John Milton (1608-1674) wrote Paradise Lost in 1667. This was a long poem constituting twelve books composed in iambic pentameter blank verse, recounting the story of Satan’s revolution against God, exile, plot against Adam and Eve, the fall of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from paradise, and the redemption of humanity vouchsafed by Jesus Christ. An epitome of great poetic talent and political insight, the long narrative poem indicated Milton’s radical political reaction to the sociopolitical atmosphere of the interregnum period in seventeenth-century England, when Civil War led to the execution of Charles I, and Oliver Cromwell started the protectorates; thus ensued a chaotic series of conflicts between Cromwell and the Parliament over government. Indeed, Milton embedded his sharp criticism toward monarchy in his allegorical story of Satan’s revolution in God’s Kingdom. The poem rendered a very comprehensive and detailed narrative, including the minutes of Satan’s ruminations and monologues, the thought processes of Adam and Eve before and after the fall, and the dialogues between all these figures. Milton reconstructed a vivid dramatic version of the fall in the Genesis, and enjoying his vast knowledge of law, ancient languages, and classics, he infused his work with Latin and myths, thus giving the poem a sophisticated as well as a fantastic edge. Milton shocks his readers not only by his gargantuan imaginative faculty, but also by his free manipulation of the original version of the fall narrative for his own purposes.
The story of the fall comprises only a little portion of the Genesis, implying that there is a very concise account, with no real plot and characterization in the biblical text. In comparison, Milton’s poem is too long, and its mere length becomes questionable if one considers the matter of concision in the Bible. Where did Milton obtain all the details he incorporated into the story? To what extent was Milton’s poem a precise rendition of the original story in the Bible? Or did he radically diverge from it? To find answers to such questions, one has to refer to the story of man’s creation and fall in the Bible. Although the fall narrative in Milton’s poem is different from that in the Bible, both texts are man-written, and as such, both are prone to distortions; hence, both are lacking in the divinity and authenticity of a text like the Quran, which gives the direct word of God, and among holy texts, has been recognized as invulnerable and undistorted. Thus, in this research, the Quran’s rendition of the fall will be used as the ultimate source for the examination of the other two narratives in the Bible and Paradise Lost.
Independently, Milton’s version of the fall story in Paradise Lost has provoked a great deal of criticism from different perspectives, such as feminist, theological, literary, political, psychoanalytical, etc. Ready examples of such studies are Mary A. Radzinowicz’s “The Politics of Paradise Lost,” Christine Froula’s “When Eve Reads Milton: Undoing the Canonical Economy,” Mary Nyquist’s “Fallen Differences, Phallogocentric Discourses: Losing Paradise Lost to History,” and Victoria Kahn’s “Allegory and the Sublime in Paradise Lost,” all collected in Annabel Patterson’s John Milton (1992). Research on Paradise Lost as a continuation of the Christian tradition has been explored in W. G. Riggs’ The Christian Poet in Paradise Lost (1972), R. M. Schwartz’s Remembering and Repeating: Biblical Creation in Paradise Lost (1988), J. P. Rosenblatt’s Torah and Law in Paradise Lost (1994), and S. E. Fish’s Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost (1998). However, little research has been done on the question of differences between Milton’s fall narrative in Paradise Lost, and the ones in the Bible and the Quran. There is only one related doctoral dissertation by Mahe Nau Munir Awan, titled “When Muslims Read Milton: An Investigation of the Problems Encountered by Teachers and Students in a Sample of British and Pakistani Universities” (2012), but Awan does not render a semantic study of the narrative differences between the three texts. Therefore, this essay will be a pioneering attempt to produce a semantic investigation of the distinctions among the Miltonic, biblical, and Quranic versions of the fall to highlight Christian and Islamic divergences.
To obtain the mentioned objective, the present research will benefit from a semantic approach, actually Bonn and Paris schools, to probe the problem, for they are applicable to our discussion of the divine narrative of the fall in the Bible and the Quran. In this vein, the theories of Humboldt, Weisgerber, Greimas, and Izutsu will be explored together and applied eclectically and selectively to the analysis of the three mentioned texts.
1. The Bible and the Quran: Word of Man or Word of God?
The Bible is the Christians’ holy book, written by many inspired writers, mostly anonymous, over 1500 years. The greater part of this sacred text, namely Old Testament (Torah), belongs to Judaism, and constitutes three books, i.e. Laws of Moses, Prophets, and Psalms. The smaller part of the Bible is called the New Testament and contains five books: the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Acts, Paul’s Epistles and Hebrews, General Epistles, and Revelation. Catholics and Protestants disagree on the total number of the books in the Bible, the former enumerating seventy three, and the latter, sixty six. The disputable seven books are called the Apocrypha. Judaism does not approve of the New Testament; on the contrary, Christianity recognizes the Old Testament as part of their holy book. In “A Comparative Study on the Quran and the Bible,” Nasiri explains the reason: the gospels only recounted some of the events of Christ’s life, and part of his moral sermons and preaching, which constituted a meager body of moral statements, and was deficient in respect of important religious questions such as the creation of man, prophets’ lives, and the destiny of preceding communities. Thus, Christians put the Old and New Testaments together to complement their holy book (Nasiri, 1386, p. 69). Yet, based on McGrath, “not all the rules set out for Jews in the Old Testament were binding upon Christians; in these instances, the Old Testament offered moral guidance only, not positive prescriptions for conduct.” McGrath adds that “this way of interpreting the Old Testament had been applied to cultic issues – such as the Old Testament’s demand for animal sacrifices” (McGrath, 2012, p. 260).
Besides controversies on the number of the books in New and Old Testaments, Christians offer opposite views on the nature of the holy book. The majority of Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant theologians attribute only the content of the holy book to God, not its words. That is, they believe that God just inspired some people with his message, and they wrote it down as a book; He did not dictate the words to be written down precisely the way they were spoken by Him. There is also a minority who believes that God inspired the writers of the book with both its words and content, and thus, the book is the word of God.
Given that the Bible is the word of God, it resembles the Quran, yet the Quran differs greatly from the Bible, for unlike the former, the latter was sent to a large number of people in diverse methods and languages over a very long period of time. The Quran, however, comprises a single book reported and read to people by a single person (Prophet Mohammad) in a single language (Arabic) over twenty three years (marked by the prophet’s decease). The most significant difference between the Quran and the Bible is that the former is God’s revelation, whereas the latter is only an inspiration. Revelation is a method of communication from God to man; this method exclusively pertains to prophets as God’s elect addressees, whereas inspiration can possibly occur to people in general, and the righteous in particular (Nasiri, 1386, p. 75). In revelation, God’s word is exactly recorded and transferred, i.e. there is verbal immaculateness, whereas in inspiration, God’s message might be modified and even distorted depending on the condition in which the receiver receives and interprets the message. Thus, biblical language is definitely not reliable, since the sheer matter of the multiplicity of its scribes brings diversity and discrepancy to the original text intended by God. The question is, if God sent his message to diverse men, what was the necessity of His selection of Christ as a prophet at all? Were the scribes of the Bible more exceptional, immaculate, talented, and righteous than Christ? Did Christ not deserve to be the messenger and reporter of God’s words at the same time? Or did he neglect to observe the process of transferring God’s words to the page? Why have other religious texts been written by a single man, whereas the Bible should have so many writers? If God summoned Christ as a prophet, why should not Jesus have received God’s words? Is not this an indispensable part of a prophet’s mission?
Such questions lead us to the conclusion that there is something wrong with the Bible, and that this book is not exempt from distortion and aberration. After all, the Bible was written by ordinary men, and God’s word naturally went awry unless the writers were immaculate, which was not the case. Compared to the ambiguous and questionable nature of the Bible, the nature of the Quran has provoked no such controversies among either Muslims or the followers of other creeds. Even God himself has warranted the Quran’s invulnerability to distortion: “Verily, We have sent down The Reminder, [the Holy Qur'an] and We will assuredly be the Protector of it” (Saffarzadeh, 1380, Hijr: 9). This verse indicates the Quran’s firm and invincible status among other holy books. Therefore, if we are going to examine the influence of the biblical tradition on Milton’s story of Adam and Eve’s fall, recourse to the Quran’s narrative of the fall as the original text becomes inescapable. Through this recourse, the semantic divergences in Miltonic and biblical narratives will surface. So much for the differences between the two holy books; the following section discusses the semantic approaches necessary for the investigation of the divergences among the narratives of the fall in Paradise Lost, the Bible, and the Quran.
2. Semantics Schools of Bonn and Paris
The present study does not necessarily adopt a single semantic approach to resolve the question of this research. The researcher attempts to employ an assembly of semantic views, at the same time that she will focus on two major semantic trends, namely Bonn and Paris, to back her argument. Furthermore, the researcher does not strictly follow a close text-oriented semantic analysis; instead, she aims to highlight the essential conceptual convergences and divergences between Milton’s poem and the Bible, and to examine the extent to which the biblical account of the fall has influenced Western thought. Alongside this, the Quran’s narrative of the fall will be used as the standard and divine principle against which the Miltonic and biblical accounts will be checked.
Linguistics is a branch of knowledge responsible for exploring and understanding the functions of language. As for language which gets more complicated and carries more layers of meaning, i.e. poetry and theological texts, linguistic investigation grows more sophisticated and imperative, since greater concision carries more levels of signification. Here, semantics—a linguistic branch methodically dealing with the process of the exploration and production of meaning—is an inevitable asset. While dealing with sacred texts like the Quran, semantics is preferable to hermeneutics, for semantics presupposes an intent in what the speaker says, without which the speaker’s statement is meaningless and false. Hermeneutics, contrarily, does not locate the meaning in the speaker’s intent, but identifies meaning with what the audience perceives; in this approach, there are as many messages as there are receivers for that message. In semantics, the text is a work while in hermeneutics, we have a text rather than a work. Since the researcher is going to focus on the Quran as the direct revelation of God, a semantic approach seems more apt than a hermeneutic one.
From among semantic approaches, the Bonn and Paris schools seem more in line with the purposes of Quranic studies. The origins of the Bonn semantics should be sought in Immanuel Kant, the German idealist philosopher (1724-1804), who influenced all schools of thought since the eighteenth century. Kant’s famous disavowal of John Locke’s tabula rasa turned the attention of thinkers to man’s intuitive knowledge which directed the process of gaining and shaping experience, particularly under temporal, spatial, and causal forces. Unlike Locke, Kant believed that the mind was not a blank page on which experience wrote, but there was some a priori, granted man as a gift. Consequently, if the mind earned experience through language, it was also responsible for governing and categorizing it. In this view, man turned into an active, rather than passive, agent who interacted with the world. Man was no longer an inactive receptor or empty vessel waiting to be filled with external forces.
Kant’s contemporary, Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835), brought Kantian notions to linguistics, defining language as the national spirit or ethos and vice versa: “environment is viewed as shaping national character, and national character, in its turn, as shaping language… both national character and language are considered to be shaped equally and directly by the environment” (Brown, 1967, p. 70). Thus, language was the end product of its past, and directly connected to history and historical processes. The differences between languages did not merely pertain to speech voices, but also depended on the national experience a nation acquired through time. So meaning was produced, reconstructed, and analyzed by language’s “inner dynamic” synchronically as well as diachronically. This inner dynamic also ordered and categorized the life experience of nations (Brown, 1967, p. 12); hence, the existence of so many languages.
Humboldt’s views were taken up by Leo Weisgerber (1899-1985) in early twentieth-century Germany. This linguistic school was known as the Bonn school, since Weisgerber taught in Bonn. The movement was alternatively called ethno-linguistics. Neo-Humboldtian linguists considered the study of language to be inseparable from the study of communal lived experience. One of the achievements of this linguistic view for semantics was that two types of signification were discovered and distinguished from each other: personal perception (“Sinn”) which resulted from the feeling an individual would experience while hearing a certain word; and the relationship between the meaning of that word and the total semantic system of that language (“Bedeutung”). Thus, meaning had two communicational parties: the listener, and the linguistic system. It was the latter party (“Bedeutung”) that the Bonn semanticists recognized as relevant to semantic studies, not the former, for they attributed the former (“Sinn”) to the field of psychology. At this juncture, many issues were excluded from the semantic domain, particularly individual and mental issues which could differ from individual to individual, since Bonn semanticists preferred to investigate the place of meanings in the body of a language system, not individual systems.
Consequently, the Bonn semanticists defined two minds for each individual: the individual mind which was perceptual and personal, and the social mind which was communal. This was called language mind spoken by all the speakers of a nation, and reserved in their communal mind. Alongside this schism between individual and communal minds in every person, there were also distinctions among language worldviews of diverse nations. Such distinctions ensued from nations’ historical experiences. It was this language worldview that defined the relationship between language mind and language meaning, and formed language system and its inner dynamic. Despite differences among language worldviews, they could also share speech forms and meanings, but such similarities were quite relative (Pakatchi, 1387, pp. 102-4).
Another semantic school which complemented Bonn semantics was founded by Algirdas Julien Greimas (1917-1992) in Paris with the publication of Structural Semantics (1966). Greimas diverged from Saussure’s purely theoretical framework in linguistics by allotting greater space to the practical application of language and meaning, and by bringing semantics and semiotics together. Greimas sought meaning in “processes,” for meaning could not be severed from its context and annunciator. The meaning could be perceived by the listener, because the annunciator revealed it in the process of annunciation. Thus, the main weight of signification would be removed from the content and, instead, set on expression or annunciation. At this juncture, the individual and psychological dimensions excluded by the Bonn school were called back into the semantic domain, for unlike neo-Humboldtians, Greimas realized that it was eventually the individual who perceived meanings; and the exclusion of the individual from semantics meant that semanticists were actually talking about unreal men. Therefore, communal mind made sense only when individual mind was taken into account (Pakatchi, 1387, pp. 109-11).
Giving due attention to communal and individual aspects in semantics establishes a bilateral relationship between verbal and cultural attitudes. There is a processing and modifying interaction between reality and language which gives man’s verbal attitude a certain orientation, and this precisely lies in the realm of semantics. Words, too, carry certain vantage points wherefrom speakers look at the world; hence, concepts are no more than the crystallization of this worldview. Such concepts can turn into keywords loaded with the certain worldviews in different cultures or traditions, so keywords also differ from culture (community) to culture (community). Here, Toshihiko Izutsu (1914-1993) had new things to say: “Semantics as I understand it is an analytic study of the key-terms of a language with a view to arriving eventually at a conceptual grasp of the weltanschauung or world-view of the people who use that language as a tool not only of speaking and thinking, but, more important still, of conceptualizing and interpreting the world that surrounds them” (Izutsu, 2008, p. 3). Izutsu undertook a semantic study of the Quran based on certain Quranic keywords, and with a view to communal ethos of pre-Islamic Arabs, their environmental and cultural influences on the Arabic language, and their reception of the word of God. While focusing on individual key-terms, Izutsu cautioned that we should not lose sight of “multiple relations” each key-term “bears to others in the whole system” (Izutsu, 2008, p. 4). Therefore, these related key-terms constituted a network which in turn comprised one or more semantic fields.
Izutsu’s application of the Bonn semantic theories to the study of the Quran investigated three areas and their interconnections: what existed in the environment (a) was processed and evaluated in language worldview (b) and then posited in the semantic system (c). Based on this model, words in the universal sense of the term were value-free, and became valuated only after they passed through and were processed in the language worldview. Thus, qualitative and applied concepts, such as abstractions, metaphors, and metonymies did not have external or environmental reality, and infiltrated into the semantic system after being shaped in language worldview. It is the concept of language worldview that plays the central role in the present research, given that Milton’s poetry originated in the biblical worldview. It is the biblical worldview that this research intends to prove to be problematic, because it partakes in the communal and cultural matrix of its many writers who rose from the Judo-Christian tradition. So the theoretical framework of this study will be applied to the Miltonic and biblical language, not to the Quranic. Indeed, the main objection to Izutsu’s approach in reading the Quran is that it cannot be interpreted in communal terms, for it is extra-temporal and extra-spatial; put differently, the Quran cannot sufficiently be analyzed through ethno-linguistics (Moti et al, 1388, p. 118). Moreover, Izutsu neither offered the precise meaning of key-terms he selected, nor followed a certain methodology in his semantic analysis of the Quran. Indeed, Izutsu took his ideas from non-Islamic sources and was not sufficiently acquainted with the knowledge of rhetoric (Sharifi, 1392, p. 93, 88). Such criticism will not invalidate Izutsu’s achievement, but indicates its insufficiency in treating God’s revelation in the Quran. Thus, this research does not aim at reading the Quran under the light of Bonn or Paris semantics, but will use their strategies eclectically whenever apt. The two semantic methods will mainly be employed to discuss the semantic aspects of the Bible and Paradise Lost, both written by men and colored with communal ethos. Any analysis of the Quran in this study is aimed at introducing it as the original model against which the Judo-Christian narrative of the fall will be investigated. This will be further discussed below. The biblical text used in this research is the English King James Bible which became accessible to common people in sixteenth-century England and was surely read by John Milton.
3. Semantic Pathology of Judo-Christian Tradition of the Fall Narrative
As mentioned earlier, the aim of this essay is to examine the pathological consequences of the Judo-Christian (biblical) narrative of the fall in Western thought in general, and in Milton’s Paradise Lost in particular, with recourse to the Quranic version of the fall as the authentic source. For this purpose, two key concepts in the biblical or Judo-Christian tradition are selected for a semantic analysis. Then, the equivalents for these two key concepts in the Quran are determined. These concepts are analyzed in the contexts of the Bible, Paradise Lost, and the Quran and then compared semantically. The two key concepts are “fall” (“huboot” in the Quran) and gender. We will see that the Quranic semantic field is drastically different from that of either the Bible or biblical versions of Adam and Eve’s fall such as Milton’s Paradise Lost. This difference distinguishes the undistorted nature of the Quran from that of the Bible and other Judo-Christian narratives of the fall.
3-1. “Fall” or “Huboot”?
The third chapter of Genesis recounts the events leading to man’s fall. Here, the term “fall” is used to refer to Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Indeed, the first section of chapter three has been titled “The fall of man.” The Oxford English Dictionary informs us that the term “fall” means “falling from a height,” “a descent from high estate or from moral elevation,” “a sinking to a lower level” and “a succumbing to temptation; a lapse into sin or folly” or in stronger sense, a lapse into “moral ruin.” The naming process indicates that the Judo-Christian tradition attributes negative connotations to “fall,” so much so that it attests to man’s moral corruption. Giving the term a biased slant, the Judo-Christian mindset (worldview) regards man’s disobedience to God as sinful, ungrateful, and irreversible. Genesis does not directly dub the fall as sinful, but suggests this meaning by representing Eve as tempted by the snake and then as tempting Adam: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis, 3: 6). It is evident from Genesis that Eve’s action is so dishonorable that when God asks Adam why he followed her, he puts the blame on Eve: “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis, 3: 11-12).
The irreversibility of sin in Judo-Christian tradition originates in the view that sin is equal to death. So Adam and Eve’s disobedience of God and fall from Eden is famously known as the “original sin” to be sanctioned with capital punishment. Thus the God of Genesis cautions man about this penalty: “But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis, 2: 17). A further look into the exegesis of this verse in Genesis reveals that there are three types of death in the Bible: “(1) physical death, separation of body and spirit; (2) spiritual death, separation of the individual from God; and (3) eternal death, the final estate of the lost person in the ‘lake of fire’” or “second death” which means separation from God forever (The King James Study Bible, 1988, p. 10). The death penalty mentioned in the Genesis might include all the three categories, because the God of Genesis effects the punishment by separating Adam and Eve from Himself, both physically and spiritually, and puts a number of curses on them. These curses are the sorrows of conception, bearing and giving birth to children, and being ruled by her husband for Eve; and the sorrows of tilling the earth, eating from it, and winning bread for the family for Adam (Genesis, 3: 16-17).
In the more detailed account of the fall in Paradise Lost, the same Judo-Christian worldview surfaces. Milton tells us “Of man’s first disobedience, and the fruit/ Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste/ Brought Death into the world, and all our woe” (Milton, 2008, p. 153, 1: 1-3; emphasis added). This is echoed in chapter IX when Adam decides to be with Eve under all circumstances and eats the fruit: “if death/ Consort with thee, death is to me as life” (Milton, 2008, p. 511, 1X: 953-54). Milton’s worldview reflects the Judo-Christian view of death penalty for the original sin. The matter of Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God as sin necessarily brings the Judo-Christian doctrine of the original sin into mind, thus, semantically, the notions of temptation, disobedience, unconscious sin and original sin fall into a semantic network, which has a long history in both Hebrew and Christian communities, i.e. both communities share an understanding of such concepts despite differences in their perceptions of sin. According to McFarland, “Though the vocabulary for sin in New Testament Greek is more limited than that of Old Testament Hebrew, it, too, bears witness to a refusal to limit sin to conscious choices” (McFarland, 2010, p. 7). He adds that although unintentional sin removes the connection between “responsibility” and “conscious control,” the idea “continues to operate with the model of sin as a particular act performed by an identifiable agent.” Although the “transgression of Adam and Eve is easily the most well-known sin in the Bible, it is not named as a sin in Genesis” (McFarland, 2010, p. 8).
Though Genesis does not explicitly use the term “sin,” as mentioned above, the rhetoric of Genesis strengthens the sense of sin. And this has been reserved in the worldview of the Judo-Christian community through history. McFarland maintains that the “first explicit reference to sin in Scripture” occurs in Cain and Abel’s story, where God cautions Cain: “if you do not do well, sin [hatta’t] is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis, 4: 7). McFarland sees the implication that “sin is not simply a kind of act people commit; it is a power that hovers around all human acting” (McFarland, 2010, p. 8). McFarland also discovers the paradoxical condition in which men are trapped; he believes that man’s “radical responsibility for sin” and “radical powerlessness in the face of sin” characterize the biblical sin-talk (McFarland, 2010, p. 18-19). Thus, one of the distortions which Judo-Christians engrained in their worldview was the categorization of Adam and Eve’s fall as a sinful event despite the fact that, in Genesis, man commits sin after the fall. No wonder Milton speaks in terms of sin and death when he opens Paradise Lost.
The Islamic worldview, however, does not approve of terms such as “fall” or the interpretation of “fall” as sin. The Quran selects the term “huboot” rather than “suqoot” or “lapse into temptation and sin.” God addresses Adam and Eve with the verb “ihbitoo” (Al-A’raf: 24) when he commands them to leave paradise. This imperative verb comes from the triple letter stem “H B T,” pronounced as “habata,” and the noun is “huboot.” The dictionary of Ghaamous renders the following meanings for this word: “to move downward,” “to lose one’s status,” “to enter a place,” and “to leave a place” (Ghorashi, 1371, vol. 7, p. 136; also see Steingass, 1963, p. 1488). In Arabic, “huboot” does not signify “lapse into temptation and sin.” Besides, nowhere in the Quran has “huboot” been interpreted as “fall” or “sin.” Indeed, when God asks Adam and Eve about the reason for their disobedience, they answer: “O, our Creator and Nurturer! We have wronged ourselves, if You do Not forgive us and do not bestow upon Us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of The losers” (Saffarzadeh, 1380, Al-A’raf: 23). Here, Saffarzadeh has translated the Quranic word “zalamnaa” as “wronged.” The Arabic term is used when the consequences of someone’s action causes excruciating regret and shame, as if one falls short of what one should have done. So semantically, the term implies falling short of doing the right thing or doing a good action, and unintentional lapse, but not lapse into sin. Adam and Eve have perceived the immediate consequences of being deceived by Satan, thus, totally accepting their fault; Adam in Genesis blames Eve for his disobedience of God. However, neither Adam nor Eve in the Quran blames the other, which indicates the great responsibility and respect each feels toward the other. So instead of justifying their action, both humbly confess to God; Even God’s response to Adam and Eve in the Quran is different from that in Genesis. In Genesis, Adam blames Eve, Eve confesses, and then God punishes them with curses; none of them even apologizes for their actions. However, God in the Quran addresses Adam and Eve in this manner: “Get down [while] There will be enmity between you; and For you, there is on the earth an Abode as well as provision of Sustenance for a fixed time; On the earth you shall live and Therein you shall die and from it you Shall be brought out” (Saffarzadeh, 1380, Al-A’raf: 24-5).
Here, God does not announce Adam and Eve’s punishment, neither does he put a curse upon them. God has already accepted the couple’s repentance compassionately, and is not going to put them into more trouble by frightening them of death as capital punishment, or by separating them from Himself spiritually—we say “spiritually,” since God in the Quran, unlike the God of Christianity, has no physical or material embodiment. If God commands them to depart from paradise, this condition only refers to the natural consequence of their action, since their stay in paradise required their submission to God’s prohibition of the tree, therefore, the most logical consequence of breaking the ban would be that they no longer had the privilege of living in paradise, and had to change their abode. Semantically, “There will be enmity between you,” does not mean enmity between Adam and Eve, since they already manifested their understanding and affectionate relationship. As mentioned earlier, God commands them with the Arabic verb “ihbitoo,” which is a plural imperative verb. God uses this word to address the human race in general, not Adam and Eve in particular, for God could simply use the verb “ihbitaa” instead, an imperative verb employed when addressing two people, if he intended to address Adam and Eve exclusively. Thus, the intended enmity will appear among men in general and is intensified by Satan’s guile. One more reason for God’s compassion on Adam and Eve after their departure from paradise is the provision of means for their sustenance. The matter of life and death also falls into the natural cycle of God’s creation, not God’s punishment. Eventually, God’s caution to Adam and Eve as to the consequence of their approaching the tree does not imply death: “[Then] Allah stated: “O, `Adam! Dwell you and your wife in The Garden, and eat of its fruits as much as You both wish, but do not approach This [particular] Tree, otherwise both of You will be regarded as the self- Oppressors” (Saffarzadeh, 1380, Al-A’raf: 19). Again the term “self-oppressors” is the translation of Arabic plural noun “zaalimoon,” which, according to Steingass, means people who tyrannize themselves, or are “unjust, barbarous,” or “cruel” to themselves (Steingass, 1963, p. 824). A semantic view of the exegesis indicates that this word connotes “cruelty to oneself” which signifies opposing God’s “guidance” rather than opposing God’s “omnipotence” (Tabatabei, 1374, vol. 8, p. 39). Thus is the theory of a fall rejected by the Quran: “Indeed, there is no concept of the fall in Islam” (Barlas, 2006, p. 259).
What Judo-Christian believers term as “fall” should actually be attributed to Satan’s condition after Adam’s creation, when the angels were commanded to prostrate to Adam as God’s supreme creature, angels obeyed, but Iblis (Satan’s name before his fall) rebelled: “Allah stated: ‘O, Ibliss! What prevented You from bowing down before a being Whom I have created with My Hand of Power? Are you arrogant or you are One of those who consider themselves Superior over others?’ Ibliss said: ‘I am better than he, you Created me from fire and You created Him from clay.’ Allah stated: ‘Clear out of here! You Are a repelled one from My Presence,’ ‘And My Curse shall be on you until The Day of Judgement’” (Saffarzadeh, 1380, Saad: 75-8). It is evident from these verses that God expelled Satan from his presence; the Quranic term for this concept is “ukhruj,” a single imperative verb, used when someone orders someone else to leave a place. This verb receives more unpleasant connotations as soon as it is placed besides phrases like “repelled one from My Presence” and “My Curse shall be on you.” God punishes Satan by ousting him in the first place, and cursing him in the second place. The former penalty is scandalous, since Satan was God’s beloved before this event, but is now addressed as “repelled” (“rajeem”). “Rajeem” means the rejected one, deprived from bliss or high status, someone struck with meteors in the sky, and the accursed (Ghorashi, 1371, vol. 3, p. 59). Steingass interprets “rajeem” as “overwhelmed with stones; stoned; devoted to destruction;” and “execrable (devil)” (Steingass, 1963, p. 570). The diverse denotations of “rajeem” produce a network which indicates that Satan’s expulsion from heaven was not a simple one, but accompanied with utmost disgracefulness and pain. Satan’s opprobrious situation gets worse when God puts his eternal curse on him. The Quranic equivalent for “curse,” God’s second punishment, is “la’nat;” this noun means imprecation, the status of being driven “away from anything good” (Steingass, 1963, p. 1124). Hence, it is Satan who is punished and cursed for his rebellion against God, not Adam and Eve. Indeed, Adam and Eve immediately apologized to God and asked Him not to afflict them with denigration, but to bestow His grace upon them. In contrast, Satan neither confesses his rebellion, nor apologizes for that. Thus, the concept of fall is actually ascribable to Satan’s condition. It is very likely that Satan’s fall was unconsciously ascribed to Adam and Eve’s condition in the Judo-Christian mindset as well; indeed, chances are that this tradition did not make the necessary distinctions between the two events, or if it did, misinterpretations crept in.
The divergences between the biblical tradition in Paradise Lost and the Islamic worldview in the Quran stem from their language, semantic fields, and eventually their worldviews. The Bible and Paradise Lost are informed with Judo-Christian tradition which conceives of Adam and Eve’s lapse as “original sin” and “fall,” and their postlapsarian condition as death and separation from God. This Judo-Christian outlook towards humanity’s first parents depends on Judo-Christianity’s communal mind which shaped their language mind (although the writers of the Bible were different, a similar language mind seems to have governed them). This communal mind is the culmination of Judo-Christian biases and misinterpretations which crept into the Holy Scripture through time. This tradition extended the concept of satanic rebellion to Adam and Eve’s lapse, putting Satan and man on an equal footing by deploying the same term (“fall”) to describe their dissimilar conditions. Thus, the annunciator in Judo-Christian or biblical tradition reveals an unreliable and erroneous trend of thought by showing signs of confusion and inconstancy in the process of writing a text which is claimed to be divine. Divinity, however, requires some conditions; the most fundamental one is the text’s immaculateness and exemption from distortion and false logic, neither of which are to be seen in the Bible.
3-2. Genders in the Bible, Paradise Lost, and the Quran
The treatment of gender in Judo-Christian tradition is closely modeled after gender paradigms in the Bible. Mostly, this paradigm recognizes female as inferior to male in all respects. The second chapter of Genesis recounts the story of woman’s creation: “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis, 2: 21-3). The creation of Eve from Adam’s rib gives her a secondary status to Adam, and makes her ontologically dependent on him. Thus, it might be implied that Eve has two creators, God and Adam. Given that the power of procreation has naturally been bestowed upon the female gender, Eve’s odd creation in Genesis seems to be biased or at least not egalitarian.
Some critics state that the biblical phrase “bone of my bone” connotes ‘“a very close relative,’ ‘one of us,’ or in effect ‘our equal’” and that God’s choice of the rib, not the foot for instance, for Eve’s creation “affirms woman to be of the same essence as man” (Kaiser, 1996, p. 666). Even Milton’s contemporary, John Donne, a religious poet and priest in the Church of England, paraphrases the biblical statement by saying that woman was not “taken out of the foot to be trodden upon” (Donne, 1990, p. 290). Nonetheless, the biblical discourse still invites the reader to see the inequality of female to male. Indeed, Genesis brings Eve’s character to the fore by representing her as intellectually inferior and morally weaker when she is deceived first. This is exacerbated when Eve is portrayed as the tempter of Adam. One may ask: if Eve is intellectually inferior to Adam, how can she be capable of playing the role of the tempter? How can she function as a second Satan? Is it not biased when the Bible unconsciously resembles Eve to Satan but keeps Adam’s status as God’s image intact? If these implications cannot be seen in Genesis, other books in the Bible explicitly treat female as inferior: “No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman… From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die” (Ecclesiastes, 25: 19-24). A similar statement could be found in Timothy: “Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (Timothy, 2: 11-14). Thus, the notorious status of the female as sinner, tempter, destroyer, and transgressor throughout the history of Judo-Christianity stems from biblical instructions and worldview. This worldview establishes negative connotations for femaleness in its semantic valuations.
Negative valuations of female are firmly grounded in Western culture, so much so that one cannot read a poem, book, etc., without facing defective cultural constructs imposed on female identity. Cases of the biased treatment of the female gender abound in Paradise Lost; for instance, Adam’s contradictory and even insolent treatment of Eve is decisive, for when she offers him the fruit in the first place, he does not refuse to eat it; instead he eats the fruit and justifies his action in this way: “However, I with thee have fixed my lot,/ Certain to undergo like doom. If death/ Consort with thee, death is to me as life,/ So forcible within my heart I feel/ The bond of Nature draw me to my own,/ My own in thee, for what thou art is mine,/ Our state cannot be severed. We are one,/ One flesh. To lose thee were to lose myself” (Milton, 2008, p. 513, 1X: 952-59). Terms and phrases such as “consort,” “cannot be severed,” and “what thou art is mine” signify Adam’s utmost unity and intimacy with Eve. This means that Adam cannot imagine a separate fate for himself, and a life without Eve. This is very positive, but simultaneously inflated and hypocritical, since Adam changes his mind about Eve later on in the poem: “I also erred, in overmuch admiring/ What seemed in thee so perfect, that I thought/ No evil durst attempt thee; but I rue/ The errour now, which is become my crime,/ And thou the accuser” (Milton, 2008, p. 520, IX: 1178-82). At this juncture, Adam takes his loving words back and adopts a vituperative language in describing Eve as totally unreliable, admitting his exaggeration of Eve’s perfect nature. The diction vividly indicates a diametrical change in tone and meaning, for instance, “overmuch admiring,” “seemed so perfect,” “rue the errour now,” and “thou the accuser” convey a network of negative, upbraiding and even subversive enunciations. Thus, one can see Adam as the annunciator here, revealing his own weak and unreliable judgment and inconstant and irresponsible nature at the moment of crisis. This is how, based on Greimas, the annunciator’s psychological and cultural attributes affect the process of signification and language in general.
Critical literature on Milton offers two opposing views on Adam and Eve’s postlapsarian relationship in Paradise Lost. Some believe that Milton was inheritor to biblical tradition, hence he followed the biblical attitude toward the female; furthermore, Milton’s patriarchal standpoint was justifiable within the larger context of seventeenth-century England’s Puritan culture that evaluated women as the weaker sex; indeed, puritanical ideology did not permit women to “hold civic or ecclesiastical offices, attend universities, or engage in the major professions” (McColley, 1997, p. 149). Others defend Milton’s criticism of both biblical and Puritan discourses in regard to sexes. This group argues that Milton refused to view women as morally weak or promiscuous, and instead advised men to be chaste; they add that Milton “insisted on the spiritual compatibility of husband and wife and defined marriage as mutual assistance in all ‘the helps and comforts of domestic life’” (McColley, 1997, p. 149). In whatever direction this contradictory attitude is viewed, it grossly differs from Milton’s portrait of man’s prelapsarian condition. Just notice Milton’s tone in depicting Adam and Eve before the fall: “Two of far nobler shape erect and tall,/ Godlike erect, with native Honour clad/ In naked Majestie seemd Lords of all,/ And worthie seemd, for in thir looks Divine/ The image of thir glorious Maker shone,/ Truth, Wisdom, Sanctitude severe and pure,/ Severe but in true filial freedom plac’t” (Milton, 2008, p. 290-91, IV: 288–94). Despite this contradictory portrait, the reader “is never given authoritative instruction in the relative status of Adam and Eve, who initially appear in the poem to be equally majestic” (Rogers, 2004, p. 123). Thus, if Milton endowed women with more egalitarian privileges, at least he does not seem to have done so in Paradise Lost.
Now turning to the Quran, one finds a diametrical worldview towards gender. Unlike the biblical narrative of the fall, the Quran’s narration of Adam and Eve’s “huboot” never accuses any of them for volunteering to disobey God’s command. Neither Adam nor Eve is the first in breaking the rule:
Then, Satan whispered evil Suggestions to them in order that he Might show them their private parts and He said: ‘Your Creator and Nurturer did Not forbid you from this Tree save you Two may become Angels or lest may Become immortal.’ And he swore to them [saying]: ‘Verily, I am a well-wisher for you Both.’ Thus, he caused them fall by Delusion; and as they tasted [the fruit Of] the Tree, their private parts was Seen by them; and so they began To cover themselves by heaping on Themselves, the leaves of the trees Of the Garden. And their Creator and Nurturer called them [stating]: ‘Did I not forbid you from that Tree and Tell you that Satan is an evident enemy To you?’ (Saffarzadeh, 1380, Al-A’raf: 20-23; emphasis added)
One realizes from this excerpt that throughout this narrative, Adam and Eve have been referred to with “huma,” an Arabic pronoun used to refer to two people. Since this pronoun is not translatable, the translator has tried to convey the meaning through capitalized terms like “Two” and “Both.” Naturally, this is not as effective as the original pronoun in the Arabic language, but one may say that the egalitarian view toward both sexes is obvious. The pronoun “huma” puts Adam and Eve on an equal footing in all the stages of their deception by Satan, disobedience, lapse, and repentance to God. Thus, semantically speaking, male and female do not have any privileges over each other in the Quran’s worldview. In God’s view, superiority goes to those who are more righteous, whether male or female, black or white, etc.: “O, mankind! Verily, We created you all From a male and female [Adam and Eve] and appointed for you tribes and Nations to be known to each other [by Specified characteristics] Verily, in Allah's Sight the most honourable of you Is the most pious of you; and Allah is The Informed Owner of Knowledge” (Saffarzadeh, 1380, Hujurat: 13). It is true that men and women are mentally and physiologically different, and consequently different in their rights and duties in life, but they have equal ontological status. This egalitarian perspective distinguishes the Quran’s semantic domains of gender from those in the Judo-Christian and Miltonic traditions, and invites us to a more justice-based cosmology. This is why Quranic feminists like Wadud claim that: “Islam gave women their rights fourteen hundred years before the West” (Wadud, 2006, p. 60).
Judo-Christianity’s misogynistic treatment of Eve allots her a lower place in the hierarchy of existence in comparison to Adam. This view considers Adam’s disobedience to have been mediated and encouraged by Eve. That is, Adam is not an initiator of disobedience. Given this, still there are questions that undermine the narrative and reveal its fictitiousness and presumptiveness. If Eve disobeyed God first because of her inferior intellect and morality, why did Adam disobey God by following her fashion? Adam’s answer to God in the Bible is a very childish one, blaming his fault on Eve in the first place, and blaming God indirectly for giving him a mate. But then, did not Adam himself ask God for a life companion? Still worse than Adam’s irresponsible reaction to God in the Bible is his portrait in Paradise Lost, where Adam becomes the perfect spokesman of antagonism the Judo-Christian psyche has nourished against female gender in the course of history. The roots Judo-Christian misogyny might be found in their communal view of the female as the impure and filthy gender due to physiological functions like menstruation and pregnancy: ‘“The attitude of men toward menstrual blood, whenever they talk or think about it, verges on hysteria, mingling with disgust, repulsion, and above all fear”’ (Knight, 1991, p. 376). As a case in point, Knight maintains that superstitions on menstrual blood were dominant almost all over Europe, particularly the belief that menstruants caused fruit trees wither (Knight, 1991, p. 376). So women were deemed to be capable of doing evil and diffusing lethal energies due to pervasive social ignorance about and biases against female physiological matrix. The Quran’s view regarding this female feature is realistic: “And they ask you concerning Women's courses, say: ‘It is a nuisance Pollution.’ So, keep away from women In their courses, and do not approach Them until they are clean; but when They have purified themselves, you may Approach them in a lawful manner. Verily, Allah bestows affection to Those who turn to Him in repentance And those who purify themselves” (Saffarzadeh, 1380, Baqarah: 222). Thus, in Quranic terms, menstruation signifies a physical inconvenience (“azan” in Arabic), and the reason men should stay away from women at this time is that during this irritating physiological function, the womb is cleansing itself and preparing for conception, thus intercourse at this period can damage and disrupt the uterus (Tabatabaei, 1374, vol. 2, p. 312). Jewish rules regarding women’s menstruation were very strict, so much so that they isolated and deprived women of food. This attitude had affected the Christians too. The Quran does not propagate women’s isolation and deprivation, but prohibits only sexual intercourse (Tabatabaei, 1374, vol. 2, p. 312). Since the Quran is pure revelation, it does not bear or respect any of the biased views that have penetrated the Bible through Judo-Christian tradition.
Milton’s Paradise Lost, the greatest poem on the story of man’s creation and fall in Christian literature, names the event of man’s expulsion from heaven as “fall” and recognizes the reason for this fall to be the “original sin.” Furthermore, the poem represents the female gender as inferior and prone to deception and immorality. Milton’s narrative of the fall is modeled after the biblical or Judo-Christian tradition. A semantic study of the “fall” narratives in Paradise Lost and the Bible indicates that both texts are fraught with biased and patriarchal language. Semantically speaking, the language in Paradise Lost and the Bible bears signs that partake of the ideology, or communal ethos, of those who wrote them. Nonetheless, an inspection into the same narrative in the Quran indicates that God’s language in this Islamic text does not follow any communal tradition, but stays away from all cultural influences and even criticizes them by its rendition of the right story and valuation system. So, we may reach the following conclusions regarding the Bible, Paradise Lost, and the Quran:
1) In the case of the Bible, biblical language is so diverse that one cannot possibly say it is the word of God; in addition, biblical language mirrors the Judo-Christian value system, particularly its misogynistic terminology and its numerous cognitive errors in regard to the distinct categories of Satan’s fall and man’s lapse. The Judo-Christian communal mind in the Bible becomes the annunciator and reveals its defective nature in its verbalization and composition of God’s message. In other words, the semantic analysis of the Bible shows that biblical language is not immaculate but loaded with human characteristics that distort God’s original message.
2) As for Milton’s language in Paradise Lost, it follows the model of Judo-Christian patriarchal and misogynistic discourse, at the same time that it reflects the puritan ethos of seventeenth-century England as monarchy was overthrown and republicanism found a new voice. Indeed, the story of Satan’s revolution against God and plot against the human race functions as an allegory embedding Milton’s own revolt against monarchy. So Milton’s language is imbued with Judo-Christian values as well as political overtones. However, we should bear in mind that Milton’s language in this long poem renders dialogues (between God, Adam, Eve, Satan, etc.) and internal monologues (in each of the characters’ minds) which, despite being fictitious, expand biblical characters and bring them to life. The point is that more than expanding and psychologizing biblical figures, Milton actually reveals his own psychic functions. Therefore, Milton’s language in Paradise Lost, has at least two semantic annunciators: one is the Judo-Christian annunciator who reflects biblical features with modifications; the other is Milton as the anti-monarchical annunciator who seeks a republican utopia.
3) The language of the Quran, unlike the languages of the Bible and Paradise Lost, is that of neither a community nor an individual man. It is the language of God, thus, immaculate, omnipotent, unbiased and universal. The annunciator in the Quran is the creator of Satan, Adam, and Eve. Thus, as the perfect story-teller, God is in the position of narrating the best and purest story. This language is not burdened with cultural constructs or cognitive errors common to ordinary men. Indeed, the individual chosen for conveying the Quran to men was also exempt from such erroneous issues, because God made Prophet Mohammad (PBH) immaculate to ascertain the non-interfered and undistorted transference of His message to men. Therefore, there is only one annunciator in the Quran, and that is God, and despite the fact that His message passed through Gabriel and Mohammad, it remained, and still is, intact. God’s language does not posit any semantic valuation system for either male or female superiority/inferiority; furthermore, it explicitly jettisons the appellation of man’s lapse as “fall,” or man’s unintentional disobedience as “sin.” This is how the human-annunciator of the Bible is distinguished from the divine and absolute annunciator of the Quran.
Now, a pathological view to this semantic analysis renders significant results: the incorporation of the biased cultural constructs into the text of the Bible by its scribes and translators through centuries resulted in a deeply rooted distrust in the Scriptures. Suspicion of the holy book burst forth during the Renaissance in Europe, and became widespread among Judo-Christian believers, so much so that large numbers of believers discarded their religious commitments and fell into the vacuum of disbelief and atheism in most European and American countries. This does not mean that Judo-Christian believers who kept their faith were any better, since despite their devotion to their religious creeds, they were still far from truth. Distortion-as-truth had delved deep furrows into their hearts and they could not simply refuse the lies given by the holy book overnight. But even this group of devoted believers lost their faith gradually. The number of nonbelievers among Judo-Christians sharply increased in late nineteenth century after Darwin’s theories of species were published, for Darwin’s theories disavowed the story of creation in Genesis, rendered man as an evolved creature, and endowed him with animal ancestors. The false language of the Bible suspected by Judo-Christian believers could no longer help them out of their disillusionment, which turned into trauma and psychological breakdown during and after the two world wars in the twentieth century. Likewise, the Bible’s mistreatment of women led to the formation of diverse waves of feminism which sought to rescue the old or reconstruct a new identity for women against the dominant patriarchal discourse. This increased the number of disbelievers among women. Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story. Such false biblical narratives dominated the mindset and cultural constructs of other religious creeds as well, so that they stopped to search for the true word of God, with the presumption that all heavenly books are distorted. The direct consequence is that true revelation, i.e. the Quran, remained obsolete for long, even among Muslims. And today, particularly with a view to the emergence of aberrant factions such as the Takfiris and DAESH, there is the danger of misinterpreting and falsifying the text of the Quran. The recent aberrant movements are quite similar to those that distorted the Bible centuries ago. So it is imperative for Muslims to carry comparative studies between the Quran and other holy books to highlight their differences and to distinguish true from false. In this way, the true Islam will be distinguished from all other Islamic denominations.