03 Nov What is the Significance of the Linguistic Miraculousness of the Qur’an?
God Almighty granted every Prophet He commissioned miracles in fields in which the people of the time were accomplished. The most miraculous aspect of the Qur’an, revealed at a time when Arab literature was at its peak, was its linguistic perfection.
God Almighty employed eloquence as the most notable aspect of the Qur’an, and this was the chief miracle of God’s Messenger.
It is well-known that eloquent speech and poetry were a major influence that shaped the social life at that time. This love for language was associated with the poets who had developed a poetic heritage over many centuries of oral tradition. Poetry contests, which were frequently held, were part of the tribal code of Arabia. When the Qur’an was recited to the Arabs, they could not help but notice the brilliant linguistic melody that was contained in the letters that made up the words and in the words that made up the verses.
With its inner rhythms, sound patterns, and textual dynamics the Qur’an appeared as a peerless poetic masterpiece, elevating people to the realms of grand meanings. This was a challenging miracle which they could have never coped with and plainly displayed the ultimate helplessness and impotence of human beings.
The Qur’an is the peak of literary art and we clearly witness this fact in the following verse:
And it was said: “O earth, swallow up your waters! And, O sky, cease (your rain)!” And the waters were made to subside, and (by God’s will) the affair was accomplished. Then the Ark came to rest on al-Judi, and it was said: “Away with the wrongdoing people!” (Hud 11:44)
The words above are awe-inspiring and of a magnitude of grandeur for the human spirit. A single word here carries the weight of a giant mountain and roars like thunder. Suddenly once the words have finished and the narrative has ended there is silence, serenity, calmness and a sudden cessation of universal wrath. One feels the existence and influence of superhuman might in these magnificent words, which appear as if chipped out of a hard rock and one feels the mountainous weight and magnitude of each letter in these words. It is absolutely not possible to change any letter in this verse, nor to replace any word with another or to formulate another sentence that will produce a meaning, magnitude, action or tune that is similar. One can try to replace a letter or even a word with one another in this modest 10-word sentence.
If you do so, you will have caused this unparalleled sentence to lose its beauty and eloquence, you will have simplified its style and it will have become as dry as barren land.
In short, the Qur’anic verses, due to their magnitude, created an impact, the like of which had never been experienced, among the Arabs of the pre-Islamic era who loved literary eloquence and rhetoric.
The Qur’an, which surpassed all the masterpieces of Arab literature, has caused all to pay heed to it with its style and has inculcated the Islamic faith to men and women of all ages, young and old alike. Thanks to the miraculousness of its elevated style, which is pleasant for all hearts, even its most notorious enemies, like Walid ibn Mughira and Abu Jahl, could not help but listen to it.
It was the style of the Qur’an that turned a stern man like Umar ibn Al-Khattab, on his way to kill the Prophet, into the most honorable Umar Al-Faruq (so called by the Prophet after becoming Muslim and declaring the truth of Islam openly); it was the style of the Qur’an that made Utba ibn Rabia say,
“I heard words from Muhammad that I have never heard before. It is neither poetry nor soothsaying, and resembles no such thing. O people of Quraysh! Listen to me! Stay away from him, for if he is not successful, you will thus get rid of him, but if he is successful, then his victory will be your victory.”
Again it was this elevated style of the Qur’an that made Labid, the poet of one of the famous “Hanging Odes,” or Muallaqat, (the celebrated seven odes that were hung on the black cloth suspended from the walls of Ka’ba in the pre-Islamic era) exclaim:
“It is not fitting that I should write poetry now.”