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About the Quranic Stories and the Quranic Chapter Twelve

 

About the Quranic Stories and the Quranic Chapter Twelve

Published in September 11, 2018

Translated by: Ahmed Fathy

Introduction:

 We have received two questions, via a single email message from one person, which we quote partially here followed by our reply.

(...  God says in the Quran: "Her Lord accepted her with a gracious reception, and brought her a beautiful upbringing, and entrusted her to the care of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah entered upon her in the sanctuary, he found her with provision. He said, "O Mary, where did you get this from?" She said, "It is from God; God provides to whom He wills without limits"" (3:37). How come that Zachariah entered her place several times to pose the same question and he got the same answer from Mary? Was this repeated so many times? Is this logical? What is your understanding of 3:37, then?  ...).

(... God says in the Quran: "We have revealed it an Arabic Quran, so that you may understand. We narrate to you the best stories, by revealing to you this Quran. Although, prior to it, you were among the unaware." (12:2-3). What are your own ponderings of 12:2-3? What is the relation between the Arabic Quran and the best Quranic stories? Is the story of Joseph the best one among Quranic stories? If so, why? ... Thank you for taking some of your time to answer my questions ...).

OUR REPLY:

Firstly: Within the context of the story of Zachariah and Mary, we read this verse: "Her Lord accepted her with a gracious reception, and brought her a beautiful upbringing, and entrusted her to the care of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah entered upon her in the sanctuary, he found her with provision. He said, "O Mary, where did you get this from?" She said, "It is from God; God provides to whom He wills without limits"" (3:37). The term (whenever) here shows that repeatedly, he saw provisions at her place; this does NOT imply that the question posed by him and the answer she gave were repeated; we tend to think that both the question and the answer were uttered for one time.

 

Secondly: about the Quranic stories and the Quranic Chapter 12 that contains the story of Joseph:

1- The Quran descended or was revealed in the Arabic tongue so that the Arabs would understand and ponder it using their minds; in the verses 12:2-3, God urges readers to reflect and ponder on the story of Joseph. The verses at the end of the Quranic Chapter 12 asserts the verses at its beginning: "In their stories is a lesson for those who possess intelligence. This is not a fabricated tale, but a confirmation of what came before it, and a detailed explanation of all things, and guidance, and mercy for people who believe." (12:111).

1/1: The Old-Testament's story of Joseph in the Bible is distorted; in contrast, the story of Joseph has its miraculous features, and its events are mentioned in the chronological order and contain the mention of some metaphysical aspects of the unknown and unseen; Muhammad never knew about the metaphysical realm of the past and the future; we read this verse after the narration of the story of Joseph: "This is news from the past that We reveal to you. You were not present with them when they plotted and agreed on a scheme." (12:102).   

1/2: This pattern of asserting that Muhammad never knew about the metaphysical realm of the past is repeated within the Quranic stories.

1/2/1: After the story of Noah, God has said the following to Muhammad: "These are some stories from the past that we reveal to you. Neither you, nor your people knew them before this. So be patient. The future belongs to the pious ones." (11:49).

1/2/2: Within the story of Mary, God has said the following to Muhammad: "These are accounts from the Unseen, which We reveal to you. You were not with them when they cast their lots as to which of them would take charge of Mary; nor were you with them as they quarreled." (3:44).

1/2/3: After the story of Moses, God has said the following to Muhammad: "You were not on the Western Side when We decreed the command to Moses, nor were you among the witnesses...Nor were you among the people of Madian...Nor were you by the side of the Mount Al-Tur when We proclaimed. Rather, it was a mercy from your Lord, that you may warn people who received no warner before you, so that they may take heed." (28:44-46).

2- The phrase (the best stories) in the Quranic text is NOT confined to the story of Joseph in the Quranic Chapter 12; rather, this phrase applies to the whole Quranic text/narration and not only to all Quranic stories of prophets/messengers. 

3- We advise the sender of the above message to read our articles about our ponderings of the Quranic Chapter 12 and the story of Joseph; for instance, in this English article:      http://www.ahl-alquran.com/English/show_article.php?main_id=18279

 

Thirdly: the various meanings of the Quranic term (narrate):

1- The Arabic/Quranic term "qas" [i.e., in Arabic, to narrate, follow, or to (re)trace] means to follow the footsteps or the traces of someone.

1/1: Within the story of Moses and the good servant/prophet of the Lord: "He said, "This is what we were seeking." And so they turned back retracing their steps." (18:64).

1/2: Within the story of Moses' mother when she threw him into the River Nile in a casket and she asked her daughter to follow the movement of this casket: "She said to his sister, "Trail him." So she watched him from afar, and they were unaware. " (28:11).

1/3: One is not to narrate, follow, or talk about things one does not know; this command is addressed to Muhammad and to all believers: "And do not follow what you have no knowledge of. The hearing, and the sight, and the heart - all these will be questioned." (17:36).

2- Of course, the term (to narrate) literally means to recount, relate, and tell stories to others; e.g., when Moses narrated his story to the good man in Madian: "...And when he came to him, and narrated the story to him, he said, "Do not fear, you have escaped from the unjust people."" (28:25).

3- The same term is used to indicate telling or narrating Quranic parables: "And narrate to them the story of him to whom We delivered Our signs, but he detached himself from them, so Satan went after him, and he became one of the misguiding ones. Had We willed, We could have elevated him through them; but he clung to the ground, and followed his desires. His metaphor is that of a dog: if you chase it, it pants; and if you leave it alone, it pants. Such is the metaphor of the people who deny Our signs. So narrate the parables, so that they may ponder." (7:175-176).

4- This term is used in this Quranic context about the human nature of Jesus as a mortal being to address the minds of those polytheists and refute their claims that Jesus might be deemed as a deified son of the Lord God – may God be exalted high and above such polytheistic myths – and that Jesus is like Adam, created of dust as per the Divine Will of the Lord God: "This is what We narrate to you of the Verses and the Wise Reminder. The likeness of Jesus in God's sight is that of Adam: He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was. The Truth is from your Lord, so do not be of those who doubt. And if anyone disputes with you about him, after the knowledge that has come to you, say, "Come, let us call our children and your children, and our women and your women, and ourselves and yourselves, and let us invoke God's curse on the liars." This is the narration of Truth: there is no God but Allah. Allah is the Mighty, the Wise." (3:58-62).

5- This term is used within the meaning of divine legislations in the Scriptures of the Israelites: "For those who are Jews, We have prohibited what We narrated to you before. We did not wrong them, but they used to wrong their own selves." (16:118). 

6- This term is used to indicate that on the Last Day, God will inform human beings of their deeds: "We will question those to whom messengers were sent, and We will question the messengers. We will narrate to them with knowledge, for We were never absent." (7:6-7); this is explained further here: "...and follow the path of him who turns to Me. Then to Me is your return; and I will inform you of what you used to do." (31:15); "On the Day when God resurrects them all, and informs them of what they did. God has kept count of it, but they have forgotten it. God is Witness over everything." (58:6).

7- The term (narrate) comes in the context of preaching the Islamic call of the monotheism of (There is no God but Allah) within all Scriptures of prophets/messengers of the Lord God.

7/1: God addresses all humanity here after the story of the descent of Adam and his wife on earth: "O children of Adam! When messengers from among you come to you, narrating to you My Verses - whoever practices piety and reforms - upon them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve." (7:35). This means that all prophets/messengers of the Lord God had delivered nothing but one, clear message of monotheism; i.e., the testimony of (There is no God but Allah).

7/2: The Lord God will say the following to Hell-dwellers among the human beings and jinn on the Last Day: ""O assembly of jinn and humans, did there not come to you messengers from among you, narrating to you My Verses, and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours?"..." (6:130). This means that all that all prophets/messengers of the Lord God had delivered the same message of Islam/monotheism.

8- In many verses, the term (narrate) means literally to relate, recount, and tell something in general.

8/1: The Lord God did NOT narrate all stories of all prophets/messengers; only some of them: "We sent messengers before you. About some of them We narrated to you, and some We did not narrate to you about them..." (40:78).

8/2: The Lord God has said the following to Muhammad after narrating stories of ancient people.

8/2/1: "These towns - We narrate to you some of their tales. Their messengers came to them with the clear signs, but they would not believe in what they had rejected previously. Thus God seals the hearts of the disbelievers." (7:101). We find here the reason for their destruction by the Lord God.

8/2/2: "These are of the reports of the towns - We narrate them to you. Some are still standing, and some have withered away." (11:100). We find here that some of the destroyed towns have some ruins that remained, and some were destroyed and no traces or remnants of them are to be seen.

8/2/3: "Everything We narrate to you of the history of the messengers is to strengthen your heart therewith. The Truth has come to you in this, and a lesson, and a Reminder for the believers. " (11:120). We find here that God has strengthened the heart/soul of Muhammad who was grieved over those polytheists/deniers and disbelievers because they rejected the Quran which is the Reminder and the Absolute Truth from the Lord God; the Muhammadans have the same mentality of disbelievers/polytheists of the Qorayish tribe and of all disbelieving nations of prophets/messengers from Noah to Muhammad.

8/2/4: "Thus We narrate to you reports of times gone by; and We have given you a message from Our Presence. Whoever turns away from it will carry on the Day of Resurrection a burden. Abiding therein forever. And wretched is their burden on the Day of Resurrection." (20:99-101). We find here that rejecters of the Quran will enter into Hell for eternity.

8/3: There is a special focus on certain stories/narratives in the Quranic text.

8/3/1: The story of the People of the Cave, though they were not prophets or messengers: "We narrate to you their story in Truth. They were youths who believed in their Lord, and We increased them in guidance." (18:13).

8/3/2: The stories of the People of the Book: "This Quran narrates to the Israelites most of what they differ about." (27:76). The People of the Book differ in their own history/narratives/stories and their religious legislations as they have distorted them; the Quran is the Criterion that settles many of their disputes and it narrates the Truth; it replaces the previous Scriptures; the Quran descended or was revealed as per the true predictions within these previous Scriptures of the People of the Book: "And We revealed to you the Book, with Truth, confirming the Scriptures that preceded it, and superseding it. So judge between them according to what God revealed, and do not follow their desires if they differ from the Truth that has come to you. For each of you We have assigned a law and a method. Had God willed, He could have made you a single nation, but He tests you through what He has given you. So compete in righteousness. To God is your return, all of you; then He will inform you of what you had disputed." (5:48).


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