Iltifāt and related features in the Qur’an

Click here to access the paper.

Grammatical Shift for Rhetorical Purposes: “Iltifāt” and Related features in the Qur’an

By Prof. Abdel Haleem
Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Vol. 55, No. 3 (1992), pp 407-432


In a study conducted by the German orientalist Theodor Nöldeke, it has been remarked that ‘the grammatical persons change from time to time in the Qur’an in an unusual and not beautiful way. This is a personal value judgment. Arab writers in their treatment of the subject (known as iltifāt in Arabic Rhetoric) had differed greatly with this opinion. Ibn al-Athīt, for instance, after studying this subject, classed it among the ‘remarkable things and exquisite subtleties we have found in the Glorious Qur’an’.

This paper by Professor Abdel Haleem is intended to shed some light on the subject for the English readers. The reader will see that the examples Nöldeke cites immediately following the statement quoted above do not occur haphazardly in the Qur’an but follow a pattern. Examination of where exactly the shift occurs and why, will show how effective the technique is in these examples and why Muslim literary critics and exegetes greatly admire iltifāt and its related features.


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