The Twenty-fifth Word
The mircaluousness or inimitability of the Qur’an
In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.
The second radiance of the third ray:
The Qur’an’s ever-freshness
THIS RELATES TO THE QUR’AN’S FRESHNESS, WHICH IS MAINTAINED AS if it were revealed anew in every epoch. As an eternal discourse addressing all human beings regardless of time or place and level of understanding, it should—and does—have a never-fading freshness.
The Qur’an so impresses each new generation that each one regards it as being revealed to itself and receives its instructions therefrom. Human words and laws become old and so need to be revised or changed. But the Qur’an’s laws and principles are so established and constant, so compatible with essential human nature and creation’s unchanging laws, that the passage of time has no effect upon them. Instead, it shows the Qur’an’s truth, validity, and force even more clearly! Especially the people of this twentieth century, including particularly its People of the Book16 who rely on themselves more than any preceding people’s self-reliance and close their ears to the Qur’an’s calls, are most in need of the Qur’anic calls of guidance beginning with: O People of the Book! As this phrase also means “O people of schooling and education,” it is as if those messages were directed toward this century exclusively. With all its strength and freshness, the Qur’an makes the whole world resound with its call: Say: “O People of the Book! Come to a word common between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate none as partner with Him, and that none of us take others for Lords, apart from God.” (3:64)
Modern civilization, the product of human ideas and perhaps of the jinn, has chosen to contend with the Qur’an, which no one has ever been able to do. It tries to contradict its miraculousness through its charm and “spells.” To prove the Qur’an’s miraculousness or inimitability against this new, terrible opponent, and affirm its challenge of: Say: “If humanity and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they would never produce its like, even though they backed one another” (17:88), I will compare modern civilization’s basic principles and foundations with those of the Qur’an.
First, all of the comparisons and criteria put forward from The First Word to this Twenty-fifth One, and the truths and verses contained therein and upon which they are based, prove the Qur’an’s miraculousness and indisputable superiority over modern civilization.
Second, as convincingly argued in The Twelfth Word: By reason of its philosophy, modern civilization considers force or might to be the point of support in social life, and the realization of self-interest is its goal. It holds that the principle of life is conflict. The unifying bonds between the members of a community and communities are race and aggressive nationalism; and its ultimate aim is the gratification of carnal desires and the continuous increase of human needs. However, force calls for aggression, seeking self-interest causes fighting over material resources, which do not suffice for the satisfaction of all desires; and conflict brings strife. Racism feeds by swallowing others, thereby paving the way for aggression. It is because of these principles of modern civilization that despite all its positive aspects, it has been able to provide some sort of superficial happiness for only twenty per cent of humanity and cast eighty per cent into distress and poverty.
As for the Qur’anic wisdom, it accepts right, not might, as the point of support in social life. Its goal is virtue and God’s approval, not the realization of self-interests. Its principle of life is mutual assistance, not conflict. The only community bonds it accepts are those of religion, profession, and country. Its final aims are controlling carnal desires and urging the soul to sublime matters, satisfying our exalted feelings so that we will strive for human perfection and true humanity. Right calls for unity, virtues bring solidarity, and mutual assistance means hastening to help one another. Religion secures brotherhood, sisterhood, and cohesion. Restraining our carnal soul and desires and urging the soul to perfection brings happiness in this world and the next.
Thus despite its borrowings from previous Divine religions and especially the Qur’an, which accounts for its agreeable aspects, modern civilization cannot offer a viable alternative to the Qur’an.
Third, I will give a few examples of the Qur’an’s many subjects and commandments. As its laws and principles transcend time and space, they do not become obsolete; they are always fresh and strong. For example, despite all its charitable foundations, institutions of intellectual and moral training, and severe disciplines and laws and regulations, modern civilization has been unable to contest the wise Qur’an even on the following two matters and has been defeated by it:
First comparison: Perform the Prescribed Prayer, and pay the Zakah (2:43); and: God has made trading lawful and interest and usury unlawful (2:275). As explained in my Isharatu’l-I‘jaz (Signs of the Qur’an’s Miraculousness), as the origin of all revolutions and corruption is one phrase, so is the cause and source of all vices and moral failings also one phrase: The first is: “I am full, so what is it to me if others die of hunger?” And the second: “You work so that I may eat.”
A peaceful social life depends on the balance between the elite (rich) and common (poor) people. This balance is based on the former’s care and compassion and the latter’s respect and compliance. Ignoring the first attitude drives the rich to wrongdoing, usurpation, immorality, and mercilessness; ignoring the second attitude drives the poor to hatred, grudges, envy, and conflict with the rich. As this conflict has destroyed social peace for the last two or three centuries, it has also caused social upheavals in Europe due to the struggle between labor and capital.
Despite all its charitable societies, institutions of moral training, and severe laws and regulations, modern civilization has neither reconciled these two social classes nor healed those two severe wounds of human life. The Qur’an, however, eradicates the first attitude and heals its wounds through the Zakah, and eradicates the second by outlawing interest and usury. The abovementioned Qur’anic verse stands at the door of the world and says to interest and usury: “You are forbidden to enter!” It decrees to humanity, “If you want to close the door of strife, close the door of interest and usury,” and orders its students not to enter through it.
Second comparison: Modern civilization rejects polygamy as unwise and disadvantageous to social life. Indeed, even though the purpose of marriage were sexual gratification, polygamy would be a lawful way to realize it. But as observed even in animals and plants, the basic purpose for and wisdom in sexual relations is reproduction. The resulting pleasure is a small payment determined by Divine Mercy to realize this duty. Thus, as marriage is for reproduction and perpetuation of the species, being able to give birth at most once a year, to be impregnated only during half of a month, and entering menopause around fifty, one woman is usually insufficient for a man, who can sometimes impregnate even until the age of a hundred. That is why, in most cases, modern civilization has been compelled to tolerate numerous houses of prostitution.
Third comparison: Modern civilization criticizes the wise Qur’an for giving a woman one-third of the inheritance (half of her brother’s share) while giving a man two-thirds. However, general circumstances are considered when establishing general rules and laws. In this case, a woman usually finds a man to maintain her, whereas a man usually has to live with one of whom he must take care. Given this, a woman’s husband is to make up the difference between her share of the inheritance and that of her brother. Her brother, on the other hand, will spend half of his inheritance on his wife [and children], equaling his sister’s share. This is true justice.
Fourth comparison: The Qur’an severely prohibits idolatry and condemns the adoration of images, which can be an imitation of idolatry. However, modern civilization sees sculpture and the portrayal of living beings, which the Qur’an condemns, as one of its virtues. Forms with or without shadows (sculptures and pictures of living beings) are either a petrified tyranny (tyranny represented in stone), embodied ostentation or solidified passion, all of which excite lust and urge people to tyranny, ostentation, and capriciousness.
Out of compassion, the Qur’an orders women to wear the veil of modesty to maintain respect for them and to prevent their transformation into objects of low desire or being used to excite lust. Modern civilization, however, has drawn women out of their homes, torn aside their veils, and led humanity into corruption. Family life is based on mutual love and respect between men and women, but immodest dress has destroyed sincere love and respect, and poisoned family life. Sculptures and pictures, especially obscene ones, have a great share in this moral corruption and spiritual degeneration. Just as looking at the corpse of a beautiful woman who deserves compassion with lust and desire destroys morality, looking lustfully at pictures of living women, which are like little corpses, troubles and diverts, shakes and destroys elevated human feelings.
In conclusion, then, besides securing happiness for all people in this world, the Qur’anic commandments serve their eternal happiness. You can compare other matters with those mentioned.
Just as modern civilization stands defeated before the Qur’an’s rules and principles for social life and humanity, and bankrupt before the Qur’an’s miraculous content, so also the Words written so far, primarily the Eleventh and Twelfth, demonstrate that European philosophy and scientism, the spirit of that civilization, are helpless when confronted with the Qur’an’s wisdom. In addition, when compared to the Qur’an’s literary merits—which may be likened to an elevated lover’s uplifting songs arising from temporary separation or heroic epics encouraging its audience to victory and lofty sacrifices—modern civilization’s literature and rhetoric appear as an orphan’s desperate, grief-stricken wailing or a drunkard’s noise.
Styles of literature and rhetoric give rise to sorrow or joy. Sorrow is of two kinds: it comes from either the feeling of loneliness and lack of any protection and support, or separation from the beloved. The first is despairing and produced by modern misguided naturalist, and heedless civilization. The second is lofty and exhilarating, and arouses a hope and eagerness for reunion. This is the kind given by the guiding, light-diffusing Qur’an.
Joy also is of two kinds. The first incites the soul to animal desires (so-called “fine” arts, drama, and cinema, etc.). The second restrains the carnal soul and urges (in a mannerly, innocent way) the human heart, spirit, intellect, and all inner senses and faculties to lofty things and reunion with the original, eternal abode and with friends who have passed on already. The Qur’an of miraculous exposition encourages this joy by arousing an eagerness to reach Paradise, eternal happiness, and the vision of God Almighty.
Thus the profound meaning and great truth contained in: Say: “If humanity and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they would never produce its like, even if they backed one another” (17:88), is not, as some assert, an exaggeration. It is pure truth and reality, which the long history of Islam has proved. The challenge contained here has two principal aspects. One is that no human or jinn work can resemble or equal the Qur’an’s style, eloquence, rhetoric, wording, comprehensiveness, conciseness, and profundity. Nor can their most beautiful and eloquent words, all arranged in a volume by their most competent representatives, equal the Qur’an. The second aspect is that all human and jinn civilizations, philosophies, literatures, and laws, which are the products of the thought and efforts of humanity and the jinn and even Satans, are dim and helpless when faced with the Qur’an’s commandments, wisdom, and eloquence.
16 Jews and Christians (Tr.)