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Prof. Dr. Laurent Mignon wrote for Yeni Asya: Hearing Surah Dhilzal

30 Nisan 2023, Pazar 16:55
Thirty years ago, when I was trying to learn Arabic after a trip to Antioch, I was attracted to Surah Dhilzal.

The reason why it especially attracted my attention was that there was a situation in it that resembled a contrast: the Surah had the beauty of sound that gave peace, that appealed directly to the heart. But in all this beauty, he was referring to a terrible tragedy that was a harbinger of the day of judgment. When I heard Surah Dhilzal for the first time without fully understanding its meaning, I did not know that I would experience the August 17, 1999 earthquake in Istanbul. And, I could not have known that the city of Antakya, which has a special place in my life because caused me to be interested in Arabic and Turkish, would be destroyed in the earthquake of February 6, 2023.

Even in the years when I was a student, although a little unconsciously, I did not care about the voice and harmony so much, probably because I was formed from the sect of the poet Ahmet Hashim. Especially during my university days when I learned Arabic and Turkish, I would never want to describe myself in this way. But nowadays, when I am working on this unique poet, the priority that Hashim gives to sound and harmony when describing poetry convinces me now. In his famous manifesto entitled “Some Considerations about Poetry”, he wrote: "The poet's language is an average language between music and words, close to music rather than words, embodied not to be understood like ‘prose’, but to be heard." For this reason, if we are to say in the words of Hashim, the poet cannot be a “messenger of truth”, even though poetry is “buried in the nights of mystery and unknown, except for the regions of understanding, the lights of the waters of solitude, the sacred and nameless upstream, which only reaches the horizon in time and out of time”.

This is an important point. Because although Zilzal's voice attracts, it's not poetry, of course. The message of a surah is as important as the aesthetic aspect. In this regard, it is also useful to apply not to Ahmet Hashim, but to his great-grandfather. As it is known, there is an important Decipherment work entitled Ruhu'l-Meani, written by the interpreter, faqih, litterateur and poet Baghdad Şehabettin Mahmut al-Alusi between 1836 and 1851, more commonly called Tafsirul-Alusi in the Arab world. The Alusis, Hashim's family, were an ulama family that trained many important writers in the field of Islamic sciences and literature. Şehabettin Mahmut, who also had a great interest in poetry, paid special attention to the analysis of language arts in his verse interpretations based on his knowledge of language and eloquence, taking into account pre-Islamic Arabic poetry in his tafsir.

What is interesting is that the hadith, which explains that Surah al-Dhilzal corresponds to half of the Noble Qur'an and is considered weak by most scholars, again makes many commentators think. Mahmoud al-Alusi was one of them. He attributed the fact that Surah al-Dhilzal corresponds to half of the Qur'an to the fact that the decrees it contains relate to both this world and the hereafter and actually summarize them.

A shocking dimension of the great verses in every sense of the adjective, the landscape they draw: they are very powerful images that take the weights out of the earth and tell what is happening on it. These images can also be read as judgments about the world we live in. As if they are an invitation to think about the current situation after February 6, 2023.

Just as on August 17, 1999, the earth spoke. He exposed the deep corruption that led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people. But the issue is not only what has been done and not done in the past, despite all the promises made in Turkey, which is an earthquake zone. What happened after the earthquake is equally overwhelming. Reading what an Antakya reader of the Yeni Asya newspaper experienced from Kazim Güleçyüz's column dated March 18 means understanding that those in power are still not listening despite the speech of the earth: “We are also experiencing the suspicion of being deliberately uninterested in Antakya. [...] A mayor, a member of the government with whom I chatted for more than two hours, said, "It was a murder that there was no one in the middle on behalf of the rescue and assistance team for the most important three days, we committed this murder. Army, AFAD, Red Crescent were absent for 3 days. If the soldier had gone down to the rescue operation in the first hours, tens of thousands could have been saved alive,’ his confession was also confirmation that Hatay was left alone...”

In an article titled “Earthquake” written in the Ikdam newspaper on May 4, 1928, Ahmet Hashim wrote that the time that the earthquake was waiting to take action was the same time that thieves chose to rob houses. It was as if Hashim had sensed something. Thieves can also shake people's trust as much as a natural disaster.

But man-made disasters are also worse than natural disasters, because they are the result of a choice. The disaster in Antakya, which has a special place in my life, is a man-made disaster these days, not a natural disaster. Antakya, which can be an example for the whole world in terms of multiculturalism, multilingualism and pluralism, is being subjected to a disaster for the second time. To tell the truth, the mentality that sacrificed human life for the sake of profit and the mentality that left Antakya under rubble are mirrors of each other. This is one of the truths that is revealed when the earth speaks. But there is also this: Antakya, which has been developing a culture of coexistence and solidarity for centuries, is able to overcome this mentality.

Translated by Ethem Erbaş

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