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Why are there repetitions or reiterations in the Qur'an?

The Qur�an aims at the guidance of the whole of mankind from the time of its revelation to the end of time

The Qur�an is a discourse issuing from, first of all, the greatest and most comprehensive rank of the universal Lordship of the Eternal Speaker, and is addressed, first of all, to the comprehensive rank of the one who received it in the name of the universe. It aims at the guidance of the whole of mankind from the time of its revelation to the end of time, and contains entirely meaningful and comprehensive explanations about the Lordship of the Creator of the universe and the Lord of this world and the Hereafter, the earth and the heavens, and eternity, and about the Divine laws pertaining to the administration of all creatures. This discourse is so comprehensive and elevated, and therefore so inclusive and miraculuous, that even the apparent and simplest level of its teaching directed at the understanding of common people who constitute the great majority of its addressees, perfectly satisfies those of the highest level of understanding. It addresses and is revealed to every age and all levels of understanding and learning as a collection of not only historical stories to give lessons but also universal principles. While describing the calamities visiting the peoples of �Ad and Thamud and Pharaoh, for the wrongs they did, and with its severe threats against wrongdoers, it warns the tyrants and criminals of every age, especially of this age, against the consequences of their tyranny and wrongdoing. By mentioning, on the other hand, the final triumphs of the Prophets like Abraham and Moses, upon them be peace, it consoles the wronged believers.

However frequently the Qur�an is recited, it does not bore or fatigue

The Qur�an of miraculous expression revives all past time which, in the view of heedlessness and misguidance, is a lonely and frightful realm and a dark, ruined cemetery, and transforms all the past, dead ages and centuries into each a living page of instructions, a curious, animated realm, under the direct control of the Lord, a realm which has significant relations with us. Like the motion pictures, by either taking us over to those times or bringing them over before us and showing them to all, the Qur�an gives us its lessons in its elevated miraculous style and again in the same style it changes the universe, which is, in the view of misguidance, an unending, lifeless, lonely and frightful place rolling in decay and separations, into a book of the Eternally Besought-of-All, a city of the Most Merciful One, a place of the exhibition of the works of the Lord�s art, where lifeless objects become animate beings doing their particular duties and helping one another in a perfect system of communication. For sure, this most glorious Qur�an, which enlightens angels, jinn, and men and most pleasingly instructs them in Divine Wisdom, will have sacred distinctions like these: each of its letters brings ten or a hundred or a thousand or thousands of merits; if all the jinn and men banded together to produce a like of it, they would not be able to do that; it speaks to the whole of mankind and the universe in the most proper way, and is continuously inscribed easily and pleasantly in the minds of millions of people; however frequently it is recited, it does not bore or fatigue; despite its sentences and phrases which might cause confusion, children can easily commit it to their delicate, sensitive minds; and it gives pleasure and tranquillity to the ill and those who are in the throes of death, for whom listening to even a few other words causes great discomfort. The Qur�an causes its students to gain happiness in both worlds.

Observing the unletteredness of the one who communicated it, upon him be peace and blessings, and without giving itself unnecessary trouble and becoming pretentious or ostentatious, it preserves the fluency and purity of its styles and always considers the simplest level of understanding of common people, who are the majority of mankind. Also, it instructs people in the wisdom and extraordinary miracles of Divine Power lying under all the familiar events in the heavens and the earth, and thereby displays a fine aspect of miraculousness within the grace of its guidance.

The Qur�an demonstrates itself also to be a book of supplications and invocations, and a call to eternal salvation and declaration of God�s Unity, all of which require reiterations

The Qur�an demonstrates itself also to be a book of supplications and invocations, and a call to eternal salvation and declaration of God�s Unity, all of which require reiterations. Therefore, through agreeable reiterations, it offers in a single sentence or a story, numerous different meanings to many different groups or categories of its addressees, and treats with compassion even the smallest and most slight things and events and includes them in the sphere of its will and control. Indeed, there are universal principles it aims to present through the attention it gives to the particular events related to the Companions which relate to the establishing of Islam and legislating its laws, and like seeds, those events produced numerous important fruits. All this together constitutes another aspect of its miraculousness.

Satisfying recurring needs requires reiteration

The repetition of needs requires reiterations. Also, the Qur�an answers many questions repeatedly asked during twenty years of its revelation and seeks to satisfy all levels of understanding and learning. Again, in order to prove that all things particular or universal from particles to stars are at the free disposal of a Single One Who will utterly destroy the whole universe to exchange it with the wholly extraordinary world of the Hereafter, and in order to establish in minds a mighty and all-comprehensive revolution which will demonstrate the Divine wrath in the name of the results of the creation of the universe, in the face of the injustices and wrongdoing of mankind which make the universe, the earth and the heavens angry and bring them to fury, the Qur�an repeats some sentences and verses which are the conclusions of innumerable proofs and have as great weight as thousands of conclusions. So, making repetitions for the purposes mentioned, rather than being a defect, must be, and indeed it is, an extremely powerful aspect of miraculousness, an extremely elevated virtue of eloquence, and a beauty of language in conformity with the requirements of the subject matter.

Establishing truths in minds requires reiteration

For example, the phrase In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, which comes at the beginning of every sura (except one) and�together with that in the sura al-Naml�is repeated one hundred and fourteen times in the Qur�an, is a truth which links the earth to God�s Supreme Throne and all the spheres of the universe together, and illuminates the universe, and which everybody always needs, so that it is worth repeating millions of times. We need it not only every day like bread but also at every moment as we need air and light.

Again, the sentence Surely Your Lord is He Who is the Honorable, All-Mighty, the All-Compassionate, which has the strength of thousands of truths, is repeated eight times in sura al-Shu�ara�, in which the final triumph and salvation of the Prophets and the ruin of their rebellious peoples are narrated. If, on behalf of the results of the creation of the universe and in the name of the universal Lordship of God, and in order to instruct people therein, while the Might and Dignity of the Lord require the ruin of wrongdoing peoples, His Compassion demands the triumph and salvation of the Prophets, this sentence were repeated thousands of times, still there would have remained need for it and it would have been a concise and miraculous aspect of the Qur�an�s eloquence.

Also, the verses, Which of Your Lords bounties will you two deny?, and Woe on that day to the deniers! which are repeated several times in sura al-Rahman and sura al-Mursalat respectively, exclaim before the earth and the heavens and the ages, and in the face of men and jinn, their ingratitude, unbelief and wrongdoing, and their violation of the rights of all other creatures, which bring the heavens and the earth to rage, spoil the results of the creation of the universe, and indicate contempt and denial of the majesty of Divine Sovereignty. If in a universal teaching which is related to thousands of issues these two verses were repeated thousands of times, still there would remain need for them and it would be a conciseness in majesty and a miraculousness of eloquence in grace and beauty.

Again, Jawshan al-Kabir is a well-known supplication of the Prophet, derived from the Qur�an, which consists of a hundred sections. Each section concludes with Glory be to You! There is no god but You, the Protector, One in Whom refuge is sought, save us from the Fire! Since this sentence contains the affirmation of God�s Unity, which is the greatest truth in the universe, and one of three mighty duties of the created towards the Lord, namely glorification, praise, and holding Him to be All-Holy and free from every kind of defect and exalted above what polytheists attribute to Him wrongly, and a supplication for man to be saved from eternal punishments, which is man�s most vital problem, and an aspect of man�s servanthood to God, which is the most necessary result of man�s helplessness before God, if it were repeated thousands of times, still it would be insufficient.

Thus, it is because of certain essential needs and realities such as those that the Qur�an makes reiterations. Sometimes it even happens that as occasion requires, eloquence demands, and to facilitate understanding, it expresses the truth of Divine Unity twenty times in a single page explicitly or implicitly. It causes no boredom; rather, it enforces the meaning and gives encouragement.

The Makkan suras, and those revealed in Madina are different from each other in eloquence and miraculousness, and with respect to elaboration or conciseness. This is because, since those the Qur�an addressed in Makka were mainly the polytheists of the Quraysh, it would have to use a forceful, eloquent and concise language with an elevated style and make reiterations to establish its truths. The Makkan suras repeatedly express the pillars of faith and the forms or categories of the Divine Unity in a forceful, emphatic, concise and miraculous language, and not only in a page or a verse or a sentence or a word, but also in a letter or in changing places of the words in a sentence or in using definite articles or omission of articles, or mentioning or omission of certain words or phrases or even sentences, they prove the beginning and the end of the world, the Divine Being and the Hereafter in so powerful a way that geniuses of the science of eloquence have been amazed at it.

As for the suras revealed after the Hijra in the second phase of Islam, they address foremost the believers and the Peoples of the Book�the Jews and Christians�and as the circumstances require, and guidance and eloquence demand, they explain to their addressees not the pillars of faith and elevated principles of the Religion, but the laws and commandments of the Shari�a in a simple, clear and detailed language. In a unique, matchless style particular to the Qur�an, they usually conclude their explanations with a sentence or phrase related to faith, Divine Unity or the Hereafter, which makes the laws of the Shari�a universal and secures obedience to them through belief in God and the Hereafter. If you would like to know what an elevated aspect of eloquence and what sorts of merits and subtleties there are in the conclusions of the verses, like Surely God is All-Powerful over all things; Surely God knows all things; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise; He is the All-Mighty, the Most Compassionate, you may refer to where they are discussed above.

The Qur�an being both a book of law and wisdom and a book of creeds, belief, reflection, invocations, prayer and call to the Divine Message require repetition or reiteration

Indeed, while explaining the secondary principles and social laws of Islam, the Qur�an abruptly draws the attentions of its addressees to elevated, universal truths, and from the lesson of the Shari�ah to the lesson of Divine Unity, and changes from a plain style to an elevated one, thus showing itself to be both a book of law and wisdom and a book of creeds, belief, reflection, invocations, prayer and call to the Divine Message. By offering its aims of guidance on every occasion, the Qur�an displays in its Madinan suras a brilliant miraculousness of eloquence and purity of language different from the styles of the Makkan suras. It sometimes occurs that in two words, for example, in the Lord of the Worlds and your Lord, it declares the manifestation of God�s Names in all creatures, and their manifestation in a single being respectively; it expresses the former within the latter. Sometimes it even happens that where it fixes a particle in the pupil of an eye, it fixes with the same �hammer� the sun in the heaven and makes it an eye of the heaven.

For example, after the verse beginning with He it is Who created the heavens and the earth, it concludes the verse He causes the night to enter into the day and the day to enter into the night with He has full knowledge of what is in the breasts (al-Hadid, 57.4-6).

It thereby means, �Together with the magnificent creation and administration of the earth and the heavens, He has full knowledge of what occurs in the hearts�, and changes its simple style of speech aimed at the level of understanding of common people to an elevated and appealing address for the guidance of all.

A question

Since a significant truth may sometimes remain hidden from superficial minds and the reason for concluding the narration of an insignificant, ordinary event with either a universal principle or a principle or aspect of Divine Unity cannot always be known, such style of the Qur�an might be fancied to be a defect. For example, after narrating how the Prophet Joseph, upon him be peace, contrived to detain his brother with him (see, sura Yusuf, 12.69-76), it mentions a very exalted principle: Above every man of knowledge there is one more knowing, which seems unfitting to the occasion with respect to eloquence. What is the reason for this?


Since by virtue of being, for example, both a book of faith, reflection and invocation, and a book of law, wisdom and guidance, the Qur�an�s nature comprises numerous books and contains innumerable instructions; since by virtue of expressing the all-comprehensive and magnificent manifestations of Divine Lordship, it is a kind of copy and recitation of the great book of the universe, the Qur�an pursues lots of aims in most of its long and medium-length suras, each of which is like a small Qur�an, and in each of its pages and in all its discussion. Therefore, together with following many other of its aims, the Qur�an gives instructions on every occasion, in knowledge of God, the aspects of Divine Unity and the truths of faith, and where occasion occurs, however insignificant in appearance it is, it gives other instructions, thus making that occasion significant and adding to its eloquence.


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