o I know we Muslims all have an emotional attachment to the Prophet ﷺ and this is of course good and proper; and we also know that he is the Messenger of Allah the Exalted in truth. But this still does not mean that the tools of Fiqh – understanding, or let us say graded understanding- are not to be applied to his ﷺ sayings at all.
o And in here, we can make a connection [for purposes of illustration only] with how nuanced interpretations affect even what we ourselves say and do in many cases. For example, if we are wise people, we will not say everything that we know to every person, but will choose the appropriate place and time to say what we think is necessary to say to our wives, children, friends, colleagues, bosses, etc. There may be many hidden matters behind why we said the same thing to different people in different ways, why we hid something from someone but disclosed it to another person, and so on.
o It is obvious that the one who only takes our Hadeeth (speech) for what it is without knowing anything about our context or with a decision to ignore it will have a wrong result about who we are and what we are doing in many cases.
o So this is the case with simple people who live normal lives and do not have to take any major stress over anything. What would be the case then with the Prophet of Allah ﷺ, who had revelations and inspirations coming to him constantly which were to be the actual basis for a comprehensive Shariah for mankind, and who was the undisputed head of the Muslim Ummah?
o Thus, we have to consider that utilizing the tools of Fiqh is not a way of degrading the status of the Prophet ﷺ whatsoever, but is rather part of the reality of how this world works and how the different revelations and inspirations given to the Prophet ﷺ were played out in the real world.
o It is said by the Twelvers that we are like the pagans of old, who would blindly reject the truth even though the Sultan (i.e. the proof) is right in front us, in our books and the narrations contained therein. I say the situation is quite different: If we are talking about the pagan Arabs, it is obvious that they had no firm book and no firm Hadeeth collections at all; if we are talking about Christians and Jews, their books had been changed and played around with, and the end result in this case was more confusion and doubt.
o But when we talk about Islam, one has to be careful about saying that only vague blindness is being followed, for we have texts that are decisive in their content, decisive in their meaning. Then we have other texts, decisive in their content, probabilistic in their meaning, and so on as we go through the ranks of our texts. The point in here is that we have a well-known and well-applied methodology for establishing our texts and the level of certainty one can have in the texts, as well as the significations that one may or may not extract from these texts. To reduce everything to mere blindness, or to a desire to hide the truth is, to say the very least, not a very smart way to engage with us, since the collection and establishment of our texts took place very soon after the passing of the Prophet ﷺ, not after many centuries like was the case of Christians and Jews, or never, as was the case with pagan Arabs and members of other religions. So this is something that we must keep in mind by necessity, and I doubt that any intelligible discussion can be had if we do not agree with respect to methodology.
o What happens is that certain groups wish to reach a certain conclusion, come what may, and this is extremely difficult to incorporate within the greater body of a sober discussion concerning how we should approach the texts in the abstract. Thus, rather than a discussion about the abstract rules, we are not only coming down to conclusions, but down to a very specific body of conclusions that we do not accept (of course, since the method for reaching these conclusions was not accepted, nay, was not even discussed).
o There is an important lesson in the Verses mentioning the impossibility of any from among the Creation to bring something like the Qur’an: This is one of the signs of Allah’s Oneness and Dissimilarity from all Created beings. The relevance of this is, that there are certain people who say that only after knowing about Allah’s Existence, can we begin to speak about the Qur’an being Allah’s Revelation to mankind and His Speech. But if someone understands that the Qur’an is a Miracle, he would know that the Being capable of it is altogether dissimilar from the creatures, and this would be his way of agreeing with the Islamic position both in its concept of Allah and in what it says about the Qur’an.
o What I can say is that yes, this is obviously one way, and we cannot say that this is an invalid method of presenting Islam to the people, since it might be that with certain people one might bypass the “theological proofs” with regards to Allah’s Existence and they may get convinced directly by the Qur’an, or by some other evidence in favor of Islam. The only thing in here is that the person entering Islam should of necessity have a correct understanding of Allah, and not simply an emotionally-based assent to Islam without real knowledge.
o Al-Baaqilani (RA) handles the question of the passing down of the Qur’an in another way: We see that the poems of certain famous poets have been memorized and preserved meticulously, even though their area of application is related only to the Arabic language. What about the Qur’an then, whose areas of application are multiple, including its recitation in prayers, Sharia laws, modes of recitation, rhetoric, and so on? So it does not occur to us, by application of this ‘indirect method’, that the Muslims would be so negligent of the Holy Revelation, while absolutely everything of their lives revolves around it.
o One fairly easy sign for all who ask how the miracle of the Qur’an was known is: Part of the injunctions of the Qur’an and of Islam in general surrounded the permissibility of fighting the disbelieving pagan Arabs, and this was in fact revealed a relatively long time after the inception of the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ, and its application continued for a number of years. Now, if it is was within the capacity of the Arabs at that time to bring something like the Qur’an, they would have definitely done it at that time itself, since it is much easier (according to the dictates of normal cases) to compose something rather than go through the trouble of fighting war after war, of having to leave one’s land or having to give up one’s goods and relatives as spoils of war. But if in spite of all this, the ‘normal’ way is not followed, then one has to seriously consider a supernatural explanation, since the normal (the natural) one was not followed even while the die-hard opponents of Islam were under such dire circumstances.
o And in addition to this point, we see that for those who are living the “easy life of enjoyment”, Islam is quite hard for them, since it calls for redistribution of wealth, for the performance of prayers, for leaving one’s family and friends if they will not accept one’s adoption of Islam, and many other issues that are obviously difficult for most people, whether in the past or in the present, to follow through on, if they do not have a very strong commitment to follow the truth. Anyway, this is also another very important point as to why the pagan Arabs or the eloquent pagan Arabs would have tried their best to take up the Qur’an’s challenge if they could have done so, since the challenge is “relatively easy” so as to say in comparison with all the troubles they had to actually go through in their attempts to eliminate Islam. Thus, we cannot conceive of the people who had this much level of proficiency in their language to agree to ignore the challenge of the Qur’an, except if a supernatural explanation is sought after.
o Also, the paths towards the elimination of Islam were many, yet all of them failed. This is obviously another miracle to the credit of Islam and to the credit of what appeared at the hands of the Prophet ﷺ; and this is clear, because no one expects a religion which has so much going against it after 10 or 11 years of its initial inception to have such a spectacular turnaround in the next 11 or 12 years and beyond, except if there is some amazing reason that can explain such a reality.
o The Makkan pagans were not simply docile people when it came to the message of Islam: nay, they would do their best to argue against it in whichever way they could, and their argumentative nature is mentioned in the Qur’an itself, in addition to some of the wild guesses they took with respect to the origin of the Qur’an. Yet, in spite of the need and their very nature in trying to oppose the Islamic religion, they could not bring up something like the Qur’an. For those who understand personal psychology plus group psychology, all of the plausible material and plainly natural reasons for the Qur’an to have come about simply do not add up.
o The disbelievers did try different ways of weakening the Qur’an and Islam, such as by placing their own types of “challenges”, such as their own requests for miracles, or for the angels to come out in the open, and so forth. We are not talking about the appropriateness of such challenges but about the desire of the opponents of Islam in trying to weaken it by means of what they could do.
o Another important point is that the Arabs at that time would openly brag about any competitions they had with one another with respect to ‘poetry competitions’. This further shows that having these sorts of ‘linguistic-based battles’ was very much a part of their nature, and this makes their ‘shyness’ towards the Qur’an and towards directly opposing the Qur’an on its own terms all the more in need of a supernatural explanation.
o In fact, what is mentioned is that the nature of the Arabs with regards to acknowledging any work of supreme eloquence and of then trying to imitate it was so innate in their nature that the (explicit) challenge was not even (hypothetically) necessary in the exact way it was mentioned in the Qur’an- that is, it was not necessary for the challenge of coming up with something like the Qur’an to have been explicitly mentioned therein so many times in order for the Arabs to know the great status of the Qur’an, and that the challenge was already presented to them, even if they happened to not have come across the specific Verses enunciating this challenge.
o Also, if the situation was as easy as some of our opponents said, then given their knowledge, they would have not had so much difficulty in trying to pin down exactly what the Qur’an was in terms of its ‘type’, since as we know, this was one of the issues that truly confounded them, since they could not establish within themselves what type of composition the Qur’an was, so that they could move on to contradict it or oppose it intellectually and on its own terms.
o Those who embraced Islam at the beginning did so not only by ‘Taqleed’ of the Prophet ﷺ, but rather, they had ‘Baseerah’, that is, clear knowledge about the issue which led to certainty.
o The person who has reached the heights of Arabic eloquence would know after listening to the Qur’an that he is unable to produce something like unto it, and he would know that other people like him (we can call them his ‘peers’) are likewise unable to bring forth something like the Qur’an – so this is the way in which the miraculousness of the Qur’an is established for those who are experts in the field. But for the Arab who has reached only a “middle” level of proficiency in Arabic eloquence, or for the non-Arab, he has to find out that the experts could not come up with something like the Qur’an, so as a natural consequence, those who are lower than the experts will be even less capable of imitating the Qur’an.
o It might be said that if the pagan Arabs all knew the miracle of the Qur’an, then why did not all of them convert to Islam at once? Al-Baaqilani (RA) mentions that their doubts were diverse, in terms of the Existence of the Creator, or of the Oneness of Allah, or about the existence of the post of Prophethood, and he gives some examples in this regard as well.
o In addition to this, I say there is the emotional and spiritual aspect as well, which is that the miracle is at most akin to the purely intellectual proofs, the only difference being that the miracle takes place within the limited temporal Universe, so its certainty is tied up with the certainty of the witnesses about how the amazing event compares to normal events, when combined with the claim to Prophethood from part of the Prophet in question.
o And the important thing in here is that even purely rational proofs (those proofs that have no chance of being other than what we present them) are many a times rejected by people, for a variety of reasons that do not even putatively have anything to do with reasoning or logic whatsoever.
o Some may ask that is it not possible for someone who can put together two beautiful words to simply bring another word into his composition, then another and another, until he is able to reach the minimum limit of infallibility as per the Qur’an – and since (according to this line of thinking) such is hypothetically possible, is it not proper to say that a type of Sarfa (supernatural incapacitation) has taken place with regards to the Qur’an, as opposed to any amazing qualities being contained in the Qur’an itself?
o The answer is that, even if we set aside the issue of the Qur’an, it is very difficult to imagine this principle in action in the real world: If it is was true, then everyone can coincidentally say one or two praiseworthy words, and due to the application of the above hypothesis, everyone would be a great orator, poet, novelist, etc. But we know that this is simply not the way things are, and the principle above is definitely incorrect.
o Also, we know that the pre-Islamic Arabs were not challenged (or to use this person’s claim, ‘incapacitated’) to produce something like the Qur’an. So when we see that the case of those before the revelation of the Qur’an is similar to those who came after the revelation, we see that the theory of ‘Sarfa’ is incorrect. Besides, in such a case, the text of the Qur’an would not be miraculous, but the incapacitation itself would be miraculous.
o Now, some ask that how can it be said that Arabic is the only language in which the miracle or the challenge became actualized. One important reason is the greater declension of words one finds in Arabic which makes it possible to articulate complex meanings in fewer words. Also, the different forms of one verb root may take allows for multiple valid shades of meanings to be derived from one word or base, while at the same time a number of different words may have a common ultimate meaning. So basically this points to greater flexibility for classical Arabic as opposed to other languages.
o From what I have read, which I cannot say whether it is absolutely applicable or not, one can (hypothetically) also attempt the meeting of the Qur’anic challenge in other languages, but these will be hampered by the lesser number of tools available in such languages, and this leads to a problem of the first order, even before one can consider other aspects of how to go ahead in his ‘project’. This is one reason why there are Verses in the Qur’an specifically mentioning the Qur’an being revealed in Arabic, implying that it has been raised from being in the idiom of the non-Arabs.
o It was objected that perhaps the books revered by the Zoroastrians may have reached the level of the Qur’an. The answer given is that they comprise only the collected wisdoms of different peoples, and that this type of collection would not be enough to compare to the Qur’an.
o This is one issue, but even beyond this, the Zoroastrian books have a lot in common with the early Hindu books and poems, such as the Rig Vedas. I know I am saying this by association, but if anyone has gone through the Rig Vedas they will know that there are many points of pure theology contained in such poems that we as Muslims would disagree with sharply right of the bat, and we would say that such conceptions of the Divinity are wrong from a number of angles.
o Then there is the issue of what Zoroastrian theology actually says about God, creation, evil, etc., and in here also Islamic theology would have a lot to say about (from my limited understanding, there are certain similarities between Zoroastrian and Hindu or even Taoist understandings of the cosmos and of the ‘Absolute’). So yes, looking at the structure and style of the original texts is one aspect, but we also need to see many a times what is the ‘theology’ of the religion in question, since the interrelationship between the sacred texts and the theology of the religion cannot simply be dismissed when someone alleges a similarity between the Qur’an and their own “holy scriptures”.
o One of the points mentioned about the Qur’an informing of the unseen relates to what is mentioned in Verses 9:33 and other Verses, about the religion of Islam being victorious over other religions. Of course, there are some points of interpretation in this regard, but what we see is that the great Khulafaa’ Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (RAA) would spur on their armies, and the commanders of the armies they were sending, based on these Verses and the promise of Allah and His Messenger ﷺ that He would make them victorious over their enemies. And if we compare this faith with what we see among the Muslims of today, we will have a big clue as to why we are in this deplorable situation.
o Because, how could anyone think, using only material probabilities and resources, that an army that initially started from a part of the Hijaaz would be able to conquer lands way beyond the Arabian Peninsula? And ok, conquering is one thing, but to inculcate the religion of the conquerors onto the native population is another matter, and it is no small feat, as human history has shown time and again.
o A second point is made about the Prophet ﷺ being known to not have been in the company of those who related tales of the peoples of old, or to have been able to read and write so that he could have had the chance to procure books, read them, and compose his own things – and this fact from the Prophet’s ﷺ life is known by necessity. I have talked about this elsewhere, so I do not think it is necessary to repeat it in here.