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ASPECTS OF THE MIRACULOUSNESS

ASPECTS OF THE MIRACULOUSNESS OF THE QURAN’S ELOQUENCE

Purity of style and word order

There is extraordinary eloquence and purity of style in the word order or composition of the Quran. This eloquence and purity of style is clearly explained throughout Isharat al-I'jaz (Signs of Miraculousness). Just as the second, minute, and hour hands of a clock each complete and are fitted to each other in precise orderliness, so too do every word and every sentence and indeed the whole Quran complete and fit each other.

Whoever wishes, may look at the text and see for himself the extraordinary eloquence in the Quran’s word order. Here, by way of illustrating the orderly composition of sentences, I will mention only a few examples.

In order to indicate the severity of God’s punishment, the clause, If but a breath from the torment of Your Lord touches them (al-Anbiya’, 21.46), points to the least amount or slightest element of that torment. That is, the clause as a whole is to express this slightness, therefore all its parts should reinforce that meaning.

Thus, the words If but (lein) signify uncertainty and therefore implies slightness (of the punishment). The verb massa means to touch slightly, and therefore it too signifies slightness. Nafhatun (a breath) is merely a puff of air. Grammatically, it is a derived form of the word used to express ‘singleness’ which again underlies the littleness. The tanwin (double n) at the end of nafhatun indicates indefiniteness and suggests that it is as slight and insignificant as cannot be known. The partitive min implies a part or a piece, thus indicating paucity. The word adhab (torment or punishment) is light in meaning compared to nakal (exemplary chastisement) and iqab (heavy penalty), and denotes a lesser punishment or torment than is available to one’s Lord. The use of Rabb (Lord, Provider, Sustainer) which suggests affection, instead of (for example) Overwhelming, All-Compelling or Avenger, also expresses slightness.

Finally, the clause means that if so slight a breath of torment or punishment has such an affect, one should reflect how severe the Divine chastisement might be. We see in this short clause how its parts are related to each other and add to the meaning. This example concerns the words chosen and the purpose in choosing them.

Another example:

The parts of the sentence, They give as sustenance out of what We have bestowed on them (as livelihood) (al-Baqara, 2.3) point to five of the conditions that make alms-giving acceptable to God.

In order to make his alms-giving acceptable to God, a believer must give out of his sustenance such amount that he will not have to need to receive alms himself. Out of in out of what expresses this condition.

He must not transfer to the needy from another’s goods, but he must give out of his own belongings. The phrase, what We have bestowed on them points to this condition. The meaning is ‘Give (to sustain life) out of what We have given you (to sustain your life)’.

He must not remind the one to whom he has given of the kindness he has done to him. We in We have bestowed indicates this condition, for it means: ‘It is I who have bestowed on you the livelihood out of which you give to the poor as sustenance. Therefore, by giving to a servant of Mine out of My property, you cannot put him under obligation.’

He must give to such a one who will spend it for his livelihood. It is not acceptable to give to those who will dissipate it. The phrase They give as sustenance points to this condition.

He must give for God’s sake, We have bestowed on them states this condition. It means: ‘Essentially, it is My property out of which you give, therefore you must give in My Name.’

Together with those conditions, the word what in out of what signifies that whatever God bestows on a man is included in the meaning of ‘sustenance’ or ‘livelihood’. Therefore, one must give not only out of one’s goods, but also out of whatever he has: a good word, an act of help, a piece of advice, and teaching are all included in the meaning of rizq (sustenance) and sadaqa (alms). Since there is generalization in it, the sentence as a whole also suggests this meaning.

Together with the five conditions, this short sentence contains and suggests a broad range of the meanings of alms and offers it to the understanding. The word order of the Quran’s sentences has many aspects of a similar kind, and the words have a wide range of relationships with one another.

Extraordinary beauty and comprehensiveness of its meaning

There is a wonderful eloquence in the meanings of the Quran. Consider the following example:

All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies God; and He is the All-Honored and Mighty, the All-Wise. (59:24)

In order fully to relish the eloquence in the meanings of this verse, imagine yourself to be living in the wild desert during the age of the pre-Quranic ignorance and savagery. Then, when everything was enveloped by the darkness of ignorance and heedlessness and wrapped up in the evil of ‘lifeless’ nature, you suddenly hear from the heavenly tongue of the Quran such verses as, All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies God or The seven heavens and the earth and those in them glorify Him (al-Isra’, 17.44). You will see how, in the minds of those hearing it, those corpse-like entities that had lain motionless are raised to purposeful existence at the sound of All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies God, and being so raised, begin reciting God’s Names. How at the cry and light of glorifies Him, the stars, which had been lifeless lumps of fire in the dark skies, each appear in the understanding of those who hear the verse, as a wisdom-displaying word in the recitation of the sky and a truth-showing light, and the land and sea of the earth as tongues of praise and each plant and animal as a word of glorification.

The Quran has unique, original styles

The Quran has unique, original styles. Truly, the styles of the Quran are both novel and original, and amazing, and convincing. It imitates nothing and no one, nor can it be imitated. Its styles still preserve their originality, freshness and ‘bloom of youth’. To cite a few examples:

Now I shall make a brief mention of the Quranic styles followed in its suras, aims, verses, sentences and phrases, and words.

For example, if studied carefully, it will be seen how the sura al-Naba’ describes the Last Day, the resurrection of the dead, Paradise and Hell, in such an original and unique style that it convinces the heart of the fact that each of the Divine acts and the works of Divine Lordship in this world prove the coming and all the aspects of the Hereafter. Since it would be lengthy to explain the style of the whole sura, I will just mention a few points of it.

At the start of the sura, to prove the Day of Judgment, it says: ‘I have made the earth a beautiful cradle spread out for you, and the mountains bulwarks of your houses and lives full of treasures. I have created you in pairs, loving and familiar with each other, I have made the night a coverlet for your repose, the daytime the arena in which to gain your livelihood, and the sun an illuminating and heating lamp, and from the clouds I send down water as if they were a spring producing the water of life. I create easily and in a short time from the one, same water all the flowering and fruit-bearing things which bear all your sustenance. Since this is so, the Last Day, which is the Day of Final Judgment, awaits you. It is not difficult for Us to bring about that Day.’ Following in the same strain, the sura implicitly proves that on the Last Day the mountains will be set in motion and become as a mirage, the heavens will be rent asunder, Hell made ready, and the people of Paradise given gardens and orchards. It means: ‘Since He does all these things before your eyes on the earth and mountains, He will do their likes in the Hereafter.’ That means, the mountains at the beginning of the sura have some concern with the mountains of the Hereafter, and the gardens, with the gardens coming at the end of the sura and those in the Hereafter. Consider other points from the same perspective and see what an elevated style the sura has!

Another example:

And the sun runs its course to a resting place determined. (36:38)

The expression runs its course is a noble image. By reminding us of the systematic, magnificent, free acts and operations of Divine Power in the alternation of day and night, and summer and winter, it makes the might and greatness of the Maker understandable and turns the attention toward the messages of the Eternally Besought-of-All inscribed on the pages of the seasons by the Pen of Power. It also makes known the Wisdom of the Creator.

Through its use of the word ‘lamp’ in He has made the sun a lamp (71:16), the Quran opens a window on a meaning such as this: This world is a palace with the things in it being the food and other necessities of life prepared for man and other living beings. The sun is a lamp serving to illuminate this palace. By making the magnificence of the Maker and the favors of the Creator comprehensible in this way, the sentence provides a proof for God’s Unity and declares that the sun (which the polytheists of the time imagined to be the most significant and brightest deity) is a lifeless object, a lamp subdued for the benefit of living beings. In the word ‘lamp’, the verse signifies the mercy of the Creator in the might and greatness of His Lordship, reminds us of His favor in the vastness of His Mercy, suggests His munificence in the magnificence of His Sovereignty, and in doing that, it proclaims His Oneness and teaches: ‘A lifeless, subjected lamp can in no way be worthy of worship.’ Also in the same word, by indicating the systematic, amazing acts of Almighty God in the alternation of night and day, and winter and summer, it suggests the vastness of the Power of the Maker Who is absolutely independent in the execution of His Lordship.

Thus, the verse deals with the sun and moon in a way to turn the attention of mankind to the pages of day and night, and summer and winter, and to the lines of events inscribed on them. The Quran mentions the sun in the name of not the sun itself but the One Who has made it shining. Nor does it talk about the physical nature of the sun, which is of no use for man. Rather, it draws the attentions to the sun’s essential duties which are: the sun functions as a wheel or spring for the delicate order of Divine creation and making, and a shuttle for the harmony of Divine design in the things that the Eternal Designer weaves with the threads of night and day.

When you compare other Quranic words with these, you can see that while it may seem a commonplace word, each functions as a key to the treasury of fine meanings.

In sum, it is because of the vividness and extraordinariness of the Quran’s styles that sometimes a Bedouin would be entranced by a single phrase, and prostrate himself without being a Muslim. On one occasion, on hearing the sentence meaning Proclaim openly what you are commanded (al-Hijr, 15.94), a Bedouin did make prostration. When asked if he had become a Muslim, he answered: ‘No, but I have ...
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