Last Updated on 4th June 2021
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 difference between iqtibas [quotation] or tanaas [intertextuality] of the Promised Messiahas and other writers
There is a disagreement among the experts in the science of rhetoric about iqtibas or tanaas and tazmin [introducing verses of someone else in one’s own work]. Some of them consider their usage as plagiarism, while certain others consider it an exceptional quality of eloquence. In order to understand their point of views, if the difference between two particular matters is made clear, this issue can be solved and the viewpoints of both the groups are proved to be correct in their respective ways.
The first matter to explain is that if a person quotes and picks up the words of old authors with their context and meaning and writes them in his book without referring to them, it will definitely be considered plagiarism.
On the other hand in the second case, if someone writes a phrase of a past author in the context of his work in such a way that the meaning of that phrase changes completely and it becomes a part of his work as a new subject, then it will be considered as iqtibas or tanaas and not plagiarism. The researchers also consider this type of usage as art and eloquent writing.
However, what distinguishes the iqtibas of the Promised Messiahas from the quotations of the rest of the writers of the world is this claim of the Promised Messiahas that his iqtibas was not from acquired knowledge and personal effort, but was a God-given miracle.
The Promised Messiahas explained on multiple occasions that at times a phrase or verse of an old author or poet would come in his work in such a way that it would become a part of that new subject and most of the time such sentences were like unseen knowledge for him on which Allah the Almighty informed him. Moreover, the Promised Messiahas said that it might be possible that someone knew already that the said phrases were from such and such book, but he was getting them directly from God while writing, so for him, they were the knowledge of the unseen. This very blessing was not given to any other author. Hence, the Promised Messiahas states:
“Leaving aside the fact that if they [names of certain medicines] have already been mentioned in the book of Galen or the book of Hippocrates, I have been informed about certain medicines for the treatment of certain diseases through revelation on many occasions. It is exactly the same with respect to my writings. I do not care if the words or phrases that I come to know as succour from God Almighty are also mentioned in another book, but they are a miracle for me and for everyone who is acquainted with my state.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 434)
The Promised Messiahas further said:
“During the course of writing Arabic, hundreds of complete sentences descend upon my heart, either in the form of verbal revelation or in the form of a writing on a piece of paper which is shown to me by an angel. Some of these sentences are verses of the Holy Quran, or similar to them with minor modification.
“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. […]
“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?” (Essence of Islam, Vol. 5, pp. 156-158, [Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, pp. 435-436])
In short, according to the literary writers, the quality of expressive iqtibas comes from the acquired knowledge and the one who is quoting knows how many phrases or extracts of which writer he is quoting in his work. However, the iqtibas of the Promised Messiahas was a God-given gift, because mostly he did not know at the time of writing whether the said words or phrases were from a certain author or a certain book, but they were a source of unseen knowledge to him. He would only come to know after some time that such and such phrases were also in such and such books. This kind of exceptionality in iqtibas is a distinction, which is unique to the Promised Messiahas.
The writing of the Promised Messiahas and Abu al-Qasim Al-Hariri’s works
The Promised Messiahas has often made use of rhyme and rhythm in his Arabic works, which is a high quality of rhetoric. However, in the mediaeval Islamic era, this genre was used by various authors in story writing and vain practices. The Promised Messiahas claimed that Allah the Almighty granted him absolute proficiency in the Arabic language. Thus, Allah the Almighty not only sent the Promised Messiahas as the greatest mujaddid [reformer] under the shariah [divine law] of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, but also restored some of the extraordinary eloquent styles of the language of revelation, i.e. umm al-alsina [Arabic, the mother of all languages].
Hence, the Promised Messiahas not only revived the forgotten words and phrases of the Arabs by using them in his books, like Seeratul Abdal, etc., but also by using some archaic Arabic lughaat and styles in his writings, made them part of the Arabic language again. Moreover, the Promised Messiahas has left clear indications in his works that it is not possible for a person to learn all this knowledge through their personal efforts and then also use them in their context of writings without the support and succour of God Almighty. The following statement of the Promised Messiahas expound on this matter:
“It is my claim that as a miracle by God Almighty and His succour, I have been granted the power of this type of writing to manifest the wisdom and truth of the Holy Quran to the world from this [new] perspective as well, and to make the rhetoric that has become prevalent in Islam in a meaningless and absurd way, subservient to the Word of God, [the Holy Quran].” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 437)
The main difference between Al-Hariri’s style and that of the Promised Messiahas is that Al-Hariri has subdued his ideas to the Arabic words, i.e. he focused on the structure of the words so that the morphological measure, rhyme and rhythm of his phrases do not break. He was so immersed in this practice that at times he would not care even if the selected sequence of rhyming words would change his intended meaning or in some cases give absurd or nonsensical meanings. This shows that he was not capable of stringing together rhyming words without changing his intended meaning or ideas, but in order to maintain the string of rhyming words, he ruined the actual ideas. Thus, Al-Hariri’s books and extracts have a fine literary touch with respect to the apparent morphological measure and structure of words, but they are not as high in quality when it comes to the meanings or the true ideas. On the contrary, the Promised Messiahas stringed together exceptional ideas and pearls of wisdom in high-quality literary phrases, rhyming words and rhythms which made his work stand out from the rest of the authors’ writings.
The Promised Messiahas has not only mentioned this difference between his and Al-Hariri’s writings but also elucidated his claim with respect to it. The Promised Messiahas stated:
“Maqamat al-Hariri is held in high esteem. However, it is of no use for religious or insightful work because Al-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 Al-Hariri’s collection of bones.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 433)
Hence, the above explanation shows that the Promised Messiahas was very clear about his claim of the Arabic language and well aware of the objections raised against it. Moreover, he knew full well the reasons and causes of these objections and the key aspects of their answers were also clear and manifest to him. Additionally, the points for which we carry out research from scores of books, the Promised Messiahas had already outlined them in his works in a handful of sentences.
(Research conducted by Muhammad Tahir Nadeem Sahib, Arabic Desk UK. Translated by Al Hakam)