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Miraculousness of the Qurān (Part 2)


Ibn al-Hussain

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Miraculousness of the Qurān – A Historical Overview (Part 2)

Original source: http://www.iqraonline.net/miraculousness-of-the-quran-a-historical-overview-part-2/

In this post, we will begin looking into six different approaches scholars have put forth to explain how the miraculous nature of the Qurān can be attested.

Taste and Feel

This approach says that in order to sense the beauty of a text, one must develop the ability to differentiate between good and bad speech. This taste and feel can either be attained by living in a certain environment, alongside making use of one’s intellect and emotions, or it can be attained by learning the principles of speech used by a group of people in any given environment. A person with such experience would eventually develop the ability to critique speech which isn’t up to par with the language constructs laid down by any given group of people.

In other words, in order to experience the miracle of the Qurān, one would be required to develop a taste of the Arabic language. Ibn Khaldūn alludes to this in his work:

Something of it may be understood by those who have a taste for it as the result of their contact with the (Arabic) language and their possession of the habit of it. They may thus understand as much of the inimitability of the Qur’an as their taste permits. Therefore, the Arabs who heard the Qur’an directly from (the Prophet) who brought it (to them) had a better understanding of its (inimitability than later Muslims). They were the champions and arbiters of speech, and they possessed the greatest and best taste (for the language) that anyone could possibly have.[1]

Based on this approach, the miraculous nature of the Qurān was first and foremost realized by the Arabs living at the time of the Prophet (p). Perhaps not every Arab living around the Prophet (p) was on the same level of literary expertise, but many of them would have had a strong affinity with the language. Hence, we see the polytheists discouraging and preventing others from even simply listening to the Qurān:

[41:26] The faithless say, ‘Do not listen to this Qur’ān and hoot it down so that you may prevail [over the Apostle].’

Perhaps they were fully aware of the consequences simply listening to the Qurān could have had on a person, as they would have been able to experience and feel the beauty of the verses. One of the scholars who was a proponent of this view was Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. al-Ṭayyib al-Bāqilānī (d. 403 AH/1013 CE). He has dedicated a whole work on the subject, titled I’jāz al-Qurān, in which he claims that anyone who has a strong feel for the language will be able to tell that the Qurān is a miracle the moment they hear its verses. Through this, he also critiqued one of the prevailing theories at his time which claimed that the Qurān was only a miracle for the Arabs living during the time of the Prophet (p).

He considered the miracle of the book to be rooted in the way its verses are organized and its high degree of eloquence. In his work, he explains the difference between poetry, rhymed prose and other technicalities regarding speech generally studied in Arabic rhetoric and eloquence and then goes on to say what preliminaries need to be understood in order to understand the miraculous nature of the Qurān.[2] Below is a summary[3] of what he puts forth in his work over the course of 20 pages:

1) The literary style of the Qurān along with varying forms is beyond the prevailing literary styles in Arabic literature.

2) Arabs had no literary legacy that might be equated with the Qurān in its rhetoric so much as it might have preserved the beauty of style as well as the length in the measurement as that of the Qurān.

3) The Qurān interacted a variety of subjects ranging from the orders and the prohibitions, the promises and the warnings, to the stories and the historical events; all this was brought in the style unmatched by the best selection of the prose and poetry. The poets and the orators might do excellence in any one or few subjects. The Qurān, in contrast, performed excellently in all the subjects simultaneously.

4) We find the kinds of expression varying in the writings of dignitaries and celebrities even though they interact a single subject especially when they move from one idea to the other. The Qurān, in contrast, combines all the varying dimensions and brings them out in a method that demonstrates them as a harmonious unit.

5) The literary style of the Qurān is not only higher than the style of the human being, but it also supersedes the style of the Jinn cited by the Arabs.

6) Different styles of expression available in Arabic literature like bast (the elaboration) and ījāz(the conciseness); jam’ (the hold together) and tafrīq (the separation); isti’ārah (the metaphor) andtasrīh (the clarification), etc. These styles are, however, higher and more impressive as well as more communicative than others if compared with.

7) Composing the words and sentences in a novel idea is difficult than composing them in a familiar one. The Qurān interprets the newer thoughts in a method inaccessible to the human being.

8) The excellence of the order and exaltedness of the rhetoric incorporated in the Qurān exhibits when any word of the Qurān is borrowed to be accommodated in any prose or poetry and attracts the attention of the reader or listener forcefully.

9) The Alphabets in Arabic are 29 in number, and the number of chapters that being with the disjointed letters total 28. 14 letters of the Arabic Alphabet have been used in these disjointed letters and signifies that the miracle of the Qurān is through the organization and ordering of these letters.

10) The language of the Qurān is convenient, and its meaning may be easily understood, and no abstruse word or construction disturbs them. But there is no scope for the human style to be in conformity with the Qurānic one.

Numerous other scholars agreed that the Qurānic miracle is one that is to be experienced, and not one that can be simply described for others. One would need to acquire the taste of the language and only then would they be able to attest that it is a miracle. Someone like Ibn Sinān al-Khafājī (d. 466 AH / 1073 CE) in his Sirr al-Faṣāḥah, al-Zamakhsharī (d. 538 AH / 1143 CE) in his al-Kashshāf, al-Sakkākī (d. 626 AH / 1229 CE) in his Miftāḥ al-‘Ūlūm, and others all point towards this literary nature of the Qurān being miraculous in it and of itself and that its attestation is dependant on one’s feel and taste of the language. In fact, al-Khafājī argues that even if one happens to be a proponent of the theory of al-ṣarfah, one would still need to possess a strong familiarity with the sciences of Arabic rhetoric and eloquence and an affinity with the language in order to even enter the discussion concerning the miracle of the Qurān.

In our next post, we will give an overview of another approach taken by scholars, which though remains within the realm of linguistics, but is concerned more with the semantics of the Qurānic text.


 

[1] The science of syntax and style and literary criticism, in The Muqaddimah, of Ibn Khaldūn. Translated by Franz Rosenthal

[2] I’jāz al-Qurān, by Abū Bakr Muḥammad bin al-Ṭayyib, pg. 51-71, ed. Al-Sayyid Aḥmad Ṣaqir

[3] Translation is taken from The I’jāz al-Qurān: A Study of the Classical Scholars, by Obaidullah Fahad pg. 18-19 – with minor changes made by myself

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      (i) [al-Kafi] Abi Ja`far عليه السلام said: the people were the people of Ridda after the prophet صلى الله عليه وآله except three. I said: who are the three? He said: al-Miqdad b. al-Aswad, Abu Dhar al-Ghiffari and Salman al-Farsi, may Allah’s mercy and blessings be upon them, then the people came to know after a while [the truth], these [three] are those around whom the banner revolved and they refused to give Bay`a [to Abu Bakr], until when they brought the commander of the faithful عليه السلام by coercion and he gave the pledge of allegiance, and that is His words the Elevated - “Muhammad is not but a messenger, messengers have come and gone before him, if he dies or is killed, will you turn back on your heels, and whoever turns back on his heels then he will not harm Allah a thing and Allah will recompense those who are grateful” (3:144).
      The narration indicates that the uniqueness of the three was that they did not give the Bay`a to the usurper because of knowing the true status of Ali, it was only when Ali was forced to give the Bay`a, and he did [for the Masliha which Allah willed], that the three also agreed to do it. The meaning of 'then the people came to know after a while ...' is that some people recognized their fault, and acknowledged that the commander of the faithful was the most rightful person to assume leadership. That all the others apart from the three were paralyzed by fear is shown in the narration below:
      أبي جعفر عليه السلام قال: جاء المهاجرون والأنصار وغيرهم بعد ذلك إلى علي عليه السلام فقالوا له: أنت والله أمير المؤمنين وأنت والله أحق الناس وأولاهم بالنبي عليه السلام هلم يدك نبايعك فوالله لنموتن قدامك! فقال علي عليه السلام: ان كنتم صادقين فاغدوا غدا علي محلقين فحلق علي عليه السلام وحلق سلمان وحلق مقداد وحلق أبو ذر ولم يحلق غيرهم؛ ثم انصرفوا فجاؤوا مرة أخرى بعد ذلك، فقالوا له أنت والله أمير المؤمنين وأنت أحق الناس وأولاهم بالنبي عليه السلام عليه السلام هلم يدك نبايعك فحلفوا فقال: إن كنتم صادقين فاغدوا علي محلقين فما حلق إلا هؤلاء الثلاثة قلت: فما كان فيهم عمار؟ فقال: لا؛ قلت: فعمار من أهل الردة؟ فقال: إنّ عمارا قد قاتل مع علي عليه السلام بعد ذلك
      (ii) [al-Kashshi] Abi Ja`far عليه السلام said: the Muhajirun and Ansar and others came after that [the coup at Saqifa] to Ali عليه السلام and said to him: you are by Allah the commander of the faithful, and you are by Allah the most rightful person and closest to the prophet, put forth your hand so that we can pledge allegiance to you, for by Allah we are going to die in front of you [in your defense], Ali said: if you are truthful then come to me tomorrow having shaved your head [which would visually identify the ‘rebels’ to the authorities], so Ali shaved, so did Salman, Miqdad and Abu Dhar, and no one else did, then they came a second time after the first and said: you are by Allah the most rightful person and closest to the prophet, put forth your hand so that we can pledge allegiance to you, and they swore an oath, he said: come to me tomorrow having shaved your head if you are truthful, so no one shaved except three. I said: Ammar was not among them? He said: No, I said: Ammar is from the people of Ridda? He said: Ammar fought together with Ali after that.
      This reaffirms that the uniqueness of the three is related to them not giving in and remaining with Ali to the end as far as his right is concerned. Note also how Ammar is not included among the Ahl al-Ridda, even in a historical sense, because of his later support for Ali. In fact, one of the reasons behind Ali accepting to give Bay`a after his show of dissent was so that the masses do not renounce the faith totally. Recall that the Islamic polity was still unstable and there were a lot of Arab tribes whose allegiance had been personally to the prophet and not the Diin per se, the Jahiliyya was not far from their psyche.
      أبي جعفر عليه السلام قال: إن الناس لما صنعوا ما صنعوا إذ بايعوا أبا بكر لم يمنع أمير المؤمنين عليه السلام من أن يدعو إلى نفسه إلا نظرا للناس و تخوفا عليهم أن يرتدوا عن الاسلام فيعبدوا الاوثان ولا يشهدوا أن لا إله إلا الله وأن محمدا رسول الله صلى الله عليه وآله وكان الاحب إليه أن يقرهم على ما صنعوا من أن يرتدوا عن جميع الاسلام وإنما هلك الذين ركبوا ما ركبوا فأما من لم يصنع ذلك ودخل فيما دخل فيه الناس على غير علم ولا عداوة لامير المؤمنين عليه السلام فإن ذلك لا يكفره ولا يخرجه من الاسلام ولذلك كتم علي عليه السلام أمره وبايع مكرها حيث لم يجد أعوانا
      (iii) [al-Kafi] Abu Ja'farعليه السلام  said: When the people did what they did - when they gave allegiance to Abu Bakr, nothing prevented the commander of the faithful عليه السلام from calling to himself (i.e. gather support to rival them publicly) except his fear for the people - that they would apostate from Islam, and begin worshiping the idols anew, and reject witnessing that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammad is his messenger; and it was more beloved to him to acquiesce to what they had done rather than them apostatizing from the whole of Islam. Verily, those who clambered upon this (opposing Ali for rulership) have been destroyed. As for the one who did not contribute anything to that (opposing Ali for rulership) and entered into what the people entered into without knowledge (about his status) nor enmity towards him then this act of his does not make him a disbeliever, and it does not remove him from Islam, and this is why Ali kept quiet about his matter (status), and gave allegiance while displeased, when he could not find any supporters.
      The narration makes it clear that had the Imam fought for his leadership i.e. a civil war it would cause irreparable damage, this is because of the tenuous position that Islam had, even the outward Islam (the Islam of the Shahadatyn) would have been wiped out. There were a lot of external and internal enemies waiting for this infighting to make sure that the whole foundation of Islam crumbles.  
      Conclusion
      The Umma became, for the most part, misguided after their prophet. This is something that had also happened to the communities of past prophets. But this misguidance should not be understood to have taken all of them out of Islam as a whole, rather, by ignoring a central commandment of the prophet they have done a great sin which struck a blow to the pristine Islam.
      Furthermore, the protagonists differ relative to their role in the fiasco. Some were quite unaware of the whole thing and lacked full knowledge of the Haqq of Ali and his Ma`rifa, this could be because they were blind to the order of the prophet (total ignorance); had some doubts; did not have the ability to influence the outcome because of some constraints [swept away by the wave of events]; or because they showed cowardice and faltered in coming to Ali’s aid. Others later acknowledged their mistake and made up for it in the following years. All these in their different categories can be said to be the majority. Their fate in the next world of “realities” is left to Allah
      On the other hand, there were those who administered the whole thing. They had full knowledge of what the prophet had ordered them and what the divine commandment required them to do. They also knew the position of Ali. Despite this, they fought against this explicitly. These are those who should be treated as apparent Muslims in the daily life in this world [according to most scholars]. This is, after all, how Ali himself treated them, praying in their mosques, visiting them in sickness, helping them out when they faced challenges, eating with them etc. part of which is Taqiyya and safeguarding the greater principles of Islam, but they are undoubtedly people of the fire in the next world.
      Note that this interpretation is dependent on the position of differentiating between the Dharuriyat of the Diin and that of the Madhhab and considering the Shahdatayn alone to be enough in making someone a Muslim [unless taken out for some other reason]. Whilst this is a popular position among scholars today, it has had its detractors among the scholars of the past, one of them being someone like Shaykh Yusuf al-Bahrani, who considered the rejectors of the Wilaya as Kafirs with the fullest implication this has [even in this world].  
    • By Last Chance in Poems for the Ahlul Bayt
         1
      An orphan is the name of a child who lost his mother,
       But what is the name of a mother who loses a child? 
       Crushed between the door and the wall along with the souls of Hassanain,
       Robbed of her child, her right, her husband's, she fights through the pain.
       Her name is Fatima. The one whose essence mankind will never reach, 
       For God Himself has shielded her with a protection that none can breach,
       Mistress of my soul and the women of the worlds,
       With her name and her hand the secret of this life unfurls,
       The strength of my heart and the strength of Haidar,
       The strength of the lion who conquered Khaybar, 
       For who else can converse with such beauty and power,
       Fight the usurpers after the loss of Mohsen, the wilted flower? 
       Her name is az-Zahra, the radiant light, illuminating a path,
       For those who want to see and be away from God's wrath,
       For he who angers az-Zahra has evoked the Messenger's displeasure,
       And no doubt, God's own wrath which follows is that beyond any measure,
       For who is so aligned with the will of her Creator,
       Which woman did He create, that other than her there is no greater? 
       Her name is al-Batool, unsurpassed in every way,
       Be it the chastity, the virtue, or the worship she did display,
       No man equalled her strength the day she fought her right,
       Look around you now- see the destruction of Fatima's might.
       For which woman could have such eloquence and knowledge of the Book? 
       Fadak was hers then and now, no matter what they took. 
       Quoting the verses to them that were revealed to her very door,
       Every lie, every plot of theirs and tactic, into shreds she tore. 
       For she is as-Siddiqa, the truthful, no matter who calls himself this too,
       A name is just a name but the truth lies in what we do,
       Ali is with the truth, truly this is no lie,
       And the truth is with Ali, but she will shortly die,
       Leaving behind a house that is both so full and bare,
       Full of Ali's grief, but of a mother's warmth, left bare,
       A homely nest no more, for its mother is no longer,
       A house that used to buzz with life, now remains mourning and sombre.
       Hassan holds her feet and Hussain cries on her chest, 
       An imagine after which the heart of Ali will never find rest,
       Zainab and Kulthum sob as they await the darkness of night,
       One final farewell they crave before facing a new plight.
       And Ali...? A broken man, half a human, dealt his biggest blow,
       He sits with his head in his hands, and tears of anguish now freely flow. 
       The lion, the warrior, the hero that roared with such might,
       Now quietly sobs for her pain and her loss, a flame of grief now alight.
       Two souls intertwined...now world's apart,
       A long journey of loneliness Ali has to start,
       Her orphans, her prayer mat, the memories of her days,
       With these he will survive, and he now says...
       'A flower, nipped in the bud. From paradise it came, and to paradise it went, but has left its fragrance in my mind'. 
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