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When Is A Miracle Not One

It's a Miracle! Is it? How and who decides?
Miracles are troublesome little concepts.
A label oft rolled out as evidence of the mysticism implied by some inexplicable happenstance or other.
It's bloody dilemma that's what it really is...

The human race has, for the largest part of our history, been unbelievably brilliant when it comes to finding the most stupid explanations for what is later discovered to be some totally explicable shit. Quite often all it takes is someone who isn't an uneducated idiot to come along and point out the obvious but by then the glorious human network of spooky-groupies, Team Henny-Penny, and they who are just a bit thick, will have already started a rumour that quickly becomes ‘witnessed fact’ and the effect of the expert's words is like unnoticed flotsam on a tidal wave of whispers; a lot like the effect a four line apology on page 12 has on the future fortunes of those falsely accused!

So, what can be done to eliminate this terrifying Tsunami of misinformation, spread by those of fear-mongering persuasion? Well, I may have hit on a way to think about miracles, at least, that kind of takes the paranormal wind out of their superstitious sails, get this.

Keys, or, to be more exact, misplaced keys.

We have all experienced this when looking for our keys; how they are always in the last place we look. This seemingly inexplicable happenstance is usually accompanied by that particular feeling of karmic disgruntlement; a fuzzy back of the brain accusation aimed at the universe, luck, spirits, or sprites for making you overlook them, or not helping you look in the right place first. And, hopefully, we all recognise that the keys are ALWAYS to be found in the last place we look because after that place, we stop looking; we need look no further. We've found the keys, they were always there, we just happened to look in a number of other places fist. The very act of 'finding' signifies and label's the location of their discovery 'the last place I looked'.
Further, does it not also add weight to the superstitious feeling that some unseen gremlin is hiding our keys in the very last place we'd think of, when our statistical experience is subconsciously telling us "We also 'seem' to find our keys in the first place we look, less often than expected"? But isn't this subconscious conclusion based wholly in fuzzy statistical analysis of poorly remembered details? I mean, it's only after you discover that your keys are not in the first place you'd reach for them that you consider them lost and start looking for them. They have never been lost after any time when they were in the first place you looked!

Now, let’s transpose that thinking into the murky illogical realm of miracles.

Oxford Dictionaries definition:
Miracle:   noun.   an extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.
So, a miracle is generally held to be an event which has taken place that is considered to be naturally impossible and may only be explained by way of the paranormal/supernatural; its mere existence seems so extra to the ordinary that it REQUIRES an explanation which is based purely in superstition.

However, in the same way as the keys are always in the last place we look, once a miracle exists/happens it may no longer be considered impossible. It's existence in the natural world distinguishes it as 'possible' and it cannot, legitimately, be described as 'miraculous'; the physical existence of a 'miracle', takes the 'miracle' out of the magical & mystical kingdoms of the strange & impossible and into the more comprehensible spectrum of probabilities. While the circumstances by which the event came about may be considered currently inexplicable, the moment a thing exists, it has physical properties, it is a material object, conforming to all the known laws of physics and steps into the natural realm of real possibilities.

“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains,  however improbable, must be the truth.”
  Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Homes )
If I were writing a dictionary I feel I'd define Miracle as
an extraordinary and welcome event that is not currently explicable by natural or scientific laws, as far as the witness is aware, and is therefore attributed superstitiously, to a divine agency.
So, we cannot legitimately say, "This IS a miracle" but one can legitimately offer hope filled phrases like "Imagine if there was an XYZ! Now, THAT would be a miracle!" Or "It would be a miracle if an XYZ appeared!" Or "We're going to need a miracle to get out of this situation!" These are legitimised by the usage of the word miracle. Here, it does not necessarily imply magical intervention; in these phrases miracle may be said to be used as shorthand for...
"Taking into account as many parameters and variables as I can detect, my current assessment of the situation is, it looks highly probable that we are going to need something extra to the tools and facilities we have, in order to achieve an outcome other than failure.
Furthermore, given the aforementioned current assessment of our circumstances, it seems that the options available for gaining that extra something are extremely limited and we have no option but to accept that gaining that extra something is extremely improbable; indeed I suspect that a hugely improbable intervention by an external rescue force would be required to avoid said failure! That these are our last moments of life is highly probable."
In a danger-of-death situation we can see how that kind of rational delivery of the physical factors of the dire circumstances facing the group would send various group members into howling, fear-fuelled hysteria. Not helpful or conducive to inspiring escape-plan thinking. So much better to say to them "It looks like we're screwed; now's the time to chat up the pilot of whichever death escape-pod your parents assigned to you” (Commonly known as prayer), to keep them from driving you nuts in your last moments.
Whereas here the usage of 'miracle' is legitimate to transmit, in a very short phrase, news of dire circumstances and simultaneously offer hope, however false, it does not in any way imply that the eventual actual outcome of any event came about via magical intervention or origin.

As a final thought, a quick note to the multitude, those oh so many believers in death escape-pods (souls)
If you accept this explanation of the marvellous, magical, miracles of Ye Olde Earth, please be aware it may seriously damage your ability to find the keys to whatever your brand of post death scenario label's its "Pearly Gates".
Don't panic, that's natural.
Fear not my superstitious friends, if you find that you truly do need those very particularly keys...
Is it not known far and wide that you'll surely find them in the last place you look?

Littlewood's Law
"an individual can expect to experience "miracles" at the rate of about one per month" Wikipedia
Law of truly large numbers
"with a sample size large enough, any outrageous thing is likely to happen" Wikipedia

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A Review of The Qur'ans Unique Literary Form by Hamza Andreas Tzortzis

The article this post is critiquing is here

Firstly, to be picky; hey this is all about meaning of language so, about the title.
It's a puzzle; "The Qur'ans" is plural. To show the possession by "The Qur'an" of a "Unique literary form", should it not be "Qur'an's"? I feel if the plural is meant the "The Qur'ans" seems clumsy and has something of an incompatibility with the later part of the title; for "Qur'ans" should it not end in "literary Forms"? Also, if Hamza did mean the plural i.e. all the individual copies, then "unique" still, I presume, applies to only the content of the text. It would be unsupportable to claim that each individual copy, of a book which numbers in the billions, were unique as, surely, the point of a doctrine is that they all say EXACTLY the same?

So... Title: Grammatically suspect, misleading; legerdemain or merely poor proof-reading?

In Section 1. - Paragraph 1. "Read in the name of your lord"
This suggests one should substitute (read in) your personal god's name wherever you see "Allah"; for it to be an instruction or plea, "In the name of your lord, please read this", there would need to be a comma after read (Read, in the name of you lord)
This paragraph also shows this work is biased from the outset. Here alone there are three indications that the author has already bought Muhammad's story as fact; he describes the text as revealed(X1), received (X2). Surely an academic evaluation of the discovered evidence should be suspended until the conclusion of such a work.
There's a Karen Armstrong quote: "...Without this experience of the Koran, it is extremely unlikely that Islam would have taken root", fair enough that may have been a factor but I suggest it was probably a bigger factor that Muhammad strapped the Jewish god's 'believe or burn' eternal torture clause to the underbelly of each page.

Paragraph 3.
"it became the only reference for a new state..."

To a collection of barbaric and conflicted tribes with disparate gods and beliefs any new law form to which all can subscribe is better than what was. It doesn't make it miraculous, just better.

Paragraph starts: "According Qur'anic Exegetes"
The opinion that "it has not been matched"
Is there a properly funded and encouraged competition to fulfil the Qur'an challenge and 'out Muhammad the Koran'? Is it held annually? Across the whole Muslim world? How many attempts have been made to write even one verse better? Are there any books with titles like "5 ways to write better Qur'an"? "?
To call it inimitable one must wait until the end of the universe, for tomorrow, "if Allah wills it", as the author and his groupies would no doubt sycophantically say, someone may surpass it, even in the eyes of its devotees. .
One may only legitimately state that, thus far, this literary style, which it’s suggested Muhammad invented, has not been matched (because it's Haraam?).
And, if there’s not a competition, is it because of the two quotes later in Section 7?
"These are the limits set by God, so do not approach them"
"These are the limits set by God, so do not transgress them"

All readers of the Qur’an are prohibited by Muhammad from trying to better his work? How very reminiscent of a fascist dictator! Also, is it not intellectually dishonest, of any scholar, to hail as "unmatched, in all this time!" a work which itself commands it is Haraam (sacrilage) even to try? I mean isn't that just stating the obvious; whom among those sufficiently enthralled to produce a passable facsimile would risk immortal torment? ("Your Point Is Not Valid" expands on this.)

Section 2. - Paragraph 2(end)
"It has been one of its kind and nothing like it has ever preceded it or followed it."

This statement is highly presumptive. One cannot prove that the great libraries of antiquity did not have many examples of ‘Muhammad’s style’, so we cannot say any more than it is unique amongst the surviving literature. Also, there are, and have been, numerous aural history recitation cultures around the globe, I'd suggest that the sing-song style of recitation would be aide memoire to any culture which employs the practice. The Koran may simply be the only transcribed or only surviving transcribed work in the style of a lyrical 'aural history'.

In the sub-section "What is Arabic poetry"
“In summation the definition of Arabic poetry is that it has...
End Rhyme ...
Syllabic Rhythmical Pattern.”

Is this not specious? Surely, these definitions of Arabic poetry evolved naturally, they were not rules laid out before the poets started writing. Arabic poetry rules, as with all poetry rules, are the result of collating and evaluation all the forms of poetry that poets conceived to be aesthetic to their culture then viewing them all with a chronological hindsight to assess where they fit within the poetry fossil record, so to speak. Couldn't it be said that Muhammad's manifesto simply spans a number of poetry strata?

In the sub-section "What is Arabic Prose?"
"In summary the definition of Saj’ is that it has a...
Accentual rhythmical pattern
End rhyme
Concentrated use of rhetorical features"

"In summary the definition of Mursal is that it has...
No rhythmical pattern
No rhyme
A resemblance to straight forward speech"

Whilst the point made for poetry applies also to the evolution of prose, prose seems to have the added disadvantage of being
"rhythmic OR not rhythmic"
"With an end rhyme OR without"
"Rhetorically featured OR not"
One may conclude from this pamphlet that Arabic prose has 'whatever works' as its rule.

Section 3.
“...the style of the Koran is modelled upon saj"

Can a work which is modelled upon another style legitimately be called unique? I'd term it derivative.
Also in this section, Hamza freely quotes that scholars see evidence of saj in the early verses but not the latter. For me, this simply shows that Muhammad's initial instinct was to create it all in Saj but as his work progressed either, he got tired of the restriction of Saj, found it too difficult to portray his meaning through the Saj style, or got more confident with his own written voice. Where a teacher may simply put a line through verses that did not comply with the standard style, and mark it "Try Harder" are scholars, perhaps guilty of being overly reverent or fearful, excusing Muhammad's inability to finish in the same style with which he started, by calling it a new style?

"iii. Qur’an bound stylistic variations"
"Furthermore the Qur’an uses literary and linguistic devices in such a way that has not been used before and achieves an unparalleled communicative effect"

"Literary & linguistic devices not used before." - Hmmm, watch a number of comedians; every joke is based on the transposition of literary and linguistic devices, the more you laugh the more these techniques have surprised you. If you'd heard them before you'd not have laughed (as much).

Section 4 to 6 (inclusive)
These sections deal with the literary components of Muhammad’s manifesto and display why the Qur’an is different, and how so, from the main literary styles. They expand on the ‘Not poem’ & ‘Not prose’ theme, which I find an unremarkable distinction to make (seems like 1400 years worth of naval gazing to me) as in my experience a writer uses, as and when he needs it, the form which most suits his purpose. I’m simply not qualified to judge comparative Arabic literature, so I’ve no comments for these sections other than, they offer no evidence that human’s have souls so are of interest only to those who study literary forms.

Section 7.
"Essential devices employed to enhance the communicative, psycholinguistic and rhetorical effect"

I realise this is only an example but this, and the rest of this section, sounds to me a lot like a very good description of the manipulative and divisive techniques employed by those who practice on the dark side of neuro-linguistic programming.

Section 8. Conclusion
"There are many Muslim and Non-Muslim Scholars who testify that the Qur’an is indeed unique and inimitable."

The contents of the Qur'an are considered "special", Muhammad’s collection of ideas & concepts, some of which I concede for their time, were brilliant, but the brand of uniqueness they carry is only in that they are the work of a single human. Similar schemes, proposals, manifestos or formats for human existence can be found far and wide in the transcribed thoughts of a multitude of accredited or self-styled ‘thinkers’; Marx, Plato, Hitler, Buddha or any number of authors of self help books.
(I realise that "single human" is a disputable point but unless, or until, it can be proved that human's have 'immortal souls', there is no eternity with which to concern oneself so, we are only talking about the thoughts of a single human.)
To be fair does anyone else write lyrics that read like Eminem wrote them or deliver them quite like Eminem? There are millions of Elvis impersonators around the world but none are really 'Elvisian' and even fewer could be said to be a perfect facsimile or 'like Elvis reborn'. Has there ever been an equal to Bach whom one could mistake for him?
The greater and more unique the human talent the less chance there is of that talent being imitable.

While this pamphlet is obviously well researched it can only be held as a literary review of a text. There are no points within the pamphlet which prove a man could NOT have concocted the Qur'an and in fact, that it attempts but fails to be a derivative of Saj, suggests to me exactly the opposite, that it could NOT have been concocted by a god.

That attempts at repeating the feat are prohibited by the text does it no favours. If it were of an omniscient god, that god would know that it is inimitable and not need to make the despotic instruction prohibiting any attempt.
I feel as a progressive human, if one is told a thing cannot be improved upon, it’s an imperative to strive to do that very thing. Without attempts to do so, it is merely an unsubstantiated statement.

Hamza uses the word unique, that it may be, or any number of other descriptive words, "remarkable", "dumbfounding" etc. However, that it may be inimitable, means only that it may be inimitable. As a being who has no soul on which these mumbo-jumbo notions of magic can have effect, the best I can say is "I concede experts in it's field concur it's a literary masterpiece" but as to the "actual words of a god"?

Sorry Hamza, me ol' kidder, nothing in your pamphlet proves that outlandish claim.

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21 days in May

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