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Part 3: 'Miraculous'? 

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Our examination thus far must lead us to conclude that, in the end, all the cries of "Perfect!" and "Preserved by Divine Decree!" are simply 'outwittings' intended to make the people think that the text is 'Preserved'. The hope is that they will then think it contains 'the Eternally Preserved Message'.

Some scholars who are trying to assert this would have us believe that a clear understanding of the Qur'an is 'right there', able to simply be 'plucked' from the Arabic text 'by anyone who can speak Arabic'. All this, it is alleged, makes the Qur'an - and Islam - 'head and shoulders above all else'.

"Virtually Impossible In Our Age To Correctly Understand And Interpret Their Injunctions"

We find Maududi asserting:

"4. The former Divine Books were sent down in languages that died long ago. No nation or community speaks those languages and there are only a few people who claim to understand them. Thus, even if the Books existed today in their original and unadulterated form, it would be virtually impossible in our age to correctly understand and interpret their injunctions and put them into practice in their required form. The language of the Qur'an, on the other hand, is a living language; millions of people speak it, and millions more know and understand it. It is being taught and learnt in nearly every university of the world; every man can learn it, and he who has not time to learn it can find men everywhere who know this language and can explain to him the meaning of the Qur'an.... It is on account of these special features of the Qur'an that all the peoples of the world have been directed to have faith in it, to give up all other Books and to follow it alone." (Toward Understanding Islam, Maududi, p. 76f; emphasis added)

We find the truth is quite different on both accounts, for instead Islamic scholars admit that (a) the Arabic words pertaining to the text do not mean today what they used to; (b) even the 'classical' Islamic scholars were divided as to just what the words meant, and (c) they therefore didn't understand what Qur'an's text was supposed to be telling them! 

A. Yusuf Ali has written in his 1934 Preface to First Edition, and everyone who reprints it continues to admit this:

"In translating the Text I have aired no views of my own, but followed the received Commentators. Where they differ among themselves, I have

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had to choose what appeared to me to be the most reasonable opinion from all points of view. Where it is a question merely of words, I have not considered the question important enough to discuss in the Notes, but where it is a question of substance, I hope adequate explanations will be found in the Notes. Where I have departed from the literal translation in order to express the spirit of the of the original in better English, I have explained the literal meaning in the Notes. ...In choosing an English word for an Arabic word a translator necessarily exercises his own judgement and may unconsciously be expressing a point of view, but that is inevitable." (PREFACE TO FIRST EDITION, p. V, The Holy Qur'an, Amana Corp. 1983)

But, Yusuf Ali also acknowledges:

"Our difficulties in interpretation often arise from various causes, of which I will mention just a few:
(1) Arabic words in the Text have acquired other meanings than those which were understood by the Apostle and his Companions. All living languages undergo such transformations. The early Commentators and Philologists went into these matters with a very comprehensive grasp, and we must accept their conclusions. Where they are not unanimous, we must use our judgement and historic sense in adopting the interpretation of that authority which appeals to us most. We must not devise new verbal meanings.
(2) Since the early Commentators wrote, the Arabic language has further developed, and later Commentators often abandon the interpretations of earlier Commentators without sufficient reason. In exercising our selective judgement in such cases it would be a good rule to prefer the earlier to the later interpretation, though, where a later writer has reviewed the earlier interpretations and given good reason for his own view, he has an advantage which we must freely concede to him.
(3) Classical Arabic has a vocabulary in which the meaning of each root-word is so comprehensive that it is difficult to interpret it in modern analytical language word for word, or by the use of the same word in all places where the original occurs in the Text.... Even though one particular shade of meaning may be predominant in any particular passage, the others are latent. 
The principles on which I have worked may be briefly stated. In matters of philology and language I accept the best authorities among those who were competent to deal with those questions: the older the better. In matters of narration, contemporary authorities are best, subject to such corrections as have to be applied for their points of view."
(Commentaries on The Qur'-an, The Holy Qur'an, Amana Corp. 1983; emphasis added)

Thus, what Maududi would have everyone believe is an outright lie! Not only is translating the Qur'an not an easy thing which 'anyone who speaks modern Arabic can do', but even if the Qur'an had been 'Preserved', the fact is everyone would still have to read up what the 

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commentators said it was supposed to be saying - and make their own choice from among them!

While soon we will deal with other problems of the commentators, it is sufficient for us now to understand this much:

"Anyone who cares to consult an Arabic commentary on the Qur'an will see that there were very many words which the commentators could not understand." (Islam, Guillaume, p. 62)

All this tells us that the followers of Islam through the centuries have not possessed a 'Divinely transmitted' comprehension of the intent of the text of the Qur'an. What strength lies behind the claims of the followers of Islam that this is a 'superior Book'?

Even today in print we find things which are not 'superior'. Take for example what is in print for Q20:15:

M. Ali: "- I am about to make it manifest"

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Yusuf Ali: "My design is to keep it hidden'

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M. H. Shakirn: "I am about to make it manifest..."

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M. Pickthall: "But I will to keep it hidden..."

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Is this the "superior clear Message" of the Qur'an?

While M. M. Katib writes in his footnote to this aya (verse) in his Al-Azhar (Egyptian) authorised translation, that it all comes from uncertainty and a variety of possibilities, this only assures us again that Islam doesn't have "superior knowledge" of Allah's Will like it claims it does:

"In another reading of the words, akAd ukhufIhA, it means, "I am on the point of revealing and manifesting it." According to the Arabic tongue it

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may also mean, "I am on the point of concealing it even on myself. So, how come that I disclose it to anyone of my Creation?" (M.M.Katib; emphasis added)

M. Ali similarly wrote in his translation's footnote:

"IkhfA' is one of the words which convey contrary significances, concealing or removing that which conceals a thing (LL). But that here it does not mean concealing is made clear by the context." (ft. #1580)

It is evident that everyone does not find 'the context' quite as plain as he, for both translations are in print - 'no' and 'yes'!

We repeat again that to speak of choosing which meaning ('yes' or 'no'!) is most appropriate to "the context" shows us the followers of Islam do not possess 'something better than everyone else'! They cannot say "this has transmitted as the true meaning from the beginning and we believe it was given from Heaven as 'a revelation' for eternity"!!

This is 'Proof' enough that Maududi's claim that the Qur'an has "special features" is meaningless! [We must also say, so are his accusations about not being able to interpret the languages of the Bible today.]

In fact, Maududi, not only assured us that this was not the problem of Islam and the Qur'an, but he declared it was sufficient reason for those who have followed 'Books' with such problems to abandon them! Many in Islam assert this line of thinking. 

However, for the Qur'an, this is merely 'the tip of the iceberg'. For the Qur'an possesses an even greater inadequacy in terms of the inability to "understand and interpret [its] injunctions" which we will examine next - mainly the fact that the Qur'an alone is utterly useless

Not only can it not give any understanding to itself, but neither have others been able to agree on how to "interpret [its] injunctions".

The more we dig and examine the Qur'an the deeper becomes the hole in which we find it.


1/ We would just mention that while M. Ali is of the Lahori group of the Qadianis, this actually means that he maintains Muhammad as the last prophet. While he maintains other differences of opinion on the Qur'an - something we will see is almost everyone in Islam does - this belief places him within the fold of Islam.

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