Another aspect of the Qur’anic style is the departure from the norms of communication. This means that what is normally said in a given context is not adhered to by the Qur’an. Rather than this being a literary flaw it has shown to be unique literary strategy. Classical scholars such as al-Jurani and al-Zamakhshari investigated this phenomenon and concluded that this feature of the Qur’anic discourse was another aspect of its superior eloquence and rhetoric. An interesting example to highlight this is in the following verse:
“Say: ‘Tell me about what God has sent down for you as provision, some of which you have made lawful, and some unlawful!’ Say: ‘Has God given you leave?’…..”
Qul araaytum ma anzala Allahu lakum min rizqin fajaAAaltum minhu haraman wahalalan qul allahu athina lakum am AAala Allahi taftaroona
What can be noticed in the orginal Arabic is that the noun is put in front of the verb while what is normally expected here is that the verb be placed straight after the interrogative particle. According to al-Jurani the context here is that “…the polytheists who are referred to in the verse have made their own regulations, based on superstitions, as to which food was prohibited for consumption and which was was not. So the purpose of communication with them would be to deny that there has been permission from God at all for them to make those regulations…”.
This purpose is achieved by placing the verb immediately after the interrogative particle to have the following effect: ‘has there been any permission from God for you to do that?’ but the Qur’anic version, as indicated by the verse above, has the following effect: ‘is it God who gave you permission to do that or someone else?’. The Qur’anic version implicates another party by fronting the noun, while by fronting the verb this effect can not be achieved. The rhetorical effect of this departure is to show that the polytheists are expressing that God, by mistake, is the one that permission is to be asked from; while in fact the permission has come from someone else. This puts the polytheists in an embarassing situation portraying them as naive in their thinking failing to realise that it is only God who can give permission.
This feature shows how the Qur’an has a word order and arrangement that is semantically orientated. Furthermore, it highlights how the language used in the Qur’an delivers a rhetorical impact that was previously unknown; it uses the departure of the norm as way to enhance the communicative effect of the text.
Badri Najib Zubir. Departure from Communicative Norms in the Qur’an: Insights from al-Jurani and al-Zamakhshari in Journal of Qur’anic Studies. Vol II, Issue II, 2000.
al-Jurani. Dala’il al-i’jaz.
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