The Quran’s Challenge
Muslims believe the Quran to be God’s words revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
The Qurʾān’s divine origin accounts for the reverence Muslims have for the holy book. When recited the Qurʾān is a powerful and compelling communication of God’s words. The Qurʾān is rhythmic, but not poetry. It has prose, but it is not a dry text. It is a mix of rhythm and prose that captures the attention of the listener. When the Qurʾān is recited it often moves its Arab and non-Arab listeners to tears. The Qurʾān has a tremendous impact on Muslims because they believe it to be the words of God. This notion creates a direct connection with the words being recited and stirs the emotions of the listener. The Qurʾān’s declares itself to be unmatched and this has stood true since its revelation.
Previous Prophet’s had physical miracles that could be witnessed by those who were present. Jesus, peace be upon him, brought the dead back to life and Moses split the sea, but Muhammad, peace be upon him, did neither of these. When the idolaters of Arabia challenged Muhammad, peace be upon him to perform a miracle, the Qurʾānic response was that the Qurʾān itself is a miracle.
The miracle of the Qurʾān stems from the fact that no one can produce anything like it. The Qurʾān is confident and challenges all mankind to produce something like it. The litmus test is that if anyone can produce something like it, then the Qurʾān is manmade. Otherwise, the Qurʾān must be beyond human capability and the Prophet peace be upon him was the messenger of the Qurʾān rather than its author. This challenge to produce something similar to the Qurʾān appears in several verses, among them,
And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah, if you should be truthful.
(Q. 2: 23)
This challenge is to not only construct something equal to the Qurʾān, but to produce something even like it. In other words, the Qurʾān simply requires that people bring something of a comparable degree in terms of meaning and style. Several poets have attempted to take up the challenge and produce something like the Qurʾān. However, their works have failed to live up to the linguistic beauty found in the Qurʾān. The Qurʾān was revealed in the Golden Age of Arabic. The Arabs at the time were masters of the language and were able to write moving poetry and prose which conveyed the noblest thoughts and sentiments. However, none of them could match the Qurʾānic style. They stood in awe of the Qurʾān and understood that this is far beyond poetry. Poetry often rhymes well but lacks coherent and in depth meaning, while prose might have great meaning but it does not have the ability to capture the attention of the listener. The Qurʾān combines both and delivers a very deep, sophisticated message in a very rhythmic and moving fashion.
As noted in the verse, the second part of the challenge is to bring witnesses who can attest to the value and quality of what was produced. Throughout history, there have been some attempts to produce something like the Qurʾān, but not one of these attempts garnered any serious following or expert evaluation to be even like the Qurʾān. There is no other holy book that makes such a challenge to mankind. Confidence naturally comes when one is certain they are true. A liar lacks confidence in their claims and this becomes apparent in the way they present themselves. The Qurʾān on the other hand speaks in such strong confidence and challenges mankind to bring a similar text. Some of the very first verses in the Qurʾān begin with,
This is the book in which there is no doubt
Ultimately, the Qurʾān is calling us to research, ponder, and reflect. Islam is a religion that is based on reason and logic. The Qurʾān invites mankind to investigate the origins of scripture to determine whether it is from God or not. If one does this with an open mind and heart, they will come to the natural conclusion that the Qurʾān could not have originated with any source except God.