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Miraculousness of the Qurān (Part 4)


Ibn al-Hussain

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Miraculousness of the Qurān – A Historical Overview (Part 4)

Original source: http://www.iqraonline.net/miraculousness-of-the-quran-a-historical-overview-part-4/

Intellectual-Rational

In this approach, the criterion used to establish the miraculousness of the Qurān is intellectualization and reason. One of the things that pushed scholars to take this approach was the significant amount of differences of opinions in the earlier approaches, such as the taste and feel approach, or even the semantic approach, where the standard at times comes across as very subjective. This pushed some scholars to argue for something more general, something that was accessible by a much larger range of people and they found that to be the intellect.

Some of the scholars take issue with limiting the miracle of the Qurān in grammar and semantics and say that which is miraculous is that the Qurān contains material that can satisfy one’s intellect whether they are equipped with the grammatical background or not. In fact, this approach argues that the continuity of the Qurān’s miracle can only be explained by it being intellectually approachable and satisfactory. This also resolves the issue of not having to blindly imitate (taqlīd) someone else’s claim to the Qurān’s miraculous nature as one can readily contemplate over the verses themselves and reach this conclusion.

These verses include those that take about the realities of this world and one’s life, information about things that the intellect could not have perceived on its own, such as information about past or future events, and more importantly, arguments made for certain theological beliefs, such as God’s Oneness.[1]

Elucidation-Presentational (Bayān)

The most famous opinion on what constitutes the miraculousness of the Qurān is the approach of elucidation and presentation (al-bayān). The proponents of this view maintain the challenge the Qurān puts forth is wholly related to the way it elucidates different meanings through its verses.

Before explaining this approach any further, it is important to know about a division that has existed within the study of Arabic grammar for centuries. The science of ma’ānī, bayān and badī’ are three distinct subjects studied under the overarching science of balāgha. The science of ma’ānī discusses the rules of what makes an expression clear and unambiguous, the science of bayān deals with how any given meaning can be expressed in different ways and as such deals with the use of metaphors and figures of speech, while the science of badī’ deals with the rules of beautifying any given expression.

A very simple definition for an expression that can be considered eloquent (balīgh) is one that follows both the rules studied in the science of ma’ānī and bayān, while the rules of badī’ are not a necessary condition. With this brief explanation, what we mean by a presentational approach is that the proponents believed the miracle of the Qurān is rooted in what is studied in the science of bayān.

Before the revelation of the Qurān, poetry played an important role in conveying messages. It was during this period that the seven famous Hanged Poems were composed and rhymed prose (saj’) by the Arab fortunetellers (kāhin) were powerful examples of literary expertise. It was then that the Arabs were bewildered when they began hearing the verses of the Qurān, verses that were both meaningful and their presentation beyond what they had ever produced themselves. This was one of the reasons that led the polytheists to accuse the Prophet (p) of being a magician.

These attacks were not limited to the Prophet (p) himself, but rather they also attacked the Qurān directly:

[25:4] Those who disbelieve say: “This (the Quran) is nothing but a lie that he (Muhammad SAW) has invented, and others have helped him at it, so that they have produced an unjust wrong (thing) and a lie.”

[16:103] And We certainly know that they say, “It is only a human being who teaches the Prophet.” The tongue of the one they refer to is foreign, and this Qur’an is [in] a clear Arabic language.

As mentioned earlier, scholars formally began looking at the Qurān as a literary masterpiece from 2nd-century Hijri onwards, and from the very beginning, the approach focusing on elucidation was prevalent. Interestingly, a lot of early works found expounding on this view happened to be works written by Mu’tazalī scholars. Abū ‘Abdillah Muḥammad b. Zayd al-Wāsiṭī (d. 309 AH / 919 CE), Abū ‘Ali Muḥammad al-Jubbā’ī (d. 303 AH / 915 CE) and his son Abū Hāshim al-Jubbāyī (d. 321 AH / 933 CE) were from among those who focused on establishing the miracle of the Qurān through its bayān.

Abū Muslim al-Isfahānī (d. 322 AH / 934 CE) was one of the earliest scholars – a Mu’tazalī as well – who tried to reconcile the views of al-sarfah and the miracle rooted in the Qurān’s presentation. One of the most popular exegetical works, Tafsīr al-Kashshāf of al-Zamakhsarī (d. 538 AH / 1143 CE), is based on this approach as the author accepted the notion of an ordered-system in the Qurān which was evident through its presentation.

Literary Criticism

This is not really a separate approach to establishing the miracle of the Qurān but serves as an annex to the method discussed above. The intent here is to explain the historical context in which the Qurān was revealed in to be able to better understand how it has remained a miracle. Many of the Arabs were known to be strong poets and would engage in competing with one another through poetry. Naturally, this also meant that they were critics of one another and would try to expose the weaknesses of their opponents’ poetry whenever possible.

It was in this setting the Qurān comes and challenges them to produce something similar – as duels and challenges were a norm amongst the Arab poets – yet they were unable to match the style of the Qurān in this specific challenge.

Over the next few centuries, the Qurān essentially became the main criterion by which the sciences of literary criticism were developed, and the quality of expressions and poetry were judged. Scholars would be forced to investigate poetry from the era of ignorance to show the validity of some of the grammatical principles employed in the Qurān, that while were valid, were not commonly used. The Qurānic text also pushed scholars to venture into discussions they had never had before, such as the nature of the Qurān itself, whether its meanings and words were created or pre-eternal, the notion of metaphors, ordered-system, philology and so on.

After the revelation of the Qurān, the standards of literary criticism, tropes, phenomenology etc. that were somewhat common amongst the Arab elites, all went through a significant change and their standards were raised. Despite centuries of effort put in to extract grammatical rules and principles of eloquence, it is the fact that no one has been able to produce anything like the Qurān which attests to its miraculous nature.

God willing, from the next post onwards, we will begin looking at the view of al-sarfah in more detail and the critiques that have been laid against it.


[1] Al-Tamhīd fī ‘Ulūm al-Qurān, by Āyatullah Hādī Ma’rifat, vol. 4, pg. 91

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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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