Swallow more than your pride.

*Post edited and corrected on 28-10-08

al-Salāmu ‘alaykum wa rahmatullāh,

It has been narrated that a major scholar of the past [1] used to try and fault the Qur’an by searching for flaws in its language. His attempts and studies lasted months, during which time a group of men would frequent his house and ask him whether he had found anything yet. Eventually, he smashed his ink pot and broke his pen, and replied, “None can dispute that this is the Speech of Allah!” He then left the house and passed by a mosque, from which he heard the voice of a young boy reciting the verse,

وَقِيلَ يَا أَرْضُ ابْلَعِي مَاءكِ وَيَا سَمَاء أَقْلِعِي وَغِيضَ الْمَاء وَقُضِيَ الأَمْرُ وَاسْتَوَتْ عَلَى الْجُودِيِّ وَقِيلَ بُعْداً لِّلْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ
And it was said, “O earth, swallow your water, and O sky, withhold [your rain].” And the water subsided, and the matter was accomplished, and the ship came to rest on the [mountain of] Judiyy. And it was said, “Away with the wrongdoing people.” (Hood, verse 44)

to which the man remarked, “It is not possible that a human could produce such words.”

The verse in question is one of the most beautiful, eloquent, rhetorical verses of the Qur’an, as the scholars of Arabic balaaghah (rhetoric) identified within it more than twenty-five different rhetorical devices (fann balaaghee) within just 17 words! [2]

When the Prophet (peace be upon him)  would pray in the Ka’bah in Makkah, the Qurayshis would laugh at him, curse him, throw rocks at him, and ridicule him. One day he was sitting with some companions around the Ka’bah and recited to them Surah al-Najm, within earshot of the Quraysh. Everyone listened intently until he (peace be upon him) went on to recite the last few verses of this chapter,

أَفَمِنْ هَذَا الْحَدِيثِ تَعْجَبُونَ * وَتَضْحَكُونَ وَلَا تَبْكُونَ * وَأَنتُمْ سَامِدُونَ * فَاسْجُدُوا لِلَّهِ وَاعْبُدُوا

Then at this statement do you wonder? And you laugh and do not weep? While you are proudly sporting? So prostrate to Allah and worship [Him].

By the time this last verse was recited, they all fell involuntarily into prostration as commanded in the verse, mesmerised by the beauty and truth of what they had just heard.

And the conversion story of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab is a well-known one. He was one of the staunchest enemies of Islam, one of the strongest men in Makkah, who was sworn to kill the man who called himself the Prophet of God. Sword in hand, he set about to accomplish the task he had set himself and on the way was asked by a man he passed on the street as to the nature of his mission. When ‘Umar told the man of his intentions, the man told him to worry about his own sister first. In a fit of rage, he went to his sister’s house to kill her first if the news was true. He asked her whether she had accepted Islam, and when she replied in the affirmative he slapped her so hard that blood fell from her face. He noticed some paper in her hand, so he asked her what she was carrying. When she told him she could not give him the papers as he was not pure, he tore them from her hands and began to read the words written on them (listen),

طه * مَا أَنزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ لِتَشْقَى * إِلَّا تَذْكِرَةً لِّمَن يَخْشَى * تَنزِيلاً مِّمَّنْ خَلَقَ الْأَرْضَ وَالسَّمَاوَاتِ الْعُلَى * الرَّحْمَنُ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ اسْتَوَى * لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا وَمَا تَحْتَ الثَّرَى  * وَإِن تَجْهَرْ بِالْقَوْلِ فَإِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ السِّرَّ وَأَخْفَى* اللَّهُ لَا إِلَهَ إِلَّا هُوَ لَهُ الْأَسْمَاء الْحُسْنَى

Ta, Ha. * We have not sent down to you the Qur’an that you be distressed * But only as a reminder for those who fear [ Allah ] * A revelation from He who created the earth and highest heavens, * The Most Merciful [who is] above the Throne established*  To Him belongs what is in the heavens and what is on the earth and what is between them and what is under the soil. * And if you speak aloud – then indeed, He knows the secret and what is [even] more hidden * Allah – there is no deity except Him. To Him belong the best names.

Upon reading the words on the paper, ‘Umar’s eyes filled with tears. He demanded from his sister that she tell him where this man Muhammad (peace be upon him) was, and after making him promise not to harm the Prophet (peace be upon him) he set out to find him. The Prophet (peace be upon him) could tell who was at the door from the strength of his knock, so opened the door and greeted his visitor with the words, “Isn’t it about time you became Muslim, O ‘Umar?” to which he received the reply, “I bear witness that there is no God worthy of worship other than Allaah, and I bear witness that you are the Messenger of Allaah.”

The question that remains to be asked is: What did these men have in common?

The answer (among other things)? They all had a deep, solid, understanding and appreciation of the Arabic language, its syntax, semantics, rhetorical and literary devices, poetry, prose, and all else a mastery of any language entails. An understanding that allowed them to immediately discern that the difference between the speech of God and the speech of His creation is the difference between God and His creation itself. An understanding of the language that allowed them to recognise the truth and submit to it without giving another moment’s consideration to the issue at hand. An understanding that enabled them to recognise the miraculous nature of the Qur’anic text, and use this recognition as a base on which to build their faith.

Perhaps we will never be able to acheive the same appreciation and understanding of the language of the Qur’an as they did, but who can dispute that we owe it to our souls, to our faith, to at least try.

[1] It has been said that he was the well-known Ibn al-Muqaffa’. But the narration appeared without naming the man in  al-Jadwal fee I’raab al-Qur’aan wa Sarfuhu wa Bayaanuhu by Mahmood Safi (6/278).

[2] This is not a suitable place to discuss these rhetorical devices, as a background of balaaghah is first required. But if anyone is versed in Arabic and would like to read more, I recommend them to refer to the book Kifaayat al-Alma’ee Fee Ayat Yaa Ard Ibla’ee by Muhammad ibn al-Jazaree (published by Dar al-Afaq al-Jadidah in Bayrut, 2003), or to refer to Tafseer al-Bahr al-Muheet by Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi.


34 responses to “Swallow more than your pride.

  1. Welcome back Sister!
    Masha Allah you have come back with a bang. No wonder that Arabic Language itself is a miracle amongst languages of the world and Quran, well what to say about it; it is the Ultimate Miracle.

    May Allah bless you with what is best in the Hereafter and this world!

  2. Oh. Welcome back.


  3. this was well worth the wait.

  4. Jazak Allahu Khairan for the words of wisdom!

  5. as-salamu ‘alaykum

    A wonderfully inspiring post to mark your return. Welcome back. 🙂

  6. Assalam Alaikum Wa Rahmatullah

    that was beautiful jazakeeAllaahu khairan

  7. As-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmatullaah

    Mashaa’Allaah, that was an excellent post – welcome back ukhti wa jazaakillaahu khayran

  8. Assalaamu`alaykum wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuh,

    Amazing subhaan’Allaah. Jazaakillaahu khayran for this awesome post!

  9. assalaamu`alaikum

    I came across your blog when you were away and I have been waiting patiently to read more of your brilliant posts, subhanAllah!

    May Allah reward you generously for sharing these gems with us!

  10. Pingback: Swallow more than your pride at Ijtema

  11. mashaa Allah sis, jazakee Allahu khayran for this. These stories and the underlying messages you have pulled out from them are immense motivating factors behind pushing one to study the beautiful language of the Qur’an. inshaa’Allah these gems will not go to waste. Assalaamu alaykum wr wb

  12. wa alaykum as-salam warahmatullah!

    I dont normally spam the comments section just to say how much I enjoy these gems you hold up to the light for us to be mesmerised by..

    but boy have I missed these – so jazakillah khair for this one and each and every one.
    Moreover, as others have, may I say:

    Welcome back.
    We missed you.

  13. Excellent post!

    If you like to read Islamic Arabic lectures that have been translated into English please visit DaralislaamLive non-profit: http://www.daralislaamlive.com it has translated lectures of Amr Khaled, Wagdi Ghonem and Khalid Abudllah. For all people who love to read more on Islam! If you like it, please share it, bookmark it, advertise it, jazakum Allah kheir!

  14. Wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam wa rahmat Allaah,

    sheepoo, hafsa, salafiya, fajr, umm khawla, osman, aish al-akhirah and ”, wa iyyaakum khayr al-jazaa’.

    Everyone else, thank you for your comments, and thank you for your patience with me. At the risk of sounding cliched, it really is good to be ‘back’, but ask you all to make dua that my internet problem is resolved soon, so that my return may be more permanent in shaa’ Allaah.

    May Allaah allow you all to increase in benefit and knowledge so that the posts may continue from other people in my absences. Ameen.

  15. SuhaylBinAbdAl-Matin

    Assalamu ‘alaykum Wa Rahmathullah Wa Barakathuhu

    JazakAllah Khaira for this beneficial article. I really enjoy reading your articles, al-Hamdulillah masha Allah.


  16. Welcome back, dear Sister 🙂 Alhamdulillah, that you have returned safely, and have provided another of your illuminating posts. This one brought tears to my old eyes.

    May Allah bless you for the good you do!

    Ya Haqq!

  17. Assalamualaikum sister,

    Very nice work. I look forward to reading your future articles! Please do keep up with the amazing work and enlighten us with the knowledge you have.

    Syukran Kathiran

  18. Dear Sis, Its marvellous to narrate these incidents which definitely increase the Iman of all the readers. How do you rate Imam Raghib Asfahanis Mufarridaat ul Quraan, is there any other better work on this subject.
    TQ, JZKA
    DR Mateen India

  19. Wa ‘alaykum al-Salaam wa rahmat Allaah wa barakaatuhu,

    SuhaylBinAbdAl-Matin, wa iyyaakum. Ameen.

    Irving, thank you. I now have internet in my classroom al-Hamdu lillaah, so I hope in shaa’ Allaah to update more frequently after Ramadan.

    Hamba Allaah, thank you. In shaa’ Allaah I will.

    Dr M A Mateen, I personally like it very much and refer to it constantly. He occasionally even refers to the different types of ishtiqaq in there.

  20. ‘alaykumsalam my siter in Islam….

    mashaAllah….subhanAllah……. May Allah rewards you much with the knowledge that you have shared with us and the world. Indeed these are truly mesmerizing.
    Jazakallahu khairan…….

  21. toobalilghoraba

    as’salam alykom warahmatullah wabarakatu,
    Wallah I miss these kind of articles., Jazakillah khairan for this lovely site.

  22. Wa alaykum al-Salaam wa rahmatullaahi wa barakaatuhu,

    bintNaim, ameen, wa iyyaakum. Jazaakillaahu khayran for the du’aa.’

    toobalilghoraba, welcome. I will try to post more often bi idhnillaah. Wa iyyaaki, ameen.

  23. Abdul At-Tawwaab

    AsSalaamu Alaikum,

    JazakAllahu Khayran sister for such detailed explanations of the arabic language and the Qu’ran.
    Al Hamdu lillah, it motivates me to continue in my learning of arabic inshaAllah.

    May Allah (S.W.T) bless you with the best of His Bounty for your efforts sister.

    AsSalaamu Alaikum

  24. Wa laekumus salam ..

    An inspiring and appreciating article..
    May allah reward you for this

  25. keep them coming! great posts! mashaALLAH!

  26. Pingback: Swallow more than your pride « The Blog of Kerati Balahs

  27. that was beautiful jazakeeAllaahu khairan

  28. asalaamu ‘alayki,

    i just wanted to say that the phrase “laa ilaaha illAllaah” should be translated as “there is no one worthy of worship except Allaah” – although the literal translation is “there is no god but Allaah” – this is a misconception – refer to the works of the scholars for more clarification:

    Click to access StatementTawheed.pdf

    Click to access The%20Preference%20of%20Laa%20Ilaha%20Illa%20Allah.pdf

    baarak Allaahu feeki

  29. AOA:

    Very nice work. I look forward to reading your future articles! Please do keep up with the amazing work and enlighten us with the knowledge you have.

  30. Pingback: Swallow more than your pride. (via Arabic Gems ~ جواهر العربية) | quran reciter blog

  31. Pingback: Swallow more than your pride. - Forum

  32. mashallah subhan Allah for shore it is the true word of Allah and it can not be created or contain any fault it is the word or truth

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