Linguistic Miracles of the Quran

Nouman Ali Khan


Channel: Nouman Ali Khan

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I'd like to start by saying that I am in a serious time crunch, I don't know how I'm going to get out of my head in these 20 minutes what I really want to so I'm first of all, asking Allah that He gives me clarity and speech, and that I don't overburden you or give you overload of information, which in and of itself is not very conducive for proper learning or discussion. Even if I get to communicate, not everything that I intend to even if I do 10% of it, I'd rather it be done properly than me, you know, burdening you with way too much information.

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I wanted to divide this conversation into two halves, the first of it kind of theory and introduction and the other some practical examples, that would be easy for anybody to understand. I know the the vast majority of people sitting here in the audience are Muslims, I can see that very clearly. You're not very easily, you know, it's very easy to distinguish you. But it's the same, it's the same to distinguish Muslims, right anyway. So But anyway, I think my priority is going to be the non Muslim audience here. So if you don't hear me use a lot of traditional terminology, I'm giving you a warning ahead of time it is not a deviation. It is simply a courtesy to those who are

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not familiar with Arabic terms, and may not be as accustomed to that kind of lingo. We say those kinds of things among each other, hamdulillah Masha Allah Salallahu, alaihe salam, etc, etc. And we say them in the the ones who are not Muslim or like, what did he just say? And, you know, so we're gonna try to take it as easy as we possibly can. The first thing introductory comments and, and just setting the groundwork for this discussion. I think everybody here knows what literature is and what literary appreciation is, Western civilization is a great contributor to the global cultivation of literature, and part of every person's education in this country, not to mention anywhere else. Part

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of that is language studies and literary appreciation and literature studies. For instance, all of us probably, that went to high school here suffered through some Shakespeare, right? So that's, that's, you know, at the very least, right? So be it novels, or poetry or anything else. This is necessarily a part of one's education, and literary appreciation, you would have to say in the end is a subjective thing. In other words, it's not a hard science. It's not something like physics or you know, biology or chemistry or anything else. Where there are black and white, it's what you can say is it's it's an art more than a science, right literature, so it's in the eye of the beholder.

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So what what could be amazing to one may be completely unimpressive to someone else. And that's, that's entirely possible, which makes the job of the Muslim even more difficult because the creed of Muslims, the core belief of Muslims is that the Quran is unequivocably, the most beautiful body of literature, and the most eloquent form of literature in existence. This is our creed. This is what we believe with full confidence. Now, there are two ways to go about this. When you're discussing this with someone who doesn't belong to your faith, I'm talking to the Muslims for a second. One way to do this is to try to convince them No, look how amazing this is, this can only be God's word. But

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I personally am not convinced of that approach. And the only reason I personally am not convinced of that approach is because it turns into a debate. And it turns into a back and forth. Rather, I'd like to take the approach of let me let me show you the beauty I've come to appreciate. And let me help you appreciate some things that I've come to appreciate. And this becomes a purely literary discussion. And from then people can make their own decisions or explore further if the if they're if they're there, their curiosity has been sparked. Now, this is not this is a conversation that took confrontation away from the picture. It's entirely inquisitive, and it's entirely informative.

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So that's the approach I'd like to take and child law, or God willing, can tell

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in discussing the literary aspects of the Quran, and the first and the most important, almost puzzle that we have to deal with, is that when we think about literature, we think about things that are written, isn't that true? You think about a book, you think about a novel, you think about voluminous texts, etc, things that are documented, written and published. And when you think about written works, certainly, it's not the case that when a written work comes out that you publish the first draft that never happens. When you write something, you come up with an you know, you get it reviewed, you read it, you check it yourself, you know, you read it over again and you make

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corrections. You take away redundancies, you take away, I don't know if this word best fits this paragraph, or maybe I repeated myself too much here. Or maybe this is a run on sentence. You guys do this when you write term papers, don't you? You know, you you hand in your first draft to your English teacher. And he or she says no, you know what, this needs a little bit of work, fix it up and then hand it in. So you come up with your second, third, fourth draft, you still get a D but that's okay. You went through an editorial process. What I'm trying to say is it's natural and expected that in literature, there be what's called an editorial

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process that's natural. That's why even in the in the best selling books on the first page, you have this forward where the author is on acknowledgments, rather with the author saying thanks to my uncle, my cousin, my professor, my this, my dad, or the other who all told me, I can't write for my life until I finally fixed this book up. So you could sell a few copies, right. But there was this acknowledgment of the editorial process. Now, the reason I mentioning all of this and not going to the Quran directly is the Quran was delivered to its first audience, not in the form of literature, it was delivered to them in the form of speech. It was in the form of it's an oral tradition. Now,

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what's the fundamental difference between written communication and oral communication, as I'm engaged in with you right now, probably, as we speak, I've done I've probably thrown in a number of non sentences. And if I was looking at a transcript of my own of this speech, I probably have to edit it. Because when I speak, it's natural for me to make mistakes, or repeat myself, and you're expecting it from me too. If nobody speaks, perfectly eloquent, grammatically pristine English all the time, we make mistakes. And it's natural that when you write you have a chance to fix what you're gonna say is not true. Now, the entire Quran is revealed and delivered to its first audience

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believing and non, that first audience does not come into contact with it, like a piece of paper they have to read. It's not that way. It's delivered to them in the form of speech. And now the first question that comes to mind is in which of these two means of communication? Is there more possibility of error? That's the first natural question, when you speak? Is there more possibility of error? Or when you write is there more possibility possibility of error? I think the answer is unanimous in this audience, what is it? It's in speech. Naturally, when you speak, you can make mistakes, you can have gaps as we learn in politics, right? Somebody's political career can end

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because of what they say on the mic. Now, had they only stuck to the script, maybe they would have won the election, but you know, they open their mouth. So now, we understand this in real life. And so the skeptics, the people that are trying to diss this mantle, really, the efforts of this man, some alojar, sent him a peace, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him this messenger who's claiming that these words are coming out of my mouth, but they don't belong to me, the author is divine. Now he's making this total claim, obviously, the people that are listening and don't believe him or skeptical, are going to try to find something Aha, that's the line to that mistake you just

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made? Or what about this, you said this before now you contradicted yourself, etc, etc, these kinds of things, were something that we'll be looking for. And we know this from Arab history, even pre Islamic history, that the Arabs were very keen on picking each other's language apart, that would be very sensitive to how a person speaks. So now keeping that in the background, I'm going to give you four or five practical examples, practical examples of what is talked about as part of the great body of literature, that is the study of the eloquence of the Quran, by the way, this is, you could call a PhD thesis, the study of the eloquence of the Quran is kind of a PhD thesis that has been a

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pet subject in Islamic studies for centuries. So you have literally hundreds and hundreds of 1000s of scholars from across continents that have dedicated 1015 2030, sometimes 40 or 50 years of their life, to studying this one subject, the eloquence of this book, which in and of itself wasn't even a book, it was a speech, it was a speech. So we're gonna just take a small sampling of a few examples and try to appreciate what what these people are talking about.

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There are two kinds of I'm not going to say chapters, I'm going to get you guys used to another term, it's soula surah. Okay, as you are, if you can spell it out as you are, Ah, that's the term instead of chapters, we're going to call it sutras and the Quran is made up of how many Muslims here 114 114 sewers, we're not going to say chapters. Now the reason we don't say chapters By the way, how much time do I have left? I need to keep track my 10 awesome all the time. Okay. So there are two kinds of sewers.

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there early, you can call them pre migration, and post migration. Now, what are Muslims called these? Mackey says? Well, what I mean by pre migration and post migration is in the profit struggle. And Mohamed struggles a lot harder. So let me peace and blessings be upon him. When he first delivered this book, to his original community to his native community. They tolerated it for a period of about 10 years, about a decade or a little more, they tolerated it. And it came to a point where they were pretty much ready to kill him, necessitating his migration. So there are portions of revelation that are pre migration and there are portions of it that are post migration. If you want

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to put proportions on it, about two thirds of the Quran is pre migration. And about a third of it is post migration in terms of just volume in solace, okay. Now, I'm going to talk to you about the biggest surah of the Quran. That's what I'm gonna talk to you about. First, the biggest

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Surah of the Quran now What is it? What folks? Yeah, this is Surah number two surah number two.

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And so number two is made up of how many? I'm not going to say verses, I'm going to give you something new for your vocabulary. Instead of, you know, we say verses of the Bible, right? Or sentences, instead of versus what what term Are we going to use is you can even use the English plural, it's okay. It's not sacrilegious is so you have Sutras, which is the Quranic version of what chapter and you have is, is a YAHSAY. A HS is, which literally means a miraculous sign. By the way, the word ion means a miraculous sign. So we say each surah is composed of a set of miraculous signs, we don't call them verses, okay, now, this surah, this biggest surah number two is made up of how

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many is

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286? This is the biggest one in the Koran, it's made up of 286. I'm not gonna say versus what am I gonna say again, just so you know, you know, is okay. 286 is

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somewhere in this surah.

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The Ayah occurs, the owl, recite the Arabic first and roughly translate after what can barely catch on now, come on matanga.

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Thus, we made you a middle nation, one of the utterances in this surah that's found in here is thus we made you a middle nation. Now, what's the Arabic word for middle?

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What's up? The Arabic word is what you don't have to know that. But know that this statement, this declaration occurs in this surah. Now, the question is, once again, I'm reminding you, this law wasn't written, or was, it's delivered in the form of speech, speech, and also as a historical comment, it wasn't delivered at once, it took almost 10 years to be revealed. So this, this one surah, was coming piecemeal. And while it was coming down, pieces of other sewers were also being revealed. And the messenger would instruct his companions, these items belong to this surah. And those items belong to that so but when the whole thing is said, and done, Bukhara, the second Surah

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is made up of 286 and an IRA number. Listen to this carefully now in IRA number 143. And iron number 143. The Lord says, we made you a middle nation.

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How many is in the surah, 286. And rare does he call us a middle nation?

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in the middle?

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in the middle? Now, I understand if you're going to do this in writing, I understand if you're going to do this in writing, how do you do this in speech?

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And by the way, at the time, there was no concept of IRA number like I told you, is there 286 IRAs, and there's 143 eyes at the time, they never said, Have you read Ira 12 of chapter 35. They didn't talk like they just recited the IRA. They didn't have this number scheme. When did this number scheme become part of the Quran, when the Quran was finally put into book form, but the generation we're talking about doesn't have a book before them. They don't have that before then there is they're memorizing this. And it's completely an entirely an oral tradition. So that's one small example. Here's another small example. This bit tidbits, I'm not trying to prove to you that it's a

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miracle. just appreciate the subtlety in one place and sort of observe and sort of number 33. This is easy to appreciate. He says I'll recite the Arabic first majha de la Julio la Julian, when conveying the feature fee.

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Allah, the One to be worshipped and obeyed. Did not place two hearts inside of any men.

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I'll say that again. Allah did not place two hearts inside of me. What did I say? Man? So obviously, who's being excluded here? Women are now if he said he didn't please two hearts inside of any human being. Now that would have been inclusive wouldn't have been. When you use the word Roger, which is exclusive of women, it's specifically referring to men and what's even more peculiar is the rest of the passage deals with women. It's very interesting. The rest of it deals with spouses and all of that, but the first part of it is particularly assigned to men. The other thing that's also peculiar and I want you to remember is that when hearts are mentioned, now where our hearts located in the

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chest, and this is actually a figure of speech using the Quran all the time on kulula tea for pseudo hearts that are in the chests. In other words, the Quran commonly mentioned that the hearts that our hearts are placed inside the chest, but in this particular ayah, I'm not going to say verse.

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Instead of saying he didn't put two hearts inside the chest of any man, he used the word Jove, which refers to the entire body. It's not a restrictive term to the chest. He said anywhere inside of him. He did not place two hearts. Now this is the two peculiarity peculiarities I wanted to bring to your attention. And this is kind of obvious because a woman can get pregnant

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And if she does, she can have two hearts. Then when she has those two hearts, they're not in her chest, but they are inside of her. So Joseph is more appropriate

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subtlety in language, subtlety in language and let's bring something closer to home to our to the especially the Christian audience that may be listening, the nobility given to Jesus in the Koran. I'll give you one remarkable example of it. Which nation was Moses sent to?

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The Israelites? Everybody knows that the Israelites who is the original audience of Jesus, the same nation are no, the Israelites also? Yes. Okay. Now

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in I believe this is the 61st Surah Surah number 61 a soft, there's one ayah dedicated to Moses addressing his nation. And the next ayah is dedicated to Jesus addressing his nation, keeping in mind that both of them even though there's a big time gap between them, essentially are addressing which nation, the Israelites, they're the same nation. Okay. Now listen carefully. What again, recite the Arabic first and go to the English What if caller musala called me He called me I won't even go further. Just this part. When Moses said to his nation, begin quote, my nation, addressing them with what words? What was the first words used to address them? My nation? Yeah, call me my

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nation. Okay. I'm not even going to tell you what the rest of it. Is that what he said to them? That's not the point in this discussion. Let's come to what Jesus said. What if Carla is Ave Maria, when Jesus the son of Mary said,

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Yeah, Bani Israel, he, sons of Israel,

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sons of Israel. Now what did he not say? What did Moses say that Jesus didn't say? Okay, so Moses says, My nation, but Jesus says, sons of Israel, now sons of Israel is another term used for the Israelites, isn't it? Are the children of Israel, you know what we learned from that in Semitic tradition, and in Arab tradition as was carried originally by Abraham also identity was given by the Father, the nation itself is named after who not the mother, but the father Israel himself. And actually in the Quran, all of humanity are called children of not Eve, but because identity nation is defined by the Father. And this is natural in most societies. The last name is given through the

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Father, the Father, the Father's name is acquired, even though there are exceptions now.

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What I'm trying to get at is to be from a nation your father should be from that nation is not obvious. To be from a nation. It's only expected that your father should be from that nation. So when Moses says, My nation, what's the actually saying?

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that my father is from among you? But Jesus never in the Quran? Do we find him say my nation? Never. Every time he addresses them? What does he say? sons of Israel. Now why would he never say my nation?

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Cuz he doesn't have a father. He is a miraculous, he's a miraculous birth of the Virgin Mary, they will look on refuses to accept a human father for Jesus saying sons of Israel. So how Allah what the perfection of speech, the intricacy in speech, and by the way, in the previous ayah, in the previous ayah, when Moosa was speaking, when Moses was being spoken of, you know what the Lord says, He says, with honor Moosa, leave Call me when Moses said to his nation, the phrase added was to his nation. Do we find that when Jesus was spoken about? Nope, because that would be inappropriate. That wouldn't fit. How much time do I have?

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Two minutes. Okay, so I could fit in like, one more. You okay, with one more? I think we could pull off one more. All right. Some of you have heard me talk about this on YouTube. I don't care. Okay.

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I get this all throughout this convention. Wherever I want you to go on YouTube. I guess I'm the guy on YouTube. Yes.

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Even if they're referring to some cartoon or whatever, anyway. So here's what I want to share with you.

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I'm going to give you those of you that are taking notes write this in English. Declare the greatness only have your master declare the greatness only of your master.

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It's a beautiful declaration, isn't it? To proclaim declared the greatness only of your message and says this in the words of Rebecca.

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Now, the word the first syllable even those of you that are even a little bit familiar with Arabic word. That's the first sound you heard when I recited the Arabic You heard what now what is what mean? Anyone know? Yeah, except it means end. In modern Arabic and in classical Arabic, that last sound had 20

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In different benefits, one of them being end but another one being what's called a steak knife the English equivalent being the start of a new sentence you know in English you start a new sentence with a capital letter. Well the ancient Arab can do that with a what if they say what it doesn't necessarily mean and and this is why those of you that read the Quran in translation and see a sentence beginning with and you say I learned in third grade you're not supposed to do that.

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But I guess he's a liar you could do it.

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It's not exactly and it's something else. It's something more Okay, now keeping that sentence starter aside what's left declared the greatness only have your master now, Rebecca if I can get those of you know, Arabic. Allah is the first letter if I can bear ra is the last letter. What's the second syllable? You heard? The second bill what's the second last syllable you heard? But Rebecca was the third you heard calf, Rebecca Kabir what's the third last you heard? calf In other words, the Koran declares the great tells us to declare the greatness only of your Lord and it's spelled in a way that is the same backwards and forwards.

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It is spelled backwards and forwards identically in English. We call this what anybody know. Yeah, it's called a palindrome. Now in English, we also have palindromes, we have racecar.

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We do racecars. Pretty cool. All right. The longest one I know in English, other than Bob is

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a man, a plant put in book form. And scholars of the Quran are obsessed with every word of it, trying to explore its meanings. They come across these treasures, and they sit back and say, Whoa, Word of God.

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You know, they were taken back by it. They're amazed by it. Right? Now, these are the kinds of things that are talked about at length in these old Arabic books that are nowadays collecting dust, or are on websites. Now. They're posting a lot of books online and stuff like that. But much of this isn't translated, much of this exposition of the beauty of the Quran, and its literary appreciation isn't translated. And I just because we only have 20 minutes, I wanted to give you a small sampling that would give you give you at least some idea of what we're talking about here. There are several more things to talk about when it comes to literary appreciation of the Quran. And I certainly did

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not do the topic, any justice. But I hope I was able to communicate at least some thoughts to you that will hopefully spark an interesting conversation in the q&a session. There's a Kamala Harris cinematic one

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