The issue you brought up relates to the Qur'anic challenge to "produce a surah like it". [
]. The challenge is really quite simple: "if you think this Qur'an is fabricated, then why don't you write your own book and follow that? See if that enjoys the same success as the word of God."
This challenge was given to the arabs at the time of the Prophet saws whose poetry was their most salient skill and they used to recite their poetry with pride. They were the masters of arabic poetry and there were none to compare with them. Yet they tried and were unsuccessful in producing a scripture like the Qur'an, and they recognized their failure in this regard very quickly. Nowadays, people who are ignorant of the arabic language think that they will easily be able to cook up something like the Qur'an. The fact of the matter is - the masters of arabic poetry have already tried and failed; the only reason why these modern challengers have not recognized their failure is because they are truly ignorant of the literary devices to begin with, and thus are unequiped to compare their meek compositions with the word of God.
One example of a book written in arabic by a challenger in called 'The True Furqan". Dr. Ali Ataie makes some interesting comments on this composition in his introduction to his 'Gospel of Jesus':
The True Criterion?
A book was just recently released by Wine Press Publishing called “Furqanul Haq,” or “The True
Criterion.” The editorial review on Amazon.com reads: “Arabic and English side-by-side on
every page. Prose and poetry of the highest caliber in classical Arabic with English interpretation.
It contains 77 surahs (chapters) dealing with as many subjects which are beautifully written and
easily understood. Love, Light, Peace, Truth, Repentance, Women, Marriage, Fasting, Prayer,
Abrogation, The Sacrifice, Inspiration, Paradise, The Scale and The Excellent Names are some of
the chapters written in the unique style of the Quran.” Sounds good, right? The problem: This is
not the Qur’an!
Apparently, some poor Arab Christian on his last evangelical leg decided to plagiarize many of
the chapters of the actual Qur’an and made minor changes in order to “Christianize” the text. The
despicability and deception of such a move is surpassed only by its desperation. The Bible isn’t
working for them; they have to use OUR scripture in order to convert people to their religion. I’m
flattered, but still very offended.
After Muslim readers made a big hue and cry about the book to Amazon, one Christian
commented: “I don’t understand why this book offends Muslims. Doesn’t the Koran say that
infidels should try to produce something like the Koran in order to prove that they can’t? Well,
we did!” The verse in question is: “And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time
to time to Our servant, then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers
besides Allah, if your doubts are true” (al-Baqarah 2:23).
The crucial part of this verse that our Christian friend failed to recognize is the phrase “besides
Allah,” meaning without the help of Allah’s Word. In other words, don’t copy wholesale from the
Qur’an and make a few minor textual adjustments and claim that you have produced something
comparable to it. -- That is called forgery. Reminds me of the Words of God: “But when Our
Clear Signs are rehearsed unto them, those who rest not their hope on their meeting with Us, Say:
‘Bring us a reading other than this, or change this.’ Say: ‘It is not for me, of my own accord, to
change it: I follow naught but what is revealed unto me: if I were to disobey my Lord, I should
myself fear the penalty of a Great Day to come’” (Yunus 10:15). If I copied down verbatim a
Shakespearian Sonnet with the exception of a few words here and there that I added on my own,
can I possible say that I have produced a Sonnet equal to that of the English Master? Certainly
The detractors of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) accused him of forging the
Qur’an from the Bible. Yet there isn’t even a SINGLE verse in the entire Qur’an that is near
identical to a verse in the Bible. -- “When We substitute one revelation for another,- and Allah
knows best what He reveals in stages,- they say, ‘Thou art but a forger:’ but most of them
understand not” (an-Nahl 16:101). It’s true that some of the stories are similar, but that is because
the Qur’an confirms as well as corrects certain Biblical narrations that had been fabricated by the
hands of men. This is why the Qur’an is the Criterion! The Qur’an lay outside all of the familiar
categories of Arabic rhyme and prose. It is a miracle of language, rhetoric, poetry, and is
Last example: Allah reveals, “O mankind! Here is a parable set forth, listen to it! Those on whom,
besides Allah, ye call, cannot create even a fly, if they all met together for the purpose” (al-Hajj
22:73)! “Wait a minute,” you might say, “Scientists today have cloned livestock! A fly would be
no problem.” Cloned yes, but create? Never. Allah is referring to the creation of a fly out of
nothing, just as He creates. Taking an animal’s DNA, its entire genetic make-up and a substance
that GOD created Himself, and using it to clone a sheep or cow does not constitute creation. The
same applies to “Furqanul Haq.” You cannot rival God’s miracle by using His miracle to do so!
News of this book has led me to a very interesting and important project. Obviously, the
“Furqanul Haq” is not the Qur’an. But what if I were to do the same thing to the Christian
scripture? What if I took elements present in the four canonical Gospels and harmonized them
into a single account and “Islamicized” the text in a few places? Why not? Certainly Christians
are constantly demanding from us to produce the true Gospel of Jesus Christ (or at least our
version of it) in light of our rejection of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as God’s
infallible Word. It would be a bitter taste of their own medicine. Besides, this is exactly what the
evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did themselves! My resulting work has been named:
“???????? ?????????? ?????? ???????,” (Greek for Alethinos Evangelion Iaysus Christos)
- “The True Gospel of Jesus Christ” or simply “Injeel-ul-Haq.” (Gospel of Jesus
, pp. 2-3)
In additon to the points mentioned by Dr. Ataie, whenever I discuss this issue, I begin with an important definition -that of the Qur'an. When the Qur'an challenges others to produce something like it, the prerequisite is that someone understand what the Qur'an is to be able to attempt the challenge. The 'Qur'an' literally means a recitation. The Qur'an was not revealed to Prophet Muhammad saws as a book, nor was it dispersed or preached primarily in written form - it was through recitation that is was primarily recieved and dispersed. Thus, anyone attempting to answer the challenge must produce for us a recitation - not just a written composition. So let us see if these critics can produce for us a recitation that matches the quality of such:
There are probably thousands of other recitations forum members could link you to. Let these critics try tp produce anything that has the power of these recitations. When, I listen to these recitations, understanding their meaning as well, I'm gripped by their power and beauty. I get a feeling of immense tranquility when I listen to these recitations that I never get listening to anything else. And its not just me or other Muslims raised as Muslims. Those who convert to Islam having read much of the Qur'an experience the same undescribable feeling when listening to the Qur'an.
And I'm not ignorant of the compositions of the critics either. I have read many of their attempts to answer the Qur'anic challenge in arabic, and have tried many times reciting them out-loud but in vain, as each word feels like an obstacle to the one trying to recite with tajweed. These compositions are unrecitable and are no different from the average written pieces of arabic composed by human beings (in many cases the critics' compositions do not even meet the standard of acceptable written arabic).
My above explanation has focused on the literary style of the Qur'an, although one must remember that to produce something like the Qur'an involves other things as well. Briefly, I'll mention them. The composition must be able to match the Qur'an in terms of purity of the message - it must call human beings to something recognizable as truth and free from defects. The message itself must also be free of discrepancies/inconsistencies. The message must be universal and practical - beyond the bounds of culture and time, and must appeal to human beings so to attract followers from across the world as the Qur'an has. The message must be comprehensive in that it gives human beings guidance in every sector of life, be it social, physical, mental, emotional, political, environmental, and of course spiritual. It must stand the test of time, and be able to stand up in the face of logical and scientific criticism. It must be deep enough to invite centuries of works expounding on its meanings (just as the number of Tafsirs of the Holy Qur'an are more than hundreds of thousands).
These are just some of the basic aspects of the challenge. I expect Dr. Al-Azami will have much more detail for us in his up-coming work, inshaa'Allah.