Shedding light on the claim of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas with regard to his knowledge of the Arabic language, this series of articles seeks to answer major allegations raised against the Promised Messiah’sas use of Arabic phrases, his God-given eloquence and his command over the language and the usage of sentences taken from past literature.
Muhammad Tahir Nadeem, Central Arabic Desk
Simple and logical refutation of the allegation of plagiarism with respect to Maqamat Al-Hariri
There are certain phrases in the Arabic works of the Promised Messiahas which are also found with some changes or exactly the same in some other Arabic books of Al-Hariri or Hamdani etc. Ignorant and short-sighted opponents have been objecting to them since the time of the Promised Messiahas till today that the Arabic works of the founder of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat were plagiarised from the said Arabic literature.
The Promised Messiahas himself gave principled answers to these objections and also shed light on the credibility of these allegations. He pointed out key aspects in only some words or a few sentences.
The allegation of plagiarism based on certain identical phrases is groundless
The position of the Promised Messiahas is that this style of congruency of identical words and phrases is also found not only in other literature but also in divine scriptures and the Holy Quran. The phrases of some well-known writers or ancient literature are found in the said books and to object to plagiarism against them is ignorance. In fact, this writing style is appreciated by the authors and is considered as the literary quality. The Promised Messiahas said:
“Alas, they were not at all ashamed to raise this allegation. They did not think that there is no question of objection if these few, i.e. two or four sentences, are taken as coincidences, as is the case in the writings of literary scholars, or if they are considered as a few sentences taken as quotations. Even Hariri has cited some verses of the Holy Quran in his book [Maqamat al-Hariri]. Likewise, there are some excerpts and verses [of various authors and poets which are quoted] that are exactly the same and without any change and some unaltered phrases of Abul Fazl Badi-ul-Zaman are also present in Maqamat al-Hariri.
“Hence, should we now express the opinion that the entire work of Maqamat al-Hariri is a mere collection of plagiarism? In fact, some have even criticised Abu al-Qasim Hariri to the extent that his entire book was compiled by someone else and some say that as he was considered perfect in the art of prose writing, “He was once presented before an amir [ruler] and ordered to write an expression in eloquent Arabic as an examination, but he could not write it and that caused him great embarrassment. Nonetheless, he was counted among the greats by the literary writers and his Maqamat al-Hariri is held in high esteem. However, it is of no use for religious or insightful work because Hariri could not find the ability to write a true and actual tale or the extraordinary words of wisdom and knowledge in the form of an eloquent and expressive composition and prove that he could make use of precise words according to his ideas. On the contrary, he has subdued his ideas according to the words from the beginning to the end, which proves that he was not at all capable of writing an account of an actual event in eloquent Arabic.
“Thus, it is impossible for a person [i.e. the Promised Messiahas], who is only interested in [conveying] divine ideas and his objective is to spread the insightful pearls of wisdom and knowledge, to get any kernel from Hariri’s collection of bones.
“However, it is entirely another matter that under divine providence, some phrases of a person’s work coincidentally correspond with someone else’s, because the scope of some proverbs is so limited that either certain writers will coincide with some others or they will have to leave that idiom which is used conventionally. Beyond any doubt, a place where a certain word is to be adopted keeping in view the qualities of eloquence, for example, the word اقتحم is to be adopted, and no other word can take its place, then it will definitely be used by all the writers and the same word will come out of everyone’s mouth. Surely, an ignorant fool, who is oblivious to rhetorical methods and unfamiliar with diverse details of root words, will say another word in its stead and will be objectionable in the eyes of the literary writers.
“Likewise, authors get into another coincidental situation, that even if 20 people write about a certain subject, who are all scholars and impressive writers, they will rely on the same phrases and arrangement of words to express certain statements. These things are openly recognised by the literary writers and no one disagrees with them. Moreover, if someone examines carefully, the same is the case with every language. For instance, if an articulate person gives a speech in Urdu, he presents various examples and interesting phrases at some point. Thereafter, another impressive orator also delivers a very similar [yet very different speech] and no one, except a mad man, thinks that it is plagiarism. Let alone the works of man, this is also found in the word of God.
“A long list would have to be prepared if some eloquent phrases and proverbs, which are present in the Holy Quran, are tallied with the poems of the poets of the pre-Islamic era. These matters were not considered as objections by the researchers. In fact, for this very reason, the righteous imams had memorised thousands of poems of pre-Islamic poets and they used to quote them as proof to show the eloquence and expressiveness of the Holy Quran.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, pp. 432-434)
Furthermore, the Promised Messiahas said:
“Sometimes I only find out later that a certain Arabic sentence that had been revealed to me by God was, in fact, present in a certain book. God, being the Lord of everything, has the authority to reveal to my heart a fine sentence from some book, or an exquisite verse from some book of poetry.
“This much explanation is for the Arabic, but even more surprising is the fact that I receive revelations in languages like English, Sanskrit or Hebrew, with which I have no familiarity whatsoever. Some specimens of these [revelations] were included in Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya.
“God, in Whose hand is my life, is my witness that this is how He has been dealing with me. This is one of the signs pertaining to matters of the unseen that continue to be revealed to me in various forms.
“My God cares not if any phrase that is revealed to me happens to be present in some Arabic, Sanskrit or English book, because for me, it is a matter of the unseen. For instance, God Almighty has related many episodes from the Torah in the Holy Quran and has included them in the category of the unseen because they were unseen for the Holy Prophetsa, though not for the Jews. Hence, this is why I challenge the whole world to compete with me in writing a miraculous exegesis of the Holy Quran in eloquent Arabic. Otherwise, what is a mere mortal man and what power does a son of Adam have to arrogantly challenge the whole world?” (The Essence of Islam, Vol. 5, pp. 157-158, [Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, pp. 435-436])
In the above extracts and on many other occasions in his works, the Promised Messiahas has described a very important point, and that is that if a phrase or a word is included in the revelation of God, then even though the words are the same, their greatness becomes extraordinary. The one who has been given understanding can observe that the same words, when expressed by some other writer, had no significance, but when this phrase or sentence was included in the revelation of God Almighty, it turned out to be a great prophecy and a glorious work.
The words in which the prophecy about the earthquake was given to the Promised Messiahas was a verse from the poetry of Labid bin Rabi‘ah. Many objections were raised against this revelation. In response to these allegations, the Promised Messiahas stated:
“Also bear in mind that the revelation:
عفت الدّيار محلّها ومقامها
“[‘Temporary residences and permanent ones will be wiped out’] consists of the words that God put into the heart of Labid bin Rabi‘ah al-Amri 1,300 years ago, and it forms the first line of his qaseedah [ode], the fourth qaseedah of the Sab‘ah Mu‘allaqah. Labid lived to witness the advent of Islam, was honoured to embrace Islam, and was among the blessed Companions, may Allah be pleased with them. This is why God honoured his words by revealing a line from his verses as a majestic prophecy about the Latter Days when a country would be devastated. Thus, it is foolish to wonder how the words of a believer could have found their way into divine revelation, because – as I have just explained – the words uttered by Abdullah bin Abi Sarah, viz. فتبارك الله أحسن الخالقين were revealed in the Holy Quran verbatim, which caused him to turn apostate and run away to Mecca. So if divine revelation could coincide with the words of an apostate, what is so strange if it were to coincide with the verse of an eminent Companion like Labid?
“Just as God is the ultimate Heir to everything, He is also the Heir to all chaste speech, and every such pure speech proceeds from the tongue on account of the power and ability bestowed by God Almighty. So, if speech like that descends by way of revelation, only he would entertain doubt regarding it who entertains doubts about Islam. And among the excellences of Labid, one was that he not only saw the time of the Holy Prophet, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, but he also saw a good deal of the victories of Islam. He died in the 41st year of the Hijrah [Islamic calendar] at the age of 157.
“Likewise, the words spoken by Hazrat Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, coincided with the words of the Holy Quran a number of times, as related by Anas, may Allah be pleased with him:
قال قال عمر وَافَقْت رَبِّي في أَرْبَعٍ
“Meaning that ‘Four things were uttered by me and the same were uttered by God Almighty.’
“If I was to mention the experiences of the saints of this blessed Ummah, and how words spoken by other people were revealed to them by God, and how the verses of Rumi’s Mathnawi were revealed to some, this would require a whole separate book. And I know that anyone who is the least bit cognisant of these matters will never claim that the words of God can never coincide with the words of a mortal. Indeed, anyone who has some knowledge of the Shariah [Islamic Law] will consider such a claim to be a cause for apostasy, because such a creed requires rejection of the Holy Quran itself.
“There is also a difficulty here and I think it is appropriate that I resolve that also. It is that if it is permissible for the word of man to coincide with the Word of God, then would this not detract from the miraculous excellence of the Holy Quran? But, as the author of Al-Tafsir al-Kabir and other commentators have written, there is no need for any confusion here, because a miracle is not based upon such a short portion of the text. Otherwise, the individual words used in the Holy Quran are the same that were used by the Arabs. For a discourse to be considered miraculous in nature, it has to size up to the criteria laid down by the Holy Quran; namely, that it should be at least as long as the shortest surah of the Holy Quran or equal to 10 Quranic verses. I do, however, say that when a man’s words become the words of God in the form of revelation, they do take on a miraculous character. For instance, this very revelation from Allah:
عَفَتِ الدّيار محلّها ومقامها
[‘Temporary residences and permanent ones will be wiped out’] was not a miracle when it issued from the tongue of Labid, may Allah be pleased with him, but after appearing in the form of revelation, it has now become a miracle.
“All Labid did was to speak of bygone events – the description of which lies within human power. But now, when God caused His revelation to coincide with Labid’s words, He gives the news of great future events that are beyond the power of man to foretell. So, the same words, when ascribed to Labid, do not constitute a miracle, but when attributed to God they undoubtedly became miraculous. A year ago, who knew that a large portion of this country would be destroyed and rendered uninhabitable by a terrible earthquake? Who knew that so many towns and villages would be swallowed up by the earth in an instant, and buildings would collapse and disappear as though they had never existed? This is exactly what a miracle is: Something should transpire that no one could previously think – or even imagine – to be possible.” (Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya Part V, pp. 233-35 [English Translation])
Hence, the above explanation clearly substantiates that the view of the Promised Messiahas is true that if a few phrases or words of old literature found in someone’s work are considered as plagiarism, then no book will be safe from it and even the sacred scriptures and the Holy Quran will not be exempted from this accusation.
(Research conducted by Muhammad Tahir Nadeem Sahib, Arabic Desk UK. Translated by Al Hakam)