In one of his brief writings1, Mr. Katz has pointed out a ‘curious’ statement of the Qur’an in Maryam 19: 26.
Mr. Katz has cited the following translation of the referred verse:
… And if you see any mortal, say: Surely I have vowed a fast to the Beneficent, so I shall not speak to any man today. — Sura 19:26
Mr. Katz is obviously stupefied by the use of the word ‘say’. After all, how is a person supposed to ‘say’ that ‘I shall not speak to any man today’, without speaking? Thus, Mr. Katz ‘says’:
Is that similar to eat samples of food in order to demonstrate all the things that you are not allowed to eat during fasting?
Although, Mr. Katz seems to have accepted that this confusion is only caused by the English translation of the verse. As he has placed it among:
Statements that are difficulties only because of the wording in the English translation:
Yet, in my opinion, the problem is simply non-existent, whether one takes the original text of the Qur’an or is solely dependent upon its English translations. An essential requirement, however, is that the interpreting person should, at least, have a good sense of understanding and appreciation of the English language.
The word ‘say’ in the English language is not merely used for verbal communication or communication through spoken word or pronouncing words. According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Encyclopedic Dictionary, ‘say’ may be used in the following connotations:
1(a) [Tn, Tn-pr, Tf, Dn-pr, Dpr-f]2~ sth (to sb) tell sth (to sb), usu in words: Did you say ‘Pleases’? — She said nothing to me about it. — He said (that) his friend’s name was Sam. — Everyone said how awful the weather was. — He finds it hard to say what he feels. — She said to meet her here. — I said to myself (i.e. thought), ‘That can’t be right!’ — They say/Its said (i.e. People claim) that he’s a genius. — So you say, i.e. I think you may be wrong. — Who said I can’t cook? i.e. of course I can! — Be quiet, I’ve got something to say. — Having said that (i.e. Despite what I have just said), I agree with your other point. — (euph 3 ) If you damage the car, your father will have plenty to say about it i.e. he will be angry. (b) [Tn] pronounce (e.g. words one has learned): say a short prayer — Try to say that line with more conviction. (c) [Tn, Tn-pr] ~ sth (to sb) make (thoughts, feelings etc.) clear by using words or else by gestures, behavior etc.: This poem doesn’t say much to me. — Just what is the artist trying to say in her work? — Her angry glance said everything. (d) [no passive: Tn, Tf, Tw, Tt]4 (of a book, sign etc.) give (information or instructions): a notice saying ‘Keep Out’ — The clock says three o’clock. — The law says (that) this is quite legitimate. — The book doesn’t say where he was born. — The guidebook says to turn left… (Some stresses added).
Thus, it may come as a surprise for some, but one can indeed ‘say’ things without even uttering a single word.
The Arabic verb “قّالّ” (also used in the referred verse), quite like its English counterpart ‘say’, does not necessarily imply verbal communication or communication through spoken words only. Thus, “قل بيده” and “قل برأسه” (i.e. he “said” with his hand or head, implying signaling) are quite well known in the Arabic language. In fact, it is quite evident that “قّالّ” is sometimes used for communication of ideas, feelings and thoughts, irrespective of the mode through which this communication takes place. Thus, in one of the poetic verses, as Arab is narrated to have said:
5 قالت العينان سمعا و طاعة
‘And the eyes said to him: ‘I hear you and I obey you’.
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, it should be quite clear that like the word ‘say’, the Arabic word “قّالّ” can be used for communication, through any means adopted by the communicator.
Thus, when God directed Mary (pbuh) to observe silence and ‘say’ to those, whom she came in contact with, that “I have vowed a fast to the Beneficent, so I shall not speak to any man today”, it clearly implies that she was to inform others about her fast through means other than speech.
© Copyright April 2001. All Rights Reserved with the Author
- The complete article may be accessed at: http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/i-001.html [↩]
- i.e. ‘say’ can come in the following sentence structures: Transitive Verb + Noun (Tn), Transitive verb + Noun + prepositional phrase (Tn-pr), Transitional verb + finite ‘that’ clause (Tf), Double-transitive verb + noun + prepositional phrase (Dn-pr), Double-transitive verb + preposition phrase + finite ‘that’ clause (Dpr-f). [↩]
- i.e. euphemistic. [↩]
- i.e. Transitive-verb + wh-clause (Tw), Transitive-verb + to-infinitive (Tt). [↩]
- As cited by النهاية في غريب الأثر ج٤، ص١٢٤ [↩]