Thursday, July 22, 2010

Quranic Style of Storytelling

In order to appeal to human beings’ hearts and minds, the Holy Qur’an has used a number of approaches. This has been in an effort to persuade humans to support the truth, which is traced back to God, and the true path, which leads to Him. It has been done in such a way as to allow the faith to touch on the innermost feelings of man. The spiritual experience should roam in the vast realm of the ideology, lest the faith be dulled by the emptiness of the thought, or the thought should give in to the rawness of the senses.

Storytelling is among the styles of dialogue the Holy Qur’an has adopted. The approach has been applied to different brands of storytelling. Some have been historical tales, which talk about the prophets of old and bygone generations; others have been meant to serve a moral purpose; and a third type of tale, which is precise and terse in what it tries to convey, usually discusses a certain position or a particular aspect of a certain human being.

In its aims and objects, the story is not intended to give us an account of history per se. It is not expected to dwell on portraying a picture only of what happened, so that it should be governed by the modus operandi of storytelling, especially the detailed account of the incident or the position.

The Quranic story is entwined with the main guidelines and message of the Holy Qur’an, i.e. the call to the way of God, guiding people to the truth, and eventually showing them the light to believing in God and submitting to Him. Thus, it seeks to deliver man from the darkness of dishonesty and malpractice to the light that is emanating from the heart of the Message in God’s realms.

In the historical facts and situations of which the Qur’anic story has told, it has sought to achieve all the aims [discussed above]. Sometimes it can be seen that particular historical stories have been repeated in more that one surah, because they have a bearing, as a whole or in part, on the context and the notion being discussed in that particular chapter.

As a result, the Quranic style advocates different approaches to telling the story. Sometimes a detailed account of the story is given, which may contain most of the characteristics of storytelling. At other times, it gives a summary, usually contained in one or two verses.
The style may tackle the story either from the start or the end, according to the idea or the aspect being discussed or handled, or the situation or position being highlighted or focused on.
The Quranic story stresses the unity of the Message

Among the aims of the Quranic story are stressing the unity of the Divine Message, the unity of the methods the messengers use to call to the way of God, the unity of the spiritual world they live in while making efforts to deliver the Message and in enduring the trials and tribulations in executing their missions, including the challenges mounted against them by their adversaries.

This should serve as evidence of the one common path that God wanted His Messages to run along. It should also serve as a proof of the uniform problems that the activists confront at all times and places, regardless of the differences in circumstances of each and every mission and messenger. In the same vein, the Quranic story tries to highlight the uniformity that characterizes the motives of the unbelievers, the haughty, and the straying, in that these motives stem from personal inclinations. The unbelievers do not seem to be standing on any ideological ground in their rejection of God’s Message.

The history of the prophets, in all that they came to stand for, the problems they faced, and the achievements they made, was an important factor in achieving that aim. For this reason, the Holy Qur’an has discussed in detail their experiences and personal and public positions. This is so that Prophet Mohammad (p.), his companions, and those who have followed in their footsteps would find the lively picture of reunion between the past and the present of the Divine Messages. That is, without losing sight of the difference in time, place, and circumstances that had characterized each and every Message. Pondering their history would provide us with the opportunity to learn from their experiences in spreading the Message. Their history would provide us with the experience we require to withstand the pressures and odd situations, and thus give us the strength and resilience to weather adversity. It makes clear how God eventually perfected His victory on the prophets in anchoring their Messages firmly on the stage of life, against all the odds and challenges.

Also among the aims of the Qur’an is presenting life’s issues by way of giving examples, where the concept should be clearly defined. Thus the Quranic story has proved to be among the most successful methods of achieving this end result, by virtue of manifesting the notion in a live and dynamic real life setting, instead of talking about it in abstract terms.

Two distinct styles of Quranic storytelling
One can talk about two distinct manners of telling the story in the Holy Qur’an: reporting the incidents from the start of the tale to its end, and role-play, where each player in the plot plays his or her part in a transparent style. Interaction between the players then ensues.
The first approach deals with minor incidents of history. The storyteller here plays the role of guiding the listener to the fundamental points in a manner that borders on the instructive in filling the gaps.

The importance of the dialogue style of storytelling lies in its attempt to simplify and make understandable the concept all round, so that no aspect should remain ambiguous. This is because each party to the dialogue does their best to put across their point of view.

However, there is another point that distinguishes the dialogue style. It paints a live and dynamic picture of the scene. Thus, the reader lives the situations, one after the other, trying to visualize the climate of the historical occurrences through the activity of the heroes of the story as though he were living then. The reader does not only experience the narrative and its connotations, but also the dynamism and atmosphere that govern the entire story. It is obvious, therefore, that recounting the facts of the story per se cannot serve this purpose, although it should provide a detailed account of the situation.

This has been the reason why the Holy Qur’an has concentrated more on dialogue in telling a story in order to portray a lively picture of the history of the Message in its vitality in real life situations, which the Qur’an has desired to relate to the present, stressing the common denominator between all the Divine Messages. It may be said too that the Holy Qur’an has desired to raise the vital issues that relate to people’s lives in order to give them that extra dimension in their minds.

We will also come up with some samples of Quranic stories that are told in a dialogue style, in the history of prophetic missions to deliver the Divine Message to people. Some stories should also touch on the fundamental issues as they simmer in real life situations. This should help the cause of propagating the way to God and the journey of Islam in life.

In recent future we will add the article on Noah and his people, related to the above concepts.
1) QuraanicLessons.com2) UnderstandQuran.com3)
Study the Noble Quran Word-for-Word
May Allah help us all to master the language of the Qur’an and to aid its spread throughout the Ummah.

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