The Quran's Grammar
Reply #3 - April 06, 2015, 04:18 PM
Great points by Zimriel, and I would add that in many respects we are not even positioned to *know* if the Qur'an's text is making grammatical errors because we do not know enough about the linguistic and orthographic context that it was written in. The Qur'anic text is written in an inconsistent orthography, and it probably reflects a cocktail of different Arabic dialects. So what seem to be errors (from the standpoint of so-called Classical Arabic) may just reflect unrecognized orthographic and linguistic diversity in the basal texts and their compilation.
One of the most interesting examples is actually the surah I am thinking through right now, Q 106. In the first two lines, the same word "ilaf" is spelled with two different orthographies (!). In the first line the word is spelled using a yaw in the rasm, and in the second line the same word is spelled by indicating a yaw OUTSIDE the rasm via the later process of Masoretic markings. The Qur'an does the same thing in a lot of places, such as how it spells Ibrahim in Surah 2 differently than it does in the rest of the surahs. But Q 106 is the only example I know of where this is literally done in two different verses right next to each other! Incidentally, the variant orthography within the Uthmanic rasm itself shows how useless the tradition's narrative of the Qur'an's compilation is. If it was really written down in one major text at Uthman's request, it would not use completely different orthographies in a 'frozen' process of reform. It would use the same orthography throughout.
Puin says there are two possible explanations for the Q 106 ilaf orthographic weirdness. First, the word is not derived from 'lf at all, and the yaw in the first line is being used to tell you not to misread it as "thousand," which seems bizarre but whatever. Second, the yaw was inserted into the first word's rasm at an intermediary stage to give context to the alif's vocalization, but for some reason it was not done to the same word in the next line (perhaps because they wanted to monkey with the rasm as little as possible). Then during the later orthographic reform that kitted the Qur'anic text out via Masoretic symbols rather than monkeying further with the rasm, the second word was changed to match through an extrinsic yaw; again, changing the rasm at this stage was something that was avoided if at all possible. Thus the inconsistency remains to this day.
This is all to say that the Qur'anic orthography is far more inconsistent, and has a far more complicated history and complex linguistic basis, than the Islamic tradition claims. Doesn't mean these are 'mistakes,' but it does mean that something much more complicated is going on that later Islamic tradition either did not know or could not explain.