The Mualliqaat and the Quran
And many a fully armed one, whom the warriors shunned fighting with, neither a hastener in flight, nor a surrenderer;
My hands were generous to him by a quick point with a straightened spear, strong in the joints;
Inflicting a wound wide of its two sides, the sound of the flow of blood from it leads at night the prowling wolves, burning with hunger.
I rent his vesture with a rigid spear, for the noble one is not forbidden to the spears.
Then I left him a prey for the wild beasts, who seize him, and gnaw the beauty of his fingers and wrist…
- Extract from the Mualliq of Antar, A Pre-Islamic Arabic Poem
Antar or more completely, Antarah ibn Shaddad, was almost a mythical figure in Pre-Islamic Arabia. Although originally scorned because of his Ethopian mother, he was unmatched in his possession of two other qualtites prized by the Arab, namely, courage and competence in warfare and, of course, excellence in the composition of poetry.
Antar’s poem, from which the above extract is taken, was held in such respect by the Arabs that it was honoured as one of the Mualliqaat, a poem, judged by the eloquence of the Arabs, so unsurpassed in language, rhetoric and rhyme that it was privilaged to be hung on the Sacred Ka’bah, that all pilgrims from Arabia and beyond would be obliged to admire the beauty of its language and the delivery of its author.
Mualliqaat in fact means “The Hanging Ones” and from the vast quantities of poetry the composition-obsessed Arabs produced, only 7 made the cut – there is however, some confusion as to whether the poems were truly hung on the Ka’bah or that the term Mualiqaat had a more figurative connotation.
Neverthless, these poems were the epitome of Arabic language and composition at a time when poetry was memorised and orally delivered to tribesmen over warm fires in the chilling stillness of the Arabian Desert. In a time and place where most were illiterate, strong emphasis was placed on the composition of poetry. It was a means to keep alive the traditions and culture of Arab events in a manner that could be easily transcribed in minds if not on paper.
The Arabs learned to critique verse, to dwell into the underlying meanings of words, their stems and their roots that helped to develop Arabic into a truly rich and diverse language capable of communicating intricate shades of meaning with compelling imagery and amazing rhyme. It was also the time, at the peak of this appreciation of verse, that they were first introduced to the Quran.
The claim is often put that the Quran itslef was a product of this rich and vibrant, literary culture. That works like the Mualiqaat where also unmatched masterpeices of Arabic that can be compared to the Quran. While the Quran argues that it is in fact a challenge
to this rich and vibrant, literary culture! ‘Bring a chapter like it!’, the Quran emphatically challenges, before continuing, “And if you cannot, and you cannot, then fear the fire of Hell, whose fuel is men and stones!”
But whose argument is to believed? Those of the orientalists who aim to explain Islam and the Quran as an ordinary experience – just another event in human history that can be explained by the mundane and normal, nothing miraculous, or that of the Quran, which continually tries to prove itself of its truthfullness, that it is the Speech of Almighty God, Himself?
Other than the fact, that no one has been able to bring a chapter that can be matched to the Quran, no, not even by some of the authors of the Mualliqaat, some who were still alive at the time of Muhammad(S), here are just three trivial questions that could be thought of against the arguments of the orientalists;
- If the Quran were the work of some Arabian poet, be it the illiterate, Prophet Muhammad(S) or any other man or woman,why did the author not take credit for the work – the greatest masterpiece ever written in the Arabic Language, especially when adeptness in literature and composition would easily propel you to the upper eschelons of society? The Prophet Muhammad(S) never benefited with anything material from the Quran, on the contrary, he was shunned by his people, tormented, starved and oppressed, dying in poverty. He actually lived a more materially-privileged life before he announced he was a prophet sent by God.
- If the Quran originated from the same sources as the Mualiqaat, that is to say, from the Arab people, why were the Mualiqaat preserved by the Muslim masses? If Islam is some great deception, and the author/authors of the Quran were deceivers who meant to fool the people that it was from God, would you not destroy any evidence that could point to the true source of the book? Or was it because the Mualliqaat were never seen as a threat to the unmatched perfection of the Quran but rather respected for their rhetoric and as a preservation of classical Arabic Language as well as a reminder of Arab culture.
- If the Quran is a product of human effort, why were not similiar pieces of work produced, if not in Arabia, then anywhere in the World? Which other literary masterpiece can claim to influence the lives of over 1.6 billion people worldwide? The Bible, might also claim a large following, but at least in its current form, it can’t match the linguistic miracle that the Quran with its rhetoric, imagery, language devices, breadth and depths of meaning and rhyme, just to name a few.
Anyone who reads the Quran with an open mind, can easily see how different it is to any other literary work and how unlikely it would have been for a pagan, bedouin Arab to write about the breadth of topics covered in the Quran. Not only does the Quran put to rest every query of man on the meaning of life and death but it also dwelves into such diverse topics as Astronomy, Physics, Social Science, History, Economics, Agriculture, Geology and Embryology.
If however, the Quran, was the product of the Arabs, it would have contained and praised that which the Mualiqaat and other poetry of
the age contained and praised. But tribalism, self-praise, unnecessary killing and wine drinking, a few recurring themes in the Mualiqaat, are all forbidden by the Quran.
Compare the above poetry by Antar with the words of the Quran in the video below, and how the Quran addresses much more pertinent issues and themes in a tone that clearly seems to come from One seeming with power and authority, demanding submission:
June 15, 2012 Pre-Islamic Poetry