Why does Allah ask questions?

The Details of the Question

- Why does Allah ask questions in many verses though He knows everything? What is the wisdom behind it?
- In addition, for what purposes is the question method used in the Quran? Are there different types of it?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The questions posed by Allah in the Quran are certainly not questions posed for the purpose of obtaining knowledge. Although the expression is in the form of a question, the meaning is different.

Those questions have different purposes and meanings. For example, they are asked to reinforce certain topics. It is called istifham taqriri. “Awalam yaraw / Did/Do they not see?” It means they definitely saw or see.

Sometimes a question is asked to reject a thought. It is called istifham inkari. “Ailahun ma’allah / Is there another god with Allah?” It means there is no other god with Allah. It means that such a claim cannot be made.

Apart from them, there are also questions that are asked in order to express astonishment (istifham ta’jibi) and for other purposes.

Why the art of asking questions?

Istifham (asking questions) is the presentation of an issue in a question-answer form though the answer is known. This method, which does not expect an answer from the addressee, is used to make the speech more effective and to better draw the attention of the reader to the issue that is covered. That is, the aim is to make the word effective with a wit.

Istifham is used to express the following in the Quran:
- Denial,
- Making people confess the truth
(not denying the existing situation),
- Disclaiming,
- Exaltation,
- Threat,
- Condemnation,
- Intimidation,
- Sadness
- Warning,
- Reminding,
- Astonishment,
- Supplication

etc.

The question-answer method, which expresses so many meanings, occupies the minds on the one hand and arouses curiosity about what the answer is on the other. Thus, the person makes an effort while doing research away from imitation.

At the same time, asking questions enables people to realize the situation they are in by using their own logic. Therefore, this literary art is used in the Quran for important issues to draw attention.

It means asking questions is not always for informational purposes; it can be used for other purposes too. We will try to give examples by writing those purposes one by one:

1) It is used for denial.

In that case, it has a negative meaning, and the sentence in front of it becomes negative.

“...but shall any be destroyed except those who transgress?” (al-Ahqaf, 46/35)

“...and never do We give (such) requital except to such as are ungrateful rejecters?..” (Saba, 34/17)

“Or has He only daughters and ye have sons?” (at-Tur, 52/39)

“What! for you the male sex, and for Him, the female?” (an-Najm, 53/21)

2) It is used for tawbikh (reprimanding, condemning).

“...Didst thou then disobey my order?...” (Taha, 20/93)

“...Worship ye that which ye have (yourselves) carved?” (as-Saaffat, 37/95)

Tawbikh is usually used about the deeds that happened; therefore, condemning occurs. Sometimes tawbikh is used for the abandonment of an action that needs to be done. For example:

“Did We not give you long enough life so that he that would should receive admonition?” (Fatir, 35/37)

“...Was not the earth of Allah spacious enough for you to move yourselves away (From evil)?” (an-Nisa, 4/97)

3) It is used for taqrir.

Taqrir means to lead the addressee to admission and confession about an issue that he knows.

“Is there (not) in these an adjuration (or evidence) for those who understand?” (al-Fajr, 89/5)

“Have We not expanded thee thy breast? And removed from thee thy burden?” (al-Inshirah, 94/1-2)

“And Did He not find thee wandering, and He gave thee guidance?” (ad-Duha, 93/7)

“Did He not make their treacherous plan go astray? And He sent against them Flights of Birds?” (al-Fil, 105/2-3)

“...Did ye reject My Signs, though ye comprehended them not in knowledge, or what was it ye did?” (an-Naml, 27/84)

“Is not Allah enough for his Servant?” (az-Zumar, 39/36)

“Am I not your Lord?” (al-Araf, 7/172)

“...Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?” (al-Baqara, 2/106)

4) It is used to express taajjub (astonishment).

“How can ye reject the faith in Allah?” (al-Baqara, 2/28)

5) It is used to express reprimanding.

“Has not the Time arrived for the Believers that their hearts in all humility should engage in the remembrance of Allah and of the Truth...” (al-Hadid, 57/16)

6) It is also used for tadhkir (reminding), which also means ikhtisar.

“Did I not enjoin on you, O ye Children of Adam, that ye should not worship Satan...” (Yasin, 36/60)

“... Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth” (al-Baqara 2/33)

“.. Know ye how ye dealt with Joseph and his brother, not knowing (what ye were doing)?” (Yusuf, 12/89)

7) It is used to express iftikhar (pride/honor).

“...Does not the dominion of Egypt belong to me?” (az-Zukhruf, 43/51)

8) It is used to inform (notify) people

“...What a Book is this! It leaves out nothing small or great...” (al-Kahf, 18/49)

9) It is used with the intention of scaring.

“The (Day) of Noise and Clamor: What is the (Day) of Noise and Clamor?” (al-Qaria, 101/1-2)

“The Sure Reality! What is the Sure Reality?” (al-Haaqqa, 69/1-2)

10) It is used for convenience.

“And what burden Were it on them if they had faith in Allah?” (an-Nisa, 4/39)

11) It is used for the purpose of threat and intimidation.

“Did We not destroy the men of old (for their evil)?” (al-Mursalat, 77/16)

12) It is used to express multiplicity.

“How many towns have We destroyed (for their sins)?…” (al-Araf, 7/4)

13) It is used to express equality.

“...It is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe.” (al-Baqara, 2/6)

14) It is used to express a command.

“...will ye not then abstain?” (al-Maida, 5/91)

15) It is used for the purpose of admonition, which is one of the parts of the imperative mode.

“Hast thou not turned thy vision to thy Lord?- How He doth prolong the shadow ?…” (al-Furqan, 25/45)

“Seest thou not that Allah sends down rain from the sky, and forthwith the earth becomes clothed with green?…” (al-Hajj, 22/63)

“When whither go ye?” (at-Takwir, 81/26)

“And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but such as debase their souls with folly?” (al-Baqara, 2/130)

16) It is used for targhib (incentive/encouragement)

“Who is he that will loan to Allah a beautiful loan,…” (al-Baqara, 2/245)

“...Shall I lead you to a bargain that will save you from a grievous Penalty?...” (as-Saff, 61/10)

17) It is used for prohibition.

“...fear not men, but fear me...” (al-Maida, 5/44)

“.. Do ye fear them? Nay, it is Allah Whom ye should more justly fear...” (at-Tawba, 9/13)

“…What has seduced thee from thy Lord Most Beneficent?” (al-Infitar, 82/6)

18) It is used for the purpose of supplication.

This question is like prohibition. However, supplication is made from small to large in terms of degrees.

“...Wouldst Thou destroy us for the deeds of the foolish ones among us?” (al-Araf, 7/155)

19) It is used for the purpose of istirshad (to be guided, to learn).

“…Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?” (al-Baqara, 2/30)

20) It is used for the purpose of wish

“...Have we no intercessors now to intercede on our behalf?” (al-Araf, 7/53)

21) It is used for the purpose of istibta’ (waiting).

“When (will come) the help of Allah?...” (al-Baqara, 2/214)

22) It is used for the purpose of presentation.

“...do you not wish that Allah should forgive you?...” (an-Nur, 24/22)

23) It is used for the purpose of specification.

“…Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths?” (at-Tawba, 9/13)

24) It is used for the purpose of tajahul (pretending ignorance).

“What! has the Message (Quran) been sent to him - (of all persons) among us??” (Sad, 38/8)

25) It is used for exaltation.

“Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth??” (al-Baqara, 2/255)

26) It is used for contempt.

“...Is this, (they say) "the one who talks of your gods?...” (al-Anbiya, 21/36)

“Is this the one whom Allah has sent as an apostle?” (al-Furqan, 25/41)

27) It is used for the purpose of contentment.

“...Is there not in Hell an abode for the Haughty?...” (az-Zumar, 39/60)

28) It is used for the purpose of distancing.

“...but how will that remembrance profit him?” (al-Fajr, 89/23)

29) It is used for the purpose of familiarization.

“And what is that in the right hand, O Moses?” (Taha, 20/17)

30) It is used for the purpose of mockery.

“…Does thy (religion of) prayer command thee?” (Hud, 11/87)

“...Will ye not eat (of the offerings before you)? What is the matter with you that ye speak not (intelligently)?” (as-Saaffat, 37/91-92)

31) It is used for the reinforcement of the meaning of the preposition of the previous question word.

“Is, then, one against whom the decree of Punishment is justly due (equal to one who eschews Evil)? Wouldst thou, then, deliver one (who is) in the Fire?” (az-Zumar, 39/19)

32) It is used to give information.

“Is it that there is a disease in their hearts? or do they doubt?” (an-Nur, 24/50)

“Has there not been over Man a long period of Time, when he was nothing - (not even) mentioned?” (al-Insan, 76/1)

References:

- Suyuti, al-Itqan fi Ulumil Quran.
- Zarkashi, al-Burhan fi Ulumil Quran.

- Kuran-ı Kerim’de Sorular ve Cevaplar (Unpublished Doctoral Thesis), SÜSBE, Sakarya 2002, pp. 9-36.

- Avnullah Enes Ateş, İstifhâm Üslûbunun Mecâzi Kullanımları ve Meallere Yansıması, Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart University İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, 2016, Issue 8 (pp. 123 - 141)
- Yahya Suzan, Kur'an'da istifham üslubu (2001, Dicle University Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü).

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