Are there any grammatical mistakes in the Arabic works of the Promised Messiah? – Part I

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Last Updated on 1st January 2021

وأمّا قول المعرض الفتّان أن ذي مِرَّةٍ اسم الشيطان، وقال أن المِرّة هي مادة الصفراء ، وباطل كل ما يخالفه من الآراء، فهذا كلّه كذب ودجل وتلبيس، ونعوذ باللّٰه من الدجّالين المفتّنين۔ بل الأمر الصحيح الذي يوجد نظائره في كلماتِ بلغاء لسان العرب ونوابغ ذوي الأدب، أن أصل المِرّة إحكامُ الفَتْل وإدارة الخيوط عند الوصل، كما قال صاحب تاج العروس شارح القاموس، ثم نقلوا هٰذا اللفظ من الإحكام والإدارة إلي نتيجته أعني إلي القوة والطاقة، فإن الحبل إذا أُحكِمَ فَتْلُه فلا بد من أن يتقوّي بعد أن يُشَدّ ويُسَوَّي، ويكون كشيء قويّ متين۔ ثم نُقِلَ منه إلي العقل، لأن العقل طاقة تحصل بعد إمرار مقدمات وإحكام مشاهدات تُجَلِّيها الحسُّ المشترك من الحواسّ بإذن ربّ الناس وأحسن الخالقين

“This detractor, who seeks to create disorder, asserts that ذِي‭ ‬مِرَّةٍ [dhi mirrah – possessor of power] is a name for Satan. He also says that المِرَّة [al-mirrah] means yellow bile and rejects every view that contradicts this. All of this is of course untrue, deceitful and deceptive and we seek protection with Allah from the deceivers and mischief-makers. 

“To the contrary, the correct and original meaning of al-mirrah – the example of which is found in the speech of the most eloquent Arabic speakers and the most eminent intellectuals – is ihkam-ul-fatl [the precise twisting of twine] and idarat-ul-khuyut [the interlacing of threads] upon joining them together. 

“This is what the author of Taj-ul-‘Arus, the commentator of al-Qamus, has written. This word [al-mirrah] then evolved from al-ihkam [precise twisting] and al-idarah [interlacing] to its eventual meaning; that is, ‘strength’ and ‘power’. For when a rope is twisted tightly, it follows without question that after being pulled tight it becomes stronger and becomes like a thing that is strong and firm. 

“From here, the term [al-mirrah] began to be applied to intelligence – much like الحقل [al-haql — i.e. pure, dry land] evolved to الحقل [al-haql —i.e. fertile land with new crops] – because intelligence itself is a strength that is attained after the establishing of premises and refining of observations which the sensorium perceives through the physical senses by leave of the Lord of mankind and the Best of creators.” (Nur-ul-Haq Part I, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 8, pp. 165-166)

Referring to the above-mentioned excerpt from the Arabic writing of the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas, the opponents submit that the phrase يوجد‭ ‬نظائره is structurally weak in Arabic and it should have been له‭ ‬نظائره. Moreover, they object that the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat has made a grammatical mistake by using a feminine form of the verb for al-hiss al-mushtarak [sensorium] in the phrase تُجَلِّيها‭ ‬الحسُّ‭ ‬المشترك while in Arabic, it is masculine and the correct phrase should have been يُجَلِّيها‭ ‬الحسُّ‭ ‬المشترك. 

As far as the allegation about the phrase يوجد‭ ‬نظائره is concerned, a similar phrase has been used by many other literary scholars of Arabic language. For example, in a book present in the collection of Al-Maktabah al-Shamilah, it is stated:

في‭ ‬هذا‭ ‬الموضوع‭ ‬قد‭ ‬ينظر‭ ‬الي‭ ‬مقدمة‭ ‬اطراف‭ ‬الغرائب‭ ‬و‭ ‬الافراد‭ ‬لمحمد‭ ‬بن‭ ‬طاهر‭ ‬المقدسي۔۔۔‭ ‬و‭ ‬علي‭ ‬تقسيم‭ ‬المقدسي‭ ‬ان‭ ‬الغرائب‭ ‬و‭ ‬الافراد‭ ‬علي‭ ‬خمسة‭ ‬انواع۔‭ ‬و‭ ‬النوع‭ ‬الاول‭ ‬هو‭ ‬الغريب‭ ‬و‭ ‬الفرد‭ ‬الصحيح‭ ‬الذي‭ ‬يوجد‭ ‬نظائره‭ ‬في‭ ‬الصيحيحين۔

“In this matter, we should examine the preface of the book, Atraf al-Garaib wa al-Afrad, of Muhammad bin Tahir al-Maqdisi … According to the division of Al-Maqdisi, there are five types of Al-Gharaib wa al-Afrad. The first type is Al-Gharib wa al-Fard al-Sahih, and its examples are found in Sahihain [Sahih al-Bukhari and Muslim].” (Arsheef Multaqa Ahl al-Hadith, Bab II, Juz‘ 16, p. 457)

At another place in the same book, it is written:

و‭ ‬هل‭ ‬يوجد‭ ‬نظائر‭ ‬لها‭ ‬فی ‬المذاهب‭ ‬الاخری

“Do you find any other examples of similar kind in other religions?” (Arsheef Multaqa Ahl al-Hadith, Bab 3, Juz’ 48, p. 185)

The above examples clearly show that the phrase used by the Promised Messiahas has been used by an Arabic writer in his book which has been added in the great collection of Al-Maktabah al-Shamilah. Hence, the opponents are wrong in saying that it is a weak phrase.

The second objection of the opponents is that the phrase تُجَلِّيها‭ ‬الحسُّ‭ ‬المشترك is grammatically wrong because the word al-hiss al-mushtarak is masculine and the form of verb used by the Promised Messiahas is feminine. 

Before responding, it is important to note that the enemies of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat lay great emphasis that this objection should not be addressed by referring to the exceptions which are present in the Arabic grammar. This stress amply demonstrates that the opponents certainly know, deep down in their hearts, that there is no grammatical error in the said Arabic phrase of the Promised Messiahas.

There are countless examples in the Holy Quran, ahadith and literary works of Arabic writers, where feminine pronouns or forms of the verbs are used for masculine words and vice versa. This is a common practice in Arabic literature because writers sometimes discard the actual meaning of the words and use feminine or masculine forms of the verbs according to their own intended meaning. 

Allah the Almighty says:

فَلَا تَعۡلَمُ نَفۡسٌ مَّاۤ اُخۡفِیَ لَہُمۡ مِّنۡ قُرَّۃِ اَعۡیُنٍ ۚ جَزَآءًۢ بِمَا کَانُوۡا یَعۡمَلُوۡنَ

“And no soul knows what joy of the eyes is kept hidden for them, as a reward for their good works” (Surah al-Sajdah, Ch.32: V.18). In this verse, the feminine form of the verb has been used for the singular noun nafs [soul], but the masculine plural pronoun lahum has been used afterwards to show that it is referring to people.

At another place in the Holy Quran, God Almighty says:

وَ اَعۡتَدۡنَا لِمَنۡ کَذَّبَ بِالسَّاعَۃِ سَعِیۡرًا۔ اِذَا رَاَتۡہُمۡ مِّنۡ مَّکَانٍۭ بَعِیۡدٍ سَمِعُوۡا لَہَا تَغَیُّظًا وَّ زَفِیۡرًا

“For those who deny the Hour We have prepared a blazing fire, when it sees them from a place far off, they will hear its raging and roaring” (Surah al-Furqan, Ch.25: V. 12-13). The word sa‘ir is masculine in Arabic but feminine form of verb ra‘at has been used for it because the intended meaning is fire, which is feminine.

Allah the Almighty states:

فَلَمَّا‭ ‬رَاَ‭ ‬الشَّمۡسَ‭ ‬بَازِغَةً‭ ‬قَالَ‭ ‬هٰذَا‭ ‬رَبِّیْ ‬هٰذَاۤ‭ ‬اَكۡبَرُ

“And when he saw the sun rise with spreading light, he said: ‘This is my Lord, this is the greatest’” (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.79). The masculine pronoun haza has been used in this verse for the noun shams which is feminine because it is referring to zia [light], which is masculine.

God Almighty says:

فَمَنۡ‭ ‬جَآءَهٗ‭ ‬مَوۡعِظَةٌ‭ ‬مِّنۡ‭ ‬رَّبِّهٖ

“So he to whom an admonition comes from his Lord” (Surah al-Baqarah, Ch.2: V.276). The word mauizatun is feminine but masculine singular pronoun hi is used to show that it means wa’z [admonition], which is masculine.

Allah the Almighty states:

وَ‭ ‬اِذَا‭ ‬حَضَرَ‭ ‬الۡقِسۡمَةَ‭ ‬اُولُوا‭ ‬الۡقُرۡبٰي‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬الۡيَتٰمٰي‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬الۡمَسٰكِيۡنُ‭ ‬فَارۡزُقُوۡهُمۡ‭ ‬مِّنۡهُ‭ ‬وَ‭ ‬قُوۡلُوۡا‭ ‬لَهُمۡ‭ ‬قَوۡلًا‭ ‬مَّعۡرُوۡفًا‭ ‬

“And when other relations and orphans and the poor are present at the division of heritage, give them something therefrom and speak to them words of kindness” (Surah al-Nisa, Ch.4: V.9). The noun qismatun is feminine but masculine plural pronoun hum has been used by God to signify that it means maqsum, i.e. all the mentioned relations, which is masculine plural.

God Almighty says:

وَ اِنَّ لَکُمۡ فِی الۡاَنۡعَامِ لَعِبۡرَۃً ؕ نُسۡقِیۡکُمۡ مِّمَّا فِیۡ بُطُوۡنِہٖ 

“And surely in the cattle too there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of what is in their bellies” (Surah an-Nahl, Ch.16: V.67). Singular pronoun hi is used for plural noun an‘am which indicates that it is referring to na‘am [cattle], which is singular.

In a hadith of Abu Dawud, Hazrat Malikra narrates:

قَالَ‭ ‬لاَ‭ ‬بَأْسَ‭ ‬بِالدُّعَاءِ‭ ‬فِی‭ ‬الصَّلاَةِ‭ ‬فِی ‬أَوَّلِهِ‭ ‬وَأَوْسَطِهِ‭ ‬وَفِی ‬آخِرِهِ‭ ‬فِی ‬الْفَرِيضَةِ‭ ‬وَغَيْرِهَا‭۔

“There is no harm in beseeching dua [prayer] in the beginning, middle and end of an obligatory or supererogatory Salat” (Sunan Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Salat). In this hadith, the masculine pronoun hi has been used three time for Salat, which is feminine in Arabic language.

As previously mentioned, it is a common practice of Arabs that they bring feminine or masculine forms of verbs according to the meanings they have in mind, whether they agree or disagree with the actual feminine or masculine forms of those nouns. For example, a poet says:

ما‭ ‬عندنا‭ ‬الّا‭ ‬ثلاثة‭ ‬انفس

مثل‭ ‬النجوم‭ ‬تلالات‭ ‬فی ‬الحندس

“I have no one, but three people who shine like stars in the dark night.” According to the grammatical rule of Arabic numbers in the first verse, masculine salasu was required for anfusin because it is feminine, but the poet has used anfusin as three persons, which are masculine and thus feminine salasatu is correct. In the second verse, the poet has considered anfusin as feminine and used feminine form of the verb tala‘la‘at.

Likewise, Umar ibn Abi Rabiah says:

فكان‭ ‬مجنی ‬دون‭ ‬ما‭ ‬كنت‭ ‬اتقی‬

ثلاث‭ ‬شخوص‭ ‬كاعبان‭ ‬و‭ ‬معصر

“Three women serve as my shield and I take refuge behind it. Two of them have fully grown breasts and one is very young.” In the second verse according to the Arabic rule, feminine salastu was required for masculine shakhusin, but the poet has used masculine salasu because he intended to mean nisa [women], which is a feminine noun.

Hazrat Imam Al-Suyutirh states:

الحس‭ ‬المشترك‭  ‬قوة‭ ‬اذا‭ ‬ارتسم‭ ‬صورة‭ ‬شئي‭ ‬فيها‭ ‬صار‭ ‬ذالك‭ ‬الشيئ‭ ‬مشاهدا

According to Imam Sahibrhal-hiss al-mushtarak is a kind of quwwat [power of mind]. (Mujam Maqalid al-Uloom fi al-Hudood wa ar-Rasum, Juz‘ 1, p. 132)

The above example clearly shatters the second objection of the opponents because the Promised Messiahas has used the feminine form of the verb for al-hiss al-mushtarak because he was referring to the quwwat [power of mind], which is feminine and there is nothing wrong about it.

In the end, we present an excerpt of the Promised Messiahas in which he sheds light on a similar allegation raised by a Maulvi Asghar Ali, Professor of Islamia College, Lahore. 

The Promised Messiahas explained that the field of sarf wa nahw [principles of Arabic grammar] is very vast and a person can easily consider a correct phrase to be wrong. Moreover, he made it clear that there was no question of objection if he accidentally made a grammatical mistake in his writings or a scribe committed an error while copying or transcribing. 

The Promised Messiahas said:

“Allah the Almighty knows that these [Arabic] writings were composed like ordinary letters by sparing a couple of hours out of my busy schedule each day. At the same time, the copyist would keep writing them as well. By chance, if I ever have an entire free day, around a hundred couplets are prepared in one day. This day is also slightly free because if you [Maulvi Asghar Ali] happen to visit this place, you will know how busy the days and nights are over here. The situation of incoming letters is such that sometimes 300 to 500 letters are received on a monthly basis. Moreover, I have to reply to some letters in form of treatises [i.e. lengthy answers are written] …

“In these circumstances, you can understand that if there occurs a mistake in a book because to err is human, then there is nothing wrong in that. In fact, it is a matter of concern if there is no mistake. Many righteous and pious people live here and from time to time, learned intellectuals and writers come and stay. Moreover, a group of scholars reside here who never leave this place. You can easily enquire about my style of writing from them. If you do, you will find that my works are a miracle …

“Once I write something, I do not get a chance to review it. Consequently, if any grammatical or syntactic error remains in such writings, then what is wrong in that? Where have I claimed that this is impossible? In this short opportunity of time and in such a hurry, whatever passes on through my pen, I consider it from God Almighty. However, it is totally my mishap if a mistake happens. Moreover, a scriber’s error should also be considered.

“On the other hand, you should bear in mind that one should not rush to find out errors of sarf and nahw [Arabic grammar]. It is not long before an opponents’ maulvi pointed out similar errors in book. Another sincere scholar removed that misconception by presenting similar examples from the Holy Quran and corrected him. Once, an opponent argued about the meter of an [Arabic] couplet. There and then, an Arabic scholar presented a couplet of a famous Muslim poet from the early era, [which had the same meter]. It is a blessing of God Almighty that a great number of literary writers, who belong to Syria, Medina and our own country, Indian, are part of our Jamaat. 

“Moreover, scholars also come to stay here from time to time. Dear friend! the field of sarf wa nahw is very vast.” (Al Hakam, 17 October 1903, Letter to Maulvi Asghar Ali Sahib, Professor Islamia College, Lahore)

Click here for Part II

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