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By Ali in ShiaChat.com Blog[This will be a series of blog entries on the history of ShiaChat.com; how it was founded, major ups and down, politics and issues behind running such a site and of course, the drama! I will also provide some feedback on development efforts, new features and future goals and objectives]
Part 1 - The IRC (#Shia) Days!
Sit children, gather around and let me speak to you of tales of times before there was ever high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi, YouTube or Facebook; a time when the Internet was a much different place and 15 yearold me was still trying to make sense of it all.
In the 90s, the Internet was a very different place; no social media, no video streaming and downloading an image used to take anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on how fast your 14.4k monster-sized dial-up modem was. Of course you also had to be lucky enough for your mom to have the common courtesy not to disconnect you when you’re in the middle of a session; that is if you were privileged enough to have Internet at home and not have to spend hours at school or libraries, or looking for AOL discs with 30 hour free trials..(Breathe... breathe... breathe) - I digress.
Back in 1998 when Google was still a little computer sitting in Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s basement, I was engaged in endless debates with our Sunni brothers on an IRC channel called #Shia. (Ok, a side note here for all you little pups. This is not read as Hashtag Shia, the correct way of reading this is “Channel Shia”. The “Hashtag” was a much cooler thing back in the day than the way you young’uns use it today).
For those of you who don’t know what IRC was (or is... as it still exists), it stands for Internet Relay Chat, which are servers available that you could host chat rooms in and connect through a client. It was like the Wild West where anyone can go and “found” their own channel (chat room), become an operator and reign down their god-like dictator powers upon the minions that were to join as a member of their chat room. Luckily, #Shia had already been established for a few years before by a couple of brothers I met from Toronto, Canada (Hussain A. and Mohammed H.). Young and eager, I quickly rose up the ranks to become a moderator (@Ali) and the chatroom quickly became an important part of my adolescent years. I learned everything I knew from that channel and met some of the most incredible people. Needless to say, I spent hours and dedicated a good portion of my life on the chatroom; of course, the alternate was school and work but that was just boring to a 15-year-old.
In the 90’s, creating a website was just starting to be cool so I volunteered to create a website for #Shia to advertise our services, who we are, what we do as well as have a list of moderators and administrators that have volunteered to maintain #Shia. As a result, #Shia’s first website was hosted on a friend’s server under the URL http://786-110.co.uk/shia/ - yes, ShiaChat.com as a domain did not exist yet – was too expensive for my taste so we piggybacked on one of our member’s servers and domain name.
The channel quickly became popular, so popular that we sometimes outnumbered our nemesis, #Islam. As a result, our moderator team was growing as well and we needed a website with an application that would help us manage our chatroom in a more efficient style. Being a global channel, it was very hard to do “shift transfers” and knowledge transfers between moderators as the typical nature of a chatroom is the fact that when a word is typed, its posted and its gone after a few seconds – this quickly became a pain point for us trying to maintain a list of offenders to keep an eye out for and have it all maintained in a historical, easily accessible way.
A thought occurred to me. Why not start a “forum” for the moderators to use? The concept of “forums” or discussion boards was new to the Internet – it was the seed of what we call social media today. The concept of having a chat-style discussion be forever hosted online and be available for everyone to view and respond to at any time from anywhere was extremely well welcomed by the Internet users. I don’t recall what software or service I initially used to set that forum up, but I did – with absolutely no knowledge that the forum I just set up was a tiny little acorn that would one day be the oak tree that is ShiaChat.com.
[More to follow, Part 2..]
So who here is still around from the good old #Shia IRC days?
By Ibn al-Hussain in Just Another Muslim BloggerOriginal source: http://www.iqraonline.net/allamah-tabatabai-treatment-different-readings-quran/
One of the most extensive and important discussions within Qurānic studies is regarding its variant readings (qirā’āt). The readings are generally discussed within commentaries themselves and even within historical discussions regarding the collection and transmission of the Qurān. Utilizing a 25-page research paper titled Rawish Shināsi Ruyikard ‘Allāmeh Ṭabāṭabā’ī Dar Ikhtilāf Qirā’āt by Muḥamad Khāmehgar of Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, we will look at how ‘Allāmah Ṭabāṭabā’ī treats these different readings in his seminal work Tafsīr al-Mīzān.
‘Allāmah discusses or points out differences in readings in around 160 places. These remarks include the following:
Differences in vowels and diacritics on words: 72 times Differences in the type of letters or their quantity: 42 times Differences in the formation of a word, or in its root-word, or in it being singular or plural, or in it being in passive or active voice, or which paradigm from thulāthī mazīd the word is from: 36 times Differences in one or more words being extra: 4 times Differences in a word present in a place of another word: 6 times Differences in a word missing: 0 times Differences in words being moved around: 0 times Differences in a sentence being added or removed: 0 times In the first 3 cases, there is no discrepency between the text of the codex and its recitation. However, in the fourth case when there is an extra word in one of the recitations, ‘Allāmah either rejects it – like in the case of (8:1) يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْأَنفَالِ which has also been recited as يَسْأَلُونَكَ الْأَنفَال, or he considers it to be an exegesis done in the middle of the verse like in the case of:
(20:15) إِنَّ السَّاعَةَ آتِيَةٌ أَكَادُ أُخْفِيهَا لِتُجْزَىٰ كُلُّ نَفْسٍ بِمَا تَسْعَىٰ It has been reported that Ibn ‘Abbās and Imām al-Ṣādiq (a) recited the verse as follows: أَكَادُ أُخْفِيهَا عن نفسي. ‘Allāmah considers this addition to be a commentary.
In the fifth case where a word is present in place of another word, ‘Allāmah considers five of those instances to be commentaries. One of those instances is a recitation attributed to Ibn ‘Umar, which ‘Allāmah considers to be made up by Ibn ‘Umar himself. The verse is:
(65:1) يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِذَا طَلَّقْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَطَلِّقُوهُنَّ لِعِدَّتِهِنَّ where Ibn ‘Umar replaced the preposition li on ‘iddatihinna and replaced it with a fi qabl:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ إِذَا طَلَّقْتُمُ النِّسَاءَ فَطَلِّقُوهُنَّ في قبل عِدَّتِهِنَّ.
The Reading of Ḥafṣ from ‘Āṣim
Some Qurān experts – such as Āyatullah Hādi Ma’rifat (d. 2007) – believe that the only reading that has a sound chain of transmission and all the Muslims have considered it reliable is the reading of Ḥafṣ. Ḥafṣ learned the reading from his teacher ‘Āṣim who learned it from Abū ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī (d. 74 AH) who took it from Imām ‘Alī (a). They say that this reading is not based on the personal ijtihād of Ḥafṣ rather it was passed down to him through a transmission which is directly connected to Imām ‘Alī (a) and ultimately the Prophet (p).
How strong the argument of the aforementioned scholars is can be investigated in a different article altogether, but what is important to note here is that ‘Allāmah Ṭabāṭabāī considered the reading of Ḥafṣ like the rest of the readings. He did not believe this reading to have any preference over the other recitations and considers it to be ijtihādī like the rest of them. He simply deems the reading of Ḥafṣ to be the popular reading but did not believe that going against it implies going against the recitation of the Prophet (p) or the Imām (a).
Although, we cannot deny that the primary reading employed by ‘Allāmah in his al-Mīzān is that of Ḥafṣ’, he has not preferred this reading over the rest of them in every case. We will look at some of these cases where ‘Allāmah preferred the reading of Ḥafṣ over other recitations and what he based his preference on, as well as cases where he preferred another reading over that of Ḥafṣ’ and what he based his preference on.
Preference of Ḥafṣ Over Other Readings
In some cases, ‘Allāmah prefers Ḥafṣ over other recitations, not due to the popularity or probative force of the reading, but due to other specified reasons.
1) In (2:222) وَلَا تَقْرَبُوهُنَّ حَتَّىٰ يَطْهُرْنَ, ‘Allamah prefers the pronunciation Yaṭhurna يَطْهُرْنَ – which happens to be the popular reading – over Yaṭṭahurna يَطَّهُرْنَ which was how the people of Kūfa recited it, except Ḥafṣ. The reason for this preference is a number of traditions that imply that the recitation is Yaṭhurna, instead of Yaṭṭahurna.
2) In (2:260) فَخُذْ أَرْبَعَةً مِّنَ الطَّيْرِ فَصُرْهُنَّ إِلَيْكَ, the word fa-ṣurhunna has been recited in two ways. The famous recitation of it is fa-ṣurhunna فَصُرْهُنَّ, whereas Abū Ja’far, Ḥamzah, Khalaf and Ruways who narrates from Ya’qūb have all recited this word as fa-ṣirhunna. ‘Allāmah says since this word, when pronounced with a ḍammah, means to cut or chop, it has become muta’addī with the preposition ilaafter it to also take into consideration the meaning of calling something towards oneself.
3) In (10:21) إِنَّ رُسُلَنَا يَكْتُبُونَ مَا تَمْكُرُونَ, the word tamkurūn تَمْكُرُونَ has been recited as yamkurūnيَمْكُرُونَ by some reciters like Zayd who took from Ya’qūb and Sahl. ‘Allāmah prefers the popular recitation citing the concept of grammatical shift (iltifāt) in the Qurān and says that the popular recitation is more eloquent with respect to the meaning intended.
Preference of Other Readings Over Ḥafṣ
‘Allāmah’s approach to the different readings of the Qurān and preferring one reading over the other is based on the siyāq (loosely translated as context) of the verses, alibis from the aḥādīth literature, grammatical rules and as well as other factors. That being the case, in some instances we find ‘Allāmah preferring the reading of a reciter other than that of Ḥafṣ’. What is interesting to note is that in no instance does ‘Allāmah say that the meaning signified in the reading of Ḥafṣ is necessarily wrong or incorrect, rather he simply believes that the other recitation is better and more harmonious. As a matter of fact, in one case he even says that both recitations are perfectly correct.
At times we find that ‘Allāmah prefers the readings of one of the 7 famous reciters over Ḥafṣ while other times we find him to prefer the readings of one of the non-famous reciters over Ḥafṣ.
The 7-famous reciters are:
‘Abdullah b. ‘Āmir al-Dimashqī (d. 118 AH) ‘Abdullah b. Kathīr al-Makkī (d. 120 AH) Āṣim b. Bahdalah (d.127 AH) – whose main transmitter was Ḥafṣ Abū ‘Amr b. ‘Alā (d. 154 AH) Ḥamzah al-Kūfī (d.156 AH) Nāfi’ al-Madanī (d. 169 AH) al-Kisāī (d. 189 AH) Some cases where ‘Allāmah prefers one of these reciters over Āsim’s are as follows:
1) Āṣim and Kisāī have recited the word mālik مَالِك in (1:4) مَالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّينِ with an alif, whereas the rest of the reciters have recited it without an alif – as malik مَلِك. ‘Allāmah prefers the recitation of malikover mālik because it has been added on to a concept of time – yawm al-dīn.
2) In (8:59) وَلَا يَحْسَبَنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَبَقُوا ۚ إِنَّهُمْ لَا يُعْجِزُونَ the verb la yaḥsabanna لا يَحْسَبَنَّ has been recited with a yā in third-person, but Ibn Kathīr, Abū ‘Amr, Nāfi’ and Kisāī have read it with a tā which would make it a second-person verb. ‘Allāmah prefers the second-person reading not only because it is more popular, but also due to the context of the verses after this one, as they are addressing the Prophet (p).
3) Regarding (48:9) لِّتُؤْمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَتُعَزِّرُوهُ وَتُوَقِّرُوهُ وَتُسَبِّحُوهُ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا, ‘Allāmah says that the popular recitation of this verse pronounces all the verbs in second-person with a tā, but Ibn Kathīr and Abū ‘Amr have recited it in third-person with a yā. He says that the reading of the latter two is more appropriate since it is in line with the context of the verse.
In some cases, we find ‘Allāmah preferring the reading of one of the non-famous reciters over that of Ḥafṣ’. For example, in (26:13) وَيَضِيقُ صَدْرِي وَلَا يَنطَلِقُ لِسَانِي all the 7 famous reciters read the words yaḍīqu يَضِيقُ and yanṭaliqu يَنْطَلِقُ in the state of raf’ with a ḍamma, however Ya’qūb b. Isḥāq recites these two verbs in the state of naṣb with a fatḥa (يَضِيقَ and يَنْطَلِقَ). ‘Allāmah prefers the recitation of Ya’qūb because it is more in line with the meaning intended.
Not Preferring any Reading Over Another
In a majority of cases ‘Allāmah does not prefer one reading over another. Instead, he reiterates that both recitals are correct and justifiable. This also implies that ‘Allāmah does not restrict himself to the recitation of Ḥafṣ in his commentary simply because it happens to be a popular reading or go out of his way to invalidate other recitations simply because they aren’t popular. In fact, it shows that ‘Allāmah considered other recitations to be just as valid and strong as the recitation of Ḥafṣ.
As an example, in (2:37) فَتَلَقَّىٰ آدَمُ مِن رَّبِّهِ كَلِمَاتٍ Ibn Kathīr recites Ādam in a state of naṣb and Kalimāt in a state of raf’, while Ibn ‘Āmir recites it the opposite way. ‘Allāmah cites both recitations and does not prefer one over another and says that the meaning will remain the same in either case.
In (2:126) قَالَ وَمَن كَفَرَ فَأُمَتِّعُهُ قَلِيلًا, the word umatti’uhu which is on the paradigm of taf’īl, has also been recited as umti’uhu on the paradigm of if’āl. Since both tamtī’ and imtā’ have the same meaning, he refrains from preferring one over the other.
In (26:36) قَالُوا أَرْجِهْ وَأَخَاهُ, the word arjih أرْجِهْ has been recited as 1) arji’hu أرْجِئهُ with a hamzahbetween the jīm and the pronoun hā and with a ḍammah on the hā, 2) the people of Medīna and Kisāī and Khalaf recited it as arjihi أرْجِهِ without a hamzah and with a kasra on the hā, and 3) Āṣim and Ḥamzah recited it as arjih أرْجِهْ without a hamzah, but with a sukūn on the hā.
After mentioning all the different recitations for this word, ‘Allāmah says that the first two recitations are more eloquent than the third recitation which happens to be the popular one, although all three recitations have the same meaning.
In other situations, we find ‘Allāmah not commenting on the different readings at all. Perhaps this was done simply to point the reader to the fact that there exists another recitation that is equally strong and justifiable as Ḥafṣ’. Or perhaps he may have felt that the recitation of Ḥafṣ in a particular verse was not as strong, but did not find enough reason to prefer any of the other recitations over it either. For example, in (2:283) وَلَمْ تَجِدُوا كَاتِبًا فَرِهَانٌ مَّقْبُوضَةٌ he says that the word rihān in this verse has also been pronounced as ruhun which is the plural for rahn. Both words have the same meaning and ‘Allāmah refrains from commenting on them any further.
In some cases, even though ‘Allāmah has not preferred any recitation over another, he has made use of the difference in reading to expand on the meaning of the verse. Regarding verse (2:219) يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ ۖ قُلْ فِيهِمَا إِثْمٌ كَبِيرٌ he writes that the word kabīr (great) has also been recited as kathīr (a lot). When explaining the harms of alcohol and gambling he says that their harms are both great and a lot.
When it comes to the numerous reports in which a recitation has been attributed to one of the Imāms (a), ‘Allāmah takes the same approach as he does with the other readings. If these traditions and the readings do not meet the criteria for acceptance, they are not to be taken. He writes that the Shī’a do not consider rare readings to be probative, even if they are attributed to the Imāms. When it comes to traditions that attribute a certain way of reading to the Imāms (a), he divides these set of traditions into two, narrations that are specifically a reading of a verse, and narrations that are exegetical.
Narrations that are specifically a reading of a verse are traditions that are in line with the text of the Qurānic codex and rules of grammar. The readings of the text themselves are then either in accordance with one of the famous readings or against them. Traditions in which these readings are not the same as any of the famous readings are either those in which either the vowel placement is different or the letters of a word is different or something similar to that extent. In these cases, ‘Allāmah treats these readings like the rest of the famous recitations and puts them to the same standard of scrutiny before preferring one over another.
As an example, in (13:31) أَفَلَمْ يَيْأَسِ, the famous recitation is a fa lam yay’as, but it has been reported that Imām ‘Alī (a), Ibn ‘Abbās, ‘Alī b. al-Ḥusayn (a), Zayd b. ‘Alī, Ja’far b. Muḥammad (a), Ibn Abī Malīkah and Abū Yazīd al-Madanī all recited it as a fa lam yatabayyan. However, ‘Allāmah says that the famous and accepted recitation is a fa lam yay’as.
In a subsequent post, we will look at the role of these different readings and how ‘Allāmah used them to either defend his own interpretation or at times allow multiple meanings for a given verse.
 Al-Mīzān, vol. 7, pg. 271
 Ibid, vol. 2, pg. 322
 Ṭabrasī, Majma’ al-Bayān, vol. 2, pg. 642
 Al-Mīzān, vol. 2, pg. 375
 Ṭabrasī, vol. 5, pg. 151
 Al-Mīzān, vol. 10, pg. 49
 Ibid, vol. 1, pg. 204
 Ibid, vol. 1, pg. 33 and 142
 Ibid, vol. 9, pg. 150
 Ibid, vol. 18, pg. 408
 Ibid, vol. 15, pg. 360
 Ibid, vol. 1, pg. 204
 Ibid, vol. 1, pg. 426
 Ibid, vol. 15, pg. 382
 Ibid, vol. 2, pg. 668
 Ibid, vol. 2, pg. 289
 Ibid, vol. 4, pg. 476
 Ibid, vol. 11, pg. 505
By starlight in Light BeamsPart II A Detailed Description of the Method and Way of Godward Wayfaring
My notes on the book's content. I had to reformat and reduce the size of file to meet the specifications of the forum. Hopefully this image will be readable after zooming.
By starlight in Light BeamsMy notes on the book's content
Here is the link to the book https://www.al-islam.org/al-tawhid/vol13-no4/lubb-al-lubab-short-treatise-wayfaring-s-m-husayn-husayni
PART I A Brief Description of the Realms Preceding the World of Khulus
By Qa'im in ImamologyAllah has placed important symbols in our religion that we must seek to understand.
The word "hijab" appears seven times in the Quran. In 7:46, the hijab is a "barrier" that divides Paradise from the Fire. In 19:16-17, Mary "secludes" herself from her family to devote herself to God in solitude. In 33:53, a "screen" protects the Prophet's wives from onlookers. In 41:5, a "barrier" prevents the disbelievers from heartfelt belief. In 42:51, a "veil" prevents Allah from being seen by those He reveals to. In 17:45, a "partition" prevents the disbelievers from comprehending the Quran. In 38:32, a "curtain" prevents Solomon from seeking his prescribed prayers.
The Quran never refers to the Muslim headdress as a hijab. In our traditional literature, the garment is instead referred to as a khimar, a jilbab, or a kisa'. So this begs the question: what is a hijab in Islamic terminology? A hijab primarily is a barrier that prevents or protects one thing from another. It can be both physical (like a curtain) or metaphysical. A physical hijab may be a simple covering that prevents unwanted access to an object or a person - much like the curtain that would prevent strange men from seeing the Prophet's wives. A metaphysical hijab could be an attitude that a person has - like Mary's seclusion from her people, or like the "social hijab" that prevents unnecessary mixing between men and women. But a metaphysical hijab can also be a boundary that Allah has set between two things.
The precious pearl hides inside the oyster's mysterious shell. In all instances, the hijab protects something of value from those who have not demonstrated a sincerity to it. It prevents both intentional and accidental harm from coming to the object of value. Only those who have demonstrated a sincerity to the gem beyond the barrier can access its excellence. For example, faith, which is a precious light of Paradise ( الايمان في الجنة ), can only be attained by those who seek it and are open to its reception. If one is insincere to faith, a barrier will be put up to protect it from him, preventing him from its understanding and its benefits. Furthermore, inner understandings of the Quran cannot be attained by a cursory reading of it - the esoteric can only be gained by deep reflection and devotion. Through this hijab, God protects the most priceless secrets from the misunderstanding and misuse of those who seek to abuse them.
Likewise, even the hijab (both physical and social) of a woman from a stranger protects her from complete objectification. The only ones that can access her feminine energy, her motherhood, her personality, and her physical beauty are (1) her direct relatives, or (2) a man who has sought her expressed consent, the permission of her guardian, and has devoted himself to her sustenance. Once that sincerity is established, the barriers are gradually removed, one after the other, and the sincere man becomes overwhelmed at her marvel.
The hijab is a Sunna of Allah. It is something that He Himself has enacted, both upon Himself and upon others. Allah has been inclined to put veils in His creation and His religion (الله ستار يحب الستر). He has also created veils for Himself - He created seven veils of light between Himself and the creation ( إن الله خلق السماوات سبعاً والأرضين سبعاً والحجب سبعاً ). This light is said to inspire the creation with His greatness, His guidance, and His love ( لما اسري بي إلى السماء بلغ بي جبرئيل مكانا لم يطأه قط جبرئيل فكشف له فأراه الله من نور عظمته ما أحب ). The purpose of these veils is twofold: (1) to prevent His recognition and His presence from the insincere disbelievers, and (2) to manifest His signs to those who recognize Him. Allah's veils are the epitome example for veiling in Islam - they both prevent and inspire. All other hijabs are a symbol of His ultimate and primordial hijab - a hijab is to be beautiful, inspiring guidance and awe, but also purposeful in providing the security of an object or an idea.
Allah's essence is a mystery. It cannot be compared to anything, and it is contrary to all that comes to mind. The divine mystery of God's nature is called "the secret" (al-sir) in our literature. One of the roles of the Guide is to protect this secret from corruption - meaning, to prevent the people from generating a polytheistic understandings of Allah's nature. The Guide goes through extra trouble to make sure that God's mystery is kept with distance to prevent it from being defiled. Pure monotheism is their priority.
At the same time, Allah has one more very important luminous hijab: the Prophet Muhammad (s). In al-Kafi, the Prophet is called the hijab of Allah ( محمد حجاب الله تبارك وتعالى ), and the same is said in Tafsir al-`Ayashi ( بمحمد صلى الله عليه وآله تطمئن وهو ذكر الله وحجابه ). This is because the Prophet is the ultimate guardian of Allah's essence, protecting monotheistic theology from any and all corruption. Indeed, the Prophet was raised beyond all of Allah's other veils of light during the mi`raj ( فلمّا اُسرى بالنبيّ ( صلّى الله عليه وآله ) فكان من ربّه كقاب قوسين أو أدنى رفع له حجاب من حجبه فكبّر رسول الل ), and was brought closer to Allah than any other creation. The Prophet also fulfills the other function of God's light hijabs, which is to guide and to inspire the creation to God. Everything about his form and his personality has been made for us to approach Allah and understand His attributes better. He is called "the Reminder" (al-Dhikr) because he is the ultimate proof of Allah and His most luminous light. It is not a coincidence that the Ahl al-Kisa' are the "People of the Cloak" - they are a sacred and primordial union that simultaneously protect the hidden and manifest the wisdom of God.
Likewise, Lady Fatima put extra veils between her and those who had oppressed her - she wrapped her scarf around her head, covered herself in her cloak, surrounded herself with her family, stepped on the ends of her dress, and placed a curtain before her and the Caliphal elites ( لما أجمع أبوبكر وعمر على منع فاطمة عليها السلام فدكا و بلغها ذلك لاثت خمارها على رأسها و اشتملت بجلبابها وأقبلت في لمةٍ من حفدتها ونساء قومها تطأ ذيولها ما تخرم مشيتها مشية رسول الله ( ص ) حتى دخلت على أبي بكر وهو في حشد من المهاجرين والأنصار وغيرهم فنيطت دونها ملاءة فجلست ).
It is important that we do not just relegate this beautiful concept of hijab to a headdress. A headdress without the intention and practice of hijab is just another piece of cloth. But a modest dress can be a small part of a larger, more meaningful dynamic. We are to carry out the hijab in all of our practices: we cover our good deeds, we protect our family members from insincere people, we protect the secrets of Ahl al-Bayt from their enemies, we recognize that the hidden intentions are more important than the apparent actions, we seek the esoteric understandings of our religion, and we recognize the limits in both theology and in society.
May Allah plant the needed humility in the garden of our hearts, so that the veil of occultation is lifted between us and our Imam for a nourishing relationship with him.
By Ibn al-Hussain in Just Another Muslim BloggerMiraculousness of the Qurān – Doctrine of al-Ṣarfah – A Historical Overview (Part 6)
Original source: http://www.iqraonline.net/miraculousness-of-the-quran-doctrine-of-al-ṣarfah-a-historical-overview-part-6/
In our previous post, we went over a brief description of the doctrine of al-Ṣarfah. In this post, we want to see what critiques were established against this doctrine by Muslim scholars. I will summarize some of the major arguments against the doctrine and leave out some of the rebuttals which I felt were repetitive and were essentially saying the same thing as another argument. As you will come to realize, some of these rebuttals are impressive and proponents of al-Ṣarfah would need to respond to them accordingly, but some other rebuttals have blatant flaws in them or are based on presumptions that not all proponents of al-Ṣarfah even accepted. Though, I will not be discussing the strength or weakness of any of these rebuttals and will leave it up to the reader to further investigate and contemplate over this very crucial discussion.
Scholars have listed out a wide range of critiques on the doctrine, some list up to 12 rebuttals, others 7, and some only 1 or 2. The nature of these rebuttals also depends on who they are being addressed to. As mentioned in the previous post, there are multiple definitions and interpretations of the doctrine itself, so even though some rebuttals may be applicable to all interpretations, many others may only be targetting a specific definition or even a specific proponent of the doctrine. In this post I have sufficed with 8 critiques, combining some of the rebuttals I felt were essentially saying the same thing.
1. If the miracle of the Qurān was something external to it, rather than internal, then God would not have challenged the Arabs to bring something like it. Instead, God would have informed them that He has forcibly prevented them from bringing anything like it.
2. al-Khaṭṭābī (d. 388 AH / 998 CE) and some others argue that even though theoretically speaking the view of al-Ṣarfah sounds valid, its greatest problem is that it goes against the apparent meaning of some of the verses of the Qurān. One of the main verses cited is:
قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الْإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَىٰ أَن يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لَا يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا
[17:88] Say, “If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants.”
These scholars argue that this verse cannot be understood correctly if one were to believe in al-Ṣarfah – which is an external barrier. The challenge in this verse is related to an act that has been described as being exhaustive and a task that requires a lot of effort. Such is the extent of this effort that all of mankind and the jinn would need to gather together to even begin fulfilling it. Despite that, they will fail at it. This implies that the miracle of the Qurān is something internal to it because the notion of al-Ṣarfah – at least one understanding of it – implies that humans have been externally prevented from bringing anything like the Qurān and there is no real motivation or effort required to attempt to bring anything like it.
There are other verses in the Qurān that are also cited by different scholars to argue that the miracle of it is innate to it. For example:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَا تَسْمَعُوا لِهَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ وَالْغَوْا فِيهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَغْلِبُونَ
[41:26] And those who disbelieve say, “Do not listen to this Qur’an and speak noisily during [the recitation of] it that perhaps you will overcome.”
This verse implies that the disbelievers knew the words of the Qurān itself had something miraculous about it, or else they would not have asked others to not listen to it or interrupt its recitation. This is as far as its impact on the disbelievers is concerned. However, in another verse we see that the verses of the Qurān also impacted the believers:
اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا مُّتَشَابِهًا مَّثَانِيَ تَقْشَعِرُّ مِنْهُ جُلُودُ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ ثُمَّ تَلِينُ جُلُودُهُمْ وَقُلُوبُهُمْ إِلَىٰ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ هُدَى اللَّهِ يَهْدِي بِهِ مَن يَشَاءُ ۚ وَمَن يُضْلِلِ اللَّهُ فَمَا لَهُ مِنْ هَادٍ
[39:23] Allah has sent down the best statement: a consistent Book wherein is reiteration. The skins shiver therefrom of those who fear their Lord; then their skins and their hearts relax at the remembrance of Allah. That is the guidance of Allah by which He guides whom He wills. And one whom Allah leaves astray – for him there is no guide.
3. ‘Abdul Qāhir al-Jurjānī (d. 471 AH), Zarkashī (d. 794 AH) in his al-Burhān and Suyūtī (d. 911 AH) all argue that if the doctrine of al-Ṣarfah was true, then as time passes by, people would learn the ability to bring something like the Qurān. As such, it would no longer remain a miracle. This is all the while there is a theological consensus by Muslims that the Qurān is an eternal miracle.
Note that one of the presumptions of this rebuttal is that the challenge to bring something like the Qurān has been understood to be limited to the time of the Prophet (p) himself.
4. Those who say that al-Ṣarfah is the notion of God preventing the Arabs from acquiring knowledge required to bring something like the Qurān, then a question remains as to why we do not find any historical reports of Arabs complaining about their lack of knowledge regarding these matters, or why did none of the eloquent ones at the time of the Prophet (p) even attempt to bring anything like it – albeit failed attempts?
5. ‘Abdul Qāhir al-Jurjānī claims that if the doctrine of al-Ṣarfah was correct, then why do we find the Arabs themselves astonished and confused by the eloquence and clarity of the Qurān. This matter is unanimously agreed upon by the historians and numerous historical reports exist describing the shocking state of some of the disbelievers, such as Walīd b. Mughīrah and ‘Utbah b. Rabī’ah, when they heard some of the verses being recited. If the verses were not miraculous, even if they were highly eloquent, this should not have been a reason for them to be shocked and astonished to such a degree, since the Arabs were already well accustomed to highly eloquent speech before the revelation of the Qurān.
If the miracle of the Qurān was that their knowledge had been taken away from them, then their astonishment should have been concerning the fact that previously they the ability to produce speech similar to the Qurān, but after its revelation, they were unable to do so.
6. In the previous post, we mentioned that one of Sayyid al-Murtaḍa’s justification for al-Ṣarfah was that the verses of the Qurān are merely a combination of letters and words, something every human is inherently capable of doing. If someone is not able to bring something like the Qurān, it only means that people do not have enough knowledge do so, not that the order of the words itself is miraculous.
‘Allāmah Ṭabāṭabāī summarizes this argument in his Tafsīr al-Mīzān and then begins a lengthy response to it. I will quote just two excerpts from his response and the readers can refer to the complete rebuttal in the English translation of al-Mīzān available online. He writes:
It is a fallacious argument that as the language is a product of human ingenuity, it can never reach a level which would be beyond the grasp or ability of human beings; language, being a product, cannot be more powerful than its producer. The fallacy lies in the fact that what has been invented by man is simple words for particular meanings. But this congruity of the words with their meanings does not teach the man how to arrange those words, how to plan, draft and deliver a talk in the best possible way — in a way that the talk reflects the beauty of the meaning as it is in the mind, and the meaning in its turn becomes a mirror of the reality, remains in complete agreement with the fact. It requires a dexterity in the art of eloquence, an adroitness in elocution; also it depends on sharp intelligence and comprehensive knowledge so that the speaker may be fully cognizant of all aspects of the subject matter. It is this skill and knowledge that differs from man to man, and creates difference between talk and talk in their respective perfection and beauty.
To come back to the main objection: Accepted that language has been made by men. But it does not mean that there cannot be found a piece of literature that is beyond the reach of the very men who made the language. Otherwise, we would have to say that a sword-maker must be the bravest of all the swordsmen, the inventor of chess or lute must be the most accomplished chess-master or lutanist!
Āyatullah Jawādī Āmulī in volume 1 of his thematical exegesis offers a similar critique to Sayyid al-Murtaḍa. To summarize his argument, he says that eloquence and clarity of speech is based on three pillars, namely, one’s relative knowledge with respect to what exists, the ability to produce words and use them to signify their specific meanings, and thirdly to be able to use those words collectively in an appropriate fashion to convey a meaning to someone. Humans have complete control over the second pillar, but their command over the first and third pillar is limited. This is because the realities are too many to enumerate and most humans possess only some knowledge regarding them, while others – like the infallibles – may possess all knowledge about them. As for what words should be used and how they should be used, then this goes back to human experience and one’s taste of the language. It does not exist for everyone because it is linked to the domain of the practical intellect and humans are highly different from one another in this regard. This is similar to the skill of writing poetry, which some are excellent in, while others have no ability to write anything poetic.
So even if humans coined words for different meanings, these are to be considered tools by which eloquent speech can be produced. It by no means necessitates that they themselves can also produce the highest level of eloquence or that eloquence cannot reach a level of miraculousness.
7. The doctrine of al-Ṣarfah suggests that the Qurān challenged the people to bring something like it, but if they ever intended to do so, an external barrier would prevent them from it. However, this implies that if a person does not intend to go head-to-head with the Qurān and is not intending on taking on the Qurānic challenge, then there is nothing stopping them from bringing something like the Qurān. This is because the external barrier is for those who intend on challenging the Qurānic miracle.
Of course, this rebuttal will only work for those proponents of al-Ṣarfah who believe that the external barrier is limited to those who consciously intend on taking on the Qurānic challenge.
8. From a Shī’ī perspective, one argument against al-Ṣarfah is seeing what the infallible Imāms (a) after the Prophet (p) have said about the Qurān. Some traditions very clearly signify that the miracle of the Qurān was internal to it and not an external barrier. The Imāms never seem to have alluded to the book’s miraculous aspect being that which the proponents of al-Ṣarfah claim. Rather if there is any mention of the Qurānic miracle and its accompanying challenge, their words always seem to imply that it was something innate to it. One such tradition is in volume 1 of Uṣūl al-Kāfī, ḥadīth #20:
Al-Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad narrated from Aḥmad b. Muḥammad al-Sayyārī from Abū Ya’qūb al-Baghdādī who said:
Ibn Sikkīt asked Abū al-Ḥasan (al-Kāẓim), ‘Why did Allah send Mūsa b. ‘Imrān (a) with a miracle that appeared through his staff, his hand and through tools of magic, and He sent ‘Īsa with the miracle that appeared through tools of medicine, and He sent Muḥammad (p) with means of speech and sermons?’
Abū al-Ḥasan (a) replied: ‘When Allah sent forth Mūsa (a), magic was popular amongst the people. So he brought something against them from Allah which they did not have the capacity to counter. He was given that by which he invalidated their magic and established the truth against them.
Allah sent ‘Īsa (a) at a time when serious illnesses existed amongst the people and they needed medical treatment. So he brought something for them from Allah which the people did not have. He was given the ability to bring the dead back to life, cure the sick and the lepers by the permission of Allah and thus, establish the truth against them.
Allah sent Muḥammad (p) at a time when oratory and speech were popular amongst the people – and I think he said poetry as well. From the good advice and wisdom that he brought to them from Allah, he invalidated their words and established the truth against them.’
Ibn al-Sikkīt said, ‘I swear by Allah I have never seen anyone like you. What is the proof amongst people today to establish the truth?’ The Imam replied, ‘It is the intellect. Through it, one recognizes those who speak the truth regarding Allah, and thus affirms them, and through it, one recognizes those who lie regarding Allah, and thus negates them.” Ibn al-Sikkīt then said, “This by Allah is the answer.”
This tradition implies that the Qurānic miracle was similar to the miracles brought by the previous Prophets (p) as far as it was related to what was popular at the time. Given that eloquent oratory and poetry was a praised skill during the time of the Prophet (p), the Qurān – being the Prophet’s (p) miracle – was related to that and demonstrated its miracle through the very language the Arabs would pride themselves in.
From next post onwards, we will start going through significant and influential scholarly figures and expound on their views regarding the miraculousness of the Qurān. We will begin from 4th-century hijrī and proceed from there.
 Bayān I’jāz al-Qurān, published under the work Thalāth Rasāil fī I’jāz al-Qurān
 Dalāil al-I’jāz, pg. 156
 Al-Itqān fī ‘Ulūm al-Qurān, vol. 4, pg. 8
 Dalāil al-I’jāz, pg. 390-391
 For the English translation, see vol. 1, pgs. 127-133
 Tafsīr Mawḍū’ī, vol. 1, pg. 165 – available online here: http://www.portal.esra.ir
 The narrator adds this phrase
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