The flower of Emirdağ146
The following is a persuasive response to the objections raised about the apparent repetitions in the Qur’an.
My dear, faithful brothers (and sisters)!
Confused and ill-expressed though it may be on account of my distressing situation, the following is a reflection on one aspect of the Qur’an’s miraculousness. While I find it difficult to articulate, since it concerns the Qur’an, it will be instructive and lead to reflection. It may be likened to the wrapper on a bright, invaluable gem. So consider the gem being offered rather than its shabby covering. I wrote it with some speed and concision during a few days in Ramadan while I was malnourished and ill, so please forgive any shortcomings it may have.
My dear, faithful brothers (and sisters)!
The Qur’an issues, first of all, from the greatest and most comprehensive rank of the Eternal Speaker’s universal Lordship. It is addressed, first of all, to the comprehensive rank of the one who received it in the name of the universe. Its purpose is to guide humanity from the time of its revelation until the end of time. It therefore contains entirely meaningful and comprehensive explanations concerning the Lordship of the Creator of the universe, Who is the Lord of this world and the Hereafter, the earth and the heavens and eternity, and clarifications of the Divine laws which pertain to the administration of all creatures. It is because of these and similar other attributes of the Qur’an that this Divine discourse is so comprehensive and elevated, and therefore so inclusive and miraculous – so much so that even its most apparent, literal meanings which target the simple minds of ordinary people, who make up the most numerous group of the Qur’an’s addressees, is enough to satisfy those among the people who have attained the highest and most sophisticated levels of understanding. Even its narratives are not a collection of historical stories that were revealed to teach only the people of a certain age, but it addresses and is revealed to every age and all levels of understanding and learning as a collection of universal principles. For example, while describing the punishments meted out to the people of Pharaoh or of ‘Ad and Thamud for their sins, and with its severe threats against wrongdoers, it warns all tyrants and criminals, including those of our own time, of the consequences of their tyranny and wrongdoing. By mentioning the final triumphs of Prophets such as Abraham and Moses, upon them be peace, it consoles wronged believers of all eras.
The Qur’an of miraculous expression revives the past, which, for those mired in heedlessness and misguidance, is a lonely and frightful realm, a dark and ruined cemetery. It transforms the past centuries and epochs into living pages of instruction, into a wondrous, animated realm under the direct control of the Lord—a realm that has significant connections with us. By transporting us back to those times or displaying them to us like the scenes on a cinema screen, the Qur’an teaches us in its own inimitable and most elevated and miraculous style. In the same manner, it shows the true nature of the universe. The misguided see it as an unending, lifeless, lonely and frightful place, replete with decay and separation, while the Qur’an shows it to be a book of the Eternally Besought One, a city of the All Merciful and a place where the Lord’s works of art are exhibited. In it, life less objects become animate beings performing their particular duties and helping one another within a perfect system of communication.
This most glorious Qur’an, which enlightens and instructs angels, jinn and humanity in Divine Wisdom in the most pleasing manner, has sacred distinctions which are such that, at times, a single letter sometimes brings ten merits, sometimes a hundred and sometimes a thousand or, indeed, thousands. If all jinn and human beings pooled their talents, they would not be able to produce anything to rival or equal the Qur’an in any way. It speaks to all people and the whole universe in the most appropriate way; it is inscribed continuously and with great facility on the minds of millions of people; however frequently it is recited, it never bores or tires its listeners; despite its similar sentences and phrases which may confuse some, children are able to commit it to memory with ease; and it gives pleasure and tranquility to the sick and the dying, for whom listening to even a few human words causes great discomfort. The Qur’an causes its students to attain felicity in both this world and the next.
Observing the unlettered nature of the one who conveyed it, and without any hint of pretentiousness or ostentation, the Qur’an preserves its stylistic fluency and purity while never ignoring the level of understanding of the common masses. At the same time it instructs people in the extraordinary miracles of Divine Power and meaningful instances of Divine Wisdom which underpin all events which occur in the heavens and the earth, thereby displaying a fine aspect of miraculousness within the grace of its status as a book of guidance.
The Qur’an shows that it is a book of prayer and invocation, a call to eternal salvation, and a declaration of God’s Unity, all of which require reiteration. Consequently it repeats this or that sentence or story, gives numerous meanings to many different groups or categories of addressees, and informs its readers that its Author treats with compassion even the slightest and apparently most insignificant things and events, including them in the sphere of His Will and Control. By paying attention to even the most particular or apparently trivial events involving the Companions of the Prophet in the establishment of Islam and legislation of its laws, it presents universal principles and suggests that those events function as though they were seeds, destined to produce numerous important fruits in the establishment of Islam with its Law. In this way it demonstrates another aspect of its miraculousness.
When needs are expressed repeatedly, answers must be repeated accordingly. Therefore the Qur’an answers many questions which were asked repeatedly during the twenty-three years of its revelation and seeks to satisfy all levels of understanding and learning. To prove that all things, from minute particles to vast stars, are controlled by a Single One, and that He will destroy the universe in order to bestow on it a new form on Doomsday, replacing it with the extraordinary realm of the Hereafter; to establish a mighty and all-comprehensive revolution in minds that will, for the sake of the purposes and results of the creation of the universe, show Divine rage and wrath in the face of the human injustice and wrongdoing which fill the universe, the earth and the heavens with rage, the Qur’an repeats certain verses and phrases that are the conclusions of innumerable proofs and which have a weight as great as that of thousands of conclusions. In such cases, repetition is an extremely powerful aspect of Qur’anic miraculousness, an extremely elevated example of its eloquence and the beauty of its language in conformity with the requirements of the subject matter.
For example, as is explained in the Fourteenth Gleam and the First Word of the Risale-i Nur, the phrase In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate, which appears a total of 114 times in the Qur’an— at the beginning of every sura apart from at-Tawba and once in the middle of the Suratu’n-Naml—is a truth which links the earth to God’s Supreme Throne and all spheres of the universe, thus illuminating the cosmos. As everybody is in constant need of this, it is worth repeating millions of times. We need it not only every day in the same way that we need bread, but at every moment, in the same way that we need oxygen and light.
Another example is Your Lord is He Who is the All-Glorious and All-Mighty, the All-Compassionate, which has the strength of thousands of truths and is repeated eight times in Suratu’sh-Shu‘ara. It tells of the Prophets’ final triumph and salvation and the ruin of their rebellious peoples. If, for the sake of the purposes or results of the universe’s creation, in the name of God’s universal Lord ship, and to teach people that the Lord’s Glory and Dignity require the wrong doers’ ruin and His Compassion demands the Prophets’ triumph and salvation, this sentence were repeated thousands of times, there would still be a need for it. Thus it is a concise and miraculous aspect of the Qur’an’s eloquence.
Also, the verses Which of the favors of your Lord will you two deny? (55:13) and Woe on that day to the deniers (77:15), which are repeated several times in their respective suras are threats repeated in front of jinn and humanity down the ages, and across the heavens and the earth, concerning the ingratitude, unbelief and wrongdoing of all those whose unrighteousness provokes the fury of the heavens and the earth, ruin the results of the universe’s creation, and show contempt and denial in the face of the Divine Sovereign’s Majesty. They also denounce their violation of the rights of all creatures. Since they constitute a universal teaching which has the strength of a thousand truths, even if these two verses were repeated thousands of times, it would still not be enough. Therefore it represents a majestic example of conciseness and the miraculousness of eloquence in grace and beauty.
Also, the invocation of the Prophet known as al-Jawshanu’l-Kabir (The Great Shield), inspired by the Qur’an, consists of a hundred sections, each of which ends with the words: All-Glorified are You! There is no deity but You. Mercy! Mercy! Deliver us from the Fire! These sentences contain affirmation of God’s Unity, which is the greatest truth in the universe. This affirmation is the greatest of the mighty duties of all created beings toward the Lord, namely glorification, praise, and declaring Him to be All-Holy and free from all defect, exalted above what polytheists attribute to Him. It is also a supplication for humanity to be saved from eternal punishment, which should be our most vital concern and is the expected result of our servanthood to God and our helplessness before Him. And so even if we were to repeat those phrases thousands of times over, it would still not be enough.
Thus the Qur’an includes reiterations on account of such substantial principles. As required by the occasion and the demands of literary eloquence, and to facilitate understanding, it sometimes expresses the truth of Divine Unity twenty times in one page, be it explicitly or implicitly. Yet it never bores its listener; rather, it enforces the meaning and gives its reader encouragement.
The suras revealed in Mecca and Medina differ from each other in eloquence and miraculousness, and in degrees of elaboration and conciseness. The Meccans were mainly Qurayshi polytheists and unlettered tribesmen. Given this, the Qur’an uses forceful, eloquent and concise language with an elevated style, repeating certain points to better establish its truths. In the Meccan suras, the pillars of belief and the categories and degrees of Divine Unity’s manifestations are expressed repeatedly in a forceful, emphatic, concise and most miraculous language. They prove the beginning and end of the world, the existence of God and the coming of the Hereafter with such powerful proofs and are expressed not only on a single page, verse, sentence or word, but sometimes even in a single letter, through such subtle changes in word order, through the use or non-use of definite articles or the inclusion or omission of certain words, phrases and sentences that masters of the art of literary eloquence have been amazed. The sublime eloquence and conciseness of the Meccan chapters have been discussed in Isharatu’l-I‘jaz and The Twenty-fifth Word, which explain forty aspects of the Qur’an’s miraculous inimitability.
The suras revealed in Medina, during the second phase of the mission of the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, are in the main addressed to believers, Jews, and Christians. As required by the rules of eloquence and the practical need for guidance, rather than the pillars and principles of belief, they focus more on explaining the laws and commands of the Shari‘a in a simple, clear and detailed language. In the unique, matchless style particular to the Qur’an, they usually end their explanations with an elevated, powerful sentence or phrase related to belief, Divine Unity or the Hereafter, thus securing obedience to them by relating them to belief in God and the Last Day. By doing so, it also uses certain particular events as a basis upon which the universality of the Shari‘a’s laws is established.
For an understanding of the elevated aspect of eloquence and the subtleties to be in the phrases which come at the end of certain verses, such as God has full power over everything; God has full knowledge of all things; He is the All-Glorious and All-Mighty, the All-Wise; He is the All-Glorious and All-Mighty, the All-Compassionate, the reader may refer to the Second Ray of the Second Light in The Twenty-fifth Word.
While explaining Islam’s secondary principles and social laws, the Qur’an draws its audience’s attention suddenly to elevated, universal truths, leading them from the lesson of the Shari‘a to the lesson of Divine Unity, and changes from a plain style to an elevated one. In so doing it demonstrates its aim of guidance on every occasion and shows itself to be a book of law and wisdom, a book of creeds, belief, reflection, invocation, prayer and the call to the Divine Message. Thus, the Qur’an’s Medinan chapters display a most miraculous eloquence and purity of language which is different from the styles evident in the Meccan chapters.
For example, by modifying “Lord” with “your” (your Lord) or “the worlds” (the Lord of the worlds), the Qur’an declares, respectively, God’s Oneness in His particular relationship with a person as his or her Lord or His Unity in His universal relationship with the whole creation. In introducing God as the Lord of the worlds, it introduces Him with all His Majesty, while in using my Lord or your Lord, it introduces Him from the perspective of His special attentiveness and compassion, expressing the former within the latter. Sometimes when it sees and fixes an atom in the pupil of the eye, it uses the same “hammer” to fix the sun in the sky and make it an eye of the heavens.
For example, in the expressions, He has created the heavens and the earth (57:4), and: He makes the night pass into the day and He makes the day pass into the night (57:6), it considers the understanding of common people, including those who are unlettered among them. However, in concludes the verses with He has full knowledge of whatever lies in the bosoms (57:6), and means: “Together with the magnificent creation and administration of the earth and the heavens, He has also full knowledge of whatever occurs to people’s hearts.” Thus the simple style of speech aimed at ordinary people is manifested here as an elevated and appealing address for the guidance of all.
QUESTION: Sometimes an important truth may remain hidden for superficial views. Also, the reason for ending the narration of an ordinary event with a universal principle or an aspect of Divine Unity cannot always be readily discerned. Some may consider this Qur’anic style defective. For example, after narrating how Prophet Joseph, upon him be peace, managed to detain his brother (12:69–76), the Qur’an mentions an exalted principle: Above every owner of knowledge, there is (always) one more knowledge able. From the perspective of the rules of eloquence, this seems unrelated to the actual context. What is the reason for this?
ANSWER: The Qur’an is a book of belief, reflection and invocation, as well as a book of law, wisdom, and guidance; it therefore contains numerous “books.” For this reason, in many pages and passages of long and medium length suras, each of which is a small Qur’an, many teachings and aims are pursued. For example, in order to express the all-comprehensive and magnificent manifestations of Divine Lordship, since it is a kind of copy or reflection of the great Book of the Universe, the Qur’an gives instructions on every occasion concerning knowledge of God, aspects of Divine Unity and the truths of belief. Whenever a suitable occasion arises, no matter how insignificant it seems, the Qur’an expounds different teachings, thus using that occasion to present new instructions or to reveal certain universal rules or principles. This corresponds perfectly to the discussion and adds to the Qur’an’s eloquence.
QUESTION: Be it implicitly or explicitly, the Qur’an dwells too much on Divine Unity, the Hereafter and God’s Judgment of humanity. Why is this so?
ANSWER: The Qur’an was revealed to teach man about the Existence of God, Divine Unity and the absolute control that He exercises over the universe and the changes, upheavals and revolutions which take place in it; it was revealed to dispel all doubts concerning these truths and to break the obstinacy of those who continue to desist from confirming them. It was also revealed to instruct humanity, who has accepted to bear the Supreme Trust as vicegerent of the earth, which they are to rule and develop in accordance with Divine laws, in the mightiest and most important aspects of its duties concerning eternal happiness or perdition. In order to have humanity confirm the instructions of the Qur’an and assent to the most essential matters concerning them, even if the Qur’an were to focus attention on these matters a million times, it would still not be a waste of time or words, and they would be read and studied over and over again without causing the least boredom.
For example, we read in Suratu’l-Buruj:
Those who believe and do good, righteous deeds, for them there are Gardens through which rivers flow. That is the great triumph. (85:11)
This verse teaches us that death, which stands ever present before us, is something that saves us, our world and our loved ones from eternal annihilation, for it leads us to a magnificent, everlasting life. Even if this verse were repeated billions of times, and if as much importance were attached to it as is attached to the whole of existence, it would still not be excessive enough to devalue or detract from its meaning. In teaching countless, invaluable matters of this sort and in trying to prove and make people aware of the awe some revolutions that continuously change and renew the universe, the Qur’an draws attention to those matters repeatedly, either in an explicit manner or through allusions. Since they are bounties like light, air, food and medicine – things which we always need and which require constant renew al and refreshment—the fact that they are repeated so often in the Qur’an is an instance of Divine grace.
Also, consider the following:
The Qur’an reiterates severely, angrily and emphatically such threatening verses as: For the wrongdoers there is a painful punishment (14:22); and: As for those who disbelieve, for them is the fire of Hell (35:36). As discussed in detail in the Risale-i Nur, humanity’s unbelief is such a heinous violation of the rights of the universe and most of its creatures that it angers the earth and infuriates the elements. It is for this reason that they smite unbelievers with floods and similar disasters.
As is stated explicitly in: When they are cast into it, they will hear its raucous breath (by which they are sucked in) as it boils up, almost bursting with fury… (67:7–8) Hell is so furious with the unbelievers that it is described as almost bursting with rage. If, in the face of such a heinous crime and such boundless aggression, and not from the perspective of the physical insignificance of humanity but of the enormity of the unbeliever’s wrongdoing and the awesomeness of unbelief, and in order to show the importance of His subjects’ rights as well as the ugliness and iniquity of unbelief, the Sovereign of the universe were to describe and denounce such crimes a billion times, it would still not count as a defect. Countless people have read these words every day for fourteen centuries with the utmost eagerness and without the slightest feeling of boredom or weariness.
Every day, for each person a world disappears and the door of a new world is opened. Thus by repeating There is no deity but God a thousand times out of need and with the desire to illuminate each of our transient worlds, we make each repetition a lamp for each changing scene. In the same way, one of the reasons the Qur’an repeats the Eternal Sovereign’s threats and punishments so often is to seek to break humanity’s obduracy and free them from their rebellious carnal soul. It thus seeks to prevent them from darkening the changing scenes and the freshly-recruited worlds, from disfiguring the images of them which are reflected in the mirror of their lives, and from turning against them those fleeting scenes that will testify for them in the Hereafter. For this reason, even Satan does not consider the Qur’an’s severe and forceful repetition of its threats as being out of place. These threats demonstrate that the torments of Hell are pure justice for those who do not heed them.
Another example is the repetition of the stories of the Prophets, particularly that of Moses, upon him be peace.
Such stories contain many instances of wisdom and benefit. The Qur’an shows the Prophethood of all previous Prophets as an evidence of Muhammad’s Messengership, upon him be peace and blessings. This means that from the point of view of truth, no-one can deny Muhammad’s Messengership unless one denies all the other Prophets. Also, since not everyone can recite the whole of Qur’an every time they open it, it includes those stories, together with the essentials of belief, in almost all the long and medium length suras, thus making each one like a miniature Qur’an. This is done because it is demanded by the principles of literary eloquence and also because the Qur’an wishes to show that Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, is the most important of people and the noblest phenomenon in the cosmos.
The ritual declaration of belief in Islam—the Kalimatu’t-Tawhid—is There is no deity but God and Muhammad is God’s Messenger. The Qur’an accords the highest status to the person of Muhammad and since part of this declaration— Muhammad is God’s Messenger—points to four of the six pillars of belief, it has been considered equal to the first part, namely There is no deity but God. Muhammad’s Messengership is the universe’s greatest truth, as an individual he is the most noble of God’s creatures, and his collective personality and sacred rank, known as the Muhammadan Truth is the brightest sun of both this world and the next. Among many of the proofs in the Risale-i Nur which show how worthy he is of occupying such an extraordinary position, the following are but a few:
According to the rule “The cause is like the doer,” an amount of reward equal to the number of the good deeds that his community has ever done or will do in the future is added to the Prophet’s account. Since he illuminated the universe with the light he brought, not only jinn, humanity and angels but also the heavens and the earth are indebted to him. We see clearly that the supplications of the plants and animals that they offer through the tongue of potentiality and need are accepted. This shows that the prayers of millions of righteous ones among Muhammad’s community must be acceptable. They have been praying to God many times a day for centuries to bestow peace and blessings on him and give him the same reward as they have earned. Furthermore, his record of good deeds also contains countless lights from his followers’ recitation of the Qur’an, each letter of which brings as many as ten, a hundred or a thousand rewards.
Knowing beforehand that his collective persona—the Muhammadan Truth—would be like a blessed, elaborate tree of Paradise in the future, and considering him as a person to be the seed of that majestic tree, the All-Knower of the Unseen attached the greatest importance to him in His Qur’an. In His Decree He emphasized the need for others to obey him and to gain the honor of his inter cession by following his Sunna or path and confirmed it as the most important and serious matter of humanity.
Thus since the truths repeated in the Qur’an have such a great value, anyone with a sound, uncorrupted nature will testify that in its repetitions is a powerful and extensive miracle, unless one is afflicted with some sickness of the heart and malady of the conscience due to the plague of materialism, and is therefore included under the rule below:
A person denies the light of the sun because of his diseased eye,
A mouth denies the taste of sweet water on account of sickness.
146 A district of Afyon province (western Turkey) where Said Nursi lived for some time. (Tr.)