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"Clear and unclear verses in the Qur'an, will learning Arabic help my understanding?"

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Submitted by Lactantius Jr (United Kingdom), Aug 28, 2008 at 15:50

To sTs

In saying "You should learn Arabic to understand, don't listen to people"

you imply that all the difficulties of the Qur'anic text will somehow disappear if I "learn Arabic to understand," but what sort of Arabic sTs? What sort of Arabic is the Qur'an written in, what sort of Arabic do most present-day Arabic speakers actually speak, write and think in?

The majority of Muslims are not Arabs, and are not Arabic speakers, having to rely on Qur'anic translations/interpretations, and whatever it is called, the language of the Qur'an is totally different than the vernacular Arabic of today, so even Arab Muslims have to depend on translations/interpretations to understand the Qur'an, and although you say you understand the Qur'anic Arabic "better than many," "Bad Translation" http://www.danielpipes.org/comments/130905 the fact remains that the majority of Muslims are not Arabs or Arabic-speaking peoples. The non Arabic-speaking peoples of Indonesia (the biggest Muslim country in the world) with a population of 197 million, Pakistan with 133 million, Iran with 62 million, Turkey with 62 million, India with a Muslim population of about 95 million (totaling 549 millions) out-number by far, the total number of native Arabic speakers in about thirty countries in the world, estimated as 150 million, with Khaled Mohammed reporting that fewer than 20% of the world's Muslims speak Arabic, "Assessing English Translations of the Qur'an" http://www.meforum.org/article/717

Many educated Muslims whose native tongue is not Arabic, do learn it in order to read the Qur'an, but then again, the vast majority do not understand Arabic, even though many do memorize parts of the Qur'an, and some hafiz Qura'an memorize it all by heart, without understanding a word of it!!

And the Qur'an, what does it say of itself?

It claims to be a clear book, fully and clearly explaining everything,

Alif Lam Ra

[This is] "a Scripture whose verses are perfected, then set out clearly, from One who is all wise, all aware."

Surah 11:1

[Say], " ‘Shall I seek any judge other than God, when it is He who has sent down for you [people] the Scripture, clearly explained?' Those to whom We gave the Scripture know that this [Qur'an] is revealed by your Lord [Prophet] with the truth, so do not be one of those who doubt.'"

Surah 6:114

"The day will come when We raise up in each community a witness against them, and We shall bring you [Prophet] as a witness against these people, for We have sent the Scripture down to you explaining everything, and as a guidance and mercy and good news to those who devote themselves to God."

Surah 16:89

"A Scripture whose verses are made distinct as a Qur'an in Arabic for people who understand"

Surah 41:3

Yet this claim to be a clear book is contradicted by the following ayah saying there are passages which are not entirely clear , whose meanings are known only to Allah,

"It is He who has sent this Scripture down to you [Prophet]. Some of its verses are definite in meaning – these are the cornerstone of the Scripture – and others are ambiguous. The perverse at heart eagerly pursue the ambiguities in their attempt to make trouble and to pin down a specific meaning of their own: only God knows the true meaning. Those firmly grounded in knowledge say, ‘We believe in it; it is all from our Lord' only those with real perception will take heed."

Surah 3:7

So which is it sTs, clear or unclear? And why would Allah bother revealing passages that no one knows besides him? How will that benefit Muslims, being given verses they cannot understand? What do they gain from such opaque words having no practical value for their lives? And how does a Muslim know for certain which verses are clear and which verses are obscure, when the Qur'an nowhere distinguishes between them? Is it left up to fallible Muslim scholars to tell Muslims which passages are clear and which are obscure, scholars who inevitably often contradict and oppose one another in their exegesis and rulings, about the application and meaning of the Qur'an? No sTs, it isn't left to Muslim scholars, with Allah commanding even Muhammad and Muslims to refer to Jews and Christians to explain what they were reading!!

"And even before your time [Prophet], all the messengers We sent were only men We inspired – if you [disbelievers], do not know, ask people who know the Scripture."

Surah 21:7

Summary and Conclusion

Being a Semitic language related to Hebrew and Aramaic, Arabic is no easier but neither is it any more difficult to translate than any other language. Of course, there are all sorts of difficulties with the language of the Qur'an itself, but these difficulties have always been recognized by Muslim scholars themselves, with the great Islamic philosopher/theologian Al-Ghazali (Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad at- Tusi a;-Ghazali AD 1058-1111) saying that "The number of the clear verses is 500" (Suyuti, ‘Itqan Fii ‘Ulum Al-Qur'an, Al-Hai'ah Al-Misriyah Al-‘Aamah Lil-Kitab, Part 11, Section 65: Al-‘Ulum Al_Mustanbat Men Al-Qur'an) ie. a mere 8% of the 6,616 verses in the Qur'an!!!

To summarise, critique of Islam and the Qur'an is open to those with skepticism, a critical sense and critical thinking. The Qur'an is indeed an opaque text, but it is opaque to everyone, with even one of Islam's greatest scholars not understanding too much of it, so in light of the foregoing, how would it benefit me to learn Arabic sTs?

With kind regards and best wishes

Lactantius Jr

Addendum

Qur'anic quotations are from "The Qur'an A New Translation" by M.A.S Abdel-Haleem, Cairo born. Arabic speaking, al-Azhar educated hafiz Qur'an, Professor of Islamic studies and Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies, at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and who says of his translation, "The Qur'an, A New Translation," that he intends to "go further than previous works in accuracy, clarity, flow, and currency of language."

Be that as it may, whatever his accuracy in rendering the Qur'an into English to convey the meaning of the Qur'anic Arabic, I take issue with him in rendering "Allah" as "God," since the Qur'anic Allah (whoever he is) is not the God revealed in the printed words of the Bible, and supremely revealed in the living, loving, Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Submitting....

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