Prayer Time

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Present literary authorities at al-‘Azhar University in Cairo have pointed out the following ways in which the Qur’anic style transcends the power of man and defies imitation: [1]


1. The form of the Qur’an reflects neither the sedentary softness of the townsmen nor the nomadic roughness of the Bedouins.  It possesses in right meansure the sweetness of the former and the vigour of the latter.


2. The rhythms of the syllables are more sustained than in prose and less patterned than in poetry.  The pauses come neither in prose form nor in the manner of poetry but with a harmonious and melodic flow.


3. The sentences are constructed in an elegant manner which uses the smallest number of words, without sounding too brief, to express ideas of utmost richness.


4. The Qur’anic words neither transgress by their banality nor by their extreme rarity, but are recognized as expressing admirable nobility.


5. The conciseness of expression attains such a striking clarity that the least learned Arabic-speaking person can understand the Qur’an without difficulty.  At the same time, there is such a profundity, flexibility, inspiration and radiance in the Qur’an that it serves as the basis for the principles and rules of Islamic sciences and arts for theology and the juridical schools.  Thus, it is almost impossible to express the ideas of the texts by only one interpretation, either in Arabic or in any other language, even with the greatest care.


6. There is a perfect blend between the two antagonistic powers of reason and emotion, intellect, and feeling.  In the narrations, arguments, doctrines, laws and moral principles, the words have both persuasive teaching and emotive force.  Throughout the whole Qur’an the speech maintains its surprising solemnity, power and majesty which nothing can disturb.


Some other aspects of the literary i’jaz are as follows: [2]


1. The placement of a particular word in perfect context, over its synonyms.  The connotations given by the chosen words are better than those that would have been given by its synonyms.


2. The unique sentence structure and syntax, which does not follow any one pattern but varies throughout the Qur’an.  Each style is unique, and its rhythm clear and resounding.


3. The use of different tenses (past vs. present; plural vs. singular, etc.) to give deeper meanings to a passage.


4. The pronunciation of a word matches its context.  In other words, when discussing topics that are encouraging and bearing glad tidings, it uses words that are easy to pronounce and melodious to hear, and vice-versa.


5. The perfect combination of concisement and detail.  When the subject requires elaboration, the Qur’an discusses the topic in detail, and when a short phrase suffices, it remains brief.




[1] Khalifa, M., The Sublime Qur’an and Orientalism, (New York: Longman, 1981). p. 24


[2] Qadi, Abu ‘Ammar Yasir, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an, (Birmingham: Al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution, 2000) p 268 (taken from Itr, Hasan Diyaq ad-Din, al-Mu’jiza al-Khalidah, and al-Qattan, Manna’, Mabahith fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an)


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