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THE EXTRAORDINARY COMPREHENSIVENESS IN THE STYLE AND CONCISENESS OF THE QURAN

This relates to the extraordinary comprehensiveness in the style and conciseness of the Qur’an. It has five beams.

A single sura may contain the whole ocean of the Quran

The Quran is so wonderfully comprehensive in style that a single sura may contain the whole ocean of the Quran in which the whole of the universe is contained. A single verse may comprehend the treasury of that sura. It is as if most of the verses are each a small sura, and most of the suras, each a little Quran. This miraculous concision is a great gift of Divine Grace with respect to guidance and easiness. For although everyone always needs the Quran, in order that those who (because unaware of the importance of the Qur’an or for some other reasons) do not read the Quran, or can find no time or opportunity to read it, should not be deprived of its blessings, each sura may substitute for a small Quran and each of the long verses, for a short sura. Moreover, the people of spiritual discovery are agreed that the whole of the Quran is contained in sura al-Fatiha, and sura al-Fatiha, in the Basmala (In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.) This is a fact which painstaking scholars have unanimously confirmed.

The Quran gives everyone whatever he needs

Together with containing references to all the categories of explanation, and aspects and varieties of true knowledge, and human needs, like commands and prohibitions, promises and threats, encouragement and deterrence, restraint and guidance, stories and parables, Divine knowledge and commandments, natural sciences, and the rules and conditions of life, personal, social, spiritual, and other-worldly, the Quran gives everyone whatever he needs, so that Take from the Quran whatever you wish, for whatever need you have has been approved among verifying scholars. The verses of the Quran are so comprehensive that you can find in them the cure for every ailment and the answer for every need. This must really be so for the Book that is absolute guide of all the perfected among mankind who each day take a step forward in the way of God must be of that quality.

The Quranic expressions are so concise and yet all-inclusive

The Quranic expressions are so concise and yet all-inclusive that sometimes it mentions the first and last terms of a long series in a way to show the whole of it and sometimes it includes in a single word many proofs of a cause either explicitly or implicitly or allusively or suggestively.

Examples:

In And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and earth and the variety of your tongues and colors (al-Rum, 30.22), by mentioning the two terms of the series of the creation of the universe (the creation of the heavens and the earth and the varieties of mankind in languages and races) it suggests the creation and variety of all beings, animate or inanimate, as the signs of the Divine Unity. In the series of creation which testify to the existence and Unity of an All-Wise Maker, the creation of the heavens and earth come first, followed by the other links in the series-from the adornment of the heavens with stars to the population of the earth with animate creatures; from by making the sun, earth, and moon move regularly in a fixed system, the alternation of the seasons and day and night, to differentiation and individualization of speech and complexion where creation displays extreme multiplication. Since there is an amazing purposeful system in the differentiation of complexions and countenances which one may suppose to be determined by chance more probably than all other things in existence, for sure the other links of creation, which clearly manifest a deliberate order, will point to their Designer. Since, again, the creation of the vast heavens and the earth explicitly displays certain artistry and purposes, for sure, the artistry and purpose of a Maker Who founded the palace of the universe on the heavens and earth will be much more explicit in other parts of His creation. Thus, by manifesting what is concealed and concealing what is manifest, the verse in question displays an extremely beautiful conciseness.

The series of evidence beginning six times with ‘Of His signs’ from so glory be to God both in your evening hour and in your morning hour (al-Rum, 30.17), to His is the highest comparison in the heavens and the earth; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise (al-Rum, 30.27), is a series of jewels, a series of lights, a series of miracles, and a series of miraculous conciseness. However much I desire to show the ‘diamonds’ in those treasures, I must, in the present context, postpone doing so to another occasion.

Then said the one who had been delivered, remembering after a time, ‘I will myself tell you: its interpretation; so send me forth.’ ‘Joseph, you truthful man...’ (12:45-6) Between so send me forth and Joseph, you truthful man, there are a number of events, which the narrative omits: [So send me forth] to Joseph so that I may ask him about the interpretation of the dream. They sent him. He came to the prison and said: [Joseph ...]

By omitting these events, the Quran narrates briefly and exactly to the point without any loss of clarity which might make it difficult to understand.

...Who has made for you out of the green tree fire... (36:80)

In the face of the rebellious man’s denial of the Resurrection Who shall revive the bones when they are rotted away? (36:78), the Quran says: ‘He shall revive them, Who originated them the first time. The One Who creates knows each thing with all its aspects. Moreover, the One Who has made for you fire out of the green tree is able to quicken the bones when they are decayed.’ The part of the verse quoted deals with the Resurrection from different viewpoints and proves it.

It reminds man of Divine favors to him. Since the Quran mentions these favors in detail in other places, it alludes to them here summarily, and actually means: ‘You cannot escape or hide from the One Who, together with making for you fire out of trees and causing them to give you fruits, and providing you with grains and plants from earth, has made the earth a lovely ‘cradle’ for you in which are all of your provisions, and the world a beautiful palace containing all the necessities of your life. As you have not been created in vain and without purpose, and you are not free in the world with no duties, so also you will not be able to sleep in the grave eternally without being woken up.’

In pointing to a proof of the Resurrection, it suggests in the phrase, the green tree: ‘O you who deny the Resurrection! Look at trees! In sheer denial and deeming it unlikely, you cannot challenge the Power of the One Who quickens in spring innumerable trees that have died and become hardened in winter, and Who, by causing them to blossom and come into leaf and produce fruits, exhibits on each tree three examples of the Resurrection.’

It points to another proof and means: ‘How can you deem it unlikely for One Who makes for you out of trees hard, dark and heavy, a substance like fire which is refined and light-giving, that He cannot give to bones like wood a life like fire and a consciousness like light?’

It explicitly points out another proof, and says: ‘All things in the universe, including the essential elements of existence and their basic qualities, are subject to, and dependent on, the decrees of the One Who for the desert dwellers creates fire when the two green branches of a tree well-known to them are rubbed against each other, and reconciles opposing natures to produce new things. It is therefore improper to oppose that One and deem it unlikely that He can bring man forth from earth again after He created him out of it and restored him into it.’

It alludes to the well-known tree near which the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, received the first Revelation, and suggests that the cause of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was also the cause of Moses. By doing so, it makes an indirect reference to the agreement of all the Prophets on the same essential points, and adds another meaning to the compact treasures of meaning of that word.

The conciseness of the Quran is of a kind like offering the ocean in a pitcher.

The conciseness of the Quran is of a kind (as can be seen with a little care) like offering the ocean in a pitcher, by way of courtesy to what ordinary human minds can hold. It shows the most comprehensive and universal principles and general laws through a particular event on a particular occasion. Out of numerous examples of this aspect of its conciseness, the following are only a few:

Examples:

He taught Adam the names, all of them. (2:31)

When We said unto the angels, Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. (2:34)

When Moses asked for water for his people, We said: ‘Strike the rock with your staff.’ Then gushed forth therefrom twelve springs (so that) each tribe knew their drinking place. (2:60).

God commands you to sacrifice a cow. (2:67)

Through the three verses which were explained in detail in the First Station of The Twentieth Word, it suggests, through the teaching of the names to mankind who were thereby given the potential to obtain all knowledge and sciences, and through the prostration of angels before Adam and the refusal of Satan to do so, it signified that most of the creatures from fish to angels have been subjugated for the use and benefit of mankind while the harmful beings like Satan and snakes will not be so docile before him. By mentioning the slaughtering of a cow by the people of Moses, upon him be peace, the Qur’an means that the concept of cow-worship (borrowed from Egypt, and shown in the Israelites’ adoration of the calf which the Samaritan had made for them while Moses was on Mount Sinai (20.85, was destroyed by Moses’ knife. And by mentioning that from some stones rivers come gushing, and others split, so that water issues from them, and still others crash down in the fear of God (2.74), it states implicitly that the rock strata under the layer of earth allow the subterranean veins of water to pass through them and also have a role in the origin of the earth.

Each of the phrases and sentences of the story of Moses, upon him be peace, points to a universal principle and expresses it.

For example, in ‘Haman, build for me a tower’ (al-Mu’min, 40.36), the Quran means: ‘Pharaoh ordered his minister, Haman: ‘Build for me a high tower. I will observe the heavens and try to find out through heavenly events whether there is a god who is as Moses has claimed.’ Through this particular event and by the word ‘tower’, the Quran alludes to a curious custom prevailing among the rulers of ancient Egypt (the Pharaohs). They lived in a vast desert land with no mountains and worshipped nature; they believed in sorcery and reincarnation because of unbelief in God; therefore they cherished a deep desire for mountains and claimed absolute sovereignty like that of Divine Lordship over people. In consequence, to eternalize their names and fame, they used to have mountain-like pyramids built, in which they kept their mummified bodies.

So today We shall deliver you with your body. (10:92)

With this verse about Pharaoh, who was drowning, the Quran suggests: Since all Pharaohs believed in reincarnation, they mummified their bodies to ‘eternalize’ themselves. This is why their bodies have come down to the present day after hundreds of generations. Although unmummified, the body of Pharaoh, who lived during the Prophet Moses, upon whom be peace, and drowned in the water while pursuing Moses with his army, was found prostrate beside the Nile in the closing years of the last century. This is an explicit miracle of the Quran, which foretold it several centuries ago in the verse in question.

...the folk of Pharaoh who were visiting you with evil chastisement, slaughtering your sons, and sparing your women [to use them]. (2:49)

Although this verse mentions the evils and cruelties done to the Children of Israel during the reign of the Pharaohs, it also implicitly refers to the mass murders to which the Jews have been subject in many countries through the centuries and the notorious part some of their women and girls have played in history.

You shall find them the most eager of men for life. (2:96)

You see many of them lying in sin and enmity, and how they consume the unlawful; evil is the thing they have been doing. (8:62)

They hasten about the earth, to do corruption there; and God loves not the workers of corruption. (5:64)

We decreed for the Children of Israel in the Book: You shall do corruption in the earth twice. (17:4)

Do not make mischief on the earth, doing corruption. (2:60)

These verses concerning the Jews express the two general disastrous intrigues which they have made against the social life of mankind. As they are the Jews who through multiplied usury which has shaken the social life of mankind, and putting labor in a fierce contest with capital, driven the poor to struggle against the rich, have caused the building of banks and accumulated wealth through unlawful ways, so too, they have usually been the same nation who in order to take vengeance on the states or governments for either the injustices inflicted upon them or the defeats they have tasted at their hands, have entered all kinds of seditionist committees or taken part in all sorts of revolutions.

The verses, You of Jewry, if you assert that you are the friends of God, apart from other men, then do you long for death, if you speak truly. But they will never long for it... (62:6-7), which were revealed to refute an assertion of the Jewish community in Madina, state that the Jews, who are most renowned among mankind for love of life and fear of death, will never give up their greed for life and long for death till the Last Day.

Again, Humiliation and misery were stamped on them (2:61), states the general fate of the Jews.

It is because of such general and awful aspects of the nature and fate of the Jewish people that the Quran deals with them severely, and expresses harsh criticism of them. Thus, you may compare with these the other aspects of the story of Moses and the Children of Israel mentioned in the Quran. You will see numerous gleams of miraculousness behind simple words and particular topics of the Quran like the gleam of miraculous conciseness described in this Fourth Beam.

Question:

In the verses of the Sura Qaf,

Not a word he utters, but by him is an observer ready. And the agony of death comes in truth; that is what you were shunning! And the trumpet is blown; that is the Day of the Threat. And every soul comes, along with it a driver and a witness. ‘You were heedless of this. Now We have removed from you your covering, and so your sight today is piercing.’ And his comrade says, ‘Cast, you twain, into Hell each rebel ingrate! (50:18-24)

where is the fluency and coherence, considering the great gaps between them? It jumps from the throes of death to the destruction of the world, and from the blowing of the Trumpet to the end of the Reckoning and therefrom to throwing the sinful into Hell?

Answer:

One of the most fundamental elements of the miraculousness of the Quran is its eloquence and precision. There are so many instances of that miraculous precision in the Wise Qur’an that observant critics have been filled with wonder and admiration. For example, some eloquent people have prostrated themselves before the verse,

And it was said: ‘O earth! Swallow your water and, O sky! abate!’ And the water was made to subside. And the commandment was fulfilled, and the Ark settled in al-Judi, and it was said: ‘Away with the people of the evildoers!’ (11:44)

which tells of the might of so great an event as the Flood so precisely and miraculously within a few short sentences.

Also, in the following few short verses,

Thamud denied in their rebellious pride when the most wretched of them rose up; then the Messenger of God said to them, ‘The She-Camel of God; let her drink!’ But they denied him, and hamstrung her, so their Lord doomed them for their sin, and leveled them. He fears not the issue thereof, (91:11-15)

the Qur’an recounts the story of the people of Thamud, including what finally befell them, precisely and clearly, and in a way that does not detract from comprehensibility.

In the same way, in the verse,

And Dhu l-Nun-when he went forth in anger and was convinced that We would not straiten him: then he called out in the layers of darkness, ‘There is no god but You. Glory be to You! I have been a wrong-doer,’ (21:87)

there is much that is not said between We would not straiten him and he called out in the layers of darkness. Those few words re-tell the story of the Prophet Yunus (Jonah) with its chief points in such a way as not to diminish comprehensibility or mar the eloquence, leaving what is not stated directly to the understanding of the person addressed.

Also, in Sura Yusuf, seven or eight sentences are omitted between so send me forth and Joseph! O you truthful one!, which come at the end of verse 45 and at the beginning of verse 46 respectively. This also does not affect comprehensibility, nor does it mar the eloquence of the Quran.

There are many other instances of miraculous precision in the Quran like those mentioned above. As for the verses in question from Sura Qaf, the precise description they make is still more beautiful and miraculous. They point to the future of unbelievers which is so long that each day of it is equal to fifty thousand earthly years, and draw attention to the fearful events which will befall them through the dreadful upheavals of that future. They bring before the mind of the reader (or the listener) the whole span of those upheavals, and bring that long time readily before the eyes like a lightning stroke, and, compressed into a single page, present before us. They leave as understood the unmentioned events and thus achieve and manifest a sublime fluency.

When the Qur’an is recited, give you ear to it and pay heed, that you may obtain mercy. (7:204)


Recommended Reading:
The extraordinary comprehensiveness of the Quran in aims, subject matter, meaning, styles, beauties, and subtleties

Last Updated on September 30, 2000

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