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Oct 27, 2007

Is the Quran a rhetorical miracle (a linguistic miracle)

Is the Quran a rhetorical miracle (a linguistic miracle)

The original Arabic text could be found at Schizophrenia's blog

The Author of the original text is: Schizophrenia

Quranic verse translation is adopted from the translators understanding of Arabic language as a mother tongue, guide for certain verses is from Yousuf Ali's Quran meanings.

Translated By: Areo

From Muslims point of view we find two groups, one that consider the Quran non-miraculous, and that Arabs did provide us with more complex and eloquent text compared to the Quran, and in light of this they interpret the challenge mentioned in Surat Al Israa Ayah # 88 as miraculous, based on the fact that in spite of their ability they were distracted to pursue the challenge, this is namely called (Alsirfah) the distraction, one such group to embrace this idea was Al-Motazilah (an Islamic Cult which means the disassociated or separated form) headed by Al-Nizam and his prodigy disciple Al-Gahez, who was considered the spokesman of Al-Motazilah for quite a long time, it is said that Al-Gahez has authored 360 books of which only few has made it to us.

The second group adopted the idea that the Quran is a linguistic wonder, a miracle in every meaning of the word, they consider it the ceiling of expression and eloquence in the Arabic language, no one have or will ever be able to achieve such linguistics perfection no matter what, this school of thought is the main stream of Ahl Al-Sunah Wa Al-Gamaaah (The major sect in the Islamic world which means the followers of the prophet and companions sayings and deeds), whom unlike AL-Motaziallh, in general favor narration rather than comprehension and logic, This idea was not based upon logic and proof, until the time of Abd EL-Kahir Al-Jerjani one of the greatest Arabic Scholars ever, and who coined the axiomatic phrase "The wording has done to the meanings (the text has achieved much for the context)", in spite of our opinion that he has tailored his book (The signs(proof) of miraculousness), to suit his opinion in a biased manner, regardless his theory is not to be belittled, and is considered as one of the most important theories in the analysis of the Arabic Language.

What I am aiming at is to analyze both ideas and try to answer the main question, Is the Quran a rhetorical miracle? We have to first seek to understand what is RHETORIC

Balagah the Arabic word for RHETORIC is a sub word derived from the word Balagha (which means declare , communicate, announce..) i.e. to transfer and convey a meaning, , it is a science subcategorized into three major science:

Firstly the science of Baian (Demonstration or manifestation), which engages in visionary portrays and emotions, it was called the science of Bian as it is concerned with emphasizing manifestation of meanings and thoughts by the use of comparison, metaphor, and allegory

Secondly we have the science of Maanii (meanings), which engages in meanings and ideas, and harmonizes between the linguistic structure, and the meaning required to be conveyed to the reader or the recipient, by the use of epitomes and verbose, conjunctions and dissociation.

Finally the science of Al-Badeei (art of speech) which engages in the proper formulation and fashion, and selection of words.

Before the time of Al-Jerjani men of literature such as Ibn Katibah would say of the dual nature of eloquence/meaning, they would even give precedence to words and composition over meanings (i.e. go for an eloquent text regardless of the context and clarity)

Jerjani saw this as a murder of thought, and took side with those who gave precedence to clarity and meaning, his view that rhetoric is not in the choice of eloquence and musical sounding, but in the composition and compilation, meaning by this how to link words in thought resulting context in order to achieve a certain meaning that is obvious and distinguishable, accordingly meanings not words were the build of his view of writing, for there is no composition in words and no compilation until links are established between words, and words become subsequent to meaning as much as required from it and meant by its use, in other word Jirjani's view is that eloquence and rhetoric is achieved and measured by conformity of what you say with what you need to say, and an alteration of any word in your speech in this case would breach and violate the meaning, eloquence and rhetoric.

The problem with Jirjani is that he neglected the changes that occur on words and their meanings and the rise of new meanings to the same wordings, which makes his view on Miraculous rhetoric a failure, because if rhetoric is the compliance of words to meanings and words are evolving while meanings, visionary portrays, comparisons, expire, so how do we judge a text as absolutely and unconditionally rhetoric? Not to mention miraculously rhetoric! Also followers of Jirjanis school of though, are criticized for neglecting the vague and obscure in the Quranic text, for some of the Quran's words are unknown and quite vague while others have given rise to much controversy, such as the Arabic alphabets used at the beginning of some chapters not to mention words like (Aba)- Surat Abas verse 31 which Omar Ibn ELkhatab refrained from interpreting as he did not know its meaning, Or ( Aladiat Dabha) – Surat Aladiat verse where much has been said on the meaning of Adiat, so in light of this how do we judge a text as per the theory of compliance of words to meanings that we don't even know for a certainty? As for me I think that the first school of thought is more logical, for Al-Motazilah when they mingled with Persians and Romans and studied poetry and literature, in light of newer knowledge concluded the idea of Al-Sirfah (the distraction), and courageously admitted that the Quran is not the ultimatum of linguistics, but due to the custom that the major Sunah and Gamaah sect attained of battling against any new thought, not much of their ideas and writings reached us, and all we heard is written by opposing parties.

Another quite important point is the fact that, rhetoric carries along the feelings and emotions of the nation it speaks to, for a lot of texts fail to preserve its eloquence during translation, the Quran itself is no exception, to make emphasis on this tryout changing the Quran to your colloquial language(if you are an Arabic speaking person the better) , you shall find yourself faced with a feeble collapsed text, far from literature or rhetoric science, when compared to your native literature, derived form philosophers and wise men over the years.

My opinion is that the challenge mentioned in the Quran has no meaning, for who can claim to have produced something similar to what Imrio Al Kais (a renowned Arab poet before the time of Mohammed)? No one, as no one can replicate ingenuity, for ingenuity is a special case, a unique experience owned by only one, such allegations are quite ambiguous, we here set a new challenge that someone can come up with poem as Al-Homa (fever) By Al-Motanabi, or Al-Yatimah (The orphan) by Dawkalah or Al-Talasim (The Mysteries) by Gobran, impossible?! Repeating an ingenious work means repetition of the genetic code, and the environmental aspects including the persons attributes and whereabouts, which is an impossibility.

And with regards to the saying of Al-Walid Ibn Almoghirah**, that the Muslims never seem to tire from repeating, this points to futility, when they are cornered and have nothing to say they start ( are you more capable of understanding the language than the old days Arabs) and repeat to you the well known story of Al-Walid Ibn Almoghirah that really is a very ridiculous story to narrate, for why if this is true didn't Al-Walid turn Muslim? Religion is no such matter to take lightly as he did, this is a crucial thing in our lives, also who transferred the story to us aren't the Muslims responsible for this , so are all whom were present during Al-Walids speech all stubborn or conspirators against the truth, to neglect his speech? Why didn' one of the presence turn Muslim?
Gentlemen you are raising your opponents to a pedestal and at the same time mocking them.

* The story of Al-Walid often quoted by Muslims goes as follows:
Al-Walid one of the wealthy masters and respected leaders in Mecca commented on the Quran that it is sweet and delightful to hear graceful and elegant, its start is fruitful and its ending is generous, it precedes and is never preceded, it beats all else and this cannot be the saying of a Human.
This of course is a very powerful statement and makes one wonder about the truth of it, but Muslims accept it unquestionably, this gives you a glimpse on the way the Muslims minds strives on the conspiracy theory (people other than Muslims really know that Islam is the truth but they refuse to follow it intentionally)

Now let us turn our attention to some examples of the poorness of the Quranic expression according to certain measures:

1. The first five verses of the Quran (as per the order Muslims claim Mohammed to have received it) are from Surat Al-Alaq, we notice the beautiful start (Read in the name of the creator- Iqraa Bism Rabika Alazi Khalak), it is an agile and spacious start, but for an unknown reason the author delved into specification of the creator, for I find no other reason other than chasing musical poetic structure when he said ( He created the human from a clot –Khalak Alinsan min Alaq), here the expanse of the word creator (which undefined would give a much more agreeing structure to the nature of a creator) was sacrificed by such particularization, again this scenario is repeated instantly in the following verse when he adds (He taught the human what he dosen't know –Wa Alam Al-Insan ma lam yaalam). Very interesting so he the creator taught us what we did not know so who taught us what we did know any way?

2. The majority of Suras (Chapters) know as Moufasal (detailed) resemble priests rhyming (sorcerers mumbo jumbo), which if used by today's standards by a poet would entitle him to be jailed in a five star prison, for instance Surat AL-Nas and Surat Al-Falaq , I really don't know what is linguistically miraculous in these verses? Do any of you know, please fell free to tell me. Also Surat Al-Homazah and Al-Feel, and Koraish …… the list is endless.

3. And they ask you about menstruation, say it is harmful (Arabic wording could mean evil, filth or pollution) so dissociate yourselves from women during their periods, what is rhetoric in this statement? Similarly, statements mentioned as a reference for rulings and verdicts, are introduced with no concern of good structure.

There has to be certain rules in a text such as the Quran to make it a miracle:

a. All humans have to fail providing something like it, but how do we specify this similarity, believers will not agree to any type of comparison, they sequester any attempt even before they approach it, as rhetoric is subject mostly to human taste, it becomes quite impossible to state otherwise, they don't give us a clear definition or set of agreed upon standards, but regardless I shall provide to you a text authored by Kas Ibn Saadah Al-Aiadi, whom was before the time of Islam , and you be the judge, as for myself, I see it as a similar text to the Quran:
Hear and comprehend, he who lives dies, and he who dies lies, any to come shall come, a black night, a morning bright, and a sky in height,
In earth are evictions and in skies predictions, I deservingly swear, in earth happiness follows what we bear, but God has a religion preferable than yours, he is the only God, not got or begot, Forever and ever , from him escape is never**

We could of course go on for hours ranting about the text and its selection of words and its immaculacy, and yes its miracles, how about those whom for thousand of years have been studying a single text !!
** Not accurately translated in an attempt to keep the rhyme in the text.

b. A miraculous text should be very clear and in no way similar to any other saying and fear of confusion with another type of text should not be present, why should it? If the text is miraculous then it should stand clear. If two texts are received the text allegedly miraculous should need no pointing out, so what about this two Hadith (Mohammed's teachings and sayings)
- Do not write after me but the Quran, and any who did otherwise should erase it.
- Zaid Ibn Thabit was asked by caliphate Moawiah to recite a Hadith and ordered one of his men to write it down but Zaid answered : Prophet of Allah ordered us to refrain from writing his sayings and erase what we already have.
The first is mentioned in Masnad Ahmed and corrected (approved as correct) by Muslim (a famous Hadith collector and verifier), while the other is also mentioned in Masnad Ahmed.
Both are undeniably accepted by Sunah sect whom justify this objection (as they actually went against the prophet's advise) by the fear of the Quran being mixed with the Hadith, while today after the Quran has settled in place the ban is over and needless, but how could there be such fear that a miraculous text is indistinguishable from a regular text,

c. A miraculous text should always be miraculous, by the same level throughout the text rhetoric should be on one level, so can Muslims honestly say that Surat Al-Nissa is as beautiful and elegant as Surat Yousuf.

d. A miraculous text should not be subject to change and evolution as we find when we study various human authors whom differ throughout their life in the quality of their works, if we list the Quran chronologically we will observe this evolvement, in matters such as the length of the verses, the use of musical structure and the integrity of the text……

e. A miraculous text will not bend itself to keep rhyming in sacrifice of meaning as we stated previously in Surat Al-Alaq, also we find this in Surat Al-Masad where it mentions, Tabat Yada Abi Lahain Wa Tab then in the next verse Sayaslah nara zat lahab. He will endure a fire that has flames (zat lahab) so what does zat lahab add here except rhyming, when was the last we saw a fire without flames? Why the repetition of the B (Baa) alphabet four times and then the omission in the fifth verse by using the word Masaad which ends in a D and not in the usual B used throughout the chapter, is this a miraculous addition or is it a rhetorical flaw

Is the Quran a linguistic miracle?


  1. Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakarīya Rāzi, born 865 CE died 925 CE (Al-Razi) said:

    You claim that the evidentiary miracle is present and available, namely, the Koran. You say: "Whoever denies it, let him produce a similar one." Indeed, we shall produce a thousand similar, from the works of rhetoricians, eloquent speakers and valiant poets, which are more appropriately phrased and state the issues more succinctly. They convey the meaning better and their rhymed prose is in better meter. ...
    By God what you say astonishes us! You are talking about a work which recounts ancient myths, and which at the same time is full of contradictions and does not contain any useful information or explanation. Then you say: "Produce something like it"?!"

    He also said:

    ""These billy goats (Prophets) pretend to come with a message from God, all the while exhausting themselves in spouting their lies, and imposing on the masses blind obedience to the "words of the master.""

  2. I started reading until I reach the place where you said:

    "Balagah the Arabic word for RHETORIC is a sub word derived from the word Balagha (which means declare , communicate, announce..) i.e. to transfer and convey a meaning,"

    That's when I realised that you have no idea what you are talking about; because Balagha does not mean what you claimed, rather it means "to reach a high place/far place/certain stage". (don't believe me? check lisan al-Arab, al-qamoos al-muHeet, taaj al-aroos, al-saHHaH or whatever dictionary you like.

    Since you do not even know what a simple verb means, I believe you are not qualified to claim whatever you claimed later on (didn't bother to read it).

  3. إن كان الإسلام هو الحل... فأين المشكلة؟

    يعني يا جماعة، عايشين في تخلف على كل المستويات. حتى الدول أو الأفراد أو الجماعات أو العائلات الغنية متخلفة تحت السطح وما تمدنهم وتطورهم إلا قشور. مع الزمن، شوه الإسلام جيناتكم - الله لا يوطرزلكم - وما زالت الإغلبية العظمى تعتقد بأنه هو الحل. تماماً مثل مدمن المخدرات أو الكحول الذي يعتقد بأن في هذه المواد حل مشاكله، ولا يعترف بانها هي المشكلة فعلاً.
    عليه، فالجواب على سؤالي أعلاه هو: :الإسلام". نعم؛ الإسلام هو المشكلة وليس الحل.
    يا حلوين انت وهي وهو: ما رأيكم في شعار جديد؟
    "لو كانت العلمانية واحترام الانسان لمجرد كونه انساناً جرائماً، فسحقاً لمن تثبت براءته!"