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The Sura of the Poets: "Final Conclusions"?

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In JAL (2004), an article by Professor Irfan Shahīd appeared, defiantly entitled "The Sūra of the Poets, Qur'ān xxvi: Final Conclusions." That article, however, offers neither an analytical study nor an exegetical interpretation of Sura xxvi. Rather, focusing almost exclusively on three of the last four āyas of the sura (224-226), the author presents a diffuse apologia for his view (already advanced in earlier publications) that this sura in general and these āyas in particular must be acknowledged as incontrovertible textual grounds that prove "clearly" the qur'ānic origin of I'jāz al-Qur'ān: the Islamic doctrine upholding the miraculous "literary" (Shahīd's word) inimitability of the language, style, and verbal beauty of the Scripture revealed to God's Messenger, Muhammad. But, apart from failing to deal with Sura xxvi as a whole in an article whose title promises to arrive at " final conclusions" about that sura, Professor Shahīd seems to be guilty in building his case of "playing fast and loose" both with the language of the revealed text itself and with the discourse and opinions of scholars whose writings he consults—whether they be traditional Muslim philologists and mufassirū;n or modern scholarly writers and editors whose views he might deem supportive or with whom he might agree or disagree. I undertake to point out some of the more unsound assumptions, presuppositions, and speculations on which Shahīd's "final conclusions" are based; to correct some of the more cogent linguistic and philological errors and misconceptions which undermine his arguments; and to "set the record straight" regarding precisely what the sources that he cites and refers to did, in fact say. Readers may find it worthwhile to know what, for instance, at-Tabarī, az-Zamaxšarī, and I actually did say, rather than what Professor Shahīd claims we said.

Affiliations: 1: Ohio State University


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