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August 3, 2013

Creation of a fixed text: An analysis

Claudie Gallot’s article titled “Creation of a fixed text” explores the dimension of the Quranic text. The author of this article aims to analyze the textual history and importance of Quran with reference to Allah and His prophet. In Islamic tradition, the Quran is revered as the book which was recited by the prophet of Muslims. This is an intriguing inquiry into the subject as the author discusses as to how ‘recitation’ by the prophet was possible considering the fact that the prophet could neither read nor recite.
Majority of authentic Muslim scholars hold that the word Quran is a noun derived from qarra’a, ‘to recite’  ‘to declaim’ ‘to read aloud.’ On the other hand, some Western scholars think that it is derived from the Syriac qeryana (reading, scripture, lectionary) The author incorporates the opposing views of Muslim and Western scholars to analyze the status of Quran and during the lifetime of the prophet and after his death.
This debate over the text of Quran and the entire process of revelation to the prophet directly from God has found a special place in the theological discussion. The author argues that the Arabic is not as excellent and flawless language as it has been claimed by Muslim’s Allah (God) in the Quran. According to the author, this claim is not as cogent as it is interpreted by the Muslim scholars.  The author argues that no such mention has been made in the Quran itself. According to the author, this is largely due to the style and content of the Quran. He refers to the Quraysh who were not impressed after hearing the verses of Quran from the Prophet of Islam.  Some of them even accused the prophet of using informants before delivering his divine message.
   The author interprets the presence of some non-Arabic words in the Quran as the traces of Jewish and Christian scriptures that had supposedly influenced the language of Quran. Some Western scholars have pointed out the Aramaic or Syriac substratum in the formation of the Quran. The author claims quite tacitly that the formation and codex of Quran does not point to the fact that the prophet did not use any informant to deliver the message of God, or say miracle, from the standpoint of the author. The author seems to side with the interpretation of Western scholars who consider Quran as having a concealed history of the text before and during the revelations delivered to the prophet.
For that matter, the author suggests the possibility that the Meccan sections of Quran could contain elements originally established by or within a group of God-seekers who possessed either biblical or post-biblical or other information.  He cites the work of Christoph Luxenberg who has conducted research on the Syro-Aramaic reading of the Quran as well as the article of Jan Van Reeth. It must be mentioned that these two writers have aired the possibility that the Quran and its codex could partly be the product of a group instead of direct revelation from God sent upon the prophet of Islam through Gabriel.
Having read the article, it becomes self-evident that the debate over the text, style, and content of Quran is largely driven by the impetus to disprove its validity as a word of God. In the following lines, we will contradict such tacit claims that point at the possibility of a version of Quran made by a group of people. History tells that that the day-to-day life of the prophet Muhammad was an open book and a source of inspiration. In the first place, the point that goes against the claim of informant is that had it been the case, it would not have taken long to become a public reality. The study of prophet and his life shows that despite some people questioning the credibility of the prophet hood and God’s revelation sent to him via Gabriel, there were many prominent figures from Quraysh who embraced Islam and followed it passionately.  The duration of his position as is prophet is a case in point. It lasted 23 years and his mission continued to thrive with every passing year.
     It goes with saying that the opponents of the Prophet kept a close eye on the activities and message that he was spreading in order to prove that he was a liar. However, much to their chagrin, they could not point out a single instance when the Prophet had a secret meeting with Jews and Christians. The assumption that Quran could be a book written by a group of human being is an implausible from the outset. It is unlikely that any human author of the Quran, if there be any, would have embraced a situation in which he could receive no credit for creating an influential book such as Quran.
   Hence, it still remains to be proved that if there was any human intervention in the creation of Quran. The very theory which assumes that Prophet had himself authored the book copying from other sources like Jewish and Christian scriptures can be negated by the fact that he himself was illiterate.
     In Quran Allah reconfirms:
“Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find mentioned in
their own (Scriptures) in the Law and the Gospel”
(Al Qur’an 7:157)
The prophecy of coming of the unlettered Prophet (Pbuh) is also mentioned in the Bible in the
book of Isaiah:
“And the book is delivered to him that is not learned “
(Isaiah 29:12)
The Qur’an testifies in no less than four difference places that the Prophet (Pbuh) was illiterate.
It is also mentioned in Al-Qur’an 7:158 and 62:2.

 Another point that further ends the possibility of  Jewish and Christian tradition influencing the creation of the book is the fact the Arabic version of the Bible was not present at the time of the prophet Muhammad.
 The earliest Arabic version of the old Testament is that of R. Saadias Gaon 900 C.E. - more
than 250 years after the death of the Prophet. The oldest Arabic Version of the new
testament was published by Erpenius in 1616 C.E. - about a thousand years after the demise
of the Prophet.

Certain similarities and affinities between the Qur’an and the Bible do not essentially imply that the former has been copied from the latter. Indeed it gives evidence that both of them are based on a common third source, all divine revelations came from the same source - the one Universal God. No matter what human changes were introduced into some of these Judeo-Christian and other older religious scriptures that had distorted their originality, there are some areas that have
remained free from distortion and thus are common to many religions.
It is true that there are some analogous parallels between the Qur’an and the Bible but this is not an ample evidence to accuse the prophet of compiling or copying from the Bible. The same logic
would then also be applicable to teachings of Christianity and Judaism and thus one could
wrongly claim that Jesus (Pbuh) was not a genuine Prophet (God forbid) and that he simply
copied from the Old Testament.
The in-depth research and study into the life of the Prophet reveals that he was respectful to all the previous prophets. As for the style, narrative, content of Quran, it is a unique religious scripture and does not mean that it was written by a group of human beings. Every religious book with the sole exception of the holy book Qur’an follows a narration style and pattern that is similar to story books. The pattern and style of story books goes like, ‘Once upon a time .… or ‘the fox and the grapes … the wolf and the lamb’, etc.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth”.
“In the beginning, was the word”.
“Now it came to pass”
These are similar to typical story book style: ‘so it happened once upon a time’.
All religious scriptures have a beginning and an end and a human narration style sequence
through out the scripture. The narration presents historical facts and events in a chronological
order. This is how humans speak and write.
The Qur’an is a unique book. The first few verses of the Qur’an that were revealed are the
Divine Command “Read. Read in the Name of Thy Lord Who Created Humankind”. The Qur’an
does not start its narration in a story book form. These verses that were first revealed
constitute the 96th chapter of the Qur’an.
The first chapter of the Qur’an states:
“In the name of Allah Most Gracious Most Merciful. (All) praise is (due) to Allah, Lord of the
Worlds. It is You we worship and You we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path – The way of those upon whomYou have bestowed favor, not of those whose have evoked (Your) anger or those who are astray.” [Surah Fatihah 1:1-7]
The second chapter of the Qur’an states:
“Alif Laam Meem. This is the Book; about which there is no doubt, guidance for those who
fear Allah. Who believe in the Unseen, establish prayer and spend out of what We have
provided for them. And who believe in what has been revealed to you, (O Muhammad), and
what was revealed before you, and of the hereafter they are certain (in faith). Those are upon
(right) guidance from their Lord and it is those who are successful. Indeed, those who disbelieve – it is all the same for them whether you warn them or do not warn them - they will not believe. Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and over their vision is a veil; And for them is a great punishment.” [Surah Al-Baqarah 2:1-7]
No other religious book on the earth follows this Divine Pattern and style that is so distinct.
Even the previous revelations from Almighty God are not present with us in their original pristine form in which they were revealed.
It is necessary to analyze the version of Muslims rearding the status and text of Quran in order come up with a balanced and cogent opinion on the suject. According to them, the Qur’an is a record of exact words revealed by God through the Arch Angel Gabriel to the Prophet. It must be mentioned that Qur’an still holds its position as an unchanged and unedited scripture.  The Qur’an was memorized by the Prophet and then dictated to his companinons. His scribes jotted it down and also cross-checked it during his lifetime.
It was memorized by Muhammad (pbuh) and then dictated to his
Companions, and written down by scribes, who cross-checked it during his lifetime. Not one
word of its 114 chapters, Surahs, has been changed over the centuries, so that the Qur'an is in
every detail the unique and miraculous text that was revealed to Muhammad (pbuh) fourteen
centuries ago. The simple and understandable languge of the book does not suggest that it was written by a group of individuals. Human beings cannot write so perfectly nor can they cover all the subjects of life and hereafter in a very precise and concise manner. It is beyond the capabilities of human beings. The Quran covers every topic under the sun be it wisdo, doctrine, worship, law, psychology, sociology and morality.
The Qur’an provides guidance for all humankind. It is appealing to the mind and hearts of human beings.  The invitation of the Qur’an is not addressed to the people of any particular area, race, tribe, colour or language. The Qur’an always calls upon the "progeny of Adam" or "humankind" to accept Islam. The specific instructions and injunctions are meant for those who have come to believe in Islam, and theyare always addressed as "those who believe".
The purpose of the Qur’an is to guide and not to tell stories, tales or history. It encourages its
readers to ponder, to think. It covers and includes percepts of belief and conduct, moral
directives, legal prescriptions, exhortation, persuasion, advice, commandments and
admonition, glad tidings and words of encouragement for those who accept the truth and
undergo sacrifices to upheld it in their lives and who preach it. It provides arguments and
evidence to support its message and the beliefs and teachings propounded by it. It also has
condemnation of evil-doers, warnings to those who reject the truth, references to past events
and civilizations and to signs of God in the Universe as visible to humans.
Similarly another group of people say that the Prophet was deluded and whenever somebody asked him a question, he thought that an angel put words in his ears. Later the same group of people would gather enough evidence to explain that he was a forger. These people fail to realize that a person can either be deluded or a forger or none of the two but he can surely never be both at the same time.
A person who is deluded and thinks he is a prophet, will never hunt for the answer or enquire with other people, when he is asked a question. He will think that an angel will put words in his ears and thus reply immediately irrespective of whether the answer is right or wrong. A forger on the other hand will search for the best possible answer or even copy from other sources to prove that he is not a fake prophet. These critics of the Prophet and of Islam fail to realize that they are going in circles.
If you ask them what the origin of the Qur’an is, they will tell you it came from the imagination
of the Prophet’s mind. If you further ask that how can a man get the sort of information, which
no one knew before, they will say that some foreigner may have given him the information and
he lied that he was the Prophet. On further enquiry that how can a liar have so much
confidence, when he mentions things which were unknown with so much accuracy, then again
they reply that he was crazy. Thus, they go in circles.
In response to all such criticism and allegations, the creator states and reminds the critics and
skeptics thus in the Glorious Qur’an in Surah Al-Aaraf Chapter 7 Verse 184:
“Then do they not give thought?
There is in their companion (i.e. Muhammad) no madness.
He is not, but a clear warner”.
In surah Al-Qalam chapter 68 verse 2:
“You are not, (O Muhammad), by the favour of your Lord, a madman”.
In surah Al-Taqweer chapter 81 verse 22:
“And your companion (i.e. Muhammad) is not (at all) mad.”


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