WHAT REASONS CAN Muslims give for believing that the Quran is the word of God? We address points regarding both its content and its language. In Part 1 we address its content characteristics.
1. Its Challenge of Inimitability
At first, the Quran challenged the disbelievers to imitate it; then, finding no response, the Quran challenged them to produce just ten surahs (chapters) of like merit; and finally, when there were no takers to even this challenge, it dared them to produce just one surah like the Quran.
Say: ‘If the whole of mankind and jinn were to gather together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like thereof, however much they helped each other.’ [Surat Al-Isra’, 17:88]
Or they may say, ‘He forged it,’ Say, ‘Bring ye then ten surahs forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsoever ye can, other than Allah, if ye speak the truth; [Surat Hud, 11:13]
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. [Surat Al-Baqarah, 2:23]
This challenge was made to the Arabs who consciously prided themselves for their poetry and eloquence so much that their poetry is full of self-admiration and ridicule for any other nations who even thought that they could excel the Arabs in eloquence (Jurjani, Rasa’il fi I’jaz). History related many cases of great Arab poets who listened to the Quran and were immediately captivated by its language. The greatest Arab poetess, Al-Khansaa’, not only embraced Islam because of it, she in fact refused to compose poetry after hearing the Quran. Some tried to imitate the Quran, but sounded so inept and palpably inferior to the Quran that they were ridiculed by their own followers.
Why was it inimitable? Despite the fact that the enemies of Islam have left no stone unturned in opposing it, why can no one produce anything comparable to a book that a 7th century Arab trader allegedly could? Why has the Quran been the most read, memorized and revered book in the world and in history since its revelation? Simply because it is from God—Allah, the Most-High, —not a human effort. Its impeccable message and inimitable style both bear witness to it.
2. Its Irresistible, Timeless Message
‘La ilaha illallah,’There is no god but God, is the essence of the message of the Quran. The most irresistible aspect of the Quran is this message. The Quran addresses all of humankind, and informs it of the ultimate purpose of its existence. Humankind was created, the Quran says, to recognize and worship the One God, the Creator and the Master, and will prosper only if it does so. Compared to any other religion or philosophy, the Quranic message is incomparably more compelling, rational, spiritually satisfying, and natural: There is only One God, and He is Just and Merciful, All-Powerful and All-Knowing. Humans stand before God alone; there is no short-cut, such as belonging to a race, seeking help from the saints, or believing in God’s son or mother. There is only one fair, universal way to attain success: Believe in God alone, and demonstrate through your actions that you really do.
3. Its Internal Coherence
In the entire Book, there is no instruction or story that contradicts, in the slightest, this basic message of monotheism—every single statement only adds to its coherent message.
Do they not consider the Quran (with care)? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy. [Surat Al-Nisa’, 4:82]
Any human compilation of any length is ridden with internal inconsistency and incoherence. We humans say one thing, do another; think something in the morning, and change our minds by the evening. One major accident turns our lives around completely—believers become disbelievers and vice versa. Even at any given time, we hold ideas in our minds that are in direct contradiction with each other. Sometimes we are greedy and selfish, other times generous and selfless. To forget, to be persuaded, to be seduced, to give in, to err is all human. The Quran, however, never changes its mind—the entire Book of over six thousand verses presents one single message, confirms it, elaborates it, repeats it, and establishes it through a moral and legal code.
4. Its Call to Reason and Logic
The Quran does not ask its audience to just blindly believe and take a “leap of faith.” To the contrary, it calls them to use reason and logic. But contrary to simplistic modern philosophies that posit a separation between reason/mind and emotion/heart, the Quran makes explicit the inseparable connection between the two:
Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Quran, or are their hearts locked up? [Surah Muhammad, 47:24]
Just one example of the Quran’s use of logic:
Were they created of nothing, or were they themselves the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, it is just that they do not believe! [Surat Al-Tur, 52:35-36]
5. Its Foreknowledge and Preemption of all the Detractors and Rejecters
The allegation that the Quran was a human composition is not new or unique to modern Western disbelievers or the Orientalists. It is as old as the Quran itself, and is openly addressed and challenged in the Quran itself. The Makkans who rejected the message had a series of reasons for rejecting it: it was poetry, a political ploy to gain power, magic and sorcery, insanity, or old tales that the Prophet had learned from the Christians or the Persians. Their inconsistency showed that none of these reasons really convinced them.
The only aspect which the modern enemies of Islam have added to the attempts of their former colleagues in disbelief—their Makkan counterparts—is the allegation that the Quran has not even been preserved and is not even the words of Muhammad. Modern disbelievers, in reality just as blind and primitive as their 7th century pagan counterparts, hide behind the veil of ‘history’ to question the authenticity of the Quran.
6. Its Awe-inspiring Self-Confidence
Alif. Lam. Ra. (This is) a Book, with verses measured in meaning, further explained in detail, from One Who is Wise and All-knowing. [Surah Hud, 11:1]
No falsehood can approach it from before or behind it: It is sent down by One Full of Wisdom, Worthy of all Praise. [Surat Fussilat, 41:42]
How did the author of the Quran know that it will never be corrupted? How could it so confidently declare that “falsehood cannot approach it from before or behind”? Or, if the author was a human pretending to be God, why did he so confidently predict historical events or conditions: that Abu Lahab would never become a Muslim up until he died? [Surat Al-Masad] Or that the Romans would soon defeat the Persians? [Surat Al-Rum] Or that, just after the treaty of Hudaybiyyah, the Muslims would soon be victorious in spite of an apparently humiliating peace treaty? [Surat Al-Fath] Or that the Jews and the polytheists were going to be worse enemies of Islam than the Christians–the pious among whom would have a soft belly for it? [Surat Al-Ma’idah, 5:82] Couldn’t the Jews or the Makkans have just proven the Quran wrong by being friendlier to the Muslims than the Christians?
All these predictions were about things that occurred during Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, and could have been proven wrong; but each one of them came true. Why would a liar or a pretender put himself at such a risk of refutation?
7. Its Preeminence over Science
In an era of science and technology, the following promise of the Quran is coming true in a new way, in full daylight for “anyone with heart” to see:
Soon will We show them our Signs in the (farthest) regions (of the earth), and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this is the Truth. Is it not enough that thy Lord doth witness all things? [Surat Fussilat, 41:53]
The miracle of the Quran is not that it provides definite scientific information; it never claims or attempts to do so. The purpose of the Quran is much loftier than that: to teach absolute truths about ultimate reality which humans cannot know or know fully on their own. Yet the Quran does include allusions to natural phenomena in order to convey its noble message, and its scientific miracle lies in its never being wrong in those allusions—even about details that were unknown to humankind until this century.
If a human were forging it, it would be very likely that he would make errors, especially with regard to the scientific information he was using to impress his 7th century audience—after all, the Arabs, his immediate audience, were not even remotely familiar with science.
How could a supposed human author of the Quran know, fourteen hundred years —when people believed that the Earth sat on the horns of a bull—that:
(i) All life was created from water (Who knew then that 80% of the cytoplasm that makes up human cells is water?), or that
(ii) The heaven and the earth were once joined together (in 1973, the Nobel prize was given for the Big Bang theory that confirmed this basic idea), or that
(iii) The bees that collect honey from the flowers are female (Surat Al-Nahl, 16:68) It is only in the Twentieth Century that we have been told by scientists that the male bee does not perform nectar-collecting duties because it lacks relevant body organs (such as baskets for collecting pollen grains or glands to secrete wax for comb construction!)? Who could have known that at the time?
(iv) The stages of creation in the womb proceed from a sperm (nutfa) to an ‘alaqa (leech-like thing, clot) to a mudgha (a chewed piece of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed), and then come the bones…. (Surat Al-Hajj, 22:5; Surat Al-Mu’minum, 23:14)
These descriptions, which has been fully confirmed by modern science, are a testimony to the Divine origin of the Quran. In fact, a well-known French scientist, Maurice Bucaille, embraced Islam after studying these verses (See references.)
8. Its Prophesies
The truth of some of the Quranic prophesies have amazingly come to light only recently; I will mention one here. God said to the drowning Pharaoh who had tyrannized Moses and his people,
This day shall We save you in the body, that you may be a sign to those who come after you! But verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our Signs! [Surat Yunus, 10:92]
Before this verse, the only reference to Pharaoh was in the Bible, which did not mention anything about preserving the Pharaoh’s body:
And the waters returned, and covered the Chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them. (Exodus, 14:28)
In 1907, after about 3000 years, many pharaonic mummies were unearthed and subjected to scientific examination by Elliot Smith who published the findings in a book entitled The Royal Mummies. (reported by Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, The Quran and Science, p. 241)
One of these, displayed today in a museum in Cairo, is believed to be the Pharaoh who reigned during Moses’ time. How could the Quran have so confidently predicted these events fourteen centuries before the mummy was discovered and sixteen centuries after it was mummified, when no one else knew of it?
…To be continued, insha’Allah, in Part 2
- Maurice Bucaille, The Bible, The Quran and Science, 2003.