A Living Language
The Qur’an was able to hold the Arabic language in thrall from the moment it was revealed. Indeed its haunting rhythms rocked the whole Arabia from Sudan to Syria and from Morocco to Oman.
While the Qur’an continues to occupy the pedestal as an abiding model for literary Arabic, the languages of other scriptures had all become dead.
In fact, Arabic has defied the usual norms of the evolution of languages through history. The French scholar Ernest Renan (1823-1894), who had carried out extensive research on Semitic languages, had this to say about the Arabic language:
The Arabic language is the most astonishing event of human history. Unknown during the classical period, it suddenly emerged as a complete language. After this, it did not undergo any noticeable changes, so one cannot define for it an early or a late stage. It is just the same today as it was when it first appeared (quoted by Khan).
In acknowledging this “astonishing event of human history” this French Orientalist, was in fact acknowledging the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. It was the Qur’an’s phenomenal literary style which preserved the Arabic language from alteration, such as other languages have undergone.
A Challenging, Transformational Book
There is no other book in human history that has molded, and is continuing to mold, the life of generations of people as the Qur’an.
Every verse of the Qur’an has become the unalterable source of a code of laws that govern every aspect of the life of Muslims.
This was a book that reformed and refined the lives of thousands of Bedouins who could not think of anything beyond the confines of their clans before; a book that transformed the camel-herds of Arabia into Caliphs and learned judges; a book that brought into being the renowned universities and centers of learning that awakened a new enlightenment in the world, such as no other civilization of the past could match.
Muslims consider it a brilliant and lasting miracle of God because Prophet Muhammad’s only source of inspiration for the revolution he brought about was the Qur’an.
With the Qur’an in his hand, Prophet Muhammad gave shape to the nucleus of a universal society in the Arabia of those days, out of those scattered and cantankerous desert tribes, who had little by way of scientific knowledge or material resources.
Their initiation into a stable Islamic cultural order was effected independent of all the socio-political systems or powers existing in the world at that time.
The Qur’an was at the center of this unique spiritual revolution. All the factors required for forging unity among tribes, races and social classes, for the liberation of thought patterns and the ennobling of knowledge. Indeed all the criteria for social transformation were derived from the very text of the Qur’an and from the culture that emerged from the Qur’an.
Even aggressors who ravaged Islamic lands and triumphed over the Muslims owing to their military superiority, lost their dominance in the end when they were confronted with the spiritual power of Islam; and eventually, many of them adopted the religion of the people they had conquered.