Monday, 9 July 2018

Qur'an is Uncreated Spoken Words of Allah

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

والعاقبة للمتقين

It is often said that it is impossible to understand anything about the Divine because human language and means of communication of ideas are limited and imprecise. But this is another example of Ilhad, from the point of view of Islam, because we Muslims believe that the Holy Qur’an is the literal spoken Word of Allah which He then revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) through the agency of Angel Gabriel. Allahumma expressed Himself through human language, specifically, the Arabic tongue. The pattern, arrangement and selection of sentences, words and even letters by Allahumma in the Qur’an is itself miraculous because through it exact precision with regard to the true reality has been conveyed perfectly. We likewise believe this about the Torah, because it is a scripture which Allah wrote with His own Hand, and He expressed Himself to mankind in it by means of human language. Consequently, the holy Qur’an is the inerrant Word of God, although man’s effort to understand and interpret it is certainly fallible and subject to error. What the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) has explained and interpreted of the holy Qur’an on the basis of divine inspiration, either directly to his pure heart or through an Angel, is of course, infallible and absolutely correct. No one should imagine that any other tafsir of the Qur’an, no matter how pious and knowledgable the one to whom it is attributed to, is infallible or absolutely free of even the slightest degree of error. It is generally know that among the Prophet’s companions, his illustrious cousin Ibn AbbasRA, had a very deep understanding and extensive knowledge of the Qur’an, as the Prophet (sall Allahu alayhi wasallam) made a special supplication for him:
اللَّهُمَّ عَلِّمْهُ الْكِتَابَ
“Allahumma! Teach him the Book” (Sahih al-Bukhari)
And in another version:
اللَّهُمَّ عَلِّمْهُ الْحِكْمَةَ وَتَأْوِيلَ الْكِتَابِ
“Allahumma! Teach him the Wisdom and the interpretation of the Book” (Sunan Ibn Maja)
The heresy that the holy Qur’an is a creation and not the literal spoken words of Allah originated with the notorious Mu’tazila. By claiming the Qur’an is a created thing they in fact, intentionally or unintentionally, diminished its status and opened the door for doubt regarding its inerrancy. During the Mihna, the first example of a medieval inquisition in the history of Islam, the Mu’tazilites persuaded the consecutive Abbasid rulers (al-Ma’mun, al-Mu’tasim, and al-Wathiq) to persecute the orthodox religious leaders who did not subscribe to their heresy that the Qur’an is created. It was Imam Ahl us-Sunna, Ahmad b. HanbalRA, who was steadfast in the face of this terrible persecution and with his powerful arguments in defiance of the Mu’tazilite-influenced rulers, won the hearts of the Muslim public and firmly established the doctrine of the Qur’an being the uncreated spoken words of Allahumma. Although the Imam was severely beaten and tortured, to the point where he lost consciousness several times, he refused to compromise on the truth. This is among the reasons why Imam Ahmad is considered the Mujaddid (reformer) of the second century. Furthermore, the school of thought associated with Imam Ahmad, namely, the Hanabila, have traditionally been the staunch defenders and teachers of doctrinal orthodoxy till this day, especially with regard to the issue of Allah’s names and attributes. Despite the fact that the old school Hanbalis were often accused by their rivals of anthropomorphism, they defiantly stood their ground and refused to compromise on the taking of the literal meaning with regard to Allah’s attributes, whereas many other currents within the world of Muslim scholastic theology could not resist the temptation to distort the meaning of Allah’s attributes in order to reconcile their theology with foreign, Hellenic philosophy and so-called rationalism. According to the Qur’an itself, both the Torah and the Qur’an are examples of audible speech of Allah:

وَقَدْ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ كَلَامَ اللَّـهِ ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ

Indeed, there was a party of them who used to hear the Words of Allah then distort it

(Sura 2:75)

حَتَّىٰ يَسْمَعَ كَلَامَ اللَّـهِ

Until he hears the Words of Allah

(Sura 9:6)

The Ayatayn establish the fact that Allahumma’s Words are audible. If these Scriptures are creations, then they would not be described as the “Words of Allah” which are heard. The reader should not misconstrue this to mean that when the Qur’an is recited the Voice of Allah is heard. No, the Voice of Allah is not heard when the Qari recites the Qur’an, but rather, the Words of Allah are heard, so make the distinction between hearing the Words of Allah and hearing the Voice of Allah, a distinction that was not observed by the heretical Salimiyya sect. Likewise, one should not imagine that this doctrine that the Qur’an is the uncreated speech of Allah means that the Mushaf or copy of the Qur’an, meaning the paper and ink, are uncreated. The voice of the Qari is also create, and is the Qari’s own voice, but the Words being recited in his voice are the uncreated Words of Allah. Additionally, another important point which must be clarified is the fact that although the Qur’an, being the spoken Words of Allah, is uncreated, it is not eternal, meaning without beginning. The Qur’an is muhdath (Sura 21:2; 26:5) meaning, something that occurred in time, as Allah spoke the Qur’an, and His speaking is one of His divine attributes of action. Allah doing or speaking something in time does not mean that the action or speech is created. It is technically originated but not created, so mark the delicate distinction between muhdath (new) and makhluq (creation). One of the arguments of the Mu’tazila that the Qur’an is a creation is the fact that Allah is described in the Qur’an repeatedly as:

خَالِقُ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ

“Creator of everything”

Now the Qur’an too is a “thing”, and so logically it follows that the Qur’an was created by Allah, the Creator of everything. However, the Mu’tazilite argument backfires on them, because one of their principal doctrines is that man is the creator of his own deeds, which are not created by Allah but rather outside the domain of Allah’s power and control, independent of Him. Yet, Allah Most High says:

وَاللَّـهُ خَلَقَكُمْ وَمَا تَعْمَلُونَ

And Allah created you and that which you do

(Sura 37:96)

As for Allah being the creator of “everything”, and certainly the Qur’an too is a “thing”, but that is a general statement which has necessary exceptions. Consider the fact that Allah Himself is a “thing”, not only from a linguistic angle, but even the Qur’an says that Allah is a “thing”:

قُلْ أَيُّ شَيْءٍ أَكْبَرُ شَهَادَةً ۖ قُلِ اللَّـهُ

Say: “What thing is greater in testimony?” Say: “Allah”

(Sura 6:19)

So if the Mu’tazila insist that every “thing” is created, they would have to confess that Allah Himself is created ma’adh Allah and that the deeds of mankind are created by Allah. But the truth is that when Allah says He is the Creator of everything, He is not referring to either His own Person nor His holy names and attributes.

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