Christoph Heger’s Prob­lem­at­ic Recon­struc­tion” Of The Qur’an­ic Sura 96

In an arti­cle of his, Christoph Heger has ven­tured to uncov­er what he insin­u­at­ed as the pre-Islam­ic ground lay­er of an orig­i­nal­ly Chris­t­ian text in the Qur’an­ic Sura 96.

Let us first present a beau­ti­ful Eng­lish ren­der­ing of the por­tion of this Sura under con­sid­er­a­tion here :

Recite in the name of thy Lord who created
[cre­at­ed] man from blood coagulated.
Recite ! Thy Lord is won­drous kind
Who, by the pen, has taught mankind
things they knew not (being blind).Alfred Guil­laume, Islam, G. Britain, 1969, pp. 28 – 29

Cen­tral to his recon­struc­tion” of this Qur’an­ic Sura was his claim that accord­ing to a cita­tion of his work Majaz al Qur’an” by Al-Far­ra’, Abu Ubai­da held that the verb qara’a” in surah 96:1 (which is tra­di­tion­al­ly inter­pret­ed as read” recite”) has the same mean­ing as the verb dhakara, name­ly invoke”, laud”, praise”.

To plead for an ancient Chris­t­ian hymnod­i­cal text in Qur’an­ic Sura 96, this claim is of piv­otal impor­tance for it sug­gests, con­trary to the tra­di­tion­al Islam­ic under­stand­ing of these vers­es, some­thing like a Chris­t­ian priest at the head of a con­gre­ga­tion, ask­ing them to invoke” the name of their Lord.

On the oth­er hand, if it can be proved that this claim, upon which the hub of Christoph Heger’s recon­struc­tion” of S?ra 96 rests, is both inac­cu­rate and deemed unre­li­able by the very same author­i­ty from whom it is cit­ed, then it will remove the ground from beneath his entire S?ra recon­struc­tion.” It is pre­cise­ly this that we will demon­strate briefly in the following.

(a) To assert that the verb qara’a” in sura 96:1 (= recite”) has the same mean­ing as the verb dhakara” (= invoke,” laud,” praise”), Christoph Heger pro­vides the fol­low­ing sources :

(i) Nold­eke, Geschichte des Qorans,” I, 81, which, accord­ing to Christoph Heger, fur­ther cites :
(ii) Al-Far­ra’, who, again accord­ing to Christoph Heger, repro­duces a cita­tion [in his work] of Abu Ubaida’s Majaz al Qur’an.”
(iii) Thus the ulti­mate source of the claim, — that qara’a” in sura 96:1 (= recite”) has the same mean­ing as dhakara” (=invoke,” laud,” praise”), — is Abu Ubaida’s Majaz al Qur’an.”

My Com­ments

(i) Now, please bear in mind that Nold­eke, in his cit­ed work, does not even hint at the work of the cel­e­brat­ed ancient Kufan gram­mar­i­an Al-Far­ra’ (d. 207 AH/​822 CE).

What Nold­eke actu­al­ly refers to is (the Ger­man equiv­a­lent of) F. ad locum”.

Now this F.,” accord­ing to the arbi­trary abbre­vi­a­tion sys­tem adopt­ed by Nold­eke-Schwal­ly, actu­al­ly refers to Fakharaddin ar- Raz­i’s work, not to Al-Far­ra’s work !

There­fore, involv­ing Al-Far­ra’ in this mat­ter, obvi­ous­ly in an attempt to gain prof­it — vis-a-vis Heger’s above-cit­ed claim — from his gram­mat­i­cal pres­tige, when the sec­ondary source actu­al­ly con­sult­ed nev­er even men­tions him in the first place, is the unde­ni­able proof of Christoph Heger’s blunder.

(ii) In the actu­al treat­ment of Al-Far­ra’ of the begin­ning of Sura 96 from his pri­ma­ry Qur’an­ic work Ma‘ani l‑Qur’an, nowhere does Al-Far­ra’ say him­self, or cite Abu Ubai­da, to the effect that qara’a” in sura 96:1 has the same mean­ing as dhakara.”

(iii) On the oth­er hand, Fakharaddin ar-Razi of the begin­ning of Sura 96 from his pri­ma­ry Qur’an­ic work Tafsir-i-Kabir (the real Mr. F.” of Nold­eke-Schwal­ly) does pro­vide an utter­ance of Abu Ubai­da, accord­ing to which he believed that the prepo­si­tion Bi” (i.e., in”) in the phrase : Recite in the name of thy Lord”, was a sur­plus addi­tion”, and the verb qara’a” (= recite”) here was much like the verb dhakara” (= invoke,” laud,” praise”).

But it is very impor­tant to note that Fakharaddin ar-Razi quotes this as a for­lorn opin­ion among the many oth­ers quot­ed, and which he rejects as being weak” on three grounds.

(iv) Fur­ther­more, I have also checked the orig­i­nal work of Abu Ubai­da, Majaz al Qur’anEd., F. Sez­gin, Makt., al-Khan­gi, Cairo, 1962 and it too does not con­tain this alleged opin­ion ascribed to him (that qara’a” in 96:1 has the same mean­ing as dhakara”).

The fact, that this alleged opin­ion attrib­uted to Abu Ubai­da is not con­tained in the crit­i­cal edi­tion of his work pre­pared by Fuat Sez­gin, also fur­ther strength­ens our con­tention, based upon Fakharaddin ar-Raz­i’s rejec­tion of the same, that this opin­ion had a dubi­ous chain of trans­mis­sion as well as was fair­ly sus­pi­cious even on gram­mat­i­cal grounds.

In light of this inves­ti­ga­tion, we have seen that the opin­ion, that qara’a” in 96:1 has the same mean­ing as dhakara,” was wrong­ly claimed by Christoph Heger to have repro­duced by Al-Far­ra’, when it was actu­al­ly cit­ed by Fakharaddin ar-Razi, who had, — after cit­ing it — reject­ed it in the same sen­tence owing to its gram­mat­i­cal unten­abil­i­ty and sin­gu­lar, sus­pi­cious chain, and has giv­en three rea­sons of his own for its rejection.

Con­se­quent­ly, Christoph Heger’s recon­struc­tion” of Sura 96, which was pri­mar­i­ly based on this opin­ion, falls. Christoph Heger's Problematic "Reconstruction" Of The Qur'anic Sura 96 1Endmark

1 Comment

  1. Dear Sir

    I also think Dr Heger is wrong. qara’ and dhakara are two dif­fer­ent roots with dif­fer­ent mean­ings. Qara’ means to say some­thing to oth­ers. It orig­i­nal­ly means to col­lect words in one’s mind and then utter them as a thought expres­sion. These mean­ings can be found in TAJ al urus and LANE’s Lexicon.Generally the mean­ings giv­en are RECITE and READ. But in Eng­lish the con­cept of recit­ing is to say some­thing by mem­o­riz­ing some­thing and pro­duc­ing from one’s mind with­out see­ing any­thing on the paper. Read­ing implies look­ing at words and under­stand­ing the thoughts.

    Iqra implies say­ing some­thing in words and sen­tences, or speak­ing about some­thing to state some­thing. Thus in Ara­bic Iqra imlies SPEAKING about some facts. Say­ing some­thing in words and stat­ing the facts is the right con­cept of this imper­a­tive form of the root.

    So in 96:1, Allah, the One and the Only God, com­mands Mohammed, His Prophet, to say to oth­ers and declare that Allah is the Lord and Cre­ator of man. These three attrib­ut­es are to be announced by the Prophet and to be accept­ed by the humans. Allah means the par­tic­u­lar and one god only because the pagan Arabs beleuved in many gods oth­er than Allah. Ilah, i.e. god means one who is wor­shipped, served, and obeyed by oth­ers. The point made here is that Allah is the Lord, one who pro­vides every­thing for the nour­ish­ment of the humans and com­mand them like a mas­ter. There­fore only Allah should be wor­shipped and obeyed. Allah is Cre­ator of humans. This cre­ation began with a clot of blood and then took the final shape of human. This process of devel­op­ment is empha­sized here to show the piw­ers of God. So only God devel­ops humans phys­i­cal­ly as well as men­tal­ly by prov­ing means of devel­op­ment i.e guidace in life, by giv­ing com­mands to be obeyed.This includes argu­men­ta­tion which is very con­vinc­ing. The pagan Arabs accept­ed these facts and argu­ments and then agreed to srve Allah only and leave wor­ship­ping the oth­er gods. Hence we under­stand that these words were very effec­tive when preached.

    Dhakar is men­tion­ing and remind­ing or remem­ber­ing something .

    Liaquat Sam­ma

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