Or they may say, “He forged it,” Say, “Bring then ten suras forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsoever you can, other than Allah!- If you speak the truth! (Holy Qur’an 11:13)
I have often looked at the challenge to make something like the Holy Qur’an. I am more than convinced that this is not even a fair challenge to begin with. In fact I do not think it is a challenge at all. I believe that Allah (swt) was giving a rhetorical lesson for the Arabs in the time of the Blessed Messenger (saw).
There ere are many issues that we in the Muslim community would have to grapple with when dealing with the ‘produce something like it‘ challenge.
However, those who take the hadith literature along side the Holy Qur’an as an authority have an even deeper hole to dig out of.
Here are the issues that we all would have to deal with.
#1) Was the order to make something like the Holy Qur’an going from greater amount of verses required to lesser; or from lesser amount of verses required to greater?
This is very important. Logically one would assume the challenge would be a proverbial ‘line in the sand so to speak’. That is that initially the challenge would be to produce 10 surahs like the Holy Qur’an . However, when this is not met the challenge is than to produce a single surah. Once this challenge is also not met than to produce a recital the like of the Holy Qur’an.
These are the relevant challenge passages under consideration.
“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.” (Holy Qur’an 17:88)
“Or do they say, “He fabricated the (Message)”? Nay, they have no faith!Let them then produce a recital like unto it,- If (it be) they speak the truth!” (Holy Qur’an 52:33-34)
“And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like it; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true.” (Holy Qur’an 2:23)
“This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book – wherein there is no doubt – from the Lord of the worlds. 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!” (Holy Qur’an 10:37-38)
“Or they may say, “He forged it,” Say, “Bring you then ten suras forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsoever ye can, other than Allah!- If you speak the truth!” (Holy Qur’an 11:13)
So logically it would make sense that the challenge would go from demanding a greater quantity to a lesser quantity of Qur’an be produced. If we are to imagine the opposite than this would be rather embarrassing. To think that the divine would challenge a group of humans only to have them meet the divine challenge only to be issued a challenge of greater complexity just seems rather embarrassing.
The truth of the matter is that it is hard to understand which verses came in which order issuing the challenge. The Para-Qur’an Muslims will resort to secondary sources to resolve the matter. The Sola-Qur’an Muslims really have nothing to draw upon other than logic or inference.
#2) The second issue one with have to deal with and perhaps more serious is who would be the judge in such a contest?
Would a Muslim judge honestly say that someone made something like the Holy Qur’an? What would happen to both the Holy Qur’an -the foundation of Islam if a Muslim judge were to admit that someone was able to do just that? Such an admission would be the downfall of our faith. Thus, even for me I find it very difficult to believe that any Muslim judge would be fair and partial on the matter.
Would a Non-Muslim judge be fair and partial on the issue of rather or not someone made something like the Holy Qur’an? Let us say that some non-Muslim orientalist (that are respected in the Muslim community) said ”Yes indeed, someone has made something like the Holy Qur’an”.) What real weight would such a person carry in the Muslim community? Wouldn’t he/she simply be dismissed as the opinions of a biased orientalist, no matter how well their intentions were?
The Holy Qur’an itself does not really give any criteria on what one would have to do in order to meet such a challenge. For example, if I said that Jesse Owens was able to jump 6 meters and all you had to do was have your champion to jump exactly 6 meters or more to meet my challenge than this is very clear. So what happens in the case of the Holy Qur’an is that the criteria to make something like the Holy Qur’an would be left up to Muslim theologians; and they themselves may differ on the essentials needed to make such a list.
This gets even more problematic when we consider the following two points.
Accordingly to the Muslim traditionalist when the Holy Qur’an was being compiled they needed testimony from other people to confirm that what they had was indeed the Holy Qur’an. This is extremely odd in light of the challenge of the Holy Qur’an to produce something like it. Wouldn’t the companions of the Blessed Messenger (saw) , and those who were most intimate with the Holy Qur’an be able to recognize what is and what is not Holy Qur’an simply based upon the contents?
Umar said: Who ever received anything regarding the Quran from the Prophet (peace be upon him) then let him bring it. And they used to write it on the manuscripts and boards and date palmed stalks. He said that nothing would be accepted from anyone until two witnesses testify to it. “And this points out that Zayd was not satisfied with only finding it written down until someone testified that he heard it, even though Zayd himself had memorized it, and they used to take this extra precaution in order to be more cautious.And Abu Dawud contained a narration on the authority of Hisham bin Arwa that his father said that Abu Bakr said to Umar and Zayd: Sit down on the door of the Mosque and whoever of two witnesses come to you regarding the Quran then write it down’. The men of this narration are trustworthy despite the chain being broken, and the intended meaning regarding two witnesses was memorization and writing, or it meant that they both testify that what was written down was actually written down under the authority of the Messenger peace be upon him, or it meant that they both testify that it was sent down as Quranic revelation.And it was their way that nothing was written down except that they receive what was written down during the time of the Prophet peace be upon him and not just from memorization. (Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani, Fathul Bari, Kitab: Fadaa’il Al Qur’aan, Bab: Jami’ Al Qur’aan, Commentary on Hadith no. 4603,)
I would like to call the attention of the reader to the line above “or it meant that they both testify that it was sent down as Qur’anic revelation.” So are we to understand that if someone brought 10 surahs or even one surah alone as an individual without anyone else testifying to it, or any recorded revelation that it would not be known rather or not that it was indeed revelation?
That these people themselves would not be able to identify something as the Holy Qur’an simply based upon its eloquence and all other features that make it inimitable is truly a bit troubling. Surely this is cause for reflection.
Secondly we are told that the Blessed Messenger (saw) had a lapse in which he thought something was the Holy Qur’an but it was not. The incident of the so called ‘Satanic verses‘.
The following information comes from Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad.
You can find the information here: http://www.sunnipath.com/library/Articles/AR00000251.aspx
Here is the section that really stand out in the above link
7. Ibn Hajar in Fath al-Bari, 1959 ed. vol. 8:
[p. 439] All the paths of this hadith are either weak or cut off, except for that of Sa`id ibn Jubayr… However, the profusion of the chains show that the story has a basis, furthermore, there are two other “mursal” chains whose narrators are those of Bukhari and Muslim. The first one is that narrated by al-Tabari through Yunus ibn Yazid from Ibn Shihab [al-Zuhri]: “Abu Bakr ibn `Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham narrated to me,” etc. The second is what al-Tabari also narrated through al-Mu`tamir ibn Sulayman and Hammad ibn Salama from Dawud ibn Abi Hind from Abu al-`Aliya…. Contrary to what Abu Bakr ibn al-`Arabi and al-Qadi `Iyad have claimed whereby the story has no basis at all…. When the paths of a hadith are many and distinct, it shows that the report has a basis.… So, as I said, there are three sound but ‘mursal’ chains for it, among them what meets the criteria of the two Sahihs but for the fact that they are ‘mursal’. These constitute proof for both those that accept ‘mursal’ reports as proofs and those that do not, due to the mutual strengthening of the chains.
This said, it is required to interpret the incident and address what appears to be reprehensible, namely the statement “the devil interjected upon the Prophet’s tongue – Allâh bless and greet him – the words ‘Those are the elevated cranes: truly their intercession is dearly hoped.'” Such a thing is precluded from being accepted in literal terms for it is impossible for the Prophet – Allâh bless and greet him – to add something to the Qur’ân that does not belong to it whether deliberately (`amdan) or erroneously (sahwan). ..”
It is interesting and yet unfortunate that someone of the caliber of Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani (may Allah have mercy on him) found that the story had a basis. However, equally unfortunate is the tendency among the Shi’a and many Sunni Muslims (especially among the various rival Sufi paths) to explain away any event that would otherwise be embarrassing to their doctrine. In this case the idea that Satan’s words could be interpolated upon the tongue of the Blessed Messenger (saw) would do allot to bring down the lofty and untouchable status of the many Sufi Shaykhs that revel in being surrounded by sycophants.
Though I have digressed from the topic at hand, a couple of interesting points about Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad in the above article.
His subtle endorsement of a Salafi publication. Namely the following:
– Al-Gharaniq: Qissatun Dakhilatun `ala al-Sirati al-Nabawiyya (“The Cranes: A Story Interpolated into the Prophetic Sira”) by Albani’s student Salih Ahmad al-Shami, 1st ed. 1998.
This shows to me a number of things about Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad as a person and student/teacher of knowledge.
a) As a Sufi devotee he was not comfortable with the story about Satan interjecting words into the mouth/heart/mind of the Blessed Messenger (saw). It obviously troubled him which is a good sign for you small fries (like me) reading this. If someone of the stature of Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad can be troubled in his heart over such traditional sources of information than do not for one moment feel awful because you second guess traditional conclusions.
b) So uncomfortable was Shaykh Gibril over traditional sources he did the exact same thing that I do here at Prima-Qur’an. That is, to see how different Muslims groups would try and tackle a difficult a subject. After all Allah (swt) gives knowledge and wisdom to whom he pleases. It seems that the respected Shaykh Gibril understands this well.
c) Shaykh Gibril Fouad Haddad is over all an excellent and objective researcher. He is willing to endorse arguments and presentations that are well thought out and researched; even if they go against the scholastic tradition that he holds to. This means to me he is a person of immense character.
Any way let me continue on with the entry.
In the above article the following realization should be upon those who uphold the hadith above or along side the Holy Qur’an.
That if even Satan himself can craft up some words and slip them in upon the tongue of a Messenger of Allah (swt) without the Messenger of Allah (swt) realizing it than this challenge to make something like the Holy Qur’an would seem to be without any judges that could be fair and partial.
This whole incident tells us that ultimately only Allah (swt) can know what constitutes his verses and what do not. This is not a feat achievable by human beings.
On another note let me bring forth a verse from the Holy Qur’an that absolutely shatters the idea that the Blessed Messenger (saw) could be under the control of or vexed by Satan.
“And Satan will say when the matter is decided: “It was Allah Who gave you a promise of Truth: I too promised, but I failed in my promise to you. I had no power over you except to call you but you listened to me: then reproach not me, but reproach your own souls. I cannot listen to your cries, nor can you listen to mine. I reject your former act in associating me with Allah. For wrong-doers there must be a grievous penalty.” (Holy Qur’an 14:22)
#4) Lastly we do not have all the ahruf of the Holy Qur’an.
I would point the reader to the following article:
There is not a shaykh or scholar in all of Islam there is not a single orientalist that can give to us the 7 ahruf. Nor can they tell us what constitutes the contents of these 7 ahruf.
This is important for the Para-Qur’an Muslims who hold ahadith and other extraneous sources along side and even above the Holy Qur’an in weight and authority.
Why is it important? In order to meet the challenge of the Holy Qur’an it would be fair to know what one was up against. The challenge does not state to make something like the Holy Qur’an in ahruf or 3 or 7. Now of course the Para-Qur’an Muslims could say, they just have to make something like the Holy Qur’an, in the hafs recitation. That is sufficient. Yet, the problem with this is that the verses that contain the challenge say nothing of the kind!
But that is not the point. The point is that if you want to hold to traditions that state we have 7 versions of the Holy Qur’an than in order for someone to meet the challenge of making something like the Holy Qur’an it would only be fair to have all the available versions to assess and analyze the grammatical structure, syntax, idioms, etc. and so forth.
In the end putting one’s trust in the ahadith literature as a source equal in authority and weight to divine revelation will only put Muslims in situations that are frankly untenable.