By Muhammad Yunus, New Age Islam
11 January, 2015
(Muhammad Yunus, co-author (Jointly with Ashfaque Ullah Syed), Essential Message of Islam, Amana Publications, USA, 2009)
- A question prompted by the current debate on whether the Qur’an is created or uncreated.
Those who have a basic knowledge of the evolution of different schools of law (Madhab) in Islam will know about the emergence of a rationalist school of thought, known as Muʿtazilah in the second century of Islam. It advocated use of reason in religion and attempted to evolve rational explanation to various theological notions like divine unity, historical context of revelation, and the role of humans in earning divine approval. One of their core doctrines was about the Qur’an being a created book that responded to the living realities of its audience. Their views enjoyed the patronage of the intellectual elite of the society – many Caliphs and viziers, but ran counter to the popular notion of the Qur’an being eternally preserved in the heaven and thus co-existent with God. The rise and fall of this school is summarily captured in a recent exegetic publication as follows :
“Iin 217/833, the Caliph [al-Ma’mun] decreed that no judge (Qadi) could hold his office or be appointed to one unless he subscribed to the Mu‘tazili view that the Qur’an was created. Later he instituted summary trials (Minha) and convicted the opponents of his dogma - Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, being among his victims. His two successors continued the persecution of ‘Ulema, until 233/848, when al-Mutawakkil abrogated it and restored the dogma of the Qur’an being uncreated, preserved in the ‘Guarded Tablet’ (Qur’anic verse 85:22). However, Muʿtazilah School remained dominant through to the end of the century until al-‘Ashari (d. 323/936) refuted their theories in favour of traditional Islam. The succeeding generations saw a gradual waning of Mu‘tazili influence and increasing popularity of orthodox Islam and finally al-Ghazâlî (d. 504/1111), a supremely gifted religious scholar, regarded as the master of dialectical theology,8 exploded Muʿtazilah theories, and fully established the orthodox views. The major schools of Sunni Islam were canonized, and Mu‘tazilasm was declared unlawful.”
Hence today, any traditional Sunni scholar must refute any notion of the Qur’an being a created book.
But we are not living in the 3rd or 4th century of Islam and human mind and power of reason has greatly advanced and we are in much better position to use our God given mental faculty to take another objective look into this question. Here is a simple but convincing debate for those who are not afraid to use reason.
If the Qur’an were a true copy, literally, of a tablet or book preserved in the heaven, them all the Mushrikeen who died from among the Prophet’s audience before embracing faith, had no possibility to enter Islam for it was all pre-ordained; the persecution of the Prophet and his followers in Mecca, the wars that the Quraysh launched on Medina, the hypocrites’ attempt to kill the Prophet and all those who opposed the Prophet as recorded in the Qur’an acted according to the will of God and not out of their own volition. Thus, if they all are to enter the hell, it is not their fault but the fault of the one who programmed them to act the way they did (Nouz O Billah). This is simply untenable. Besides, it nullifies the sole purpose of the Qur’an as a fount of guidance for how can you guide a robotic man whose actions are predetermined. Thus, the notion of the Qur’an being an uncreated discourse or book is untenable.
It is not important how many imams hold this view. If a hundred thousand Imams claim that all the verses that promise divine approval to humanity subject to deeds are abrogated and all the sins of the Muslims will be transferred to the People of the book as a Hadith Qudsi declares, the word or promise of the Qur’an cannot change for the Qur’an repeatedly and consistently declares that none can change his words. And when the Quraysh put pressure on the Prophet to make some alterations in the Qur’an, this is what Allah Ta’ala said to the Prophet:
“If he (Muhammad) attributed to Us any false speech (69:44), We would seize him by the right hand (45), then We would sever his aorta (46) and none of you could prevent it (69:47).
As regards the Qur’anic oft repeated declaration that everything happens according to the Will of God – the truth remains, God is above any comparison with any of His creations. Therefore, as Ali al-Tantawi explains, human attributes, such as ‘will’, ‘wish’, etc. when employed to express God’s Might and Power, cannot be interpreted to mean the same as when used in the context of human beings .
1. Muhammad Yunus and Ashfaque Ullah Syed, Essential Message of the Qur’an, Amana Publications, Maryland, USA 2009, p. 351
2. Ali al-Tantawi, General Introduction to Islam, English translation, Makkah 1994, p. 88.
Muhammad Yunus, a Chemical Engineering graduate from Indian Institute of Technology, and a retired corporate executive has been engaged in an in-depth study of the Qur’an since early 90’s, focusing on its core message. He has co-authored the referred exegetic work, which received the approval of al-Azhar al-Sharif, Cairo in 2002, and following restructuring and refinement was endorsed and authenticated by Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA, and published by Amana Publications, Maryland, USA, 2009.