The Miracle of the Qur'an…

…as explained by a hot dog vendor. By no means am I trying to be bourgeois. A hot dog vendor, in theory, is just as capable of understanding the Glorious Qur’an as I am. He or she is free to develop their own interpretations. Heck, for all I know, they used to be a scholar and just fell on hard times. Rather, this is just a reflection on observations I’ve made of non-indigenous Muslims attempting to give da’wah or information about Islam to non-Muslims. This recent observation came today while I was ordering a (turkey) bacon, egg and cheese on a long roll with salt and pepper (regardless of the brother’s oratory skills, he does make a killer breakfast sandwich).

Islam means many different things to many different people. That goes without saying and yet, when it comes to the face of Islam it is presented as a monolithic entity, devoid of diversity. So how is it that the brothers that love to quote the Qur’an when it tells us, “…and We made you into tribes and nations so you may know one another”, somehow forget this when they talk about the role of Arabs in the history of Islam. This quote is the Trump card, the proverbial rabbit in the hat for many foreign Muslims who attempt to “call people to Islam (hereafter referred to as da’wah)”. I mean, if God created diversity then it’s got to be good! But this seems to be the limit (intentional or unintentional, you decide) of their invitation. Instead, they embark on a mission of propaganda that in the end they would have you believe that it was the Arab people, vis-a-vie, the Arabic language, that produced the Marvelous Qur’an and even the Prophet himself.

To make this clear let me explain a little further. The case that was brought before me while my eggs were meshing with the cheese was that the English language was or is incapable of holding the Word of God (i.e., the Qur’an could not have been revealed in English). Arabic language, because of its rich lexical purity was chosen by God as the vehicle to carry God’s Word to humanity. The implication is that if a people attain a high enough level of whatever (piety, exemplary communal behavior, etc) then they can garner the attention of God and influence His actions or decisions, versus the traditional understanding (small “t” not capital) that Revelation is a top-down phenomenon.

Yeah…, now ya feel me’h. There are many topics that stem from this line of thought. I will attempt to highlight a few of them.

One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is that the Arabs as a people some how had a hand in producing and influencing Revelation. By this, I mean that their language was so spectacular that God simply had to use it as the vehicle of His Word to man. Running parallel to this thought is that it was the Arabs and not God who made the Arabic language so noteworthy. My train of thought does not stop here, though. For if the Arabs were responsible for this then does this not compete with God as al-‘Alim and al-Khabir? In other words, does the concept of the Arabs making the determination that their language influenced this decision, does this not attempt to grasp power from God? Yeah, now I know ya feel me’h. Hold on to yer butts ‘cus I’m not through with ya just yet.

Another stem to this tree of thought is that if the Arabs were some how able to achieve this level of influence or recognition then why haven’t or why couldn’t any other group of people do so? Would this imply that there is something inherent in the Arabs, vis-a-vie the Arabic language, which garners this recognition? And that conversely other peoples are not as privileged? And perhaps most importantly this suggests that it was the Arabs who produced the Prophet or influenced God’s decision in choosing His Messenger. This is a most dangerous concept. Imagine, if you will, that while we think of the Prophet as being sent to all mankind, by God’s own choice, that instead, the Arabs just “earned enough credit” through history and God picked a winner! Through this process Revelation has been down graded to a competition between the races instead of a top-down directive, chosen by God, Who is Alone without partners, and without influence, man is able to influence God. Yeah. Ouch. I could see this making a great reality show: Last Tribe Standing.

The third point I will make is that when one examines this process of influencing God it smacks of shirk or associating partners with God. To explain this, I will illustrate the definition as I received it from Dr. Sherman Jackson. Shirk: the process of extracting services through nature via supernatural means. In an example Dr. Jackson gave, imagine if you will, the Bushman. He and his fellow mates, before they go out to hunt, engage in various rituals. They might do a special dance. Throw some bones on the ground. Abstain from sex with their wives for six days and six nights and so on. The reason is extract favors or services (in this case a successful hunt) from Nature or in our parlance, God. And while the Arabs of modern day times might not engage in such actions it was the Arabs of days yonder (i.e., pre-Islam Arabs) that (holding to their argument) were the squeakie wheel that received the divine grease and it is present day Arabs who present this phenomenon as proof that the Arabs are a great and powerful people.

So the point to this little rant is more of an observation. I have seen how Arab pride and nationalism have been translated into either a tacit or active causality for their role in the Revelation of Islam. And my encounter with the hot dog shaykh is not unique. Over and over I have seen it portrayed in the above light. Is God not All-Powerful that He could not manipulate the English language, or any other language, to deliver this miracle? After all, it was the Miracle of the Arabic language which drove home this point to the Arabs of the Prophet’s time. They had never heard an Arabic language like the one that they were encountering when the Prophet recited to them. They would say to the Prophet, “Surely, this is manifest sorcery!” It is precisely that it was a form of Arabic that was Divinely manipulated that makes the Arabic language what it is (at least that in the Qur’an). Pre-Islamic Arabic would not fall into this category (i.e., it was before it was “touched” by God). My point in this is that it would seem in today’s world people often talk and speak in transcendent terms. They act as if their religious interpretations are an extension of Revelation. That they informed or influenced God’s choices or actions and that they are the Chosen People (we’re heard that one before). And while I have stated all this, in hopes some of you may leave feedback and comments, it in no way influences me in my choice of eating from the brother’s food cart. His (turkey) bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, on a long roll, is scrumptious. And his shawarma cheese steak is to die for! Now if that’s not fostering religious dialog I don’t know what is.

17 Comments The Miracle of the Qur'an…

  1. advice@advice.org'Advice

    This statement that sparked this post does not necessitate the corollaries that you propose.

    “Arabic language, because of its rich lexical purity was chosen by God as the vehicle to carry God’s Word to humanity.”

    This statement is true and is confirmed by the Quran itself. However, the implication you made is false.

    “The implication is that if a people attain a high enough level of whatever (piety, exemplary communal behavior, etc) then they can garner the attention of God and influence His actions or decisions…”

    There is no relation between the fact of X being Y, and that Z influences M.
    So I am sorry but your logic is flawed.

    The rest of your post is ridiculous, childish and at times racist. By generalizing charges against the Arabs, you have implicated the Prophet as well, and thus disparaged the one whom the Quran itself was revealed to.

    A brother as intelligent as you would do better trying not to justify his anger at a certain ethnic group and their culture anachronisms as a reaction to their justification of ethnic or culture superiority, and instead clarify the fallacy of his argument based on historic and religious facts.

    You seem a bit too into yourself

  2. delictoaquinas@hotmail.com'DA

    I’ve had discussions with Desis, Arabs, etc where they start acting authoritative about Islam with no real knowledge, and I’ll back up what I’m saying with Qu’ran and Hadith, and they’ll STILL take this attitude like “You’re a revert, what do you know?”. It’s just petty nationalism and superiority complexes.

    I think a strong argument would be that the Rasul went to the Arabs because they were such a messed up, evil people at the time, and needed him the most! I think Arabic, from what I do know, is a lovely language with interesting features, but it does not seem to me to be demonstratably the best language or anything like that.

  3. theblog@manrilla.net'Marqas

    Advice (I think you should find a new name…) said:

    This statement is true and is confirmed by the Quran itself. However, the implication you made is false.

    What implication was that? You seemed to have left it out.

    In addition, you added:

    There is no relation between the fact of X being Y, and that Z influences M.
    So I am sorry but your logic is flawed.

    Again, you’re a little off the point. What I was saying has nothing to do with logic. This is not a philosophical discusion nor was I trying to solve a mathematical equation. Big words. Small meaning.

    My remarks are not racist. I have made no aspersion towards Arabs that they are a bad people or so on. Instead, I’m pointing to the fact that the man in question (and I’ve heard his argument from many other Arabs and from American converts who buy into what he’s/they’re selling) that in a sense, because the Arabic language (and by association, the Arabs) was such a fabulous language it is why God chose it for the vehicle of carrying His Word. My point, if you read my post (and it seems you skimmed it just to find points to argue about) was that pre-Revelation Arabic was NOT that fantastic. Sure, it might have been a beautiful, eloquent langauge, but it was still not DIVINE. Hence, the reaction that the Prophet got along with his companions when they recited the Qur’an to them, the non-Muslim Arabs replied, “This is manafest sorcery.” The Quraysh saw the effect that the Qur’an had on their people and concluded that Muhammad must have been some sort of magician because of the “magical effect” it had on people. And to further drive home the point, you’ll see that the biggest challange to the Qur’an came from the Arabian poets of that time. And as we all know, none of them were able to match it.

    You further stuffed your foot in your mouth by adding:

    The rest of your post is ridiculous, childish and at times racist. By generalizing charges against the Arabs, you have implicated the Prophet as well, and thus disparaged the one whom the Quran itself was revealed to.

    What? Ridiculous? Okay, maybe. Ridiculous is often in the eye of the beholder. Childish? Same rule could apply (perhaps you don’t care for my overt tongue-in-cheek approach). Racist? Ooooh! The “R” word. I see you’ve cafefully placed your chips on the board such that if your argument fell apart you have your last move in place: charge me with racist against the Arabs, which ultimately makes me a hater of the Prophet! Touché! But this ain’t fencing so… Is it not possible for me to have issues with a group of people without having to be a racist? Can I not have a bone to pick with this hot dog vendor and his racist rhetoric (for what is more racist than the Chosen People gimmick?) with out having a line tied between him and the Prophet? The very notion of racism against Arabs equaling hating the Prophet is so outrageous, so dispicable (I think I just spit all over my computer screen…) that it only futher drives home the point of my post.

    Advice – I believe your email was advice@advice.org. I think you should take some of the finer points of my argument here, do a cut and paste and send them in an email to yourself. I do appreciate your feedback, though. Salaams.

  4. theblog@manrilla.net'Marqas

    Abdul-Halim raises a good point. The Gospels, the Torah, the Psalms and other books that were sent by God were in diffirent languages. Arabic has not been the only language God used for a vehicle for His Word. I still don’t see how this ties me into “implicating the Prophet” in something. That’s just ig’nant.

  5. abdul.halim2005@gmail.com'abdul-halim

    [14.4] And We did not send any apostle but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly; then Allah makes whom He pleases err and He guides whom He pleases and He is the Mighty, the Wise.

    whenever God sent a revelation we would expect it to display a clarity, eloquence and beauty befiting God’s word. And God didn’t just speak in Arabic.

  6. advice@advice.org'advice

    the problem with your post was not you validating yourself, your assertions about the Quran (which i agree with by the way), but in general the illogical manner in which you started the post, as it can be said that the Arabic language was chosen for its lexical dexterity to carry the FINAL message of Allah to creation. The others may have been inferior based both lexical and anthropolgical reasons.
    not the word “may”
    The hot-dog man stating this does not imply that he or all arabs are superior or somehow brought about the greatness of the Quran. This is the fallacy of your argument. No one denies that Allah is capable of stating what ever he wishes to us in whatever language he likes.
    Your statements above show that you are extremely sensitive to being charged with racism, yet you had no problem insinuating this against the arabs in general or the hot-dog man in particular.
    Oh unless there is a part of the conversation we didnt hear about.
    Otherwise implicit statements do not always neccesitate thier supposed implications.
    You should have given your brother the benefit of the doubt.

  7. asdasdasd@Aadasd.com'thabet

    assalamu alaykum

    In terms of the Prophet (upon whom be peace) being an Arab, how important is the prayer of the Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him)?

    wasalam

  8. theblog@manrilla.net'Marqas

    Salaams, Thabet.

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re talking about. Which prayer concerning Abraham? You mean at-Tashahhud?

  9. theblog@manrilla.net'Marqas

    Advice said,

    “…the problem with your post was not you validating yourself…”

    What? When was I trying to validate myself? Hmm…, so then you said,

    “…but in general the illogical manner in which you started the post…”

    and I started by saying,

    “…By no means am I trying to be bourgeois. A hot dog vendor, in theory, is just as capable of understanding the Glorious Qur’an as I am…”

    Advice, you said:

    “…The hot-dog man stating this does not imply that he or all arabs are superior or somehow brought about the greatness of the Quran…”

    What you’re missing is that the hot-dog man (and I’m using him as an [amusing] example) and other Arabs I’ve heard talk about the Arabic language and the revelation of the Qur’an is that no other language could have contained the Revelation of God. Only the Arabic language could because it’s oh-so fantastic. I think you’re missing my point and also falling victim to Reductionism. I am obviously taking this Arab and others who think like him to task. Not all Arabs! And it is this which drove home my other point in my reply is that whenever someone makes a critique of Arabs then somehow you’re accused of casting aspersions to the Prophet (which is so God damned ridiculous!). So…, read the post again. Read my response again and stop it with the Manicheaen/Reductionist approach.

  10. advice@advice.org'advice

    Like I said before, I agree with your point concerning the Quran and Arabic, so no I didnt miss your point, I wasnt addressing it in the first place.

    The illogical approach I am speaking of is not your opening sentence, I am not here to critique your grammar and level of eloquence, You are mashallah very eloquent and a good writer. The conclusion that you present in your post is both valid and correct. The problem is with your argument.

    “What implication was that? You seemed to have left it out.”
    the same one that I will now cut&paste for you here as i did before:

    This is the claim of the Hot-Dog man, as stated by you:
    “The case that was brought before me while my eggs were meshing with the cheese was that the English language was or is incapable of holding the Word of God (i.e., the Qur’an could not have been revealed in English). Arabic language, because of its rich lexical purity was chosen by God as the vehicle to carry God’s Word to humanity.”

    This is the implication that stems from that, as stated by you:
    “The implication is that if a people attain a high enough level of whatever (piety, exemplary communal behavior, etc) then they can garner the attention of God and influence His actions or decisions, versus the traditional understanding (small “t” not capital) that Revelation is a top-down phenomenon.”

    I said to you:
    “There is no relation between the fact of X being Y, and that Z influences M. So I am sorry but your logic is flawed.”

    In simpler terms:

    There is no relation being Arabic being of rich lexical purity and then chose by GOd…
    And the fact that when people are of “a high enough level of whatever” they then “garner the attention of God and influence His actions or decisions”

    You then took from this that”
    1. “the Arabs as a people some how had a hand in producing and influencing Revelation”
    2. “it was the Arabs and not God who made the Arabic language so noteworthy”
    3. “Would this imply that there is something inherent in the Arabs, vis-a-vie the Arabic language, which garners this recognition? And that conversely other peoples are not as privileged?” rhetoricl questions?
    4. “it was the Arabs of days yonder (i.e., pre-Islam Arabs) that (holding to their argument) were the squeakie wheel that received the divine grease and it is present day Arabs who present this phenomenon as proof that the Arabs are a great and powerful people.”
    5. “That they informed or influenced God’s choices or actions and that they are the Chosen People”

    None of these points nessecarily is a result of Hot-Dog Man’s statement. These points in no way logically follow that point, as his statement is open to more than one interpretation, and ca can be describe in more than one way. He may be stressing the importance of learning the Arabic. You never know, you would have to ask him.
    But his statement does not nessecarily follow a line of arab-supremacy.
    Your postulation that this was his line of thinking insinuates that he did have arab-supremacy in mind, you then extented this to other arabs, and therefore by making blanket accusations against a particular race, include everyone of that race (you figure the rest out.)

    It would have better for you to clarify the possibilties of his statement, debunk them one by one, and establish the fact that you stated above and was even better proven by the verse the
    brother mentioned.

    You now said “Not all arabs!” Ok and I believe you.
    So its not fun when it happens to you and thats not what you meant, and thats not what Hot-dog man, Pizza-boy, and Shawerma-Girl mean either, necessarily. Unless of course, theyre arabs, and you know what that means….. 🙂

  11. abdul.halim2005@gmail.com'abdul-halim

    advice, i honestly think you are mistaken. The Arabic language is clearly a human product which was made by the Arabs (or their ancestors).

    you said you agreed with the claim that:

    “Arabic language, because of its rich lexical purity was chosen by God as the vehicle to carry God’s Word to humanity.”

    But the various features of the Arabic language are human “creation”. So if those features of Arabic are the reason why God chose the Quran to be revealed in Arabic, then Marqas is totally justified in saying that on some level Hot Dog Man believes that human effort (specifically the efforts of Arabs) can influence God’s decision.

    In the Bible, in terms of the Chosen People concept, at least there is a certain amount of humility because the Bible teaches that the Jews were in a low position and of little account when they were “Chosen” so that anything they achieved was due to God’s efforts.

    I think that in a similar way, it is probably healthier to emphasize the low depths that Arab people were in, in the time of Jahiliyah. Islam and the Quran are beautiful in spite of the Arabs, not because of them.

  12. k_abdulm@yahoo.com'Umm Amirah

    Asalaam alaikum brother,
    very thought provoking blog. I’ve experienced the ‘hot dog vendor shyk’…beeing a revert that is on her DEEN and who is mistaken for somolian on the regular..lol. anywhoo.. i ponder this as i put my 3 year old in school. she’s starting montessori school, not traditional school, and we’re placing her in quranic classes on the weekends. As a bilingual speaker of spanish, i will say that learning the arabic makes the understanding of the Qur’an complete. Not at all implying that Arabic is more superior to any other language.
    Great post non the less.
    ma salaam

  13. advice@advice.org'advice

    Abdul Halim,

    the part that I agree about concerning the Quran is Marqus’ statement that
    “Is God not All-Powerful that He could not manipulate the English language, or any other language, to deliver this miracle? After all, it was the Miracle of the Arabic language which drove home this point to the Arabs of the Prophet’s time. They had never heard an Arabic language like the one that they were encountering when the Prophet recited to them. They would say to the Prophet, “Surely, this is manifest sorcery!” It is precisely that it was a form of Arabic that was Divinely manipulated that makes the Arabic language what it is (at least that in the Qur’an). Pre-Islamic Arabic would not fall into this category (i.e., it was before it was “touched” by God)”

    As far as my statement:
    “Arabic language, because of its rich lexical purity was chosen by God as the vehicle to carry God’s Word to humanity.”
    Then this does not mean that it is nessecatily a product of human endeavor, the issue of whether Allah taught all languages when he taught Adam all the names or if they were later off-shoots from a mother-language is a well know dispute among scholars. both may be defended, but neither of them nessecitate any of the statements made about hot-dog man.

    It can be that Allah endowed the arabic langauge with the nuances that were needed for a book to be an evidence and source until the last day, and only he is able to bring these out, thus getting the result that was the dumbfounding of the arabs at the time of revelation.
    Its possible, arabic could be a man-made language, thats possible to. Nothing will influence Allahs decision however as (He is not asked of what he does, instead they will be questioned.)

    my point was simple, it is illogical and unfair to SUPPOSE that this hot-dog man thought a certain thing based on an ambigious statement, create corrolations from that supposition, then blanketly accuse a people of certain traits.

    I dont have a problem with Marqas nor his statements about Allah’s abilities, the problem was with the manner in which the argument was stated.

  14. abdul.halim2005@gmail.com'abdul-halim

    adivce,

    i feel like you are splitting hairs in order to avoid a certain conclusion… let me try to be more crude in the hopes that the issue might be seen more clearly.

    If we are all Muslims, then we all agree that Islam is great and the Quran is beautiful and the word of God.

    But then there is a question of to what we attribute this greatness and beauty?

    As a non-Arab, I have noticed that there are multiple ways in which Arab Muslims frame certain issues or explain certain topics in ways which suggest that the greatness of Islam is related somehow to the achievements of Arabs as a people.

    I would suggest that this is a really messed up way to present Islam and as Muslims we should do what we can to avoid this way of thinking.

    In my experience, I think I’ve seen a lot of this, and it definitely happens, so I’m not sure what is accomplished by trying to carefully suggest that maybe Hot Dog man doesn’t really believe what Marqas is ascribing to him.

    If we are really talking about the greatness and power of Allah, then God can be equally eloquent in Navajo, French, Hebrew or Ebonics. God could have sent his last messenger to 17th century China or Sibera or the tribespeople in the Central American rainforest.

    But when we move away from that and suggest that God prefered one language over another, arguing that certain cultural traits are more appropriate for divine revelation, that really does start to be a problem.

  15. theblog@manrilla.net'Marqas

    Abdul-Halim makes good points. And Advice, remember that I framed this post around what the Hot Dog man was saying and doing, which was:

    English language was incapable of holding the Word of God (meaning God could not have manipulated English in the way God did Arabic).

    Through the above meaning, Hot Dog man infers that it was the Arabs, because of their nifty language, that garnered the attention of God and therefore had a hand in influencing Revelation, which has always been a top-down phenomenon.

    Keep those points in mind and I think the argument will become more clear for you. Again, Hot Dog man was trying to da’wah to an Blackamerican woman – and this was his way of saying, “Islam is great because…” And that’s why I had issue with it because it was very arrogant and in my opinion, ignorant as well. And because I’ve seen many others like Hot Dog man giving this explination, I wanted address it.

  16. advice@advice.org'advice

    Marqus,
    Thank you for clarifying yourself and the context.
    I may have overlooked that.
    Yes I agree that the approach of Hot-dog man is ignorant.

    Abdul-Halim
    Yes as Marqus said, you have made some good points. ANd I agree that where ever and to whomever Allah sends his revelation than it will be the most eloquent in that particular language.
    Why Allah chose the Arabic language is known only to him. We may infer reasons, but that does not detract from the level of other languages.
    My point in essence is one of approach, I get just as PO’ed at Arabs trying to give the “we are so much better than you thats why you should be a muslim” type of dawah as Marqus does.
    So I’m not saying dont address the issue, just when it is addressed it should be done in the best manner.

    All in all, its been beneficial.
    Marqus I think you should do more on AbdulHakim Jackson defiinition of Shirk. That would be benficial and interesting, seeming that it is a novel defintion.

    peace

  17. theblog@manrilla.net'Marqas

    Advice –

    I’m glad you responded so many times. It seemed like it got a little heated for a sec [which is okay! I like passionate debate]. My main goal of this blog was to foster an environment where Muslims and/or non-Muslims can talk about all kids of issues regarding Islam, culture and what not. And while I may dig in my heels on my opinion, it is just that! As for Dr. Jackson’s definition, I have some notes from a lecture he did earlier this summer in NYC that I need to sit down and compile and post [time’s precious at the moment]. But I will get it done so check back sometime soon and I’ll have it up. Again, thanks for participating and I hope you stop by again.

    Salaams

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