The Miraculousness Of Quran’s Eloquence
This article covers the Aspects of the Miraculousness of 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.
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 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 appears 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!
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 prostrated myself before the eloquence of that phrase.’
Extraordinary fluency and purity in the wording of the Quran
There is an extraordinary fluency and purity in the wording of the Quran. As it is extraordinarily eloquent in the style of expressing the meaning, so also it is wonderfully fluent and pure in wording, in the arrangement of words. It is a proof of its purity and fluency in wording that even if recited thousands of times it does not bore the sense, rather, it gives pleasure. A little child can memorize it easily. A man gravely ill, albeit he may be troubled by a few words of ordinary speech beside him, will feel relieved and comforted on hearing it. Its recitation gives to the ear and mind of one who is in the throes of death, the same taste and pleasure as that which the water of Zamzam leaves in his mouth and on his palate.
Once the Quraysh, the clan of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, sent one of its leaders who was well-versed in eloquence, to listen to the Quran. On his return, he remarked: ‘That word has such a sweetness and pleasure that no human tongue can resemble it. I know poets and soothsayers very well. The Quran is not like any of their works. However, we should describe it as a sorcery so that our followers may not be deceived in it.’ So, even its most hardened enemies could not help but admire the fluency and eloquence of the Quran.
It would take too long to explain the factors that bring about the fluency and extraordinariness it the arrangement of the words in the verses, sentences and phrases of the Quran. One who looks at the arrangement of the letters in the verse translated as
Then, after grief, He sent down security for you, as slumber overcame a party of you. While another party lay troubled on their own account, moved by wrong suspicions of God, the suspicion of ignorance. They said: ‘Have we any part in the affair?’ Say: ‘The affair wholly belongs to God.’ They hide within themselves [a thought] which they reveal not to you, saying: ‘Had we had any part in the affair we would not have been slain here.’ Say: ‘Even though you had been in your houses, those appointed to be slain would have gone forth to the places where they were to fall. [All this was] in order that God might try what is in your breasts and prove what is in your hearts. God knows what is hidden in the breasts [of men]. (3:154)
will see the luster of the miraculousness brought about by the extraordinary arrangement of the letters. This arrangement, the subtle relationship between them, the delicate harmony and composition in the verse, shows with the certainty of two times two equals four that the verse can in no way be the work of human mind.
Superiority, power, sublimity, and magnificence in the expressions of the Quran
There is a superiority, power, sublimity, and magnificence in the expressions of the Quran. As there is a fluency, eloquence and purity in its composition and word order, with eloquence in its meanings, and originality and uniqueness in its styles, there is evident excellence in its explanations. Truly, in all categories of expression and in different levels and varieties of address including encouragement, dissuasion, praise, censure, demonstration, guidance, and explanation and overcoming in argument, the expositions of the Quran are of the highest degree. For example:
Of numerous examples of the verses or chapters which exhort and encourage people to do good deeds, the expressions in the sura al-Insan are most pleasing, like the water of a river of Paradise, and flow like the water flowing from an abundant spring. They are also as sweet as the fruits of Paradise and as beautiful as the garments of houris.
Aimed at deterrence and threat, the Quranic explanations at the beginning of the sura al-Ghashiya, produce an effect like lead boiling in the ears of the misguided people, and fire burning in their brains, and zaqqum scalding their palates, and Hellfire assaulting their faces, and a bitter, thorny tree in their stomachs. That an ‘official’ like Hell charged with torturing and tormenting and which demonstrates the Divine Being’s threats, roars and nearly bursts with rage and fury (67:7-8) shows how dreadful and awesome that Being’s powers of deterrence and threat are.
Of numerous examples of censure and restraint, consider the sentence which can be translated as follows:
Would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother?(49:12)
It induces in the heart an aversion to backbiting, reprimanding the backbiter with six degrees of reprimand and restraining him from it with six degrees of severity.
As is known, the hamza at the beginning (of the Arabic original of the sentence) is interrogative. This sense of interrogation penetrates all the words of the sentence like water, so that each word carries an interrogative accent.
Thus, through the hamza, it asks: ‘Do you have no intelligence, with which you ask and answer, and can discriminate between good and bad, that you fail to perceive how abominable this thing is?’
Through the second word in the original, which means like, it asks: ‘Is it that your heart, with which you love and hate, is so corrupted that you love a most repugnant thing like backbiting?’
Third, through the phrase, any of you, it asks: ‘What has happened to your sense of social relationship and civilization, which derive their liveliness from collectivity, that you dare to accept something so poisonous to social life?’
Fourth, through the phrase, to eat the flesh, it asks: ‘What has happened to your sense of humanity that you are tearing your friend to pieces with your teeth like a wild animal?’
Fifth, through the phrase, of his brother, it asks: ‘Do you have no human tenderness, no sense of kinship, that you sink your teeth into some innocent person to whom you are tied by numerous links of brotherhood? Or do you have no intelligence that you bite into your own limbs with your teeth in such a senseless fashion?’
Sixth, through the word, dead, it asks: ‘Where is your conscience? Is your nature so corrupt that you can commit so disgusting an act as eating the flesh of your dead brother who is deserving of much respect?’
That means, slander and backbiting are repugnant to the intelligence and the heart, to humanity and conscience, to human nature and religious and national brotherhood. You see, then, that verse condemns backbiting in six degrees in a very concise and most precise manner and restrains man from it in six miraculous ways.
Out of numerous examples in the category of proving and demonstration, consider the verse:
Look, therefore, at the prints of God’s mercy: how He revives the earth after its death. Indeed, it is He who is the Reviver of the Dead in the same way, and He is all-powerful over all things. (30:50)
The verse is so wonderful in proving the resurrection of the dead and removing doubts about it that no better proof is conceivable.
In raising to life again in every spring most perfectly and without any confusion hundreds of thousands of plants and animals which died in the previous autumn and winter and stand or lie mixed with one another, God Almighty shows hundreds of thousands of most perfect and clear examples of resurrection. The verse states that for the One Who does all these things it is not difficult at all to raise the dead to life after the destruction of the world. Since it is the stamp of the One of Unity to inscribe on the page of the earth hundreds of thousands of species with the Pen of His Power one within the other without confusion, together with proving Divine Oneness like the sun, the verse demonstrates the resurrection of the dead as evidently as the rising and setting of the sun. By the adverb ‘how’, the Qur’an refers to the manner or way of the resurrection and describes it in detail in many other suras.
Also in the sura beginning with Qaf. By the Glorious Qur’an (50:1), the Qur’an proves the Resurrection in such a brilliant, beautiful, lovely, and elevated manner of expression that it convinces as certainly as the coming of spring. Consider: in reply to the unbelievers’ denial of the quickening to life of the bones rotted away, it declares in a manner like the flowing of water:
Have they not then observed the sky above them, how we have constructed it and beautified it, and how there are no rifts therein? And the earth We have spread out, and have flung firm hills therein, and have caused every lively kind to grow therein, a sight and a reminder for every penitent servant. And We send down from the sky blessed water whereby We give growth to gardens and the grain of crops, and lofty date-palms with ranged clusters, provision for men; and therewith we quicken a dead land. Even so will be the resurrection of the dead. (50:6-11)
Truly, the manner of its exposition flows like water, glitters like stars and, just as dates give to the body, it gives to the heart, both pleasure and delight and nourishment.
Again, among the most delightful examples of the category of proof and demonstration, it says:
Ya Sin. By the Wise Qur’an. Certainly you are among those sent (as Messengers of God). (36:1-3)
The oath in the verse points out that the proof of Muhammad’s Messengership, upon him be peace and blessings, is certain and true to the degree that it is paid so much respect and honor as to be sworn by. By this, it means: ‘You are the Messenger for there is the Quran in your hand. The Quran is the truth and the word of God. For there is true wisdom in it and the seal of miraculousness on it.’
Another concise and miraculous example of the category of proof and demonstration:
(Man) said: ‘Who will revive these bones when they have rotted away?’ Say: ‘He will revive them who built them at the first; He has absolute knowledge of every creation. (36:77-8)
If somebody tells you about one who has reassembled a huge, dispersed army in one day that that person could gather, through a trumpet call, a battalion that has been dispersed for rest, and line them up again in their previous positions, and you object, saying, ‘I don’t believe that’, you know what an unreasonable, absurd denial that would be. Similarly, while being dispersed in the air, water and earth, an All-Powerful, All-Knowing One assembles the particles of all living beings through the command of ‘Be, and it is’ and with perfect orderliness and the balance of wisdom, and makes from them bodies with the most delicate senses and keenest faculties. Every year, every spring, He creates hundreds of thousands of animate species like armies on the earth. Is it, then, reasonable to deem it unlikely and ask how that One can assemble through a blow of Israfil’s Trumpet the parts and particles which were once the essential building-blocks of the same body in close co-operation and relationship with one another?
The Quranic explanations in the category of guidance are so affective, penetrating, and so tender and touching that they uplift the spirit with ardour, the heart with delight, the intellect with curiosity, and the eyes with tears. Out of numerous examples, study the verse:
Then your hearts became hardened thereafter and were like stones, or even yet harder; for there are stones from which rivers come gushing, and others split, so that water issues from them, and others crash down in the fear of God. God is not heedless of the things you do. (2:74)
The verse, addressed to the Children of Israel, means:
‘While the hard rock poured tears like a spring from its twelve ‘eyes’ in the face of a miracle of the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, namely, his staff, what has happened to you that you become indifferent in the face of all the miracles of that Prophet with eyes dried, and hearts hardened and unfeeling?’
For the category of silencing and overcoming in argument, consider the following example out of hundreds:
If you are in doubt concerning that We have sent down on Our servant, then bring a sura like it, and call your helpers and witnesses, other than God, if you are truthful. (2:23)
The verse, briefly, means:
‘O men and jinn! If you have doubts concerning the Divine authorship of the Qur’an and fancy it to be the product of a human mind, come forward and let an unlettered one among you who is like the one whom you call Muhammad, the Trustworthy, produce a like of the Qur’an. If he cannot do that, let the most famous of your writers or scholars try it. If they too cannot do it, let them all work together and make use of all the legacy of the past and call on their deities to help, let all of your scientists, philosophers, sociologists, theologians and men of letters try their utmost to produce the like of the Qur’an. If they too cannot do it, then let them try(leaving aside the miraculous aspects of meaning of the Qur’an, which are inimitable(to produce a work which can match the Qur’an in the eloquence of its word order and composition.’
By Then bring you ten suras the like of it, contrived (11.13), the Qur’an means:
‘It is not stipulated that the meaning of what you contrive should be true, you may fabricate legends, myths or stories. If you cannot do that, not the like of the whole Qur’an, produce a work which can match with only ten suras of it. If you cannot do that either, then produce a work like only one sura of it. If that also is too difficult, then produce a work like one of its short suras.
If you cannot do that either (and you will never be able to) although you are in dire need of doing it because your honor, religion, nationality, lives, and property will otherwise be at risk, you will perish in the world in utter humiliation, and as stated in the verse, Then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones (2:14), stay eternally in the Hell, the fuel of whose fire you and your idols will provide. Since you have now understood that or the Quranic expositions in the category of teaching and explanation, they are so wonderful, beautiful you are unable in eight degrees, you must admit eight times that the Quran is a miracle. Either believe in it or keep quiet and go to Hell! Now, consider the miraculous exposition of the Quran in the category of silencing and say: There cannot be and is no need for any other exposition after the exposition of the Quran.
Out of innumerable truths contained in the verses below, I will point out only one as an example of the Quran’s way of silencing the opponents:
Therefore remind! By Your Lord’s blessing you are not a soothsayer, neither possessed. Or do they say, ‘He is a poet for whom we await what fate will bring?’ Say: ‘Await! I shall be waiting with you.’ Or do their intellects bid them to do this? Or are they an insolent, rebellious people? Or do they say, ‘He has invented it?’ Nay, but they do not believe. Then let them bring a discourse like it, if they speak truly. Or were they created out of nothing? Or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, but they have not sure faith. Or are your Lord’s treasuries in their keeping? Or are they the watching registrars? Or have they a ladder whereon they listen? Then let any of them that listened bring a clear authority. Or has He daughters, and they sons? Or ask you them for a wage, and so they are weighed down with debt? Or is the Unseen in their keeping, and so they are writing it down? Or do they intend a plot? But those who unbelieve, are they the outwitted? Or have they a god, other than God? Glory be to God, above that which they associate! (52:29-43)
By fifteen questions introduced by Or, which express a rejection and impossibility, it categorically silences all the groups of misguided people and closes up all the sources of doubt. It leaves no opening through which the misguided can infiltrate and no hole for them to hide in. It tears up all the veils under which they may seek refuge, and discloses their fallacies. In each separate section it either falsifies concisely the assertion on which a certain group of the unbelievers base their unbelief or, since the fallacy of that assertion is evident, it remains silent, or since it refutes it in other places in detail, it contends itself with mentioning it briefly. For example, it refers their assertion that the Prophet is a poet, to the verse, We have not taught him poetry; it is not seemly for him (Ya Sin, 36.69), and their claim stated in the last section finds its answer in the verse, Were there gods in earth and heaven other than God, they would surely go to ruin (al-Anbiya’, 21.22).
In the beginning, it says: ‘Communicate the Divine Commandments. You are not a soothsayer for the words of a soothsayer are confused and consist in conjecture. But you speak the truth with absolute certainty. Nor could you be one possessed; even your enemies testify to the perfection of your intellect.’
Or do they say, ‘He is a poet for whom we await what fate will bring?’ That is, do they, like senseless, ignorant unbelievers, say that you are a poet? Do they await your ruin? Say to them: ‘Await you! I am also waiting!’ The great and brilliant truths that you bring are free of the fancies of poetry and independent of its artificial embellishments.
Or do their intellects bid them to do this? Or, like senseless philosophers, do they regard their own intellects as sufficient for them and refuse to follow you? Whereas any sound intellect requires following you. For whatever you speak is reasonable. However, it may be impossible for merely human intellect to grasp it.
Or are they an insolent, rebellious people? Or like rebellious wrongdoers, is the reason for their denial their non-submission to truth? However, the end of the leaders of mutinous wrongdoers, like Pharaoh and Nimrod, is known to everybody.
Or do they say, ‘He has invented it?’ Nay, but they do not believe: like lying, unscrupulous hypocrites, do they accuse you of inventing the Qur’an? Whereas they have so far known you as the most trustworthy among them and called you Muhammad, the Trustworthy. Actually they have no intention to believe. Otherwise, they must find a like of the Qur’an among the works of human mind.
Or were they created out of nothing? Or, like the philosophers of absurdity who see existence as absurd and purposeless, do they regard themselves as purposeless and without a Creator, and left to themselves? Are they blind, do they not see that the universe is thoroughly ‘embellished’ with instances of wisdom and fruitfulness, and creatures from the minutest particles to galaxies are charged with duties and subjected to the Divine commandments?
Or are they the creators? Or, like the materialists who are each like a Pharaoh, do they imagine themselves to exist by themselves, to be self-subsistent, and create themselves all the things they need, and therefore refuse belief and worship? It seems that they do suppose themselves to be each a creator. Whereas one who creates a single thing must be the creator of every thing. However, self-conceit and vanity have made them foolish to such infinite degree that they suppose one so impotent as would be defeated by an insect or a microbe to be absolutely powerful. Since they have become devoid of humanity and the power of reason to that degree, they have fallen lower than animals, than even inanimate objects. That being so, do not be grieved by their denial.
Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, but they have not sure faith. Or, like the foolish atheists who deny the Creator, do they deny God and therefore not heed the Qur’an? If so, let them either deny the existence of the heavens and the earth or claim themselves to have created them! Let them, by doing so, show themselves to be devoid of even a bit of reason! For there are proofs of Divine existence and Unity as many as stars in the heavens and as many as flowers on the earth. That means, they have actually no intention to have sure faith and accept the truth. Otherwise, while they know that ‘a letter cannot be without one who writes it’, how do they suppose that this book of the universe in each letter of which is inscribed a book can be without an author?
Or are the treasuries of your Lord in their keeping? Or, like some misguided philosophers and Brahmanists who deny the free will of Almighty God, do they deny Prophethood and therefore not believe in you? If so, let them deny all the prints of wisdom, purpose, order, purposeful results, favors, and the works of mercy that are observed throughout the universe and manifest a deliberate choice and absolute will, and all the miracles of all the Prophets! Or let them claim to have in their keeping the treasuries of the favors bestowed on all of the creatures and show that they are not worthy of address! If this is so, do not feel sorrow for their denial!
Or are they the watching registrars? Or, like the haughty Mu’tazilites who gave to reason absolute authority in judging matters, do they imagine themselves to be overseers and inspectors of the work of the Creator and desire to hold Him responsible? Never be disheartened and do not mind their denial, which is vain!
Or have they a ladder whereon they listen? Then let any of them that listened bring a clear authority. Or, like the soothsayers and ‘spiritualists’ who follow jinn and Satan, do they imagine that they have found out another, different route to the world of the Unseen? Do they fancy that they have a ladder by which to ascend to the heavens, which are closed to their satans, so that they deny your heavenly tidings? The denial of such people as those who falsely claim to have knowledge of the Unseen means nothing.
Or has He daughters, and they sons? Or, like the philosophers who associate partners with God by the names of Ten Intellects and the Masters of Species or like the Sabeans who ascribe some sort of divinity to heavenly objects and angels or like the heretics and misguided who attribute sons to God Almighty, do they assert that angels are the daughters to God, which is contrary to the necessary existence of the Unique, Eternally-Besought One, and to His Unity and absolute independence of all, and to his being the Eternally Besought-of-All, and also to the innocence and servanthood of angels who have actually no sexes? Do they imagine angels to be their intercessors with God, that they do not follow you? Reproduction is the means of multiplication and co-operation and the continuance of life, particular to contingent and mortal physical created beings like man, who is impotent, enamored of the world and desirous of having heirs to help him. It is therefore sheer fallacy and foolishness to ascribe fatherhood to God, Who has necessary and eternal existence, and is absolutely free of all physical qualities and exempt from multiplication and division and Who has an absolute power free of the intervention of any kind of impotence. Still it is far greater fallacy and foolishness to ascribe to Him the fatherhood of innumerable daughters while they themselves regard having daughters as a shame to their reputation and vanity. That being the truth, do not mind the denial of those who cherish such fallacies!
Or ask you them for a wage, and so they are weighed down with debt? Or, like the worldly who are rebellious and insolent, and who are miserly and ambitious, do they find the commandments you convey to them as unbearable so that they keep away from you? Do they not know that you expect your wage from God only? Is it difficult for them that in order to both receive the blessing of abundance in their wealth and be saved from the envy and maledictions of the poor, they should give to the poor among them a tenth or fortieth of the wealth God has bestowed on them, so that they refrain from accepting Islam because of the obligation of zakat? Their denial is not worth answering, and their due is punishment.
Or is the Unseen in their keeping, and so they are writing it down? Or, like those who claim to have knowledge of the Unseen, and those pseudo-intellectuals who imagine their guesses of future events to be certain, do they not like your tidings of the Unseen! Do they have books of the Unseen, that they do not accept your book of the Unseen? If so, they are fancying that the world of the Unseen, which is closed to everybody else save the Messengers receiving Divine Revelation, and it is impossible for everyone to enter by himself, is open to themselves and so they are writing down the information they obtain from it. Let it not dishearten you that conceited people such as those who do not know their place deny you. For the truths you bring will destroy their fancies in a very short time.
Or desire they to outwit? The unbelievers, they are the outwitted. Or, like corrupted, unscrupulous hypocrites and intriguing heretics, do they seek to deviate people from guidance through trickery, so that although they do not themselves believe it, they deceive others into believing that you are a soothsayer or a magician or one possessed? Do not regard those tricksters as truly human and therefore do not be disheartened by their denial and tricks. Rather, be more vigorous and strive more! For their trickery deceives themselves only. Their apparent success in evil-doing is temporary and a gradual perdition for them from God.
Or have they a god, other than God? Glory be to God, above that which they associate. Or, like the Magians who believe in two gods, one the creator of goodness, the other, of evil, and those who attribute everything to causality and make it a point of support for them, do they rely on false deities and contest with you? Do they show independence of you?
That means, they are blind to the perfect order and most delicate coherence in the universe as apparent as daylight, which is stated in the verse, were there gods in the heavens and the earth other than God, they would surely go to ruin (al-Anbiya’, 21.22). Actually, were there two headmen or elders in a village, two governors in a town, two sovereigns in a country, there would remain no order and everything would go into chaos. Whereas, from the wings of a fly to the lamps of the heavens, there is such delicate order and harmony in the universe that there is no room for associating partners with God. So, since those people act in a way so far contrary to reason and wisdom and common sense and evident realities, let their denial not cause you to give up communicating the Divine Message.
Thus, I have so far tried to summarize only one of the hundreds of jewels of those verses which contain a series of truths. If I was able to show a few more jewels of them, you would certainly conclude: ‘These verses are each a miracle.’
As for the Qur’anic expositions in the category of teaching and explanation, they are so wonderful, beautiful and fluent that the most ordinary people can understand the most profound truths from its way of explanation easily.
Truly, the Quran of miraculous exposition teaches and explains many profound and subtle truths in a way so direct and clear that it comes as familiar to the general way of seeing things, and does not offend general human sentiments. Nor does it impose itself against generally held opinions. Just as one chooses to use appropriate words when addressing a child, so too the Quran, which is described as ‘the Divine condescension to the human mind’, condescends in style to the level of those whom it addresses, and speaking in allegories, parables, and comparisons, makes the most difficult Divine truths and mysteries, which the minds of most profound philosophers will not otherwise be able to comprehend, understandable by the most common, unlettered man. For example, in the verse, The Most Merciful One has settled Himself on the Supreme Divine Throne1 (Ta Ha, 20.5), it shows Divine Lordship as though it were a Kingdom, and the aspect of His Lordship in administering the universe as though He were a King seated on the throne of His Sovereignty and exercising His rule.
The Quran, which is the word of the Majestic Creator of the universe issuing from the highest degree of manifestation of His Lordship, surpasses all the other degrees, guiding those who rise to those degrees, and passing through seventy thousand veils to illuminate each. Radiating enlightenment to all levels of understanding and intelligence, it has lived through epochs and centuries and poured out its meaning to all people of different abilities and scientific levels. Moreover, it has done so without losing even an iota of its perfect youth, its infinite freshness and delicacy, and has continued to teach people at all levels of understanding, from the lowest to the highest, in an easy but most skilful and comprehensible way, and satisfied them and convinced them of its truths. Thus, at whatever side of this miraculous book you look at, you will certainly find one gleam or another of its miraculousness.
By M. Fethullah Gulen
1. Divine Throne (‘Arsh) and Chair (Kursiyy) are unknown to us. However, since God speaks according to our level of understanding, He usually speaks in parables and metaphors. Elsewhere, Bediuzzaman says that earth is the Throne of Life (‘Arsh al-Hayat), and water, the Throne of Mercy (‘Arsh al-Rahma). This means that in the world God creates most things from earth and water, rain, is, in one respect, the embodiment of His Mercy. So, one of the meanings of ‘Arsh may be all the things combined which God uses in conveying and executing His commands, or it may be an immaterial entity enveloping all creation from which God controls and administers the universe. While ‘Arsh may be related to the Divine ‘Empyrean’ World, Kursiyy may be rather concerned with other unseen worlds of immaterial forms. God knows the best.