Prediction of the Defeat of a Great Power
The beginning of the mission of the Most Noble Messenger came in the year 611 AD, and thus fell in the reign of Khusrau Parviz. At that time, two great and powerful states, Eastern Rome or Byzantium and Iran, ruled over the greater part of the civilized world. They had for long been going to war with each other in order to expand the area under their control.
These lengthy battles between the Byzantines and the Iranians had begun in the reign of Anushirvan and had continued into the reign of Khusrau Parviz. Encouraged and egged on by his advisors, Anushirvan had disregarded the peace treaty existing with Byzantines and attacked them. Within a short period, the Iranians succeeded in conquering Syria and Antioch, advancing as far as Asia Minor itself. Antioch was burned to the ground and Asia Minor was plundered.
Twenty years later, when the military power of both sides was crumbling, a new peace agreement was signed, and the forces of both states returned to their previous borders. After the death of Anushirvan and its aftermath, Khusrau Parviz ultimately came to the throne. In 614 AD he attacked the Greeks again, gaining control of Syria, Palestine and North Africa. He sacked Jerusalem, set fire to the Holy Sepulchre, and destroyed numerous cities. The war ended in a clear victory for Iran.
News of the defeat of the Byzantine worshippers of God, at the hands of the fire-worshipping Iranians, was received with satisfaction by the idolators of Mecca and with grief and sadness by the Muslims. In the course of this bloody struggle, Jerusalem had come into the possession of the Iranians, which was taken by the polytheists as a good omen for their own struggle against the Muslims, foretelling victory and triumph over them.
This interpretation made by the Meccans was grievous to the Muslims and caused them much anxiety about the future course of events. It was then that a revelation came foretelling the renewed triumph of the Byzantines, worshippers of God, over the Iranians; it disclosed the secret that the Byzantines would make good their defeat in less than ten years and carry off a definitive victory.
These are the relevant verses of the Quran: "The Byzantines have been defeated in a land near the Hijaz, but in the future they will triumph over their enemies, in a period of less than ten years. All affairs, both earlier and later, are in the hands of God, and on the day when the Byzantines triumph, the believers and the followers of Islam will rejoice. God assists whomsoever He wills, and He is powerful and compassionate. This is the promise of God, a promise which cannot be violated, but most of the people know not."(30:14)
The prophesy of the Quran was fulfilled in the year 625 AD, corresponding to year 2 AH. Less than ten years had passed since the previous battle between the two powers, and the Byzantines were able to occupy Iran. It was so definite and certain for the Muslims that this event would take place that some of them placed bets on it like Abu Bakr who took out a bet against Ubayy b. Khalaf.
How can we explain the confident and categorical prediction of the victory of a defeated people over a victorious people, in the absence of any factors pointing to the likelihood of such an event? A realistic approach to the state of society and the course of events would definitely have contradicted this prophesy. The Prophet of Islam foretold a definite military victory at a certain point in the future; how did he know it was going to occur?
Would it be fair to put it on the same level as the predictions made by politicians and political commentators? Could the application of any criteria have made it possible to calculate that a people, defeated, exhausted and demoralized in the course of a trying war, should within a given space of time, triumph definitively over the erstwhile victor?
It should be remembered, after all, that many factors play a role in military victory and that the slightest error in tactics or miscalculation can change the whole course of battle. Surely the explanation is that some unaccountable element is contained in the unfolding of events, which permits the prediction of an occurrence like a great military victory. It is unrealistic to attempt to analyze these matters from a purely materialistic point of view.
The Prediction of Other Events
The Quran has also foretold other events. Let us give a few examples. One is the conquest of Mecca and the triumph of the Muslims over the polytheists, described by the Quran as follows: "That which God inspired in his Prophet by means of a dream is true and veracious: without any doubt, you will enter the Sacred Mosque in safety and security. You will shave your heads and shorten your hair without any fear or anxiety. God knows what you do not know, and you will win a victory near at hand before your conquest of Mecca." (48:27)
This verse informs the Muslims that they will enter the Sacred Mosque and perform the ceremonies of the lesser pilgrimage ('umra) without any fear, and that the polytheists will be defeated and their power will vanish. It also assures them that in the near future they will enjoy another victory. These predictions were made at a time when no military expert or adviser could have predicted the occurrence, given the difficult circumstances of the Muslims and the unfavorable situation in which they found themselves.
In reality, then, it was not the outer beings of the Muslim warriors, the physical strength and weaponry they possessed, that were victorious; it was God's aid, joined to their strenuous efforts, that gave rise to victory . The repeated statement in the Quran that all miracles and victories take place with the permission of God indicates how limited is the role played by personalities in history despite their power of choice and the dimensions their creative activity may assume.
The Prophets represent the most important of the factors necessary for destroying existing social realities and bringing about social changes at a given point in history. With their luminosity, they penetrate the darkness surrounding society that is an obstacle on the path to God. They create a distinctive set of values, and with God's permission, they guide men to righteousness and salubrity. It is precisely within the growing darkness that the evolutionary course of history causes the emergence of exalted personalities.
Their appearance is one of the basic factors in bringing about fundamental social change and one of the undoubted necessities of history. A careful examination of history will show that the Prophets appeared at decisive turning points in time, playing a fundamental role in conveying human societies from a lower stage to a higher one. It is then up to the human being himself firmly to base his orientation to the world on an awareness of the constant evolution of all phenomena and the movement of all of being toward its lofty aims, as well as on faith and belief in the source of creation and worthy action that brings him into harmony with the universal proclamation of God's glory by all things.
Only then will his true human visage as the vicegerent upon the earth become apparent This proper orientation toward existence and the phenomena of nature will determine for him the values of his earthly existence. History bears witness that human beings have joyously abandoned everything for the sake of the Divine teachings brought by the Prophets, in order to gain, thereby, that which is both everything and higher than everything.
Let us return to our previous topic. The Quran mentions the future occurrence of another historical event, namely the triumph of the Muslim warriors at Khaybar and their conquest of its formidable fortresses. Hard blows had been inflicted on the Muslims from Khaybar, but in the end the army of Islam triumphed over the Jews, and the prediction of the Quran was completely fulfilled. Would it have been possible to speak of victory, at a time of the utmost weakness, without utter confidence in the content of Divine revelation? Can we ascribe this precise knowledge of the future to the knowledge and perspicacity of the Prophet of Islam?
Knowledge cannot permit one to speak of an ineluctable future, to make categorical predictions; this is something in which only the true Prophets and friends of God can engage. In these victorious wars, Islam triumphed not only materially over the forces of unbelief; it also subjected its opponents and enemies to its ideological and spiritual power. When the Prophet was still living in Mecca and propagating Islam on a limited scale in extremely difficult and tiring circumstances, and when the future of Islam was still uncertain, the Quran predicted the ultimate fate of Abu Lahab to be inevitable entry to hellfire on account of his obstinate enmity to the Prophet of Islam.
Although many of the relatives of the Prophet pined the ranks of his opponents at the beginning of his mission, their innate ability to perceive and accept the truth gradually emerged from the darkness of ignorance and obstinacy, so despite their obduracy and perversity of mind, they changed their beliefs and joined the ranks of the Muslims. At that time of feverish cries, nobody knew who would ultimately join the ranks of the believers and which opponents of the truth would maintain their erroneous attitudes until death. After all, the passage of time, the occurrence of certain events and the emerging of new conditions can bring about new insights in the human being, with the result that he changes his beliefs an opinions; no one can foretell with certainty what the future beliefs of a person will be.
Nonetheless, the Quran predicts with clarity the final outcome of the life of a given individual, Abu Lahab, the obstinate enemy of Islam. It proclaims categorically that he will refuse the religion of monotheism until the very end of his life, and that for this reason his painful destiny will be to enter the fire of God's wrath. These are the verse of the Quran: "May Abu Lahab, who was constantly vexing and opposing the Prophet, perish, and may his two hands be cut off! The wealth he accumulated to destroy Islam has not availed him or saved him from destruction; he will soon fall into the flaming fire of Hell." (111:1-3)
All historians are agreed that Abu Lahab closed his eyes on this world as an unbeliever and that he persisted in his obstinate hostility to the Prophet of Islam until the final moments of his life. The verses revealed concerning the events mentioned above constitute a further proof that the sacred book of Islam is from God, and that it is linked, in a profound and exclusive way, with the supra-natural realm. Other verses of the Quran also predict certain future events, such as the preservation of the Prophet from physical harm throughout the period of his messengerhood and his inhumanity from the evil deeds of his enemies. At the time this was predicted, the third year after the beginning of his mission, there was no indication that he would remain unharmed by his enemies throughout the period of his mission, and yet the passage of time proved this to be the case.
In Surah Kawthar, the Quran informs people that the descendants of the Prophet will ultimately be numerous - this despite the fact that in his lifetime his enemies were hopeful that he would die without issue, since all the sons of the Prophet had died in infancy and only one of his daughters survived. Given this, was it possible for any other than God, that eternal reality and fixed pivot of truth, to predict that matters would unfold in a sense completely opposed to existing circumstances? Likewise, the prediction that the Prophet would return to Mecca, his home, made at a time when he abandoned it for Medina because of the pressures of the polytheists, is also an indication of a higher consciousness: "God Who made incumbent on you the recitation of the Quran will return you to your birthplace." (28:85)
In Surah Nasr, the Quran also predicts the definitive conquest of Mecca by the Muslims with numerous different groups of people joining the ranks of the Muslims. All these predictions of future events are inexplicable unless they be ascribed to the source of revelation, to the infinite knowledge of God. It should also not be forgotten that in all the wars and battles they waged and all the victories they won, the Muslims behaved toward the defeated with the utmost generosity and compassion. In this, they were guided by the inspiration they received from the Quran, an inspiration that took shape in the very midst of the battles and clashes in which they were engaged.
Since the war waged by Islam was a war for the sake of God and the establishment of monotheism and justice, they never lost sight of the purpose of fighting even in the midst of battle and the clanging of swords. Although military victory might have appeared to be the best possible opportunity for the Muslims to take revenge on the polytheists for all the pain and torture they had suffered at their hands for years, the Muslims restrained their anger and desire for revenge so that the sacred aim of their struggle should not be sullied or obscured by their personal desires and wishes.
Unity and Multiplicity in the Themes of the Quran
Every scientist and researcher is liable to change his attitude to scientific topics under investigation and the opinions he bases on them. Relying on the knowledge and conclusions he has accumulated, he may express a certain opinion on a given topic at one time and later repudiate that opinion in the light of continuing and more extensive research and the solution of certain problems. His new insights take the place of his previous thinking, and his opinion changes.
This process of change is an important reason for the variations and contradictions we find within the views of a single individual. Furthermore, in the course of twenty-three years, a person will inevitably change some of his ideas and opinions as a result of natural bodily changes which also entail changes in his psychology and nervous system.
It has always been the custom of thinkers, lawgivers and writers to correct their errors and revise their opinions and their writings. Moreover, when the human being is caught up in a current of great events, in a succession of differing circumstances, his view of matters cannot possibly remain uniform. However firm be his will and however balanced his thoughts, the stormy vicissitudes of existence will inevitably destroy the stability of his mind and his will and divert their operation to new courses.
When the human being is weak and impotent, he looks at the world in a certain way, but as soon as he attains a position of power, his view of the world changes and he confronts the same questions that faced him before in an entirely new way. This change in outlook can easily be seen reflected in his manner of speech and behavior. This is another factor giving rise to contradiction and variation within the views and modes of thought of a single individual.
In addition, intelligent and perspicacious persons are well aware that those who deviate from the path of honesty always end up by unconsciously contradicting themselves, however cunningly they make their calculations. This is particularly true if they life in the same society for a number of years and express opinions on a whole variety of issues. It is the direct result of their deviation from the path of honesty.
The Noble Quran contains profound and exact statements on a wide variety of subjects. It establishes and legislates principles and regulations for the practical and ethical duties of the human being and for the ordering and administration of society. However, the slightest variation or contradiction is not to be seen in this great mass of material. Considering the fact that the Quran was revealed over a period of twenty-three years, it is important to note that this gradualness did not cause the verses to lose their harmony and inner unity.
It is true, of course, that certain verses containing regulations were abrogated by others, so that the period of their applicability came to an end. But the meaning of this abrogation is that the benefit envisioned by the regulation proclaimed in the earlier verse was temporally limited, so that the corresponding regulation also was necessarily limited. Once the new regulation is proclaimed, the validity of the first regulation is terminated. It is plain that the proclamation of a temporary regulation cannot be objected to if the benefit intended by a permanent regulation is not yet apparent.
This is something quite different from what happens as a result of human error and ignorance. The human being promulgates a certain regulation with a view to a certain benefit, and then, after a time, he realizes he has made a mistake. He then abolishes the first regulation and substitutes another one for it. One cannot in any way attribute to God such an abrogation, arising from ignorance and error.
Concerning the question of abrogation, the Noble Quran has this to say: ' Whenever We abrogate a certain benefit and send down another in its place and God knows best what He sends down - the unbelievers say, 'You are always a forger.' It is not so, but most of them do not understand . Say, 'The Spirit of Sanctity has brought down these verses from my Lord, in truth and veracity, to make firm the footsteps of the believers on the path of God and to serve as guidance and good tidings for the Muslims.'(27:101-102)
Here, it is possible to evaluate the Quran from two different points of view: first, the individual nature of the verses, viewed in isolation from each other and possessing an unparalleled brilliance; and second, the verses taken together as a whole, exhibiting utter harmony and mutual compatibility and lacking all contradiction with respect to style and content. Precisely this lack of contradiction represents another aspect of the miraculousness of the Quran. When the Quran wishes to establish its own heavenly nature, it draws attention to the fact that although it was revealed over a period of twenty-three years, it is completely uniform and lacking in contradiction.
It says: "Do they not reflect on the Quran ? if this book were from other than God, they would certainly find much variation and contradiction in it. (4:81) This verse reminds us that those who deviate from the path of honesty and veracity will naturally fall prey to contradiction in their statements and sayings. The fact that not the slightest trace of contradictoriness can be found in the contents of the Quran or unevenness in its style is a shining proof of its truth and veracity.
The Quran therefore leaves it to the sound disposition of human beings, untrammeled by all prejudices and pre-existing notions, to recognize this fact and to distinguish truth from falsehood. When we leaf through the history of the Prophet of Islam, we see clearly that his life passed through many different stages. At one time he belonged to a deprived and impoverished minority; at another time, great material facilities and abundant wealth were at his disposal.
At one time, his weakness and isolation and the social boycott imposed upon him were of an intensity sufficient to defeat the most powerful of human beings; at another time, he enjoyed such honor and fame that he counted as the leader of one of the strongest nations of the age. Sometimes he was confronted by the crises of war and all the disorders attending on war; at other times, he lived in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.
We know that the changing conditions of life have a great effect on the way human beings think and relate to each other and to nature. They represent such a dominant factor that they are able to bring about fundamental changes in their attitudes, to the extent that both their inner and outer lives are directly related to the changing nature of the circumstances that surround them. The changing circumstances specific to each stage in the human being's life create within him a certain way of viewing the world and a certain network of relationships.
Among other things, this makes it possible for him to benefit from exceptional circumstances. The positions human beings adopt with respect to all these changing circumstances is by no means uniform. Sometimes they are able to make use of them as a means for development and growth and the creation of values, and at other times those circumstances become transformed into ideals. By adopting a particular attitude to the external phenomena surrounding them, and choosing a certain approach with regard to the purpose of their existence within the overall scheme of creation, human beings give shape and form to their own existential nature.
In short, the life of this world, with its vast dimensions and variegated manifestations, determines the values of human beings, and clarifies their choice of direction. If the Quran which took shape under a variety of different circumstances and was revealed in fragments over a period of twenty-three years, in Mecca and Medina, was the record of the thoughts of Muhammad (upon whom be peace and blessings}, it would inevitably have been subject to the general rule that development implies change and contradiction; it would not possess the uniformity that it manifestly does.
Furthermore, through the adoption of an attitude conformable to the prevailing conditions of the day, considerable differences would have appeared within the world view expounded in the Quran. Contradiction and incongruity would have become evident in it, and it would have lost, in the course of time, the evenness and harmony that characterize its style. In contrast with the method followed by conventional books that devote themselves to explaining or researching a single legal, historical, philosophical, social or literary topic, the Quran discusses numerous and varied subjects, such as law and politics, the knowledge of God, civil and penal law, ethics and customs of behavior, history and the details of Divine regulations, together with tens of other subjects. Despite this, it is absolutely uniform with respect to the coherence of its subject matter and of its style.
There is no difference between the first surah revealed to the Prophet (Sarah Alaq) and the last surah of the Quran (Sarah Nasr). Throughout the Quran, unique eloquence and power of expression are fully apparent, to the point of constituting a firm and brilliant proof in their own right. The Quran represents a seamless and harmonious entity: none of its laws and principles can be viewed in isolation from all of its other laws and principles, and the examination of one principle may furnish a key for the understanding of other principles.
The inter-relatedness of the philosophical and moral foundations of the Quran, its laws and regulations for the life of the individual and society, its prescriptions for worship and the training of human beings, and the principles and moral purposes it sets out for administering society this inter-relatedness is another clear proof of the miraculous nature of the Quran. In none of the ordinances and principles expounded in the Quran do we see any contradiction with the creedal, philosophical, educational or ethical bases of the Quran. Despite all their varied aspects, none of the ordinances of the Quran are incompatible with its fundamental teachings.
These exceptional qualities and properties of the Quran form an indisputable proof of its superiority to all the products of human thought. They establish clearly that this inimitable compendium has its source in God, the eternal and immutable reality, Whose infinite essence is utterly beyond the factors that induce change, variation and contradiction.
The Inexhaustibility of the Different Dimensions of the Quran
The Quran is a book which has brought about the greatest and most astounding changes in the history of the human being. It possesses an everlasting vitality and shines continuously throughout every age of history. With the profound insight it exhibits in legislating for the human being and providing for all his genuine and natural needs, it is the richest and most abundant resource available to the human being. The comprehensive scheme proposed by Islam rests on a perception of his primordial nature.
With a realism that is all its own, Islam analyzes the human being as he is and assumes a determining role in all the dimensions of his life. This is one of the reasons for the lasting validity of Islam. Taking into account the extensive developments that have occurred in science, bringing in their wake fundamental and irreversible changes, the characteristics that set Islam apart from other schools of thought must be examined with great care.
Were the principles and regulations of Islam to belong to the same category as those of other schools, the ascending level of the knowledge of human beings would necessarily invalidate them. But we see exactly the opposite is true. In circles that concern themselves with scientific and legal problems, the position of Islam is stronger than ever before; it enjoys increasing prestige and receives more attention than at any other time.
One of the clear characteristics of the Quran is that by means of a finite verbal form, it expresses an infinity of meaning that derives from the infinite knowledge of God. This is in contrast with all other books and writings where both the verbal form and the meanings they express are finite. Imam Sadiq, upon whom be peace, said to Hammad: " 'I swear by God that I am aware of all that is in the heavens and the earth, and all that is in Paradise and hellfire.' Hammad then looked at the Imam with astonishment, whereupon he continued: 'Oh Hammad, it is by means of the Book of God that I have this knowledge.'
He then recited this verse: 'On the day that We raise up a witness for every people from among their own messengers and bring you forth as a witness for this people. We have sent this great Quran to you to make plain the reality of all things and to be a source of guidance, mercy and glad tidings for the Muslims.' "
One of the companions of Imam Sadiq, upon whom be peace, related that he heard the Imam say: "I swear by God that I have in my possession all the truths of the Quran, from beginning to end. This book contains an account of the heavens and the earth, of that which is and that which has been, for the Quran makes apparent the reality of all things." The Quran may be regarded as a transcript of the world of nature, the hidden secrets of which the passage of time and the expansion of knowledge have brought to light.
The appearance of new and profound concepts in the Quran is therefore a continuing process. God made His Book comprehensible so that human beings might reflect on it. Nonetheless, the secrets and mysteries of its verses become more apparent, and its rays exert a more powerful attraction, the more the scientific capacity of the human being increases and his researches concerning the scheme of the universe continue to expand.
This is true also of researches into the psychology of the human being and the laws governing social and legal relationships. Thus thinkers who spend their lives studying exclusively civil or international law will never be able to reach the lofty pinnacle of the Quran. As Ali, the Master of the Pious, said, "The Quran is a burning torch, the light of which will never be extinguished; it is a deep ocean, the depths of which will never be penetrated by human thought."
From the dawn of Islam, scholars and believers have applied their lofty intellects to the study of the Quran in order to understand its various verses. In each age, hundreds of specialists have worked on the concepts of the Quran, each according to his degree of talent, and they have carved out paths for attaining knowledge of the Quran. Even in non-Islamic environments, some people have engaged in careful researches to bring out the meaning of the Quran, and the results they have attained have played an influential role in the dissemination of Islamic culture.
These properties and attributes belong exclusively to the Quran, the value system of which is regarded as a precious legacy for all of mankind. The unparalleled comprehensiveness of the Quran, when compared with other systems of legislation in the advanced and civilized world, is entirely apparent. It is here that we discover the vast difference between the Quran that was revealed to purify the human being and enable him to ascend, and the other source of legislation in the world.
In countries where reliance is placed on those sources, laws are established with the aim of establishing human happiness but only through drawing on the abstract and imaginary ideas of thinkers and specialists in the field of law, in the hope that a fitting answer to all the material and spiritual needs of the human being might thus be provided.
But since those laws take into consideration only objective and external aspects of human life and fail to confront a whole series of fundamental realities, to such a degree that motive is sometimes regarded as being dictated by material circumstances; and since, moreover, they take no account of the norms that prevail in the human being's inner being, they yield undesirable results and prove to be defective cone put into practice, despite their apparent soundness.
Their modification and revision then become inevitable. No one can claim that his scientific writings and researches or his technical innovations will remain unsurpassed in every age, for progress and development make it inevitable that with the passage of time, scientific research should enter new channels and both theory and practice change fundamentally. Indeed, each individual scientist will revise his ideas and his works as the degree of his knowledge increases and the level of his awareness improves. He will seek to compensate for previous deficiencies. The door is always open for such revisions and corrections.
Furthermore, every human work, however valuable and precise, is of ultimately limited utility: its value is finite, such that a few experts and specialists learned in their trade will be able to clarify every part of the book and exhaust its contents. But the Noble Quran is revelation, deriving from the knowledge of a Creator in Whose infinite ocean of wisdom all the intelligence, thoughts and perceptions of human beings are but a drop; compared to the blinding brilliance of the vision and knowledge that embrace all of being, they are like a feeble and flickering lamp. The potentialities of the Quran for further investigation, discovery, and deduction are endless.
This principle is not restricted to questions of law and jurisprudence; researchers in every branch of human knowledge can discover some new dimension of the Quran. Even specialists in some of the modern sciences of the human being, such as psychology, sociology and the philosophy of history, can deduce new and exact points of scientific validity from the Quran. This shows that the Quran has a whole series of different capacities that cannot be exhausted by the imagination of a single culture or a single age.
There is no other book on the general and particular aspects of which so much effort has been expended for fourteen centuries across such a vast area and which yet retains the capacity to be investigated still further. It is obvious that the results obtained by thought and investigation will depend on the originality, skill and intellectual power of the individual scholar, so that the multidimensional meanings of the verses of the Quran cannot be restricted to what one individual has been able to deduce from them. We should study carefully the topics contained in the Quran such as the origin of beings, the ineluctable future that is the afterlife, ethics, jurisprudence, law and historical narratives.
Our aim is such a study should be more than a simple re-telling of events, a dry summary of contents; we should try to discover how the Quran has impelled human beings to advance intellectually from one stage to the next. Then we will encounter the true teachings of the Quran, and by opening up new fields of new knowledge and enquiry, we will come to appreciate the unique richness and profundity of the Quran. The spiritual, cultural and scientific richness of the Quran is such that if we tried to establish a kind of statistical bibliography for works written on the Quran including commentaries on the entire text, commentaries on its legal verses, and commentaries on certain surahs, the total would run into the tens of thousands.
Can this unique comprehensiveness of the Quran be explained by attributing it to the mind of a man who had never studied and who lived in an age of darkness and in one of the most backward of all countries - the Arabian Peninsula? Does anyone exist, even in today's world, who is capable of drawing up such a detailed and comprehensive program as that which Islamic law provides, a program moreover which is not purely abstract and theoretical but includes among its effects the spiritual ascent of the human being and the moral purity of society? When we speak of the miraculousness of the Quran, we are not speaking on the basis of speculation or mere personal opinion, nor are we talking of something legendary or of purely historical significance.
We base ourselves on scientific, rational and logical criteria, for the miraculousness of the Quran is a palpable truth comprehensible to any person of intelligence who has at his disposal the necessary information. Such a person will easily see the Quran is connected to a power superior to that of the human being. Can all these unique properties and features of the Quran, which have retained their scientific significance and value for many centuries after the revelation, be regarded as something natural or commonplace? Or are they, on the contrary, a clear proof that the Quran, possessing these attributes to an infinite degree as it does, is to be ascribed to the Creator Who possesses Himself infinite existence?
Bartholeme Heller, a French Orientalist, discusses the comprehensiveness of the Quran in the following terms: "Just as we are obliged to appreciate the beauty and eloquence of the Quran by means of a translation, we also appreciate the beauty of the Psalms and the Vedas by means of a translation. There is, however, this difference: the Psalms do not contain a code of civil laws for the Jews, nor the Vedas for the Hindus, whereas the Quran contains an unparalleled variety of subject matter. The Quran is both a hymn in praise of God and a code of civil law; it is both prayer and supplication, and a warning and exhortation. It teaches both the methods of warfare and those of debate, and it is a book of history and stories."
In 1951, the College of Law in Paris organized a week long seminar on Islamic jurisprudence in which the views of Islamic law on a variety of subjects were examined. The following communique was issued at the end of the seminar: "Islamic jurisprudence undoubtedly deserves to be regarded as one of the principal sources of law in the world. The views and opinions of the different schools of Islamic law contain abundant resources which are truly astounding and which can be drawn on by Islamic jurists to furnish answers to all the questions of modern life."
The Permanent Attraction Exerted by the Quran
Another aspect of the Quran which serves to indicate its unique and exceptional nature is the remarkable and inexhaustible attraction that it exerts. Take the best poems or pieces of literature, and read them several times. You will come to see that for all the interest you have in reading them and all the pleasure they give you, a repeated reading of them will tire and even bore you in the end.
The effectiveness and attractiveness of the best writings produced by geniuses of the past and present is not something fixed, immutable, and permanent. For a time, they can hold the reader under their sway but they will gradually forfeit their attractiveness so that in the end they can neither command attention nor cause any pleasure. However, if we examine the Quran, this transcript of a heavenly archetype, from this point of view, we will see that those who are acquainted with the Quran and have acquired some of the riches contained in its teaching are well aware that there is a direct relationship between the repeated reading of the Quran and the attraction that it exerts.
They read or recite God's verses hundreds of times, and each time the Quran acquires a different aspect for them, an aspect that conquers and overwhelms their soul and their spirit. Their experience of spiritual pleasure is in direct proportion to their comprehension of the exalted concepts of the Quran, and indeed anyone can satisfy his spiritual needs by referring constantly to the Quran and benefiting from it to the degree of his capacity to know and perceive. The rays of attraction exerted by the Quran spread outwards from Mecca together with the movement of the Muslims.
They shone in the Christian court of Ethiopia, thanks to the recitation of Ja'far b. Abi Talib, despite the unfavorable situation prevailing there and the pressure brought to bear by the opponents of Islam. Equally, they shone in Medina, the base for the formation of a new society, where the Quran was recited by Mus'qab b. 'Umayr. Active people such as these were dedicated to destroying false values and bringing into being a movement that would result in fundamental changes in the way of life and thought and society.
They sought to spread awareness among human beings and to encourage them to adopt a realistic attitude towards the truths of the Quran. With its message, the Quran provided human beings with the means needed for making a choice between falsehood, on the one hand, and the new values that were enabling human beings to refashion their lives, on the other. For the life of the human being has no meaning unless he adheres to a certain worldview, a vision of existence and history, and a concept of the aim of creation. Today, more than fourteen centuries after the revelation of the Quran, the captivating sound of the recitation of the Quran can still be heard in different parts of the world.
From buildings in cities and villages, from tents in the desert, from places of temporary lodging, along the routes where people travel, at every hour and minute of the day and in the heart of the night when all things are veiled in a profound and meaningful silence, the profoundly moving sound of the Quran being recited arises, leaving its impression on hearts and minds that have been attuned to its message and transforming fundamentally the spirits of all who listen to it. This happens continually without the Quran losing any of its freshness.
Although the Quran becomes intermingled with the various affairs and concerns of the human being's life as well as his emotions, it has always been immune against distortion and corruption. If human knowledge and artifice had played any role in the codification of the Quranic text, the Quran would have resembled works of human origination that are always capable of being improved on at a later stage of development; for a time they possess a particular excellence, but they exert little effect on history and the ultimate destiny of the human being. They become obsolete, and the passage of time places the seal of death on them.
But God, Whose power and knowledge are infinite, has so adorned the Quran with harmonious and well-ordered speech that it always preserves its freshness and eternal validity. The mission of the Quran is to plant the seed of monotheism with all of its dimensions everywhere in the history and civilization of the human being. It is eloquent and categorical in conveying its message; it negates all forms of purposelessness in the human being's existence and condemns superficiality, shortsightedness, which necessarily fail to lead the human being to reality.
As for the teachings of the Quran concerning the knowledge of God, they so draw the truth-seeking spirit of the human being to the exalted concepts they expound that it rises up far above the values of the material world and fixes its gaze on horizons where new dimensions of reality become visible. God Who presents the Quran to mankind is a unique force who cannot be compared with any created being.
The norms He has established rule over all the phenomenal world, and in His infinity, He cannot be contained within the conceptual world. The Quran proclaims: "He is God, the One without like; He is all-hearing and all-seeing."(42:10) We know that all existing things can be classified either as matter or as energy, and the Quran refutes clearly the possibility that the exalted essence of God be compared either to matter or to energy. This is the categorical statement of the Quran: "No eye can perceive Him, but He observes all eyes; He is subtle and invisible, and well-aware of all things."(6:103)
The Quran guides the human being to reflect carefully on the scheme of creation, to ponder deeply the inner nature of the bounties with which he has been blessed as well as the phenomena which surround him. A believer who travels through creation and reflects on the purposiveness of phenomena and contemplates the inner and outer aspects both of his own being and of his surroundings will reach the conclusion that all things are advancing - each by means of its specific path - toward a certain goal. If the human being wishes to attain his own salvation, he must conform to this universal tendency of all phenomena and pin the caravan that is proceeding to the meeting with God.
The Noble Quran regards awareness of God as something innate in the human being, deriving from the very essence of the laws that govern creation. It depicts materialists and atheists as being caught up in a realm of mental abstraction and struggling against their innate disposition to seek God. Similarly, all kinds of deviation from the path of monotheism, whether it be the dualism of Zoroastrianism or the Trinitarianism of Hinduism and Christianity (for the followers of Christianity imported the belief in the trinity into their faith from other religions), are condemned by the Quran. It regards all such deviations as attempts to conceal the truth:
"Those who say that God is one among three are unbelievers."(5:73) When condemning the belief that Ezra and Jesus were sons of God, the Quran describes this belief as a remnant of the beliefs held by ancient peoples: "The Jews and the Christians say that Ezra and Jesus were the sons of God.
This is what they say with their tongues, following those who were unbelievers before them."(9:30) The Quran makes this clear proclamation to the Prophet: "Say: All praise belongs to God Who has never taken a son or a partner and Whose might and power can never diminish so that He might stand in need of a friend or a helper. Always praise the Divine Essence with mention of the greatest attributes of perfection."(17:111)
Finally, in a short surah, the Quran thoroughly refutes the false thinking that underlies polytheism as follows: "Say: He is God, the One; He is not empty of content; He is not the offspring of anyone, nor is anyone His offspring; nor is anyone like unto Him."(112) The statement that God is "not empty of content" (this being one of the possible meanings of samad) may relate to the fact that matter is hollow, generally speaking; there is a remarkable vacuum at the hearts of the atoms that make up the material world. This surah may thus be proclaiming that not belonging to the category of matter, God is "not empty of content." Paul Clarence Ebersold, a physicist, poses this question: "Is God a person? Some people might reply that he is, but I do not think this scientifically correct.
Scientifically speaking, we cannot form a material concept of God, for He exists beyond the realm of material perception. It is true, on the other hand, that numerous phenomena prove His existence; the works of His creation show clearly that He possesses infinite intelligence, knowledge and power." Weinhold, a well-known chemist, writes: "God does not represent some finite, material energy. Our limited ability to experiment and conceptualize is incapable of defining Him.
Belief in the existence of God is a matter of the heart, although science may prove Him to be the prime and ultimate cause and thus indirectly reinforce the belief of the heart." This is how the logic of science approaches the question of describing the existence of the Creator. That which the Quran says concerning His unique essence is, therefore, in exact conformity with the highest truths of science.
The true value and significance of the fully rational teachings of the Quran concerning God become particularly apparent when we adopt a comparative
approach in examining the relevant verses of the Quran. We could compare them, for example, with the teachings of Ancient Greece, the beliefs of Buddhism or Zoroastrianism or those held by the Arabs in the Age of Ignorance, for each of these covered a considerable portion of the world at that time. A neutral and objective comparison of this kind would enable us to appreciate better the value of the conscious belief preached by Islam, a belief based on pure monotheism in all of its aspects and aimed at channeling all human activities toward a single goal.
Such a comparison would also help us to understand more fully the miraculous nature of the Quran as an abundant source of truth, first made available to us more than fourteen centuries age. No one who is armed with the weapon of religion and is fully conscious of the true teachings of Islam will form attachment to anything apart from his faith and whatever he needs to attain his high goals.