Appeal to reason and ask [rhetorical] questions [36:77-79]

blog Apr 04, 2024

One of the methods frequently used by the Quran to convince the reader of its arguments is the use of logic and rhetorical questioning. Researchers into Quranic linguists assert that such rhetorical questions are used in more than a thousand verses of the Quran and each use is an invitation for the reader to shift their thinking paradigm.

Let us remind ourselves that a rhetorical question is one that is asked without expecting or needing an answer but for the sake of emphasis or effect. Linguists say that a rhetorical question is “a forceful statement which has the form of a question but which does not expect an answer.’’ i.e., the rhetorical question has an interrogative structure but does not seek information. The speaker has some purpose in his mind, either to give a command or to make a statement indirectly.

In the Holy Quran, Allah [swt] uses such questions to
emphasize a point,
to show the logic of the argument
and to jolt the reader into reflecting
to help the reader understand the point
and to convince the reader with the sound logic presented.

Why use this method of discussion? Scholars explain that the Holy Quran addresses its readers as sentient, articulate and rational human beings. It reminds us that we have been given the faculty of reason and logic. We have the ability to weigh things up, to make considered judgements. We are not asked to follow blindly or to agree to something which does not appeal to our reason. And so, by presenting convincing arguments, we are invited to be utterly convinced, deep down, in our heart and soul, that what is revealed in the Quran is the Truth, and that the truth can stand up to any scrutiny.

Example: One of the frequent challenges that came up for the Holy Prophet [saw] was the belief in resurrection and the hereafter. In the following verses, the Quran uses rhetorical questions to help us reflect and come to logical conclusions:

Has man not seen that We created him from a drop, and behold, he is a manifest adversary?
And he has set forth for Us a parable and forgotten his own creation, saying, "Who revives these bones, decayed as they are?"
Say, "He will revive them Who brought them forth the first time, and He knows every creation [Quran 36:77-79]

These questions are posed to those who rejected the resurrection and final accounting. Their argument was: how can we be recreated if our bones have already turned to dust? The counter-argument presented through rhetorical questions is that the recreation cannot be harder than the original creation. He who created you in the first place, can He not bring you back? If He could create from nothingness, what can stop Him from recreating from the bones that have turned to dust?

Implementing rhetorical questions in our discussions and arguments requires a level of confidence and grounded-ness.

When we find ourselves in disputed arguments, it is so easy to get emotional and entrenched in our views. Excellent communicators, however, learn how and when to use logic and reason to put their points across. Using such questions is also deeply respectful of your opponent as you are appealing to their innate sense of reason and logic.


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