Addendum to presentation on the muqaṭṭaʿāt

A detailed addendum for students of the muqaṭṭaʿāt

The case of kitāb at 27:1

The full presentation is found in video form both on my YouTube channel and on this site.

Note that conventions such as the use of bold and italics are carried over from Article XX in the Appendix to The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation (ebook or Reference Edition) which treats of the muqaṭṭaʿāt.

Notes on the case of kitāb at 27:1

Those are the proofs of the Qur’an and a clear decree (27:1).

It is a central part of my thesis that kitāb in the nominative case following muqaṭṭaʿāt indicates the declaration of a specific value in a multiple set; and there are excellent reasons to believe that kitāb here should be read in the nominative, as I shall show.

But before doing so, I wish to make the following three points:

POINT ONE

No argument in the opposite direction of what I will argue below for 27:1 (i.e. that while in this case kitāb is traditionally marked genitive it is, in fact, nominative) can be made in any comparable case. It is not possible to point to any instance of kitāb following letters which participates in the muqaṭṭaʿāt and indicates the declaration of a specific value and to argue that kitāb there is in some case other than the nominative. In other words, at 27:1 the choice of genitive case for kitāb is arbitrary whereas in all other instances where kitāb is cited in the nominative in this study of the muqaṭṭaʿāt the case is objectively and incontrovertibly nominative.

Those places where similar declarations occur outside the one under discussion at 27:1 (i.e. those places which contain an instance of kitāb in the nominative following letters which participate in the muqaṭṭaʿāt and which – according to my system – indicate the declaration of a specific value) are found below with the word translated from kitāb underlined:

That is the covenant about which there is no doubt (2:2)

A decree sent down to thee
(So let there be no distress in thy heart therefrom)
That thou warn thereby
And a reminder to the believers: (7:2)

A decree the proofs whereof are fortified then set out and detailed
From one wise, aware (11:1)

A decree we sent down to thee
That thou bring forth mankind from darkness into light
By the leave of their lord
To the path of the Mighty, the Praiseworthy: (14:1)

A decree the proofs whereof are set out and detailed
An Arabic recitation for people who know (41:3)

In each of these cases kitāb is incontrovertibly in the nominative, either because it follows dhālika (2:2) or because it is at the head of the clause (7:2, 11:1, 14:1, 41:3); in none of these cases is it possible to argue that kitāb might be read in anything other than the nominative. It is not a matter of interpretation or choices in diacritics; the contexts permit of no possibility other than that of the nominative case for kitāb.

In the case of 20:1 this question does not arise since, as per our discussion of طه, the value itself is absent.

POINT TWO

What I assert at 27:1 (i.e. that while there kitāb is traditionally marked genitive it is, in fact, nominative) cannot be claimed for any other instance of kitāb following letters which participate in the muqaṭṭaʿāt and which – according to my system – do not indicate the declaration of a specific value in a multiple set because they are in a case other than the nominative.

I now list all cases where kitāb follows an instance of muqaṭṭaʿāt and does not indicate the declaration of a specific value in a multiple set because it is not in the nominative; again, the kitāb component is underlined:

He sent down upon thee the law aright confirming what is within its scope (3:3)

Those are the proofs of the wise law. (10:1)

Those are the proofs of the clear law. (12:1)

Those are the proofs of the law. (13: 1)

Those are the proofs of the law and a clear recitation. (15:1)

Those are the proofs of the clear law. (26:2)

Those are the proofs of the clear law. (28:2)

Those are the proofs of the wise law (31:2)

The successive revelation of the covenant about which there is no doubt is from the Lord of All Mankind. (32:2)

The successive revelation of the law is from God: the Mighty, the Knowing (40:2)

By the clear law! (43:2)

By the clear law! (44:2)

The successive revelation of the law is from God: the Mighty, the Wise. (45:2)

The successive revelation of the law is from God: the Mighty, the Wise. (46:2)

In each of these cases kitāb is incontrovertibly in something other than the nominative; in none is it possible to argue that kitāb might be read in the nominative; this is so for one of three reasons: kitāb is the direct object of a verb (3:3); it is unquestionably in the genitive mood following a noun (10:1, 12:1, 13:1, 15:1, 26:2, 28:2, 31:2, 32:2, 40:2, 45:2, 46:2); it is in the genitive mood as the subject of an oath (43:2, 44:2). This is not a matter of interpretation or choices in diacritics; the contexts listed here permit of no possibility other than that of something other than the nominative case for kitāb.

POINT THREE

At no other point in a comparable position is the grammatical case of kitāb ambiguous.

The comments here relate to range. These are cases where muqaṭṭaʿāt values are implied in particular chapters rather than explicitly stated. We shall see further into our presentation on the muqaṭṭaʿāt the concept of range discussed more fully. Suffice to say at this juncture that muqaṭṭaʿāt ranges occur at chapters 21-25, 37, 39, 51-67 and 69-114.

In these chapters the kitāb component immediately follows the chapter opening in the following cases:

The successive revelation of the law is from God
The Mighty, the Wise. (39:1)

We have sent down to thee the law aright:
Serve thou God, sincere to him in doctrine. (39:2)

By a decree inscribed (52:2)

Here, the nominative may be definitively excluded as at Point One, and for the same reasons: kitāb is the direct object of a verb (39:2); it is unquestionably in the genitive case following a noun (39:1); it is unquestionably in the genitive case as the subject of an oath (52:2). Again, this is not a matter of interpretation or choices in diacritics; the contexts listed permit of no possibility other than that of something other than the nominative case for kitāb.

Outside of those chapters directly or indirectly affected by muqaṭṭaʿāt there remain 15 chapters 1, 4-6, 8-9, 16-18, 33-35, 47-49. Here, kitāb immediately follows the opening of the chapter in two cases:

And we gave Mūsā the law
And made it a guide for the children of Isrā’īl: (17:2)

Praise belongs to God who sent down the law upon his servant (18:1)

In both cases the nominative case is excluded since kitāb is the direct object of a verb. Again, this is not a matter of interpretation or choices in diacritics; the contexts permit of no other possibility.

The reason for the analysis above is to exclude any possibility that:

  • What we claim for kitāb at 27:1 might be claimed also elsewhere
  • The reverse of what we claim for kitāb at 27:1 might be claimed elsewhere

Thus, we have demonstrated that in all cases in the Qur’an where kitāb directly follows explicit muqaṭṭaʿāt, implicit muqaṭṭaʿāt, or no muqaṭṭaʿāt – that is, in every chapter other than at 27:1 – its grammatical case is beyond question that which it is universally held to be.

The case of kitāb at 27:1

Again, 27:1 reads:

Those are the proofs of the Qur’an and a clear decree

Unlike in any of the cases listed above, at 27:1 kitāb is in clause joined to the preceding clause by the conjunction ‘and’ (Arabic: wa).

And unlike in any of the cases listed above, the marking of kitāb is interpretative rather than merely a function of the sentence; that is, in this one ambiguous case an arbitrary decision has been made when marking the text to relate the second clause to proofs (Arabic: ayāt) (placing kitāb is in the genitive) and not to Those (Arabic: tilka) (placing kitāb is in the nominative), whereas either option is legitimate.

Since the point at 27:1 is objectively moot, and since it is demonstrated above that there exists no grammatical ambiguity of any kind for kitāb affecting the muqaṭṭaʿāt (or any other chapter opening), the task remains – on the basis of pan-textual analysis – to demonstrate the case at 27:1 one way or another.

I remind the reader of two tenets of my hermeneutical process:

  • No ambiguous or arbitrary point may be accepted as binding over explicit points
  • Where there exists explicit proof, it is taken as binding upon ambiguous or arbitrary points

Thus, we are looking for data comparable to that contained within the clauses in question in order to derive an unambiguous indication of the grammatical case in this ambiguous instance.

I will now break down the component parts of the statement in question and interrogate the broader text on that basis.

We find that the expression Those are the proofs of the Qur’an occurs nowhere beyond 27:1; however, the expressions Those are the proofs and and a clear decree both occur outside it and these shall form the basis for our comparative pan-textual analysis.

Those are the proofs

Those are the proofs occurs at 2:252, 3:108, 10:1, 12:1, 13:1, 15:1, 26:2, 28:2, 31:2, 45:6.

The instances at 2:252 and 3:108 occur mid-chapter and have no features pertinent to our enquiry.

The instances at 10:1, 12:1, 26:2, 28:2, 31:2, 45:6 occur in a similar position as here at 27:1 (i.e. immediately following muqaṭṭaʿāt) but have no following ‘and’; both 13:1 and 15:1 have following clauses beginning with ‘and‘ it is to these that we now direct our attention.

At 13:1 it is simply impossible that And should introduce anything other than a new nominative subject by dint of context:

Those are the proofs of the law.
And what is sent down to thee from thy lord is the truth
But most men do not believe. (13:1)

The case at 15:1 is different; it reads:

Those are the proofs of the law and a clear recitation.

We find that 15:1 is – like 27:1 – traditionally marked with the clause following ‘and’ in the genitive. Also,  like 27:1, the marking decision is arbitrary; that is, it could equally legitimately be read in the nominative.

To make the point as clearly as we can: 15:1 is marked (and understood to mean) Those are the proofs of the law and [of] a clear recitation whereas it could equally legitimately be read Those are the proofs of the law and [also they are] a clear recitation.

Before demonstrating that the second clause of 15:1 is, in fact, also in the nominative, it is as well to understand why it was as read and marked in the genitive.

The word rendered here in English recitation is in Arabic qur’ān (i.e. that word by which the Qur’an itself is known). Historically, people reading the second of these two clauses had to understand it in a genitive sense (i.e.: Those are the proofs of the law and [of] a clear recitation). That the muqaṭṭaʿāt letters which precede certain chapters are themselves signs or proofs of a clear recitation was something readers could accept; that these letters might themselves be a clear recitation was beyond them since ideas about what the muqaṭṭaʿāt letters meant were – to be charitable – vague.

However, today we know that these symbols – i.e. wherever specific values occur in a multiple set (as is the case at both 15:1 and 27:1, incidentally) – in fact, comprise a recitation (Arabic: qur’ān) since each of the identifier references some specific portion of the Qur’anic text; thus, they are in a fully literal sense a qur’ān – or a recitation.

But prior to the present work, this was not understood; the reader had no option but to interpret this instance of ambiguous grammar in the only way which reflected an understanding of the verse which was accessible to him; thus, this clause – which could equally legitimately be read in the nominative – was read in the genitive.

And a clear decree

It is to the second clause of 27:1 that we turn our attention: ‘and a clear decree‘.

Similarly to what we have just seen at 15:1, it is an interpretative matter whether and a clear decree at 27:1 relates to the proofs (i.e. Those are the proofs of the Qur’an and [of] a clear decree) or to Those (i.e. Those are the proofs of the Qur’an and [also they are] a clear decree).

The verses at 15:1 and 27:1 beg comparison – at least in the mind of anyone who reads the Qur’an often and knows it well: they are the only two instances in the entire Qur’an which both directly follow muqaṭṭaʿāt statements and comprise two clauses linked by and (Arabic: wa); they open with identical formulas; contain kitāb; they use the same adjective: clear (Arabic: mubīn); and they contain qur’ān.

Those are the proofs of the law and a clear recitation. (15:1)

Those are the proofs of the Qur’an and a clear decree (27:1)

The mind seeks consistency. Since readers chose to read 15:1 in the genitive for the reasons discussed above, it was natural for 27:1 to be read in similar fashion – and for some of the same reasons.

That the muqaṭṭaʿāt letters could be proofs of a clear kitāb (by which the reader typically understood the Qur’an itself) could be accepted even without knowledge of what the muqaṭṭaʿāt letters are; that they themselves could be a kitāb made little or none since the nature of the muqaṭṭaʿāt letters was closed to him.

However, I repeat, in both instances the choice of case in the second clause is arbitrary.

Pan-textual analysis

This brings us to the analysis on a pan-textual basis of our second component: and a clear decree.

This phrase occurs only once in the Qur’anic text outside the instance at 27:1, and that is at 5:15.

There has come to you light from God and a clear decree (5:15)

Here, and a clear decree unquestionably and incontrovertibly is in the nominative case.

Thus, if we are to decide the ambiguous grammatical case of the clause and a clear decree at 27:1 on the basis of the single instance of identical text in the Qur’an – one which is explicit and admits of no other grammatical interpretation – we must regard the case at 27:1 as nominative.

That granted, the case at 15:1 must also be admitted as potentially nominative (for reasons over and above those already listed), and should be investigated on the same pan-textual basis as we have used for 27:1.

Again, 15:1 reads:

Those are the proofs of the law and a clear recitation.

We find that the expression and a clear recitation, likewise, occurs elsewhere only at one other place in the Qur’an and that it, too, is in the nominative – and admits of no other grammatical interpretation:

It is only a remembrance and a clear recitation (36:69)

Conclusion: kitāb at 27:1

On the basis of the above, I am confident in asserting that kitāb in the ambiguous case at 27:1 – while commonly marked genitive – is correctly understood in the nominative case; that all other cases where kitāb relates to the muqaṭṭaʿāt its case is both correctly understood and admits of no other interpretation; and that the ambiguous clause at 15:1 commonly marked genitive is also correctly understood in the nominative case. These assertions are entirely consistent with my general policy of refusing to accept ambiguous values over proven, explicit values, and of enforcing proven values over ambiguous ones.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and activist with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies.

He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik.

He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur’an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety.

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