Six Major Errors (1-2)

article picked 4U by - Mohammad Shahrour

May 27, 2020

We have identified six major errors which all occurred because of a wrong interpretation of a verse in the Book. In dealing with these errors, we quote the verse first, highlight the mistakes made, and then introduce our own reading of the text

the first error the belief that Muhammad’s words were inspired by God: And he [Muhammad] does not talk [ yantiq] capriciously. It is only a revelation [wahyun] being revealed [ yawha]… ( Al-Najm 53:3–4,) It was thought that the two verses equate what Muhammad said (yantiq) with divine revelation (wahy). This led to the erroneous view that the Qur’an and the Sunna are two categories of revealed or inspired word. It has been overlooked that Al-Najm 53:3-4 were revealed in Mecca at a time when Muhammad was confronted by strong opposition from the Ahl Quraish. They had questioned the validity of Muhammad’s claim to have received revelations from God. They did not question Muhammad’s own words but only what he presented as divine revelation. Verses 3 and 4 were revealed as an assurance of the divine origins of his revelations from God, not an assurance of the sacrality of Muhammad’s sayings as prophet and human being. the following explanation: ‘A short clarification is in order here in order to tackle the fateful legacy of synonymicist philology that holds the minds of the scholars ‘ulama” in a firm grip. Against that we hold the non-synonymous definitions of philological terms, such as utterance (nutq), word (qawl ), lexeme (Lafz), and speech act (kalam), that we derived from modern linguistics and classical, non synonymicist philology.

We start with a quote  ‘A word (kalima) is an utterance that can be found either alone or in a compound; a word (qawl) consists of a lexeme (lafz) that carries meaning, but not all lexemes are words; lexemes involve vocal sounds that are based on the letters of the alphabet—they may mean something or not. Thus, a word consists of a lexeme, denoting a specific meaning, that might be derived from one single sentence, such as: ‘Nay, this is a word he is speaking’. A word, given that it consists of a lexeme that carries meaning, can occur singly, such as Zayd, servant, bed etc., but it might form a compound if it consists of more than just one lexeme, such as the young boy Zayd, see verse 3 of Surat Muhammad: ‘Thus Allah coins their similitudes for mankind.’’ [End of quote] An utterance (nutq) is a vocal articulation that involves an intelligent connection of different lexemes (alfaz), to the extent that they are logically and meaningfully linked to each other. We might also call this the area of syntax. An utterance (nutq) is also used to produce meaningful articulations through which logically and meaningfully words (kalimat) are interconnected in different ways. We might call this the area of grammar. The lexeme (lafz) of an utterance is a sound which the tongue, lips, and vocal cords produce in order to be heard.

This can be found with humans as well as animals when dogs bark, wolves howl, or birds sing. A word (qawl), in contrast, could hold only one, singular segment or unit of this sequence of vocal articulation. A word (qawl ) contains the meaning that is transported from the speaker to the listener in order to be understood.’ [The difference is here made between the words qal Allah and nataq al-nabi, which are not just two words for ‘saying’ but denote different meanings. Whereas qala Allah denotes the real speaker and communicator of a meaningful sentence, nataqa al-nabi denotes Muhammad’s utterances, i.e., a meaningful and coherent transmission of Allah’s words. The former (qala) relates to ‘saying’ whereas the later (nataqa) refers to the pronouncement of what has been said. That the Book does not employ qala when it refers to Muhammad’s sayings, is significant; it points to the impossibility of Muhammad ‘saying’ revelations—contrary to what the verse of Al-Najm might suggest—because he can only ‘pronounce’ them.]  ‘Suppose we accept synonymity, it would mean that the verb nataqa, i.e. to pronounce, has the same meaning as qala, i.e. to speak.

In this case, the sayings of God’s messenger (nataqa al-rasul ) would enjoy the status of divine revelation (as in qala Allah). This would imply that the prophetic hadiths enjoy divine protection, that they are free of ambiguity and obscure meaning, that they need to be preserved literally (bi’l-lafz) and not just in terms of their meaning, and that no distinction can be made between the utterances of Muhammad as Prophet and his utterances as Messenger of Allah. Against all of this we raise the following objection: the only book that legitimately contains the phrases qala Allah and nataqa rasul Allah is the Book. The phrase qala Muhammad in the books of hadiths, must not be understood as equal to qala Allah in the Book, even if these hadiths were transmitted by uninterrupted chains of transmitters that go back to the Prophet.’

2- The second error concerns the belief that Muhammad’s acts and deeds are sacrosanct, that is, unblemished by mistake and hence infallible. This view can easily be rejected by reading the following verses of Surat Abasa in which Allah unambiguously reprimands Muhammad and concedes his fallibility: He frowned and turned away when the blind man came to him— for all you know, he might have grown in spirit, or taken note of something useful to him. (Abasa 80:1-4) This is a clear rebuke by God because Muhammad was so impertinent to have turned away from Ibn Maktum, an old, blind beggar, in order to address instead the notables of the Quraish in the hope that they would accept his call and convert to Islam. Criticizing such snobbishness, Allah asks Muhammad to change his attitude and turn back to the beggar, for the old man might spiritually benefit enormously from the Prophet’s attention. In the following verse we hear another rebuke of Muhammad’s action: Prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful to you in your desire to please your wives? Yet God is forgiving and merciful. ( Al-Tahrim 66:1) And another time: It is not fitting for an apostle that he should have prisoners of war until he has thoroughly subdued the land. You look for the temporal goods of this world, but God looks to the Hereafter: And God is exalted in might, wise. ( Al-Anfal 8:67)…