people were not ready for but which thrilled others. Without this experience of the Koran, it is extremely unlikely that Islam would have taken root.”

This unique style was the cause of the dramatic intellectual revival of desert Arabs, and after thirteen years of the first revelation, it became the only reference for a new state in Medina. This new genre of speech, the Qur’an, became the sole source of the new civilisation’s political, philosophical, and spiritual outlook. Steingass states,
“Here, therefore, its merits as a literary production should perhaps not be measured by some preconceived maxims of subjective and aesthetic taste, but by the effects which it produced in Muhammad’s contemporaries and fellow countrymen. If it spoke so powerfully and convincingly to the hearts of his hearers as to weld hitherto centrifugal and antagonistic elements into one compact and well-organised body, animated by ideas far beyond those which had until now ruled the Arabian mind, then its eloquence was perfect, simply because it created a civilized nation out of savage tribes…”
Many historians, scholars, and writers do not contend that the Qur’an has had a huge impact on history – just as it does in global politics today, being an authority for billions of Muslims – and so the reason for this timeless influence should be understood. It is the purpose of this article to show how the Qur’an can be described as a new genre of speech and a literary masterpiece. Rational arguments that substantiate this and the Qur’an’s inimitability are presented by Muslims to argue the conclusiveness of their beliefs to a world in constant need of proof.

This article intends to contribute to the growing interest in the Qur’an’s message as well as its literary power and will highlight the Qur’an’s ability to convey key concepts and messages in the most profound way, a way that is described by the most experienced Arabic litterateurs as inimitable and unmatched throughout history. The famous Arabist H. Gibb comments:

“Though, to be sure, the question of the literary merit is one not to be judged on a priori grounds but in relation to the genius of Arabic language; and no man in fifteen hundred years has ever played on that deep toned instrument with such power, such boldness, and such range of emotional effect as Mohammad did.”

Qur’an and Literature
“In making the present attempt to improve on the performance of predecessors, and to produce something which might be accepted as echoing however faintly the sublime rhetoric of the Arabic Koran, I have been at pain to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which – apart from the message itself – constitutes the Koran’s undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind.”

Coming from a prominent Orientalist and litterateur deeply conversant with Arabic, this excerpt from A.J. Arberry’s translation of the Qur’an highlights its literary excellence. However it should be noted that the literary merit, which is ascribed to the Qur’an here, is based on its ’sublime rhetoric’ and its richly varied rhythms’. With regard to the Quran’s rhetoric, there are volumes of work from classical as well as contemporary literary scholars on the subject. Concerning the Quran’s rhythm, its impact has been noted by litterateurs throughout history, many times being described as beautiful and unique. This reference to the Qur’an is just a small part of its literary power, which cannot be ignored. However, literary structures are not limited to the two elements that Arberry referred to.

Many Orientalists and linguists highlight how the Qur’anic discourse is a unique and sensitive genre that exemplifies the peak of literary beauty. The linguistic environment of the Qur’an is such that a change in the word order will lead to a change in its communicative effect and the meaning it intends to portray. This can also disfigure the Qur’anic stylistic effect and can disturb the harmony of semantic cohesion throughout the book. Schact describes the nature of the Qur’anic style,

“The Koran was also a linguistic document of incomparable importance. It was viewed as a source of grammatical and lexicographical information. Its stylistic inimitability not-withstanding, it even came to be treated as a standard for theories of literary criticism.”

Rhythm and sound is also a major contributing factor to the Qur’an’s style and beauty. The Qur’an not only places words to produce the desired communicative result, but it also does this to set up rhythms and sounds in order to heighten the impact and enhance the psychological effect. Arberry states,

“Briefly, the rhetoric and rhythm of the Arabic of the Koran are so characteristic, so powerful, so highly emotive, that any version whatsoever is bound in the nature of things to be but a poor copy of the glittering splendour of the original.”
Furthermore, the Qur’anic use of rhetoric and eloquence is arguably unparalleled in the Arabic language. The language of the Qur’an is precise and accurate in both meaning and expression; each letter and word has its place while the language is free from fault. Stubbe explains:

“The truth is I do not find any understanding author who controverts the elegance of Al-Qur’an, it being generally esteemed as the standard of the Arabic language and eloquence.”

Another feature of the Qur’an, which is responsible for its dynamic style, is its sudden change of person and number. This feature, also known as a grammatical shift, plays a rhetorical role as the sudden changes are perfectly logical and are used to enhance expression. Robinson states,

“Sudden pronomial shifts are characteristic of the Quranic discourse….they are a very effective rhetorical device.”
Dawood, an Iraqi Jewish Scholar in his translation of the Qur’an comments on the sum effect of these and numerous other literary qualities of the Quran, describing it as a ‘literary masterpiece’:
“The Koran is the earliest and by far the finest work of Classical Arabic prose… It is acknowledged that the Koran is not only one of the most influential books of prophetic literature but also a literary masterpiece in its own right… translations have, in my opinion, practically failed to convey both the meaning and the rhetorical grandeur of the original.”

Literary structures are composed of many elements that are too numerous to be discussed in detail in this article. They include diction, phonology, rhetoric, composition, morphology, syntax, architecture, rhythm, and style, in addition to matters related to tone, voice, orality, imagery, symbolism, allegory, genre, point of view, intertexuality, intratextual resonance, and other literary aspects – all of which are set within a historical, cultural, intellectual, and psychological context. These elements combine with each other in the Qur’an in myriad ways that produce the Qur’an’s unique character. Zammit comments on this,

“Notwithstanding the literary excellence of some of the long pre-Islamic poems, or qasaid, the Qur’an is definitely on a level of its own as the most eminent written manifestation of the Arabic language.”

Such assessments form the backdrop to the doctrine of Ijaz al-Quran – the inimitability of the Qur’an – that lies at the heart of the Qur’an’s claim to being of divine origin. The Qur’an states,
“If you are in doubt of what We have revealed to Our messenger, then produce one chapter like it. Call upon all your helpers, besides Allah, if you are truthful” [Qur'an 2: 23]


“Or do they say he fabricated the message? Nay, they have no faith. Let them produce a recital like it, if they speak the truth.” [Qur'an 52: 33-4]

In these verses, the Qur’an issues a challenge to produce a chapter that resembles its literary power and excellence. It is to demonstrate that its claim to divine authorship can be debased by producing what amounts to three lines of Arabic (its shortest chapter) that are grammatically correct, unique in style and employ various literary structures to its high standard. The tools needed meet this challenge are the finite grammatical rules and the twenty eight letters that make-up the Arabic language; these are independent and objective measures available to all. The fact that it has not been matched since it emerged to this day does not surprise most scholars familiar with the language Arabic and that of the Qur’an, as Palmer explains:
“That the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur’an itself is not surprising”
Due to the depth and scope of literary devices in the Qur’an this article will introduce selected literary structures that have been summarised above; sound, unique genre, dynamic style and its aesthetic elements. These features have been appropriately described by Hirschfield,
“The Qur’an is unapproachable as regards convincing power eloquence and even composition.”

The Qur’an enhances its expression by the use of sounds. It employs various phonetic features that have an aesthetic and communicative effect. These features include the lengthening and modification of sounds so that words and letters become similar to an adjacent or nearby sound, and nasalization. This unique feature can be found throughout the whole of the Qur’anic discourse.

The Qur’an is abundant with these phonetic devices which construct an emotive and powerful image. This is done by the selection of the most apt word to portray the intended meaning while producing semantically orientated sounds. The way the Qur’an uses the words make it a harmonious tune as Sells states,

“…there is a quality to the sound of the Qur’an which anyone familiar with it in Arabic can recognize. Qur’anic commentators have discussed the power and beauty of this sound… is one of the key aspects of the science of analysing ijaz al-Qur’an (the inimitability of the Qur’an).”

The Qur’anic choice of words coupled with the power of sound, conveys meanings in a unique way. This feature of the Qur’an produces images and describes events as though they were happening in front of the reader. Johns explains,

“It is the language itself which constitutes the iconic tradition. Not a single word can be taken or heard in isolation. All represent nuclei of meaning that are cumulative and cohere, serving as triggers to activate the profoundest depths of religious consciousness.”

The use of delicate sounds in the following example, exhibits the Qur’an’s ability to express meaning via the sound of its text:

“And by the Night when it is still.” [Qur'an 93: 2]
Waallayli itha sajaa

The way the Qur’an uses the word ‘when it is still’ produces a tranquil tone and a smooth sound. This indicates the peace, stillness and serenity that night time provides. The Qur’an also uses sound to build intense images, for example,

“And the producers of sparks striking” [Qur'an 100: 2]
Faalmooriyati qadhan

The word for sparks striking, ‘qadhan’, that is used here emits a sound that develops the sense of this image, the proximity of the Arabic letters ‘daal’ and the ‘ha’ is responsible for this sound. In another example,:

“Stirring up thereby clouds of dust.” [Qur'an 100: 4]
Faatharna bihi naqAAan

The use of the word ‘atharna’ in this verse, with its series of vowels emits a sound of splattering and scattering, which expresses the image of the drama.
The utilisation of sounds in the Qur’an also play a rhetorical role. For example in the verse below the Qur’an uses words that imitate the sound they denote. This rhetorical device called onomatopoeia is widely used throughout the Qur’anic discourse,

“At length when there is a deafening noise” [Qur'an 80: 33]

Fa-itha jaati alssaaakhkhatu
The word for ‘deafening noise’, ‘alssakhkhatu,’ chosen here produces a sound eluding to its meaning. The Arabic letters ‘kha’ and ‘ta’ emanate harsh sounds which conform to the meaning of the text.

Sounds in the Qur’an are employed to increase the effect of its message. The Arabic language has many words for a single meaning, but yet the Qur’an selects and arranges the words to portray the intended meaning in addition to create sounds to conform to the image, scene and message the book conveys. This is not only done by selecting the right words but also arranging them in a specific way to develop sounds and rhythms. Just by touching upon a few simple examples it can be seen why Pickthall was lead to believe that the Qur’an had an “inimitable symphony”. Arberry on his personal experience with the rhythm of the Qur’an:,

“Whenever I hear the Quran chanted, it is as though I am listening to Music, underneath the flowing melody there is sounding… insistent beat of a drum, it is like the beating of my heart.”

Unique Genre
“As a literary monument the Koran thus stands by itself, a production unique to the Arabic literature, having neither forerunners nor successors in its own idiom. Muslims of all ages are united in proclaiming the inimitability not only of its contents but also of its style… and in forcing the High Arabic idiom into the expression of new ranges of thought the Koran develops a bold and strikingly effective rhetorical prose in which all the resources of syntactical modulation are exploited with great freedom and originality.”

This statement coming from the famous Arab grammarian H. Gibb, is an apt description of the Qur’anic style, but this genre is not simply a subjective conclusion, it is a reality based upon the use of features that are abundant in all languages. This may seem strange that the Qur’an has developed its own style by using current literary elements. However, it should be noted that the Qur’anic discourse uses these common elements of language in a way that has never been used before. Penrice acknowledges the Qur’an’s literary excellence:
“That a competent knowledge of the Koran is indispensable as an introduction to the study of Arabic literature will be admitted by all who have advanced beyond the rudiments of the language. From the purity of its style and elegance of its diction it has come to be considered as the standard of Arabic…”

The Qur’an is an independent genre in its own right. Its unique style is realised through two inseparable elements; rhetorical and cohesive elements. From a linguistic point of view rhetoric can be defined as the use of language to please or persuade. Cohesiveness is the feature that binds sentences to each other grammatically and lexically. It also refers to how words are linked together into sentences and how sentences are in turn linked together to form larger units in texts.
These elements combine with each other in such a way that interlock and become inseparable. This unique combination captivates the reader and achieves an effective communicative goal. The rhetorical and cohesive components of the Qur’anic text cannot be divorced from each other. If the Qur’anic text were stripped of these elements, the remaining text would cease to be the Qur’an and neither would it not sound like the Qur’an. Arbuthnot states:
“…the Koran is regarded as a specimen of the purest Arabic, written in half poetry and half prose. It has been said that in some cases grammarians have adopted their rules to agree with certain phrases and expressions used in it, and that though several attempts have been made to produce a work equal to it as far as elegant writing is concerned, none has as yet succeeded.”

From a linguistic point of view the Qur’an employs various rhetorical features such as the use of rhythm, figures of speech, similes, metaphors, and rhetorical questions. Also, the use of irony and the repetition of words are a just a small part of the Qur’an’s repertoire of rhetorical devices. Its cohesiveness includes various methods such as parallel structures, phrasal ties, substitution, reference and lexical cohesion. These features provide the bedrock and hang together to create the Qur’an’s unique style.

Non-Qur’anic Arabic texts mostly employ cohesive elements but the Qur’an uses both cohesive and rhetorical elements in every verse. The following is a good example to highlight the uniqueness of the Qur’anic style:

“Men who remember Allah much and women who remember” [Qur'an 33: 35]

Al-dhalikirin Allaha kathiran wa’l-dhakirati

The Qur’anic verse above, in a different word order such as the verse below,

“Men who remember Allah much and Women who remember Allah much”

al-dhakirina Allaha kathiran wa’l-dhakirati Allaha kathiran

Would not deliver the same effect, as the word ‘Allah’ has become linguistically redundant, in other words it has become needlessly wordy or repetitive in expression. The original Qur’anic structure achieved its objective by separating the two subjects in order to sandwich the word ‘Allah’ and using the ‘wa’ particle as a linguistic bond. This Qur’anic verse has also a rhetorical element as the word Allah is ‘cuddled’ and ‘hugged’ by the pious who remember Him a lot, which is indicated by the arrangement of the words in this verse.

In this example the Qur’an combines rhetorical and cohesive elements to produce the intended meaning. Any change to the structure of a Qur’anic verse simply changes its literary effect. Arbuthnot explains in his book “The Construction of the Bible and the Koran” this effect of the Qur’anic style:

“It is confessedly the standard of the Arabic tongue… The style of the Koran is generally beautiful and fluent… and in many places, especially where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent… He succeeded so well, and so strangely captivated the minds of his audience, that several of his opponents thought it the effect of witchcraft and enchantment.”

To end this section, with the words of Professor Philip H. Hitti:
“The style of the Koran is Gods’ style. It is different, incomparable and inimitable. This is basically what constitutes the ‘miraculous character’ (ijaz) of the Koran. Of all miracles, it is the greatest: if all men and jinn were to collaborate, they could not produce its like. The Prophet was authorized to challenge his critics to produce something comparable. The challenge was taken up by more than one stylist in Arabic literature-with a predictable conclusion.”

Dynamic Style
The dynamic style of the Qur’anic discourse occurs as a result of the use of grammatical shifts. This is an accepted rhetorical practice that has been termed the “Daring nature of Arabic”. This rhetorical device is called ‘iltifat, in English it literally means ‘turning’ from one thing to another.

Orientalists in the past such as Noldeke stated that some of these changes in person and number occur abruptly. This misconception has been shown to be a superficial understanding of classical Arabic. The changes that are made in the Qur’anic discourse are made according to an effective pattern. The Arab scholars in the past, such as Suyuti, al-Zarkashi and al-Athir, unanimously agreed that this use of Arabic was part of the science of rhetoric. Furthermore they stated that rather than being a peculiarity of the Arabic language, it is an effective rhetorical tool.

The Qur’an is the only form of Arabic prose to have used this rhetorical device in an extensive and complex manner. Haleem states:
“…it employs this feature far more extensively and in more variations than does Arabic poetry. It is, therefore, natural to find…no one seems to quote references in prose other than from the Qur’an”
One example of this complex rhetorical feature is in the following verse where it changes to talking about God, in the third person, to God Himself speaking in the first person plural of majesty:

“There is no good in most of their secret talk, only in commanding charity, or good, or reconciliation between people. To anyone who does these things, seeking to please God, We shall give a rich reward.” (4:114)

Instead of saying “He will give him…” God in this example speaks in the plural of majesty to give His personal guarantee of reward for those who do the positive actions mentioned in the above verse.
Another example of this sudden change in person and number is exhibited in the following verses:

“He it is who makes you travel by land and sea; until when you are in the ships and they sail on with them in a pleasant breeze, and they rejoice, a violent wind overtakes them and the billows surge in on them from all sides, and they become certain that they are encompassed about, they pray to Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience: ‘If Thou dost deliver us from this, we shall most certainly be of the grateful ones.’ But when He delivers them, lo! they are unjustly rebellious in the earth. O humankind! your rebellion is against your own souls – provision of this world’s life – then to Us shall be your return, so We shall inform you of what you did” (10:22)
Neal Robinson in his book “Discovering the Qur’an: A Contemporary Approach to a Veiled Text” explains this verse in context of its rhetoric:

“At first sight it may appear hopelessly garbled, but the three consecutive pronominal shifts are all perfectly logical. The shift from the second person plural to the third person plural objectifies the addressees and enables them to see themselves as God sees them, and to recognize how ridiculous and hypocritical their behaviour is. The shift back to the second person plural marks God’s turning to admonish them. Finally the speaker’s shift from the third person singular to the first person plural expresses His majesty and power, which is appropriate in view of the allusion to the resurrection and judgment.”
The dynamic style of the Qur’an is an obvious stylistic feature and an accepted rhetorical practice. The Qur’an uses this feature in such a way that conforms to the theme of the text while enhancing the impact of the message it conveys. The complex manner in which the Qur’an uses this feature provides a dynamic expressive text, which was unknown to Arabists in the past. It is not surprising that Neal Robinson concluded that the grammatical shifts used in the Qur’an:
“…are a very effective rhetorical device.”

Aesthetic Reception
The Egyptian Mustafa Sadiq al-Rafi’i states:
“Anyone who heard it had no option but to surrender to the Qur’an… every single part of his mind was touched by the pure sound of the languages music, and portion by portion, note by note, he embraced its harmony, the perfection of its pattern, its formal completion. It was not much as if something was recited to him by rather as if something had burned itself into him.”

The aesthetic reception of the Qur’an is not a literary device as such, but it is a manifestation of its literary beauty on the human psyche. This aesthetic element may seem subjective but it highlights all the other objective literary structures and places them in the context of life, experience and humanity; thus making the Qur’an real. Goethe summaries the aesthetic elements of the Qur’anic discourse.
“However often we turn to it [the Qur'an]… it soon attracts, astounds, and in the end enforces our reverence… Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim is stern, grand, terrible-ever and anon truly sublime- Thus this book will go on exercising through all ages a most potent influence.”

Such reactions and experiences upon hearing the Qur’an have indeed been witnessed throughout history, an early example of which is described by the following episode taken from Kermani’s article
‘The Aesthetic Reception of the Qur’an as reflected in Early Muslim History’.

“Abu Ubaid, a companion of the prophet mentions that a Bedouin listened to a man reciting ’so shalt that thou art commanded’. After this he threw himself to the ground worshipping and said, ‘I threw myself down for the eloquence of this speech’.”

Montet in his translation of the Qur’an explains this unique Qur’anic feature,
“All those who are acquainted with the Qur’an in Arabic agree in praising the beauty of this religious book; its grandeur of form is so sublime that no translation into any European language can allow us to appreciate it.

Another example of the aesthetic nature of the Qur’an is demonstrated by the conversion of great companion of the Prophet Mohammed, Umar, as handed down by the famous Islamic historians, Ibn Hisham and Ibn Kathir. On the very day he had intended to kill the Prophet he had heard that his sister Fatima and her husband had converted into the religion of Islam, infuriated he went to their house. “What is this balderdash I have heard?” Umar screamed, “‘You have not heard anything.” Fatima and her husband tried to calm him down. Umar, however, already regretted his behaviour and asked to read the scriptures she had tried to hide away. Umar started to read surah Taha and after only a few verses he stopped and cried “How beautiful and noble is this speech!” Umar, the second Caliph of Islam had converted to the religion of Muhammad.

Guillame suggests the reason for the Qur’an’s aesthetic qualities,
“It has a rhythm of peculiar beauty and a cadence that charms the ear. Many Christian Arabs speak of its style with warm admiration, and most Arabists acknowledge its excellence. When it is read aloud or recited it has an almost hypnotic effect…”

This effect of the Qur’an was changing the hearts and minds of many Arabs at the time of revelation. Non-Muslim Arabs at that time had realized its power and some had tried to lessen the effect by shouting, clapping, singing and loud chatter while it was recited. Abu-Zahra comments on this reality,

“The greatest among Muhammad’s enemies feared that the Qur’an would have a strong effect on them, while they preferred lack of faith to faith and aberration to right guidance. Thus, they agreed not to listen to this Qur’an. They knew that everyone listening was moved by its solemn expressive force that exceeded human strength. They saw that the people – even great personalities, the notables and mighty – one after another believed it, that Islam grew stronger, that the faithful became more numerous, polytheism became weaker, and their supporters became less.”

To truly appreciate the point, however, it is crucial to note the historical context in which the Quran emerged. The Arabs at the time considered themselves – and are still considered by historians and linguists to this day masters of the Arabic language who took great pride in its mastery; tremendous social status was granted to all those who did. In particular, formulating innovative and inspiring poetry was a great pastime and a source of intense social rivalry. The following quotation from Ibn Rashiq illustrates the importance attached to language at the time. He writes,

“Whenever a poet emerged in an Arab tribe, other tribes would come to congratulate, feasts would be prepared, the women would join together on lutes as they do at weddings, and old and young men would all rejoice at the good news.The Arabs used to congratulate each other only on the birth of a child and when a poet rose among them.” Ibn Khaldun, a notable scholar of the fourteenth century, remarked on the importance of poetry in Arab life,
“It should be known that Arabs thought highly of poetry as a form of speech. Therefore,they made it the archives of their history, the evidence for what they considered right and wrong, and the principal basis of reference for most of their sciences and wisdom.”
An earlier scholar Ibn Faris elaborated on the same theme, but went further to comment on the quality of the poetry that was composed during the pre-Islamic era,

“Poetry is the archive of the Arabs; in it their genealogies have been preserved; it sheds light on the darkest and strangest things found in the Book of God and in the tradition of God’s apostle and that of his companions. Perhaps a poem may be luckier than another, and one poem sweeter and more elegant than another, but none of the ancient poems lacks its degree of excellence.”

The failure of those at the peak of their trade – mastery of the Arabic language – to rival the Qur’an which challenged them should make one think. So too should the differing reactions the Qur’an received from those best placed to challenge its origin. Gibb states,
“Well then, if the Qur’an were his own composition other men could rival it. Let them produce ten verses like it. If they could not (and it is obvious that they could not) then let them accept the Qur’an as an outstanding evidential miracle.”

By appreciating the aesthetic elements of the Qur’anic discourse it is expected that the reader will investigate the Qur’an’s innumerable devices used to express its incontestable literary power as Armstrong states:

“From the above evidence the Quran is acknowledged to be written with the utmost beauty and purety of Language. It is incontestably the standard of the Arabic tongue, inimitable by any human pen, and because it still exists today, therefore insisted on as a permanent miracle sufficient to convince the world of its divine origin. If the Quran was written by Muhammad, why were not Arab scholars and linguists able to rival the Quran?”

The literary devices employed in the Qur’an are not ornamental elements such that they can be dispensed with, they are part and parcel of its meaning and linguistic make up. Without them its meaning and literary excellence is lost. The Quran, like all other great literary masterpieces, stands out because of its use of language to convey meaning. However, the Qur’an has remained in a unique position because of its particular use of literary devices. Irving explains:
“The Qur’an is a magnificent document… because of its matchlessness or inimitability.”

The Qur’an reaches, indeed defines, the peak of eloquence in the Arabic language The Qur’an stakes its claim to divine origin on the matter of its language, by issuing a challenge to rival even its shortest chapter. This has rested at the core of many historical studies of the Qur’an, as many have attempted to answer the central question of authorship. For Bucaille,
“The above observation makes the hypothesis advanced by those who see Muhammad as the
author of the Qur’an untenable. How could a man, from being illiterate, become the most important author, in terms of literary merits, in the whole of Arabic literature?”

This article serves only as an introduction to the Qur’an’s literacy excellence. It intends to provoke further questions and sufficiently stimulate the reader to research further, particularly the question of authorship. At the heart of that question lies only a limited set of possible answers. The Qur’an can only have come from an Arab, a non-Arab, the Prophet Mohammed – if you believe he had a mastery of Arabic better than the Arabs of his time – or, as Muslims suggest, the Creator, which only counts as a possible source if you believe in its existence (that is of course a subject unto itself but an important pre-requisite). Discounting possible authors, Armstrong suggests,
“From the above evidence the Quran is acknowledged to be written with the utmost beauty and purity of Language. It is incontestably the standard of the Arabic tongue, inimitable by any human pen, and because it still exists today, therefore insisted on as a permanent miracle sufficient to convince the world of its divine origin. If the Quran was written by Muhammad, why were not Arab scholars and linguists able to rival the Quran?”

There are however many other questions that relate back to the issue of authorship. To illustrate a vital point; How was it possible for an illiterate man to produce a unique style of the Arabic language and maintain that over a 23 year period, such that it has been collected to form a book, divided into chapters centred around major themes, but yet related to events that happened throughout that period and were specific to it? The following section taken from Draz’s book “An Eternal Challenge” probes this point further,

“When we consider carefully the timing of the revelation of the Qur’anic passages and surahs and their arrangement, we are profoundly astonished. We almost belie what we see and hear. We then begin to ask ourselves for an explanation of this highly improbable phenomenon: is it not true that this new passage of revelation has just been heard as new, addressing a particular event which is its only concern? Yet it sounds as though it is neither new nor separate from the rest. It seems as if it has been, along with the rest of the Qur’an, perfectly impressed on this man’s mind long before he has recited it to us. It has been fully engraved on his heart before its composition in the words he recites. How else can it unite so perfectly and harmoniously parts and pieces that do not naturally come together?… Is it as result of an experiment that follows a spontaneous thought? That could not be the case. When each part was put in its position, the one who placed them never had a new thought or introduced any modification or re-arrangement.

How then could he have determined his plan? And how could he have made his intention so clear in advance?… When we consider such detailed instructions on the arrangement of passages and surahs we are bound to conclude that there is a complete and detailed plan assigning the position of each passage before they are all revealed. Indeed the arrangement is made before the reasons leading to the revelation of any passage occur, and even before the start of the preliminary causes of such events… Such are the plain facts about the arrangement of the Qur’an as it was revealed in separate verses, passages and surahs over a period of 23 years. What does that tell us about its source?”

After being introduced to the literary excellence of the Qur’anic discourse, it is hoped that the reader will turn to the Qur’an in a new light, with a fresh perspective and an open mind. It is only through frank and open dialogue that the main authority of Islam, the Qur’an, will be understood and rational arguments for its origin appreciated. To end, Rev. R. Bosworth Smith concludes that the Qur’an, in his book “Muhammad and Muhammadanism”, is:
“…A miracle of purity of style, of wisdom and of truth. It is the one miracle claimed by Muhammad, his standing miracle, and a miracle indeed it is.”

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