By Dr, Nabil A Haron
Inimitable Eloquence of the Qur’an
The inimitability of the Arabic Holy Qur’an for all times and in all places has been proven by the inability of anyone to bring a similitude to it, or even one of its surahs. This is despite the challenges that were directed to the Arabs by the Holy Qur’an; the existence of motivation among the enemies of Islam from the time of revelation to the Day of Judgment; and the absence of any impediment, as they are a people of eloquence and rhetoric. In addition to this, the Holy Qur’an was revealed in their own language and it accorded with their literary expressions and styles.
In this lesson, we will summarize some aspects of the eloquence of the Holy Qur’an that are felt by every open-minded and sensitive reciter and researcher of, and listener to, the Holy Qur’an; as the Holy Qur’an is minutely and wholly inimitable in regard to its eloquent style.
– Its splendid composition is different from the ordinary language of the Arabs, whether poetry or prose. Its style also clearly differs from that of its conveyer, Muhammad (peace be upon him), who said:
– “I am Muhammad, the illiterate prophet (thrice), and no prophet will come after me. I have been given the opening, conclusion, and Jawami` (the shortest expressions with the widest meanings) of speech.” (Reported by Ahmad)
– The Holy Qur’an has one consistent elevated level of language, despite the diversity of its meanings and subjects, and this applies even to the verses concerning legislation and judgments. An example is the verse related to debt in Surah Al-Baqarah – Verse No. 282 (the longest verse in the Qur’an). Another example is the verses concerned with inheritance in Surah An-Nisa’ – Verses Nos. 11 – 12.
– The Holy Qur’an is suitable for all people, regardless of their different levels of knowledge, and of time. Accordingly, lay people, dignitaries, the simple minded, and scientists have been able to understand and become affected by the Holy Qur’an throughout time.
– The interpenetration of the meanings and subjects of the Holy Qur’an is presented in such a way that they become unified in one integrated harmonious structure that can not be imitated.
– The eloquence of the Holy Qur’an depends on the great diversity in the ways of expressing the same subject matter, so that every expression presents a new meaning.
– The Holy Qur’an is free from repetition, with the exception of (for) two reasons. The first reason is for confirmation, and this is accompanied by an exaggeration of the meaning and an increase in the effect. As for the second, this is related to the integration of the figuration and forms that are used to present a specific subject.
– The whole Qur’anic method of expression gives us a feeling of the Majesty and Glory of the Speaker, Allah. It is psychologically impossible for a human being to imitate such a style, with this intensity, throughout the whole of the Qur’anic text.
– There is a great diversity in the manners of address, in a way that accords with narration and embodies situations and meanings in a true and accurate way (whether the discourse is with the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him], groups of people, Allah, or when using the third person pronoun for things, individuals, or groups)
– Words and sentences are such as to give more than their literal meanings, and to bring tangible imaginable forms.
– Figurations are transformed from static forms into living and animated scenes.
– Scenes are exaggerated and animated according to the necessity of the situation and context.
– The verses and surahs in the Holy Qur’an are as a whole united and integrated in such a manner that they interpret each other.
– The Qur’an inimitably meets different and, even, contradicting aims at the same time. The following are some examples:
- Intensive conciseness or shortening with a perfect meeting of the intended meanings.
- A combination of summing up and elaboration
- Both lay people and intellectuals are addressed at the same time
- Persuasion and emotional enjoyment are combined
– The numerical inimitability that is represented in the equality of use of some repeated and opposing terms, that would be impossible for any human being to apply to such a long and diverse text as this, cannot be realized by mere chance. For example, the Holy Qur’an mentions both the devils and the angels (88 times in different forms), earthly life and the Hereafter (115 times), good deeds and bad deeds (180 times), and the derivatives of the words: the Qur’an, revelation, and Islam (70 times each).
Evidence from Qur’an and Sunnah
]أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِّثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِين[
This means: “Or they say, “He (Prophet Muhammad SAW) forged it (the Qur’an).” Say: “Bring you then ten forged Surah (chapters) like unto it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah (to your help), if you speak the truth!”” (11, Hud: 13)
]أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِين [
This means: “Or do they say: “He (Muhammad SAW) has forged it?” Say: “Bring then a Surah (chapter) like unto it, and call upon whomsoever you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!”” (10, Yunus: 38)
]وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّه إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِين[
This means: “And if you (Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur’an) to Our slave (Muhammad (peace be upon him) then produce a Surah (Chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful.” (2, Al-Baqarah: 23)
]قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَى أَن يَأْتُواْ بِمِثْلِ هَـذَا الْقُرْآن لاَ يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا[
This means: “If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.” (17, Al-Isra`: 88)
]فَلْيَأْتُوا بِحَدِيثٍ مِّثْلِهِ إِن كَانُوا صَادِقِينَ[
This means: “Let them then produce a recital like unto it (the Qur’an) if they are truthful.” (52, At-Tur: 34)
]أَفَلاَ يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِندِ غَيْرِ اللّهِ لَوَجَدُواْ فِيهِ اخْتِلاَفًا كَثِيرًا[ (النساء: 82)
This means: “Do they not then consider the Qur’an carefully? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much contradictions.” (4, An-Nisa’: 82)