View Full Version : What exactly is the challenge of the Quran?

Abu Omar
12-26-2005, 03:04 PM

Say: "If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur'ân, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another." - 17:88

Or they say, "He forged it." Say: "Bring you then ten forged Sûrah like unto it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allâh (to your help), if you speak the truth!" - 11:13

And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur'ân) to Our slave, then produce a Sûrah of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allâh, if you are truthful. - 2:23

I would like to know what exactly the challenge of the Quran constitutes of. Indeed, everyone seems to have their own interpretation on it. I've searched for some months now for an answer on various sites, and also turned to some Fatwa services, but without much success.

I have read the article made by Islamic Awareness on the subject, and thought their interpretation is interesting, I can find no other source except Abdur-Raheem Green who agrees with that interpretation. He seems to be the source for it. In fact, even the scholars they quote have other interpretations than them!

Others site, for example Bismikaallahuma, seems to go for that the Quran's eloquence is so remarkable and that the challenge is to produce something equally eloquent speech.

According to Tafsir ibn Kathir, the challenge is to produce something "similiar to the Quran", though he doesn't go deeper to explain exactly what it means, i.e similiar in what aspect(s). He also mentions that this is the interpretation according to Qatadah, Mujahid, ibn Masud and Omar. Although on the next page he seems to lean towards that it is a beaty challenge:

"So the expressions in the Qur'an are perfect and its meanings are explained. Further, every word and meaning in the Qur'an is eloquent and cannot be surpassed. The Qur'an also mentioned the stories of the people of the past; and these accounts and stories occurred exactly as the Qur'an stated."

"As for the Qur'an, it is entirely eloquent in the most perfect manner, as those who have knowledge in such matters and understand Arabic methods of speech and expressions concur."

So what exactly is the challenge, according to sound Ulama of Ahl as-Sunnah wal Jama'aah? Is it to make something outside poetry or prose (Islamic Awareness), to make something more eloquent (according to Tafsir ibn Kathir, Bismikaallahuma and alot of other sites) or to make something "similiar to the Quran (in what aspect?)" (Tafsir ibn Kathir)?

Could anyone give me the answer what it consists of? Not just own interpretations, but what the Salaf and the great Ulama of the past said it constituted of? I've long searched for the answer.

Barak Allaah feekum.

I was uncertain which category of the forum this question belonged to. The moderators may move it if it fits better elsewhere.

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Ansar Al-'Adl
12-26-2005, 07:09 PM
:sl: Br. Abu Omar,
You might want to take a look at what I said in this thread. In addition to that, I wrote this before on the miraculous nature of the Qur'an:
format_quote Originally Posted by Ansar Al-'Adl
I'll try to give you a comprehensive answer as to why the Qur'an is regarded the way it is by so many people.
1. The Power of the Qur'anic Message:
-it is universal, unrestricted by time and applicable to any nation/culture. The Qur'an is by far the most widely followed and acted-upon book in the world. As for the Bible, most Christians follow the Church over the Bible, and each denomination has its own bible anyway. The fact that there is no other book in the world that forms the constitution of the lives of billions of followers is itself a sign.
-it is practical and logical, it can be established practically in society and is logically able to address the fundamental questions relating to all aspects of our universe.
-it is comprehensive, addressing all fundamental sectors of human life, be it spritual, physical, mental, social/societal, politcal, environmental, economic, etc.
-it is natural, in concordance with a person's nature and what they feel deep inside to be the truth.
-it is clear and consistent, free of the changes in worldview and understanding that dominate the works of human beings.
-it is deep, having provoked thousands upon thousands of volumes of exegesis, expounding upon its meaning and revealing fascinating details that many people otherwise miss in their reading of the Qur'an.
2. The Power of the Qur'anic Style:
-it is Interactive, the text seems alive as it responds to the very questions that arise in one's mind at that moment. It speaks to the reader and delivers specific yet universal advice.
-it is Inerrant, free from contradictons and discrepancies, or other errors that would normally be found in the works of human beings.
-it is Memorizable; the Qur'an is the only book in the world which is continuously being memorized by millions of people and recited daily. No other book has been committed to memory by so many followers, as though it fits in one's mind as a key in a lock.
-its Language, the Qur'anic arabic is a stunning miracle in itself, its style is powerful and its recitation is melodious. More info: Here, Here, Here.
3. The Power of the Qur'anic Text:
-it is Preserved, even after fourteen and a half centuries, the Qur'an is recited today exactly as it was first revealed. Thus it was free of the tampering that befell other religious scriptures.
-its other Remarkable features; many Muslims find a striking concordance between many Qur'anic statements and established scientific truths, which could not have been known by any normal human being 14 centuries ago. (see here). Many Muslims have also found the Qur'anic perfection extends even to various mathematical miracles within the text. As well, there are the Qur'anic Prophecies.
-its Authorship; the context in which the Qur'an was revealed leaves the reader with no other conclusion than the fact that it could only be the word of God.
This is just my summary of the miraculous features Muslims find in the Qur'an. For more information, please see section 3c of The First and Final Commandment.
The challenge here is for those who doubt the Qur'an's divine origin to go fabricate their own book, recite it, implement it, and follow it as the supreme guiding force in your life, as Muslims do. The Islamic Awareness site focuses on a literary challenge, but it is important to remember that the Qur'anic challenge is not limited to that.

For more info try submitting your question to the IslamToday team and if you get a response, please share it with us.

JazakumAllahu khayran.

Abu Omar
12-26-2005, 09:17 PM
Jazak Allaah khair.

I may add that perhaps some months ago, I e-mailed IA about their interpretation, and they answered that "much of the material on the Miracle section need reviding." And that it would be done when other material of urgent editing had been dealt with. So it seems that they themselves do not hold to the interpretation viewed on their site (at least not the person who wrote the e-mail).

Also I got an answer on the question from Islamtoday. Sadly, much of the answer was just copying from their Dawah section. Here it is (they somehow mistook me for a sister!):

"Dear sister:

Al-Salâm `Alaykum wa Rahmah Allah wa Barakâtuh.

As for the miraculous inimitability of the Qur’ân, we need to discuss the miracle known as a mu`jizah.

A mu`jizah is a miraculous occurrence – thus running contrary to the laws of nature – that is specifically intended by Allah to demonstrate the truthfulness of His Messengers and for the Messenger to use as a proof to his people. It often takes the form of something that his people excel at to show them that the Power and Might of Allah are greater than all others. Among these miracles was the camel of Sâlih (peace be upon him), the staff of Mûsâ (Moses, peace be upon him) and the splitting of the sea for him, and `Isâ (Jesus, peace be upon him) bringing the dead back to life and healing the sick.

The conditions for something to be a mu`jizah:

1. It must go against the laws of nature that the people are accustomed to. It must defy any natural explanation.

2. It must occur as a challenge to the disbelievers. It must be something that they would have been able to accomplish, had it not been from Allah.

3. It must be irreproducible. If anyone can reproduce it, it is not a miracle at all.

4. It must not be a miraculous event that declares the one claiming prophethood to be a liar. For example, if a person claims prophethood and petitions an animal to speak to support him, but it speaks and calls him a liar, then this miracle would not be a mu`jizah.

These Miracles are of Two Types: Physical and Intellectual

Most of the miracles of the previous Prophets were of a physical nature, whereas the greatest miracle of Muhammad (peace be upon him) is intellectual. We are referring to the Qur’ân. Perhaps the reason for this is that this miracle is for the lasting Message and must remain visible to all insightful people of every generation until the Day of Judgment. The miracles of the other Prophets have passed into history; no one experienced them except for those that were present at that time. The miracle of the Qur’ân, however, remains until the Day of Judgment. For this reason, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There has been no Prophet except that he was given signs that would allow the people to believe in him. What I have been given is only a Revelation that Allah has revealed to me, so I hope to have the greatest number of followers on the Day of Judgment.”

The literary miracle of the Qur’ân:

The Qur’ân is a miracle of eloquence and literary mastery, challenging the Arabs who were the most eloquent and fluent of speakers to come with but a chapter like it, no matter how small. The Qur’ân challenges them even to collaborate on producing such a chapter. But no one has ever been able to do so or even attempted it, in spite of there being more than enough reason for them to want to do so. Their hatred and enmity for Islam, their desire to thwart Muhammad (peace be upon him), and their immense, competitive pride in their language were more than enough reasons for them to try. In spite of this, their inability was more than apparent. Their tongues were still; their hearts mute. They confessed that the Qur’ân could not have been from the speech of men, neither from their poetry nor their prose. It could not even have been from their magicians and soothsayers. It was definitely not of this world.

The context of this challenge:

Before the beginning of Muhammad’s call (peace be upon him), the Arabs had attained the highest level possible in eloquence, fluency, and the art of speech. The word itself was dear to their hearts and more sacred than almost anything else, so much so that they would hang the seven best poems on the door of the Ka`bah, the most sacred place to them.

The poem wielded great power in Arab society. The status of a tribe could diminish simply because a poet ridiculed it. Likewise, a tribe’s status could be elevated by a poet’s exquisite praise.

So that the miracle of Muhammad (peace be upon him) could be more powerful and more evident, Allah made it a miraculous book to be recited, coming from an illiterate man who had never written anything in his life nor learned any science or art from another.

Distinctive Features of the Qur’anic Miracle:

1. It is appropriate for the nature of the Message, since the Message of Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the last of the Divine Messages. It is a Message for all of humanity in every time and every land until the Day of Judgment. It is appropriate that the miracle for this Message should be as lasting. Previous Messengers were sent to specific people at a specific time. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “The Prophets were sent to their own people specifically. I was sent for all of humanity.”

2. The miracle and the Law are one and the same. The Qur’ân itself is the miracle and it contains the injunctions of the Law.

This was not the case for the previous Prophets. The Message of Muhammad (peace be upon him) that contains the Law is the miracle and the miracle is the Law.

3. It attests to the truth of the previous Prophets: The miracle of Muhammad – the Qur’ân – bears witness to the existence of the previous Prophets, the truthfulness of their Message, and the correctness of what they conveyed to the people.

The verses of challenge in the Qur’ân:

Allah says:

Say (O Muhammad) if mankind and jinn were to come together to produce something like this Qur’ân, they would not be able to do so, even if they were to help one another.

Allah says:

Or they say: “He has forged it.” Say: “Then bring ten forged chapters like it and call whoever you can besides Allah if you are truthful.” If then they do not answer you, know that it is sent down with the Knowledge of Allah, besides Whom there is no other God. Will you then be Muslims?

Allah says:

And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call your witnesses besides Allah if you be truthful. If you do not do so – and you will never do so – then fear a fire whose fuel is men and stones prepared for the disbelievers.

Examples of the Arab reaction to the Qur’ân:

1. `Utbah b. Rabî`ah came to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) to dissuade him from proclaiming the Message. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) read to him from the Qur’ân. `Utbah listened attentively, sitting with his hands behind his back until Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) was done. He then went his people. When they saw him approach, they began speaking to one another, saying: “By Allah, he has a different expression on his face than the one that he had when he left.” When he took his seat among them, they asked him: “What is the matter with you?”

He said: “The matter with me is that – by Allah – I have heard words the likes of which I have never heard before. By Allah, it is neither poetry, nor magic, nor fortune telling. O Quraysh, obey me and hold me accountable for it.”

He continued: “Leave this man to what he is doing and avoid him, for by Allah, his words that I have heard contain a great proclamation. If the Arabs turn against him, then others have solved our problem. If he triumphs over them, then his wealth will be your wealth, his might will be your might, and you will be the most pleased with him.”

They said: “By Allah, he has bewitched you with his tongue.”

He responded: “This is my opinion. Do what you please.”

2. Al-Walîd b. al-Mughîrah came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and the Prophet recited to him from the Qur’ân. Al-Mughîrah seemed to relent to him. Abû Jahl got word of this and he went to al-Walîd and said: “Uncle, your people wish to collect some money and give it to you, because you went to Muhammad to oppose what he has.”

Al-Walîd said: “The tribe of Quraysh well knows that I am the wealthiest among them.”

Abû Jahl said: “Say something so your people will know that you reject and despise it.”

He responded: “What should I say? For by Allah, there is none among you more knowledgeable about poetry than myself. I know more about its form and its meter. I even know the poetry of the Jinn. By Allah, it does not resemble any of that. What he says has such sweetness and beauty. It begins fruitfully and becomes all the more copious as it goes on. It transcends everything else and nothing else can transcend it. It lays to waste anything that is lesser.”

Abû Jahl said: “By Allah, your people will not be pleased until you say something bad about it.”

Al-Walîd said: “Give me time to think.” After thinking for a while, he said: “This is magic of old that he received from someone else.”

Allah speaks about him in the Qur’ân, saying:

Leave Me to deal with the one I created to be lonely, and then bestowed upon him great wealth and sons abiding in his presence and made life smooth for him. Yet he desires that I give him more. Nay! For verily he has been stubborn to Our signs. On him I shall impose a fearful doom. For verily, he considered, then he planned. Then he looked. Then he frowned and showed displeasure, then turned away in pride and said: ‘This is nothing but magic of old. This is nothing but the speech of a human being.’ I will cast him into the Hellfire.

The fact that to this day, no one has been able to rise up to this challenge is proof for everyone in the world, whether or not they speak Arabic.

Moreover, the challenge of inimitability is given for those who, in spite of hearing the pure, sublime, and true message if Allah’s monotheism in the Qur’ân, still wish to arrogantly deny it is the truth from Allah. However, the truth of the Qur’ân is clear to everyone in the purity and greatness of its message.

Fatwâ Department Research Committee of IslamToday.net chaired by Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî"

And I'm quite sorry for saying this, but what is the source for your interpretation on the issue? And I'm abit sceptical to it, since the context was that the Mushrikeen, Christians and Jews accused Muhammed (saaws) for forging the Quran. So Allaah (swt) asked them to bring something like it, and if they could not, they should believe. They couldn't recognize any scientific miracles or harmony with archeology.

Abu Zakariya
12-26-2005, 10:13 PM
I'd just like to mention something.

As some of you probably know, one of the strongest opinions among 'ulema concerning the letters that sometimes occur at the begining of various surahs (such as alif-laam-meem) is that they remind the arabs that this Qur'an was revelealed in ther language and that they are challenged to produce something like it. So there letters are there to mock them, if you will. They are a constant reminder that God revealed the Qur'an in arabic, so they can try to produce something like it, but they won't be able to.
I have two thoughts about this:

1. Since this method of starting off a surah by having one or more letters is very, very unique and original, the people that attempt to produce something like the Qur'an have to do something as original. What I mean is, no one has ever started a chapter by having the letters A, L, M there and now the one's that try to imitate the Qur'an have to come up with something equally as original.

However, this wasn't my main point. The main point is:

2. Since these letters are (and God knows best) there to remind people of the Qur'ans imitability, the verses that follow these letters talk about the Qur'an itself.

A few examples:

This is the Book (the Qur'ân), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqûn [the pious and righteous persons who fear Allâh much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allâh much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)]

By the Qur'ân, full of wisdom (i.e. full of laws, evidences, and proofs)

We have not sent down the Qur'ân unto you (O Muhammad SAW) to cause you distress, But only as a Reminder to those who fear (Allâh).

And so on...

Now, I was listening to this lecture:


And the brother (may God preserve him, please make du'aa for him: http://www.altimimi.org/) mentioned the first verses of Surah ar-Rum:

The Romans have been defeated.
In the nearer land (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Palestine), and they, after their defeat, will be victorious.
Within three to nine years. The decision of the matter, before and after (these events) is only with Allâh, (before the defeat of Romans by the Persians, and after, i.e. the defeat of the Persians by the Romans). And on that Day, the believers (i.e. Muslims) will rejoice (at the victory given by Allâh to the Romans against the Persians),
With the help of Allâh, He helps whom He wills, and He is the All­Mighty, the Most Merciful.
It is) a Promise of Allâh (i.e. Allâh will give victory to the Romans against the Persians), and Allâh fails not in His Promise, but most of men know not.

Now, this seems to be an exception to the thing I mentioned above. This verse doesn't seem to be talking about the Qur'an. But what it does do is, it mentiones one of the miraculous features of the Qur'an, doesn't it?
This promise of God and this prediction was fulfilled and in these verses there is another miracle: God mentiones that the were defeated in adna al-ard which also means "the lowest land" and as you maybe know, they were defeated at the place which is the lowest point on earth. This wasn't known at that time.
So here God reminds us of one of the miraculous features of the Qur'an after starting of with alif-laam-meen which indicates that this is also an aspect of the challenge since the verses following alif-laam-meem or other letters talk about the miraculous Qur'an and how noone can imitate it.

Anyways, these are just some thoughts, I'm no person of knowledge so please take this with a grain of salt. And God knows best.

By the way, listen to the lecture by 'Ali at-Tamimi insha'Allah, it's an imân-booster, especially the part about Heraclius.

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Ansar Al-'Adl
12-27-2005, 12:10 PM
format_quote Originally Posted by Abu Omar
And I'm quite sorry for saying this, but what is the source for your interpretation on the issue?
There's no need to be sorry bro. The interpretation is based on what it means to be 'similar/equal' to the Qur'an. Since Muslims hold the Qur'an to be miraculous, any competitor must attempt to exhibit the same miraculous features. Did you read this post of mine?
And I'm abit sceptical to it, since the context was that the Mushrikeen, Christians and Jews accused Muhammed (saaws) for forging the Quran. So Allaah (swt) asked them to bring something like it, and if they could not, they should believe. They couldn't recognize any scientific miracles or harmony with archeology.
You're right they couldn't so how could they possibly hope to match it?


Abu Zakariya
12-28-2005, 01:18 PM
I listened to an audio lecture by a brother where he talked about how he became a Muslim and he mentioned that in jahiliyyah, he liked rap but he was also studying litterature, poetry etc. and knew a lot about rhyming structures. He heard Surah ash-Shams one day and listened to it in amazement. First of all, he had heard Arabs talking, but this was nothing like the normal talk of Arabs. Second of all, he listened to the rhyming structure in it (and also said that this isn't how we should listen to the Qur'aan, but this was before he became a Muslim) and he noticed that the rhyming structure of this Surah was supernatural. He had been listening to rap music where the rhymes are very advanced, and he had studied the rhyming structure of poetry etcetera but this was incredible, in his opinion, and he came to the conclusion that it had to be from God.



Abu Omar
12-31-2005, 10:30 PM
Yeah it is alluded in Tafsir ibn Kathir that there is an opinion that the letters testifies to the miraculous nature of the Quran, i.e the Quran used the same letters and language as them and yet they couldn't produce anything like it.

Until recently I simply interprented the challenge as it was to create something in the Quranic genre based on the comments on the Quranic style by the kuffar alluded in ibn Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul'Allaah" (quotes from Islamic Awareness), but then found out it was my speculation and not reliable. There also seems to have been some confusion and discussion among the Ulama throughout the history about what the Ijaz constituted of, as written on IA's site, althought Tafsir ibn Kathir, as I stated before, mentioned the views of the Sahabah, that it has to be "something similiar to the Quran", although not told in which aspects it should be similiar.

Then I have read the refutations on "The True Furqan". It simply plagiarised the Quran and changed some words here and there. But what is the response to the so-called "Sawur" on the site --------- ?

Ansar Al-'Adl
01-01-2006, 09:57 PM
:sl: bro,
I responded to the website you mentioned in this thread:

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