Lecture 19 (final lecture) in the Ramadaan Series
EXPLORING THE SHIA APPROACH TO THE QURAN
Tuesday 12 June (28 Ramadaan 1439) at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Masjid, Ottery, Cape Town delivered by Mowlana Syed Aftab Haider.
As the topic of tafsir was covered in complete depth in the previous lecture, it is most appropriate that we delve into one of the most discussed topics within this science – I’jaz of the Quran.
The root word of Mu’jiza or miracle comes from Ajz; which means when an individual is restricted from doing something. Mu’jiza from a linguistic perspective therefore means something that is beyond the normal capacity of a human being.
From a theological understanding, however, an additional element is added to the understanding of this word. Mu’jiza is always accompanied with the claim of prophethood, and is used prove the authenticity of the representative of Allah (swt).
Even though a mu’jiza is an act that is extraordinary, it at the same time does not contradict the law of causality. This phenomenon does not take place without a cause, but rather the cause itself is supernatural and unknown to normal human beings.
To further explain this, we can consider the famous miracle of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in which he had split the moon by simply pointing his finger towards it. The splitting of the moon itself is considered impossible by normal causes in this instance, as the mere pointing of his finger cannot create such a force. However, if such a force could be created by means of divine intervention, then this occurrence would be possible. This event shows that the splitting of the moon had a cause – one which was directly from the power of Allah (swt).
In addition to this, every prophet was provided with miracles. This was a necessity in order to prove their reliability as prophets, and in so doing established their position in society as divine guides. The varying miracles that were used by different prophets were always appropriate to the time and context in which they were living in.
During the time of Nabi Dawud (as) for example, ironmongery was viewed as a field only available to the highly skilled. He was therefore blessed with the miracle of moulding iron with his bare hands, while others needed the assistance of fire amongst other techniques.
Similarly, in the case of Nabi Musa (as) magic had become a topical issue in society. Hence, he was blessed with the miracle of changing his stick into a serpent, which was able to thwart the illusions of his counterparts. The miracle of Nabi Musa (as) had been so emphatic, that the magicians of Firown had surrendered immediately:
فَأُلْقِيَ السَّحَرَةُ سُجَّداً قَالُوا ءَامَنَّا بِرَبِّ هَارُونَ وَمُوسَي
“Then the sorcerers fell down in prostration, saying: ‘We believed in the Lord of Aaron and Moses!’”
QURAN IS A UNIQUE MIRACLE
While the Quran is undeniably the greatest miracle of our Prophet (SAW), this does not mean that this was his only miracle. In addition to the splitting of the moon as mentioned above, other incidents have been narrated in Islamic history such as the speaking of pebbles.
The Quran – unlike previous miracles – was not a material phenomenon. Its miraculous nature lies in its intellectual richness, and is not limited to time or the community that witnessed its revealing. The Quran was also a miracle that was suited to the time of the Prophet (SAW). The expertise of the Arabs was in literary prowess, and the Quran had displayed such proficiency in this regard that linguistics had surrendered before it.
The uniqueness of the Quran from other mu’jiza is that of its eternal nature. While the miracles of previous prophets such as Dawud (as) and Musa (as) have come and gone, the miracle of Nabi Muhammad (SAW) continues.
Another distinctive quality of the Quran is that it is the only miracle that is both the proof of itself and its Prophet! Whenever miracles were performed in previous ages, their intention was only to achieve one end: validate the prophecy of an individual. The Quran on the other hand, provides evidence to show that it is foremost from Allah (swt), and then the Prophet (SAW) uses this to justify his prophecy.
In addition to this, the Quran poses an intellectual challenge to human beings to produce something like it. This challenge of Allah (swt) was outlined in four stages, as pointed out in the Quran:
قُل لَّئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ الإِنسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَي أَن يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هَذَا الْقُرْءَانِ لاَ يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيراً
“Say: ‘If (the whole) mankind and the Jinn were to gather together to bring the like of this Qur’an, they could not bring the like of it though some of them be helpers of others’.”
أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُوا بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُوا مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ إن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
“Or do they say: ‘He has forged it’? Say, ‘Bring you then ten Suras forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsoever you can, other than Allah, if you are truthful!’
أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
“Or they say, ‘He has forged it.’ Say: ‘Bring then a Surah like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!’”
أمْ يَقُولُونَ تَقَوَّلَهُ بَل لَآ يُؤْمِنُونَ
فَلْيَأتُوا بِحَدِيثٍ مِّثْلِهِ إِن كَانُوا صَادِقِينَ
“Or do they say: “He has forged it [the Holy Qur’an and has attributed it to God Almighty]?” Nay! [There is no such thing but the fact is that it is through their disobedience and envy that] They believe not!
Then if you speak the truth, produce a word like unto it.”
Individuals throughout history have tried to take up this challenge, but have failed dismally. Musaylamah Al Khadthab – more familiarly known as Musaylamah the Liar – has been amongst the famous personalities that have taken up the challenge. Initially he had tried formulating surahs, but after a few attempts had become the source of ridicule within society. Not only were the chapters that he had written nonsensical, they were often based on the style of the Quran itself!
The Quran has also been proven to be the conclusive argument against more recent attacks on Islam and Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Prominent orientalists from Europe who had desired to relegate the status of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) to a mere reformer and a man that was ahead of his time were unable to fathom the meticulousness of the Quran. At this point they had no other choice but to admit that it cannot be the product of the Prophet’s (SAW) effort.
The preservation of the Quran due to its eloquence also presents a different dimension to this miracle. It is important to bear in mind that the very same companions that were writing the Quran as it was dictated were the same individuals that recorded the tafsir in addition to the sunnah of the Prophet (SAW). Despite the eloquence with which the Prophet (SAW) spoke, his words were never mixed with the Quran. The Quran had completely separated itself literaly from all forms of other speech.
Imam Ali (as), who has been described as Nahjul Balagha (peak of eloquence), still cannot be comparable to the words of the Quran. Equivalently, Imam Sajjad’s (as) duas in Sahifa Sajjadiyah – despite their beauty – reach the same conclusion. Imam (as) often quotes the Quran during his supplications, and usually the reader immediately recognizes a difference in what was being recited. This would only be possible if the Quran had been unparalleled in its literary excellence.
Imam Ali (as) has also narrated that the miracle of the Quran lies beyond the literal words as well. There is a deep spiritual attachment to the words of the Quran that keeps its contents fresh, and continues to inspire readers over generations. This reality is displayed by the recurring tafsirs that are published. If the Quran was simply a book that’s meaning had been completely comprehended, then the new understandings that emerge would be impossible!
In addition to all of these miracles, the Quran highlights historical and scientific realities that were not predicted before its time.
Considering this multi-faceted nature of this book that we have discussed over the past blessed month, it is fitting for us to end on this note:
لَوْ أَنزَلْنَا هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنَ عَلَىٰ جَبَلٍ لَّرَأَيْتَهُ خَاشِعًا مُّتَصَدِّعًا مِّنْ خَشْيَةِ اللَّهِ ۚ وَتِلْكَ الْأَمْثَالُ نَضْرِبُهَا لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ
“Had We sent down this Qur’an on a mountain, you would surely have seen it humbling itself and splitting asunder by the fear of Allah. Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect.
End of series………….
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