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The Eternal Challenge - 2 - Hamza Andreas Tzortzis

The Eternal Challenge: The Limits of Science and the Linguistic Miracle of the Quran is a one day Islamic thought workshop designed to empower you with the tools and concepts to successfully articulate the linguistic miracle of the Qur’an.

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Transcript of The Eternal Challenge - 2 - Hamza Andreas Tzortzis

The Eternal Challenge - Part 2
What is the Qur'an?
Makes you think!
Intellectual challenge
No need to know Arabic
Lost knowledge
What is the Qur'an?
"The Qur’an is the Arabic speech of God, which He revealed to Muhammad in wording and meaning, and which has been preserved in the compiled written pages of the Qur’an, and has reached us by recurrent reporting."
Makes You Think!
"Thus do We explain in detail the signs for a people who give thought."
Intellectual Challenge
"If you have doubts about the revelation We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a single chapter like it– enlist whatever supporters you have other than God – if you truly [think you can]."
Eloquence and rhetoric
You don't need to know Arabic
The Qur'an was revealed over a 23 year period
Many of its verses were revealed for specific circumstances that occurred during that period
Yet the Qur'an displays remarkable literary structures
One such structure is known as ring composition
Lost Knowledge
The Qur'an addresses various levels of understanding across time.
The descriptions of the natural world in the Qur'an seem remarkably timeless.

The Qur'an addresses various levels of intellect, at various times, and has a whole host of meanings for a particular word that it uses to describe the natural world.
The Orbits
"And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming (yasbaḥūna)."
Pope Gregory I, head of the Catholic Church before the revelation of the Qur'an, had this to say:

"What is there now, I ask of delight in this world? Everywhere we observe strife; fields are depopulated, the land has returned to solitude…And yet the blows of Divine justice have no end, because among the blows those guilty of evil acts are not corrected…"
Our purpose is to worship Allah

Worship means:

Loving Allah
Knowing Allah
Obeying Allah
Singling out all acts of worship for Allah alone
"Will they not then ponder the Qur'an or are there locks upon their hearts?"
Further Reading & Contact




az-Zarqani, Manhil al-Irfan fi Ulumul Quran, Vol. 1, p. 21.
"Reasoning and argument are so integral to the content of the Qur'an and so inseparable from its structure that they in many ways shaped the very consciousness of Qur'anic scholars."
"Nature's flawless harmonies and the delights and liabilities of our human environment, with its diverse and delicate relationships, are invested with religious significance. Created nature is a cryptogram of a reality which transcends it: nature is a text to be deciphered. Evidences accumulating in the material and social worlds and in the horizons jointly point to a hidden immaterial order."
Quran 10:24
Rosalind Ward Gwynne. Logic, Rhetoric and Legal Reasoning in the Qur'an: God's Arguments. Routledge. 2004, p. 203
Shabbir Akhtar. The Qur'an and the Secular Mind: A Philosophy of Islam. Routledge. 2008, page 217.
Dallal, Ahmad. Science and the Qur’an. Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an. General Editor: Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University, Washington DC. Brill Online, 2013.
"The marvel of creation is a recurrent theme of Qur’anic commentaries. These marvels are viewed as signs of God and proofs that he exists, is all-powerful and all-knowing, and is the willing creator of all being...At a basic level, such reflection leads to the conclusion that there is order and wisdom in creation, which in turn means that a wise maker must have created it...The Qur’an, according to these commentaries, directs people to reflect on the wisdom of the creation of nature..."
Qur'an 2:23
"Then do they not reflect upon the Qur'an? If it had been from [any] other than God, they would have found within it much contradiction."
Qur'an 4:82
"As tangible signs, Qur'anic verses are expressive of an inexhaustible truth, they signify meaning layered with meaning, light upon light, miracle after miracle."
Bruce Lawrence. The Qur’an: A Biography. Atlantic Books, p 8
"It is inimitable because of its eloquence, its unique style, and because it is free of error."
Imam Fakhr al-Din cited in Suyuti. Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an.
"Like all Arabs they were connoisseurs of language and rhetoric. Well, then if the Koran were his own composition other men could rival it. Let them produce ten verses like it. If they could not (and it is obvious that they could not), then let them accept the Koran as an outstanding evidential miracle."
H. A. R. Gibb. 1980. Islam: A Historical Survey. Oxford University Press, p. 28.
Chapter: Al-Kauthar

Over 30 rhetorical devices and features of eloquence
10 lexemes, 10 letters used in each verse, and 10 letters used once in the whole chapter
Semantically orientated rhythm
You Don't Need to Know Arabic
Valid and indispensable source of knowledge
Is the world flat?
Academic testimonies
Why are there counter-testimonies?
Testimony & Knowledge
"concerned with how we acquire knowledge and justified belief from the say-so of other people."
Is the world flat?
Benjamin McMyler. Testimony, Truth and Authority. Oxford University Press. 2011. p. 3.
"…many of us have never seen a baby born, nor have most of us examined the circulation of the blood…"
C. A. J. Coady. Testimony: A Philosophical Study. Oxford University Press. 1992, p. 82.
Testimony is fundamental:
Professor Coady vs. David Hume…
Relying on experts:
Dr. Elizabeth Fricker
Professor of Philosophy Keith Lehrer
Elizabeth Fricker. Testimony and Epistemic Autonomy in The Epistemology of Testimony. Edited by Jennifer Lackey and Ernest Sosa. Clarendon Press: Oxford. 2006, p. 244
Right to Referral:
Assistant Professor Benjamin McMyler
Keith Lehrer. Testimony and Trustworthiness in The Epistemology of Testimony. Edited by Jennifer Lackey and Ernest Sosa. Oxford University Press. 2006, pp, 145 & 149.
Testimony, Truth and Authority. Oxford University Press. 2011. pp. 66 & 69.
Counter Testimonies
Academic Testimonies
Putting it all together
"the employment of lucid words and sweet constructions gracefully and without affectation that we find in the Tremendous Qur’an is to be found nowhere else in any of the poetry of the earlier or later peoples."
Shah Waliyyullah. Al-Fawz al-Kabir fi Usul at-Tafsir. Translated, introduced and annotated by Tahir Mahmood Kiani. Ta-Ha. 2014, p.160.
"Notwithstanding the literary excellence of some of the long pre-Islamic poems…the Qur’an is definitely on a level of its own as the most eminent written manifestation of the Arabic language."
Martin R. Zammit. A Comparative Lexical Study of Qur’anic Arabic. Brill. 2002, page 37.
There are some counter-testimonies
Absurd implications
Reject Arabic literary history
Claim greater linguistic ability than seventh century Arab linguists
Deny the challenge of the Qur'an
"The doctor infers that his patient has measles, since this is the best explanation of the evidence before him. The astronomer infers the existence of motion of Neptune, since that is the best explanation of the observed perturbations of Uranus…Given our data and our background beliefs, we infer what would, if true, provide the best of the competing explanations we can generate of those data…"
Peter Lipton. Inference to the Best Explanation. Second Edition. Routledge. 2004, p.56.
Important Background
The seventh century Arabs achieved linguistic mastery of the Arabic language:
"The Arabs used to congratulate each other only on the birth of a child and when a poet rose among them."
Ibn Rashiq, ‘Umda, vol. 1, p. 65.
He was an Arab...

After their initial accusations the Arab linguists never accused him of being the author.

The Qu'ran is a literary masterpiece...

Psycholinguistic content...

If the blueprint exists, you can imitate it...
The best explanation
What is Ring Composition?
Ring composition is the equivalent of putting a mirror in the middle of the work – what is mentioned in the first half will be reflected in the second half.

Imagine you were to write a short story about your day and applied a ring structure to your story...
Mary Douglas, "Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring Composition”.
Chapter 2: Al-Baqarah
Very Special Verse
Qur'an 2:255
What does it say
about the Author?
"How else can it unite so perfectly and harmoniously parts and pieces that do not naturally come together?… Is it as result of an experiment that follows a spontaneous thought? That could not be the case. When each part was put in its position, the one who placed them never had a new thought or introduced any modification or re-arrangement. How then could he have determined his plan? And how could he have made his intention so clear in advance?... When we consider such detailed instructions on the arrangement of passages and Surahs we are bound to conclude that there is a complete and detailed plan assigning the position of each passage before they are all revealed. Indeed the arrangement is made before the reasons leading to the revelation of any passage occur, and even before the start of the preliminary causes of such events…"
Dr. Draz, The Eternal Challenge.
"Such are the plain facts about the arrangement of the Qur'an as it was revealed in separate verses, passages and surahs over a period of 23 years. What does that tell us about its source?"
The Time of Yusuf
The Time of Musa (Moses)
The Qur'an revealed knowledge of Ancient Egypt that was lost to mankind for thousands of years.

The Qur'an uses two titles when referring to the leader of the Egyptians:

These titles are used for two specific periods.
Yusuf (Old Middle Kingdom)
Moses (New Kingdom)
"Pharaoh" was first applied to the king around middle of the fourteenth century BCE, c. 1352-1348 BCE (known as the New Kingdom).
Historically Accurate
While addressing the Egyptian ruler at the time of Prophet Yusuf (Joseph), the word "Al-Malik" in Arabic is used which refers to a ruler, king or sultan.

"The King said, 'Bring him to me straight away!'…"
Qur'an 2:50
There was a clear distinction between the use of the world Pharaoh and King during this period (Old Middle Kingdom).
Sir A. Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar: Being An Introduction To The Study Of Hieroglyphs, 1957, 3rd Edition (Revised), Oxford University Press: London, p. 75.
"Pharaoh: Term used regularly by modern writers to refer to the Egyptian king. The word is the Greek form of the ancient Egyptian phrase per-aa ('the great house') which was originally used to refer to the royal palace rather than the king. The 'great house' was responsible for taxation of the lesser 'houses' (perw), such as the temple lands and private estates. From the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC) onwards, the term was used to refer to the king himself."
"Pharaoh" in I. Shaw & P. Nicholson, British Museum Dictionary Of Ancient Egypt, 1995, British Museum Press: London, p. 222.
The Pharaoh
W.V. Davies, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, 1987, British Museum Press: London, p. 45.
"Moses said: O Pharaoh! I am a messenger from the Lord of the Worlds."
Qur'an 7:104
It is only the Qur'an that had the correct historical understanding of Ancient Egypt in the seventh century.

The Arab scholars Dhul-Nun al-Misri and Ibn Wahshiyya were some of the first historians to be able to partly translate what was written in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. They lived over two hundred years after the Qur’an was revealed.

It wasn’t until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, over 1,000 years after the revelation of the Qur'an, that the French Orientalist Jean-François Champollion was able to translate the hieroglyphs in 1822.
Expansion of the Universe
"And the heaven We constructed with strength, and indeed, We are [its] expander (lamūsiʿūna)."
Alaqah: Embryo
Something that clings
Clay that sticks to the hand
Blood clot
Blood in a general sense
Leech or a worm
Qur’an 21:33
Professor Mustansir Mir
"The word yasbahūna (swim or float) in the verse ‘And He is the One Who created the night and day, and the Sun and Moon – each swimming in an orbit’ (Q 21:33) made good sense to seventh-century Arabs observing natural phenomena with the naked eye; it is equally meaningful to us in light of today’s scientific findings [i.e. celestial mechanics]."
Cited from Nidhal Guessoum. Islam’s Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science. 2011, p. 152.
Qur’an 51:47
Seventh Century Understanding
Twenty-first Century Understanding
"[The leech] takes whatever it needs to live by sucking the blood of whatever it can latch onto; in this case that’s me. As it sucks my blood, it takes from it all that it needs to live, it literally lives off me and the whole of pregnancy is shaped by a similar kind of parasitic relationship. Unlike the leech, the developing embryo doesn’t suck the maternal blood but it does raid her blood for the raw materials it needs to grow. From the word go both leech and embryo are out for themselves."
Limitations of Science
What if some verses cannot be understood via modern science?

Medicinal Leech
Lord Robert Winston, Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College
Pope Gregory I quoted by Mohammad Farooq Kemal, The Crescent vs The Cross, Lahore, 1997, p. 7.
The Jewish Community
“Thus, when Muslims crossed the straits of Gibraltar from North Africa in 711 CE and invaded the Iberian Peninsula, Jews welcomed them as liberators from Christian Persecution.”
Zion Zohar, Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry, New York, 2005, p. 8-9.
"The institutions that had flourished under the Moslem, died when the Moslem departed; and after four centuries of light and learning, Andalusia fell back, under the Christian rule, into a condition of ignorance and barbarism , nearly, if not quite, equal to that of the north western provinces of the peninsula."
Ulick R. Burke, A History of Spain, Longmans, p. 288.
"…Muslim Spain had written one of the brightest pages in the history of Medieval Europe. Her influence had passed through Provence into the other countries of Europe, bringing into birth a new poetry and a new culture, and it was from her that Christian scholars received what of Greek philosophy and science they had to stimulate their mental activity up to the time of the Renaissance."
Thomas Arnold. The Preaching of Islam, p. 131.
Justice & Tolerance
"The covenant of protection imposes upon us certain obligations toward the ahl al-dhimmah [non-Muslims under Muslim protection]. They are our neighbours, under our shelter and protection upon the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger, and the religion of Islam. Whoever violates these obligations against any one of them by so much as an abusive word, by slandering his reputation, or by doing him some injury or assisting in it, has breached the guarantee of Allah, His Messenger (peace be upon him), and the religion of Islam."
Shaha al-Deen al-Qarafi, Al-furuq
Moral Motivation
"O you who believe! Be steadfast witnesses for God in just, and let not hatred of any people seduce you that you deal not justly. Deal justly, that is nearer to your duty."
Intellectual Motivation
“Do they not examine the realm of the heavens and the earth and whatever God has created?”
Qur’an 7:185
Qur’an 5:8
Whose Slave Are You?
"God puts forward this illustration: can a man who has for his masters several partners at odds with each other be considered equal to a man devoted wholly to one master? All praise belongs to God, though most of them do not know."
Qur'an 39:29
Qur'an 47:24
"And what can I say? For I swear by Allah, there is none amongst you who knows poetry as well as I do, nor can any compete with me in composition or rhetoric – not even in the poetry of jinns! And yet, I swear by Allah, Muhammad’s speech [meaning the Qur’an] does not bear any similarity to anything I know, and I swear by Allah, the speech that he says is very sweet, and is adorned with beauty and charm."
Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi. An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an. Al-Hidaayah.1999, p. 269.

Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi. An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an. Al-Hidaayah. 1999, p. 269.
Spread Like Wildfire
"Obviously, the Prophet succeeded in this conflict with the poets, otherwise Islam would not have spread like wildfire."
Navid Kermani “Poetry and Language” in The Blackwell Companion to the Qur'an. Edited by Andrew Rippin. Wiley-Blackwell. 2009, p. 110.
"And indeed We know that they (polytheists and pagans) say: ‘It is only a human being who teaches him (Muhammad).’ The tongue of the man they refer to is foreign, while this is a speech arabeeyun mubeen."
Qur’an 16:104
Linguistic Study
"Results of all experiments have led to two main conclusions: (1) First, the two investigated books should have different authors; (2) Second, all the segments that are extracted from a unique book appear to have a certain stylistic similarity. Consequently, we can conclude, according to this investigation, that the Qur’an was not written by the Prophet Muhammad and that it belongs to a unique author too."
Was he a genius?

Sustained unedited and unchanged unmatched eloquence
Author discrimination between the Holy Quran and Prophet’s statements by Halim Sayoud. Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol. 27, No. 4, 2012
Some Results
62% of the hadith words are untraceable in the Qur’an and 83% of the Qur’an words are untraceable in the hadith. This conclusion of differing vocabulary is also reinforced by the above mentioned results.

By Hamza Andreas Tzortzis
I woke up in the morning
I left the house.

I came back home.
I went to sleep.
I bumped into a friend whom I hadn't seen since childhood.
No details!
The Qur'anic verses are there to make you think and reflect, and NOT to give you details about science. This reflection should facilitate the conclusion that God is Wise, Powerful and deserves our worship! There are no scientific miracles.
God's creative power & wisdom
+ He deserves our worship
Read the essay in you notes: Does the Qur'an Contain Scientific Miracles?
This verse can address a seventh century mindset and a modern understanding...
Sun's Orbit?
The verse can address the seventh century primitive view that the sun was orbiting around the earth. But on closer inspection of the language used in the Qur’an, we can conclude that it also addresses the modern accurate view that the Sun has its own orbit.

The Sun orbits the Milky Way, and according to scientists, it takes 226 million years to completely orbit around the center of the Milky Way.
Vast or Expanding?
This can address the seventh century view that the universe was vast and had provisions.
It can also mean that it has been expanded or is expanding.
Galen, the second century Greek physician, had this view.

It could have been the understanding of the seventh century Arabs.
Gems from Chapter 12...
Exercise 2: Speak to a friend or write a short post
Pair up and speak to them about why the Qur'an is from God


Write a couple of paragraphs
Read the essay in your notes: God's Testimony
Full transcript