Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The miracle and challenge of the Qur'an

"We shall show them Our signs on the horizons and within themselves until it will become clear to them that it is the Truth. Does it not suffice that your Lord is Witness over all things?"

The noble Qur'an, Fussilat(41):53.

Muslims are taught that throughout the ages, Allah Almighty has sent a prophet to every nation as a warner and a bearer of glad tidings.

"Verily! We have sent you (O Muhammad) with the Truth, a bearer of glad tidings and a warner; and there is not a nation but a warner has passed among them,"

The noble Qur'an, Fatir(35):24.

Each prophet was wisely selected by Allah in order to be the best person for the job. He was then provided by Allah with miracles as proof of his truthfulness and his message. These miracles were wisely selected by Allah in order to be in the same field as that which these people excelled in so that they could fully comprehend the magnitude of these miracles.

For instance, the people during the time of Moses excelled at magical trickery. Their rulers used to surround themselves with the most powerful of these wizards as a sign of power. This is why Allah made the miracles of Moses (pbuh) similar to their magical trickery (changing a stick into a snake, parting of the sea... etc.) but of a much greater magnitude than anything they could ever hope to accomplish. For they were not tricks, but actual physical miracles.

The people at the time of the prophet Jesus (pbuh) excelled in matters of medicine. For this reason, his miracles were of a medical nature (raising of the dead, healing of the blind...etc.), but of a degree that they could never hope to imitate. Similarly, one of the major miracles of Islam was a new and unheard-of type of literature similar to the Bedouin's poetry but far beyond anything they could ever hope to match. Although they did indeed try. This new literature was called "The Qur'an."

The Arabic language, as can be attested to by any of it's scholars, is a very rich and powerful language. The Bedouin people of the Arabian desert were, in general, illiterate people of very little scientific knowledge. The thing that set them apart, however, was their mastery of poetry. Spending their days as they did in the desert watching their sheep graze got quite boring. They alleviated their boredom by continually composing and refining poetry. They would spend entire years composing and refining their poetry in anticipation of a yearly face-down of the poetic compositions of their peers from all over the country. The fact that they were illiterate forced them to also train themselves in the memorization of works of literature to such an extent that they were able to memorize complete works from a single recitation. Even in matters of leadership, one of the major criteria for selecting the leaders of the various Bedouin tribes was the individual's prowess in literary composition and memorization.

The Arabian Bedouins took great pains to make their poetry as compact and picturesque as humanly possible, constantly expanding the language along the way. A single word could convey complete pictures. The Qur'an, however, has put even these great efforts to shame. You will notice that when a Muslim translates a verse of the Qur'an he usually does not say "the Qur'an says so and so" but rather "An approximation of the meaning of what the Qur'an says is so and so." You really need to know the language to comprehend this.

In the English language, we find that the words: "mustang," "colt," "mare," "pony," "stallion," "bronco"... etc. all refer to the same thing; a horse. Each one of these words conveys a slightly different mental picture. The mental picture we get when we hear the word "colt" is slightly different than the picture we get if we hear the word "mare." In a similar manner, the Arabic language progressed in such a fashion as to make it possible to convey such mental pictures in as concise and picturesque a format as possible. It is not at all uncommon to find over three hundred words that refer to the same thing in the Arabic language. Each one of these words gives a slightly different picture than the others.

Many centuries of this constant refinement eventually lead to a very complex and rich vocabulary, and the primary miracle of Muhammad (pbuh), the Qur'an, was in exactly this field

In the noble Qur'an we find a challenge from Allah to compose a literary work on a par with this Qur'an it is indeed the work of mankind. They could not. The Qur'an continued to reduce it's challenge until the challenge finally became: "compose only a single verse comparable to this Qur'an and you will have won." They still could not. This in addition to the fairness, justice, and logic of the Qur'an eventually won them over and slowly more and more people became Muslims.

[Webmasters note: there are some inaccuracies in the preceding paragraph. The least challenge posed in the quran is "a single surah" (10:38 & 2:23) as well as "whole Quran" (17:88) and "ten verses" (11:13).]

"Well then, if the Koran were his own [Muhammad's] composition other men could rival it. Let them produce ten verses like it. If they could not (and it is obvious that they could not), then let them accept the Koran as an outstanding evidential miracle"

Mohammedanism, H. A. R. Gibb, Oxford University Press, p. 42

"From the literary point of view, the Koran is regarded as a specimen of purest Arabic, written in half poetry, half prose. It has been said that in some cases grammarians have adopted their rules to agree with certain expressions used in it, and though several attempts have been made to produce a work equal to it as far as elegant writing is concerned, none yet has succeeded"

Glimpses of the Noble Qur'an, Muhammad Azizullah, Crescent Publications, pp. 104-105

"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."

The Koran Interpreted, Arthur J. Arberry, Oxford University Press, 1964, p. x.

"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 … 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. 526-528.

Many claims have been made against Muhammad in that day and this. Among them are the claims that he was a lunatic, a liar, or deceived by the devil. If Muhammad was a lunatic or a liar then we have to wonder how all of his prophesies came true?. Further, if he was a deceived by Satan then we are faced with another problem. For we know that all Muslims are taught that when reading the Qur'an they must first begin with the words "I seek refuge in Allah from Satan the stoned* one." and then follow this up with the words "In the name of Allah, Most Compassionate, Most Merciful" So we have to wonder if Satan would "inspire" a man to teach mankind to seek refuge in God from Satan? Indeed this is the exact same accusation which was made against Jesus (pbuh). Let us read how Jesus responded to this claim:

"But some of them (the Jews) said, He (Jesus) casteth out devils through Beelzebub (Satan) the chief of the devils. And others, tempting [him], sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house [divided] against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub."

Luke 11:15-18

It has been the case throughout the ages that with all previous prophets, their miracle was separate from their book. Although we may claim that we have the "Torah" of Moses, still, it is not possible now to bring Moses' (pbuh) staff and see it perform miracles as it did in his time. Similarly it is not possible today to see Jesus (pbuh) raise the dead as he did so many centuries ago. However, since the message of Islam was the final message of God to mankind, therefore, the book of Islam itself was made the main miracle of Islam and it has continued to renew it's challenge to mankind throughout the ages.

What does this mean? Nowadays, the number of people who can appreciate the literary content of the Qur'an has dwindled and this challenge no longer has the same impact it did fourteen hundred years ago. However, as we have seen in the verse quoted at the beginning of this chapter, Allah Almighty has promised to continually renew the challenge of the Qur'an throughout the ages. So how will it be renewed?

Recently, a new field of study has opened up to scholars. People nowadays are fascinated with science. This is the age of technology and scientific discovery. For this reason, mankind has begun to study the religious scriptures of mankind from a scientific point of view in order to challenge the scientific claims made in these scriptures. Many works have been published on this topic. In this chapter I will give a brief taste of these matters and then leave it up to the interested reader to learn more from any one of the many books which have been published in this regard (see list at back of this book).

As mentioned previously, Muhammad (pbuh) lived among tribes of people who were for the most part illiterate. He himself was also illiterate. These people used to live extremely simple lives. Some were traders and businessmen, others were farmers, and yet others were nomadic sheepherders who traveled from place to place depending on where they could find grass for their sheep to graze. When Muhammad (pbuh) brought them the Qur'an, the believers found in the Qur'an the command to go out, seek knowledge, and confirm the presence of their Creator by studying His creation. Muslims began to fulfill this command of the Qur'an and this resulted in one of the greatest explosions of scientific advancement mankind has ever seen. All of this was going on during a period that the West calls "The Dark Ages," wherein the scientists of the West were being persecuted and killed as sorcerers and wizards. During this period, Muslims scholars introduced into the world such things as:

* Mathematical evolution of spherical mirrors

* Rectilinear motion of light and use of lenses

* Refraction angle variations

* Magnifying effects of the plano convex lens

* Introduced the concept of the elliptical shape of cosmological bodies

* Study of the center of gravity as applied to balance

* Measurement of specific weights of bodies

* Rule of algebraic equations

* Solutions to quadratic and cubic equations

* Work on square roots, squares, theory of numbers, solution of the fractional numbers

* Solutions of equations of cubic order

* Wrote on conic geometry elaborating the solution of algebraic equations

* Determined the Trinomial Equation

* Avicenna's "Canon of Medicine." He is know as the Prince of Physicians to the West

* Wrote the first description of several drugs and diseases as meningitis.

* Treatment of physiological shocks

* Expertise in psychosomatic medicine and psychology

* Al-Biruni mentions fifty six manuscripts on pharmacology

* Credited for identifying small pox and its treatment

* Use of alcohol as an antiseptic

* Use of mercury as a purgative for the first time

* First to describe the circulation of blood.

* "Holy Abbas" was, after Rhazes, the most outstanding Physician. His works were authoritative till the works of ibn Sina appeared

* Writings on Cosmology, Astrology, Science of numbers and letters

* Proved that the earth is smaller than the sun but larger than the moon.

* Final authorities on Chemistry for many Centuries

* Classified metals into three classifications

* Laid the basis of the Acid Base theory

* Distillation, calcination, crystallization, the discovery of many acids

* Cultivation of Gold - is a continuation of Jabir's work

* Theory of Oscillatory motion of equinoxes

* Addition of ninth sphere to the eight Ptolematic astronomy

* Discovered the increase of the suns apogee

* Gravitational force

* Responsible for the discovery motion of the solar apsides

* wrote ' On the Science of Stars '

* Determination of latitudes and longitudes

* Determination of geodetic measurements

* Described the motion of the planets

* Solved the problems of spherical trigonometry

* First to study the isometric oscillatory motion of a pendulum

* Invented the instrument ' Sahifah "

* Responsible for the proof of the motion of the apogee of the sun with respect to the fixed stars.

* authorities on the theory of the system of homocentric spheres

* Prepared a calendar that was more accurate than the Gregorian one in use today.

All of this began with a single illiterate Arab from the desert fourteen hundred years ago. The book that was brought into the world by such a man cries out to be studied from a scientific aspect. We will now give you a glimpse of the results:

"So ask the People of Knowledge if you do not know"

The Qur'an, Al-Anbia(21):7

No comments: