Random thoughts and notes: Days 132-163

o   Recently (some time has passed now, but apparently the investigation closed without a breakthrough), the news was received concerning the kidnapping of Muslim schoolgirls, apparently by a “Muslim terrorist” group in Nigeria. I have heard some whispers about this incident actually being some false flag operation, but I do not want to get into the veracity of such theories, as they are detrimental to the subject at hand.

o   This subject “at hand” is that we Muslims as individuals and organizations have developed this tendency to apologize for anything and everything that Muslims around the world may commit of inhumane and scandalous acts. But we should step back and consider the following: Were we ever consulted by the perpetrators of such actions, so that our opinions may have been taken into consideration before these “operations”, whether generally or specifically, were carried out?

o   I am sure that for almost all of us, the answer is in the negative. And if it is indeed negative, the apologies also seem to be very awkward to say the least. How can I as a Muslim person apologize for what another Muslim in his capacity as an individual committed of sins, either major or minor?

o   If we go by what our opponents and enemies are saying, Islamic society is not a democratic society, so my personal opinions really have no weight with regards to what Group so-and-so may or may not carry out – since the supposed “civilized democratic underpinning” does not exist for us. (As I had mentioned in this article though, the process of the democratization of Islamic knowledge has given rise to extremes, and in fact the liberal-leaning extreme is much more pronounced in Muslim societies than the “terrorist-leaning” one, to such a degree that the liberal democratic world is willing to absorb the occasional “Muslim terrorist atrocity”, since the end result is still in favor of the liberal democratic world).

o   Anyway, what I can do whenever a Muslim individual or a group commits these sorts of acts is to explain what the proper Islamic position is with respect to the matter at hand, if I have the requisite knowledge in such a case. But even if I were to have such knowledge, an apology would still seem to be “forced” or “pressured” speech, since I was not consulted about a juridical verdict in such a case.

o   Besides, this expectation for apologies is unheard of with regards to races, nations, or religions for the most part. If one were to expect any given Chinese, American, or Russian to apologize for every crime that his countrymen may commit (either in his own country or outside of it), then I am quite certain that a large proportion of people would do nothing in their lives other than apologizing for the mistakes, missteps, and gross crimes of their countrymen. But we see that such is not the case at all.

o   Then again, this opens up the topic that Chinese, Russians, etc., are not just a “lost tribe” looking for a political homeland, but rather that China, Russia, and the United States are tangible political realities, while the Muslim nation does not have such a concrete and tangible political expression. And again, I think the non-Muslim world at large prefers for things to remain this way, even if it has to absorb the occasional “terrorist attack” (from what I see, this is because an act of terrorism is an act of desperation in most cases, but the acts of a political actor are much more organized, and have much greater potential to give rise to long-lasting changes in the larger world).

o   Besides, one thing I have noticed and also mentioned in certain places is that lay Muslims on the whole, and in spite of what popular depictions may portray, are quite docile and meek with regards to their interactions with other peoples – this reality is definitely not lost on the non-Muslims who go around bashing “Islamic terrorism”, since they know what response will be given by the overwhelming majority of Muslims.

o   So we have a very small minority who are violent by nature and do commit acts of savagery, but in my view, this is more than offset by the docile and meek Muslim crowd, who try to be peaceful in spite of the negative repercussions of such an attitude…at the end, both sides are acting without proper knowledge, make no mistake about it. And also, perhaps each side feeds off of the other in adopting their peculiar attitude, but I cannot say too much with regards to this last point.

o   So we have to consider this matter carefully. It seems to me, and Allah knows best, that this apology-first mindset only plays into the hands of those who wish to denigrate the Muslims in their minds more and more with every passing day.

o   Another matter that came about in the news and was received from even some of my acquaintances, is that of Muslim women wearing the Hijaab and the Niqaab being attacked in certain places in the Western world; those of us who follow the news know that it has reached to the point that even deaths have occurred from this. What else is to be expected when the climate of total irrational fear against Islam, and disgust towards Islam is either implicitly or explicitly advocated from numerous sides?

o   But then, the problem with us Muslims nowadays is that we can only beg such countries to take action, and hope that their moral sense drives them towards taking some sort of action against the perpetrators of such crimes. I do not doubt that some action will be taken, but if we just recall the stories we have been told about the previous generations of Muslims, do we think that they would have merely begged such countries to take some decisive action against the physical manifestation of hatred against Muslims? This is a point for reflection for myself and whoever else is concerned about such issues.

o   One aspect of the Qur’an that is of note is that the outward arrangement [the Nathm] of the Verses is in accordance with the internal meaning that is being conveyed. This is why one sees that the Madinan Verses that are expounding on matters of jurisprudence are of a simpler style in comparison to the Makkan Chapters and Verses which speak about the great events that will take place on the Day of Judgment (for example).

o   It is not that the level of the Qur’an has fallen from its initial heights, but rather, that each type of message has a certain apex associated with the language of delivery, and the Qur’an reaches this apex without confounding the styles, or trying to overdo the style in a place where it does not belong.

o   Of course, this is a mistake that people do commit in their writings, of (for example) trying to insert flowery language while the task calls for straightforward language (or vice versa); the Qur’an avoids this common pitfall as well.

o   And when we consider this mistake, we see that it is in fact a human mistake associated with getting carried away by one’s emotions: This is so because, one might be going through an emotional high while in the process of writing a straightforward letter, and even if he tries to avoid obliquely inserting such personal feelings therein, he may not always be able to hold back, and such effects may make themselves visible either directly or indirectly. This can be attested to by all the people who may have made this mistake or slip at some point in their lives.

o   Now, someone might ask, that we see the books of previous religions had many a times high poetry, while the Qur’an many times delves into societal laws and the like; so their objection is that, how can the articulation of laws be above the writing down of the mystic experiences of a true knower, a true lover of God?

o   Well, what seems to be the “mistake of the Qur’an” is actually a very positive point in its favor. This is because the lover of God alluded to by the objector can only write about his personal feelings; it may be that someone could get the same ecstatic experience by reading this poetry, or he may be able to relate to such experiences if he has achieved this “high” himself.

o   However, the Qur’an is not dealing only on this level of ecstatic spiritual experiences, since most people in the world are not experiencing such a thing at this moment. Rather, Allah the Exalted revealed the Qur’an for spiritual progress and outward material action and progress as well, and there is no doubt that this outward progress is governed by the application of laws in different facets of personal and communal life.

o   This is where the Qur’an, as a code of life, far surpasses the ecstatic poetry any ‘knower of God’ may have composed. And besides, Muslims know all too well that when a person is in such a state of mystical elevation, he/she may not even be articulating things as he/she should be saying them, but is rather speaking from the pure emotion of the moment, and this gives rise to many, many problems in terms of ‘translating’ this outpouring of emotion into a form that can be understood by those who do not have or have never had access to the spiritual heights the poet or ‘ascetic’ may have reached [and this is supposing that the person has in fact articulated a correct conception of the Divinity; for if there are problems in this area, then basically the entire work is not worth much at all].

o   Among the experts in language we also see specializations, such that the one who is good in praising may not be so good in ridiculing someone, or he who can speak about human emotions may not be able to describe nature so well, the one who can speak well when writing straightforward things may not have the ability to even compose one line of poetry, and so on and so forth, and we know this from our own experiences with language and composition.

o   Some people may say that there is no way to know that the Jinns cannot compose something like the Qur’an, except that Allah has told us this is the case, but that this is actually a tautology. But I say that while the Jinns are indeed invisible to us, it is still possible to know the product of their actions. As an example, we cannot see Iblis, but we can see the fruit of the actions of him and his army. Likewise is the case for anything that is possible for the creation to accomplish – if it had truly occurred, we would have seen its ‘articulation’ amongst us humans in one way or the other, such as the writings of a so-called “spirit-medium” or other similar expressions.

o   And this is one point mentioned, that the pagan Arabs actually knew about the speech of the Jinns, and they knew that the challenge could not be met by the Jinns either. From the examples shown and considered by al-Baaqilaani (RA), it seems that any poetry or recital of the Jinns was of a quality lower than that of the humans, let alone that it could ever compare with the Qur’an.

o   If someone thinks that this is too far-fetched, then in such a case, we would go back to square one, considering only what is visible of written composition among the humans – because the declaration that the Jinns cannot imitate the Qur’an was in accordance with the knowledge common among those living in the time of the Prophet ﷺ regarding Jinns themselves. The objector cannot say that Jinns do not exist, and that we cannot know if Jinns can or cannot compose something like the Qur’an: First comes the question of existence and once that is solved, then comes the question of their abilities and capabilities. If it cannot be settled, the second objection is only a type of sophistry.

o   Some of the Mutakallimeen said that the incapability of the humans to produce something like the Qur’an obviates the need for us to consider the incapacity of other creatures; but from what I know, if someone really believes that Iblis can come up with something like the Qur’an (like some Christians say), then we should deal with it based on the presented level, not just dismiss it summarily.

o   So the method of direct witnessing of the poetry and compositions of the creature in question can be applied uniformly, regardless of the type pf creature brought forward, be they ‘Jinns’, angels, or things we do not even agree that exist, such as ‘ghosts’ and the like. (Perhaps one can see in the future how the “automatic writing” of the mediums (as they are called) is in terms of its content and composition, so that we understand how ‘spirits’ and ‘spirit-mediums’ present their writings).

o   If it is said that the eloquence of the pagan Arabs was not uniform, and that a good number of them needed to know the incapacitation of the experts in order to know the true miracle of the Qur’an, this while true, does not preclude the fact that the nobles and dignitaries from amongst the pagan Arabs practically submitted to defeat in this regard – that is, the totality of the voice of the pagan Arabs can be seen in the voice of their dignitaries, since they were the spokespersons, and they would not have let any reasonable opportunity to attack the Qur’an on its own terms to pass them by.

o   It may be said that in the time of the Prophet ﷺ and even afterwards, there were people who gave a sort of guarantee that they could make up something like the Qur’an, since they said it was not something difficult to accomplish. However, we say the effectuation of the “threat” is important, not only making big promises that are left unfulfilled.

o   The Arabs of that time would clash with each other on poetry even in the smallest matters, such as descriptions of insects, snakes, the ropes and reins of their horses and camels, etc., and they would brag concerning the one who brought about the better elucidation; so how does it occur to anyone that with such an urgent need for something to be made up that properly challenged the Qur’an (in view of the challenge and how they started to lose out to the Islamic Ummah), that they would have simply left the issue without attacking it directly at all, except if there is some supernatural reason that should be considered?

o   Al-Baaqilani (RA) mentions the perfection bisection of the Muqataa’at letters starting a number of the Chapters of the Qur’an, that is, in terms of their classification into voiced/silent letters, and other known classifications, even though this was developed a long time after the Prophet’s ﷺ time…thus, there was no blueprint for the Prophet ﷺ or anyone else to work from at the time the Qur’an was revealed, and yet we see that the Muqata’aat letters are bisected perfectly with regards to a number of groups developed later on by Arabic linguists. (Perhaps this is an evidence of a secondary nature, and Allah knows best about the strength of this evidence).

o   There is mention of some instances when prophecies about the future were made in the Qur’an: (1) With regards to the recalcitrant Bedouins being made to fight a people of great military might, meaning the Persians and Romans [as mentioned in Surah al-Fath] (2) The prediction that the Romans would defeat the Persians a few years after they had suffered a defeat [Surah ar-Ruum] (3) Informing about how one of two parties from amongst the Makkan idolaters would fall into the hands of the Muslims in Badr [Surah al-Anfal, even though in this case it is more of an information about what transpired than a prophecy per se] (4) How the Makkan pagans would flee from the battlefield even though they boasted of their greater number in front of the Muslims [Surah al-Qamar] (5) That the Prophet ﷺ and his Companions would, by the will of Allah, enter Makkah in safety and perform the rites of the lesser pilgrimage (6) How the believing Muslims would be made to rule over the Earth after they had been in fear, and how their code would become powerful on the Earth (as in Surah an-Nuur] (7) That those who stayed behind in the city when the Prophet ﷺ went out for battle were told that they would never be able to go out with the Prophet ﷺ in his battles from the moment of revelation onwards [Surah at-Tawbah] (8) The incident of the Mubaahila, where the Christians were prevented from engaging in mutual cursing is mentioned [Surah Aal-‘Imraan, again more of informing rather than a prophecy per se] (9) The challenge that was presented in front of the Jews of Madeenah to wish for death, if their claims that the Prophet ﷺ was a liar were true, and how they were prevented from doing so due to their knowledge that they would be killed and taken to Hellfire. (There are definitely other examples as well, but only these were given as brief examples of what the Qur’an brings forth in this respect).

o   Some of the opponents of the Qur’an had mentioned that there were verses from the Qur’an that were similar to what one finds in the Verse (Bayt) of poetry corresponding to certain scales, and that thus the Qur’an resembles poetry; one of the answers to this was to point out that the minimum for poetry is two such Verses or more (Baytaan or more).. Some other answers are there, such as that when the meter is similar to poetry yet its Qaafiya (end rhyme letter) differs, this is not taken to be poetry. It has also been said that poetry is four or more of such Verses along with the same Qaafiya occurring at the end of each Verse.

o   And it is also said that the definition of poetry is being needlessly expanded by our opponents in this case, for if we were to truly follow their method, then basically every single person would be considered a poet: For it does happen that a few Verse-like sentences or phrases will come out in a person’s speech from time to time – and we cannot expect to consider the speaker to be an “accomplished poet” simply due to some rhymes that he may have coincidentally spoken in his speech; and this is something known to everyone in every language, that people do not gain literary excellence simply with a sentence or two, or with a verse or two of poetry.

o   An interesting point is made in the discussion concerning the absence of Saj’ in the Qur’an: It is said that if it was really Saj’ as certain people claim, then the pagan Arabs at the time of the Prophet ﷺ would have simply called it that and gotten on with their lives, without being amazed or shocked at the style of the Qur’an. However, we know that they could not deal with the Qur’an directly (in terms of opposing it with something like it). In fact, it may be said that they spent more time trying to see what type of speech the Qur’an was and turned their attention towards this topic much more than they did trying to come up with something similar to the Qur’an. Regardless of the pros and cons of what each side may say with regards to the existence or absence of Saj’ in the Qur’an, I believe this point brought up is of note and should be considered.

o    Again, it is mentioned that the pagan Arabs would argue with each other, and boast to one another even about the poetry they would compose concerning trifling matters, simply to show that they could compose something of value. So of course, the question becomes, that could they not employ this natural disposition towards opposing one another in literary merits to oppose the Qur’an? The truth is that they would have definitely done so, had they thought themselves worthy of taking up the challenge, but it is obvious that it was beyond their capabilities.

o   As mentioned by Imam Al-Ash’ari, a few Mu’tazilis claimed that there can be no miracles among the ‘A’raadh (accidents/incidents), and that since the Qur’an is an incident from among the incidents, then it cannot provide a sign or marker towards the Prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ. This is quite a strange and reprehensible view (even if we ignore the blameworthiness of saying the Qur’an is created and does not point to Allah’s Eternal Speech), since it goes against not only the establishment of the Qur’an as a miracle, but of all miracles as a category which proves the truthfulness of Prophets. No alternative theory from the part of these Mu’tazilis is mentioned, but again, the establishment and decisiveness of miracles is the very reason why we believe in any given Prophet or Messenger in the first place, so this ‘theory’ would seem to fall in line with what naturalists/atheists say about the Universe, in that any limited incident one might see, no matter how amazing it seems to us, can in time be explained by natural laws, equations, etc.

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5 thoughts on “Random thoughts and notes: Days 132-163

  1. Excellent article brother, out of curiosity do you think you could wright an article about Muhammed (PBUH) in the Bible and the Objections that Christians and Jews raise against it?

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    • Salam Alaykum,

      Well, there are at leas a couple of problems connected with this: First, I am occupied in other things for the time being (and even my readings and notes are a bit down now). Secondly, I would have to ask about the viability of such a project: As you know, the Bible we have in our hands today is very different even from what was available in the time of the Prophet (SAW) – and this gives rise to problems about the relevance and certitude of the text being quoted.

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      • Jazakallah for the response brother, my apologies for contacting you in a time when you are preoccupied. I had only thought that it is a subject that should be addressed as it is being used quite often for dawah, and with out context it could lead to a situation similar to the “science in the Quran” debacle in which cherry picking and confirmation bias was rampant, this is an issue that should be addressed, a person (and this is a few months back) claimed that once he had seen the Christian counter argument of our claims of our prophet in the bible, he realized that it was just confirmation bias that he had believed in that proof, of course this individual was heavily influenced by anti-Islamic material and was himself a victim of the “science in the Quran” movement which was the reason for his earlier conviction, he is unlettered in terms of an Islamic education, and relied mainly on the internet, (he hilariously fell sway to Tom Hollands arguments and other anti-Islam celebrities, who rely on superficial arguments, and can not even speak Arabic). But none the less this is certainly an issue we should address before we bring forth are arguments in dawah.

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      • Salam Alaykum,

        My off-hand remark is that, of course, most of the ‘prophecies’ even about ‘Isa (Alayhi Salaam) in the current OT are from poetic-like passages, so there obviously is an issue of ‘confirmation bias’ even in this case, in spite of the centrality of the Messiah figure in Judeo-Christianity.

        So of course, when it comes to the Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) this will be even more unclear, since prose and poetry generally open themselves up to multiple possible interpretations, some weaker and some stronger, and I feel that unless a Muslim researcher really does not have a strong handle in Biblical studies (for e.g. knowledge of biblical Greek, Hebrew, etc.), it will turn out to be very difficult for him to defend whichever articles he has C&P.

        More to come later Insha Allah, but this is what I can say for now.

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