What They Say about the Qur'an

Humanity has received the Divine guidance through two channels: firstly the word of Allah, secondly the Prophets who were chosen by Allah to communicate His will to human beings. These two things have always been going together and attempts to know the will of Allah by neglecting either of these two have always been misleading. The Hindus neglected their prophets and paid all attention to their books that proved only word puzzles which they ultimately lost. Similarly, the Christians, in total disregard to the Book of Allah, attached all importance to Christ and thus not only elevated him to Divinity, but also lost the very essence of TAWHEED (monotheism) contained in the Bible.

 As a matter of fact the main scriptures revealed before the Qur'an, i.e., the Old Testament and the Gospel, came into book-form long after the days of the Prophets and that too in translation. This was because the followers of Moses and Jesus made no considerable effort to preserve these Revelations during the life of their Prophets. Rather they were written long after their death. Thus what we now have in the form of the Bible (The Old as well as the New Testament) is translations of individuals' accounts of the original revelations which contain additions and deletions made by the followers of the said Prophets. On the contrary, the last revealed Book, the Qur'an, is extant in its original form. Allah Himself guaranteed its preservation and that is why the whole of the Qur'an was written during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself though on separate pieces of palm leaves, parchments, bones, etc... Moreover, there were tens of thousands of companions of the Prophet who memorized the whole Qur'an and the Prophet himself used to recite to the Angel Gabriel once a year and twice in the year he died. The first Caliph Abu Bakr entrusted the collection of the whole Qur'an in one volume to the Prophet's scribe, Zaid Ibn Thabit. This volume was with Abu Bakr till his death. Then it was with the second Caliph Umar and after him it came to Hafsa, the Prophet's wife. It was from this original copy that the third Caliph Uthman prepared several other copies and sent them to different Muslim territories.

The Qur'an was so meticulously preserved because it was to be the Book of guidance for humanity for all times to come. That is why it does not address the Arabs alone in whose language it was revealed. It speaks to man as a human being: "O Man! What has seduced you from your Lord."

The practicability of the Qur'anic teachings is established by the examples of Muhammad (PBUH) and the good Muslims throughout the ages. The distinctive approach of the Qur'an is that its instructions are aimed at the general welfare of man and are based on the possibilities within his reach. In all its dimensions the Qur'anic wisdom is conclusive. It neither condemns nor tortures the flesh nor does it neglect the soul. It does not humanize God nor does it deify man. Everything is carefully placed where it belongs in the total scheme of creation.

Actually the scholars who allege that Muhammad (PBUH) was the author of the Qur'an claim something which is humanly impossible. Could any person of the sixth century C.E. utter such scientific truths as the Qur'an contains? Could he describe the evolution of the embryo inside the uterus so accurately as we find it in modern science?

Secondly, is it logical to believe that Muhammad (PBUH), who up to the age of forty was marked only for his honesty and integrity, began all of a sudden the authorship of a book matchless in literary merit and the equivalent of which the whole legion of the Arab poets and orators of highest calibre could not produce? And lastly, is it justified to say that Muhammad (PBUH) who was known as AL-AMEEN (The Trustworthy) in his society and who is still admired by the non-Muslim scholars for his honesty and integrity, came forth with a false claim and on that falsehood could train thousands of men of character, integrity and honesty, who were able to establish the best human society on the surface of the earth?

Surely, any sincere and unbiased searcher of truth will come to believe that the Qur'an is the revealed Book of Allah.

Without necessarily agreeing with all that they said, we furnish here some opinions of important non-Muslim scholars about the Qur'an. Readers can easily see how the modern world is coming closer to reality regarding the Qur'an. We appeal to all open-minded scholars to study the Qur'an in the light of the aforementioned points. We are sure that any such attempt will convince the reader that the Qur'an could never be written by any human being.

"However often we turn to it [the Qur'an] at first disgusting us each time afresh, it soon attracts, astounds, and in the end enforces our reverence... Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim is stern, grand, terrible - ever and anon truly sublime -- Thus this book will go on exercising through all ages a most potent influence." --Goethe, quoted in T.P. Hughes' DICTIONARY OF ISLAM, p. 526.

"The Koran admittedly occupies an important position among the great religious books of the world. Though the youngest of the epoch-making works belonging to this class of literature, it yields to hardly any in the wonderful effect which it has produced on large masses of men. It has created an all but new phase of human thought and a fresh type of character. It first transformed a number of heterogeneous desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a nation of heroes, and then proceeded to create the vast politico-religious organizations of the Muhammadan world which are one of the great forces with which Europe and the East have to reckon today." --G. Margoliouth, Introduction to J.M. Rodwell's, THE KORAN, New York: Everyman's Library, 1977, p. vii.

"A work, then, which calls forth so powerful and seemingly incompatible emotions even in the distant reader - distant as to time, and still more so as a mental development - a work which not only conquers the repugnance which he may begin its perusal, but changes this adverse feeling into astonishment and admiration, such a work must be a wonderful production of the human mind indeed and a problem of the highest interest to every thoughtful observer of the destinies of mankind." --Dr. Steingass, quoted in T.P. Hughes' DICTIONARY OF ISLAM, pp. 526-527.

"The above observation makes the hypothesis advanced by those who see Muhammad as the author of the Qur'an untenable. How could a man, from being illiterate, become the most important author, in terms of literary merits, in the whole of Arabic literature? How could he then pronounce truths of a scientific nature that no other human being could possibly have developed at that time, and all this without once making the slightest error in his pronouncement on the subject?" --Maurice Bucaille, THE BIBLE, THE QUR'AN AND SCIENCE, 1978, p. 125.

"Here, therefore, its merits as a literary production should perhaps not be measured by some preconceived maxims of subjective and aesthetic taste, but by the effects which it produced in Muhammad's contemporaries and fellow countrymen. If it spoke so powerfully and convincingly to the hearts of his hearers as to weld hitherto centrifugal and antagonistic elements into one compact and well-organized body, animated by ideas far beyond those which had until now ruled the Arabian mind, then its eloquence was perfect, simply because it created a civilized nation out of savage tribes, and shot a fresh woof into the old warp of history." --Dr. Steingass, quoted in T.P. Hughes' DICTIONARY OF ISLAM, p. 528.

"In making the present attempt to improve on the performance of my predecessors, and to produce something which might be accepted as echoing however faintly the sublime rhetoric of the Arabic Koran, I have been at pains to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which - apart from the message itself - constitute the Koran's undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind... This very characteristic feature - 'that inimitable symphony,' as the believing Pickthall described his Holy Book, 'the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy' - has been almost totally ignored by previous translators; it is therefore not surprising that what they have wrought sounds dull and flat indeed in comparison with the splendidly decorated original." --Arthur J. Arberry, THE KORAN INTERPRETED, London: Oxford University Press, 1964, p. x.

"A totally objective examination of it [the Qur'an] in the light of modern knowledge, leads us to recognize the agreement between the two, as has been already noted on repeated occasions. It makes us deem it quite unthinkable for a man of Muhammad's time to have been the author of such statements on account of the state of knowledge in his day. Such considerations are part of what gives the Qur'anic Revelation its unique place, and forces the impartial scientist to admit his inability to provide an explanation which calls solely upon materialistic reasoning." --Maurice Bucaille, THE QUR'AN AND MODERN SCIENCE, 1981, p. 18.

 "Hence, indeed, We made this Qur'an easy to bear in mind: who, then is willing to take it to heart?" --Chapter 54: Verses 17, 22, 32, 40 (self-repeating)

 "Will they then not meditate on the Qur'an, or are there locks on their hearts?" --Chapter 47: Verse 24

 "Surely this Qur'an guides to that which is most upright and gives good news to the believers who do good works that they shall have a great reward." --Chapter 17: Verse 9

 "Surely We have revealed the reminder (Qur'an) and We will most certainly guard it (from corruption)." --Chapter 15: Verse 9

 "Praise be to Allah Who has revealed the Book (Qur'an) to His slave (Muhammad) and has not placed therein any crookedness." --Chapter 18: Verse 1

 "Will they not then ponder on the Qur'an? If it had been from other than Allah they would have found therein much discrepancy." Chapter 4: Verse 82

 "And certainly We have explained in this Qur'an every kind of example; and man is most of all given to contention. And nothing prevents men from believing when the guidance comes to them, and asking forgiveness of their Lord, except that what happened to the ancients should overtake them, or that the chastisement should come face to face with them." --Chapter 18: Verses 54-55

 "And We reveal (stage by stage) of the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy for believers, and to the unjust it causes nothing but loss after loss." --Chapter 17: Verse 82

 "And if you are in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto Our slave (Muhammad) then produce a surah (chapter) of the like thereof, and call your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful." --Chapter 2: Verse 23

 "And this Qur'an is not such as could be forged by those besides Allah, but it is a verification (of revelations) that went before it and a fuller explanation of the Book - there is no doubt - from the Lord of the Worlds." --Chapter 10: Verse 37

 "So when you recite the Qur'an, seek refuge in Allah from Satan the outcast." --Chapter 16: Verse 98.

World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), P.O. Box 10845, Riyadh 11443, Saudi Arabia

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This Darned Arabic Language
by Tatyana Krueger

This is the phrase our professor would repeat whenever he began explaining a seemingly unfathomable aspect of Arabic grammar. It was his kind way of acknowledging the puzzled faces scattered around the classroom. He knew that his beloved language presented difficulties for students. Sometimes it was simply his enthusiasm for Arabic that kept us coming back to class. His voice always contained a great deal of affection when he cursed that “darned language”.

Why Study Arabic?

As Muslims we have a direct connection to the Arabic language. It is the language of the Qur’an; a fact referred to in the Qur’an itself in the following passages:

While the message of the Qur’an is available to many Muslims through translations, in order to achieve a full understanding of the meanings one must have knowledge of the Arabic language. However, it is important to make the point that those who know Arabic are not necessarily better guided by the Qur’an than those who do not know it. A common misconception is that those who speak Arabic are somehow “better” Muslims. The following passage shows us that guidance comes only from Allah:

‘This is the guidance of God: He giveth that guidance to whom He pleaseth of His worshippers’ (6:88)

Recitation of the Qur’an holds many merits for Muslims. This is how we listen to Allah for the Qur’an is the speech of Allah. We are told in the Qur’an that the best occasion for recitation of the Qur’an is at night while standing in prayer. All recitation must be done in Arabic. Reading a translation of the meaning in another language is not reading the actual Qur’an. The true power of the message can be felt only when read aloud in its original language. A great number of Arabs converted to Islam upon simply hearing the Qur’an.

Mastering enough of the Arabic language to be able to read the Qur’an can be done in a fairly short period of time with some effort. One must learn to read and pronounce the alphabet and know some other aspects of the Arabic script to get started. This can be achieved in a class setting or with books, cassettes, and other study aids.

Many Muslims end their study of the Arabic language once they are able to properly read the Qur’an. There is nothing wrong with this. However, we should take into consideration the other areas of Islamic studies that knowledge of the Arabic language makes available. To this day many of the greatest works of tafsir (interpretation of the Qur’an) do not have complete English translations; for example: tafsir Ibn-Kathir and tafsir al-Tabari as well as books on Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic Shahriah, Qur’an and Hadith sciences, Sirah, etc. Many books of the great Muslim thinkers and reformers can be found in Arabic only. These reasons compel many to continue learning.

Characteristics of the Language

People are frequently scared away from learning Arabic because the script looks so different. Most agree that it is beautiful especially in calligraphic form but also find its looks intimidating. Those who are feeling that way may be encouraged by the fact that the Arabic language has an alphabet made up of twenty-eight letters that are connected to each other in a way similar to English cursive writing. A difference is that Arabic is written from right to left. Most students will tell you that the script is much easier to learn than it appears. Some will say that it is the least of their problems and that the grammar is really tough.

Most Americans are ill-prepared for the study of grammar because English grammar is not emphasized in schools. These days a teacher who makes students diagram sentences is quite rare. Learning any foreign language forces us to look at our own grammar structures. This is particularly true regarding Arabic because the written language includes certain symbols that one must write at the ends of words which mark their syntax and provide other information. The grammar has rules and exceptions to the rules that even some Arabs find tedious. However, many of the rules are based on logic that is understandable.

Pronunciation can be a challenge at first. Arabic contains ten sounds that do not exist in English. Some letters are rather harsh sounding to Americans and make some people reluctant to pronounce them. It takes practice to master them. Some students have recommended practicing in front of a mirror in the privacy of one’s own home.

Certain aspects of the language do exist that make it an easy one to learn. For example, Arabic is phonetic. That is, you pronounce every letter you read and you spell words exactly as you hear them. There are a couple of small exceptions to this but you certainly do not find all of the silent letters and peculiar spellings as in English.

The Arabic language is often celebrated for its incredible flexibility. Most of the vocabulary sprouts from three letter “roots”. From these roots many verb forms are derived in a systematic manner and from there come nouns and verbal nouns and adjectives. New words can be easily formed making the language incredibly vast, dynamic, and poetic. One can also guess at the meanings of words if he or she knows its root.

Students are often surprised to find that Arabic conversation is not emphasized in their classes. The reason for this is that Arabic is really more than one language in a sense. One type of Arabic is used for writing and formal lectures. This is known as Classical Arabic and is the language used in books, newspapers, formal speeches and broadcasting. The rules of grammar for classical Arabic are derived in large part from the Qur’an. Spoken, or colloquial, Arabic is the language native Arabs speak at home, in the street, and use in informal speech. There are many regional variations and dialects of spoken Arabic but all are based on the classical language. This is why spoken Arabic is usually taught separately from classical Arabic in universities here in the United States. It is important to understand these differences when you begin to study the language. Most teachers explain this on the first day of class.

Some Advice

Muslims should study the Classical Arabic in order to read and understand the Qur’an, gain access to Islamic books written in Arabic, and facilitate aspects of worship such as prayer and supplication. Spoken Arabic alone will not be helpful in these areas. Spoken Arabic will be beneficial if the Islamic community begins to use Arabic as the main language of communication both verbal and written among all of its worshippers. This is indeed a worthy goal. However, for Muslims who have no knowledge of Arabic it seems prudent to give priority to learning Classical Arabic.

If you have a choice, avoid studying Arabic through the use of transliteration (using English letters for pronunciation of Arabic words). If you must use transliteration always keep it your goal to eventually learn the Arabic script.

Be clear about your purpose in studying the language. If you want to learn to read the Qur’an, make the appropriate goals. If you want to be able to read and understand the Qur’an, you must expand those goals. Some objectives require a lifetime of learning. You can decide for yourself what you want to achieve.

Always seek Allah’s help by supplicating Him to make the learning process easy for you. Many Muslims who attempt to memorize the Qur’an find that with each verse the work becomes easier.

‘We have indeed made the Qur’an easy to remember: but is there any that remembers it?’ (54:17)

At one time or another we all encounter challenges while learning. Is it not the struggle for which we are rewarded? Those who find the language of the Qur’an a constant struggle may take comfort in the following hadith:

Aisha (R.A.A.) says that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said: “A person who recites the Qur’an and reads it fluently will be in the company of the obedient and noble angels, and he who reads the Qur’an haltingly and with difficulty will have a double recompense.” (Bukhari and Muslim)

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