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Parenthetical Phrases in the Quranic Text


An Introduction to a New Quranist Research Field:

Parenthetical Phrases in the Quranic Text  


Published in November 30 and December 1, 2017

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy




 This is an introduction to a new Quranist research field seldom tackled by previous thinkers who pondered on the Quranic verses. We hope this article will encourage serious Quranist researchers to pursue researching the stylistic aspects of the Quranic text.  


Firstly: what is a parenthetical phrase:

A parenthetical phrase – linguists maintain – is a digressive one put between two hyphens/commas/parentheses that is not essential to the framing sentence. In the preceding sentence, the phrase “linguists maintain” is itself a parenthetical phrase put between two hyphens, because the segments of the sentence that precede and follow it can be attached to form a complete sentence without it. A parenthetical phrase provides something additional but it can be omitted without changing the meaning of a given sentence; it is never used in the Arabic tongue before the revelation/descent of the Quran; as far as we know, parenthetical phrases are never used in the Sunnite books that 'interpret' the Quran. No Sunnite 'interpreters' of the Quran have tackled the issue of the existence of the parenthetical phrases in the Quranic text to analyze them within Quranic contexts. Contrary to Arabic writings of mortals, Quranic parenthetical phrases are essential segments in the verses and they cannot be omitted, as they have significant meanings within different contexts. This is part of the miraculous, eloquent, and unique Quranic style; in writings of people parenthetical phrases can be easily omitted without changing meanings of sentences, but if one omits any of the parenthetical phrases within any of Quranic verses, the meaning will be negatively affected and changed; thus, they cannot be omitted at all in the Concise Verses of God's Book.       


Secondly: examples of parenthetical phrases in the Quran:

Within describing the Quran itself:

1- This very first example of parenthetical phrases shows how they are important as they provide details that are part of the Quranic facts: "We have given them a Book, which We detailed with knowledge - guidance and mercy for people who believe." (7:52). The underlined part is the parenthetical phrase that theoretically might be omitted as per rules of Arabic stylistics; yet, it can never be removed from the Quran, as it provides a detail of vital importance: to assert that the Quran contains no digressions or useless words, as it is phrased by the Omniscient Lord: "...A Book whose Verses were perfected, then elaborated, from One who is Wise and Informed." (11:1).    

2- God says in the Quran: "It is He who revealed to you the Book. Some of its verses are definitive; they are the foundation of the Book, and others are similar. As for those in whose hearts is deviation, they follow the similar part, seeking dissent, and seeking to derive an interpretation. But none knows its interpretation except God and those firmly rooted in knowledge say, "We believe in it; all is from our Lord." But none recollects except those with understanding. " (3:7). The underlined part is the parenthetical phrase, but it cannot be deemed as superfluous, as it shows the difference between polytheists and monotheists; more details about this are within our book published online about interpretation of the Quran.

In Quranic stories:

1- These verses are within the context of angels visiting Abraham: "When Abraham's fear subsided, and the good news had reached him, he started pleading with Us concerning the people of Lot.Abraham was gentle, kind, penitent. "O Abraham, refrain from this. The command of your Lord has come; they have incurred an irreversible torment."" (11:74-76). The underlined part is the parenthetical phrase; its importance lies in the fact that when God rebukes Abraham in 11:76, this is preceded by praise in 11:75, which is the underlined parenthetical phrase/statement. In fact, this means that Abraham is distinguished by God as the only prophet rebuked while being praised; this is shown clearly by this parenthetical statement. 

2- The following parenthetical phrase functions as a descriptive one; it cannot be removed; otherwise, we would not understand the fear of Lot that his people would attempt to rape the guests, who were in fact the same angels that came to Abraham: "And when Our envoys came to Lot, he was anxious for them, and concerned for them. He said, "This is a dreadful day." And his people came rushing towards him, who were committing sins before that, and he said, "O my people, these are my daughters; they are purer for you. So fear God, and do not embarrass me before my guests. Is there not one reasonable man among you?"" (11:77-78).

3- The Quranic Chapter 12, about the story of Joseph, contains many parenthetical phrases; examples of them are mentioned below. 

3/1: The parenthetical phrase (although we are many) is mentioned twice by the brothers of Joseph.

3/1/1: The first mention is when his brothers conspired against him: "..."Joseph and his brother are dearer to our father than we are, although we are many; obviously, our father is in the wrong.". This parenthetical phrase shows that they were united as a group against Joseph, Joseph's brother, and Jacob.

3/1/2: When Jacob protested against their taking Joseph with them, Joseph brothers said the following: "..."If the wolf ate him, although we are many, we would be good for nothing." " (12:14). This parenthetical phrase indicates that they deceived Jacob by promising – as a group – to protect Joseph, though they conspired to get rid of him.

3/2: This parenthetical phrase indicates the passage of long time the innocent Joseph suffered in prison, as the companion of Joseph in prison forgot to tell the king about Joseph and then remembered: "The one who was released said, having remembered after a time, "I will inform you of its interpretation, so send me out."" (12:45).

3/3: God has said the following to Muhammad: "But most people, for all your eagerness, are not believers." (12:103). The parenthetical phrase here refers to the fact that Muhammad was eager and keen on guiding as many persons as he could during his lifetime; God has advised him here not to follow a false hope: it is impossible that the majority of his people would be real believers. We infer from other verses how eager and keen Muhammad was in this respect: "Even though you may be concerned about their guidance, God does not guide those who misguide. And they will have no supporters." (16:37); " not waste yourself sorrowing over them. God knows exactly what they do." (35:8); "Perhaps you may destroy yourself with grief, chasing after them, if they do not believe in this discourse." (18:6); "Perhaps you will destroy yourself with grief, because they do not become believers." (26:3); "We did not reveal the Quran to you to make you suffer. But only as a reminder for him who fears." (20:2-3); "And do not be saddened by those who rush into disbelief. They will not harm God in the least. God desires to give them no share in the Hereafter. A terrible torment awaits them." (3:176); "O messenger! Do not let those who are quick to disbelief grieve you..." (5:41); "We know that what they say grieves you. It is not you they reject, but it is God's verses that the unjust ones deny." (6:33).

3/4: The following parenthetical phrase created the sense of movement of the dramatic/theatrical scene in this story of Joseph, discussed by our earlier writings that ponder on the Quranic story of Joseph: "Then, when he provided them with their provisions, he placed the drinking-cup in his brother's saddlebag. Then an announcer called out, "O people of the caravan, you are thieves." They said, as they came towards them, "What are you missing?" They said, "We are missing the king's goblet..." (12:70-72).

4- Another dramatic portrayal of movement in the scene is used by a parenthetical phrase to describe Qorayish polytheists as they conspire while they listen to the Quran recited to them: "We know well what they listen to, when they listen to you, as they conspire, when the wrongdoers say, "You only follow a man bewitched."" (17:47).

5- The parenthetical phrase in this verse about the birth of Mary asserts God's Omniscience: "And when she delivered her, she said, "My Lord, I have delivered a female," and God was well aware of what she has delivered, "and the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary..." (3:36).




 We continue mentioning some examples of parenthetical phrases in the Quranic text


Glory be to Him/Glorified be Him:

1- This phrase comes sometimes in some verses not as a parenthetical one but as a statement: "And they worship, besides God, what neither harms them nor benefits them. And they say, "These are our intercessors with God." Say, "Are you informing God about what He does not know in the heavens or on earth?" Glorified be He, High above the associations they make." (10:18); "And they said, "God has taken a son." Be He glorified. He is the Self-Sufficient. His is everything in the heavens and everything on earth. Do you have any proof for this? Or are you saying about God what you do not know?" (10:68); "...God is only one God. Glory be to Him-that He should have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and the earth, and God is a sufficient Protector." (4:171); "Yet they attributed to God partners-the sprites-although He created them. And they invented for Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Glory be to Him. He is exalted, beyond what they describe." (6:100); "They have taken their rabbis and their priests as deities instead of God, as well as the Messiah son of Mary. Although they were commanded to worship none but The One God. There is no god except He. Glory be to Him; High above what they associate with Him." (9:31); "If there were in them gods other than God, they would have gone to ruin. So glory be to God, Lord of the Throne, beyond what they allege." (21:22); "God has never begotten a son, nor is there any god besides Him. Otherwise, each god would have taken away what it has created, and some of them would have gained supremacy over others. Glory be to God, far beyond what they describe." (23:91).

2- This phrase comes sometimes as a parenthetical phrase between two statements: "And they say, "God has begotten a son." Glorified be Him. Rather, His is everything in the heavens and the earth; all are obedient to Him." (2:116); " And they attribute to God daughters,Glorified be Him, and for themselves what they desire." (16:57); "And they say, "The Most Merciful has taken to himself a son." Be He glorified; they are but honored servants." (21:26).


In the Quran (alone):

 The word (alone) comes parenthetically here to mean that the there is no God but Allah and there is no Book in religion except the Quran itself: "When you read the Quran, We place between you and those who do not believe in the Hereafter an invisible barrier.And We drape veils over their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. And when you mention your Lord alone in the Quran, they turn their backs in aversion." (17:45-46). Without using the word (alone) in these verses, the same meaning is asserted: "And when Our Verses are recited to him, he turns away in pride, as though he did not hear them, as though there is deafness in his ears. So inform him of a painful torment." (31:7); "Who hears God's revelations being recited to him, yet he persists arrogantly, as though he did not hear them. Announce to him a painful torment." (45:8); "These are God's Verses which We recite to you in truth. In which discourse, after God and His verses, will they believe?" (45:6).


As they say:

 This parenthetical phrase asserts that we are never to believe in other deities beside God: "Say, "If there were other gods with Him,as they say, they would have sought a way to the Lord of the Throne." Glorified be Him. He is exalted, far above what they say." (17:42-43).


What their hands have put forward:

 God says the following about hypocrites: "And when it is said to them, "Come to what God has revealed, and to the messenger," you see the hypocrites shunning you completely. How about when a disaster strikes them, because of what their hands have put forward, and then they come to you swearing by God: "We only intended goodwill and reconciliation"?" (4:61-62). The parenthetical phrase here shows the reason of the disaster that befell them. Here is the general Quranic rule: "Whatever misfortune befalls you, it is because of what your hands have earned; and yet He pardons much." (42:30); this rule applies to Muhammad himself: "Whatever good happens to you is from God, and whatever bad happens to you is from your own self. We sent you to humanity as a messenger, and God is Witness enough" (4:79).


Within bearing witness:

 Hypocrites in Yathreb were addicted to telling lies and they used to bear witness to Muhammad that he is God's messenger; yet, God says that they are disbelievers who will enter into Hell if they die without repentance; see 4:145-146. God says the following about those hypocrites: "When the hypocrites come to you, they say, "We bear witness that you are God's messenger." God knows that you are His messenger, and God bears witness that the hypocrites are liars." (63:1). The underlined parenthetical statement asserts the fact that Muhammad is God's messenger and exposes the hypocrisy of disbelievers who feign to be believers; those liars and hypocrites were among the companions of Muhammad in Yathreb; yet, the Sunnite religion makes them infallible deities that must not be criticized or attacked by anyone (especially Quranists!) to avoid being accused of disbelief in the Sunnite religion; of course, Quranists criticize and disbelieve in such Sunnite religious nonsense.    


Except the excused:

 God says the following in the Quran: "Not equal are the inactive among the believers - except the excused - and the strivers in the cause of God with their possessions and their persons. God prefers the strivers with their possessions and their persons above the inactive, by a degree. But God has promised goodness to both. Yet God favors the strivers, over the inactive, with a great reward." (4:95). The underlined parenthetical statement indicates that the unexcused ones (men and women) could not have pretexts to avoid participating in self-defense endeavors; only the excused ones can lag behind: "There is no blame on the blind, nor any blame on the lame, nor any blame on the sick..." (48:17).


No matter how much you desire it:

 This parenthetical phrase is of vital importance to show that a man should not favor one wife over the other(s) as much as he can: "You will not be able to treat women with equal fairness, no matter how much you desire it, but do not be so biased as to leave another suspended. If you make amends, and act righteously - God is Forgiving and Merciful." (4:129).


If you only knew:

 God says the following about the Quran: "I swear by the locations of the stars. It is an oath, if you only knew, that is tremendous. It is a Noble Quran. In a well-protected Book." (56:75-78). We see here one parenthetical phrase (underlined) embedded inside another one in italics. Both parenthetical phrases assert the magnitude of this great oath with a scientific fact never pondered by Arabs: science has proved that we do not see stars themselves actually but see their light reaching us, as their locations change by their movements; some of them had exploded and turned into black holes or white ones, yet their light reach us from their original locations.    


And it is the Truth from their Lord:

 God says in the Quran: "While those who believe, and work righteousness, and believe in what was sent down to Muhammad - and it is the Truth from their Lord - He remits their sins, and relieves their concerns." (47:2). This parenthetical phrase asserts that Islamic belief is in the Book of Truth given to Muhammad and NOT in the person of Muhammad; the polytheistic Muhammadans deify Muhammad and believe in him as a god more powerful than Allah Himself! This is utter blasphemy and disbelief. In Islam (i.e., Qurnaism), there is no belief in mortals but in the celestial message.   


Who pardons sins except God:

 This underlined parenthetical statement urges sinners to repent: "And those who, when they commit an indecency or wrong themselves, remember God and ask forgiveness for their sins - and who forgives sins except God - and they do not persist in their wrongdoing while they know." (3:135).


And who is more true to his promise than God?:

 This underlined parenthetical statement urges real believers to engage into jihad with their money and souls: "God has purchased from the believers their lives and their properties in exchange for Paradise. They fight in God's way, and they kill and get killed. It is a promise binding on Him in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Quran. And who is more true to his promise than God?. So rejoice in making such an exchange-that is the supreme triumph." (9:111).


Recording his deeds:

 This verse is about angels who record deeds of human beings: "He has a succession; before him and behind him, recording his deeds, by God's command..." (13:11). Thus, each human being has angels recording his deeds, and such records remain intact after one dies, and this is asserted by this parenthetical phrase. These angels that record deeds of human beings are mentioned in these verses as well: "Though over you are watchers. Honest recorders." (82:10-11); "Or do they think that We cannot hear their secrets and their conspiracies? Yes indeed, Our messengers are by them, writing down." (43:80); "As the two receivers receive, seated to the right and to the left. Not a word does he utter, but there is a watcher by him, ready." (50:17-18).


Not by their desire, nor in their power:

 We read two parenthetical phrases coming successively in this verse about the Quran, asserting that it its God's Word revealed by Him: "It was not the devils that revealed it.It is not by their desire, nor in their power. They are barred from hearing." (26:210-212).


Nor is it proper for him:

 This parenthetical phrase asserts that Muhammad was no poet: "We did not teach him poetry, nor is it proper for him. It is only a reminder, and a Clear Quran." (36:69).


Though they love it:

 This parenthetical phrase shows that real, pious believers must donate food items they love, not the ones we dislike and throw away, to the needy: "And they give food, though they love it, to the poor, and the orphan, and the captive.". This is part of the qualities of the pious ones: "You will not attain virtuous conduct until you give of what you cherish. Whatever you give away, God is aware of it." (3:92); "...Who gives money, though dear, to near relatives, and orphans, and the needy, and the homeless, and the beggars, and for the freeing of slaves..." (2:177).


We have smitten:

  The Qorayish disbelievers asked many times for tangible miracles to be performed to them, and God has refused many times as per the Quran. among the reasons of this refusal is that such miracles did not make ancient nations believe and God has smitten and destroyed them as a result of their rejection of signs/miracles; thus, if God would have given Qorayish a miracle, they would not believe it: this is asserted in this underlined parenthetical phrase: "And they said, "A jumble of dreams," and, "He made it up," and, "He is a poet," "let him bring us a sign, like those sent to the ancients." None of the towns, We destroyed before them, had believed. Will they, then, believe?" (21:5-6). This Quranic fact asserted is asserted elsewhere: "They swear by God, with their most solemn oaths, that if a miracle were to come to them, they would believe in it. Say, "The miracles are only with God." But how do you know? Even if it did come, they still would not believe. And We turn away their hearts and their visions, as they refused to believe in it the first time, and We leave them blundering in their rebellion. Even if We sent down the angels to them, and the dead spoke to them, and We gathered all things before them, they still would not believe, unless God wills; but most of them are ignorant." (6:109-111).


Lest it goes astray:

 The parenthetical phrase here indicates the reason of creating mountains on Earth as stabilizers to lessen the speed of its movement around itself: "And We placed on earth stabilizers, lest it sways with them, and We placed therein signposts and passages, that they may be guided." (21:31); this is further explained in this verse: "Did We not make the earth a cradle? And the mountains as wedges/pegs?" (78:6-7).


As they quarrel inside it:

 The underlined parenthetical phrase here indicates the sense of movement in this flash-forward scene of Hell, when its dwellers are thrown into it like masses of garbage and argue with one another while being tormented: "Then they will be toppled into it, together with the seducers. And the soldiers of Satan, all of them. They will say, as they quarrel inside it, "By God, We were in evident error. For equating you with the Lord of the Worlds." (25:94-98).


Lastly: within the purpose of ridicule:

 Some parenthetical phrases in the Quran serve the purpose of ridicule; examples of this are provide below.

1- Hypocrites were very reluctant to engage into self-defense endeavors in Yathreb and they mad up excuses so as not to participate; yet, they waited eager to see the results so that they gloat over believers if they were defeated (and feel happy for their own safety) or to feel sorry for missing the victory and spoils; God in this verse shows their mentality and ridicules them in the underlined parenthetical phrase here to show how they hated believers though they feign to be their friends: "Among you is he who lags behind. Then, when a calamity befalls you, he says, "God has favored me, that I was not a witness with them." But when some bounty from God comes to you, he says-as if no affection existed between you and him-"If only I had been with them, I would have achieved a great victory."" (4:72-73).   

2- In the underlined parenthetical phrase here, God ridicules those who lagged behind to avoid being killed, as death is inevitable fate for all mortals, and as those cowards mocked and taunted the believers who were defeated in the battle of Uhud: "Those who said of their brethren, as they stayed behind, "Had they obeyed us, they would not have been killed." Say, "Then avert death from yourselves, if you are truthful."" (3:168). 

3- In the underlined parenthetical phrase here, God ridicules those who forgot themselves and how they were created and deny the Day of Resurrection: "And he produces arguments against Us, and he forgets his own creation; he says, "Who will revive the bones when they have decayed?"" (36:78); this ridicule asserts the previous verse: "Does the human being not consider that We created him from a seed? Yet he becomes a fierce adversary." (36:77). As always, God says nothing but the Absolute Truth.  




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