The Infinite Loop Problem

The Infinite Loop Problem


Criticism

In one of his writings* , Mr Jochen Katz has pointed out a contradiction in 26:192, 195-6. He writes that in the referred verses, the Qur'an says:

It [the Qur'an] is indeed a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds (26:192), ... in clear Arabic speech and indeed IT [the Qur'an] is in the writings of the earlier [prophets] (26:196).

After citing the verses, Mr. Katz writes:

Now, the 'earlier writings' are the Torah and the Injil for example, written in Hebrew and Greek. HOW can an ARABIC Qur'an be contained in books of other languages? Furthermore, it would have to contain this very passage of the Qur'an since the Qur'an is properly contained in them. Hence these earlier writings have to be contained in yet other earlier writings and we are in an infinite loop, which is absurd.

Before I give my relatively detailed opinion regarding this objection raised by Mr Katz, I would just like my readers to note that in all four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke and John -- there are consistent references to the writings of the Old Testament. For instance, Matthew writes:

This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said: 'The voice of one crying out in wilderness: "prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight".' (Matthew 3: 3)

Mark writes:

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah: 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight".' (Mark 1: 2 - 3)

Luke writes:

As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: 'The voice of the one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight...".' (Luke 3: 4)

John writes:

This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: "Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?"

The reader is requested to keep in mind that the book of the prophet Isaiah, which is being referred to in all the above quotations, (in the underlined portion) was written in the Hebrew language, while none of the Gospels was written in Hebrew. It obviously means that the Greek, Aramaic or Latin words used in the cited parts of the Gospels, were probably unknown and incomprehensible for the prophet Isaiah, towards whom these words are being ascribed. How, in heaven's name, could these Latin, Greek or Aramaic words be ascribed to the Hebrew speaking prophet Isaiah?

Thus, as far as Mr. Katz question: 'HOW can an ARABIC Qur'an be contained in books of other languages?' is concerned, the answer to this question is: 'Exactly in the same way as the Hebrew book of Isaiah can contain the referred Greek, Latin or Aramaic statements cited from the Gospels.'

I am sure, with the kind of extra-ordinary genius that Mr Katz has dug out the referred contradiction in the Qur'an, he must also have had a tough time and a number of sleepless nights in resolving the above 'incorrect' references in not just one, but all four of the Gospels. However, as should be clear to the lay-man, there is no contradiction in either the referred part of the Qur'an, nor in the cited verses of the Gospels. It is actually not the particular languages, but the subject matter that is being referred to in both the Qur'an as well as the Gospels.

The particular verses of the Qur'an, which Mr. Katz holds as the basis for the referred contradiction are reproduced below for a better understanding:

And indeed it is a revelation of the Lord of the worlds -- brought down by the trustworthy spirit -- upon your heart, so that you may be one of the warners -- [revealed] in a clear Arabic dialect -- and indeed it is [also] in the scriptures of old. (26:192-6)

The problem statement in the above verses, for Mr Katz, as should be clear from his objection, is: 'And indeed, it is also in the scriptures of old'. According to Mr Katz, this statement can only mean that the whole Qur'an is in the previous scriptures. However, it may be interesting that rmd4islamaol.com has already responded to this criticism of Mr Katz (his response is posted at Mr. Katz's page) in the following www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/qi012.html:

Simply put, when it says *it* is in the writings of the earlier prophets, it may be referring to the teachings of the Qur'an, a reference to the Qur'an, etc.

When we say something is *in* something else do we mean it is literally and completely in it?

YOU are *in* trouble!"

Now do I mean YOU are somehow interrelated and a part of the concept trouble? Or do I mean the word 'YOU' is a subset of the word 'trouble'? Or is the meaning of 'YOU' the same as 'trouble'? Or have I told you *how* YOU are in trouble? No. Well in a similar manner, the author of the contradiction should not assume 'it is in' means 'it is'. That is assuming one particular understanding of *how* it is in the writings of earlier prophets. A contradiction is not proven again. All praise is due to God.

Do we throw out the verse as illogical [that is what the contradiction's author proposes] or do we throw out the author [of the contradiction]'s analysis of the verse as illogical?

Although I do not fully agree with Mr. Desmond's explanation, nevertheless, what seems quite interesting to me is what Mr Katz wrote in response to it:

... Saying that I am in my room, then this means I am fully located inside this room, a physical entity. I am either in it or out. 'Trouble' is not a location, it is a 'state'. Being 'in trouble' means to face difficult circumstances. Now, the question is: Are the Torah and the Gospel (physical or at least clearly defined) entities or are they 'states' or 'circumstances'? If we want to ask whether a quotation, a paragraph, or a chapter is in certain book, then it either is or it is not. This is a clear cut black and white question. No need to confuse the issue with other uses of the word 'in' [even taken from the English language when usually the emphasis is that we have to look to the Arabic!!]. The question is not other possible ways of using the word 'in' in English, but what this Surah means and if it makes sense...

The way I understand Mr Katz's response (I repeat here so that I do not misconstrue his point), he has actually stressed that in the English language, when we say that something is 'in' another, if the 'another' is a real (i.e. a physical or a clearly defined) entity then the sentence can only mean that the 'something' (the subject) is fully (and completely) in the 'another'. Nevertheless, Mr Katz does agree that if the 'another' is a state then, obviously, it is not necessary that the 'something' be fully and completely present in the 'another'. I hope I have accurately summed up Mr Katz's argument (I would request Mr Katz to correct me if that is not the case). In the end, Mr Katz has written: 'This is a clear cut black and white question. No need to confuse the issue with other uses of the word 'in' [even taken from the English language when usually the emphasis is that we have to look to the Arabic!!].' I would request Mr. Katz to allow me to give a few examples of the word 'in' [in the English as well as the Arabic language] so that the matter is fully appreciated by my non-English [and non-Arabic] mind.

I would request Mr. Katz to take a look at the following usage of the word 'in' [and 'fi%' in the Arabic language] and correct the faulty meanings that I have been ascribing to the usage [with the hope that I shall be forgiven for it... English, after all, is not my native language]:

English Arabic
1. He left his pen in the ink. ترك قلمه في الحبر
I never knew that the sentence implied the 'whole pen', neither did I ever know that 'ink' was a state or a circumstance.
2. A man in the hat. رجل في القبعة
I never knew that the sentence implied 'A whole man (engulfed) in a hat', neither did I ever think that 'hat' was a state or a circumstance.
3. A woman in uniform. إمرأة في البزة النظامية
I never knew that the sentence implied 'A whole woman (wrapped from head to toe) in a uniform', neither was I ever informed that 'uniform' was a state or a circumstance.
4. There is a beautiful cow in the book. هناك بقرة جميلة في الكتاب
I never knew that the sentence actually implied 'A whole (complete and probably living) cow (trapped) in the book', neither did I ever find out that a 'book' was a state or a circumstance.
5. He returned in a minute. رجع في دقيقة
I never knew that the sentence actually implied 'the man returned completely engulfed in something called a minute', neither was I ever told that a 'minute' was a state or a circumstance.
6. He found Shakespeare in the Encyclopaedia وجد شيكسبير في الموسوعة
I never knew that the sentence actually implied 'He found Shakespeare -- in flesh and blood -- in the Encyclopaedia', neither was I ever told that an 'encyclopaedia' was a state or a circumstance.
7. Can you find Makkah in/on the map? هل تجد مكة في الخريطة
This sentence according to the rule expounded by Mr. Katz should imply that the whole of Makkah, in its physical form, should lie on the map, as obviously, a 'map' is not a state or a circumstance.
8. He found the complete project in the files. وجد المشروع كاملا في الملف
This sentence, according to the rule expounded by Mr Katz should imply that the whole project in its physical form, should lie in the files, as obviously, 'files' is not a state or a circumstance.

These examples can go on forever (Sitting in a chair; leave the key in the lock; A cigarette in his mouth; A knife in his hand). But, obviously, they would only prove my ignorance of the English language, which should already be well established in view of my ignorance of such a basic rule of the language expounded by Mr Katz. I guess the only way to save myself from severe criticism is to confess that in 'our' Asian English, the rule expounded by Mr Katz doesn't hold good. Does it hold good in the American English is for Mr Katz to decide for himself.

It should be quite clear that the rule expounded by Mr Katz is absolutely baseless and does not hold good for either the English or the Arabic language.

When the Qur'an says that 'it is [also] in the scriptures of old', the meaning is quite close to that which we imply by saying 'Shakespeare in the Encyclopaedia', 'complete project in the files', 'Makkah in the map' and 'beautiful cow in the book'. In each of these sentences, an explanatory word which is quite obvious for someone with a basic sense of the working of a language has been suppressed. If the suppressed word is expressed, the sentences would then read as:

There is 'a picture (or 'depiction') of' a beautiful cow in the book.

Can you find 'reference to' (or 'mention of') Makkah on/in the map?

He found the 'details of' (or 'specifications of') the complete project in the files.

He found 'the mention of' (or 'reference to' or 'information on') Shakespeare in the Encyclopaedia.

Based on the same principles, when the Qur'an says: 'It [the Qur'an] is in the scriptures of old', it simply means 'it is 'referred to' (or 'mentioned in', or 'foretold in') the scriptures of old.

It may be mentioned here that this interpretation of the verse is not something new. Most of the interpreters of the Qur'an (including Zamakhshari, Razi, Qurtabi, Ibn Kathir, Abu H~ayyan, Qummi, Burusawi, Maraghi and T~abrasi) have explained the referred verse to imply the same meaning as is given in the foregoing paragraph. It is quite strange that Mr Katz has not only ignored this explanation of the verse, without giving any reason for doing so, but has also interpreted the verse to imply something absolutely unknown to the interpreters of the Qur'an. In this case, what actually entails a logical fallacy is, obviously, not the Qur'an, but Mr. Katz's interpretation of the cited verses.

I am sure that Mr Katz's next question would be 'Where have the scriptures of old mentioned the Qur'an'. I am also greatly tempted to write on the subject. However, the scope of this article was only to explain the cited verses of the Qur'an. The mentioned question shall be answered in time.

Courtesy 'Understanding Islam'(http://www.understanding-islam.com/articles/responses/tilp.htm)




Articles by this author


Two Blows Allowed to the Hellfire

The Real Criterion in Prohibition of Drinks

Praying for the Prophet (sws) after Adhan

A Narrative regarding Man’s Potential of Goodness after Accepting Islam

A Narrative about the Prophet’s Directive regarding the Appropriate Clothing for Women

The Prophet’s Warning about Chaotic Times

Qualities of Various Tribes and Nations

The Prophet’s Lack of Authority to Prohibit what God has kept Lawful

The Best of the Arabian Women

A Prediction regarding the Muslim Rules after the Prophet (sws)

Fulfilling the Vow of a Deceased Mother

Punishment for Apostates

The Prophet’s Time for Zuhr Prayers during Summers and Winters

Seasonal Variations in Prayer Timings

Urging People to Attend Congregational Prayers

The Deadline for Fajr and ‘Asr Prayers

A Comprehensive Directive in Islam

When one is Late in Joining the Congregational Prayers…

The Obligatory Religious Practices of Islam

Two Blows Allowed to the Hellfire

Praying for the Prophet (sws) after Adhan

The Prophet (sws) does not have the Authority to Prohibit what God has kept Lawful

Eating Garlic, Onion and Leek in Cooked Form

An Etiquette relating to Visiting the Mosque

True Muslim, Mu’min, Mujahid and Muhajir

The Time for the ‘Āsr Prayer

Urging People to Attend the Congregational Prayers

The Prophet’s Experience of Revelation

What should a Person say when he hears the Adhān?

Delaying Zuhr Prayer in Intense Heat

Ascertaining the Time-Range for each Prayer

True Muslim, Mu’min, Mujāhid & Muhājir

The Obligatory Religious Practices of Islam

The Real Criterion in Prohibition of Drinks

The Significance of Intention Behind Good Deeds

What is the Punishment for Adultery?

Do the Errors in the Bible Disprove the Divinity of the Qur’an?

Can Angels Disobey?

Solomon (sws) Listening to Ants

Could Allah have a Son?

The Position of Jesus (sws) in the Hereafter

Marrying the Wives of Adopted Sons

Who is the Father of Jesus (sws)?

Abrogation and the Unalterable Word of God

Will Christians enter Paradise or go to Hell?

Is the Qur’an Clear or Incomprehensible?

Self Purification and the Forgotten Ideal

Is Islam a Divine Religion?

Wine – Good or Bad?

Did Abraham (sws) Smash the Idols?

The Infinite Loop Problem

Surah Fatihah

Quick or Slow Creation?

Corruption in the Bible: The Muslim Stance

Schools of Religious Education (II)

Schools of Religious Education

Reason and Revelation

Freedom of Will, Determinism & Fatalism