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Pamukkale Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, vol.8, no.1, pp.391-416, 2021 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier


The Literary Inimitability of the Qurʼan according to Fadl Hasen Abbas



This article examines the views of Fadl Hasan Abbas (1932-2011), a mufassir and the last representative of our ancient scholarly tradition, on the literary inimitability of the Qur’an. His understanding of the nature of the text of the Quran at the level of verses, words, sentences, passages, and surahs are discussed within this framework. According to Abbas, the Qurʼan presents an ideal text structure: In the Qurʼan, every word and sentence has been placed in the most appropriate place in a way that a second alternative cannot be considered. The inimitability of the Qurʼan indeed arises from this feature. Just as there is no repetition in the Qurʼan, there is no extra letter. It is seen that the reference frame of Abbâs's views on the literary inimitability of the Qur’an is scholars such as al-Khattābī, al-Bāqillānī and al-Jurjānī who have produced great works on i'jâz.

Keywords: Fadl Hasen Abbas, Literary/Stylistic inimitability of the Qurʼan, Verse, Textual structure of the Qurʼan, Balagha


The topic of iʿjāz al-Qur’ān, which tries to determine the features that make the text of the Qurʼan beyond the capability of human beings, has been handled and studied by a limited number of scholars in the past and today, probably due to its difficulty. One of the contemporary scholars studying the subject is Fadl Hasan Abbâs (1932-2011), who has produced valuable works in different fields of Islamic sciences such as the history of tafsir, rhetoric, and fiqh, especially the sciences of tafsir and the Qur'an.

Abbâs focused especially on the issue and the history of iʿjāz and examined the past studies by subjecting it to various analyzes, criticisms, and comparisons. His studies on iʿjāz classics have created a deep knowledge of the subject.

To fully understand the thoughts of Abbâs regarding the iʿjāz of the Qurʼan, first, it is necessary to put forward what kind of Qurʼanic text he envisioned. For this, it would be appropriate to dwell on his views on the text structure of the Qurʼan, starting with the word, which is the smallest unit of meaning in the language, at the level of the sentence, passage, and surah, or “chapters.” Likewise, it is also important to determine his view on the claim of repetitions and pertinent words, which he highlighted meticulously.

According to him, although it is possible to talk about various aspects of iʿjāz, including literary, legal, and scientific ones, the prominent among them was the literary iʿjāz. Because this type of iʿjāz presents a situation that can be seen in the whole of the Qurʼan. To put it more clearly, this type of iʿjāz includes the entire Qurʼan in its short and long chapters. This is not the case with other types of the iʿjāz. For example, news about the unseen does not exist in every verse of the Qurʼan as there are no references to the scientific and legal iʿjāz. For this reason, he thinks that the most important and encompassing one among the types of iʿjāz is literary iʿjāz. He discussed his views on this subject in a separate study titled Lamasât ve Letâif mine'l-İ‘jâzi'l-Bayânî.

According to him, the literary iʿjāz is "to explain the meaning of every linguistic element in the Qurʼan at the level of letters, words, and sentences in the best way; it is to be placed in the most ideal place that should be to express the purpose in the most ideal way. "Literary iʿjāz is related to nazm in terms of its essence. The concept of nazm as a subject includes the choice of the Qur'anic words according to the meaning intended to be expressed, and the sequence of these words in sentences; It also includes the syntax of sentences and verses in the surah.

The Arabs were able to comprehend this point in the nazm with their tastes and selika (the ability to write and speaking well) in the period when the Qurʼan was revealed. Modern Arabs can comprehend it not by their nature, but only when their subtleties are explained to them and interpreted.

Since the word is the basic element of verse in the Qurʼan, Abbas begins to examine the subject of literary iʿjāz from the word. In this framework, he dwells on the word world of the Quran, and the specific words called "strange words" which arouse an interest in the readers; words that are claimed to be synonymous, different words used in similar contexts, etc.

One of the reasons why the Abbasid dwelling on the issue of word choice in the context of the literary iʿjāz of the Qur'an -as many other scholars say- lies in the fact that the words of the Qur'an are carefully chosen and preferred to alternatives. To put it more clearly, every word in the Qurʼan has been selected in terms of both sound harmony and clarity of meaning in the sentence and compliance with the position, context, and addressee. The reasons for choosing the words in the verse and the reason for each place in the sentence and other features were to describe to reveal the literary iʿjāz of the Qurʼan.

The conclusion Abbâs reached this point was that "there is no place for hesitation in any of the words in the book of Allah." He confirms this claim with references to past scholars and various examples from verses. Accordingly, every word in the Qurʼan has a special meaning that the other does not have. In the Qurʼan, every meaning and expression unit from word to sentence has been put in the most appropriate place to be found in a way that a second alternative cannot be considered. In this respect, there is not a letter (ineffective in terms of meaning) in the Qurʼan, nor can there be the talk of an indiscriminate reduction. This ideal text structure is not limited to the choice of words and sentences but also applies to meaning integrities such as passages and surahs. In summary, the Qurʼan presents an ideal text structure and it stems from this feature.

In the Qurʼan, the choice of words suitable for meaning and purpose is as important as where and how they are used in a sentence (nazm). The nazm mainly deals with the usage of elements such as hazif-dhikr, introduction-postponement, confirmation, and abridgment in the sentence. Abbas, in his analysis regarding the verses similar in terms of words, connects the reason for the differences or nuances at the level of words or verses in such verses to the differences in the addressee, position, subject, and context. It does all these to prove that the Qurʼan has an ideal text structure.

On the other hand, even though he tries to analyze the issue of iʿjāz in terms of style, it is open to discussion to what extent subjects such as mind-emotion, eloquence-sweetness, brachlogy-periphrasis, outlining, and distinctness of expression are related to the style he deals with it.

When Abbâs' views on literary iʿjāz are examined, it will be seen that the scholars who have written classical works on the subject of iʿjāz shape his reference frame: al-Rummânî (d. 384/994), al-Khattâbî (d. 388/998), al-Bâqillanî (d. 403/1013), and al-Jurcânî (d. 471 / 1078-79). He combined this deep-rooted experience coming from tradition with his literary pleasure and deep knowledge of the Qurʼan and succeeded in putting the subject of literary iʿjāz in a framework that today's people can understand better.

Bu makale kadim ilim geleneğimizin son temsilcisi, aynı zamanda bir müfessir olan Fadl Hasen Abbâs’ın (1932-2011) edebî i‘câza dair görüşlerini ele alıp incelemektedir. Bu çerçevede nazım anlayışına, kelime, cümle, pasaj ve sûre düzeyinde olmak üzere Kur’an metninin tabiatına ilişkin tespitlerine yer verilmiştir. Ona göre Kur’an ideal bir metin yapısı arz etmektedir: Kur’an’da her kelime ve cümle, ikinci bir alternatifi düşünülemeyecek şekilde, olması gereken en uygun yere konulmuştur. Haddizatında Kur’an’ın i‘câzı da bu hususiyetinden kaynaklanır. Kur’an’da tekrar olmadığı gibi zâid bir harf de yoktur. Abbâs’ın edebî i‘câza dair görüşlerinin referans çerçevesinin Hattâbî, Bâkıllânî ve Cürcânî gibi i‘câz konusunda büyük eserler vermiş âlimler olduğu görülmektedir.

Anahtar kelimeler: Fadl Hasen Abbâs, Edebî/Beyânî i‘câz, Nazım, Kur’an’ın metin yapısı, Belâgat