Random Thoughts and Notes – Nos. 301-325

301.        Some ask that how can it be said that Arabic is the only language in which the miracle (and hypothetically the challenge) of the Quran was (or can become) 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 that 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.

One extra point added in some instances is, 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 this ‘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.

302.        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.

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 from the start, and we would say that such conceptions of the Divinity are wrong from a number of angles.

Then there is the issue of what Zoroastrian theology actually says about God, creation, evil, etc., and in here Islamic theology would have a lot of negative things to say about Zoroastrian truth-claims (from my 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”.

303.        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.

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, 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 time again.

304.        A 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, and to not 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 here.

305.        Often we hear of terrible things committed by Muslims. As an older example, we had the news concerning the kidnapping of Muslim schoolgirls, apparently by a “Muslim terrorist group” in Nigeria. We heard some whispers about this incident 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.

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?

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, in public or in private?

If we go by what our opponents and enemies are saying, Islamic society is not a democratic society to begin with, so my personal opinions really have no weight with regards to what Group so-and-so may 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 and pulverization of Islamic knowledge has given rise to extremes, and in fact the secular liberal-leaning extreme is much more pronounced in Muslim societies than the “terrorist-leaning” one, to such a degree that the liberal secular world is willing to absorb the occasional “Muslim terrorist atrocity”, since the end result is still overwhelmingly in favor of the secular liberal order – in a sense they consider it the death pangs of organized Islamic knowledge, thought and action, this is why they would be willing to absorb occasional violence).

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.

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 for these nationalities or ideologies.

Then again, this opens up the topic that Chinese, Russians, Americans, etc., are not just a “lost tribe” looking for a political-intellectual homeland, but rather that China, Russia, and the United States are tangible political realities, while the Muslim Ummah does not have such an overarching concrete and tangible political and intellectual 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 robust political actor are much more organized, and have much greater potential to give rise to long-lasting changes in the larger world; this is regardless of whether the political entity is democratic, authoritarian, etc.).

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.

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.

Thus, 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.

306.        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?

But then, the problem with us Muslims nowadays is that we can often only beg such polities 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 lands to take some decisive action against the physical manifestation of hatred against Muslims? This is a point of reflection for myself and whoever else is concerned about such issues.

307.        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).

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 audience, 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.

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.

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.

308.        It might be asked that we see the books of previous religions had many a times high poetry, while the Qur’an often 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?

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.

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 the moment of reading. 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.

This is where the Qur’an, as a code of life, far surpasses the ecstatic poetry any ‘knower of God’ may have composed. 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 have not had access to these spiritual heights. This is supposing the person has in fact articulated a correct conception of the Divinity; for if there are major problems in this area, then basically the entire work is of questionable worth to begin with.

309.        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. These divergences must be considered when someone brings up the claim of the Qur’an being human composition.

310.        Some people say 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 circular reasoning. But I say that while the Jinns are for the most part 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 Iblis 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.

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.

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. 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.

311.        Some of the Mutakallimeen said that the incapacity of the humans to produce something like the Qur’an obviates the need for us to consider the incapacity of other creatures; now, it could be said, 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 presentation of the objection, not just dismiss it summarily.

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

312.        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 is true in essence, yet it 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 pass them by.

313.        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.

Consider that the Arabs of that time would clash with each other on poetry even in the smallest matters, such as descriptions of insects, snakes, or the ropes and reins of their horses and camels, 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 in view of 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 to be considered?

314.        Al-Baaqilani (RA) mentions the perfect 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 science was developed a long time after the Prophet ﷺ…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 secondary degree, and Allah knows best).

315.        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-Rum] (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 religion would become powerful on the Earth [Surah an-Nur] (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 Mubaahala, 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, but this is an instance of incapacitating the opponent] (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 made to die by Allah 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).

316.        Some of the opponents of Islam had mentioned that there were verses from the Qur’an 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 is to point out that the minimum for poetry is two such Verses 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.

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; 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.

317.        An interesting point is made in the discussion concerning the absence of Saj’ in the Qur’an: If it was really Saj’ as certain people claim, then the pagan Arabs of that time would have simply called it as such, 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 similar). 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 arguments concerning the existence or absence of Saj’ in the Qur’an, I believe this point is of note and should be considered.

318.        The scholar who is teaching about proper Akhlaaq will not say that perhaps our parents may not have taught us proper Adab, proper manners when we were children, and that this is why we need to take classes in order to learn this subject. No, he will say that our parents were outside working and making a living, and when they came back home we were asleep, so we did not have a chance to learn their lofty ways or their ways of interacting with other people.

319.        We know that knowledge has to be acted upon. But even if we consider the types of ‘abstract’ knowledge that do not seem to have a direct impact on our day-to-day actions (whether religious or otherwise), we see that they still have a large influence on our lives: At the very least, they form the basis upon which we need to base our beliefs, and this base for our beliefs is what differentiates the Muslim from the non-Muslim. For example, someone might wonder as to the benefit that knowing Allah’s Transcendence over all Creation has on his daily prayers. However, this is a prerequisite for the prayer itself – if one is praying to something that he thinks exists literally in the gross spatial-temporal frame (in the same way non-Muslim religions do), then his prayer is invalid, as he is an idolater.

So this is one of the relevant points of this knowledge, and it is also important for us to pass on this knowledge to everyone – this is another way in which we act upon this knowledge.

320.        One indicator about the lowly situation we Muslims are facing nowadays is that, in the ancillary matters connected to Islamic culture, we hardly have any Muslim experts in such fields, but rather the expertise has been transferred to non-Muslims. Here I am not talking about the main issues such as Aqeedah or Fiqh, where non-Muslims also claim to be scholars, but rather about matters such as the designing of Islamic clothes, the study of Islamic architecture, the formulation of musk formulas, and so forth. Of course, these are definitely not on the same level as the primary matters of Islam, but they do show to what an extent the interest of the Muslims in “native Islamic concerns” has actually fallen.

321.        We see a huge number of problems have come up in the Muslim Ummah due to the desire to oppose rulers who are deemed by us to have fallen off of the Islamic ideal. I will not comment on it from a Fiqhi point of view, but I think this has some connection with a new corollary doctrine that has surfaced in our times within Twelver Shiaism of all places, which I call the “Bolshevikization of Imam Hussayn”. So it is a type of amalgamation between what occurred to Imam Hussayn (RAA) and his martyrdom, combined with the zeal to stage revolutions right and left just like the zeal of early Communists, so as to bring forth a “new world order” in as many places as possible.

However, from what I can see, this is obviously a rotten quasi-ideology as far as Islam is concerned, since it has many of the hallmarks of Khawaarijism – ironically the very antithesis of Shiaism. And what we see is that the proponents of revolutions and revolts amongst the Shia (or let us say, those Shias who have in recent history supported the overthrow of governments and the subversion of the status quo) have a very narrow set of goals and objectives, and this is laid out bare for all to see when we consider that many of the revolts currently taking place are to the detriment of the Twelver Shia ideology and are in fact directed against their allies.

Thus, the irony is that even though the Twelver Shia centers called on the people (Sunnis and Shias) to rise against what they termed as “puppet governments”, yet the result of such uprisings and revolts may be a net negative for Shia interests. And it is clear that such was always a real possibility, since once an uprising is on its way, there is no telling how it will end, or rather, we can say that in most cases, only chaos and destruction are the guaranteed results of such uprisings.

And besides, one has to really wonder what the Khomeinyst doctrine seeks to achieve by encouraging revolutions within lands where the percentage of Sunnis is very high, and where the stereotyping of Shias with negative qualities is very well entrenched within the popular psyche (there are negatives to such caricature-type of thinking, but this is not the current discussion). In such cases, whatever the “autocracies” may be doing to Shias or to the Khomeinyst doctrine is much more limited and contained than what would take place if the chaos of revolution is unleashed. And again, this is because of the simple fact that revolts bring forth destruction to one and all, and unless the ‘revolt’ is truly engineered from certain sources, it is extremely difficult to contain its end results.

322.        A point mentioned is that we have very flashy poetry (and by extension, prose, speeches, etc.), and this does show the prowess of the author or speaker, but it will definitely diminish the intensity and impact that the text can have on the hearts of people. So it would be more a matter of showing off what one can do, rather than of trying to establish anything that will truly impact the masses.

323.        As mentioned, one reason why Arabic is a better language for the expression of the linguistic miracle is that most of its words are based on triliteral roots, which is a middle path between the extremes of biliteral roots, or roots with more than 3 letters: For example, had most words been derived from mostly biliteral roots, there would have been much repetition in the letters one pronounces, and if the roots would have normally been more than three, then the quantity of letters for each word would have become cumbersome. This is especially so when we consider the many added-on modes of a word, and how four or five letter roots would have unfolded in this context, had they been the major component of the Arabic language.

324.        It is mentioned that the languages of other nations have certain natural difficulties when it comes to flexibility (such as in terms of too much repetition of letters or words, etc.), and this is one reason why the challenge of the Qur’an and concomitantly its miracle was best expressible in the Arabic idiom.

325.        Mention is made of how the expert knows the types of poems that a certain poet might compose, just as an expert in handwriting would know the handwriting of a given person after studying the sheet, and through this can detect forgeries, etc. It is obvious that mistakes can also be made by the experts in certain cases, but it would be difficult for the mistakes to persist for an incredibly long period of time: This is why when the experts of Arabic prose and poetry at the dawn of Islam basically enunciated that they could not explain the Qur’an through the natural means of written composition, then this is something that cannot be discarded as being the conclusion of simpletons.

It is also seen that even in the case of a relatively obscure poet or writer (i.e. unknown to the masses), there will still be certain hints that make his work known to the experts, even though his personal style may be an amalgamation of the styles of previous writers, poets, or orators (and it is also known whether this new poet liked to take from one previous poet in particular, or from a collection of poets). Again, some confusion may be there in certain comparably small areas, but this would not extend to an entire large work.

And the reason mentioned is that there is not a great divergence between the different eras, writers and poets, so much so that one who studies the matter properly and seriously would be totally confused (in normal cases) as to the probable origins of any piece of writing or poetry he might find.