What is the reason why some anecdotes, verses, and sentences are often repeated in Quran?
In Quran, sometimes verses, sometimes anecdotes, sometimes sentences and sometimes words are often repeated. It is expressed with the term Repetition of Quran that some words and verses in Quran are repeated in one or more places (1). Generally, in literature, repetitions in spoken or written expressions display sometimes a beautiful and sometimes an ugly appearance. While repetitions of expressions that concern needs of people and attract their attention give pleasure, repetitions that do not attract the attention of the addressee and that do not concern his needs cause disturbance and boredom.
Surely, repetitions in Quran give pleasure, not boredom, as they concern the needs of the addressees. For instance, repetition of the verses expressing the punishment or mercy of God surely gives pleasure, not boredom, as they deal with the most important matters of humans (2).
Bediüzzaman explains the repetitions in Quran: As is the case in the principle; Everything that glisters is not blazing fire. not every repetition is boring. It is true that some repetitions are boring. However, this cannot be generalized for every word and every book. There is many a repetition which appears to be boring, but which is accepted as beautiful in eloquence and is thus praised. We can liken repetitions in expressions to repetitions in foods. For, one of them is material food, the other spiritual. As is known, the things we humans eat fall into two groups; first one, fruits; the second one, foods and drinks like bread and water. While eating the same fruits over and over again causes boredom, there is power and pleasure in the repetition of foods. Because as needs are repeated, it will be as pleasing for the foods to be repeated. For this reason, we do not feel bored in the least with eating bread repeatedly. However, the repetition of a fruit that much will make us bored.
Likewise, expressions also fall into two groups: Those that fall into the first one-mention truths that are food to souls and that empower ideas. As long as they are repeated, they give life to souls and ideas like the light of the sun. The expressions that fall into the second group, however, are of the character of fruits and it is not much accepted to repeat them. Therefore, the repetitions of Quran, which are a food to hearts, power to ideas, and life to souls, cause not boredom, but a pleasing delight. The more they are repeated, the more pleasing they become. Actually, the repetitions of Quran are not repetitions in its real meaning, because each one of its repetitions points out to other purposes and different truths according to their specific places (3).
Bediüzzaman likens the expressions of Quran to the fruits of the paradise. He quotes the verse: Every time they are provided with fruits (of different color, shape, taste, and fragrance and that are constantly renewed) therefore, they say, "This is what we were provided with before." For they are given to them in resemblance (to what was given to them both in the world, and just before in the Gardens, familiar in shape and color so that they may not be unattractive because unknown). (4) and says: As it is explained in the verse that the fruits of paradise presented to people at different times show similarity just in appearance to the fruits of world and of paradise that were seen by them before; however, in pleasure and flavor, they are very different; the same thing is the case for the repetitions in Quran.
The Wisdom of Repetitions in Quran
According to some scholars, there are three purposes in the repetitions of anecdotes, especially in the anecdotes of prophets, in Quran:
The first one: The rest of the anecdote a part of which is mentioned in a certain place is related in another place. This is seen like a repetition in respect to its appearance.
The second: In order to show its clarity and eloquence, Quran relates an anecdote it related rather lengthily in a certain place this time in a different place and in a very pithy way.
The third: In the remembrance of anecdotes, there are different purposes like proving the prophethood especially that of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), proving the existence and oneness of God, giving the lesson that God has the power to punish the cruel, warning the disbelievers by relating the gloomy end of the communities that lived before Islam. In each place where needed, the repetition of an anecdote is required in order to give one or a few of the lessons mentioned above in a purposeful way (6).
In his work Mesnevi-i Nuriye, Bediüzzaman evaluates the repetitions in Quran as another gleam of its being a miracle (7). In his another work he named the Flower of Emirdağ, he handled the purposes of repetitions in Quran from many perspectives.
Some of these purposes:
1. There are important purposes in some repetitions in Quran for believers who are often faced with troubles and sins. Such anecdotes as those of Moses and Abraham (UWBP) were repeated in order to soothe believers who are subjected to troubles and cruelties by showing the salvation of the prophet or prophets related in the anecdotes.
On the other hand; by relating the destruction of such communities as Sodom and Gomorra, which were destroyed because of their rebellions, the lesson is given to believers to abstain from rebellions and sins.
2. For the public who do not deal much with knowledge and who constitute most of the addressees of Quran, the Noble Quran proves the existence and oneness of God by showing again and again the proofs of creation that are the easiest to see like the earth and heavens.
3. In order to encourage believers who are always open to the assaults of the self and the devil, the favors they will receive in the paradise; and in order to discourage believers from sins, punishments they may incur in the hell are often shown them.
4. As Quran is a book of supplication and remembrance, of Sharia, of an invitation and proclamation, of oneness, of wisdom and a description of being a slave to God, it calls for repetitions.
This is as follows:
As repetition of supplication strengthens the possibility of its being accepted, it should be repeated. In the same way, the repetition of remembrance enlightens; for this reason, expressions of remembrance, offering thanks, and declaring God as the greatest are to be often repeated.
From the perspective that Quran is a book of Sharia: Quran establishes the principles of this sound and great religion. It makes radical revolutions in the social life of humankind. Certainly, it must use repetitions in order to stabilize and fortify these principles.
From the perspective that Quran is a book of offer and proclamation, it must frequently show the importance of the cause it calls people into and the beauties of Islam. And this necessitates repetition.
From the perspective that Quran is a book of oneness, it must often emphasize the existence and oneness of God. Quran mentions important issues and invites hearts to believe in them. It explains fine truths and summons minds to learn them. Therefore, they must be repeated in different ways and in various styles in order for them to be established in the hearts and minds of all the people from all walks of life in the community.
From the perspective that Quran is a book of wisdom, it must explain the real purpose of the creation of the universe and of man in every occasion.
In the respect that Quran systematizes worships and social lives of believers, it must frequently explain how to be a slave to God and what social duties believers are responsible for in order to establish them fully.
5. Quran is an address and a cure for every sort of people from the most intelligent to the silliest, from the most pious to the far deviated, from the ones who escape the attraction of the world and work earnestly for the Hereafter, to the lax ones who are captivated by the world.
However, not everybody finds the chance to read the entire Quran, which is a cure and remedy for everyone. Therefore, God, who puts pearls of wisdom and benefits into whatever He does and who possesses endless mercy and compassion toward His creatures, has put into some surahs and especially long ones the basic aims of Quran. Each surah has thus become a small Quran and eased the way for everybody. Quran calls out encouraging the humanity:
And indeed (by revealing it through human language) We have made the Quran easy for remembrance (of God, and taking heed), then is there any that remembers and takes heed? (Al-Qamar Surah, 54; 17)
6. It is stated in the hadith; Each verse has dimensions of meaning: explicit, implicit (the meaning behind the explicit meaning which can be understood only by the capable) meanings; a scope and a circle of meaning. And each one of these four dimensions of meaning has details, signs, branches, and points. (8); in other words, while each verse has many layers of meaning, there are many ways, judgments, benefits and points for each purpose. For this reason, while it is related in a place in one way, in another it is related in another way. In this surah, it is explained with one purpose, in another with another purpose. In this respect, there is no repetition in reality, but a repetition only in appearance. This is like; although eyes, ears and fingers resemble each other, they are each different in reality.
7. Just as bodily needs of the human are each different; some we need every moment like air, some occasionally like water when thirsty, some everyday like food, some once a week like light, some once a month, and some once a year like medication.
In the same way, spiritual needs of the human are each different, too. Some we need every moment like saying Hu-He which refers to God- and God, some every time like saying In the name of God, some every hour like saying There is no God but Allah. The others can be compared.
This being the case, repetition of verses and some words stems from repetition of needs and points out the intensity of the needs for them.
8. In Quran, there are the answers of the questions asked repeatedly by the various sorts of humans with the speech of mouth and condition. That the questions are asked repeatedly necessitates that the answers be given repeatedly.
9. And, for example, in repeating many times the stories of Moses (Upon whom be peace), which contain many instances of wisdom and benefits like the Staff of Moses, and of the other prophets (Upon whom be peace), it demonstrates that the prophethoods of all the other prophets are a proof of the Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH). In accordance with the undeniable wisdom for the point of view of reality of this Being's Prophethood and since everyone does not always have the time or capability to read the whole Quran, like the important pillars of belief, it repeats those stories in order to make all the long and middle-length Surahs each like a small Quran. To repeat them is not excessive, indeed, it is required by eloquence, and teaches that the question of Muhammad (PBUH) is the greatest question of humankind and the most important matter of the universe.
As a conclusion, based on the purposes listed above and on many others not listed, there are some repetitions in Quran. The repetitions of Quran do no cause boredom like expressions of ordinary people; on the contrary, they give pleasure as needs are so intense and the repetitions stem from these needs.
Besides, although Quran, which has been illuminating every moment of the lives of Muslims for centuries and which is read again and again in their prayers, is read that frequently, it does not cause boredom for any believer; it is easily established in the minds of children who try to memorize Quran; it is as sweet as zamzam water for the ones in deathbed. All these show that as Quran is a miracle in every respect, it is so also in respect to its being read. It is a requirement of its being a miracle that some of its parts are repeated.
1. see Cerrahoğlu, Tefsir Usûlü, 173; Turgut, 179.
2. krş. Cerrahoğlu, a.g.e., 173-174; Turgut, 180.
3. see Işârât, 31-32.
4. Al-Baqarah Surah, 2/25.
5. see Işârât, 32.
6. see Ibn Cuzeyy, 6.
7. Mesnev-i Nuriye, Ondördüncü Reşha
8. see Ebu Yâlâ, el-Musned 9:287; at-Taberânî, al-Mucemül-Evsat 1:236
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