Responses To The Grammatical Errors In The Qur’ân

By M S M Saifullah

Peace be upon those who follow the guidance:

Newton and his buddy M. Rafiqul-Haqq published a list of grammatical errors in the Qur’ân in 1996. Most of us are unaware that the famous orientalist of our times John Burton wrote a paper called the Linguistic Errors In The Qur’ân in the Journal Of Semitic Studies, Volume XXXIII/2, Autumn 1988. He dealt with the hadîth of A’isha(R) where she has supposed to have said that the ayahs 4:162, 5:69 and 20:63 are grammatically incorrect. Burton also dealt with the ayah 2:177 to show its grammatical inconsistency. These four verses are also dealt by Newton et al. in their homepage.

In 1992, M A S Abdel Haleem, a Professor from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, London (UK) published a paper called Grammatical Shift For The Rhetorical Purposes: Iltifât And Related Features In The Qur’ân, in the Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies, Volume LV, Part 3. In this paper, he not only dealt with the so-called-linguistic (grammatical) errors published by John Burton, but also showed that people need to be thorough in classical Arabic before saying anything about the Qur’ân and its grammatical structure. Most of the discussion on Iltifât below is taken from this paper.

To begin with: Iltifât means to ‘turn/turn one’s face to’. It is an important part of balâgha (Arabic rhetoric) where there is a sudden shift in the pronoun of the speaker or the person spoken about. Muslim literary critics over the centuries have greatly admired this technique. Iltifât has been called by rhetoricians shajâ’at al-‘arabiyya as it shows, in their opinion, the daring nature of the Arabic language. If any ‘daring’ is to be attached to it, it should above all be the daring of the language of the Qur’ân since it employs this feature far more extensively and in more variations than does Arabic poetry. Most of the authors who talk about iltifât use the examples from the Qur’ân. No one seems to quote references in prose other than from the Qur’ân: and indeed a sampling of hadith material found not a single instance.

The types of iltifât and related features are of following types:

1. Changes in person, between 1st, 2nd and 3rd person, which is the most common and is usually divided into six kinds. The four important examples that are found in the Qur’ân are:

Transition from the 3rd to 1st person. This is the most common type. Over 140 instances can be found in the Qur’ân.
From 1st to 3rd person – nearly 100 such instances can be found in the Qur’ân.
From 3rd to 2nd person – nearly 60 instances.
From 2nd to 3rd person – under 30 instances.
2. Change in the number, between singular, dual and plural.

3. Change in the addressee.

4. Change in the tense of the verb.

5. Change in the case marker.

6. Using noun in the place of pronoun.

Examples from the Qur’ân of the above mentioned cases can be seen in M A S Abdel Haleem’s paper. The so-called-grammatical errors in ayahs 4:162, 5:69, 20:63 and 2:177 are already dealt by him. Interested persons can read his paper which is online. The Investigating Islam website deals with iltifât and other grammatical constructions to refute Newton’s material.

Muhammad Ghoneim from France had dealt with the issue of grammatical errors at Newton’s website by quoting the Arabic grammarians. He has brought to our notice some very interesting points.

Apart from this, we also have the first refutation by Brother Wail Ibrahim which appeared on soc.religion.islam newsgroup that can be viewed here.

We are also tempted to add that Newton did not even mention that the hadîth of A’isha(R) is considered to be weak by the hadîth specialists. One can only presuppose that in the spirit of deception, such arrogant and authoritative charges are made possible through the suppression of facts and selective argumentation.

And Allah knows best!


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