Thoughts on a comment concerning Sanskrit, Arabic, and the Qur’an

A comment (derived from certain Hindu tracts): In opposition to Arabic and to the Islamic religion, if one were to learn Sanskrit (the language of the early Hindu scriptures) one would also have been introduced to a deep understanding of Hindu metaphysics and of the structure of reality itself. Thus, it is said that Sanskrit as a language is much deeper and useful in every sense than bland languages, including Arabic, and that this characteristic goes well beyond composing a book.

Moreover, the claim is that even if he were to consider the Qur’an, the very fact that there has been an avalanche of philosophical and other types of exegesis based on the primary Hindu texts over the millennia should be enough to point to the greatness and uniqueness of such texts when compared to any other book or received wisdom (including the Qur’an) – What do we say about this matter?

Answered by Sharif Randhawa (Researcher at Bayyinah Institute, owner of Qur’anic Musings blog), with slight modifications and an additional note

I cannot comment on the first claim since I do not know Sanskrit, but I don’t see what additional relevance this has to the Quran’s challenge beyond what may be normally claimed for human capacity to compose texts using language.  However, if someone asserts that the challenge can be met in Sanskrit, then again by all means bring your best efforts and we will consider it in the context of the Quran’s challenge.  (Of course, it would be hard to judge since the two languages are so different and, moreover, I doubt there is anyone qualified to judge them both.  That just goes to show again why taking up the challenge is the most practical in Classical Arabic, since the parameters can be defined easier).

Concerning the issue of wide-ranging philosophical exegesis, the claim might be interesting in a way, but no one (as far as I know) is arguing that the fact that many sophisticated contemplations and commentaries of texts (derived from the Bible, the Ahaadiths, the Vedas, Aristotle, Plato, Shakespeare, etc.) have been produced is an evidence of their divine origin or of them being outside the capacity of human production. (Note that almost no Christian or Jew says that the Bible contains its miracle within the text itself, unless such Jews/Christians are pushing forth a polemicist agenda against Islam).

Very importantly though, the Qur’an was not revealed in order to indulge abstruse issues of metaphysics, but has a more generic aim of clarifying the fundamental questions about God and creation as well as practical matters that are essential to all peoples’ guidance.

[Note: It is our claim that a proper Divine revelation does not contradict what is necessarily known to be true. However, in the case of the Hindu scriptures under discussion, there is the presence of the postulate that a literal unity exists between all existence, and that it is our task to discover this unity, by means of different techniques as set out by the Hindu scriptures.

But the Islamic position is that this is a fundamental point which is simply untrue – thus, no matter how perfect the language or the style of these writings may be, if they are pointing to an idea that is necessarily false, then this is a big indication that it cannot at all meet the Quran’s challenge.

(The specifics of why Islam takes the position it does concerning this normative Hindu doctrine cannot be presented in here, since it requires the consideration of many questions and does get complicated. However, mention of this point was needed, even if in passing.)]


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