Some people may like to find any number of things in the Quran. But an honest method in examining this book, looking for evidence of the Divine origin, is to take things at their value, to look for things that are clear and to look in those places where we are invited to look. Remember the passage that I quoted earlier ‘Have not the disbelievers seen…’. This is a common phrases of the Quran: ‘O men, Have you not seen’. The invitation is to examine the evidence in these places. We are doing the sensible thing if we examine the words used to look for the doubted meaning and to find evidence of the Divine origin.
Each one of us is an expert on something. One does not have to have a degree in a particular subject to decide that now, ‘I can take my expertise to the Quran and see what I can find’. We all know something for sure from our own experience and life.
I heard a story, several years ago in
of a man who was given the Quran to read. The man was a member of the merchant
marines who spent his life on the sea. When he read a verse in the Quran an
describing the waves on the ocean, wave
within waves and the darkness between, he was surprised because the
description was just what he knew the situation to be. When he returned the
Quran to the man who gave it to him to read, he asked him (because he was
completely ignorant of the origins of Islam): ‘This Muhammad, was he a sailor’? Well, fo course, he was quite surprised to know
that the man spent his life in the desert. So he had to ask himself: ‘From where did he get this knowledge of what
looks like on a stormy sea?’ Toronto
We all know something that we can be confident of, and if we can turn to the Quran to read what it says about this subject, we are askingnfor confirmation of our belief in the Divine origin of the book.
The Two Phenomena
A friend of mine from the
, had the experience of dealing
with a man who was doing his doctorate in psychology. He chose as his subject:
‘The Efficiency of Group Discussion’. University of Toronto
He suggested a number of criteria as to what constitutes an efficient discussion. He graphed the process; that is, he achieved a measure of the efficiency of all groups in their discussions according to an index by his system. On his graph he indicated the progress made by the discussion groups of various sizes.
The interesting thing that happened which he did not expect to find when he began his project was that, while there were some differences between the size of any given group and how well they did in discussions, he was surprised to find that groups of two were completely off his scale. In other words, when two people sit down to discuss something, they were so much more efficient than any other size of group that it went completely off his scale of measurement.
When my friend heard about this, something went on at the back of his mind. My friend, being a Muslim, thought there was something familiar here about this idea. The psychology researcher was no a Muslim. He was debating with himself on changing the topic of his thesis. Should he call it The Phenomenon of Two or The Two Phenomena? He was so surprised at his discovery.
Meanwhile, my friend found that there is a verse in the Quran, and he found it for himself on the same night, which speaks on discussions and the size of groups and how efficient they are. And maybe we should not be surprised to find that it is the groups that are two in numbers that do the best in achieving results. The verse in the Quran reads, concerning discussion groups, that when discussing the Quran one should sit alone and reflect on its meaning or discuss it in groups of two.
Use and Mention of Words
For myself, as I said everyone knows something for sure or has an interest and experience in life; my interest is in mathematics and logic. There is a verse in the Quran which says:
‘This a scripture whose verses are perfected and then expounded’. (11: 1)
Which tells me that there are no wasted words in the Quran; that each verse is perfected and then it is explained. It could not be in a better form. One could not use fewer words to say the same thing or if one uses mora words one would only be adding superfluous information.
This directed my attention to a particular mathematical subject, a logical subject, and I examined the Quran to see if I could fine something of what I knew to be the case.
A revolution in logic has occurred in the last one hundred years, primarily over the difference between use and mention of words. A structure of logic seemed to be in danger of collapsing about a hundred years ago because it came to the attention of the people who studied these involved self-reference and the use and the mention of words which I will explain briefly.
Aristotle’s law of the excluded middle was the statement that every statement is either true or false. About a hundred years ago, somebody pointed out that the law of the excluded middle is a statement and is therefore not a law after all. It could just as well be false as well as true. This was a tangled knot for the logicians to untie until they came to understand the different between the use and the mention of a word.
When we use a word, we consider its meaning. When we mention a word we are discussing the word itself. If I say
Toronto is a large city, I mean
place, is a large city. If I say Toronto Toronto has
seven letters, I am talking about the word .
In the first case I used the word and in the second I mentioned the word. You
see the distinction. Toronto
Jesus and Adam
Connecting these ideas and the idea that the Quran is composed of verses that are perfected and then expounded for us, consider the verse which says:
‘The likeness of Jesus before Allah is as the likeness of Adam’. (3: 59)
It is very clear that what we have in this statement is an equation. This verse goes on to explain how that is true because they both came under unusual circumstances rather than having a mother and a father in the usual human reproductive way. But more that that, I got to considering the use of the mention or words.
The words are used clearly enough. Jesus is like Adam and by Jesus and Adam, we mean those two men. But what about the mention of the words? Was the author aware of the fact that if we were considering the words as words in themselves, this sentence also reads that Jesus is somehow like Adam. Well, they are not spelt with the same letters; how can they be alike in this revelation? The only answer came to me fairly and I took a look at the index of the Quran.
The index of the Quran has been made available only since 1945. This book was the result of years of work by a man and his students who assembled a book which lists every word in the Quran and where it can be found.
So, when we look up the word Isa (Jesus), we find it in the Quran twenty-five times. When we look up Adam, we find it in the Quran twenty-five times. The point is that they are very much alike in this book. They are equated. So, following up on this idea, I continued to examine the index equation, where the likeness of something was said to be the likeness of some other thing. And in every case, it works. You have for example a verse which reads:
‘The likeness of those who reject our signs is as the likeness of the dog’. (7: 176)
Well, the phrase in Arabic for the people who reject our signs could be found in the Quran exactly five times. And so is the Arabic word for the dog (al-Kalb). And there are several instances of exactly the same occurrence.
It was some months after I found this for myself that a friend of mine, who is continuing this investigation with me, made a suggestion that there are also some phrase in the Quran where one thing is said to be no like another thing.
As soon as he mentioned this up to me, both went for the index and had a quick look at several places where one thing is said to be not like another thing and counted their occurrence in the Quran. We were surprised and maybe should not have been to find that, after all, they do not match up. But an interesting thing does happen. For example, the Quran makes it very clear in the verse that trade is not like interest. The two words will be found six times for one and seven for the other. And so it is in every other case.
When one thing is said to be not like another, they occur for a difference of one time. It would be five of one and four of the other, or seven of one and eight of another.
Good and Evil
There is one interesting verse which, I feld, spoke directly to me from right off the page. It mentions two words in Arabic, al-khabeeth (the evil), and al-taib (the good). The verse reads:
‘Say, the evil and the good are not comparable, even though the abundance of evil will surprise you. So be mindful of your duty to Allah, O Man of understanding, that you may succeed’. (5: 100)
Well, I had a look at those two words in Arabic, the evil and the good, and found it in the Quran that they both occur seven times. Yet the verse here is saying that they are not comparable. I should not expect to find that they occur the same number of times. But what does the rest of this verse say?
‘The evil and the good are not comparable. The abundance of the evil will surprise you’ and it did for there were too many of them. But it continues:
‘So be mindful of your duty to Allah, O Man of understanding, that you may succeed’.
So press on. Use your understanding and you will succeed. That is what the verse said to me. Well, I found the answer in one verse further on where it reads:
‘Allah separates the evil from the good. The evil He piles one on top of the other, heaping them all together’. (8: 37)
Here is the solution to the difficulty. While we have seven occurrences of al-khabeeth (the evil) which matches up with the occurrences of al-taib (the good), according to the principle of this verse, evil is separated from the good and is piled one on top of the other and heaped all together. We do not count them as seven separate instances.
Occurrence of Words
A favourite difficulty, or supposed difficulty, which critics like to cite or have cited in the past years concerning the Quran is that, apparently to their thinking, the author of this book was ignorant because he advised the Muslims to follow the lunar year instead of the solar year. The critics say the author was unaware of the difference in the length of years, that if one follows twelve lunar months one loses eleven days every year.
The author of the Quran was well aware of the distinction between the length of the solar year and the lunar year. In chapter eighteen, verse nine, it mentions three-hundred years and gives their equivalent as three-hundred and nine years. As it happens, three-hundred solar years is equal to three-hundred and nine lunar years.
Let us go back to my original scheme of the occurrence of words in the Quran. The Arabic word for month (shahar), will be found twelve times in the Quran. There are twelve months in a year. If we find twelve months, how many days should we expect to find? The word in Arabic is yaum, and as it happens you will find that the word occurs three-hundred and sixty-five times in the Quran.
As a matter of fact, the original issue which had me interested in looking up the occurrence of months and days was this distinction between the solar year and the lunar year. Well, for twenty-five centuries it has been known that the relative positions of the sun, moon and earth coincide every nineteen years. This was discovered by a Greek by the name of Meton, and it is called the Metonic cycle. Knowing this, I looked again to the index for the word year (sanah), and found, sure enough, that it occurs in the Quran nineteen times.
Perfect Balance of Words
Now, what is the point of this perfect balance of words? For myself, it shows the author was well aware of the distinction between using words and mentioning words, a fine logical point. But more than that, it indicates the preservation of this book.
After giving a lecture on the subject of the Quran, I touched on some of these subjects and a questionnaire from the audience afterwords said, ‘How do we know we still have the original Quran. Maybe pieces of it have been lost or extra parts been added?’ I pointed out to him that we had pretty well covered that point because since these items, the perfect balance of words in the Quran, have come to light only in this generation, anybody who would have lost the portion of the book, hidden son of it or added some of their own would have been unaware of this carefully hidden code in the book. They would have destroyed this perfect balance.
It is interesting to note too that, well, such a thing might be possible to organise today by the use of a computer to coordinate all words so that whatever thought you might have as to a meaning of a sentence or however you might construe an equation out of a sentence, you could check for yourself and the book will always have the balance of words.
If that were possible today, if it were possible fourteen centuries ago, why would it be done and then left hidden and never drawn to the attention of those who first saw this book? Why it would be left with the hope of the author who contrive this, that maybe in many centuries someone will discover it and have a nice surprise? It is a scheme that does not make sense.
We are told the Quran that no questionnaire will come to the Muslims with the question for which a good answer has not been provided, and the best explanation for whatever his question. This verse says:
‘For everything they say we are given something to go back to them and reply’. (25: 33)
We looked again to the index of the Quran and we found that the word, qalu (they say), is found three-hundred and thirty-two times. Now, what would be the natural counterpart? The Arabic word, qul, which is the command say, and you will find at the index it also occurs three-hundred and thirty-two times.