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The Garbled Up Quran Pt. 1

In this series of articles I am going to be responding to Muslim-turned apostate-turned Muslim-turned apostate again-turned Muslim one more time Ibn Anwar’s attempt of explaining away the fact that the Quran contains foreign words, even though it claims be “revealed” in pure Arabic speech: 

We know indeed that they say, “It is a man that teaches him.” The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear. S. 16:103 A. Yusuf Ali

And verily this Qur’an is a revelation from the Lord of all the worlds. The Spirit, faithful to the trust, has descended with it On thy heart, that thou mayest be a Warner, In plain and clear Arabic tongue. S. 26:192-195 Sher Ali

Here is what the neophyte writes:

Yes, the Arabic Qur’an does contain foreign words that are not just taken from Aramaic but many other different languages as well. By Imam al-Suyuti’s count, the Qur’an incorporates vocabulary from eleven languages that includes Ethiopic, Greek, Persian, Indian, Syriac (Aramaic), Hebrew, Coptic, Nabataean, Turkish, Negro and Berber. Does this impressive list shakes the belief of the Muslim that the Qur’an is inimitable? Long before Luxenberg, whoever he is (the name is actually a pseudonym), was born or his great great great great grandmother was born, the polymath and prolific scholar of Islam Imam Jalaluddin al-Suyuti in the 1400s had already critically looked at the Qur’an and collected, classified and discussed the so called “foreign vocabulary” of the Qur’an. In fact, he wrote complete works on the subject such as ‘ al-Muhadhdhab fima waqa’a fil Qur’an min al-mu’arrab’ (The emendation regarding the foreign words and phrases in the Qur’an) and ‘Mutawakkili fima wara fi al-Qur’an bi al-lughat al-habashiyya wal farisiyya wal rumiyya wal hindiyyah wal siryaniyya wal ibraniyya wal nabatiyya wal qibtiyya wal turkiyya wal zanjiyya wal barbariyya’ (My reliance concerning words in the Qur’an in the Ethiopian, Persian, Greek, Indian, Syriac, Hebrew, Nabataean, Coptic, Turkish, African and Berber languages). Not only did he show that the Qur’an contains words that come from Aramaic, but that it has words from ten other languages too! And that certainly did not shake his belief in the inimitability of the Qur’an as he continued to write hundreds of other books and treatises on numerous different subjects of all branches of Islamic knowledge. But since the Qur’an has all these foreign words from many foreign languages, does it not in fact contradict Surah Yusuf, verse 12 above?

In linguistics, we have this phenomenon called ‘loanwords’ and that simply means that a language borrows words from another language or other languages and the speakers of that language use those “foreign” words as they speak their language. This rather basic definition informs us that once a word from one language is incorporated and is assimilated into another language, it becomes the property of the latter. And so, when an English man says “The Liverpudlians ran amok”, he is speaking perfect English and no fool would come up to him and ask, “Why are you speaking English and Malay in one sentence simultaneously, sir?” The word ‘amok’ is perfectly English even though it is borrowed by the language from the original Malay word ‘amuk’ which means “attacking wildly”. A novice of linguistics knows full well that the vocabulary of any language is built on many vocabularies of other languages. If one were to say “John read a magazine at the cafe near my house”, is he speaking English or some other language? A jester might come and say, “He is speaking Old English, proto-Germanic, Old Frisian, Old Norse, Dutch and Slavonic…” And that’s just for the word ‘read’. Is that how we think about speech and language? Of course not. The basic rule is thus: “A word belongs to that language as long as it is intelligibly used in it by its speakers.”

It is apparent that the greenhorn hasn’t pondered over this issue with any great depth since he forgets that Muslims do not believe that the Quran is like the speech of creatures since it’s supposed to be the uncreated speech of Allah, and therefore one of his essential attributes.

Note what the following sources say in respect to the Quran’s eternality and uncreatedness:

The Creed of al-Ash’ari is representative of the fully-developed creeds of later Islam:

The substance of that on which the Followers of the True Way take their stand is the confession of God [Allah], His Angels, His Script [the Revealed Books], His Apostles [the Messengers sent by God], the Revelation of God and the Tradition [Sunnah] of the trustworthy related on the authority of God’s Apostle; none of these they reject.

God is One, Single, Eternal. There is no other god. Muhammad is His Servant and Apostle.

Paradise is a Fact; and Hell is a Fact. There is no doubt of the Coming Hour [the Day of Judgement]; and God will raise the Dead from their graves. God’s place is upon His Throne, as He has said.

God has two Hands, as He has said – we do not question: in what sense? God has two Eyes, as He has said – we do not question: in what sense? God has a Face, as He has said.

It is not to be said that God’s Names or Attributes are anything other than Himself. The Followers of the True Way confess that God has Knowledge as He has said. They assert the existence of His Hearing and His Sight.

They believe that there is no good and no evil on earth except by the Will of God, and that all things are by the Will of God. They confess that there is no creator save God, and that God creates the works of men, and that they are incapable of creating anything.

God gives True Believers Grace to be obedient to Him; He forsakes Unbelievers. He is well able to act for the salvation of Unbelievers; nevertheless He wills not so to act, nor so to grace them that they Believe. He rather wills them to be Unbelievers in accordance with His knowledge, forsaking and misguiding them and sealing up their hearts.

Good and evil depend on the general and particular Decrees of God. The followers of the Way believe in His Decrees both general and particular, in His good and His evil, His sweet and His bitter.

They believe that they are not their own masters for weal or for woe, save as God wills, for He has said so. Committing their affairs to God, they declare their dependence on Him in all circumstances, their need of Him at all times.

They believe that the Koran is God’s Uncreated Eternal Word.

They believe that God will be seen with sight on the Day of the Raising of the Dead; as the moon is seen on the night of her full shall the Believers see Him; but Unbelievers shall not see Him because they will be veiled from God.

They do not brand any Muslim an Unbeliever for any grave sin he may commit, for fornication or theft or any such grave sin; but hold that such men are Believers inasmuch as they have Faith, grievous though their sins may be. Islam is the testifying that there is no God but God and that Muhammad is God’s Apostle, in accordance with Tradition; and Islam, they hold, is not the same thing as Faith [iman].

They confess the Intercession of God’s Apostle, and believe that it is for the grave sins of his people and against the Punishment of the Tomb. They confess that the Pool [where the Prophet will meet his Companions in the afterlife] of the Hereafter is Fact, and the bridge [over which the dead will cross] is Fact, that God’s reckoning with men is Fact, and that the Standing in the Presence of God is Fact.

They discountenance argument and disputation concerning Islam. They do not inquire: in what sense? or: Why? because such inquiry is Innovation in Islam.

They believe that God does not command evil, but forbids it; that He commands good, and has no pleasure in evil, though He wills it.

They acknowledge the Elders elect of God to be Companions of His Apostle as Fact; they cherish their virtues and eschew discrimination among them, giving priority to Abu Bakr, then ‘Umar, then ‘Uthman, then ‘Ali, and believing that they are the rightly guided Caliphs, the best of all men after the Prophet.

They approve the Feast and the Friday Congregation and all gatherings for Prayer under the leadership of any Imam, be he pious or be he wicked. They believe in the precept of Holy War against polytheists. They approve Prayer for the welfare of all Imams of the Muslims and agree that they ought not to rebel against them with the sword, nor fight in any civil commotion. (The New Encyclopedia of Islam, edited by Cyril Glasse [Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Fourth edition 2013], Creed (Ar. ‘aqidah), pp. 125-126; bold and underline emphasis ours)


Imam al-Dhahabi brings the following statement of creed in the biography of the great Shafi’i scholar and Imam of the Sunnah, Ibn Khuzaymah (al-Siyar 14/381)…

“The Qur’an is the speech (Kalaam) of Allaah the Exalted, and an attribute amongst the attributes of His essence. NOTHING FROM HIS SPEECH IS CREATED, and nor is it ma’ful (manufactured) and nor Muhdath (recent, originated). Whoever claimed that anything from it is makhluq, or Muhdath or claimed that Kalaam is an attribute of action (sifat al-fi’l), then he is misguided Jahmite innovator. And I say: Allah has never ceased to be mutakallim (one who speaks), and speech (Kalaam) is an attribute of the essence for Him. And whoever claims that Allaah did not speak except once, and did not speak except what He already spoke with (in that one instance) and then His speech expired, his statement is disbelief in Allaah.

And that He descends to the lowest heaven and says “Is there any supplicant to whom I respond“, so whoever claimed that it is His knowledge and command that descends has gone astray.

And He will speak to His servants without how (kayf). And ‘The Most Merciful ascended over the Throne“, not as the Jahmites said that He has encompassed the dominion, and nor that he conquered (istawlaa).’

And indeed Allaah speaks to His servants repeatedly, recurringly, and repeats to them His stories (qisas), His commands, His prohibitions, and anyone who claims other than that is a straying innovator.”…

The statement of Ibn Khuzaymah:

“The Qur’an is the speech (Kalaam) of Allaah the Exalted, and an attribute amongst the attributes of His essence…”

This Qur’an in our presence, recited, heard, memorized, consisting of surahs and aayaahs, letters and words is the speech (Kalaam) of Allaah. It was upon this Qur’an that the battle raged between Ahl al-Sunnah, the followers of the revealed Books and sent Messengers, and the Jahmiyyah, Mu’tazilah, the followers of the Sabean star and idol-worshipping pagan disbelievers in their proof of huduth al-ajsaam, as a result of which they said Allaah does not speak, and that Allaah’s speech is what He creates in other than Him and that the Qur’an is created.

However, THE QUR’AN IS AN ATTRIBUTE FROM ALLAAH’S ATTRIBUTES and what the Salaf meant by this is that the Qur’an is the knowledge (‘ilm) of Allaah, since all of the Qur’an is from Allah’s knowledge, and thus it is an attribute from the attributes of His essence. In addition to this IT IS ALSO HIS SPEECH (qawl, kalaam) which is also from His attributes, so from this perspective it is also an attribute from His attributes. However, in relation to speech, Allaah has always been one who speaks, as and when He wills, with whatever He wills, so Kalaam is from the sifat dhaatiyyah and also from the Sifaat Fi’liyyah. (, Ibn Khuzaymah al-Shaafi’ee (d. 311H) And His Creed Regarding the Speech of Allaah and The Qur’an and A Refutation of the Jahmi, Mu’tazili, Kullabi, Karraami, Ash’ari, Maturidi Sects; bold and capital emphasis ours)

As an attribute of Allah, the Quran is unlike anything in creation since Allah is supposed to be incomparable:

The Creator of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you mates from yourselves, and for the cattle (also) mates. By this means He creates you (in the wombs). There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer. S. 42:11 Hilali-Khan

“And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him.” S. 112:4 Hilali-Khan

Therefore, if there is nothing in creation that can be likened to Allah then the Quran cannot be comparable to ordinary created speech. Why then would this neophyte liken it to imperfect human languages that adopt words from other cultures over time when the Quran is supposed to predate all such languages seeing that it is uncreated and divine by nature? Does the greenhorn really expect us to believe that these foreign words have also always existed as part of Allah’s very own eternal attribute of speech? Does this even make sense?

The fact of the matter is that this is an aspect of the Quran which have baffled Muslims, since it makes absolutely no sense to find the presence of non-Arabic terms in what is supposed to be the uncreated speech of Allah. More on this issue in the next part of our rebuttal

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