It was a classic case of blind following the blind.
And that is what most readers of the English translations of the Qur’an are likely to find to this day – even though some of the newer translations seem to be moving away from that old Christian-Colonial habit.
You may thus be forced to look at this most revolutionary Qur’anic concept of “The People” through the Western prism of the English language.
Sadly, you are thus likely to miss the purity of the Qur’anic expression of “The People” and be stuck with the age-old colonial perversion of “Man” or “Mankind.“
Not “Man” or “Mankind”
But the Qur’an, naturally, is in Arabic and not in English. So, the original Arabic expression for people in the Qur’an is An-Naas.
And that expression is perfectly gender-neutral as they say – both in diction and in meaning and import. It stands for all human beings of all ages and both genders.
That is how it was originally conceived and developed in the Arabic language. And that is how it is used and understood in the Qur’an. For all these 1400 long years.
That then is the expression – I mean An-Naas – the Qur’an uses every time it refers to “People.”
And it does so, not once or twice, or even 10 or 100 times. But the Qur’an uses this expression “The People” (An-Naas) a whole 241 times by my count.
That is not all.
In addition to An-Naas, the Qur’an makes use of two other expressions that are both etymologically – I guess etymology means the study of the origin and history of a word, at least that is what the dictionary says – derived from the same common root.
And – behold the miracle! – both of these additional expressions are also perfectly neutral with regard to age and gender.
Hallelujah, as our Christian brothers and sisters would say. Glory to God Almighty!
One of those additional gender- and age-neutral expressions is Ins. The Qur’an, by my quick count, uses it 18 times.
The other is Insaan. The Qur’an uses this expression no less than 65 times, again by my count.
Some Miraculous Numbers in the Qur’an:
241 + 18 + 65 = 324
So, here is the total number of gender- and age-neutral People-expressions we come up with in the Qur’an: 241 + 18 + 65 = 324.
All this by my quick count, mind you. But how much off the mark can I be, if I am?
So, what I am saying is this: If this does not look like a miracle to you then what does? Then there is no such thing as a miracle in this world.
For, a miracle is an event or phenomenon whose occurrence in this world is most unlikely or least probable. So much so that when it is witnessed, most people would cry out: No, this can’t be!
But the important point is this: In the language of the Qur’an, as well as in the general use of the Arabic language, all three of these expressions refer to the basic human entity in a completely gender- and age-neutral way.
That means all three of these Arabic expressions – Ins, Insaan and An-Naas – stand for human beings as a whole, as a class or species if you will, without any reference to how old or young those human beings are and without any concern with whether they are male or female.
That is the miracle.
For, how is something like this possible? In other words, what is the probability of something like this occurring in the real world?
That too in the Seventh Century?
The fact is humanity never witnessed anything like it, either before or since – until the 1980s or so.
If this is not a miracle, what is?
Yes, the ancient Greeks may have experimented a bit with the basic notion of “The People.” Yes, the Chinese may have looked into it briefly. And yes, the pre-Columbian peoples, nations and tribes of the Americas may have looked at everybody, including animals, as People.
But not quite like this. Not on the scale and with the meticulous thoroughness and unfailing consistency with which the Qur’an uses that concept and that expression “The People.”
Add to this the fact that all this goes back a full 1400 years?
Not yesterday or today, or even a few decades ago, but a full one thousand four hundred years ago! I find that mind-boggling.
And then all this coming out of the mouth of a man who never received any education or training or mentoring of any kind from any master or teacher of any kind?
A man who grew up in the rock-barren desert-city of Makkah tending goats and meditating alone in a cave?
And that man, instead of taking credit himself for something so stupendous and mind-blowing, claims that it was God Almighty who gave it to him, and that he himself was nothing but a lowly messenger of God like so many others before him.
And then instead of claiming he was God or Son of God, this man simply says that God Almighty – your God and my God, your father and my father, as they used to say in olden Biblical times – gave it to him with instructions to convey it faithfully to other people.
To all of God’s children.
Phew! Don’t you think this is something else? Don’t you think this is as good as a miracle can get?
Light Upon Light
What you have here, therefore, is one miracle added to another miracle added to yet another miracle.
Miracle upon miracle, you can call it.
I guess this is part of what the Qur’an refers to as “light upon light.”