The Qur’an; A Literary Marvel
There is enough academic work on the literary beauty of the Qur’an from grammatical, rhetorical, linguistic & other perspectives to take up several lifetimes to even skim through. I am no literary but I do have a deeply rooted conviction that at least a taste of the Qur’an’s majestic precision and subtlety should be appreciated by as many as possible. I think it adds a new dimension of appreciation and awe of the divine word, not just as something to be observed for its religious doctrine (though its guidance is its primary purpose of revelation), but also as a word that mesmerizes its reader or listener. Not only am I not a literary, I am also not a prolific writer as you may have guessed by now. My attempt in this series of mini-articles will be to share some gems of beauty I’ve come to appreciate from various notable sources. Of the many areas of concentration within linguistic analysis of the Qur’an, the ones that have captured my attention the most are
a. The incredibly precise use of near synonyms
b. The use of verbal and nominal idioms and expressions that require special attention in translation & analysis
c. Subtle intricacies in grammatical analysis and responses to grammatical criticisms
d. Beautiful lessons that can only be learned through comparative analysis of similar ayaat.
e. The study of micro and macro transitions (iltifaat) in the Qur’an.
All of the above require proper definition which will, insha Allah be forthcoming. It is my hope that this brief inquiry into the beauty of the Qur’an will benefit myself and the readership, at least in enhancing our appreciation of Allah’s final message to humanity wAllahulmusta’aan. I will attempt to keep the writing simple and easy to understand and avoid technical jargon and loaded vocabulary as much as humanly possible. I ask all of you to pray that I am able to communicate a clear, authentic and beneficial message.
Read a typical translation of the Qur’an rendered into English and you will find the same word in English used to translate a whole score of words in Arabic. خَشْيَة, وَجل,حَذَر, خَوف, وجس, تقوى, رهب would all more or less end up being translated as fear for instance. Imam Raghib’s Mufradaat ul Qur’an sheds light on the subject sparingly. This isn’t exactly a major area of concentration nowadays, nor will you find a dedicated section in a typical tafseer book dealing with the matter. Even if a notable work addresses the issue, it isn’t thorough or systematic enough to be considered a definitive guide or comprehensive resource on near synonyms. I am offering you a simple translation of what Imam Raghib himself said in the muqaddimah of his famous work. I think it says everything that I would end up saying in a much less eloquent fashion:
“If Allah wills this life to continue, I intend to produce another comprehensive book after this one (meaning mufradaatul Qur’an) in which the mutaraadifaat (near synonyms) will be researched along with the differences between them with great clarity. By means of this study, we will be in a better position to understand the wisdom in the usage of different words or statements dealing with the same subject. For instance consider the use of the word قلب as opposed to فؤاد as opposed to صدر. Similarly we will explore why in dealing with the same narrative Allah will end by saying إن في ذلك لآيات لقوم يؤمنون
(16:79) while in another place in the Qur’an He will use لقوم يتفكرون
(30:21) and also لقوم يفقهون
(30:24) . What is the subtle beauty buried in these words? Similarly,
vs. لذي حجر
vs. لأولي النهى etc that have been used across the Qur’an and many have interpreted them to mean essentially the same thing. A lack of this attention to detail justifies the interpretation
of الحمد لله as الشكر لله
& لا ريب as لا شك
to be adequate tafsir that has done justice to these Qur’anic expressions.”
According to Abdul Rahman al Kilaani (author of Mutaraadifaatul Qur’an in Urdu), he couldn’t find any work attributed to Imam Raghib that has been alluded to in his earlier work. There are some other works in this area such as ‘Fiqh AlLughah’ and ‘AlFurooq AlLughawiyyah’ by Abu Mansoor Abdul Malik Bin Muhammad AlTha’bani and Abu Hilal AlAskari respectively. Though beneficial these books are either not concentrated in Qur’anic vocabulary exclusively or deal with at most 3 near synonyms at a time which can lead to confusion when you run into additional members of the pack. In this context I think the most extensive, exhaustive and incredibly beneficial book would have to be Abdul Rahman Kilaani’s book Mutaraadifaatul Qur’an in Urdu and the articles beautifully written by Dr. Fadel Saleh Alsamerai entitled Lamasaat Bayaaniyyah. I am going to be taking bits and pieces from both, hopefully presenting at least 10 unique cases of the powerful study of near synonyms and their subtle use in the Qur’an. The first of these posts will deal with the phrase AlHamduLillah and will probably be the longest.
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