The Secret of the Qur’anic Miracle

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Let us now assume that a person who seeks the truth has followed our line of argument and conducted his own research, looking into all the evidence, making comparisons of style and language, distinguishing fine and superb styles from what is inferior to them, yet still he remains in doubt.

Such a person would now say to us: I have indeed looked at all the different styles of expression and examined them all very carefully.

I admit that there is nothing as powerful or as fine and enchanting as the Qur’an. I accept that it is, as you describe it, absolutely unique, surpassing, overpowering and that nothing stands up to it.

Nevertheless, I feel something within me that I cannot explain, making me eager to study the special characteristics and features that distinguish the Qur’an from all other speech. For these form the secret of its miraculous nature. Would you explain some of these to me for reassurance.

Such a request is by no means easy. It is a goal that has preoccupied scholars and men of letters of past and present generations. Yet they have not achieved their whole purpose.

All that they could do is to give examples and analogies. They have admitted that what remained hidden, after all their efforts, is greater than what they have fathomed.

They also say that what they describe of the portions they have learnt is less than what they felt to be indescribable. Now that the task has fallen to us, we cannot do better than to follow in their footsteps.

We certainly cannot outline the whole secret that makes the Qur’an so miraculous, nor can we present all miraculous aspects people have defined, nor all that we ourselves feel of these aspects.

We will only attempt to describe some aspects that we feel whenever we listen to the Qur’an, or read parts of it, or when we reflect on the meaning of its verses. You may find in a few of these what you will not find in many aspects outlined by other people.

Nonetheless, we hope that our discussion will be of benefit to you and will give you firmer conviction. The first thing that attracts attention in the Qur’anic style is its sound structure in form and substance. Let a fine reciter of the Qur’an begin his recitation, with proper care, letting himself follow the drift of the passage he is reading, not making it follow his own preferences.

Now move away from him and sit in a place where you cannot distinguish the sounds of the different letters, but rather you will be able to hear the general sound, with its vowels and their elongation, nasalised consonants, sequences of sounds and stops.

Listen very carefully to this cluster of sounds as they are left idle, unidentifiable as letters and words.

You will find in them a remarkable tune that you can never find in any other speech you hear in the same way, superbly recited as it may be.

What you find in these unidentifiable sounds of a Qur’anic recitation is coherence akin to that of music and poetry, but it reflects neither musical tunes nor poetic metre.

But you will also find something that is found neither in music nor in poetry. When we listen to a poem we find that it follows the same metre, line after line.

Similarly, a musical tune must have a uniting rhythm. Hence, we get tired of it when it is repeated time after time.

In the case of the Qur’an, you have a varied and ever renewing tune which moves between single or clusters of consonants, followed by short and long vowels, and culminating with the ending of verses.

These follow a wide range of patterns, each of which is so appealing that you do not feel any boredom when it is recited time after time. You will always ask for more.

Such rhythmic excellence in the Qur’anic language is appreciated by everyone who listens to the Qur’an when it is being recited, even though such a person may not speak Arabic.

How, then, can it go unnoticed by the Arabs?

Some people may wonder why, in their disputes about the Qur’an, the Arabs compared it to poetry in order to prove their point or to disprove the opposing point.

Why have they not compared it to any other form of address, including public speech?

Can we identify here the secret the Arabs felt, but which has remained overlooked by those for whom Arabic is not their native language?

The first thing the refined Arabian ear felt in the composition of the Qur’an was that remarkable sound order which arranges consonants and short and long vowels in varied patterns that keeps listeners alert.

Longer vowels and nasalised sounds are interspersed in between in a most appropriate proportion that ensures refined tuning and easy flow until the ending of a verse is reached.

The Arabs of old attempted something of this nature in their poetry, but they carried it to extremes, furnishing in the reader or listener boredom caused by endless repetition.

But the Arabs never used such refinements in prose, whether it was left free or maintained a rhyme. Indeed, the reverse is true. In prose, we always find defects that detract from the easy flow of speech. Such defects make it impossible to recite prose without adding something here or deleting something there.

It is no wonder, then, that the nearest classification of the Qur’an in the Arab’s imagination was to say that it was poetry. They found in its rhythm something that can only be found in poetry.

Yet when they reflected upon it a little, they readily admitted that it was not poetry. As al-Walīd ibn al-Mughīrah stated:

It is unlike all forms and styles of poetry. Again it is no wonder that when they were at a loss how to describe it, they called it a type of sorcery, because it achieves a happy medium between what is free and what is constrained. It reflects the power of prose together with the beauty and refinement of poetry.

Now if you draw nearer to the reciter so as to hear each sound accurately realised at its proper place of articulation, you will be surprised at how these sounds are superbly arranged.

Voiced, voiceless, fricative and plosive sounds flow in an easy and powerful arrangement presenting a language so superb and beautiful it leaves no room for any defect in the line of speech

The Qur’anic style follows neither the soft urban pattern, nor the rough bedouin one. Indeed, it combines the power of the desert people’s language with the refinement and easy flow of urban speech, without allowing either pattern to dominate.

Thus, it gives us a perfect mix, as though it includes the best characteristics of both types of language. It may be described as the meeting point of all Arabian tribes. It is appreciated and admired by all.

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The Inimitability of the Qur’anic Style

In fact these two aspects form the outer surface of the beauty of the Qur’an, but this covering is similar to a beautiful shell hiding a superb and precious..

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