Doctrines >Dialogue on the nature of the Qur'an  p2

 

Dialogue on the nature of the Qur'an p2

 

How did the Prophet face up to the campaigns of distortions?

The challenges that the adversaries of Islam were mounting targeted the Prophet himself at the outset. They aimed to undermine his personality. In their crusade, they attempted to portray him as a very ordinary human being; this effort included branding him as a poet and a sorcerer just to lull public opinion into believing that he did not know what he was talking about. In so doing, his opponents sought to discredit him and strop him of any sanctity or a leading role in introduction reform in society. Their tactics did not stop there; they dubbed him a lunatic, although he did not show any signs of insanity to make others believe that he was. Nevertheless, they managed to create conditions that were conducive to people's accepting anything said about him without independent judgment. It was a frenzied state of affairs. This is how the Holy Qur'an puts it:

And the Unbelievers say of the Truth when it comes to them, 'This is nothing but evident magic!' (34:43). So they wonder that a Warner has come to them from among themselves! And the Unbelievers say, 'This is a sorcerer telling lies!' (38:4).

Although the Prophet (p.) was on the receiving end, he took everything that was thrown at him and kept this spirits high. As an individual, he did not care what type or vilification would befall him. Thus, he did not respond to those attacks of character assassination. Only when those campaigns were meant to tarnish the Message of Islam that he was charged with propagati8ng, would he stand up to defend the faith in the face of those deliberate attempts to discredit it.

Thus, on the count of branding him a poet, he called them to compare carefully what issues the poets tackled, the climate they lived in, and the methods they adopted, with the Holy Qur'an on the issues it had dealt with, the climate it had promote, and the approach it had employed. The Prophet made it manifestly clear to them that, in the final analysis, they would find the Qur'anic style far removed, in every department, from that of poetry. The same was argued when it came to accusing him of dabbling in witchcraft and divination. The Qur'an had not used any means to deceives, cast spells on people or pull the wool over their eyes. Rather, it is a book which appeals to people directly, armed with well-thought-through ideas and clarity of purpose, using a calm and tender approach and sweet words, only to win them over after they have judged those ideas against their own criteria.

God says:

That this is verily the word of an honoured apostle; it is not the word of a poet: little it is y believe! Nor is it the word of a soothsayer: little admonition it is ye receive. (This is) a Message sent down from the Lord of the Worlds. (69:40-43)

We have not instructed the (Prophet) in Poetry, nor is it meet for him: this is no less than a Message and a Qur'an making things clear. (36:-69).

And say: "What! Shall we give up our gods for the sake of a Poet possessed?" Nay! He has come with the (very) Truth, and the confirms (the Message of) the apostles (before him). (37:36-37)

Prophetic biographers tell of the story of Walid bin al-Mughira, a Quraishite and arch-enemy of the Islamic Message, who spontaneously dismissed the idea that maintained that the Qur'an was a form of poetry or a narrative of divination. The story says that he heard some Qur'anic verses being recited to which he was receptive, only to be accused of apostasy and that he was going to cause members of the Quraish tribe to abandon their religion. In a damage limitation exercise, Abu Jahl was sent to him to tout his qualities and noble lineage and wealth, requesting him to say something bad about the Qur'an, so that his people would believe that he was averse to it. He said:

What am A I going to say? By God! None of you is better informed about poetry in all its departments, including that of the jinn. What the Qur'an is saying can never be compared to any of those literary achievements. By God! What it says is exquisite, and there is an air of splendor about it. Its style stands head and shoulders above all literary forms. Abu Jahl retorted: By God! Your people are not going to be appeased until you have disapproved of the Qur'an. He replied: give me time to think: having done so, he said: This is nothing but the word of a mortal. Haven't you seen him sowing discord between man and wife, and master and slave?

As the story goes, this position has precipitated this revelation:

Leave Me alone, with the (creature) whom I created (bare and) alone! To whom I granted resources in abundance, and sons to be by his side! To whom I made (life) smooth and comfortable! Yet is he greedy that I should add (yet more); By no means! For to Our Signs he has been refractory! Soon will visit him with a mount of calamities! For he thought and he plotted; And woe to him! How he plotted! Yea, Woe to him; how he plotted! Then he looked round; then he frowned and he scowled; then he turned back and was haughty; then said he: "This is nothing but magic, derived from of old; this is nothing but the word of a mortal!" (47:11-25)

Prophetic biographies tell the story in a different version, as in Ibn Hisham's version (vol. 1, pp. 174-175) (abridged), thus:

At the start of the annual literary, mainly poetic, gala, a group of Quraish, among whom was Walid bin al-Mughira, gathered together. Al-Mughira said to them: "The annual festival has started. The delegations of the Arab tribes will call on you, having heard of the story of your kinfolk. You are better advised to speak with a single voice. Show neither disagreement, nor squabble among yourselves". They said: "Shat do you say?" He said: "What do you suggest I say?" They said: "Shall we say that (the words of the Qur'an) are those of a soothsayer? "He said: "We have seen soothsayers. They are not those spoken by them". They said: "Then we shall say they are of one who is possessed". He said: "We have seen insane people. The words do not have any resemblance to those of an obsessed or deluded person". They said: "Let us say, they are the words of a poet?" He said: "They are not. we have seen poets and are conversant with all types of poetry". They said: "Shall we say, they are those of a magician"" He said: "They are not, as we have seen the sorcerers and their witchcraft. The words do not bear resemblance to those who are in the business of casting spells and blowing on knots". They said: "What could we then say?" He said: "By God! The words are as sweet as dates. You cannot have anything of this. It is false. The nearest you can describe it (the Qur'an) is that you say, its words are those of a wizard, in that it has come with a narrative that is capable of sowing discord between son and father, brother and his brother, man and wife, and man and his kinfolk". Having dispersed, they took positions on the roads leading to the venue where the annual fair used to take place; not a single passer-by had gone through, without their instigating them against the Prophet (p.) and the Message he came to deliver, hence this revelation:

For he thought and he plotted; And woe to him! How he plotted! Yea, Woe to him; how he plotted! Then he looked round; then he frowned and he scowled; then he turned back and was haughty; then said he: 'This is noting but magic, derived from of old; this is noting but the word of a mortal"' (74:18-25)

It is obvious that the word "magic", which al-Mughira chose to be the charge that could prove the "falseness" of the Message, is not what magicians usually captivate their audience with. Rather, it is the "magic", i.e. enthrallment, one experiences as one listens to the idea, the word, and the style (of the Holy Qur'an).

As for calling the Prophet a madman, it was a description, which did not even prove credible to those who were using it; it was heard adnauseam. That was why, in the process of the Prophet's conducting debate with them by that which is best the Qur'an enjoined them to reflect deeply on what they were accusing the Prophet of, and soon would conclude how self-ridicule would be their lot:

Say: 'I do admonish you on one point: that ye do stand up before God, (It may be) in pairs, or (it may be) singly, and reflect (within yourselves): your Companion is not possessed: he is no less than a Warner to you, in face of a terrible Penalty'. (34:46).

As is evident, the Prophet (p.) did not react angrily, as do those people who are easily agitated when they are provoked and start trading insults with the opposite side. He was calm and collected in all his exchanges with the adversaries of Islam. That is because he did not view it as a personal matter. It was a matter of the Message he was sent to spread. It was, therefore, inevitable that dialogue was conducted in a way which served the interest of the noble task. It was guided by Islam's straight path, its ideology and tolerance, and due to the confident position it took, thus:

Or do they say, "He is possessed"? Nay, he has brought them the Truth, but most of them hate the Truth. (23:70)

And the Unbelievers would almost trip thee up with their eyes when they hear the Message; and they say: "Surely he is possessed!: But it is nothing less than a Message to all the worlds. (68:51-52)

And (O people!) your companion is not one possessed. (81:22)

These Qur'anic verses talk calmly about the person of the Prophet (p.). in the first verse (23:70), it stresses that the matter does not relate to any conviction on the part of the unbelievers; rather, it had come to the fore because of a grudge they harboured against the truth with which the Prophet was sent. While they did not want to have anything to do with the issue, they did not want to be seen to be avers to it. So, the onlty alternative they had was to brand the Prophet a lunatic.

In the second batch of verses (68:51-52), God describes the state of bewilderment, dismay, and annoyance of the unbelievers, which made them look down on the Prophet (p.) for the Remembrance (Message) he was propagating. Then, the Qur'an soon makes us realize the connection with reality, as to the nature of the divine revelation, by inviting us to consider it, in order to reach the conclusion that it is a Remembrance and good counsel for mankind.

The third verse (81:22) is dismissive of the question as a matter of principle, in that it does not offer any explanatory or analytical answer. Rather, it suggests that the issue does not lend itself to any argument or a counter one for it is so clear that it does not leave any room for debate.

In some verses, we fine the Prophet being labeled as having been possessed by the jinn, which is slightly different from dubbing him a lunatic. In this regard, the Qur'an has not gone further than branding them oppressors on two counts. i.e. on not doing themselves justice in setting up partners to God and on being unjust to the Prophet (p.) by manufacturing false accusations against him. It therefore concludes that those unjust people have gone astray and can never find a way:

We know best what it is they listen, when they listen to thee; and when they meet in private conference, behold, the wicked say, 'Ye follow none other than a man bewitched! See what similes they strike for thee: but they have gone astray, and never can they find a way. (17:47-48)