On Pre-Islamic Poetry & The Qur’an
Qasim Iqbal & M S M Saifullah
© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.
Last Modified: 9th September 1999
Assalamu-`alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:
It has been a source of faith and pride for Muslims over the centuries in that the Holy Qur’an is the preeminent word of the Almighty, inimitable in style and absolute in nature. This conviction is as strong for believers of today as it has been for believers of the past. As the tradition of truth is distinguished from falsehood, the authenticity of the Qur’an has been challenged today as it has been in the past. Though the petty points of criticism have changed over the years, the archetype has remained quite the same since the very beginning. Time and again, these issue has been put to rest, only to be exhumed by depraved charlatans.
One such issue regards the question of pre-Islamic poetry in the Arabian Peninsula. The pagan Arabs of the pre-Islamic period were a proud and boastful people who were characterized by epic tales, heart-rending poetry, and eloquent prose. Indeed, their literary excellence had intoxicated them with glaring arrogance and self-worship. And then, with the revelation of Prophet Muhammad(P) , the Arabs had found a contest for their genius – The Holy Qur’an. Suddenly, their pride had been undermined by something even greater than anything they could have ever dreamed of, a book that had never been matched in beauty, wisdom, and structure, and which has remained unchallenged right to the present day. For the Arabs, the question must have found it’s time; can a more powerful book exist other than the one whose pen belongs to the Almighty himself?
In the previous century, attempts were made to discredit the established power of the Holy Qur’an by suggesting that the Muslims fabricated the poetry of the pagan Arabs after the revelation of the Qur’an. Should this be the case, those madmen whose blood boils with hatred against Islam would find some consolation in the dishonour of the Qur’an, no matter how shallow, how weak. It had to be an Arab, Taha Husayn, who sensationalized these Orientalist ideas in Egypt, 1927. Husayn’s 15 minutes saw their end when his fabulous ideas were shattered by erudite Muslim scholarship.
Recently Husayn’s ideas have been given new life by the Internet marauder, “P. Newton”. Newton’s entire argument concerning the pre-Islamic poetry boils down to the paragraph which says:
So it is not only Taha Hussein who believed that the so called “pre-Islamic poetry” is a fabricated work, there are also some respectable contemporary scholars who think that there is something fishy about this so called pre-Islamic poetry.
In this paper, we intend to examine the authenticity of the pre-Islamic poetry of the Arabs in light of genuine, contemporary scholarship. Such an examination will provide the grounds on which to determine the worth of such pompous, missionary censure, such as:
…there are also some respectable contemporary scholars who think that there is something fishy about this so called pre-Islamic poetry.
Toby Lester, writing in an article in the Atlantic Monthly, claims in a rather authoritative manner that:
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