Allah’s eternal words are transcriber onto paper is known as the Quran. The claim is that the Quran is eternal and is uncreated. And the physical book, the paper, and the ink is the physical part of the Quran that is created. The big question here is how Allah’s eternal word contained in a physical book. Just think about it for a second. How can words even begin to describe eternity? Or the idea of timelessness? To claim that timelessness is contained in the book is mind-blowing, we can not think or write without before or after clauses. This is the topic we are exploring in this article “What is the Word of Allah?”
Today Islam and Christianity face the same issue. Islam is dealing with the Quran and its physical and eternal aspects and Christians dealing with Jesus and his physical and eternal aspects. Where does the line lay between the created and the uncreated? How can the Quran be eternal yet be physical? And are there issues if you hold to this view. Obviously, Yes! How can something that is very limited in nature, like a physical book, have the attribute of eternity? If the Quran is something other than eternal, then we do face significant consequences. They range from Quran not being true to Muhammad’s position as a prophet comes into a question. We all understand that we can hold to beliefs by faith but in this article, we are after the reasonable answer. We want to make sense of things. Our life, our knowledge, our faith and the tradition that we hold to is our responsibility to validate. No one will take the blame for what you or I believed. If the truth is something other than what we thought, who is to blame other than ourselves. We are to blame if we believed a lie or a false tradition. Hence the reason why we write and go down the trail of reasons to assure You! Me! And Us! That what we believe is, in fact, true.
Let’s review two opposing doctrines of the Quran. Let us first state that these doctrinal disputes go back to the first century. Today, Sunni hold to the doctrinal position of Quran being co-eternal with Allah. This was not always the case, but for the majority of the history, it was. The opposing view is called Createdness, and it refers to the doctrinal position that the Quran was created. Today, Createdness is held by the lesser denomination of Islam and began with rationalist philosophical school known as the Mu’tazila during the first century.
Quranic Createdness View:
The Quranic Createdness claim is fundamental: Allah created the Quran, and He can change it at will. They reject the idea of Quran being equal with Allah because how can Quran precede Allah’s speech. Both are eternal. Therefore it is a contradictory statement. How can eternal exist before eternal? It can not.
All doctrines should have a foundation in the word of Allah. May it be in the Quran or the Bible. And Createdness is formed from the Quranic text. The Quran reference that they use to develop their view is from Quran 2:106 “Any revelation We cause to be superseded or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar. Do you [Prophet] not know that Allah has power over everything?”
The argument goes something like this: If the Quran can be subjected to change, a new verse superseding an earlier one, then the Quran is not co-eternal with Allah but is created.
The critics have been silent for the most part ever since the first century. Their response was always silence in the face of opposition. But they prevailed. Here is the big issue, those who believe in Createdness are admitting that the Quran can be changed and superseded at any point in time. This means that the Quran is not an absolute truth. If the Quran is not eternal, then Muhammad did not indeed receive what he claimed he did. Therefore, the Quran is not the last revelation, and Muhammad is not the last prophet. If Allah can supersede the Quran with something better, then it makes the Quran as authoritative as the hadith.
Additionally, it brings Allah omniscience into question. As if Allah is growing in His knowledge and as soon as He gets a revelation He updates everyone else by sending a new prophet down to earth to reveal the new truth to humanity. This is not something many are willing to accept. Therefore silence is the best response to the Quranic Createdness.
The opponents to Createdness are considered orthodox. An Orthodox Muslim is the one who stands by the absolute authority of the sacred texts over and above those who make use of reason. And they heavily depend on the hadith and oral traditions. How is anyone to know what the correct interpretation of the scripture is if not depend on earliest sources and earliest traditions. The closer you are to the lights source the brighter it is. But the earliest of traditions are silent on this topic. Therefore the Orthodox Muslims claim that we should not try to go beyond it, especially if it puts other beliefs into question.
Orthodox Muslims are criticized for refusing to support their claims with knowledge and reason. They refuse to answer important questions that arise in Islam. In this case “How can eternal exist before eternal?”. The Quran is silent on these matters. As I’ve stated, Orthodox Muslims, usually Sunni, say that we should not go above what was revealed to us in The Quran and the hadiths. But many others think differently and claim that this means that Allah left room for us to discover the truth. A topic of time, for example, is not a theological question but a philosophical one. We ought to rationalize, what eternity is. Is it timeless or temporal? Can eternity be separate from Allah? These are important questions that would bring maturity to Islam. And we should not fear the truth if we are following a true God. As it states in the Bible, not the Holywood movies, “Truth shall set you free” John 8:32 and what Quran refers to in Surah 2:1-7. Being silent is not an option.
Those are the two doctrinal views. Each side makes good arguments for their belief. None of these views are by any sense recent, so we can’t disregard either of them for not having an early source. This debate is at a standstill. The stalemate is from the ancient of days. Who is right? What I would like to propose today is another view that can suffice both sides. It uses reason to satisfy those who are looking for support themselves with logic and those who believe that Word of Allah can exist eternally.
Let’s start with philosophical point first. We want to first identify the attributes of the divine essence and how they function. First thing on my mind is the necessity of self-existence of Allah. Allah is the prime cause of all things. He is the starting point. Allah is what exists necessarily apart from all other created things. Without the necessity of Allah, no other creature can exist. Next, we have to define the concept of Allah, give Him substance or essence. For example, He is all-mighty or omnipotent. He is self-conscious. He knows all thing, in other words, omniscient. There are a few other attributes, but these are the type of fundamental things that define the essence of Allah. Here is the big question that deals with the subject of the Quran, and its attribute of eternity. Can we reverse the statement and state the following: Power is Allah. We are using “is” as an identity statement in this case. And the answer is, “No,” power is not Allah. Power cannot exist on its own, and it needs to have an entity that possesses it. If we do state that there is power, knowledge, or goodness that exist apart from Allah then we run into an issue, and that is, we eventually will reduce Allah into nothing.
Additionally, this becomes a Hindu idea. Hindu philosophers state there are essential elements in life like goodness, power, and knowledge that exist separately from people. And people, as the self-conscious beings, reach to the states of those essential attributes. The problem is that it does not reflect our reality and everything becomes relative. There are no absolutes in that type of a world. Things like authority disappear because there is no one to dictate what truth. Mear emotions drive the idea of love and love become not real. Those things require a self-conscious personal being. And many other issues that we are not going to get into at this point. We have to be careful and not separate power, knowledge, omnipresence, and goodness from Allah. When separating eternity from God, it becomes a big problem. Many Muslim scholars and imams did precisely that, separated “Allah’s Word” from “Allah.” Many of them claim that the Quran is an attribute of Allah. It came from Him, and it will go back to Him. You can not slit Allah up into parts. If you do that, then you are reducing Allah or removing from Allah’s wholeness or going into Hindu ideology. These are necessary properties or attributes of Allah. Again, that’s what defines Allah, and it cannot be separated. Therefore everything that proceeds out of Him and separates itself is considered a creation.
Word of Allah neither is created or uncreated is a dilemma. Is there a way to solve this. And the Answer is “Yes!”. We can resolve this by applying specific qualifiers. For example, how can we solve the following statement “The object is black and white.” We know this is a contradiction. But we can apply certain qualifiers to resolve it. We can say, “one side is black, and the other side is white,” and the contradiction is immediately resolved. Therefore, we can use qualifiers to resolve a conflict of “Word of Allah” being eternal? The part that we are trying to safeguard is the authority of the text. The best way I have seen this accomplished with a divine book was by putting the following qualifier.
“Word of Allah is true in what it teaches but not in what it says.”
When we apply this qualifier against the Word of Allah, it removes the idea of trying to support the attribute of the eternity of a book, yet keeps the authority of the book intact. This resolves the issue of eternity existing apart from God. The word of Allah does not possess the attribute of eternity but stays true eternally in what it teaches. Let me give you an example. Let’s use a mustard seed to teach about faith. A thousand years ago a teacher from the middle east would know that mustard seed is the smallest seed due to his localized knowledge of the world. Therefore he uses that knowledge to teach others about faith that Allah has revealed to him. Naturally, a teacher would state something like this “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” So later in history, a discovery is made about the seeds, there is even a smaller seed than a mustard seed. Today we know that Orchid seeds are smaller than mustard seeds. Newly found fact about seeds will discredit the claim of the book being eternal. If it’s eternal, then the facts have to be always true, such as mustard seed being the smallest. If we claim that the word of Allah is true in what it teaches about faith rather than in what it states about the seed, then we can still argue that the book is inspired by Allah and is authoritative.
Secondly, it satisfies what the Quran states in Quran 2:106 “Any revelation We cause to be superseded or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar. Do you [Prophet] not know that Allah has power over everything?” Orthodox Muslim have a dilemma with this verse. It is stated plainly, so to ignore it, is to ignore Allah’s eternal word. But to admit to it is to lose the claim that the Quran is the eternal word of God. But In fact, the Quran is not an eternal word of Allah as Many Muslims may claim. That claim was made by men, not by God. We are free to believe otherwise. Again, there is no supporting evidence for it from reason point of view, the earliest traditions are silent about it, and historically Muslims held to both views throughout history.
OK, you might say, you convinced me. Where does that put me? Are there any consequences to me holding to this view? Yes, there are. If the Quran is not eternal, then that reduces the authority and the prophetic office of Muhammad and increased the authority of the Word of Allah. Since the Quran is not eternal, that means we need to pay attention to what the Quran teaches rather than what it says. You will have to reevaluate a lot of your beliefs and check them against this newly discovered fact.
Let’s take a look at the verses about Muhammad being the last prophet as an example. Sura 33:40 “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Apostle of God, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.” and harmonize it with Quran 2:106 “Any revelation We cause to be superseded or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar. Do you [Prophet] not know that Allah has power over everything?” Let’s also add this verse to the mix since we are going into the subject of what is the eternal word of God; Sura 4:159 “And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection, he will be against them a witness.” This last verse states that Jesus would be the last prophet who all people will stand before, not Muhammad. Jesus being the last prophet is an issue with the interpretation of Sura 33:40, where Muhammad is the last prophet. We must create harmony between all these verses. Here is my take on it; the prophet is not the last prophet as people interpret Sura 33:40 to mean, we must take a wider perspective here and lay his words against all the other prophets that Allah has sent. Why? A prophetic seal in Sura 33:49 represents an idea of “closure” rather than “replacement” or “superseding” of something. If we make Muhammad into the last prophet, then we question Allah’s own power of not being able to preserve His eternal word. We must use all the prophets to see the revelation. There is a common theme between all of them. They all talk about the Word of Allah. Yes, we are back to this subject.
What is the Word of Allah?
To solve this philosophically, we need to bring the whole essence of Allah into play. Wholeness of Allah requires things like consciousness, power, and goodness. All monotheists grappled with this. We already concluded that we could not separate the Word of Allah from Allah. Anything that exists apart from Allah is by definition is a creation of Allah. OK, then you can say “word of Allah” is Allah. That does not sound right either unless we put some qualifiers to make sense of it.
Let me put together some qualifiers for the idea of Word of Allah being Allah somehow.
Word of Allah Qualifiers:
- It has to be part of Him from eternity past
- It cannot be separated from Allah and stand alone.
Let’s read a few verses from the Quran and judge if these verses fulfill the qualifiers that I set for the “Word of Allah.”
“…O Mary! Behold, Allah gives you good news of a WORD from Him, who shall become known as the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary…” (Quran 3:45)
“…The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His WORD which He conveyed unto Mary…” (Quran 4:171)
“…Allah gives you good news of (a son whose name is) John, (who comes) to confirm a WORD from Allah…” (Quran 3:39)
Let’s now apply those qualifiers; consciousness, power, and goodness. This brings the wholeness of Allah into the “Eternal Word.” These verses perfectly describe Jesus as being the eternal Word of Allah. It brings Allah words to life, it brings emotion into motion, power flowing through living hands, authority from his mouth. Contrast this to Quran right now. Quran becomes very small, and it’s just missing a whole lot. It can not express love to you. It can only express “knowledge of love” but not love itself. You can not feel its presence in the room. Quran’s presence is no better than any other book. It does not express life, its just pages, and ink. Life can only be shown through conscious living, talking, and walking person. We would never put a person into a book, then why do we think that we can put Allah into a book. With today’s technology, we know that even a computer is more powerful than a book. Also, today’s technology is working on artificial intelligence that can even respond to our commands and learn our behavior. No book can ever do that. The idea of Allah using a person rather than a book to be His Word makes sense in every way. Jesus satisfies all these criteria. He is a living word, not a book that lays there that needs to be opened. He showed power, emotion, authority, and love.
Does this mean he is the Allah? No, he is not the Allah. He is part of Allah and is the word from Allah that is eternally proceeding from Allah. Allah is a spirit and has no shape or form. Jesus exemplifies the belief that majority of Muslims hold about Quran, except Jesus can satisfy the requirements. Additionally, the Quran, the Bible, and all the prophets state it.
Jesus is the eternal word of Allah that will come back and judge all things. He is the only prophet that is alive today. All other prophets have died. Torah, Bible, and Quran teach about him being the Messiah. If these books are true in what they teach, then that makes Jesus the Messiah. Jesus being the messiah opens up a whole lot of questions for you. Who is Jesus then? And How can he take on a physical form? And many other questions. Check out other articles that deal with those topics. We understand this subject is sensitive to many Muslims, so If you are convinced by our article and would like to have a personal conversation with us, then click on the button below and we can continue this conversation in private.
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