The Development of Discourse in the Quran

"[All] praise is [due] to Allah, who has sent down upon His Servant the Book and has not made therein any deviance.” [Quran 18:1]

The Quran is the speech of Allah. It was revealed unto Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the Arabic language. It is the Arabic language spoken by the Arabs of the time of the Prophet (pbuh), specifically that of the Quraysh of Makkah. The Quran is the most eloquent of all discourses recorded in the Arabic language. The reason is not due to the fact that the Quran has used an archaic diction that only the literary elite of the Arabs can understand. On the contrary, the Quran asserts that its Arabic is very clear and thus its message is easy to understand. The eloquence of the Quran lies in the amazing coherence of its discourse such that it takes up a commonly spoken language and turns it into a linguistic miracle. However, most readers of the Quran tend to miss or overlook owing to the fact that the style and flow of discourse of Quran are not familiar to them. Imam Hamiduddin Farahi was the first scholar of the Quran who was able to identify and explain exactly how the discourse of the Quran developed. Thus, he was the first to clearly explain how the Ayat and the Surah’s of the Quran were knit into a single coherent discourse.

To get a grasp of how the development of discourse takes place in the Quran any reader of the Quran can look for the following points:

1. Each surah has a theme (and at times a specific addressee) round which its contents revolve. No Surah of the Quran is devoid of this.

2. The Surah then has an introduction and a conclusion. The contents of a surah in some cases can be divided into sections and paragraphs, and in other cases only into paragraphs. Paragraphs depict slight shifts and help further the discourse of the Surah around its theme. Sections can be taken as subheading that depicts greater shifts in the discourse but does not deviate from the theme of the Surah. The Ayat in the introduction and of the conclusion may also at times be divided into paragraphs.

3. The paragraphs and sections relate to each other not through an ayah to ayah linear relation but through various literary devices such as parables, comparison or parallelism as well as through statements and passages which are conditional, parenthetical, inferential, modifying, cyclic or that which signify corollaries, conclusions, questions or answers. By keeping a lookout for such literary devices any reader can roughly make out the paragraphs and sections without much external help.

4. As the text of a surah progresses through these paragraphs and sections it gradually reaches its culmination. As a result, the surah assumes a distinct and unique form and shape and becomes a complete and independent whole. Thus, no ayah of the Quran can have more than one meaning if it is kept in its context. The meaning of any ayah of the Quran is subject to the theme of Surah and the intended addressee.

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