CHAPTER X / Perfect Unity of Whole and Part

Perfect Unity of Whole and Part

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We have seen how human beings work when they try to produce a coherent whole out of separate parts, whether this be a literary piece or something different.

This is totally different from the unity that is produced when parts of Qur’anic revelations are joined together to form a single whole.

Indeed, the Qur’anic order should have reflected absolutely no unity or coherence because of three different factors that should have made it totally disjointed.

These are: divergent elements of the meaning, times of revelation separated by long or short periods, and widely different situations to be addressed on each occasion.

Let us now consider whether these factors and their combined effect have diminished in any way the coherent order of any surah that has been composed in such a manner.

The Arabs who were challenged to produce a single surah like the Qur’an would have jumped at the opportunity to detract from the Qur’an, had they found any flaw in the composition of a single surah.

They would have needed no temptation to have a go at it.

Literary critics of the highest calibre in successive generations have been citing examples from the Qur’an...

to illustrate perfect harmony of composition when it addresses different meanings or changes styles and modes of expression.

We for our part should study carefully the construction of the Qur’an and how its arrangement has been made so as to produce such a perfect structure to merit God’s description of it:

“A discourse in the Arabic tongue, free of all deviousness.”

(39: 28.)

Take any one of the many surahs of the Qur’an that tackle more than one purpose. Indeed, these are the majority.

Now review it very carefully, stage by stage, and then contemplate it again, and yet again: how it begins, and how it ends.

How it reflects the contrast and balance between its constituent parts. How it relates its main themes to each other.

And how its premises lead to its conclusions, and the early parts lead to those that follow.

I maintain that no one will ever find in the line of the meanings it portrays or in the construction of its verses and sentences anything to indicate whether it was revealed all on the same occasion or on several occasions.

You will imagine that each one of the seven longest surahs was revealed in total on one occasion,

but then you will have to acknowledge the fact that all or most of them were revealed one passage at a time.

In fact, this applies to all surahs, long and short as they may be, which have been revealed in parts.

In fact, very short surahs, like surahs 93, 96 and 107 were each revealed in two parts, on two different occasions.

Of the longest seven surahs, perhaps Surah 6 was revealed on one occasion, as scholars suggest.

But then the method of moving from one meaning to another in Surah 6 and the surahs revealed on several occasions is the same.

It may be said that although a surah might have been put together after its parts were revealed separately, these parts were in one whole unit prior to their separate revelation.

This would be the same as, say, a historic building which needs to be moved as it is from one place to another.

Its detailed dimensions are measured and its every stone or brick is given a number before it is dismantled. In this way, every little part is assigned its exact position.

When it is reconstructed, it regains its exact shape and acquires an even more solid foundation.

When we read a long surah that was revealed in a number of passages over a long period of time, an ignorant person may think that it is no more than an assortment of laboured meanings and a random collection of syntactic structures.

But when you examine it very carefully you will find it to be a solid structure bringing together the main purposes in an elaborate system which lays down every aspect...

giving it its sections and branches which are then further divided into long or short subdivisions.

When you move from one part of the surah to another...

you feel as if you are looking at the rooms and halls of one building that has been designed by a single architect who gave it his whole attention until the building was completed.

You will not feel any mismatch in the allocation of space or the distribution of amenities. Nor will you sense any split as you move from one passage to another.

Indeed, the reverse is true.

You will feel perfect unity between the different types and consummate harmony between the constituent parts of each type.

What is more is that all this has been achieved without recourse to anything apart from the intended purposes themselves.

What helps to bring it about are the ease of introduction and the fine treatment at the beginning, middle and completion of every purpose.

Thus, you see a direct link between separate parts and perfect harmony between distinct identities.

But then we do not give a proper description of the unity of the Qur’anic surahs when we compare them to a single building with rooms and halls conforming to the same design.

This is an inadequate description. The parts and passages of each surah are welded together and brought into perfect harmony in the same way as the organs of the human body.

Between each two passages there is an inherent link uniting them together, in the same way as two bones meet at a joint with a mass of connective tissues and ligaments completing the linkage,

then the two organs supported by the two bones are linked by arteries and nerves.

Beyond that, the whole surah moves in the same direction to fulfil a particular purpose, just like we see the human body having a single stature,

while all its organs perform different biological functions that help to complete a single purpose.

Remember that the parts and elements that ensure the unity of each surah were related to events that had not all taken place at the time of the revelation of that surah in the Qur’an,

nor were they expected to happen at the outset of its revelation.

Moreover, the perfection of that unity required that all these events and causes must, by necessity,

take place at their appointed and allocated time so that the Qur’an might have the opportunity to address them.

The question that must be asked here is:

what dictated the course of events so as to make it serve the purpose of these passages and to ensure that every single event should take place at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an?

Should a single event have failed to materialise at the time, the whole system giving the Qur’an its unity and harmony would have been disrupted.

This would have given us at least one surah without a proper opening or conclusion, or with a split in the middle.

The fact that cosmic events have been made to serve the structure of these literary passages and ensure their perfect unity provides clear evidence that both the literary speech and the actual event have come from the same source.

Indeed, the One whose knowledge has given these words is the One whose will has produced those events and creatures.

They are all from God, whose will is always done and whose verdict is final. All glory belongs to Him.

Page V

The Details and the Whole in the Qur’anic Picture

Let us now suppose that the man who has given us the Qur’an could have been able to predict with...

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