Last Updated on 28th May 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
Tawarud [coincidence of ideas or random uniformity of theme in writings of two or more authors] and its need
Plagiarism is when an entire text or a piece of writing is taken with its complete context and published under one’s own name. However, if a person writes a book or several books consisting of tens of thousands of phrases and his work coincidently contain 10 or even 50 sentences that resemble similar phrases of other books, then it would be utter ignorance to call such a coincidence as plagiarism.
Commenting on this, the Promised Messiahas said:
“From some twenty thousand phrases, there were only a few [similar] sentences, some of which were verses of the Holy Quran, and a few were examples from Arabic [literature] and some in their [opponents’] view were tawarud with a phrase from [Abu al-Qasim] Hariri or Hamdani. 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.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 432)
What is the need for tawarud?
Someone may say that if a person claims to have absolute proficiency in the Arabic language and has complete command over it, then what is the need of tawarud?
The Promised Messiahas has given the answer to this question as well and explained why tawarud occurs and why is it needed. The Promised Messiahas said:
“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.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 433-434)
The use of iqtibas [quotation] is an art and not plagiarism
Even great writers, quoting from the works of their contemporaries or old authors, add a few of their sentences while writing on a certain subject in their books. It may be that these extracts are used in the old books to refer to another subject, but they are assembled to refer to a new subject in such a way that they become part of that subject and it seems that the said phrases were written for that new book.
Difference between tawarud and iqtibas
The difference between tawarud and a quotation is that tawarud is the random use of the same words, phrases or idioms on a particular occasion as another writer did in the past in an identical or an almost similar situation. The reason behind this usage, as stated by the Promised Messiahas, is that the scope of some proverbs is so limited that it is highly likely for certain writers to coincide with some others.
However, iqtibas is to extract some phrases from some old well-known books or quotes from well-known authors and make them part of one’s work while writing on a certain subject.
The use of the technique of iqtibas is not a weak point, but in fact, it shows the writer’s eloquence, wisdom, command of general knowledge and proficiency, and only those object to it who lack knowledge. Explaining this matter, the Promised Messiahas said:
“If we consider that these few phrases [which are objected to] were written as a quote, then what is there to object? 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 his book. Hence, should we now express the opinion that the entire work of Maqamat al-Hariri is a mere collection of plagiarism?” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 433)
The usage of iqtibas is a very difficult matter and no one can do it except for the one who is a proficient writer because the first thing that is necessary for iqtibas is extensive knowledge. In other words, you can quote from the work of a past author when you have read the books of such authors so carefully that you are very familiar with scores of expressions and phrases and when you start writing on a subject, the phrases from the books of the old literature automatically come to you.
This is such expertise that the more a writer quotes in his writings, the more his work will show his extensive knowledge and this will substantiate that he has carried out an in-depth study of various books of different authors and memorised thousands of sentences from those books. He can use the said extracts whenever and however he wants to express new subjects in his writings. That is why some researchers have not differentiated between iqtibas and tanaas [intertextuality], and have declared this type of quotation as tanaas, or a new text. That is, although the words belong to a past writer, since those words are giving a new meaning to express a new subject, this writing is considered a new text.
Beyond any doubt, possessing such an ability is a distinction and an unparalleled skill. The Promised Messiahas said:
“The writers acknowledge this fact that out of thousands of phrases, if a few sentences are quotations, then they do not cause any effect on the quality of eloquence. In fact, this type of usage is also an expertise. […] On the other hand, if an incompetent person is allowed to write something by stealing, even then he will not be able to produce quality writing because the real ability is not present in him. However, a person [the Promised Messiahas], who is capable of writing consistently and without any cessation, it is indeed his miracle that he is able to express scholarly matters, pearls of wisdom and insightful knowledge in coherent, ornate, expressive and eloquent phrases, and there is no question of objection even if 10,000 phrases of someone else’s writing come in his works according to the need of the subject.” (Nuzul-ul-Masih, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. 18, p. 443)
Hence, if such a gifted writer quotes even ten thousand phrases as iqtibas, it will be considered as his proficiency. On the other hand, it would have been considered a defect if there was no use of iqtibas in the writings of the Promised Messiahas because he claimed to have been granted extensive knowledge by God Almighty.
(Research conducted by Muhammad Tahir Nadeem Sahib, Arabic Desk UK. Translated by Al Hakam)