The Language Miracle of the Quran
28 Mar, 2007
THE QURAN is believed by Muslims to be God's word to man, and is
˜revealed’ and written in Arabic. Muslims also believe that the
Quran, as we know it today, is the same as was revealed 1400 years
ago. Almost all Muslims know some of its verses by heart, which they
recite during their five daily prayers. Some of them even know the
entire Quran by heart. At the time of ‘revelation’ of the Quran, the
Arabs had such a great linguistic mastery of Arabic that one may
argue that such talent was probably the only kind of art they
perfected. Today, many will still consider the pre-Islamic Arabic
literature and poetry to be the best. If the Quran is a truly a
language-miracle, then we can say with certainty that it is not
‘revealed’ to mankind in general, and not even to the Arabs in
particular. This is because all non-Arabic speaking nations cannot
read/understand the Quran; therefore, they are not in a position to
appreciate the claimed language-miracle. This is equally true to the
majority of today’s Arabs, simply because they themselves lack the
necessary command of classic Arabic in which the Quran was
It is interesting to note that Muslims of all nationalities talks about how the Quran is a language-miracle, while all what they can do is to recite some verses without even understanding the meaning of these verses. On the other hand, there are many Christian Arab writers whose knowledge in classic Arabic is beyond doubt, but they do not feel that the Quran contains any miracles at all! Speaking of myself, I always felt guilty when I read the Quran because every time I read the Quran, get a strange feeling that this book can never be divine, after all. This is not because of the many scientific errors it contains (we can always twist the Arabic language to accommodate those, as we often do) but because of the poor language style of the book. Considering only the language style, I can say there are some verses or a few entire suras in the Quran which are very nicely written, some are average and some are poor. That was how I found the Quran to be. My only explanation for this assessment of the Quran is that, while I previously always thought the Quran to be infallible, perfect words of Allah, but after carefully comprehending it, found no perfection in it. Even though I found in the Quran repetitious, contradictory and grammatically incorrect, I blamed myself for this, instead the Quran, for, I thought it must be I who is wrong, since Quran could never contain any error in it.
So who will judge if the Quran is a language-miracle or not? Muslim scholars will automatically claim that it is a miracle, while others will certainly disagree. The mere fact that we have reached this opposing situation is in itself evidence that the Quran is not a miracle. A miracle should be clear to every human being, regardless of his or her languages, literacy or intelligence. Everyone—without any exception, must agree on the claim of Quran’s perfection. Just for the argument’s sake let us go back in history and see how the early Arabs thought of the Quran. Mohammed spent 13 years preaching Islam in his hometown Mecca with very limited success. During this period, only few dozens accepted his call, many of them were Muhammad’s close friends and relatives. He used to go to the famous Okaz market, just outside Mecca, to preach Islam, but failed to make much impression on his listeners. Okaz fair was a very popular festival for the Arabs. All poets gathered there to narrate their latest poems and advertise their literary work. Mohammed was there competing with them to recite not his latest poems but Allah’s latest revelations to him. The Arabs, however, were more interested to listen to poetry!
If those Arabs felt there was a miracle in what Mohammed was saying, they would have certainly stayed and listened to him intently, but they turned their backs and went away. Are we to believe that Allah’s work was unable to win a competition with those human poets?
Muslims argue that the people of Mecca were not convinced because they just did not want to be convinced, not because the Quran is not convincing. Their evidence is that the Arabs of Medina (the tribes of Aws and Khazraj ) were easily convinced and converted to Islam even before Mohammed arrived at their city. But this is a clear evidence that the two competing Arab tribes of Medina made their decision to accept Mohammed and Islam for political reasons only and nothing else. Most of those Arabs did not see Mohammed or had even heard of the Quran. They converted to Islam simply because their leaders made a deal with Mohammed to accept to Islam and support him as a neutral third party, to put an end to their long-going confrontations with each other. Let us move back a few centuries and observe how the Arabs thought of the Quran during the height of the Islamic empire. I shall mention the two most famous poets in Arabic history. The first was Al Mutanabi, who is widely claimed to be the best Arabic poet ever. At some stage, he himself claimed to be a prophet, because he thought he could make a book which would be similar to the Quran. He was given this name because of this claim. When Al Mutanabi realized the danger on his life, he repented and cancelled his plans for his book. The other famous poet was Abu Alaa Al Maari, a Syrian blind poet who even denounced religions altogether. Of course, none of these two poets thought that the Quran contained any miracles.
There might be many factors that made ordinary Muslims believe the claimed miracles in the Quran. Because the Quran can be read only in Arabic, it was left to the Arabs to make the judgment about the Quranic language and style. Those Arabs are usually Muslim clerics whose starting point is to assume the miracle then bend every rule and logic to fit their logic around it. In this way they have turned the entire concept of logical-thinking upside down and from back to front. Meaningless words, repetitions and contradictions have all became parts of a divine miracle! What helped them to maintain this attitude over centuries is that other language experts like the Christians or the freethinkers were too polite to make any comments. However, their silence and non-conversion to Islam speak volumes.
Another factor that helped to maintain this false sense of miracle is that Muslims insist that the Quran cannot be translated to other languages. Muslims insist that all available translations are for the meaning of the Quran, and there is no alternative to reading the Quran in Arabic. So, any person interested to study the Quran has to master the Arabic language, which is not an easy language to learn. Reflecting on this, I must say that the Quran actually looks nicer and far more impressive when translated! Then comes the psychological conditioning of all Muslims. It is a tradition that the first voice a newly born infant hears is the Allahu Akbar, poured in his/her ears immediately after the birth. From that moment onwards the brainwashing process continues day and night to the rest of this baby’s life. He/she will hear the Quran recited day and night in a special format (Tajweed) that leaves in the mind a deep sense of fear, which the mind translates into a profound respect to the word of Allah. This is made easier by the difficult language and ambiguity of most of the verses.
It is my personal view that religions rely on confusion and psychological intimidation to make their point. It is like how stage magicians impress their audience. They first set the seen carefully with the necessary background music and decor, and of course they love the darkness. They are usually dressed in dark colours, and choose a dark background. As if this is not enough, they also turn the lights off to perform their trick. Their illusions do not work if there is light. Darkness is their friend and light is their enemy. In my view, this is exactly how religions survive. Muslim clerics do not like the light. They hate science and logic while they love myths. They hate clarity and love confusion. The Quran is written in books called Mushaf. Muslims are taught from their childhood that this book is different from all other books. Only clean people should hold it, so a menstruating woman cannot touch it. A non-Muslim should never come close to it. A clean Muslim can only hold the book with the right hand and not the left, and they kiss it as a sign of respect. These Mushafs are written in a special format different from any other book in the Arabic language. There are specially designed dictation mistakes in every single verse. That adds further to the difficulty in reading the book. It is like a puzzle book with special codes that require special skills to solve the puzzle. In every Mushaf there are few pages at the back listing the codes used to write the book. The Quran has another peculiarity among other Arabic books. It is taught to children back to front! As it happens, the short Suras are located towards the end of the book, while the longer ones are at the front. So, children start to learn the book back to front, which adds even further to that sense in their inner mind that there is something special about this book. Muslims are pre-conditioned to believe, without question, anything and everything contained in the Quran. They are also prepared to say anything, even to lie, in order to protect the divine image of this book. Ask any Muslim, “ Do you believe that the Quran is a language-miracle?” And the answer certainly will be, “Yes”, regardless of their level of literacy. To most Muslims, reading and understanding the Quran is a torture, but when you ask them what would they prefer to read, a good novel or the Quran? they will all answer for the Quran. Any time you ask them, “What do you prefer to listen--a piece of nice music or the Quran?” They will answer, “Of course, the Quran”. They view that Allah is watching them through two spies on their shoulders. So they do not take the risk of speaking their minds.
The Quran has been used extensively in medicine through out the Islamic world. Will any Muslim admit that it is a useless therapy? There was a medical research in an Arabic country comparing the calming effect of the Quran compared to calming of soothing music. But how many Muslims will admit that they find man-made music more relaxing than the Quran? Does God need a language to communicate with humans?
Languages are means of input of information to the brain. The other means are our five senses. Languages were developed and are mainly used to facilitate communication between members of the same society who speak the same language. They are just means of transferring the information to the brain. For this purpose they have to rely on the other senses. Spoken languages rely on hearing, while a written word will rely on vision or touch. Therefore, languages are less reliable than vision or hearing or other perceptible senses. Inaccuracies of language communication can start from the beginning with pronunciations or accent difficulties, and then on the receiving end there may be hearing or understanding difficulties.
In this sense, languages do not seem to be the most effective means for delivering information to the brain. Why God should chose this primitive means to communicate with humans? Is not God capable of using more direct means to deliver his message to human brains, ready and fully explained? The Quran is claimed to be the final call from Allah to mankind to come and join Islam. It is supposed to be an international message for all people everywhere in this world, but most people never responded to it. Today, we must admit that the majority of people never read the Quran, and the vast majority of those who read it do not understand it. So after 1400 years the message has not been delivered. Language communication did not seem to have worked. However, and just to be fair, one has to admit that there is one remarkable miracle about the Quran, which is how it has escaped open and free criticism for over 1400 years.