“For each period Is a Book (revealed) (Quran 13:38)
Four Revelations mentioned by name in the Qur’an:
The Last Revelation
Quran is the Last and Final revelation by God, given to His last and Final Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH)
Unique Literary Form
The author of the Quran claims his work is revelation from God; in return the author boldly confronts his skeptics by setting a falsification challenge. The Qur’an challenges humanity to attempt to match the reality of the Qur’anic text, the smallest chapter (surah) to be exact. Failure to do so would inductively lead the individual taking up the challenge to accept the divine authorship of the Quran.
“And if you are in doubt about which We have revealed to Our Servant then bring one chapter like it” [chapter 2 verse 23 the Qur’an]
The author asks humanity to take up the challenge of producing one chapter like it as evidence of its divine authorship, which implies that if this cannot be achieved one can infer that the Quran is not of human but of a supernatural endeavor.
The Arabic language has 28 letters and a finite number of grammatical rules. The finite letters and grammatical rules allow any expression in the Arabic language to either fall into the literacy forms prose or poetry.
Arabic prose can be termed non-metrical speech, meaning that it does not have a rhythmical pattern like poetry as mentioned above. Arabic prose has two divisions; they are ‘Saj’ which is rhymed prose and ‘Mursal’ which is straight prose. ‘Saj’s’ rhythmical quality is irregularly employed making it distinct from ‘Al bihar’.[ “A literary form with some emphasis on rhythm and rhyme, but distinct from poetry. Saj’ is not really as sophisticated as poetry, but has been employed by Arab poets, and is the best known of the pre-Islamic Arab prosodies. It is distinct from poetry in its lack of metre, i.e. it has not consistent rhythmical pattern, and it shares with poetry the element of rhyme, though in many cases some what irregularly employed.” A. Von Deffer. 2003 (Revised Ed. 1994). ‘Ulum al-Qur’an: An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an. The Islamic Foundation, p. 75] Mursal can be defined as a literary form that is continued straight throughout without any divisions, either of rhyme or of anything else, its function is for everyday spoken language. [Ibid]
Recent studies by contemporary Arabic scholars have described the Qur’anic mode of expression as a unique literary form. Although some of the verses can be described as one of the ‘al-bihar, the totality of a chapter cannot be matched to any given division.
Kristina Nelson writes
“Although some of the lines of the Qur’an may be scanned according to the Classical Arabic metres*, these are not as characteristic of Qur’anic syllabic rhythmic patterns as are the abrupt or progressive shifts in rhythmic patterns and length of line, and the shifts between regular and irregular patterns.” [Kristina Nelson. 1985 (2nd Print 2002). The Art of Reciting the Qur’an. The American University in Cairo Press, p. 10]
To understand how the Quran achieves this, is to view the Qur’anic text as a unique fusion or intermingling of metrical and non-metrical speech, thus creating a unique literary form that does not fit into any division of the ‘al- bihar’ or ‘Mursal’. Non Muslim Arabic scholars have recognised this unique literary form and proclaimed that the Qur’anic literary form is to be viewed as original, going so far, in some cases, as to label it inimitable.
“The best of Arab writers have never succeeded in producing equal in merit to the Quran itself”.[ E H Palmer (Tr.), The Qur’an, 1900, Part I, Oxford at Clarendon Press, p. lv]
“The challenge was taken up during Muhammed’s lifetime, and the surviving specimens of emulation do nothing to undermine the Quran’s claim to inimitability; neither do the crude parodies put out by later writers, among them eminent authors, who viewed, who feigned to rival the unique beauty of the Muslim scriptures”[ A.J Arberry : The Holy Koran (translation p27-8)]
“The Quran is unapproachable as regards convincing power, eloquence, and even composition…”[ Dr Hertwig Hirschield : New researches into the composition and exegesis of the Quran p8-9)]
“From the literary point of view, the Koran is regarded as a specimen of purest Arabic…..It has been said that in some cases grammarians have adopted their rules to agree with certain phases and expressions used in it, and that thought several attempts have been made to produce a work equal to it as far as elegant writing is concerned none has succeeded”. [F.F Arbuthnot- The construction of the Bible and Koran]
“So there has been no opportunity for any forgery or pious fraud in the Quran, which distinguishes it from all other important religious works….It, is exceedingly strange that this illiterate person should have composed the best book in the language”. [Basanta Coomar Bose-Mohamedanism]
“Whenever Muhammed was asked a miracle, as proof of the authenticity of his mission, he quoted the composition of the Quran and its incomparable excellence as proof of its Divine origin. And, in fact, even for those who are non-Muslims nothing is more marvellous that its language, which with such a comparable plenitude and a grasping sonority with simple audition ravished with admiration those primitive peoples so fond of eloquence. The ampleness of its syllables with grades cadence and with a remarkable rhythm have been much movement in the conversion of the most hostile and the most sceptic”[ Paul Casanova-L’Enseignement de L’Arabe au College de France]
Not only is the literary form of the Quran viewed as unique, but its uniqueness is reaffirmed by the combination of inimitable stylistic form with coherence of the overall message. Some might argue that the challenge can never be achieved because it is based upon a subjective criterion, that the author has set a challenge which is based upon aesthetic appreciation. It is equivalent to an artist’s challenge to match his work of art with a more objectively beautiful piece of work. As beauty is ultimately a subjective matter, this could never be achieved. If the Quran were to set a challenge of this nature then its critics would be right in that no amount of Arabic could ultimately disprove the Quran. Although there have been many studies on the depth and beauty of the Qur’anic text, the author of the Quran is not asking to match its beauty. Rather, where the author says “bring one chapter like it..” , it is clear from what has been mentioned earlier, that the challenge is in reference to the structure of the language or literary form. This then would make the challenge an objective one, as its objectivity can be identified in the difference between prose and poetry literary forms.
The Qur’anic literary form lies outside the productive capacity of the Arabic language.
The 28 letters and finite grammatical rules are the conditions (ceteris paribus) of the productive capacity of the Arabic language. The productive capacity of the Quran produces Arabic prose (saj or mursal) and poetry (Al Bihar). All pre-Quranic text and post-Quranic texts fall within these classifications of the Arabic language.
The Quranic mode of expression does not fall into the given categories of the Arabic language. This suggests that the inimitable mode of expression lies outside the productive capacity of the Arabic language. The Quran functions in a unique literary form and as a result, has proven inimitable for 1400 years. Hence, there are good reasons to believe that, although the Quran appears naturalistically impossible, given the capacity of the Arabic language, a Supernatural explanation appears most reasonable.
For more details on this visit The Inimitable Quran
Quran was revealed in a period of 23 years, yet does not consider a single contradiction
[Quran 4:082] Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? If it had been from [any] other than God, they would have found within it much contradiction.