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
The reality of Al-Sarf wa Al-Nahw [morphology and grammar of Arabic]
Opponents, due to their lack of knowledge and ignorance, try to assess the quality of the Arabic language of the Promised Messiahas in light of the few commonly known rules of Arabic and this lack of understanding is the real reason behind their very many objections.
The Promised Messiahas had a deep knowledge of the truth and reality of these rules of Arabic grammar, so he recorded an opinion about Arabic rules and grammar, which is even confirmed by modern day scholars.
The Promised Messiahas said:
“The lughat of Arabs, which is the real key to sarf wa nahw [morphology and grammar], is a limitless river and Imam Shafi‘i’srh saying in this regard is very accurate:
لا يعلمه الّا نبيّ
“That is, ‘No one can acquire complete knowledge of this language and understand its variety of idioms, save a prophet.’ This statement also proves that it is not in everyone’s power to gain command over every aspect of this language, and grasping it in its entirety is from the miracles of prophets, peace be upon them.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 437)
In the above statement, the Promised Messiahas has very succinctly presented such a great argument that in only a handful of lines, the whole reality of Arabic morphology and grammar has been brought to light. The Promised Messiahas said that sarf wa nahw was formed according to the Arabic lughat. Hence, its key lies in the lughat of Arabs. Since the Arabic lughat is a limitless river, it is wise enough to understand that a limitless river cannot be confined into limited rules of Arabic sarf wa nahw.
In addition, the Promised Messiahas has also discussed the philosophy of sarf wa nahw in detail and has shed light on some of its important aspects. The Promised Messiahas said:
“Sarf and Nahw is a knowledge that should always be conditional upon the idioms and common speech of the people of the language, and the testimony of the people of the language against [any rule of grammar] at once rejects the artificial rules of nahw wa sarf. Allah and His Messengersa did not oblige us to take the self-composed sarf wa nahw rules of human beings as a guide for ourselves when the meaning of a particular verse [of the Holy Quran] are made clear to us in a complete and perfect manner, and not abandon this sarf or nahw rule when testimonies of the native akabir momineen [greatest of the believers] are also found [in favour of that meaning]. We do not even find the need to criticise this [bad] innovation. Is it not enough for us that Allah and His Messengersa and his Companions have conveyed us the true meaning [of a verse]? The rules of nahw and sarf are post-occurrences and it is not our belief that these people are free of any mistake in their self-composed rules and their eyes have grasped the deep sayings of the Divine Word [the Holy Quran], beyond which the door to search and follow is closed. I know that even you do not think they are free of any mistake. You know that the verse إِنْ هَذَانِ لَسَاحِرَانِ is also present in the Holy Quran, but can you give an example of any ancient Arab’s saying which says إِنْ هَذَانِinstead of إِنْ هَذَينِ. To this day, not a single grammarian has claimed that we have perfected grammatical rules to such an extent that it is now impossible for any new matter to occur or for any kind of error to occur in our research. Hence, adhering to invented rules of sarf wa nahw is not from hujaj-e-shariah [incumbent by divine law]. This knowledge is merely an afterthought and post occurrence and no divine evidence can be found that they are error free. The principles of the knowledge of lughat are a limitless river. Unfortunately, those who set our rules of sarf wa nahw gave up very soon and did not carry out the research as was required. They never intended, nor could they, to formulate complete and perfect rules with a deep and profound look by keeping in view the extensive meanings of the words of the Holy Quran, and thus left their works unfinished. Our faith must compel us that we should not make the Holy Quran subject to them in any way, but to correct our old and incomplete nahw according to the wide range of meanings of the words of the Holy Quran.
“It is also important to keep in mind that every language is and will always be in circulation. A person who will now go to the country of Arabia and observe, he will know how much difference has occurred in the Arabic language from the old languages. [There are so many variations] that for example, اگد is spoken in place of the word اقعد. In the same way, many idioms have been changed. It is not known how much the time in which attention was paid to the formulation of sarf wa nahw rules differed from the time of the Holy Prophetsa and how much change had occurred in the idioms. The morphologists and grammarians are also convinced that despite the existing rules, there is a significant portion of anti-conjecture words and anti-conjecture sequence of words, and the limits of this [group of words and structures] is still unknown, and it has not yet come under any rule.
“Hence, the present sarf and nahw that we have in our hands is only to teach kids about the simple rules [of grammar]. To consider it a flawless guide and free from error and mistake is the work of those who consider someone else other than Allah and His Messengersa to be infallible. Allah the Almighty told us:
فَاِنۡ تَنَازَعۡتُمۡ فِيۡ شَيۡءٍ فَرُدُّوۡهُ اِلَي اللّٰهِ وَ الرَّسُوۡلِ
Meaning that if you differ in anything among yourselves, refer its decision to Allah and His Messengersa, and only let Allah and His Messengersa to be the judge and no one else. Now, how is it possible to let the ignorant morphologists and grammarians to be the judge instead of Allah and His Messengersa? Is there any argument in favour of them? It is surprising that after being called the followers of sunnah [way of the Holy Prophetsa], one should turn to someone other than the pure and holy fountain head of Allah and His Messengersa.
“You should keep in mind that it is not my belief that the existing rules of sarf wa nahw are free from errors or that they are complete and perfect for certain reasons. If you believe in this, then in support of this belief, either present a verse of the Holy Quran or show a sahih hadith, otherwise your argument is a baseless nonsensical idea, and not a hujjat-e-shariah.” (Al-Haq Mubahathah Dehli, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 4, pp. 183-184)
The summary of the philosophy mentioned in the above extract of the Promised Messiahas about the rules of sarf wa nahw is as follows:
1. The scholars of sarf wa nahw are not free from error and mistake.
2. The rules of the Arabic language are not perfect, nor are they comprehensive in the sense that all kinds of matters are considered to be included in them. Hence, there might be many things which do not fall under any of these rules.
3. Following the rules made by the scholars of sarf wa nahw is not a hujjat-e-shariah, so it is not incumbent to adhere to them in all circumstances.
4. The key to sarf wa nahw is in Arabic lughat and since the Arabic lughat is a limitless river, so it is wise enough to understand that a limitless river cannot be confined into limited rules.
5. No one can have a perfect command on the Arabic language except for the prophet of God.
6. The linguists’ method of making grammatical rules of the Arabic language is flawed and incomplete.
7. Understanding of the Holy Quran should not be based only on the current commonly known rules, but it is necessary to understand the Holy Quran by considering the Holy Quran as an authority on all these rules. That is, if a change in these rules reveals the pearls of wisdom and meanings of the Holy Quran, then it would be perfectly fine to change the rule. Moreover, if a new rule manifests new meanings of the Holy Quran, it must be considered one of the strongest rules in the Arabic language.
8. The grammarians acknowledge this fact that there are many words in the Arabic language that do not fall under the popular rules of Arabic.
The present grammarians also support this view of the Promised Messiahas. Abbas Hassan, the author of Al-Nahw Al-Wafi, writes about nahw:
“The first thing a researcher gets to read about nahw are the different opinions about a grammatical problem and based on these opinions there are different rules or views of various grammarian about the same problem. Even if one comes to the conclusion that one of these opinions is the most correct, a common man can easily say without researching that another opinion is against the said view because they know that none of the rules of nahw and its principles are free from two or more conflicting opinions.” (Mulakhas az Sareeh Ar-Ra‘y fi Al-Nahw Al-Arabi Da‘uh wa Dawa‘uh Al-Maqalatul Ula li Al-Ustadh Abbas Hassan)
There is a great deal of disagreement on the principles of grammar. In this regard, there is a difference of opinion between two well-known schools of thoughts, Basri and Kufi. The Kufis accept everything, even if only one example is found in its favour. It is for this reason that they have also accepted the Qira‘at [different reading and recitation styles] of the Holy Quran. However, Basris say that no lughat can be called eloquent by a single example, but at the same time, they have not set any standard or number on the basis of which a lughat can be called eloquent or non-eloquent.
This difference of opinions is in itself an acknowledgment of the authenticity of the sayings of the Promised Messiahas that rules of sarf wa nahw are not a hujjat-e-shariah to be accepted blindly. Moreover, they have not been formulated by looking at all the lughaat and usages. In fact, when a lot of literature, lughaat and knowledge were lost, then the rules based on the rest of the literature and knowledge will remain flawed.
Explaining this matter, the Promised Messiahas said:
“A person cannot understand the Arabic idioms and acquire complete knowledge of their sarf wa nahw [morphology and grammar] unless, firstly, one is well-versed in the language of Arabs; secondly, one has gone through all the couplets of pre-Islamic poets; thirdly, one has carefully studied the vast early literature of language, which contains Arabic idioms and has reached the pinnacle of proficiency in [Arabic] knowledge.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 436)
If someone has lesser knowledge than the criterion mentioned in the above statement, then it is possible that some of the rules of sarf wa nahw of the Arabic language and some of the idioms, structures and usages of the literature may have remained hidden from their sight and they may object on the basis of their lack of knowledge.
As far as present limited rules of sarf wa nahw are concerned, they can only be used for basic information and everyday common language.
Hence, it would be considered ignorance to evaluate the Promised Messiah’sas complete proficiency in Arabic knowledge by confining it to the limited rules of today.
(Research conducted by Muhammad Tahir Nadeem Sahib, Arabic Desk UK. Translated by Al Hakam, with special thanks to Ibrahim Ikhlaf Sahib, Arabic Desk UK)