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"O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (ie, the Qur’an), and a healing for that (disease of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences, etc) in your breasts,-a guidance and a mercy for the believers."

Holy Qur’an 3:83



What is it that is implied when it is said that the Qur'an is a super natural portent?

It can be understood from the revealed scriptures that the messengers of God, who were appointed by God, Himself, had been given supernatural signs to convince people of the truth of their prophethood. These signs, or miracles, were intended to enable people to appreciate the fact that their claims to prophethood were, indeed, true. The staff given to the prophet Moosa (a), which would turn into a serpent, is an example.

These miracles were, however, present only during their own life times. None of these miracles ever survived after them. Nor will they do so in the future. However, the miracle that manifested itself through the last messenger is certainly not of that kind. Like his mission, it too, will survive upto the Last Day. This marvellous miracle is the Qur'an. The Qur'an may be examined by any who is to7 come upto the Last Day. The wonders within it may confirm as to whether the prophethood of Muhammad (pbuh) is, in fact, true.

The Qur'an, which constitutes, at one and the same time, a religious scripture and a super natural portent, is, in itself, the ever lasting miracle of miracles that is to remain till the Last Day.

 


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What is it that makes the Qur'an a super natural portent?

The concepts, style and language of the Qur'an are all, in themselves, wonderful. It was into the midst of the greatest exponents of Arabian literature that the Qur'an was revealed. The poetry of fourteen centuries past are, to this day, hailed as the masterpieces of Arabian literature. It was through an illiterate person from amongst them that the world first heard of the Qur'an. As for him, he was one who had shown not the slightest inclination towards literature upto the age of forty. There were also no questions raised about the undoubtedly, excellent quality of the literature of the Qur'an in the society into which it was revealed. Whether believer or unbeliever, the Arabs were all unanimous in their recognition of the high standing of the literature of the Qur'an. The unbelievers, for their part, had only refrained from accepting its Divine nature by resorting to allegations that it was sorcery and the words of the Devil himself.

It is pertinent, here, to note the words of Waleed bin Mughira, a leader of the Quraysh and himself the greatest authority in Arabian literature, who, on being asked by Abu Jahl to make a public proclamation against the Qur'an, said: "What can I say? Whether it be in prose or in poetry, the poems of the Jinns or in any other branch of Arabian literature, I possess greater knowledge than you. By God! The words brought forth by this man, are such as to be incomparable with any of the others. By God, his words possess a charming sweetness and a particular beauty all of themselves. Moreover, its branches are laden with fruit while its roots are firmly entrenched in the soil whence it proceeds. Most certainly, therefore, it is superior to all other dicourses. Furthermore, it is not possible for any other discourse to show it in poor light. For a surety it will conquer anything that comes under its own influence!"

It must be remembered that this has been the comment of a non-muslim. Indeed, a better certification of the value of the literature of the Qur'an will not be called for.

The style of the Qur'an is inimitable. This has been attested by even the most modern of the non-muslim Arab scholars. Observe the writing of the orientalist G. Sale.

"The style of the Qur'an is beautiful, it is adorned with bold figures after the eastern taste, enlivened with florid and sententious expressions and in many places where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificient" (G. Sale, The Koran: Commonly called Al-Qur'an, with a preliminary discourse, London, 1899, Vol.1, page 47).
A.J. Arberry, another orientalist, writes thus:

"The complex prosody, a rich repertory of subtle and complicated rhymes had been completely perfected. A vocabulary of themes, images, and figures extensive but nevertheless circumscribed, was firmly established" (A.J. Arberry, The Qur'an interpreted, London 1955, page 11).
The style, language and literature of the Qur'an are all unparalleled; all beyond imitation; are all in their refined beauty, exquisite. Anyone conversant with Arabic will easily grasp this. Each verse of the Qur'an possesses an extreme attraction and a potential so great as to cause a transformation in the mind of its listeners. This has been admitted by several modern and medieval critics who possessed a knowledge of Arabic.

A thing becomes a supernatural manifestation when it remains unconquered by man. When prophet Moses let fall his staff upon the ground, it turned into a writhing serpent. Moreover, it swallowed the staffs and ropes of the magicians of the day who had come to contest the sign of God. This has been described in the Qur'an and the Bible. (Qur'an 26:38-45, Exodus 7:11-13).

It is the contention and claim of the Qur'an that it remains unmatched in its style, structure, breadth of vision and literature and that it is impossible for any creation to ever compose a script that will , in any way, equal it. "And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, If ye are truthful. But if ye cannot-and of a surety ye cannot-then fear the Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, which is prepared for those who reject Faith. " (2:23,24). That this is, in fact, true will be admitted by all those who are learned in the language.

It has not yet been possible for any in the world of Arab literature to answer the challenge posed by the Qur'an when it dared to bring forth even a single chapter like its own. The fact of the matter then is that even the critics who are well versed in Arabic have not been able to either defend or make a convincing reply as regards their own contemptuous refutation of the claim that the Qur'an remains the supernatural sign that was revealed to prophet Muhammad (pbuh).


 


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What are the factors that make the Qur'an incomparable and inimitable?

The linguistic style and the descriptive method that have been employed in the Qur'an are totally different from those seen in human writings. The following are some of the specialities:

1. In the matter of the subjects that they deal with, the words of the Qur'an are seen to be concise and free of overt emotions of any sort. Literature composed by human kind will, undoubtedly, reveal itself through the underlying mental currents of the individual. The words of a person in a fit of anger will natuarally betray the innate anger within himself. Indeed, in that instant no pity or commendation will be present in those words. Similar will be the case when it is a joyous mood that he finds himself in! It becomes imperative, therefore, to explain such statements only on the foundations of the extreme emotions like anger or joy on which they are based. For in these statements the domineering presence of the emotional intonations are will be easily seen. Indeed, these emotional underpinning is evident in the works of all men of letters for the simple reason that they are, after all, very human and subject to all the accompanying emotions.

In the verses of the Qur'an, however, it is not possible to detect at any place the excessive strains of emotion be it in its announcement of glad tidings, of warnings; in its explanation of laws or in its description of the blessings of God. This is so because it has been revealed by God who is Himself above emotions of any sort.


2. Whenever the Qur'an describes any subject irrespective of its nature, it maintains an eloquence and flow of language reflecting its Divine Origin.

The flow of language of the individual will, oftentimes, be confined to a few and particular topics. It may even be that in these particular topics their writings will be of a high standard. However, if they themselves were to write on other subjects, their writings would hardly succeed in maintaining even an average standard. The mindset of the writer, his family environment, emotional trappings and the state of society all combine to influence his interests and outlook.

The verses of the Qur'an in describing nature and while speaking about the world hereafter exhibit an eloquence that is one and the same.
In the glorification of the greatness of God and in the declaration of legal decrees, too, they exhibit the same flow and grandeur of language. This has been so only because they have proceeded from the Creator who is Himself above and beyond all the constraints of space and time.

3. While the verses of the Qur'an are of a high literary standing, they are, in addition, precise and truthful in their expositions.
It is the general belief that literature is made beautiful in the description of that which is imaginary. It is also said that literature cannot be beautified without the depiction of half-truths and falsehoods. That lies must be uttered in order that the poem is made good has become one of the more hallowed sayings of our time. The literary works that provide often truthful information are seen to be dull and barren. It has been for the same reason that even the men of letters who yearn to present the truth must do so only to the accompaniment of that which is false. The reason behind this can be seen in the notion that the emotional strata of the human mind can scarcely be satisfied without gloss and exaggeration.

The verses of the Qur'an stand wholly apart from this brand of mainstream literature. Nothing but the truth is entertained therein. But they are capable of maintaining a high literary standard while yet satisfying the intellect of man. Undoubtedly, this has been so because they proceed from the Omniscient Entity who is best aware of the human mind.


4. The Qur'an keeps up a high literary standard right from the beginning to the very end.
We say that a poem is beautiful on the basis that a few lines in it are actually so. All the lines of the poem need not, necessarily, be of that type. A writer is said to possess a high standing on the basis of a few of his literary works alone. His other literary works need not, necessarily, possess that standard. Indeed, each individual will have a particular age and particular circumstances under the inspiration of which his composed literary work will be of great merit. This is because the writer is influenced by age, environment and even climate.
All the verses of the Qur'an consistently maintain a high literary value. It is impossible for anyone to say with confidence that even one among the six thousand and more verses of the Qur'an are of a low standing. The Qur'an was revealed over a long period of twenty three years of the prophetic mission under differing circumstances. If it was, indeed, the work of the prophet himself, the quality which it presented would have changed according to the mental state of the prophet under the influence of varying circumstances. However, each verse of the Qur'an actually competes with its every other verse. This has been so because it is from the Almighty Himself.


5. Even when the Qur'an describes the same subject more than once, it, nevertheless, maintains a high standard on each occasion.
In the ordinary works of literature, when the same subject is described more than once, the beauy of the first depiction is lost in the second. It can be seen that an aversion to monotony becomes evident in the words of the writer as well as in the mind of the one who takes delight in the work. This is so because man - no matter how great a man of letters he might be - is constrained by the limitations of a fundamental nature which are inherent in him.

The Qur'an, however, does repeat a number of times and, that too, about a number of issues. In fact, the Qur'an repeatedly deals with topics such as creation, death, life after death, the descriptions on the greatness of God, the necessity of making all worship due unto Him alone and the like. But each time that it is repeated it appears to the listener with a feeling of newness and with the indicative strains of change and reminder within his mind. This is so because it has been revealed by that highest Entity who is far above any limitations.

6. Even though the topics dealt with in the Qur'an are such as cannot be handled by literary works, it has successfully managed to preserve that high standard, so characteristic of it, in every such issue while maintaining intact the ever accompanying beauty and grandeur of depiction.
From the viewpoint of the man of letters issues like life after death, the existence of God, rituals, legal decrees, prohibitions and commands, the encouragement towards virtue, truthful historical documentation are all dry and barren topics. The general notion, therefore, is that literature does not become meaningful when used to deal with such and similar topics. For, indeed, these are not the subjects in which the fanciful flights of imagination can he given a free hand. It is for this reason that all literary works that have dealt with such issues have not been known to possess an international reputation. Indeed, it is again the limitations of man that becomes evident here. The subject matter of the Qur'an, on the other hand, chiefly consists of such topics. Nevertheless, they maintain a lofty standard and are able to provide the one, who takes delight in them , with contentment of mind. This is so becuase it has been revealed by the Lord Creater who is above, and beyond, all matter itself.


7. The Qur'an is able to sustain its linguistic beauty even when it shifts from one subject to another.
Even when in a single literary work, there occurs a shift from one subject to another, it is oftentimes not possible to maintain the same standard as was done upto the portion when the shift occurred. The clarity with which the ideas form in the mind of the writer of literature when he deals with one subject is, however, dimmed when he begins to talk about the next subject. This is becuase new ideas take time to form and shine forth. In fact, this is like entrusting a man, who had been performing one task efficiently, suddenly with another task. This, too, is a general shortcoming in man.
In the Qur'an, too, there is a constant and persistent shift from subject to subject throughout its pages. Nevertheless, there is evident, therein, neither a loss in its clarity nor any damage to its beauty and majesty of presentation. This is so because it is from the Almighty Himself.


8. The Qur'an is a book which presents ideas pregnant with meaning and that too, with an economy of words that does not, in any way result in the loss of beauty and eloquence of description.
The ordinary works of literature contains but oceans of words ; the pearls of idea are, however, very few indeed. As for the works that were written to highlight lofty concepts, they constitute a virtual jugglery with words. Every writer will have his own idea as to the variety of methods by which the concepts in his mind are to be conveyed to the reader. As this idea is the writer’s very own, the reader might feel that many of the expressions used are unnecessary. An expression which is felt to be unnecessary by one reader will be seen as indispensable in the view of another. In order to please everybody, therefore, he will be forced to employ a large number of words. The reason for this is man’s own inability in reading the thoughts of others.
As for the Qur'an, only the most indispensable of words have been used. The idea that it wishes to convey to the one who recites it is amply communicated with the use of these words alone. The Qur'an is thus a book that employs the most limited number of words to express even the grandest of ideas and that too in a fashion which leaves any reader - no matter which the type - satisfied. This is so because it has been revealed by Him who is best aware of the intricacies of the human mind.


9. Judging by any of the standards in literary appreciation, the Qur'an remains a work of literature that is in the highest category. All works of literature are meant to appease one or the other of man’s emotions, like sorrow, joy, pity, mercy, hatred, opposition and the like. Similarly, it is difficult to find radiance, sweetness, beauty and majesty of presentation, together in a single work of literature. It is only through any one of the aspects of literature that literary works may be judged and appreciated.It is not possible to create a work of literature that includes, within itself, in equal measure, all ingredients of the ideal. This, too, is the limitation of man.

The Qur'an, however, touches all the chords of human emotion. It contains verses that serve to make one happy as well as sorrowful; to make of man one with compassion and mercy; the verses in it are capable of generating hatred and opposition. Furthermore, it prompts the human intellect into a position of functional efficiency. The aesthetic peculiarities of literature like radiance, sweetness, beauty and charm are combined together in a potent form within the Qur'an. Conforming to the lofty of literary style in which it is composed, it can be seen to have achieved the highest standard indeed.


10. The style, usages, method, and concepts in the Qur'an have not been borrowed from any.
No matter how fundamental a work any literature may turn out to be, the style and wordings of other writers will be seen to have influenced it. This is but natural. For it is impossible for a person to produce a work of literature without being influenced by the writings of the predecessors However, it must be noted that plagiarism or direct copying is not that which is meant here. It is only the influence of style and ideas that is indicated here. And without that no writing, whatsoever, is possible. This is the limitation of the human mind. Indeed, man is he who learns from his predecessors and then develops upon that learning.

The Qur'an, on the other hand, is completely free of this borrowing. The Qur'an has not borrowed for itself the style, form, method or ideas of any in the world of Arabic literature. In fact, there is no influence, whatsoever, of the writings of any other on the Qur'an. The Qur'an is, by all standards, a work of the most fundamental kind. This is so because it has been revealed from the Owner of all knowledge who is Himself free of the confines and limitations of any kind.
 


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lt is said that literature becomes truly meaningful when the winds of change blow hard within the mind of the listener. In this light can it be said that the Qur'an is a work of great literary merit?

Tauraat is the scripture that was given to Moosa (a). Similarly, the Zaboor and the Injeel are the books that were given to Dawood (a) and Isa (a). The Qur'an introduces the scriptures as those that were revealed by the Lord Creator Himself. "It was We who revealed the Tarah (to Moses): therein was guidance and light." (5:44)

"And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light." (5:46)

From this it is abundantly clear that these scriptures were all in fact, revealed by the Lord Creator Himself. But this is not the case with the books of the Bible. They were all written centuries after the messengers. Indeed, there is extant not even a single book in the Bible which can reasonably be believed to have been revealed to the messengers. It is the traditional belief of the Jews that Moses (a), himself, had written the Pentateuch (Torah); not that it was revealed by God. However, modern research indicates that even the traditional belief that Moses had written the Pentateuch is, in itself, baseless. It is the opinion of the scholars that since the death of Moses, and the events that followed his death, have been described in the Pentateuch (Deuteronomy 34:5-10), it can never be that Moses (a) had written the book himself. Similar is the case of the Book of Psalms. In actual fact, there is not in it, a single Psalm that can be authoritatively said to have been written by David. In the Gospels, too, although there is mention, therein, of the true Gospel of God which Jesus had actually preached (Mark 1:14,15), there is no clear picture about this Gospel in the four accounts in the Bible. As for the Gospel in the New testament, it was written at least five decades after Jesus. The gospels give but vastly differing and contradictory accounts of the life of Jesus. It is now clear that none of these was the true scripture that was revealed to Jesus. In short, therefore, even though the various books of the Bible do quote certain ideas from the Tauraat, the Zaboor and the Injeel, it cannot be said that they are present in the Bible in all their fullness and purity.

 


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Can it be said that the Qur'an is a Divine scripture simply on the ground of it being a work of great literary merit?

It is not possible to say that any book is Divine simply because it is of a high literary standard. Even as it is not possible to recognize as prophets all those who change into a serpent a stick by dropping it to the ground, so is it that there exists a fundamental difference between Divine signs and human trickery. the fact’s that Divine signs challenge all the capabilities of man. Indeed, no amount of human trickery can seek to stand above it, matter how meaningful they can be. Even as the serpent of Moses swallowed up all the snakes of the other magicians, so, too, will Divine signs ever remain as a challenge to all, and every, trickery of man. That, for one thing, is a certainity.

The Qur'an does maintain a high literary standard and influencing the mind of man. Along with that, it puts forth an unparalleled challenge to mankind. This challenge is but to produce a writing that is similar to its own.

Against this challenge, however, all the other works of literature stand as helpless as the illusory snakes of the magicians before the serpent of Moses.

The Qur'an had first issued forth the challenge to bring a book like its own. The Qur'an said: "Say: ‘If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.’" (17:88)

All the Arab men of letters had bowed down before the challenge of the Qur'an to bring a book that was similar to it. Despite this, the Qur'an further challenged those who alleged that it was but forgery and witch craft: "or do they say that he has forged it? Then bring forth ten verses like thereunto. And call forth your partners besides Allah to help you thereof. If ye, indeed, speak the truth." (10:18)
None amongst its contemporaries were able to meet the challenge of the Qur'an to bring forth ten verses like its own and to prove that it was man-made as was made out by the allegations against it. But the disbelievers never ended the propaganda that Muhammad (pbuh) had written the Qur'an. To this, the Qur'an further said: "Or do they say, "He forged it"? Say: "Bring then a Sura like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, besides Allah, if it be ye speak the truth!"" (10:38)

It was not possible for any of the men of literature who lived in those times, to meet any one of those challenges. Many among them, in fact, tried, failed and withdrew. The Qur'an is to be a lasting sign for all mankind up to the Last Day. As such, it repeated once more that challenge: "And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witness or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if ye are truthful. But if ye cannot - and of a surety ye cannot - then fear the Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, which is prepared for those who reject Faith." (2:23,24)


The challenge made here is that excepting for God Himself, if all in the world were to gather together for the sole purpose of composing a work that would equal even the smallest chapter of the Qur'an, they would not succeed in their endeavour. The veterans of Arabic literature could not answer this challenge. That challenge remains very much open to the world of today also. Indeed, the challenge of the Qur'an continues to ever resound within the ears of humanity. Unlike the language of the other religious scriptures the language of the Qur'an is never a lifeless one. On the contrary, it has remained very much a language that is at the same time living, vibrant and spoken today. There are quite a large number of non Muslims who speak the Arabic language. There are also the Arabic speaking men of letters who are, in themselves, the hardest opponents of Islam. But none of them has been able to give a convincing reply to the challenge posed by the Qur'an. Nor will they be able to do so in the future either.

If the Qur'an was merely a human work of literature, it would not have been possible for it to throw open such a challenge.
How, indeed, will any sane person dare to proclaim that even if all of mankind were to join together for the purpose, they would never be able to bring forth a single chapter to compare with even the smallest of his own work?
Indeed, it is in this challenge that the superhuman nature of the Qur'an finds its most lasting and clearest expression. By implication then, had it not been for this challenge a superhuman status could never be attributed solely to the Qur'anic literature even as is the case with any other literary work.

Is not the Qur'an a literary creation like every other incomparable work of literature that form the magnum opus of each language? Is not the challenge in the Qur'an as futile as every other challenge that calls for the creation of another like it?
There is not, in the English language, another body of dramatic literature that can vie with the plays of shakespeare. In the German language, the works of Goethe and Schillec are at the very pinnacle of German literature. In Persian, Hafiz and Rumi are without equal. In Sanskrit it is the Rigveda which is peerless in its own right. Indeed, there have been masterpieces in each and every language. In the Arabic language, too, has there been the highest works of literature but it is into a wholly different class that the form, style and contents of the Qur'an falls. The dramas of Shakespeare, the works of Goethe and Homer; all fall into the category of fiction and entertainment literature. They have merely served to appease the human emotions alone.

The verses of the Qur'an, while providing for aesthetic fulfillment, also serve to create transformation. Along with joy it provides for peace; through parables it conveys lessons. The Qur'an`s is not the way of compulsion from without. It is more the way of impulsion from within; of persuasion in the way of deeds. The verses of the Qur'an seek to provide satisfaction of emotions, thereby, making people the very personification of sound, decisive action. The verses pertaining to the prohibition of intoxicants (5:90-91) is a case in point. Those who first heard of these verses had straightaway sought to put those commandments into practice in their very lives. Indeed, this was the reason why rivulets of wine flowed red in the streets of Madinah. This was truly a transformation which would never have been achieved by the literary works accomplished by man. This was not the case of one individual; nor yet of a thousand. To so change the lives of hundreds of thousands in such away as to penetrate into the very core of their hearts and to make of them a people who follow the same rites in unison, is to achieve what is well and beyond the means of human ability. It is for the Lord Creator alone, who is best aware of the rhythm, and subtleties of the human mind to author such a Book.


Examine the works of literature that is extant in any language. It is only against the  backdrop of the language and knowledge that prevailed in the age in which it was written that we speak of the literary nature of the work. However, the languages of none among them are living languages today. The English of Shakespeare as well as the Sanskrit of the Rigveda: both are not living languages today. These languages were, in fact, subject to several stages of the evolutionary process. The language and beauty of the Qur'an is, however, wholly different from these. Even after the passage of fourteen centuries since its revelation the Arabic of the Qur'an has continued to exist as the standard language among the Arabs. That the Divine language, like the Divine law, withstood the ravages of fourteen centuries is, in itself, a superhuman portent. Indeed, it will be only those, who are learned in the evolution of languages and in the changes to which other languages have been subject over the past fourteen centuries, will truly grasp this unique and astonishing feature of the Qur'an.

In truth, the other works of literature are in no worthy of comparison with the Qur'an. They were all the creations of particular circumstances; all were the works of compromise with the prevailing situation of time; works that were written with the sole purpose of entertaining people. As for the Qur'an it was revealed but to move the masses. That such a book should entertain is but a remote possibility.

The verses of the Qur'an adapt themselves, at one and the same time, to the conditions prevailing at the time of its revelations as also with the conditions that may prevail in any other age. To entertain in a supeficial way has never been the objective of the Qur'an. However, the Qur'anic verses do offer contentment and peace to the mind even while the mind is wonderstruck by the sheer majesty of its contents.
What makes the Qur'an distinct from all the other books is the challenge that it poses to all and sundry. The writers of other books never had the courage to challenge all to bring forward a book like their own; nor will they ever have it in future either. Who can ever judge the ability of another? It is simply because none can do so that such a challenge can be issued by none other than the Almighty Creator Himself. Indeed, no other literary work of an international standing has ever issued such a challenge.

In short, therefore, none of the other books of literature are worthy even of the comparison with the Qur'an.

 


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