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    IB Senior Member seeker_of_ilm's Avatar
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    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge: to “Bring Something Like It”

    | Prepared by the Research Committee of IslamToday.net under the supervision of Sheikh `Abd al-Wahhâb al-Turayrî|

    A lot of people misunderstand the Qur’ân’s literary challenge to produce something like it. Many people assume it simply means writing something as “good” as the Qur’ân.

    Because of this, many skeptics point out – and rightly so – that literary value judgments are highly subjective. If someone says that he thinks a certain selection of prose or poetry is better than the Qur’ân, who can argue with him? Isn’t it really a matter of personal judgment and taste? Who is to be the arbiter?

    The Qur’ân’s challenge, however, is not simply to write something of equal literary merit, but rather to produce something like the Qur’ân.

    We can see this in all the verses of challenge:

    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.” [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 88]

    Allah says: “Or they say: ‘He has forged it.’ Say: ‘Then bring ten forged chapters like it and 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?” [Sûrah Hûd: 13]

    Allah says: “Or do they say ‘He has forged it.’ Say: ‘Then bring a chapter like it and call and call whoever you can besides Allah if you are truthful’.” [Sûrah Yûnus: 38]

    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.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 23-24]

    Therefore, it is not simply a matter of quality – it does not even have to be of equal merit! Similarity is all that matters. What is required by the challenge is to achieve at least a comparable degree of the literary beauty, nobility, and sublimity of the Qur’ân while at the same time emulating the Qur’ân’s particular style.

    It is possible to superficially mimic the style of the Qur’ân, and many people have been successful in doing so – but all such attempts from the days of Musaylimah to the present have proven to be silly and absurd, and have often invoked laughter and derision. This is the unanimous consensus of everyone who has ever heard or read those attempts.

    It is, likewise, possible for a person writing in Arabic to reach a great level of literary excellence and, in the most moving of poetry and prose, convey the noblest thoughts and sentiments – but nobody has ever done so using the Qur’ân’s particular style.

    And what an elusive style it has proven to be! The Qur’ân is neither in Arabic prose nor in what is acknowledged as Arabic verse. It is not written in a combination of both prose and poetry, but in neither of those modes. It is unique. At the same time, the Qur’ân is internally consistent in maintaining its unique style.

    Only the Qur’ân achieves the highest level of literary excellence – so much so that it brings people to ecstasy and tears – while maintaining this style.

    This, then, is the acid test: Write something in the exact same style as the Qur’ân and in doing so produce something of arguably similar quality and sublimity.

    Still, one could argue that the evaluation of the results is still grounded in subjective literary tastes. This is agreed. However, the second part of the challenge is to bring witnesses to attest to the quality of that evaluation, not just to stand there and make the claim.

    Throughout history, people have attempted to write in the style of the Qur’ân. The results have always been so laughable that no one would venture to say that he believes the effort equals the Qur’ân in literary merit. The reason why no one would dare do so is not the fear of reprisal – as some skeptics have suggested – but rather the fear of looking like a complete idiot.

    One early example was:

    Al-Fîl
    Mal-Fîl
    Wa mâ adrâka mal-fîl
    Lahu dhanabun radhîl, wa khurtûmun tawîl
    which translates as:
    The Elephant –
    What is the elephant?
    And what would have you know what the elephant is?
    It has a scraggly tail and a very long trunk.
    We can grant that this is a successful attempt at imitating the superficial style of the Qur’ân. It is clearly modeled after the opening verses of Sûrah al-Qâri`ah or Sûrah al-Hâqqah. However, with such fare on offer, it is no surprise that people are unwilling to stake their reputation on attesting to its literary excellence.

    We should pause to consider: What other literary style can we think of which has produced an indisputably great work of literaure but is at the same time guaranteed to bring the most wretched failure to anyone else who tries his hand at it?

    Generally, it is not a bad idea for a writer to emulate a successful style. However, a challenge to produce a single chapter like the Qur’ân – the shortest chapter being merely three verses of modest length – has proven impossible to meet.

    We should remember that not all Arabic speakers are Muslim. Many are Christians and Jews. Some are atheists. They live all over the world. Among all of these non-Muslim Arabs, there are leading poets and prose writers and important literary critics. None of them claim that they or anyone else has produced a literary work that resembles the Qur’ân in both style and quality.

    For an Arabic speaker, this is an obvious thing. Any Arab who looks at people’s attempts to write in the Qur’ân’s style usually breaks out in laughter at its awkwardness or banality.

    For non-Arabic speakers, though they cannot experience this directly, they can ascertain that no serious literary claim has been made.

    Granted, there is subjectivity in any literary evaluation. This would pose a problem in a challenge with a single judge or a panel of judges, or if there is a biased criterion like “only Muslims scholars can be judges”.

    However, there is no such restriction in the challenge.

    The general consensus of the international Arabic literary community – and the Arab masses – is that nothing exists to meet the challenge. This is an objective yardstick.

    And Allah knows best.
    4 | Likes Muhaba, Misz_Muslimah, Bint-e-Adam, talibilm liked this post

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    Full Member Ghira's Avatar
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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    One early example was:

    Al-Fîl
    Mal-Fîl
    Wa mâ adrâka mal-fîl
    Lahu dhanabun radhîl, wa khurtûmun tawîl
    which translates as:
    The Elephant –
    What is the elephant?
    And what would have you know what the elephant is?
    It has a scraggly tail and a very long trunk.
    LOL!!! My teacher told me that there was someone who put bits and pieces of Qur'an and tried to produce the eloquence like the Qur'an but he did not tell me this example.

    They make complete meaningless words.
    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge

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    "' al-Ilm Imamul 'amal"
    "Knowledge is the Imam of Action"

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge





    Found this on another thread:


    Some of you might have heard of Musaylimah Al-Kadhdhab (Musaylimah the liar), a man who claimed to be a Prophet himself during the Prophet's (pbuh) time.

    Well, here is an example of his 'Quran' which he made up, is this hilarious or what.

    They have mentioned that `Amr bin Al-`As went to visit Musaylimah Al-Kadhdhab after the Messenger of Allah was commissioned (as a Prophet) and before `Amr had accepted Islam. Upon his arrival, Musaylimah said to him,

    "What has been revealed to your friend (Muhammad) during this time''

    `Amr said, "A short and concise Surah has been revealed to him.''

    Musaylimah then said, "What is it'' `Amr replied;


    ﴿وَالْعَصْرِ - إِنَّ الإِنسَـنَ لَفِى خُسْرٍ - إِلاَّ الَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ الصَّـلِحَـتِ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِالْحَقِّ وَتَوَاصَوْاْ بِالصَّبْرِ ﴾


    (By Al-`Asr. Verily, man is in loss. Except those who believe and do righteous deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience.)

    So Musaylimah thought for a while. Then he said, "Indeed something similar has also been revealed to me.''

    `Amr asked him, "What is it''

    He replied, "O Wabr* (a small, furry mammal; hyrax), O Wabr! You are only two ears and a chest, and the rest of you is digging and burrowing.''

    Then he said, "What do you think, O `Amr''

    So `Amr said to him, "By Allah! Verily, you know that I know you are lying.''

    The Wabr is a small animal that resembles a cat, and the largest thing on it is its ears and its torso, while the rest of it is ugly. Musaylimah intended by the composition of these nonsensical verses to produce something which would oppose the Qur'an. Yet, it was not even convincing to the idol worshipper of that time.
    (From Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Surat al-Asr)

    http://tafsir.com/default.asp?sid=103&tid=59151



    * Wabr (aka Hyrax):



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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    Ibn Kathir mentions in his famous book Al Bidaayah wal-Nihaayah:


    فأظهر الله كذبه ولصق به لقب الكذاب، وأراد إظهار كرامات تشبه معجزات النبي ، فقد ذكر ابن كثير في البداية أنه بصق في بئر فغاض ماؤها، وفي أخرى فصار ماؤها أجاجاً، وسقى بوضوئه نخلا فيبست، وأتى بولدان يبرك عليهم فمسح على رؤسهم فمنهم من قرع رأسه ومنهم من لثغ لسانه، ودعا لرجل أصابه وجع في عينيه فمسحهما فعمي.



    Allah exposed his lies and from then on the title of 'The Liar' has always been associated with his name. He wished to show miracles (to the people) similar to the Miracles of the Prophet (peace be upon him)

    Ibn Katheer has mentioned in His Book Al-Bidaayah that he (Musailimah) Spat in a well, and its water dwindled and dried up. And he spat in another well and that water turned to bitter salty water.

    He watered a date tree with the excess water from his Wudhoo' and the tree dried up and died.

    Two boys were brought to him so that he may bless them and so he wiped their heads with his hand, as a result of that, the head of one of them became bald and the other developed a speech defect.

    A man who was suffering from an ailment in his eyes came to him (for a cure) but when he wiped them, the man became blind.





    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge



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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


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    IB Oldtimer Jayda's Avatar
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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    gracias seeker_of_ilm,

    you are addressing one of my (long forgotten now) original questions when i joined the webforum. and i think this is kind of progressing towards a more solid answer... but i still do not understand, this seems subjective to me. given the size, complexity, number of: ideas, people, events and places the quran (like most religious texts) addresses i just do not see how one could create a solid and stable criteria for 'alike.' it seems like a very elusive term to me.

    que Dios te bendiga

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    Full Member muslimah_online's Avatar
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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    Salaam..it's a good explaination tho i can't understand some of the words i do understand the message.

    It is a fact when it is said that Allah will protect the purity of the Holy Quran till the Qiamah.. and so it shows...

    get free al-Quran recitation (the whole Quran) by 4 famous hafeez in quraan.mangga.com

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    Full Member Dr.Trax's Avatar
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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge



    Mathematical Miracles in the Quran:



    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge

    He is Allah - the Creator, the Maker, the Giver of Form. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names. Everything in the heavens and Earth glorifies Him. He is the Almighty, the All-Wise.
    (Qur'an, 59:24)



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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    MasALLAH, barakALLAH.
    I'm very fell happy. Muslims are everywhere.
    ALLAH U AKBAR. Islam is mono religon, Islam is benefit religion.
    ALLAH bless your for what your have done.

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    AsSalamOAlaikum WaRehmatuAllah WaBarkatuhu


    From the OP......I was wondering, the people of Quraish were proud of the language of Arabic, and hand high standards......So would it be fair to say that the "peak" of the language was at that time, or is it more now in 2009??

    FiAmaaniAllah
    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    LI Member

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    asalaam alaikum


    I think we could say it was during the life of Allah's Messenger (sal Allah alaihi wasalam) since the challenge was directed at them first of all, since they believed they were the most eloquent amongst mankind.
    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge



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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    *bump
    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge



    25:36 And the true servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk the earth with humility and when the ignorant address them, they respond with words of peace.

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    Code:
    Al-Fîl
    Mal-Fîl
    Wa mâ adrâka mal-fîl
    Lahu dhanabun radhîl, wa khurtûmun tawîl
    which translates as: 
    The Elephant –
    What is the elephant?
    And what would have you know what the elephant is?
    It has a scraggly tail and a very long trunk.
    We can grant that this is a successful attempt at imitating the superficial style of the Qur’ân. It is clearly modeled after the opening verses of Sûrah al-Qâri`ah or Sûrah al-Hâqqah. However, with such fare on offer, it is no surprise that people are unwilling to stake their reputation on attesting to its literary excellence.
    I am sorry to say that it was not a successful atempt but the one who attempted it exposed himself to be a stupid, not knowing even ordinary facts. For "adraka" one needs to have another thing which could make one understand and have some perception about the thing being referred to. We recognize and perceive things with comparison. Unless we compare and link one thing with another we can't preserve it in the memory.

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    Assalam u Alaikum,

    This is to who really want to learn Quran and the language of Quran.I am sure every muslim want.So please shake your hand with us and help us in spreading the light of quran to all over the world.

    Mufti Omar Farooq
    www.quranschool.com

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    Holy Quran is the only book in its original form. No one has bring a single verse like Quran has. The mankind has been failed in accepting the challenge of Quran.

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    Limited Member iman1981's Avatar
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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    I've been attending Quran tafseer seminars every month for the last year and mashaAllah its been very beneficial and certainly opened up my eyes to the book of Allah. They are delivered by teachers - shaykhs and imams with lots of knowldege and all who studied intensively.

    Iman

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    You download tafsir ibn kathir to help you uderstand the quran better

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    salaam brothers and sisters here seem very knowledgeable, was wondering if some of you would be interested in spreading the message of Islam on ukdebates.co.uk. Im trying but being the only one its a challenge. my name there is( I man).

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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge

    Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge



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    Re: Understanding the Qur’an’s Literary Challenge


    Muslims all over the world take great interest in acquiring Quran education whole-heartedly. Some of the people learn Quran education by memorizing Quran, understanding and follow the teaching and command of Allah Almighty and obey them also.

 

 
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