Interesting article on the sensitivity to context of Qur’anic words

Pondering Islam

I always found some word choices in the Qur’an somewhat puzzling, or rather, difficult to understand, when I read Qur’anic translations.

Abdel Haleem, in his recent article, “The Role of Context in Interpreting and Translating the Qur’an,” explores how context gives generic Qur’anic words, such as al-Rahman, meanings that slightly diverge from the generic usage. As an example, Abdel Haleem quotes popular translations of Q21:42:

Who shall keep you safe from the All-Merciful by night or day? (Khalidi)

Who will guard you night and day from the Merciful? (Jones)

Who shall guard you by night and in the daytime from the All-merciful?

He appropriately notes that it is rather strange that God is referred to as “All-Merciful” while threatening punishment. Instead, he writes that “In my own
translation of this verse I have instead opted for Who could protect you night and
day from the Lord of…

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LQS 2: The Phenomenon of Revelation

LQS 2: The Phenomenon of Revelation
اقرأ باسم ربك الذي خلق

Read in the Name of your Lord who created[1]

This post is the second in a series of summaries of Ayatollah Haadi Ma’rifat’s book entitled, Amouzish Ulum Qurāni (Learning the Qurānic Sciences). For an introduction to Ayatollah Haadi Ma’rifat and his works, click here. To read the previous post which discussed the sources for Qurānic research, click here.

The second chapter of the book discusses the phenomenon of revelation (wahi). In this post I will attempt to briefly cover Ayatollah Ma’rifat’s discussion concerning the usage of the word “أَوْحَى” (a derivative of wahi), some issues surrounding the matter of Prophetic revelation, as well as his discussion on the different forms through which prophetic revelation was conveyed to Prophets.

The root letters, و ح ي, have multiple “dictionary definitions” according to different scholars. The famous linguist, Raghib Isfahani, defined wahi as, “a prompt signal”[2]. Ibn Fars defined it as, “the delivery of knowledge in a hidden manner (or in some other manner) to someone else”[3]. In Taaj al-Urus, wahi is defined as, “indication”. Most meanings across different dictionaries tend to associate secrecy, speed and the transfer of knowledge with the term wahi.

In terms of its usage within the Qurān, the word wahi and its derivatives have been used 87 times. The verb “أَوْحَى”, a derivative of “وَحِي” has had four primary usages within the Qurān which are the subject of discussion. The first meaning is the same as the dictionary definition as seen in surah Maryam when Prophet Zakariya exits from a place of worship and signals to his people.

فَخَرَجَ عَلَىٰ قَوْمِهِ مِنَ الْمِحْرَابِ فَأَوْحَىٰ إِلَيْهِمْ أَن سَبِّحُوا بُكْرَةً وَعَشِيًّا

So Zakariya came out to his people from the chamber. He told them by signs to celebrate Allah’s praises in the morning and in the evening[4] [5]

Continue reading “LQS 2: The Phenomenon of Revelation”

Ayatollah Javadi: Naming the Chapters of the Qurān

Ayatollah Javadi: Naming the Chapters of the Qurān
فاذكروني أذكركم و اشكروا لي و لا تكفرون

Remember Me, and I will remember you, and thank me and do not be ungrateful to me[1]

While looking over my notes for my upcoming exam on the Qurānic sciences, I came across an interesting view espoused by Ayatollah Javadi Amuli[2] concerning the naming of some of the chapters of the Qurān. I thought it might be an interesting share.

As will be discussed in more detail, in a later LQS post, there exist various views concerning how the chapters of the Qurān came to be named. Some scholars believe that all of the chapters of the Qurān were named by the Prophet, whilst others believe that some chapters came to be named as they are now by common people after the death of the Prophet.

Ayatollah Javadi offers an interesting reason as to why it is possible that certain chapters were not named by the Prophet. Below I have offered a translation of a passage from his exegesis wherein he discusses the naming of Sura al-Baqrah…

Continue reading “Ayatollah Javadi: Naming the Chapters of the Qurān”

LQS 1: The Sources for Qurānic Research

LQS 1: The Sources for Qurānic Research

This post is the first in a series of summaries of Ayatollah Haadi Ma’rifat’s book entitled, “Amouzish Ulum Qurāni” (Learning the Qurānic Sciences). For an introduction to Ayatollah Haadi Ma’rifat and his works, click here.

In the first chapter of his book, Ayatollah Ma’rifat provides a basic introduction to the Qurānic sciences[1] and then introduces some of the first works that were written pertaining to the Qurānic sciences as well two famous works that were written later on, namely, “al-Burhan fi Ulum al-Qurān”, by Badr al-Deen Zarkashy and “al-Itqān fi Ulum al-Qurān”, by Jalāl al-Deen Suyuti. In what follows, I hope to provide a brief introduction to these works as well as some other works that have been written in the field of the Qurānic sciences.

During the first few centuries after hijra, most works written in relation to the Qurānic sciences pertained to individual subjects rather than many subjects together. Perhaps the first known book to be written in this field was by Yahya bin Ya’mar, a student of Abu Aswad al-Du’ali who himself was a student of Imam Ali. Continue reading “LQS 1: The Sources for Qurānic Research”

Allamah Haadi Ma’rifat

Allamah Haadi Ma’rifat

My last post concerning the sciences of the Qurān provided a brief outline of some of the different sciences that are associated with the Qurān as well as some of the questions that are asked and researched within each respective science.

Now, I feel as if it would be beneficial to delve into a book that will discuss some matters pertaining to each science and attempt to offer brief explanations for different issues. One particular book that I feel would serve this purpose well is that of Allamah Haadi Ma’rifat’s which is entitled, “Amouzish Ulum Qurāni” (Learning the Qurānic Sciences). However, before delving into this book, I’d like to offer some insight into Allamah Haadi Ma’rifat’s life and provide a brief explanation of this book.

Allamah Haadi Ma’rifat (may Allah bless his soul), was born in the holy city of Najaf in the year 1891.

Ayatollah Ma’rifat at a young age

It was here that he pursued his studies, first studying basic Arabic grammar under his father and classical logic under other well-known teachers.
Later, he moved on to studying the principles of jurisprudence (Usul al-Fiqh) and jurisprudence (Fiqh). After a period of time, he moved onto attending the classes of eminent jurists such as Ayatollah Khoei. During this time he began to engage in research along with a group of other scholars in which each of them would choose different subjects and research them. During these research projects Ayatollah Haadi Ma’rifat chose to research the sciences of the Qurān. Continue reading “Allamah Haadi Ma’rifat”

An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qurān

An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qurān
سبحانک لا علم لنا الا ما علمتنا

Glory be to thee, We have no knowledge except for that which you have taught us[1]

For a while now I have wanted to briefly introduce some of the different subjects that are discussed and researched as a means to understand the Qurān. However, practically I have found this task very difficult due to numerous reasons, one of them being simply because of the numerous subjects that are associated with the Qurān[2]. Anyhow, my goal here is to introduce merely some of the numerous subjects that are critical to one’s understanding of the Qurān.

1. Exegesis of the Qurān (Tafsir)

Perhaps the most widely studied subject in relation to the Qurān is that of exegesis. Exegesis is sometimes defined as, “Attempting to understand the intent of Allah in accordance to the capabilities of human beings”[3]. That is, exegesis is an attempt to understand the intended meaning of Allah within the Qurān while taking into account that man is a limited being and is not necessarily capable of perceiving the depths of the meanings within the Qurān. Throughout history, exegesis has been the subject of a lot of debate and discussion and literally thousands of exegeses (tafasir) have been written in attempting to convey understood meanings of the Qurān. Continue reading “An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qurān”

Discovering the Qurān (Part 2)

Discovering the Qurān (Part 2)

The last post left off after just having established that the most capable beings on this earth, in terms of understanding the Qurān, are the ahlul-bayt (may Allah bless them). Therefore, rather than attempting to describe the Qurān by myself, it is better to leave this task for those who understand the depths of the Qurān.

Near the end of sermon 198 of nahj ul-balagha, Imam Ali (may peace be upon him), describes the Qurān. Below, I have posted the Arabic text along with a translation. Continue reading “Discovering the Qurān (Part 2)”