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 dispel major allegations raised against the Promised Messiah’sas use of Arabic phrases, his God-given eloquence and command over the language and the usage of sentences taken from past literature.
Muhammad Tahir Nadeem, Central Arabic Desk
A professor of Islamia College Lahore, Maulvi Asghar Ali Sahib, also objected to the Arabic works of the Promised Messiahas and mentioned the same objections in his letter, which were expressed by the maulvis of his time and other opponents of the founder of Ahmadiyya Jamaat. The Promised Messiahas wrote a detailed reply to his letter on 3 April 1894 and gave answers to all of his objections in a concise but comprehensive manner.
We will present below a few extracts from the said complete response letter of the Promised Messiahas as the conclusion of this series of articles.
The Promised Messiahas stated:
“After ‘assalamo alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu’, I express that I have received your letter. This quality of yours [Maulvi Asghar Ali Sahib] is commendable that you do not belong to that group of people who are merely hasty and out of prejudice, call a Muslim by the name of ‘kafir’ [disbeliever], antichrist and unfaithful, or even call him ‘akfar’ [superlative degree of kafir]. It came to light that your letter was for the purpose of enquiring about some parts of the book, Hamamatul-Bushra, where, in your view, there are mistakes of sarf wa nahw [Arabic morphology and grammar] or urooz [prosody or laws of poetic meters and rhythms]. Moreover, as per your knowledge, some ideas, phrases or couplets in this book have been plagiarised.
“So, my dear friend, in response to this, I submit that this humble person does not consider himself to be a writer or a poet or anything for that matter. Neither have I spent any part of my life [to acquire] this skill, nor have I spent a considerable amount of time in writing these phrases and couplets.
“Allah the Almighty knows that these [Arabic] writings were composed like regular 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 marginally free because if you 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 the form of treatises [i.e. lengthy answers were 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 with 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. […]
“Do not get me wrong, but your view on plagiarism is also not right. I have a habit that you may have got confused with plagiarism; it is that while contemplating over an idea and in the flow of writing which goes on without hindrance, if a phrase or sometimes a verse of a past writer comes to mind, which seems suitable, then it is considered by God Almighty. There is nothing wrong in writing the said [phrase or verse] if it fits perfectly in the subject because it coincidently came to our mind. The more surprising thing is that most of the time, I do not realise it at all and another person says that the said phrase or verse has become almost identical to such and such phrase or verse. Sometimes, I am surprised by an extraordinary tawarud [coincidence of ideas or random uniformity of theme in writings of two or more authors]. I know that hasty people will object to it with their haste and bad suspicion, but I am sure that I have not committed any kind of sin. If they do object, then they should keep doing it.
“An eloquent work, when it reaches its perfection, becomes a light. The light only resembles light. In order to commit plagiarism, young age, power of youth and extensive opportunities are needed, but I do not have these things. What can we do if someone considers [my works to be] plagiarism? The essentials with which these writings have been composed. If someone can write with the said essentials, I can allow him to plagiarise not once but a thousand times. You can understand that the scope of plagiarism in a research work on a particular subject is very narrow. Anyone involved in this type of work will easily understand how baseless this objection is in such scholarly discussions.
“On the other hand, you should bear in mind that one should not rush to find out errors of sarf wa nahw. It is not long before opponent maulvis point out similar errors in books. Another sincere scholar removed that misconception by presenting similar examples from the Holy Quran and corrected him. Once, an opponent argued about the metre 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 metre]. It is a blessing of God Almighty that a great number of literary writers, who belong to Syria, Medina and our own country, India, are part of our Jamaat. Moreover, other scholars also come to stay here from time to time.
“Dear friend! The field of sarf wa nahw is very vast. See how much difference there is in silas [Arabic prepositions]. Sometimes there come three or four silas for a single word. Such as باركك, بارك اللّٰه لك, بارك اللّٰه فيك and بارك اللّٰه عليك, so please reflect.
“Sometimes, من is replaced by عن and vice versa. On other occasions, ف is replaced by ب and vice versa. Moreover, there are huge changes in the new idioms [of Arabic].
“Hence, this is a very delicate matter. I wonder why you get into it and why you claim that you will publish grammatical errors across the country.
“Dear friend! If there really is any mistake, then where have we denied it? However, if some of the errors that you have pointed out are not proven to be mistakes after the final research, then who would be embarrassed after this haste? The critics have pointed out errors of Hariri as well. In fact, these days, an evil-tempered Christian of Beirut has criticised the Holy Quran. Thus, when the evil objectors do not even shy away from the Holy Quran at the time of raising allegations and when criticism has been carried out against the poetry and prose of the native speakers as well, then how can I say that I can avoid these attacks. However, I say that it is certainly true that criticism is easy but the occurrence of insightful ideas is difficult. […]” (Al Hakam, 17 October 1903, Letter dated 3 April 1894 addressed to Maulvi Asghar Ali Sahib, Professor Islamia College, Lahore)
Towards the end of his reply, the Promised Messiahas accepted Maulvi Asghar Ali Sahib’s challenge of competing in composing a piece of writing and Huzooras presented his then recent work, Nur-ul-Haq. The Promised Messiahas said:
“It has been revealed to me in two dreams and two revelations that my enemy and opponent will fail to produce the like of it [i.e. the book, Nur-ul-Haq].” (Ibid)
Moreover, the Promised Messiahas presented a list of conditions for Maulvi Asghar Ali Sahib to abide by in that competition, so that the time of both parties might not be wasted. However, the professor did not live up to his own challenge and could not find the courage to compete with the Promised Messiahas.
Hence, the Promised Messiahas substantiated in this precise letter that the field of sarf wa nahw was very vast and a person could 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.
(Research conducted by Muhammad Tahir Nadeem Sahib, Arabic Desk UK. Translated by Al Hakam)