CHAPTER viii / One Example of the Qur’anic Style

One Example of the Qur’anic Style

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We have so far explained some of the characteristics that make the Qur’anic style unique, Not only in the Arabic language, but in human speech generally.

We have showed how it combines characteristics that are not found together in any other style. We gave examples in each case

Now we will give another example, drawing the reader’s attention particularly to the precision of expression and powerful construction in the Qur’anic style.

It uses both qualities in order to provide rich meaning in the most concise form. This particular quality is the one most in need of explanation.

But we will not take, for our example, any of the verses that have been admiringly discussed by literary figures over the centuries, such as the verse which says:

“There is life for you, men of understanding, in this code of just retribution.”

(2: 179.)

Nor shall we take the highly descriptive, yet particularly concise verse which describes the end of the great floods at the time of Noah:

“And the word was spoken: You earth, swallow up your waters; and you sky, cease [your rain]! And the waters sank into the earth, and the will of God was done, and the ark came to rest on Mount Judi. And the word was spoken: ‘Away with these evildoing folk!’”

(11: 44.)

We will not take these, nor indeed any similar example.

We will take, instead, a passage speaking of something that people hardly ever associate with literary excellence.

This will give us a fair idea of what we mean when we speak about the inimitability of the Qur’anic style.

Speaking about the arguments the Jews in Madinah advanced in their rejection of the message of Islam, God says:

“When they are told: ‘Believe in what God has revealed,’ they say: ‘We believe in what has been revealed to us.’

But they deny the truth of everything beyond that, although it be the truth corroborating that which they have. Say: ‘Why, then, did you of old kill the prophets sent by God, if you are true believers?’

Moses came to you with clear signs but, in his absence, you worshipped the calf and thus became transgressors.

We accepted your solemn pledge and raised Mount Sinai above you [and said], ‘Take with firmness and strength what We have given you, and hearken to it.’ They said: ‘We hear but we disobey.’

They were made to drink the calf into their very hearts because of their disbelief. Say: ‘Vile is that which your faith enjoins upon you, if indeed you are believers.’”

(2: 91-3.)

These verses form only a passage in one chapter of the story of the Children of Israel. The main elements that stand out in this short passage may be summed up as follows:

  • An advice to the Jews, calling on them to accept the Qur’an as God’s revelation;
  • Their reply to this advice, which has a dual purpose;
  • A refutation of this reply in both its purposes, using several arguments in this refutation.

If a lawyer of exceptional ability was given the task of defending the Qur’an in this particular issue, and he was able to organise his thoughts around these points,

I swear he would not express them as fully as the Qur’an even though he may use several times the number of words used in these verses.

Even then he will not be able to include the finer elements we find in the Qur’anic statement.

The advice to the Jews says to them: Believe in the Qur’an like you believed in the Torah.

Since your belief in the latter is based on the fact that God revealed it to Moses, the Qur’an preached by Muhammad is also revealed by God.

Hence, you should believe in the latter as you believed in the former. This is the gist of the advice, but all this is expressed in the Qur’an in a most economic statement:

“Believe in what God has revealed.”

It does not mention the Qur’an by name, but by a clear reference to it. This gives the advantage of giving the argument for this advice in the very words it is made.

Moreover, it does not mention by name the Prophet to whom the Qur’an is revealed, although mentioning it would have provided a fuller description of the Qur’an in which they are required to believe.

This is because mentioning it makes no special addition to the point being expressed, and because it is counterproductive in as far as the effect of the advice is concerned.

From a literary point of view, mentioning the name of the Prophet Muhammad in this advice does not add anything special to their duty to believe in the Qur’an.

Hence, the advice is based on the common grounds on which the argument for such belief relies.

On the other hand, mentioning the name of Muhammad may alert the grudges of those who are hostile to him. Thus, it may undermine the purpose of bringing peace and unity which the advice aims to achieve.

Moreover, the omission of the Prophet’s name is more in line with Islam, which is a religion aiming to unite people after they have been divided by their divergent beliefs.

It calls on people to believe in all God’s revelations to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the tribes, and also in what was revealed to Moses and Jesus and other prophets.

We do not make any distinction between God’s revelations, just as we do not make any distinction between His Messengers.

The Jews’ reply confirms that they believed in the Torah not only because it was revealed by God, but because He revealed it to them.

As the Qur’an was not similarly revealed to them, they would have nothing to do with it. They continue to believe only in their Torah. Let each nation have its own faith. All this is summed up in the Qur’anic statement quoting their reply:

“We believe in what has been revealed to us.”

This is the first purpose in their reply.

The statement is further reduced by deleting the name of the One who sends revelations, i.e.

God, because He is mentioned in the previous statement:

“Believe in what God has revealed.”

It is clear that restricting themselves to believing in only what is revealed to them means that they deny what is revealed to anyone else.

This is the second purpose, but they try to keep it implicit in order not to admit their disbelief.

But the Qur’an highlights this, although it does not make it a logical conclusion of their belief. It does not add to their statement what it implies. It simply states it by way of explaining what they actually said:

“But they deny the truth of everything beyond that.”

Thus, we see an example of the strictest honesty in reporting.

Now reflect for a moment on the use of the phrase, ‘everything beyond that.’ This may be understood in two ways: The first includes everything in addition to the Qur’an, and the second is more restricted.

The fact is that they did not only deny the Qur’an revealed to Muhammad, but they also denied the Gospel revealed to Jesus.

Both were revealed ‘beyond’, or after, the Torah. They did not deny what was revealed before the Torah, such as Abraham’s scrolls. Their crime is, thus, defined so precisely by using this term, most truthful and most fair as it is.

page VI

Decisive Refutation of Counter Arguments

Having stated the case, the passage now refutes their arguments, both explicit and implicit. It begins by leaving aside their claim of believing in their revealed book..

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