Miraculousness Of The Qur’an
- The Quran’s challenging all to produce even a likeness of one of its chapters
- Miraculousness in the ways verses conclude
While we have an eternal miracle like the Qur’an,
I feel no need for any other proof.
While we have evidence of truth like the Qur’an
I feel no difficulty in silencing those who deny.
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
Say: ‘If man and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they would never produce its like, not though they backed one another.’ (al-Isra’, 17.88).The Eloquence of the Quran
This is the eloquence of the Qur’an to the degree of miraculousness. Its eloquence originates in the beauty of its words, order and composition, its textual beauty and perfection, the originality and uniqueness of its styles, the superiority, excellence and clarity of its explanations, the power and truth of its meanings, and the purity and fluency of its language. It is an eloquence so extraordinary that it has been challenging for fourteen centuries the greatest literary geniuses, the most wonderful orators, and the most profound scholars among mankind to compete with it, to produce a like of it, or the like of even one of its suras. Although it forcefully challenges them to compete with it, those geniuses who, in their self-pride and self-confidence, see themselves as high as to touch the heavens, have not been able to open their mouths to compete with it and have humbled themselves before it.
The miraculousness of the Qur’an’s eloquence in two ways:
The Quran’s challenging all to produce even a likeness of one of its chapters
The Quran’s eloquence is miraculous. For the people of Arabia were mostly unlettered at that time, and therefore preserved in oral poetry their tribal pride, history and proverbs which would serve them for good morals. They attached much importance to eloquence, and any meaningful, unique expression was memorized for its poetical form and eloquence and handed down through successive generations. Eloquence and fluency were in such great demand that an eloquent literary man of a tribe was treated like the national hero of that tribe. They were most proud of him. Those intelligent people, who would govern a considerable portion of the world after the advent of Islam, were further advanced in eloquence than other nations. Eloquence was so esteemed in their view that two tribes would sometimes go to war with each other because of a saying of a literary man and then be reconciled by the words of another. They even inscribed in gold the odes of seven poets and hung them on the wall of the Ka’ba. These seven odes were called the Seven Hanging Poems.
At a time when eloquence was in such demand, the Quran of miraculous explanation was revealed. Just as God Almighty had previously endowed the Prophets Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace, with the miracles that were foremost in the kind of the acts in the highest demand in their times (Moses with the staff and white hand because in his time sorcery was in most demand, and Jesus with raising the dead and healing certain illnesses since in his time healing was most favored) so too He made eloquence the most notable aspect of the Quran, which is the chief miracle of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. When the Quran was revealed, it challenged first the literary men of the Arabian Peninsula, saying: If you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down on Our servant, then produce a sura of its like. It challenged them, put down their intellectual pretensions and, by continuing, If you do not [produce a sura of its like] and you will not at all, then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for unbelievers, humbled them.
Those self-conceited people were unable to argue with the Quran in words. Although this was the easy and safe course for them to obstruct and falsify its message, they chose to fight against it with the sword, which was the perilous and most difficult course. If those intelligent people skilled in diplomacy had been able to argue with the Quran in words, they would not have chosen the perilous, difficult course or risked losing their property and lives. Since they could not argue with it in words, they were compelled to argue with their swords.
How do we know that nobody has ever been able to dispute with the Qur’an and that such a challenge is not possible at all?
Had it been possible to challenge the Quran, somebody would certainly have attempted to do it. Actually, such a challenge was directly needed by the opponents of the Quran, since, first of all, they felt their religion, life and properties in danger; they would all have thought themselves saved by any kind of challenge. So, had it ever been possible to challenge the Quran, they would certainly have tried it, and there were lots of unbelievers and hypocrites ready to advertise it widely, just as they spread all kinds of malicious propaganda against Islam. If they had succeeded with any kind of challenge, their success would have been recorded with exaggeration in the books of history. Now all the books of history are out in the open; none of them contains anything other than a few non-sensical lines of Musaylima al-Kadhdhab (the Liar), a false claimant to Prophethood. They never dared any challenge, although the Wise Quran challenged them continuously for twenty-three years in a way that provoked and annoyed them:
Come on, and produce a like of this Quran by means of an unlettered man like Muhammad, the Trustworthy! If you can not do that, let it not be an unlettered man, but the most knowledgeable and one well-versed in writing. If you cannot do that either, let it not be one person, but gather all your learned and eloquent ones to help each other; also invoke the aid of your gods and goddesses upon whom you rely. This too you cannot do; make use of all the books of the highest eloquence that have ever been written, and let all the unbelievers to come until Doomsday make use of your experiences in their attempt. Still you have not been able to score any success, try to produce the like of only ten chapters of the Quran, not of the whole of it. If you see that you are unable to match any ten chapters of the Quran truly and in all respects, then make a composition from baseless stories and imaginative tales to match only the metrical verse and eloquence of the Quran. Even this you cannot do, so bring about the equal of only one chapter. If you are still unsuccessful, let it not be a long one; suffice it to produce the like of any short one! Otherwise, your religion, your lives and properties, and your families will be at stake both in this world and in the Hereafter!
With these eight alternatives, the Quran has challenged and silenced men and jinn, not for twenty-three years, but for fourteen centuries. Nevertheless, those unbelievers who lived in the early days of Islam, instead of preferring the easiest way, that is, open challenge, chose the most dreadful way-to wage war, endangering their lives and properties and their families because challenging the Quran was absolutely impossible. Otherwise no man of wisdom, especially those of the Arabian peninsula of that time and especially those intelligent men of the Quraysh, would have had recourse to this most difficult way, if any literary man among them had been able to bring about the equal of a single chapter of the Quran and thereby save them from the attacks of the Quran.
In summary, as the famous Jahiz put it, since challenge by words was impossible, they had to resort to struggle by the sword.
Some scholars of discernment have maintained that not a chapter of the Qur’an, nor a verse, nor a sentence, nor even a word of it is ever possible to be disputed; nor has anyone ever been able to do this. This judgment sounds exaggerated and is too hard to accept. For there are many words produced by men, which have some resemblance to the Qur’an. So, how do you interpret this judgment?
There are two schools of opinion concerning the miraculousness of the Qur’an:
According to the prevailing opinion, the eloquence of the Quran and the virtues in its meaning are beyond human capacity.
The other opinion is that although it is within human capacity to challenge and compete with a chapter of the Quran, God Almighty prevented it as a miracle of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. For example, if a Prophet told a man, who is normally able to stand up, ‘You will not be able to stand up’, and the man could not then stand up, it would be considered a miracle of the Prophet. This school is called the school of ‘Sarfa’, from the viewpoint of which the All-Mighty prevented men and jinn from producing even a chapter of the Quran. If He had not, men and jinn might have put up a challenge against one chapter. So, according to this view, the scholars who maintain that even a word of the Quran cannot be challenged are right in their opinion. For, prevented by the All-Mighty on account of the miraculousness of the Quran, they could not even open their mouths to offer a challenge; even if they had, they could not have uttered a word because God was preventing it.
In the view of the scholars belonging to the first school, there is, however, a subtle point that the words and verses of the Quran are all interrelated. Sometimes it occurs that a word is related to ten other occurances, thus bearing ten relationships and providing ten instances of eloquence. In another book of mine entitled Isharat al-I’jaz (The Signs of Miraculousness), which is a key to the interpretation of the Quran, I showed some examples in this regard drawn from some passages of Sura al-Fatiha (the Opening Chapter) and from the initial verses of Sura al-Baqara.
In a well-ornamented palace, for example, to place a gem that is of the greatest importance in the decorative pattern, in the most suitable location on the wall is possible only after knowing the whole design. Likewise, to place the pupil of the eye in its correct location entails knowing all the function of the body and its complex organization, as well as its relationship with the function of the eye. In just the same way the foremost among men of exact science and profound truth have demonstrated numerous relationships between the words of the Quran and the manifold relationship each word has with some other verses and expressions. The scholars who have studied the mysteries of letters have gone even further, and proved that each letter of the Quran bears many inner meanings the explanation of which might cover pages. Since the Quran is the Word of the Creator of everything, each of its words may function as the core or heart of an ideal body around it made of hidden meanings, or as the seed of such an ideal tree. Thus, there might be among the words of men some similar to those of the Quran, but to place them properly taking into consideration of all such relationships as exist between the Quranic words calls for an all-comprehending knowledge.
Miraculousness Of Quran Arising From Its Predictions
The news which the Quran gives concerning the past
Although as unanimously agreed, it was communicated by an unlettered, trustworthy one, the wise Quran mentions in a solemn, powerful manner, the important experiences of the Prophets from the time of Adam to the Time of Happiness, and the main aspects of their mission. The information it gives about those important past events usually coincide with the commonly agreed descriptions of the previous Scriptures, while it corrects the points on which their corrupted forms disagree. This means that the Quran has an all-seeing vision penetrating the whole of the past better than the previous Scriptures. The information the Quran gives about the past is not something rational, but it may be traditional. Tradition is usually particular to lettered persons, whereas, as unanimously agreed by friend and foe alike, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was completely unlettered (and, what is more, there was no one in his environment to tell him about the past). While the stories of the previous Prophets are mostly mentioned in the suras that were revealed in Makka, there was no one in Makka who knew about them. Furthermore, traditions are partly founded on hearsay and usually, far from giving exact information, true and false are mixed up in them. But the Quran speaks about past events in such a manner that it describes them as if seeing them: it gives an eye-witness account. It extracts the kernel of a long series of events and presents its argument through that kernel. The extracts, summaries and indications in the Quran therefore demonstrate that the One Who presents them is actually seeing all the past in all its dimensions. For just as a substantial summary or a fine extract or a telling example shows the skill or expert knowledge of one in a certain field, so too, the chief points and main themes the Quran chooses out of certain events demonstrate that the One Who chooses them, has an all-encompassing knowledge of the whole of the events and is describing them-if one may so express it- with an extraordinary skill.
The predictions of the Quran
There are many categories of predictions. One category is particular to men of sainthood and spiritual unveiling. For instance, Muhy al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi found many predictions in sura al-Rum, beginning with, Alif Lam Mim. The Romans have been vanquished (30.1-2). Imam Rabbani discovered the signs of many future events in the muqatta’at, the individual, disjunctive letters at the beginning of certain suras. In fact, for the scholars studying the inner aspects and esoteric meanings of the Quran and of creation, the Quran is full of predictions from beginning to the end. However, I will only point to the category which everyone can see. Of many varieties of this category, I will concentrate on only one and be content with mentioning some examples, without going into detail.
The wise Quran says to the noble Messenger of God, upon him be peace and blessings:
So be you patient: surely God’s promise is true. (30:60)
You shall enter the Holy Mosque, if God wills, in security, your heads shaved, your hair cut short, not fearing. (48:27)
It is He who has sent His Messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may uplift it above every religion. (48:28)
The Romans have been vanquished in the nearer part of the land; and, after their vanquishing, they shall be the victors in a few years. To God belongs the Command. (30:3-4)
So you shall see, and they will see, which of you is the demented. (68:5-6)
Or do they say, ‘He is a a poet for whom we await what fate will bring. Say: ‘Await! I shall be waiting with you.’ (52:30-31)
God will protect you from men. (5:67)
If you are in doubt concerning that We have sent down on Our servant, then bring a sura like it, and call your witnesses, helpers, apart from God, if you are truthful. If you do not -and you will never do it-then fear the fire… (2:23-4)
Say: ‘If the Last Abode with God is yours exclusively, and not for other people, then long for death-if you speak truly.’ But they will never long for it. (2:95)
We shall show them Our signs in the outer world and in themselves, till it is clear to them that it is the truth. (41:53)
Say: ‘If men and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they would never produce its like, not though they backed one another.’ (17:88)
God will assuredly bring a people He loves, and who love Him, humble towards the believers, mighty and dignified against unbelievers, men who struggle in the path of God, not fearing the reproach of any reproached. (5:54)
Say: ‘All praise be to God. He shall show you His signs and you will recognize them.’ (27:93)
Say: ‘He is the All-Merciful. We believe in Him, and in Him we put all our trust. Assuredly, you will soon know who is in manifest error.’ (67:29)
God has promised those of you who believe and do righteous deeds that He will surely make you successors in the land, even as He made those who were before them successors, and that He will surely establish their religion for them that He has approved for them, and will bring them, after their fear, into security. (24:55)
All of the predictions made in the verses above came true. Therefore, if a person who was subject to the severest criticisms and objections, in whom even a single fault was certain to lead to the failure of his cause, makes predictions so unhesitatingly and confidently of himself and in so serious a manner, it shows without doubt that he speaks not of himself but of what he receives from his Eternal Teacher.
The information the Quran gives about the Unseen, Divine truths, the realities pertaining to the Hereafter; and truths of creation
The Quran’s explanations of Divine truths and its statements about the realities of creation which solve the mystery of creation and disclose the meaning of the universe, are among the most important news or information it gives concerning the Unseen. For it is beyond the mental capacity of man to advance in a straight direction amidst the paths of misguidance and reach those truths or realities of the Unseen. The deep, endless disagreements between schools of philosophy and scientists show explicitly that even the greatest geniuses of science and philosophy are unable to find out even the least of those truths by unaided reasoning. With souls purified, hearts refined, spirits evolved, and intellects perfected by the Quran, mankind was able to perceive and accept those truths and realities, and then could not help but remark: May God bless the Quran!
As for the events, states, conditions, and stages of the Hereafter, including the life of the grave, no human mind can discover and perceive them by itself. However, it can penetrate and comprehend them in the light of the Quran as if seeing and observing them plainly. You may refer to The Tenth Word where we have elaborated how right and true are the Quran’s explanations of that Unseen world of the Hereafter.
In whole of Quran there is a perfect a superb clarity and soundness a firm coherence, and well-established harmony and proportion, and a strong mutual support and interrelation amongst its sentences and their parts, and an elevated correspondence amongst its verses and their purposes
Although this is a fact testified to by the leading figures in Arabic philology, literature and semantics, like Zamakhshari, Sakkaki, and ‘Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani-and, though there are seven or eight factors to counter fluency, soundness, coherence, harmony, proportion, inter-relation and correspondence, these factors rather enrich the Quran’s fluency, soundness and coherence. Like branches and twigs stemming from the trunk of a tree for the production of fruit, which will complete the beauty and growth of the tree, these factors sometimes show themselves not to cause discords in the fluent harmony of the Quran’s composition but to express new, richer and complementary meanings.
Although the Quran was revealed in parts over twenty years for different needs and purposes, it has such a perfect harmony that it is as if it were revealed all at once.
Although the Quran was revealed over twenty years on different occasions, its parts are so mutually supportive that it is as if it were revealed only on one particular occasion.
Although the Quran came in answer to different, repeated questions, its parts are so united and harmonious with each other that it is as if it were the answer to a single question.
Although the Quran came to judge of various, diverse cases and events, it displays such a perfect order that it is as if it were the judgment delivered on a single case or event.
Although the Quran was revealed by Divine courtesy in styles varied to suit innumerable people of different levels of understanding and of different moods and temperament, its parts exhibit so beautiful a similarity, correspondence, and fluency that it is as if it were addressing a single degree of understanding and a single temperament.
Although the Quran speaks to innumerable varieties of people, remote from one another in time, space, and character, it has such an easy way of explanation, such a purity of style, and such a clear way of description that it is as if it were addressing only a single homogenous group, and each different group thinks that it is being addressed uniquely and specifically. Although the Quran was revealed for the gradual guidance of different peoples in various purpose, it has such a perfect straightforwardness, sensitive balance, and beautiful order, that it is as if it were pursuing a single purpose only. Despite being the reasons of confusion, all these factors add to the miraculousness of the Quran’s explanations, and to its fluency of style and harmony.
Anyone with an unbiased heart, a sound conscience, and a good taste, sees in the explanations of the Quran a graceful fluency, an exquisite proportion, a pleasant harmony, and a matchless eloquence. Also, anyone with a sound power of seeing and insight sees that the Quran has an eye with which to see the whole of the universe with all its inner and outer dimensions like a single page and read all the meanings contained in it. Since it would cover volumes to explain this truth with examples, I will, referring the reader to Signs of (the Quran’s) Miraculousness and the Words written so far, not go further here.
Miraculousness in the ways verses conclude
This relates to the qualities of the miraculousness which the Quran displays through its summaries and its unique style of using God’s Beautiful Names by way of concluding many of its verses.
The Quran of miraculous explanation generally concludes the verses with summaries. These summaries either comprise certain Divine Beautiful Names in which the contents of the verses originate, or contain in epitome the whole meanings of the verses or all-comprehensive principles concerning the main aims of the Quran, or confirm and corroborate the verses or incite the mind to meditation. In these summaries are, therefore, traces from the elevated wisdom of the Quran or drops from the water of life of Divine guidance or sparks from the lightning of the miraculousness of the Quran.
I will point out briefly only ten of the numerous traces and, of the many examples of several aspects of each trace, I will mention only one, and append a brief statement of the meaning of one truth out of many contained in each example.
Most of those traces are found together in most of the verses and form a real design of miraculousness. Also, most of the verses I will mention as examples are also examples for most of the traces. With respect to the verses already mentioned in the previous Words, I will content myself with a short reference to the meanings of those of them cited as examples here.
With its miraculous expression, the wise Quran spreads out before the eyes the acts and works of the Majestic Maker. Then it concludes either with the Divine Name or Names which originate those acts and works, as with proof of one of the essential aims of the Quran like Divine Unity or the Resurrection.
In the verse, He it is who created for you all that is in the earth. Then turned He to the heaven, and fashioned it as seven heavens. He is the Knower of all things.(2:29), in a manner to build up to a particular result or important goal, the verse mentions the most comprehensive works which testify to Divine Knowledge and Power through their purposes and order, and concludes with the Name, the Knower.
While in the verse, Have We not made the earth a cradle, and the mountains masts? And We have created you in pairs. … Surely the Day of Decision is a time appointed. (78:6-8, 12), it mentions the mighty acts and tremendous works of Almighty God, and concludes with the Day of Resurrection, which is the Day of Judgment.
The Quran lays out before the eyes of mankind the works of Divine art without specifying the Divine Name which originates each of those works, and concludes with either mentioning the Names together or referring them to the intellect.
Say: ‘Who provides for you from the sky and the earth, or who owns all hearing and sight (of which you have a portion); and who brings forth the living from the dead and brings forth the dead from the living; and who rules and directs all affairs?’ They will say: ‘God’. Then say: ‘Will you not then fear (God) and keep your duty (concerning both this world and the next)? Such then is God, Your Lord, the Truth. (10:31-2)
At the beginning, it says: ‘Who is it who, having prepared the heaven and earth as two sources of your provision, sends rain from there and brings forth grains from here? Can anyone else other than God subjugate the heaven and the earth as two stores of your provision? That being so, praise and thanksgiving are due to Him exclusively.’
In the second part it means: ‘Who is it who owns your eyes and ears, which are the most precious among the parts of your bodies? From which shop or factory did you buy them? It is only your Lord Who is able to give you those subtle faculties of hearing and sight, and it is also He who creates and nurtures you. Therefore, there is no Lord save He and it is only He Who deserves worship.’
In the third part, it signifies: ‘Who is it who gives life to the dead earth every spring and quickens hundreds of thousands of species that died in the previous autumn or winter? Who else other than the Truth, the Creator of the whole universe, is able to do that? For sure, only He does that. Moreover, as He gives life to the earth, He will also raise you to life again after your death, and send you to a Supreme Tribunal.’
In the fourth part it explains: ‘Who else other than God can administer this vast universe with perfect order like a palace or a town? Since no one other than God can do that, the Power Which governs easily the whole of the universe with all its spheres, is so perfect and infinite that It feels no need for any partners and helpers. The One Who governs the vast universe, does not leave smaller creatures to other hands. Therefore, you must admit God willingly or unwillingly.’
Thus, the first and fourth parts suggest God, while the second suggests the Lord, and the third suggests the Truth. Understand from this the miraculousness in Such then is God, your Lord, the Truth. After presenting the mighty acts of Almighty God, and the important products of His Power, the Qur’an mentions the Names God, the Lord, and the Truth, and thereby points out the origin of those acts and products.
An example of how the Quran urges the intellect to reflect on the works of God and recognize Him:
Surely in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, and the ships sailing on the sea for the benefit of mankind, and the water which God sends down from the sky, thereby reviving the earth after its death, and dispersing all kinds of beasts therein, and (in His) directing and disposal of the winds, and the clouds subjugated between heaven and earth: are signs for people who use their intellects. (3:26-7)
The verse enumerates the works and manifestations of Divine creation-like the manifestation of Divine Sovereignty in the creation of the heavens and the earth; of Divine Lordship in the alternation of night and day, which demonstrate the perfection of Almighty God’s Power and the grandeur of His Lordship, and testify to His Oneness; the manifestation of Mercy in subduing the sea and the ship which are of great use for the social life of mankind; the manifestation of the greatness of Power in sending water from the sky down to the earth and thereby reviving the earth together with its innumerable creatures and making it like an exquisite place of resurrection and gathering; the manifestation of Power and Compassion in creating innumerable varieties of beasts from simple earth; the manifestation of Mercy and Wisdom in charging the winds to serve in pollination of plants and the respiration of animate beings; and the manifestation of Lordship in accumulating and dispersing the clouds (which are the means of Mercy) and suspending them between the heavens and the earth-like assembling and then dispersing an army for rest. After enumerating all these works and manifestations of Divine acting without mentioning the Names originating them, the verse concludes: are signs for people who use their intellects, and urges the intellect to reflect fully on the truths they contain.
It sometimes occurs that the Quran describes the acts of Almighty God in detail, and then concludes with a summary. Through detailed description it gives conviction, then impresses them on the mind through summary.
So will your Lord choose you, and teach you the interpretation of dreams, and all social and natural phenomena, and perfect His blessing upon you and upon the family of Jacob, as He perfected it formerly on your forefathers Abraham and Isaac; surely your Lord is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (12:6)
This verse points to the Divine blessings on the Prophet Joseph and his father and forefathers, and says: ‘He has distinguished you with Prophethood among mankind and, by connecting the chain of Prophets to yours, made your lineage the most honored and prominent among all other lineages. He has also made your house a place of education and guidance where knowledge of God and Divine wisdom are taught, and combined in you, through that knowledge and wisdom, felicitous spiritual sovereignty of the world with eternal happiness in the Hereafter. He will equip you-Joseph-with that knowledge and wisdom and make you a dignified ruler in the world and a noble Prophet and a wise guide.’ By concluding with Surely Your Lord is All-Knowing, All-Wise, the verse summarizes all those blessings and means: ‘His Lordship, Wisdom and eternal Knowledge require that, as with your father and forefathers, He shall also manifest through you His Names the All-Knowing and the All-Wise.’
Say: ‘O God, Master of the Kingdom, You give the Kingdom to whom You will, and seize the Kingdom from whom You will, You exalt whom You will and You abase whom You will; in Your hand is the good; You are Powerful over everything. You make the night to enter into the day and You make the day to enter into the night, You bring forth the living from the dead and You bring forth the dead from the living, and You provide whoever You will without measure. (3:26-7)
These verses point out God’s execution of His Laws in the social life of mankind and in the universe. They emphasize that honor and degradation, wealth and poverty directly depend on Almighty God’s Will and Choice. Down to the most insignificant happenings in the realm of multiplicity, nothing is out of the domain of Divine Will, and there is no place for chance.
After pointing out this essential principle specifically, the verse continues by affirming that man’s provision, which is most essential to him in his worldly life, originates directly from the treasury of Mercy of the Real Provider, and means: ‘Your provision is dependent on the vitality of the earth, the revival of which is possible through the coming of spring. Only the One Who has subdued the sun and the moon, and alternates night and day, can bring spring. If this is so, then again only the One Who fills the whole surface of the earth with fruits, is able to give one an apple as provision, and become one’s real provider.’
Finally, by concluding with and You provide whomever You will without measure, the verses summarize all those acts that they had previously described in detail, and affirm that the One Who provides you without measure does all those things.
The Quran sometimes mentions God’s creation and creatures in a certain series, and by showing that there is a purposeful order and balance in their existence and life, it is as if it gives a kind of radiance and brightness to them. Then it points to the Divine Name or Names originating that order, which, like mirrors, reflect Him. It is as if those creatures mentioned were each a word and the Names were the meanings of those words, or the creatures were each a fruit and the Names were their seeds or substantial parts.
We created man of an extraction of clay, then We set him, a sperm, in a safe lodging, then We created the sperm drop into something suspended (on the wall of the womb), and We created that suspended thing into something like a lump of flesh chewed, and We created of the lump bones, and We clothed the bones in muscular tissue, and then We built him in another creation. So blessed be God, of the highest and most blessed degree of creating. (23:12-4)
The Quran mentions the curious, extraordinary and wonderful, well-ordered, well-proportioned stages of man’s creation in such a manner that, as if in a mirror, So blessed be God, of the highest and most blessed degree of creating is seen in it, and whoever reads or listens to it cannot help but utter that phrase of blessing. It is a fact that one of the scribes whom God’s Messengers employed to record the Revelations he received uttered this phrase before the Messenger recited it, so that he wondered whether he too was receiving Revelation. Whereas it is the perfect order, coherence and clarity of the verses that they led to that phrase even before its recitation.
Surely your Lord is God, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days-then set Himself upon the Supreme Throne, covering the day with the night, pursuing each other urgently-and the sun, and the moon, and the stars subservient, by His command. Truly, His are the creation and the command. Blessed be God, the Lord of the Worlds. (7:54)
Through this verse, the Quran demonstrates the tremendousness of God’s Power and the Sovereignty of His Lordship by indicating how, like soldiers, the sun, the moon and the stars are obedient to His commands; and the Majesty of the All-Powerful One seated on the Throne of Lordship, Who, by making night and day continuously follow each other like ribbons or lines of white and black, inscribes the sign of His Lordship on the pages of the universe. Therefore, whoever reads or hears this verse feels eagerness to utter Blessed be God, the Lord of the Worlds. That means this phrase is the summary of the preceding lines in the context, its substance or seed or fruit.
The Quran sometimes mentions certain physical or material things or substances which are of various qualities and subject to change and disintegration. Then, it connects them and thereby transforms them in order to change them into stable, unchanging realities-to certain universal and permanent Divine Names of light, or concludes with a summary urging reflection and taking a lesson.
For example, the verse,
And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then He presented them unto the angels and said, ‘Now tell me the names of these, if you speak truly.’ They said, ‘Glory be to You! We know not save what You have taught us. Surely You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.’ (2:31-2)
The verses mention first the particular reality that what made Adam superior to the angels in deserving rule of the earth in the name of God was the knowledge given to Him as a Divine gift, and then the defeat of the angels before Adam with regard to knowledge. The Qur’an concludes its description of that event with two universal Names of God: You are the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. That is, the angels acknowledge: ‘Since You are the All-Knowing and the All-Wise, You instructed Adam in the names and made him superior to us through the knowledge You gave him. You are also the All-Wise, and therefore give us what You give according to our capacities and give him superiority because of the capacity he has.’
While in the verses,
And surely in the cattle there is a lesson for you; We give you to drink of what is in their bellies, between filth and blood, pure milk, sweet to drinkers. And of the fruits of the palms and the vines, you take therefrom a strong drink and a provision fair. Surely in that is a sign for a people who understand. And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: ‘Take for yourself, of the mountains, houses, and of the trees, and of what they are building. Then eat of every kind of fruit, and follow the ways of your Lord easy to go upon.’ Then comes there forth out of their bellies a fluid of diverse hues wherein is healing for man. Indeed in this there is a sign for a people who reflect. (16:66-9)
After demonstrating that Almighty God has made for men some of His animal creatures like sheep, goats, cows, and camels each a source of pure and delicious milk, and some of His vegetable creatures like date-palms and vines, the tables of sweet, pleasant, and delicious bounties, and some of the miracles of His Power like the bee, a producer of sweet drink wherein is healing, in order to urge men to compare with these other similar gifts to reflect and take lessons, the verses conclude with Indeed in this there is a sign for a people who reflect.
It sometimes occurs that a verse lays out many results and decrees of Divine Lordship, and unites them with a bond of unity or inserts in them a universal principle.
God, there is no god but He, the Living, the Self-Subsistent. Slumber overtakes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and what is in the earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave? He knows what is before them (in time and space) and what is behind them (in time and space), and they comprehend not anything of His Knowledge save such as He wills. His Seat comprises the heavens and the earth; the upholding of them oppresses Him not; He is the All-High, the Tremendous. (2:255)
Together with proving the Divine Unity in ten ways of affirmation in ten different colors in ten sentences or phrases, this verse called the Verse of the (Supreme) Seat categorically and severely rejects and refutes associating partners with God with the question Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave? Further, since there is in this verse the manifestation of the Greatest Name of God, the meanings it contains concerning Divine truths are of the highest degree, and it shows an act expressive of Lordship in Its highest degree. Also, after mentioning the all-encompassing preserving or upholding of God in the greatest degree-His control of the whole of the heavens and the earth together at the same time-as a bond of unity or an aspect of oneness, it summarizes the origins of those great manifestations in He is the All-High, the Tremendous.
It is God Who has created the heavens and the earth, and sends down from heaven water wherewith He brings forth fruits for your sustenance. And He subjected to you the ships to run upon the sea at His commandment; and He subjected to you the sun and moon constant upon their courses, and He subjected to you the night and day, and gives you of all you ask Him. If you count the bounties of God, you can never number them. (14:32-4)
Together with showing how Almighty God has created this vast universe like a palace for man and how, making the heavens and the earth like two servants of man, He sends down from heaven water to the earth to provide for man, these verses also state that, in order that everyone in the world may benefit from the fruits and grains raised in all the parts of the world and that people may make their livelihood through bartering the products of their labor, He has subjected ships to man. That is, He has created the sea, the winds, and trees of which ships are made in such a form and with such qualities that as if the wind were a whip, the ship a horse, and the sea a desert lying under man’s feet. In addition to enabling men to have relations with the whole of the earth through ships, He has also subdued mighty rivers as natural means of transportation for men. Furthermore, in order to bring about seasons and present to men His multifarious bounties produced in them, the True Giver of Bounties has made the sun and the moon run on their courses and created them like two obedient servants or two wheels to steer that vast revolving machine. Besides, He has appointed the night as a cloak, a cover for man’s rest and sleep, and the day, as a means of making his livelihood.
Thus, after enumerating those favors of God, in order to show how broad is the circle of those favors and how uncountable are the favors themselves, the verses end in this summary: He gives you of all you ask Him. If you count the bounties of God, you can never number them. That is, whatever man has asked in the tongue of his capacity and natural neediness, God has given it to him, His favors upon man are too many to enumerate. Certainly, if those favors are presented to him on the table of the heavens and the earth and the sun, the moon, the night, and the day are among those favors, then of course it is impossible to count them.
It sometimes occurs that in order to show that the apparent causes have no creative part in bringing about the associated effect or result, the Qur’an presents the purposes for the existence of something and the results it yields.
It does so because the unconscious and ‘lifeless’ causes are only an apparent veil, and extremely wise purposes and significant results can only be willed and pursued by an All-Knowing and All-Wise One. Also, by mentioning the purposes and results, the Qur’an demonstrates that although the causes seem to inattentive eyes to be adjacent or attached to the result, in reality there is a great distance between them. The causes are so far from the creation of the result that even the greatest of the causes are unable to invent a new result. Thus, in the great distance between the causes and the result, the Divine Names appear as stars and connect them with each other. Like the line of mountain peaks seeming to be meeting the skirts of the sky on the horizon, although there is a vast space between in which all the stars rise and set, there is likewise distance so great between the causes and result that it can only be seen through the telescope of faith and the light of the Qur’an.
Let man consider the food (he eats): We pour out the rains abundantly, then We split the earth in fissures and therein make the grains grow, and grapes, and fresh herbage, and olives, and palms, and enclosed gardens dense with lofty trees, and fruits and pastures, provision for you and for your cattle. (80:24-32)
After mentioning the miracles of Divine Power in a purposeful order, through the phrase Provision for you and for your cattle, the verses draw attention to the purpose without mentioning the causes, and prove that there is a free Agent Who pursues that purpose along with the series of all those causes and results, and that the causes are only a veil hiding Him from manifest sight. Through the phrase, Provision for you and for your cattle, the verses declare that the ‘material or natural’ causes have no creative part in bringing about the results, and mean: The water necessary for your and your cattle’s provision comes from the heaven. Since that water has no ability to have mercy on you and your cattle and thereby provide for you, it does not come by itself, rather it is sent down. Then, earth splits in clefts for vegetation to grow in to provide for you. But unfeeling, unconscious earth has no ability to consider your provision and have mercy on you, and therefore does not split by itself; rather someone else opens that ‘door’ to you and hands you your provision. Also, since pasturage and trees are far from thinking about your provision and producing fruits and grains out of mercy for you, in reality they are, as the verses demonstrate, threads, ropes or cables which an All-Wise, All-Merciful One stretches out from behind a veil to extend His bounties to living beings. Thus, in these verses several Divine Names like the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate, the All-Provider, the All-Giver of Bounties, and the All-Magnificent manifest themselves.
Do you not see how God drives the clouds lightly, then gathers them together, in piles and completes the circuit between them? Then you see the rain issuing out of the midst of them. And He causes (clouds like) mountains charged with hail to descend from the heaven, and He makes it to fall on whom He wills, and from whom He wills He turns it aside. The brightness of His lightning all but takes away the sight! God turns about the night and the day. Truly, in that is a lesson for men of insight. God has created every moving creature of water; some of them go upon their bellies; and some of them go upon two feet, and some of them go on four feet; God creates whatever He wills. Surely God is All-Powerful over all things. (24:43-5)
These verses explain the curious Divine disposals in sending the rain from the accumulated clouds, which are among the most important of the miracles of Divine Lordship and the most curious veils over the Divine treasuries of Mercy. While the particles forming the clouds are scattered in the atmosphere, they come together, like the assembling of a dispersed army at the call of a trumpet, to form a cloud at the command of God. Then, like small troops coming from different directions to form an army, God joins the clouds together in a way to enable the completion of an electric circuit between them, and causes those piled-up masses of clouds resembling mountains and charged with either rain or snow or hail, to pour down the water of life to all living beings on the earth.
The rain does not come down by itself. Rather, it is sent down because it comes for certain purposes and according to need. While the atmosphere is clear and nothing is seen in it by way of clouds, the mountain-like forms of clouds, gathered like a striking assembly, do not assemble of their own accord, but rather One Who knows the living beings with all their needs gathers them together to send rain therefrom. Thus, all these events together suggest several Divine Names like the All-Powerful, the All-Knowing, the All-Disposer of Things, the All-Arranger, the All-Upbringing, the All-Helper, and the Reviver.
In order to convince the heart of the wonderful acts of God Almighty in the Hereafter and to prepare the intellect to confirm them, the Qur’an sometimes mentions His amazing actions in the world, or describes His miraculous acts pertaining to the future and the Hereafter in such a manner that we are convinced of them through something familiarly observed every day.
Does man not regard how We have created him of a sperm-drop? Yet lo, he is a manifest adversary. And he has coined for Us a similitude, and has forgotten his creation; he says, ‘Who will revive the bones when they have rotted away?’ Say: ‘He will revive them Who originated them the first time; He knows all creation, Who has made for you out of the green tree fire and lo, from it you kindle.’ Is not He Who created the heavens and the earth able to create the like of them? Yes indeed; He is the All-Creator, the All-Knowing. His command, when He wills a thing, is to say to it ‘Be’, and it is. So glory be to Him, in Whose hand is the dominion of everything, and unto Him you will be returned. (36:77-83)
In the verses above, the Quran proves the raising of the dead in seven or eight ways. First, it presents the first creation of people and means: ‘You see how you are created through the stages of a sperm-drop, something suspended on the wall of the mother’s womb, something like a lump of chewed flesh, the bones and the clothing of bones in muscular tissue. Then, as you do witness this, how can you deny the other creation, the raising of the dead, which is like the first one, even easier than it?’
By reminding man of His great favors to him through He has made for you out of the green tree fire, Almighty God means: ‘The One Who bestows such favors on you does not leave you to yourselves, so that you enter the grave and lie there not to be raised again.’ Also He suggests: ‘While you see how dead or dried trees are revived and turn green, how can you deem it unlikely that wood-like bones will be revived again? Further, is He Who created the heavens and the earth unable to create man, who is the fruit of the heavens and the earth? Does One Who governs a huge tree attach no importance to the fruit of that tree and leave it to others? Do you think that He will leave man, the result of the tree of creation, to his own devices or to others and thereby allow that tree of creation, all parts of which have been kneaded with wisdom, to go to waste?’ Again He means: ‘The One Who will revive you on the Day of Judgment is such that the whole of the universe is like an obedient soldier before Him. It submits itself with perfect obedience to His command of ‘Be!’, and it is. The creation of spring is as easy for Him as the creation of a single flower. It is absolutely improper and irrational to see Him as impotent and challenge His Power, saying: Who will revive the bones?
Then, through the sentence So glory be to Him, in Whose hand is the dominion of all things, the Qur’an signifies: ‘The dominion of everything is in His hand; the keys to all things are with Him. He turns about the night and the day, and winter and summer, as easily as turning over the pages of a book. He is such an All-Powerful One of Majesty that like closing down one of two houses and opening up the other, He closes one of the two worlds, this one and the next, and opens the other.’ Since this is so and as the result of all proofs, unto Him you will be returned. That is, He will raise you out of your graves, and gathering all of you in the place of Mustering, call you to account for whatever you did while in the world.’
Thus, all those verses prepare the mind and the heart to accept the Resurrection because they show its like among the Divine acts in the world.
The Quran sometimes mentions God’s acts in the other world in such a manner that by suggesting their like in the world, it leaves no room for denial or for deeming them improbable.
For example, in the suras beginning with When the sun is folded up (al-Takwir, 81.1), and When the heaven is cleft asunder (al-Infitar, 82.1), and When the heaven is split asunder (al-Inshiqaq, 84.1), the Qur’an describes the mighty upheavals and Divine operations during the destruction of the world and the Great Gathering in such a manner that, since man observes their like in spring and autumn, and in some disastrous events like earthquakes and big storms, he feels no difficulty in accepting these revolutions, which cause dread to the heart and cannot be comprehended by the mind. Since it would be too lengthy even to summarize the meaning of those suras, I shall be content with pointing out a single verse as an example. The verse-
When the rolls of pages are laid open. (81:10)
states that on the Day of Judgment everyone will find the deeds he did in the world, recorded in a roll of pages, laid open before him. Since this seems so incredible on first hearing, the mind has great difficulty in comprehending it. However, in the general revival observed in spring there are many events similar to that laying open of the pages, as well as to others which the sura mentions concerning the final destruction of the world and the Resurrection. For every fruit-bearing tree or flowering plant has deeds, actions, duties and its kind of worship which it does so as to demonstrate the Divine Names manifested in it. All of its deeds (the cycles of its life from germination to blossoming and yielding fruits) are recorded in its seed or seeds to be exhibited in a subsequent spring on earth. As in the tongue of its form and shape it displays the deeds of its source or origin in the clearest way, so also through its branches, twigs, leaves, flowers and fruits it lays open the pages of those deeds. Thus, the One Who does this work before our eyes as the manifestations of His Names the All-Wise, the All-Preserving, the All-Arranging, the All-Upbringing, and the All-Subtle, is He Who says: When the rolls of pages are laid open.
You can compare the other points with this and, if you are able, understand them. However, in order to help you, I will explain the verse When the sun is folded up (al-Takwir, 81.1).
Besides the brilliant metaphor in the expression ‘fold up’ (meaning ‘roll’ or ‘wrap up’) the verse also alludes to several related events.
By drawing back first non-existence, then the ether, and then the skies, like veils, Almighty God brought out of the treasury of His Mercy a brilliant lamp like the sun to illuminate the world and displayed it to the world. After the world is closed up, He will wrap up that brilliant in its veils again and remove it.
The sun is an official of God charged with spreading out its goods of light and folding round the head of the world light and darkness alternately. Each evening it gathers up its goods and conceals them and sometimes it does little business because of the veil of a cloud, and sometimes it withdraws to some degree from doing business due to the veil the moon draws over its face, and closes its book of account for a short, fixed time. A time will come and this official will resign from its post. Even if there is no cause for its dismissal, due to the two black spots on its face growing, as they have begun to do, through Divine command the sun will draw back the light that it sends to the earth by Divine leave and wrap it around its own head. God will order it: ‘You have no longer any duty to carry out concerning the earth. Now go to Hell and burn those who, by worshipping you, insulted an obedient official like you with disloyalty as if you had claimed divinity.’ Through its black-spotted face, the sun exhibits the meaning of the decree, When the sun is folded up.
It sometimes occurs that the wise Quran mentions a particular purpose and in order to urge the minds to think in universal terms, confirms and establishes that purpose through Divine Names, which function as universal rules.
God has indeed heard the statement of the woman who argues with you concerning her husband, and complains unto God, and God hears your conversation. Surely God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (58:1)
The Quran says: ‘Almighty God is absolutely All-Hearing; He hears everything. He even hears through His Name of Truth a wife arguing with you and complaining about her husband, which which is a most particular matter. A woman is most compassionate among human beings and a mine of care and tenderness leading to self-sacrifice. So, as a requirement of His being the All-Compassionate, Almighty God hears her complaint and heeds it as a matter of great importance, and through His Name of Truth considers it seriously.’ Thus, by way of concluding a universal principle from a particular event, One Who-not belonging to the realm of contingencies-hears and sees a particular, minor incident among creatures, must of necessity hear and see all things; One Who claims Lordship over the universe, must be aware of the troubles of wronged insignificant creatures in the universe and hear their cries. One Who is not aware of their suffering and does not hear their lamentations cannot be the Lord. Thus, the sentence Surely God is All-Hearing, All-Seeing, establishes those two mighty truths.
Glorified be Who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque (Masjid al-Haram), to Masjid al-Aqsa’ (in Quds), Whose neighborhood We have blessed, that We might show him of Our signs. Surely He is the All-Hearing the All-Seeing. (17:1)
After mentioning the Noble Prophet’s journey from Masjid al-Haram in Makka to Masjid al-Aqsa’ in Quds, which was the first stage of His Ascension, the verse concludes with Surely He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing. The pronoun He can refer to either Almighty God or the Prophet, upon whom be peace and blessings. If it refers to the Prophet, the meaning will be: ‘This particular journey actually comprises a comprehensive journey, a universal ascension, during which, as far as the Lote-tree of the utmost boundary (where the realm of the created ends) and distance of two bows’ length [which alludes to the final point of the nearness to God which the Prophet acquired, and also refers to the utmost degree which one can acquire in this spiritual journeying] he heard and saw the signs of the Lord an amazing works of Divine art which were manifested before his eyes and ears in the universal degrees of manifestations of Divine Names.’ Thus, the verse presents that particular journey during which innumerable wonders were witnessed as the key to a universal journey .
If the pronoun is taken to refer to Almighty God, the meaning will be: ‘In order to admit a servant of His to His Presence at the end of a journey and to entrust to him a duty, He took him from Masjid al-Haram to Masjid al-Aqsa’ where He caused him to meet the Prophets who were gathered there. Then, after demonstrating that he is the absolute heir to the principles of the religions of all the Prophets, He caused him to travel through the realms of His dominion in all their inner and outer dimensions, as far as the distance of two bows’ length.’
The Prophet is indeed a servant, and made a particular journey to ascend to God’s Presence, but together with him was a trust pertaining to the whole universe, and a light which would change the color of the universe. Since together with the Prophet was also a key to open the door to eternal happiness, Almighty God describes Himself with the attributes of hearing and seeing all things so as to demonstrate the world-wide purposes for the trust, the light, and the key.
Praise be to God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, Who appoints the angels messengers with wings, two, three or four. He multiplies in creation as He wills. Surely God is Powerful over all beings. (35:1)
This verse means: ‘By adorning the heavens and the earth in such a way and demonstrating the works of His Perfection, their Majestic Creator causes their innumerable spectators to extol and praise Him infinitely. He has also decorated them with uncountable bounties so that the heavens and the earth praise and exalt endlessly their Most Merciful Creator in the tongue of all the bounties and those who receive them.’ The verse also shows that the Majestic One Who has equipped the inhabitants of the earth-men and animals-with the necessary limbs and faculties and birds with wings to travel through the regions of the world, and Who has equipped angels, the inhabitants of the heavens, with wings to fly and travel through the heavenly palaces of stars and lofty lands of constellations, must of necessity be powerful over all things. The One Who has given wings to a fly with which to fly from one fruit to another and a sparrow to fly from one tree to another, is He Who gives the wings with which to fly from Venus to Jupiter and from Jupiter to Saturn. Furthermore, unlike the inhabitants of the earth, angels are not restricted to particularity; they are not confined by a specific limited space. Through the words two, three, or four. He multiplies in creation as He wills, the verse suggests that the angels may be present on four or more stars at the same time. Thus, by stating that God has equipped angels with wings, which is a particular event, the Qur’an points to the origin of a universal, tremendous power, and establishes it with the summary, Surely God is Powerful over all things.
It sometimes occurs that the Quran mentions the rebellious acts of man and restrains him with severe threats. Then, in order that the severity of threats should not cast him into despair, it concludes with certain Divine Names which point to His Mercy, and consoles him.
Say: Had there been gods besides Him, as they say, then they would certainly have sought out a way against the Lord of the Supreme Throne. Glorified is He, and high exalted above what they say! The seven heavens and the earth and all that is therein glorify Him, and there is not a thing but glorifies Him with praise; but you understand not their glorification. Surely He is Ever-Clement, Most Forgiving. (42:4)
The verses mean: ‘Say: If, as you say, there had been partners with Him in His Sovereignty, they would certainly have sought a hand in His absolute rule over the creation and this would surely have caused disorder in the universe. Whereas, every creature, universal or particular, big or small, from the seven levels of the heavens to microscopic organisms, glorifies in the tongue of the inscriptions of the Divine Names manifested on them, the Majestic One signified by those Names, and declares Him to be free of partners or like. In the same way as the heavens declare Him to be Holy and testify to His Unity through their light-diffusing worlds of suns and stars, and through the wisdom and order they display, the atmosphere also glorifies and sanctifies Him through the ‘voice’ of clouds and its words of thunder, lighting, and rain, and testifies to His Unity. Again, together with the earth glorifying its Majestic Creator and declaring Him to be One through its living words of plants and animate creatures, each tree also glorifies Him and testifies to His Oneness through its words of leaves, flowers, and fruits. Likewise, despite its smallness and particularity, the minutest of creatures and the most particular of beings glorifies the All-Majestic One many of Whose Names it displays through their inscriptions which it bears, and testifies to His Unity.
Thus, the verses state that, while man is the issue and result of the universe and a delicate fruit of it honored with ruling the earth in the name of God, his unbelief and associating partners with God-in contrast to the universe which, glorifying its majestic Creator with one voice and testifying to His Oneness, carries out its duty of worship in perfect obedience-is ugly and deserving of punishment. Then, in order not to cause him to fall into utter despair and so show why, despite such an infinitely ugly rebellion and crime, the All-Overwhelming One of Majesty gives respite to man and does not pull down the world on him, they conclude with Surely He is Ever-Clement and All-Forgiving, and leaves a door open for repentance and hope of being forgiven.
Now understand from those foregoing signs of miraculousness that in the summaries at the conclusions of the verses are many aspects of guidance and gleams of miraculousness, that the greatest geniuses of eloquence have bitten their fingers in utter astonishment and admiration at those authentic forms, and concluding that it is not the word of man, believed with absolute certainty in its being Revelation revealed. Together with the points and qualities which have so far been mentioned, there are many further qualities in some verses, such that even the ‘blind’ can see the impression of miraculousness in their arrangement.
By M. Fethullah Gulen