Thursday, June 26, 2014

Divine Speech - Literary Characteristics of the Quran (Part 2)

Assalamualaikum wbt and greetings dear Bits and Pieces readers,

To recap, the previous post had discussed some points from the micro study of the Quran as delivered by Nouman Ali Khan in the seminar. Those points are the genuine meaning of ayah and several forms of ayah in the Quran namely verbal idioms, intricate word choice, transition involving 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons and sentence structure. Also, a subtopic of camera scenes in the Quran were also discussed. Thus in this post, I will share the remaining form of ayah which is sequence in Quranic discourse. In addition, a few alleged grammatical errors in the Quran will also be presented. To conclude the micro study of the Quran, I would like to share some inspiring ayahs, that was discussed by Nouman Ali Khan with the hopes that they will inspire you too :)   

Sequence in Quranic Discourse

In Surah Al Kahfi (Surah no. 18) ayah 19 to 20 ALLAH says:
"Likewise, We awakened them (from their long deep sleep) that they might question one another. A speaker from among them said: "How long have you stayed (here)?" They said: "We have stayed (perhaps) a day or part of a day." They said: "Your Lord (Alone) knows best how long you have stayed (here). So send one of you with this silver coin of yours to the town, and let him find out which is the good lawful food, and bring some of that to you. And let him be careful and let no man know of you. "For if they come to know of you, they will stone you (to death or abuse and harm you) or turn you back to their religion, and in that case you will never be successful.""

Then in the same Surah at ayah 26 ALLAH says:
Say: "Allah knows best how long they stayed. With Him is (the knowledge of) the unseen of the heavens and the earth. How clearly He sees, and hears (everything)! They have no Wali (Helper, Disposer of affairs, Protector, etc.) other than Him, and He makes none to share in His Decision and His Rule."

In these ayahs (ayah 19 to 20), ALLAH had actually recorded a conversation in a cave that had happened sometime in history. This means that ALLAH is acting as a historian here. But ALLAH is not just your typical historian. He had in fact recorded a conversation that no human historian will gain access to nor are interested in since it happened in a cave. Normally, historians would only record speeches by ministers or kings but not some guys in a cave. Then ALLAH said in ayah 26, "With Him is (the knowledge of) the unseen of the heavens and the earth. How clearly He sees, and hears (everything)!" which basically says that HE can sees and hears every single conversation, even in a cave; it is crystal clear to HIM. 

I also would like to give you a second example that Nouman Ali Khan presented. In Surah Al-Mulk (Surah no. 67) ayah 29 ALLAH says:
"Say: "He is Al-Rahmaan. We believe in Him and upon Him we place our trust. So you will come to know who is it that is in manifest error.""

Now, why does "we believe in him" is in normal grammar and "upon Him we place our trust" sounds like Master Yoda's grammar? According to Nouman Ali Khan, the purpose old Arabic makes an unusual sequence of words is to include the word "only". So "upon Him we place our trust" actually means "we place our trust only in HIM". This is logical, really. In terms of believe, we don't only believe in ALLAH but we believe in HIS Prophets, the angels, the Day of Judgement etc. But, in terms of reliance, we only rely on ALLAH.

Alleged Grammatical Errors in the Quran

According to Nouman Ali Khan, some quarters assert that there are grammatical errors in the Quran. Two example of alleged grammar errors are in Surah Al-Baqarah (Surah no. 2) ayah 177:


According to several quarters, the red boxes in the above picture are grammatical errors. Firstly we must remember that the Quran was revealed in ancient/classical Arabic thus the grammars of the formal Arabic do not apply to the Quran.

Let's analyse the first red box which is at the upper side of the picture. The reason ALLAH says Al-Birra (transliteration of the first red box) instead of Al-Birru (the proper grammar for formal Arabic) is because HE wants to say that "Righteousness is not only that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is also in one who believes in ALLAH, the Last Day..."

Now let's discuss the second red box. The reason ALLAH says As-Sobireena (transliteration of the second red box) instead of As-Sobiroona (the proper grammar for formal Arabic) is because HE wants to say that "Righteousness is not only that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is also in one who believes in ALLAH, the Last Day...and [those who] above all  are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle..."

Some Inspiring Ayahs

1) Surah Al-Hajj (Surah no. 22) ayah 78:
"And strive for Allah with the striving due to Him. He has chosen you and has not placed upon you in the religion any difficulty. [It is] the religion of your father, Abraham. Allah named you "Muslims" before [in former scriptures] and in this [revelation] that the Messenger may be a witness over you and you may be witnesses over the people. So establish prayer and give zakah and hold fast to Allah. He is your protector; and excellent is the protector, and excellent is the helper."

According to Nouman Ali Khan, "He has chosen you" is a choice by qualification. Meaning, we have been chosen to be Muslims by ALLAH because we have certain qualification or quality. Even ALLAH sees us as someone who is worthy. However, each and everyone of us has different capabilities. Some have the ability to teach, some have the ability to write, some have the ability to invent, some have the ability to do marketing etc. Therefore, we shouldn't be disheartened, feel inferior or demotivated. Each and every one of us do have an ability as evident from this ayah; all we have to do is to find it and strive for the sake of ALLAH.

2) Surah Ali Imran (Surah no. 3) ayah 141: 
"And that Allah may test (or purify) the believers (from sins) and destroy the disbelievers."

We always complain when we are faced with hardships. We feel sad, angry, frustrated and confused. But in this ayah, ALLAH explains why he tests us; which is to purify us from sins.

3) Surah Al-Baqarah (Surah no. 2) ayah 255:
"His Throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great."

Once, Prophet Muhammad pbuh was asked about the size of ALLAH's throne. So, the Prophet pbuh made an analogy. Imagine that we are flying in a helicopter (Nouman Ali Khan uses helicopter so that we can easily relate and understand) high above the desert. Then we throw a ring from the helicopter. Now the ring symbolizes every galaxy in existence while the throne of ALLAH is the desert. That my friend, is how vast is ALLAH's throne. So the next time when we say that ALLAH does not know what we are going through or that ALLAH doesn't care about us, we should think again.

4) Surah Al-Fatihah (Surah no. 1) ayah 5
"You (Alone) we worship, and You (Alone) we ask for help (for each and everything)"

When we worship something, that means we are a slave to that thing. So in Islam, we are the slaves of ALLAH. But the definition of "slave" here is different than the human definition. Let's see what is the human definition of slave versus the Al-Fatihah's definition of slave.

Human defines a slave as someone who does whatever his master orders him to do. In other words, his job is to help his master and his master on the other hand, does not help him. Here in Al-Fatihah, the slave is given help by his Master for each and everything. Besides, to not be a slave of ALLAH is to be a slave to other things such as fashion, alcohol, sexual desires, money, status, cars, football etc. It is only natural. Therefore, we should ask ourselves to whom or what should we rather be a slave to.  

This wraps up the micro study of the Quran. Be sure to wait for Part 3 next week! God willing.

p/s: Should you be interested in learning about the Quran, you can sign up to Bayyinah TV. But if you can't afford to sign up (because there's a fee to sign up), you can click on "Gift" in the Bayyinah TV webpage.