Random Thoughts and Notes: Days 45- 48

o    If someone does not accept the miracle of the Qur’an, then we have to ask, whether he accepts visual miracles. If he says that yes, then we say that he should follow the verdict of the eloquent Arabs close to the time of revelation, all of whom were mesmerized by the Qur’an. His case then, would be like a hypothetical blind man in the time of Musa (AS), who could not see the miracles at the hands of Musa (AS), but was informed by those who could see that these miracles did in fact occur. If he wants to accept, well and good, and if not, then this is an issue between himself and Allah on the Day of Reckoning.

o    It seems that the virulent skepticism we see today is based on the paradoxical premise that if one wants to be sure about the existence of God, one has to have the same ‘type’ of knowledge and certainty as God has. And this is obviously impossible, since human beings have limited and bounded knowledge by default, but the bounds are not so tight so as to lift the yoke of responsibility from them. So in another sense, the formal responsibility has been somehow confusedly linked with the need for ‘divine knowledge’ in the literal sense, and this seems to be one of the issues that really drives people towards paradoxical propositions and endless sophistry.

o    People ask as to why the ‘Orientalists’ seek to replace the Islamic narrative with a narrative of their own. From what I can tell, part of it has to do with colonialism, the search for self-glory and ethnocentric thinking. But we Muslims should ask ourselves another question: How many of us have tried to ‘give a Fatwa’ about something, while we are not qualified to do so? If we Muslims cannot control our desire for misplaced grandeur, what about other people who are non-Muslims to begin with, regardless of whether they have a dislike for Islam or not?

o    I am quite upset personally when I hear that a certain Muslim (young or otherwise) says that he or she is unable to pursue the formal studies of Islam due to their current secular studies or secular life. I know that this obviously affects most of us Muslims including myself, and I am also not blaming the people who say this in a direct manner. But we have to consider as a Muslim community as to why we have allowed the situation to come to this stage, where lay Muslims go through their secular education through their formative years, then may come across certain things that are contrary to the Islamic worldview, but unfortunately cannot pursue the proper means of Islamic study in order to learn Islam properly, and to move way beyond what the opponents of Islam are saying and into serious scholarship of Islam. I think this is one of the biggest challenges facing us today, since the non-Muslims as predators can ‘smell the blood’ of the Muslims, and they will not stop in ‘going for the kill’.

o    Of course, the proper study of Islam has always had a very high position in our society, but if we as a society simply let this matter fall off, there will be many problems for Muslims, not only in the non-Muslim or Westernized societies, but even in lands that we thought to be deeply conservative and religious. And may Allah help us in these difficult, difficult times.

o    According to the editor, the boldness of those who fancied that there were mistakes in the Qur’an increased due to the lower importance given to the many aspects of the religion during the later periods of governance, the introduction of new ideas into the Islamic milieu, the many times acrimonious arguments between the different Islamic sects. But we also see that there were enough scholars who cared for refuting the incorrect ideas that were making the rounds within the Islamic Ummah – and this again shows that sometimes, the true intellectual efforts will be undertaken when there are difficulties facing the Ummah; though the political, economic, and socio-cultural base should be there as well in order to facilitate this endeavor or make it easier for those scholars who are struggling on the path.

o    Some of the figures of the Mu’tazili group where the ones who spurred on the works on the inimitability of the Qur’an.  Ibrahim an-Nazzaam is mentioned, who said that the inimitability of the Qur’an is due to a divine ‘Sarfa’ (divinely established incapability in the people), but that there was really nothing in the Qur’an itself that was miraculous, and that the Qur’an was like any other revelation or inspiration given to previous Prophets in expounding Halaal or Haraam. He said that the inimitability was simply because Allah had taken away the knowledge among the Arabs of how to compose something like the Qur’an.

o    Other people, such as al-Futi and ibn Sulayman said that the Qur’an is simply an incident from among the incidents and that there is nothing from among the incidents whatsoever that points towards Allah or to the Prophethood of Muhammad .

o    When we see this additional view that the ‘Araadh (incidents) do not point to Prophethood, this would be a very problematic view, since miracles generally are -after all- incidents that due to their breaking the normal correlations in the Universe point towards the Prophethood of the one who says he is a Prophet. If it is said that incidents simply do not point to Prophethood, this would be an almost atheistic viewpoint, and it is not acceptable even from an abstract point of view – even if we knew nothing about Islam.

o    But others from among the Mu’tazila such as al-Jaahith and Abi ‘Ali al-Jubaai took the views of An-Nazzaam and others to task, and they wrote a number of refutations to this view. According to the editor, al-Baaqilaani (RA) did not properly give credit to this endeavor, most likely due to the animosity between the Sunnis and the Mu’tazilis.

o    Ar-Rumaani was one of the early writers who took up the task of methodically explaining the miracle of the Qur’an. The editor mentions him in here, even though he was a Mu’tazili. What ar-Rumaani said was that there were seven miraculous facets to the Qur’an which were: Its taking the high road and abandoning (vile) opposition [or let us say the vituperations of the riffraff] in spite of the many probable reasons and the apparently pressing need (from what little I understand, this is so since many times the disbelievers taunted the Prophet with questions which they thought he would be unable to answer, but the Qur’an came forth with the suitable answers, without the emotional outbursts one would expect from a human author/authors), its open challenge to everyone to produce something like it and their being incapacitated from doing so [in here it is summarized with the phrase ‘multitude of callers’], its rhetorical eloquence, is true accounts of what was to happen in the future, its nature (that it was extraordinarily contrary to normal modes of speech), and its correlation with every (other) miracle (i.e. its connection with the manner in which miracles took place in previous times with previous Prophets).

o     Then he divided rhetorical eloquence into three parts, and said: That whose highest point is miraculous, and that is the eloquence of the Qur’an. Then he defined rhetoric by saying that it is the penetration of the meaning into the hearts in the best possible verbal form, and this is also only applicable to the Qur’an.

o    Then, he divided rhetoric (Balaagha) into ten parts, some of them being (as far as I understand): Brevity, similarity (between texts and within the text), proper use of metaphors, concordance, (presence of) interludes or separations, homogeneity, turning from one state to another and clear elucidation.

o    For example, for Isti’arah (adaptation), he says that in order for it to be effective, it is necessary for it to be a speech that does not displace reality, for if it does then the literal truth is higher than it, and Isti’arah in such a case is not suitable or permissible. The example provided is from Verse 25:23, and some points are mentioned about this such as: ‘Qadimnaa’ being more appropriate than ‘’Ammadna’ while keeping the true signification, since ‘Qadimnaa’ has the wider scope of including the implicit meaning of not letting the people become fooled by the respite they have been granted by Allah in this world, since they will definitely meet Him in the Hereafter. 

o    One thing that comes to mind is that one must accept the explanation given by the Arab linguists concerning the structures of the Arabic words, the meanings the words point to, and so forth, in order to have a basis from which to start judging the eloquence and beauty of the Qur’an. I am talking in here about the skeptic who is yet willing to consider the narrative of Islam on its own grounds. Of course, if the skeptic simply wishes to be a skeptic then there is nothing to look at or to consider – skepticism is an ‘infinite loop without end’ and there is no way that the die-hard principled skeptic will ever arrive at any point with regards to metaphysical matters.

o    There is an explanation concerning the ‘multitude of callers’ principle, of those who were challenged with respect to the Qur’an, taken from ar-Rumaani’s writing. It is said that if there were so many people calling a thirsty but still mentally and physically fit person to take a drink with them in their homes, it would not be normal for him to refuse these offers, since he will eventually die of thirst. But if in spite of this, he is still not accepting the invitations, it points towards an ‘Ajz [incapacitation] that needs a supernatural explanation. This is an (imperfect) analogy to what we see of the challenge in the Qur’an, since the call was made to everyone in the world to produce something like the Qu’ran, but no one was able to properly take up the challenge, either individually or in groups.

o    Another thing mentioned is that the ‘Sarfah’ actually refers to the supernatural removal of serious deliberation from the minds of Islam’s enemies with regards to coming up with something like the Qur’an. (Some things will be said about this later in this work).

o    There is also an answer to the question that if the Qur’an is in Arabic and the Arabs were unable to produce something like it, why do we not consider the possibility of non-Arabs coming up with something like the Qur’an, either in their own languages or in Arabic? The answer to this is that the Arabs close to the time of revelation had reached a very high level of shrewdness with respect to their use of the language, and this is something that was even evidenced in the Awzaan (patterns) they had firmly established. This is unlike the case with other languages, who did not develop to this degree, and who could not be said to have reached such a high level of sagacity in the use of language itself.

o    One important point to add in here is that today itself, the truth is that many languages are dying out, and the ‘world languages’ are becoming soiled so as to say by the short attention span that our technological age has burdened upon us. I mean, just consider twitter (which did not exist as a phenomenon even last decade) – look at how much time people spend on it, typing short and trite messages that cannot at all have the power of eloquence; and this is not even considering all other jumbled jargon that has come up in our time, very recently, due to the mushrooming of technology all around us.

o    So it is not correct to say that some very strong computer program will come in the future that will easily make up something like the Qur’an even though it has not been done before; and the simple reason for this is that there is a very strong human element in language, in how it pervades a person’s mind and spirit, and this is something that would necessitate trial and error, whether by a human writer or by a computer program or a robot – and this really militates against any possibility that a book can be written by any human or any ‘program developed by humans’ that truly touches the mind and the heart in the same way that the Qur’an does. I know there will be people who might object due to their own thinking about this issue, but they cannot reject the fact that a language is a living thing, and when it reaches the level of ‘imprinting’ as it did during the Arab pre-Islamic time, then it is even more powerful than the visual miracles that we believe have been given to the Prophets at different times.

o    One important point about the Qur’an, which has led many scholars to deny that there is Saj’ in the Qur’an, is the fact that the Qur’an’s words follow the intended meanings, and this is more appropriate in establishing the correct blend between the words and their significations (especially in a book like the Qur’an, which deals with the highest of subject matters), than what we see in the Saj’ of prose, etc.

o    For those who do not have the drive to learn Arabic to a level of proficiency, or who may not be able to do so for whatever reason, the fact that the Arabs at the time of the Prophet were unable to directly face the challenge of the Qur’an is sufficient evidence for its miraculous nature.

o    It has been mentioned that the ‘Sarfa’ theory is interesting in a sense, but Verse 17:88 seems to contradict it, since the Verse seems to indicate that the men and the jinns, with their combined efforts, could not come up with something like the Qur’an; and this signifies that their efforts are intact, and have not been incapacitated in and of themselves.

o    Interesting thing mention by al-Khitaabi: He criticized those who said that the Qur’an’s I’jaaz was only in its foretelling truthfully what would occur in the future, since this is not something found in every single Chapter of the Qur’an – this, while the challenge is to bring any Surah whatsoever like the Qur’an, without any further specification. From what I have read, this is also why one cannot say that the miracle of the Qur’an is exclusive to (for example) ‘scientific facts’, since not every single Surah has a ‘scientific fact’ as we know it (of course, the issue of ‘scientific miracles in the Qur’an’ is a tough issue to begin with, and it has been discussed on this site a number of times).

o    (From what I understood) We have to keep in mind that the types of speech are different, their ranks with regards to their elucidatory power are distinct, and their eloquence also varies. There is that which is lucid but comes in sober profuseness, that which is eloquent but comes in a more vulgar (i.e. common) style, and there is that which is loose and gentle, more characteristic of what is seen in poetry – these are the divisions of good speech. And each mode has its height but also its corresponding reach amongst different sections of society. Now, what is mentioned is that the Qur’an has ‘taken’ from the characteristics of all these types of speech and blended them in a manner that maintains both magnificence and sweetness.

o    What we see is that these genres of literature are basically contradictory by themselves: In ‘sweet’ speech there is generally more ‘facility’ and ‘ease’, while in solid, lucid speech there is generally more difficulty and hardness. But only the Qur’an has been able to truly take the highest qualities of each type of speech without besmirching it (the Qur’an) with the lower qualities that normal come along with each genre. Human beings cannot reach the level of the Qur’an, a big reason being that they cannot come to know all of the words of the language and their interconnected, situational relationships, etc.

o    One thing to keep in mind is three aspects necessary for speech: The words that are the conveyors of meanings, the meanings (the significations) that are being pointed to by the words, and their relationship. It is only in the Qur’an that the highest of these aspects has been reached in the same work, and this is something that has been pointed out by the scholars of Arabic language as one of the clearest signs of the linguistic miracle of the Qur’an. And some scholars have mentioned that the blending together of the words and meanings is the hardest thing to do (since it is something akin to bringing together multiple types of sub-projects to work out properly within a harmonized whole), and this is definitely something that has to be considered by all those who reflect upon the Qur’an.

o    This, while the subject matter of the Qur’an is of the highest level, as it talks about the Oneness of Allah, the rules of Halaal and Haraam, it contains exhortations to good and reprimands against committing evil, the stories of what happened to those who disobeyed Allah, the prophecies of what is to occur in the future, etc. [So it is not that this miraculous mode of expression was used to talk about horses, farm animals, or even the exploits of dead kings, but rather about the highest of all endeavors for human beings, their goal of reaching Allah the Exalted].

o    So in every single case, the exact word has been placed in the exact location in the Qur’anic text; any different, and either the meaning would have changed and there would have been a deficiency in the signification of the speech, or the splendor and beauty would have been gone, and the overriding eloquence would not be there anymore.

o    One rule to consider is that – especially in the Arabic idiom – there are many synonymous words which for the layman seem to mean exactly the same thing; but for those who are well-versed, they can distinguish subtle differences between the word used and its potential replacements, and this is in fact one of the aspects of the Qur’an that everyone should consider carefully when they ponder upon the Qur’an.

o    There are some people who have criticized the Qur’an on the basis of it not using the normal meters and rhymes of poetry and prose, of not using extremely flowery and refined language [i.e. the complex language of high society], and also of its significations being available and understandable even to the simplest of Arabs [or at least the Arabs during the time of Islam’s emergence]. And it was also claimed that there are many repetitions in the Qur’an, cutting off and shortening (of phrases, I think this is what is being referred to in here), interjection of phrases and styles not related to the wider meaning or genus of the Verses or Chapters, etc. But these objections are answered by al-Khitaabi in his work (they are unfortunately not mentioned by the editor, since he is only giving a synopsis of the situation).

o    Anyway, another point that is mentioned is that there is a spiritual miracle associated with the Qur’an as well, and this involves the way it first strikes the aural sense and the heart with splendor, followed by a realization of its true dignity and solemnity.

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