Quran - Characterization of the Book
Is the Quran - a divinely revealed book - able to give evidence of the presence of a Supernatural Being; a being that not only creates, knows and over-powers all things but also is in constant interaction with its cherished creation?
Before delving in the Book we must ask what should the criteria that can set apart this Book from other books be, and what proof should we demand from the Book so we can be definite that indeed it is a book not written by human agency but by Someone far beyond. Indeed a lot has been written in this regards before. It is said that the grammar of the Quran is far more eloquent than that of everyday Arabic speech. It is said that the Quran holds a symphonic value that makes it a writing between prose and poetry, a style seldom adopted by human writers. It is also a fact that many times we find a subject embedded in different chapters that cohere to the context of the writing and cohere in meaning when taken together separately.
The normal way for humans to write is to form a conceptual frame of what has to be talked about - divide and deal with each component of the concept in different chapters - and then try to consolidate all that has been proven into a conclusion that leads to the concept one had started from – this is possible when one knows that s/he is writing a book on a specific subject like economics or physics or philosophy and one knows if the book one is writing will describe a general or a specialized phenomenon in that topic and one is clear about the scope of the book – but the Quran deals with all subjects, does not divide its chapters according to distinct subject matters, does not write in historical sequence, does not distinguish between assertion and proof, and oddly does not tell in its opening chapter, which is usually taken as a preface, what this Book is about, rather it is an about-the-author and about the relationship between the reader and the Writer.
So what criteria should be set to test the Quran as a Book that is beyond the wisdom and possible knowledge of the greatest of thinkers of humanity? Should the Book be full of miracles or futuristic information, should it be a guide to economic success or embedded with scientific formulas or just a wholesome advice for a better way of living? Should it be non-contradictory, a final word not open to revision, free of falsehood and beholder of the ultimate reality, should it be a ‘theory of everything’?
We see that there are many possible challenges for a Book to be divine. Surely what we would expect from an all-knowing Writer would be nothing less than perfection. A perfect book should be inexhaustible in terms of knowledge and in terms of accepting all challenges and should qualify. Therefore it must be encouraged to question the Quran in all ways and see what it has in answer. This means that it will be difficult to set a definite criteria for a Book to be from God, each reader may have his/her own question and expectation and new questions may arise when old ones have been answered.
So this essay will not aim to fulfil a generalized criteria for the Book to be divine, rather it will aim at asking the Book itself, what it has to say of itself - if indeed it is from the All-Knowing and if indeed it is the all-telling.
But before we seek what the Quran has to say for itself as a Book, there are a few striking parameters that a reader of the Book may notice. Firstly one may notice that the Quran has numerous bold statements about realities –such as regarding the past and future of the Universe and the purpose of life in it – realities which are and may always remain beyond direct human experience yet the Quran asserts them as known truths. This boldness has two sides, on one side it implies the access of the Writer to realms of truths that are out of normal human reach and on the other side these truths are of such concern that appeal to the very nature of mankind and resolve the questions that are most probed by people in all ages.
Another striking specialty of the Quran are its tales – a book that is supposed to give ultimate knowledge of all subjects, answer all our questions and show us the best ways of leading a good life, would be precise in its delivery and somewhat complex due to the wide range of issues it has to deal with, yet strangely we find the Quran to be easy to swallow and not exhaustive to read at all. Rather the Book is filled with tales seemingly so simply they make perfect sense to the layman, yet are equally capable to catch the intrigue of the most learned. These tales do not only present moral lessons but weave a web of history which identifies humanity in wholesomeness, hinting on the life of the first man that paced the earth to those existing even today. These tales not only clarify the conducts of the elders but wrap the prophets and the good people in such a cloak of holiness which serves as a beacon of moral excellence that we are tempted to follow – a service which the old and new testaments have totally failed to do. This fact also answers the allegation that the Quran has borrowed stories from the Torah and Bible, one must not say ‘borrowed’ rather one can say that the Quran has put them in perfect truth and cleansed them of the falsehood that previous scripture has been defiled of.
Even though the Quran does not talk in strictly temporal progression but every here and there it hints us of historical truths that complete the picture of our perception of time. Unlike any man-authored book, it unfailingly, so many times, takes us through a tour from: before time; to creation of the universe; to the setting of the earth; to the arrival of man; his birth, his doings; his history; his fate; the doomsday; resurrection; eternity; heavens and hell; and the presence of man in the court of the Almighty Himself. And all this given that every single verse, even every word and letter must stand open for testing and must never cease to come out successful as the ultimate truth.
The scope of this essay though unlimited in many ways, will be limited to the research on what this book asserts about itself and the many fascinating aspects of those assertions, yet this will not be a final criteria and the Book will surely reveal itself to readers as they seek.
1- Boldness of the Book/Author
Most man-authored books are humble in nature, the most learned men after all their life’s work would only say that they are open to criticism and new findings. It is not fit for a man to be boastful of his findings or his theories, there is no ‘ultimate’ in a man’s words. But the assertions, this book makes, in matters of history, anthropology, psychology and all other faculties of human knowledge are simply too bold.
The repeated assertions of the Quran that it is Al-Haq (the Truth); are for no man to say, as show the following ayahs:
“This book; no doubt in it, guidance for the self-guarding ones. Those who believe in the absent and make standing the salah and of what We have fed them, spend. And those who believe upon, what is sent upon thee (Oh Muhammad) and what was sent before thee and upon eternity they believe.”(2:2-4)
How can a book assert that it has come for those who believe in the absent, when no man can say for sure what that absent really is? Is it for any sensible man to ask another one like him, to believe in an absentia and another life that neither of them can confirm nor test? Yet the Author of this Book asks us to believe just that. In the very opening pages of the book, without presenting any extensive theory or explanation, the Author asserts that there is absolutely no doubt in His words. He says that this word will guide those only who have integrity within and who are willing to believe in the ‘absent’.
Again it is not, for any sensible man-author to assert that no contradiction will ever be found in his book, either the person will be considered a lunatic or in fact it could only be the All-Knowing who is making such statements:
“Why don’t they ponder in the Quran; and if it were from other than Allah, they would find in it contradictions, many.” (4:82)
Observe the boldness of the Author in how He addresses the whole of mankind as its target audience:
‘O mankind! There hath come unto you an advice from your Provider, a healing for that which is in the breasts, a guidance and a mercy for believers.’ 10:57
‘And We reveal of the Qur'an that which is a healing and a mercy for believers, and not it increase for the exceeders save ruin.’ 17:82
On one hand one may measure these verse of the Quran as an excess of an arrogant writer, while in fact this is exactly the kind of stance required of a King of kings and the Creator of all creations.
2- Self-Glorification of the Author and the Book
Allah describes the majesty of his authorship in fantastic ways, perhaps because He is the only one in the position to know His own majesty.
While it does not suit a man-author to self-glorify; the more he knows the more he will confirm the littleness of what he knows and the more he will submit to humility – the Author of the Quran does just the opposite. But His self-glorification does not arouse the spite similar to one that would arouse against a boastful man-author, rather just the opposite; a glorification that takes the reader into the farther most reaches of hallow, blessedness and holiness - of a splendorous, King of all kingdoms. Behold the splendor of even the messenger that arrives with the message, recited onto the heart of the Prophet and witnessed by Allah and His angles themselves:
“He (Gabriel) was sent upon your heart by the will of thy Lord” (2:97)
“But Allah is witness upon what is sent upon you, it is sent by His knowledge, and the angels are witness, and enough is Allah a witness.” (4:166)
And who is Allah that sent this Book, the Book tells us:
“Sent by Whom created the land and the highest skies.” (20:4)
“Say He sent it who knows the secrets of the skies and the land…” (25:6)
“And verily it is sent down by the Provider of all worlds.” (26:192)
“And verily you (Oh Muhammad) are met with the Quran from the presence of a Wise, a Knower.” (27:6)
The message has come through a messenger that connects directly to the heart of the man. The King of all kingdom is witness upon the message being delivered, along with all His angels; making it the most private yet the most popular and most celebrated event throughout the Universe and beyond. From a Majesty, the knower of all secrets and the provider of all supplies, not by one who would be lacking knowledge at any level of realization. The verses take us to the dramatic presence of the glorified, hallow and the subtle world of His esteemed workforce.
The opening statements of all the amazing Ha Meem chapters taken together, state boldly that this Book comes to us from no other then the Mighty, the Knowing, who has the power to forgive. Who accepts repentance and is capable of all lengths, Whom is the only one that can be worshiped, and towards Whom all are to return (40:2). Sent from the very Graceful and Merciful (41:2); from the Mighty-Wise; for Whom is all that is in the skies and the land and Who is the Highest, the Greatest (42:3, 4); sent from Allah, the Mighty, the Wise (45:2); mercy from your Provider, the Hearer, the Knower (44:6).
3- The Book is Alive
The Quran asserts that not only is the Author of magnanimous glory, but the book itself is full of wisdom and beneficence – the book is alive. In fact it shows signs of life, in the most profound ways; it says of itself:
“… guidance and mercy and good tiding for the Muslims.” (16:89)
“These are the signs of the intricately wise book.” (31:2)
“Ya Seen. And the Quran, the intricate knower.” (36:1, 2)\
“A book sent upon thee, full of blessings…” (38:29)
“… a reinforcement for all worlds” (38:87)
“… a mighty book.” (41:41)
“… a protecting book” (50:1)
“… the book and the balance” (57:25)
“Indeed it, is a decisive saying, in it are standing books.” (98:3)
Note that in these ayahs the Quran is referred to not as a normal, material, inert book, but a live, thinking book that effects people’s lives and can interact.
Though other books can be givers of guidance and can enlighten, but no usual book can be wise in itself or merciful in itself. All books can be givers of knowledge but they cannot be knowers of knowledge. A book can be indirectly delivering blessings but can a book be mighty and protecting. Moreover books can tell us about the working of the worlds around us but can they be reinforcing those worlds with supplies or existence, or even more so does any of our books act to maintain the balance of all things around us. Nor does any book, ever written by any man, possess the qualification of being decisive in any matter. This Book, the distributer of mercy, guidance, protection, a Book that knows the intricate and reinforces the seeker and his universe, is more alive than any of us, it is a live organ that controls and sustains the universe on behest of its Creator.
4- The Mother Book
Amazingly the Quran tells us that this book in our earthly hands, however magnificent, is a form (a baby) of the Mother Book. The Mother Book, present in the most remote extremes of the universe, must be possessing the most intricate data, of the smallest particles to the biggest constructs, the design, the working, the chain reactions, the past and the future….
“And not is this Quran; as if made by other than Allah, but that it confirms of what you already have and gives details of ‘the Book’ of which there is no doubt; from the Lord of the worlds” (10:37)
“… sent the best of the news, a book of the similitude of its example (double)…” (39:23)
‘And We have certainly given you, [O Muhammad], seven (verses) of the ‘similar other’ and the great Quran’. (15:87)
“And verily it is, in the Mother Book, with Us, such high, wise” (43:4)
“In a hidden Book (in a secure buildup), not touch it except the pure ones, sent form the Provider of all worlds” (56:78, 79)
“Nay, but it is Quran, the glorious. In a preserved tablet.” (85:22, 23)
The presence of the Mother Book is also mentioned in Hadith. In the Hadith on the Prophet’s journey to the heavens, the Prophet mentions of a house in the higher skies that is a very busy place, frequented by many angles every day, perhaps who come to collect their commands:
‘…Then the Bait-ul-Ma'mur was raised up to me. I said: O Gabriel! what is this? He replied: It is the Bait-ul-Ma'mur. Seventy thousand angels enter into it daily and, after they come out, they never return again…’ Sahih Muslim
‘…Then I was taken up to the Oft-Frequented House (Al-Bait al-Ma'mur) and I asked Jibra'il about it, and he said: 'This is Al-Bait al-Ma'mur in which seventy thousand angels pray every day, and when they leave it they never come back…' Sunan an-Nasa'i
It is probable that the Mother Book is stationed in the Bait ul Ma’mur, because if it is a Book that contains all the details of the past and the future, it has to be most frequently visited by all that are to be delegated to works of the Universe. And the fact that every new command is delegated to an absolutely new set of angles every day hints to the absolute perfection and no-chance-of-fault of the system of command.
The Mother Book and the similitude of it, the Quran, which we possess in our hands today, must have the same genes, the same coding, and must be fully representing each other. But the Mother Book has to be enormously huge in the magnitude of the intricate knowledge it has to cater for. It has to have the designs of all things, from the very tiniest to the very magnanimous, it has to have the details of all commands, it has to encompass the past and the future, and it has to be holding all the threads of control that weave the web of the Universe. Modern physics helps us to visualize that this Book would be the opener of the event of the Big Bang, it may contain the formula that makes out of ‘not’, and zygotes the first ever particles made, into a self-developing, expanding, self-designing organism that we know as our Universe, therefore the bang does not necessarily have to be abruptly forceful, it could have been smooth, sequenced, measured, balancing itself at every step of the process - a process still in progress – under the proceeds of the commanding Mother Book.
The Mother Book is the program of this nUiverse, therefore it must have been created right before the event of the becoming of this universe and the All-Mighty is surely capable of possessing many other mother-books that would be programs of other universes - only He knows the bounds of His creation.
The mysterious presence of such a Book in the highest most exalted of skies has been hinted by Allah in the most thought-provoking manner. The magnificent chapter At-Toor (52) is giving the most over whelming meanings (Allah knows the best meanings)
And the Toor,
and a ruled out book,
in a thin spreading,
and the inhabited house,
and the high rise dome,
and the intermixing seas,
surely the restrain of your Lord is to happen. (52:1-7)
The Toor is the physical reality by which the Mother Book is connected to the body of the Universe. It may be the great hovering through which all commands descend to their happenings; the gate-way between the earth and the very highest sky where the Mother Book resides. The Toor also refers to a ‘spinning inwards round a mount’, something like a wormhole. Note the universal picture that is being painted in our minds as the ayah is placing the book in a central position that spreads out (in accordance with the Big Bang). The inhabited house mentioned here is the same mentioned in Hadith of Bait ul Ma’mur. The term ‘high rise dome’ places the Bait ul Ma’mur at the top of a dome while the earth is directly below it. This gives a picture of a rectangular (or oval) universe rather than a circular one; therefore, the ‘canopy raised high’.
The Mother Book is an enormous structure, in terms of its data and its processes, it has many, many rulings that cut the book in rows and rows, yet it comprises of a thin, mass-less spread, something two-dimensional, real but not physical, that spread out with swiftness in all dimensions.
Yet another amazing chapter Al-Rehman (55), in which each word seems to be containing spells of meanings, elaborates about the Quran:
“The Rehman (The holder of all wombs)
Made known the Quran
Made known to him speech” (55:1-4)
The ‘wombs’ bespeak of the infinite possibilities that await existence and deliverance into their specific ways of life, in the grand warehouses of the Creator. The womb of the universe we live in, would in turn behold multitudes of lesser wombs; wombs of galaxies, of stars and of planets and wombs of atomic and subatomic particles. He made known the Quran, which was a plan and means of executing and initiating the creation of the universe, but to whom? The sequence of the ayahs are telling that the Quran was made know to someone before man was created. Then it is probable that the Quran was made known to itself, as it is a live thing and must have been made alive at a point in time, and it was made known to the pure ones appointed on it. And lately created man and taught him speech so he would be able to understand the coded key-book of the Universe in
which he has to live a life and where he has to act as a viceroy of his Lord.
And now here in the chapter Al-Waqia (56), the Mighty Lord is being ever generous in sharing and hinting on the realm of the center of all powers of the universe which He calls ‘the Book’.
‘Nay! I swear by the happening of the stars
And surely, if yee know, it is a great swearing
Surely it! how nobel and fertile the Quran is!
In a Book kept hidden
which none toucheth save the purified,
Sent from the Provider of all worlds.’ (56:75-80)
Note the word Mawaqia meaning ‘happening’, in the given context the word can mean the creation, the annihilation or the appearance of a star to any particular observer. And the word mukkaram usually translated as ‘noble’ also means fertile; which implies that the Quran is full of possibilities; possibilities of happenings and possibilities for man. In the Quranic diction, destinies seem to be the laws of working that we and everything in the Universe are webbed in and the fertility of the Book seems to symbolize the tug of war between man’s free-will and Allah reaction to it, through the interactive chessboard of the live Mother-Book. Praise be to Allah.
Let us now come to yet another set of heart-stirring ayahs from the chapter Al-Abasa (80), which make an even deeper picture of the divinely organized Book.
“Nay! But it is a remembrance (a strengthening).
Then whoever wants, remember it (strengthen by it)
in the fertile, pages full of happenings.
Exalted and purified.
By the hands that sweep in every direction.
Fertile, benignant.” (80:11-16)
The Book in hand is a means for us to remember our unity with the whole and beyond this whole, our unity with the One, the El of all. This unity signifies the strength that can make us invincible in our journey through space-time. The space-time that is constantly annihilating all events in its warp, only this Book has the guidance that can deliver us through its warp, into another universe, of vitality and grace.
The Mother book is fertile, it is full of possibilities and therefore, there is room for change. In the jam-packed, intricacy of this law-bounded system, there is room for free-will to play its dice, the hearty, compassionate pages of the Book call on to man; to extend his reach to the unknown realms of greatness; and as one would extend one’s arm into the void, in search of the Truth, the Book will get that hand and pull it through. This is possible for a Book that is heavily accessorized with advanced gadgetry, operated by hands the sweep swiftly in all directions.
One can only pray to the Generous, most Glorified Lord to give us the true knowledge of His Book, through His mercy, inspiration and through His favored people of understanding. Ameen
1- All Things…
If this book is so majestic, what does it really hold, what are its contents. What does it tell us about? In the words of the Quran itself, it turns out to be ‘everything’.
“and not a moving creature on earth nor a winged creature flying on its wings, are - except that they are nations like you; not is left out of the Book, a single thing, then onto their Lord they will be gathered” (6:38)
“…and is not escapes from thy Lord, the like of a particle, in the earth and nor in the skies and not one smaller than that, nor one bigger, except that it is in a clear Book.” (10:61)
“…and not bears of female nor lays it down, except with His knowledge, and not one increases his age nor is cut short of his age, except it is in a Book, this upon Allah is easy.” (35:11)
“and all things are strongly guarded in a Book-form“ (78:29)
So every atom, every subatomic particle, every wave, every radiation, every photon, every path that they tread, past and future is known, recorded, accounted for, in the Umma-ul-Kitab, the Mother Book. And the Quran, the Book in hand, is bound to include all that in a coded manner.
2- Explains All…
Not only does it record all things it explains all things too; an enormous challenge!
“and like this We detail the verses to clearly separate the path of the sinners” (6:55)
“and We have sent down upon yee the book to distinctly explain all thing …” (16:89)
“and we have illustrated in the Quran for people all examples” (18:54)
Furthermore it has decisive information and in it are ‘standing pages’, which means that it does not contain command for an olden time of the past, rather it stands as today – as if the Book is living a life along with ours.
“In it are made distinct every wise command.” (44:4)
“No calamity befalls on the earth or upon yourselves except it is in a Book before We bring it into existence; that, for Allah, is easy.” (57:22)
“Behold how! The word is decisive. And not is it an amusement.” (86:13, 14)
“In it are standing pages.” (98:5)
3- Web’s the Heart
The Quran presents several attributes concerning itself, which are evermore capable of building a relation with man’s heart, it is so full of character that it can literally web the heart in all possible tones. The Quran tell us that we need look nowhere else when the word of Allah is in hand. The Quran says of itself in different ayahs of the Quran that it is:
(2:99) …A clear proof…
(2:147) …The truth…
(3:103) …A mentioning full of Wisdom…
(3:138) …guidance for people and good advice for the fearful…
(4:113) …wisdom and knowledge…
(4:174) …the convincing proof and light…
(6:92) …full of blessings…
(6:105) …has examinable proofs…
(7:185) …has observable truths and news…
(10:57) …cure of all ailments and advice…
(19:97) …good tidings and warnings…
(22:8) …enlightened book…
(39:23) …best of sayings…
(41:41) …a mighty book…
(42:17) …sent with the truth and the balance…
(50:1) …the glorious…
(70:2) …guides towards righteousness…
Perhaps this is the miracle of this Book, of a single volume, with 77,701 words in all, and 114 short and long chapters, can talk so much about so much. Inform, prove and boost so much. Make us happy and make us cry. Make us feel tiny yet the most important. Guide, advise, convince and heal. Yet what give us the most wonder, is the fact that however much its reveals upon us, it will still be ‘strange’ to us, as it will always be left with unexplored ‘news’ and ‘pondering’.
The Quran tells us of itself that it is the ultimate word and one should not be waiting for any other word to come.
“And complete are the words of thy Lord in truth and justice, none can change his words, and He, the Hearer, the Knower.” (6:115)
After asserting that this Book, full of knowledge, is from an All Mighty and all Knowing - Allah asks us to believe blindly only on that knowledge that our senses cannot encompass. But as for the extremely large amount of reality that we can understand, examine, ponder upon - Allah and his Book repeatedly asks us to ponder and question and there will be answers, Insha-Allah! (If Allah wills)
“Verily we sent down Quran, Arabic so that you may use sense.” (12:2)
“Like this, clearly states Allah for you His signs, so you would use sense.” (2:24)
In fact, Allah has called upon people to use their Sense (aqal) 49 times in the Quran. The Quran is a book of faith with knowledge, a knowledge with certainty, a certainty that encompasses space and time, because it has the delegated power to do so. It does not command you to bring faith because you don’t know, but it offers faith in what you know, after you have been told and after it has been made clear to your understanding.