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THE MIRACULOUSNESS OF THE QURAN

While we have an eternal miracle like the Qur’an,
I feel no need for any other proof.
While we have an evidence of truth like the Qur’an
I feel no difficulty in silencing those who deny.

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Say: ‘If man and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they would never produce its like, not though they backed one another.’ (al-Isra’, 17.88).

The Eloquence of the Quran

This is the eloquence of the Qur’an to the degree of miraculousness. Its eloquence originates in the beauty of its words, order and composition, its textual beauty and perfection, the originality and uniqueness of its styles, the superiority, excellence and clarity of its explanations, the power and truth of its meanings, and the purity and fluency of its language. It is an eloquence so extraordinary that it has been challenging for fourteen centuries the greatest literary geniuses, the most wonderful orators, and the most profound scholars among mankind to compete with it, to produce a like of it, or the like of even one of its suras. Although it forcefully challenges them to compete with it, those geniuses who, in their self-pride and self-confidence, see themselves as high as to touch the heavens, have not been able to open their mouths to compete with it and have humbled themselves before it.

I will now point out the miraculousness of the Qur’an’s eloquence in two ways:

The Quran's challenging all to produce even a like of one of its chapters

The Quran’s eloquence is miraculous. For the people of Arabia were mostly unlettered at that time, and therefore preserved in oral poetry their tribal pride, history and proverbs which would serve them for good morals. They attached much importance to eloquence, and any meaningful, unique expression was memorized for its poetical form and eloquence and handed down through successive generations. Eloquence and fluency were in such great demand that an eloquent literary man of a tribe was treated like the national hero of that tribe. They were most proud of him. Those intelligent people, who would govern a considerable portion of the world after the advent of Islam, were further advanced in eloquence than other nations. Eloquence was so esteemed in their view that two tribes would sometimes go to war with each other because of a saying of a literary man and then be reconciled by the words of another. They even inscribed in gold the odes of seven poets and hung them on the wall of the Ka'ba. These seven odes were called the Seven Hanging Poems.

At a time when eloquence was in such demand, the Quran of miraculous explanation was revealed. Just as God Almighty had previously endowed the Prophets Moses and Jesus, upon them be peace, with the miracles that were foremost in the kind of the acts in the highest demand in their times (Moses with the staff and white hand because in his time sorcery was in most demand, and Jesus with raising the dead and healing certain illnesses since in his time healing was most favored) so too He made eloquence the most notable aspect of the Quran, which is the chief miracle of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. When the Quran was revealed, it challenged first the literary men of the Arabian Peninsula, saying: If you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down on Our servant, then produce a sura of its like. It challenged them, put down their intellectual pretensions and, by continuing, If you do not [produce a sura of its like] and you will not at all, then fear the Fire, whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for unbelievers, humbled them.

Those self-conceited people were unable to argue with the Quran in words. Although this was the easy and safe course for them to obstruct and falsify its message, they chose to fight against it with the sword, which was the perilous and most difficult course. If those intelligent people skilled in diplomacy had been able to argue with the Quran in words, they would not have chosen the perilous, difficult course or risked losing their property and lives. Since they could not argue with it in words, they were compelled to argue with their swords.

Question

How do we know that nobody has ever been able to dispute with the Qur’an, and that such a challenge is not possible at all?

Answer

Had it been possible to challenge the Quran, somebody would certainly have attempted to do it. Actually, such a challenge was directly needed by the opponents of the Quran, since, first of all, they felt their religion, life and properties in danger; they would all have thought themselves saved by any kind of challenge. So, had it ever been possible to challenge the Quran, they would certainly have tried it, and there were lots of unbelievers and hypocrites ready to advertise it widely, just as they spread all kinds of malicious propaganda against Islam. If they had succeeded with any kind of challenge, their success would have been recorded with exaggeration in the books of history. Now all the books of history are out in the open; none of them contains anything other than a few non-sensical lines of Musaylima al-Kadhdhab (the Liar), a false claimant to Prophethood. They never dared any challenge, although the Wise Quran challenged them continuously for twenty-three years in a way that provoked and annoyed them:

Come on, and produce a like of this Quran by means of an unlettered man like Muhammad, the Trustworthy! If you can not do that, let it not be an unlettered man, but the most knowledgeable and one well-versed in writing. If you cannot do that either, let it not be one person, but gather all your learned and eloquent ones to help each other; also invoke the aid of your gods and goddesses upon whom you rely. This too you cannot do; make use of all the books of the highest eloquence that have ever been written, and let all the unbelievers to come until Doomsday make use of your experiences in their attempt. Still you have not been able to score any success, try to produce the like of only ten chapters of the Quran, not of the whole of it. If you see that you are unable to match any ten chapters of the Quran truly and in all respects, then make a composition from baseless stories and imaginative tales to match only the metrical verse and eloquence of the Quran. Even this you cannot do, so bring about the equal of only one chapter. If you are still unsuccessful, let it not be a long one; suffice it to produce the like of any short one! Otherwise, your religion, your lives and properties, and your families will be at stake both in this world and in the Hereafter!

With these eight alternatives, the Quran has challenged and silenced men and jinn, not for twenty-three years, but for fourteen centuries. Nevertheless, those unbelievers who lived in the early days of Islam, instead of preferring the easiest way, that is, open challenge, chose the most dreadful way-to wage war, endangering their lives and properties and their families because challenging the Quran was absolutely impossible. Otherwise no man of wisdom, especially those of the Arabian peninsula of that time and especially those intelligent men of the Quraysh, would have had recourse to this most difficult way, if any literary man among them had been able to bring about the equal of a single chapter of the Quran and thereby save them from the attacks of the Quran.

In summary, as the famous Jahiz put it, since challenge by words was impossible, they had to resort to struggle by the sword.

Question

Some scholars of discernment have maintained that not a chapter of the Qur’an, nor a verse, nor a sentence, nor even a word of it is ever possible to be disputed; nor has anyone ever been able to do this. This judgment sounds exaggerated, and is too hard to accept. For there are many words produced by men, which have some resemblance to the Qur’an. So, how do you interpret this judgment?

Answer

There are two schools of opinion concerning the miraculousness of the Qur’an:

According to the prevailing opinion, the eloquence of the Quran and the virtues in its meaning are beyond human capacity.

The other opinion is that although it is within human capacity to challenge and compete with a chapter of the Quran, God Almighty prevented it as a miracle of Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. For example, if a Prophet told a man, who is normally able to stand up, ‘You will not be able to stand up’, and the man could not then stand up, it would be considered a miracle of the Prophet. This school is called the school of ‘Sarfa’, from the viewpoint of which the All-Mighty prevented men and jinn from producing even a chapter of the Quran. If He had not, men and jinn might have put up a challenge against one chapter. So, according to this view, the scholars who maintain that even a word of the Quran cannot be challenged are right in their opinion. For, prevented by the All-Mighty on account of the miraculousness of the Quran, they could not even open their mouths to offer a challenge; even if they had, they could not have uttered a word because God was preventing it.

In the view of the scholars belonging to the first school, there is, however, a subtle point that the words and verses of the Quran are all interrelated. Sometimes it occurs that a word is related to ten other occurances, thus bearing ten relationships and providing ten instances of eloquence. In another book of mine entitled Isharat al-I’jaz (The Signs of Miraculousness), which is a key to the interpretation of the Quran, I showed some examples in this regard drawn from some passages of Sura al-Fatiha (the Opening Chapter) and from the initial verses of Sura al-Baqara.

In a well-ornamented palace, for example, to place a gem that is of the greatest importance in the decorative pattern, in the most suitable location on the wall is possible only after knowing the whole design. Likewise, to place the pupil of the eye in its correct location entails knowing all the function of the body and its complex organization, as well as its relationship with the function of the eye. In just the same way the foremost among men of exact science and profound truth have demonstrated numerous relationships between the words of the Quran and the manifold relationship each word has with some other verses and expressions. The scholars who have studied the mysteries of letters have gone even further, and proved that each letter of the Quran bears many inner meanings the explanation of which might cover pages. Since the Quran is the Word of the Creator of everything, each of its words may function as the core or heart of an ideal body around it made of hidden meanings, or as the seed of such an ideal tree. Thus, there might be among the words of men some similar to those of the Quran, but to place them properly taking into consideration of all such relationships as exist between the Quranic words calls for an all-comprehending knowledge.


Recommended Reading:
Aspects of the Miraculousness of the Quran's Eloquence

Last Updated on September 30, 2000

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