Make something like the Qur’an? Is it a fair challenge in light of the hadith literature?




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!  (Qur’an 11:13)

I have often looked at the challenge to make something like the Qur’an.   I am more than convinced that this is a subjective challenge and I will lay out my reasons. 

  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 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 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.


Was the order to make something like the 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 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 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.” (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!” (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.” (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!” (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!” (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  to be produced.  The scholars who hold the opposite view that it goes from lesser quantity to greater quantity have not explained why this would  not be rather embarrassing. To think that the divine would challenge a group of humans only to have them meet a certain threshold  only to be issued yet another 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 traditionalist Muslims will resort to secondary sources to resolve the matter.  The followers of the Quran Only religion really have nothing to draw upon other than logic or inference.



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 Qur’an?  What would happen to both the 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 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 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 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 Qur’an is that the criteria to make something like the 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.

point a)

Accordingly to the Muslim traditionalist when the Qur’an was being compiled they needed testimony from other people to confirm that what they had was indeed the Qur’an.  This is extremely odd in light of the challenge of the Qur’an to produce something like it.  Wouldn’t the companions of the Blessed Messenger (saw), and those who were most intimate with the Qur’an be able to recognize what is and what is not 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 brokenand 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 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.


point b)

Secondly we are told that the Blessed Messenger (saw) had a lapse in which he thought something was the 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:

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. Hence his reliance upon Salafi sources. 

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 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 Qur’an would seem to be without any judges that could be fair and partial.

This whole incident (if we are to believe it) leads us to believe 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 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.” (Qur’an 14:22)



Lastly we do not have all the ahruf of the Qur’an.

I would point the reader to the following article: (Salafi/Deobandi) in Orientation.


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 Qur’an in weight and authority.

Why is it important?

 In order to meet the challenge of the Qur’an it would be fair to know what one was up against.  

The challenge does not state to make something like the 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 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!

However, that is not the point. The point is that if you want to hold to traditions that state we have 7 versions of the Qur’an than in order for someone to meet the challenge of making something like the Qur’an it would only be fair to have all the available Qur’an in the various transmissions to assess and analyze the grammatical structure, syntax, idioms, etc. and so forth.

“to assess and analyze the grammatical structure, syntax, idioms, etc. and so forth.” Which is problematic. No one has laid down the criteria of what the challenge would entail. 

In Summary:

We do not know what the challenge would entail. 

Scholars are not unified if the challenge is to make something greater going to lesser quantity or lesser than greater quantity. Logic dictates the first option. 

We do not know who would be the unbiased judges or panelist that would decide if the criteria would be met. On the one hand it allows for bravado and chest thumping on behalf of those who simply claim, ‘You don’t know the Arabic’.  So it is a win for Muslims. 

On the other hand it does little to convince non Muslims. I have personally yet to meet a single Muslim convert that was convinced by this argumentation.

Alas, there are millions of Arab Christians in places like Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq etc. They hear the Qur’an in shopping malls, in taxi’s recited methodically from the Masjids through out their lives. How many of them have converted to Islam based upon this challenge? 


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.

When presenting the case for the Qur’an, often, we as Muslims shift the discussion away from the Qur’an into a discussion about the case for Islam. To me that might be the best approach.  Allah (swt) knows best and the help of Allah (swt) is sought. 


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5 responses to “Make something like the Qur’an? Is it a fair challenge in light of the hadith literature?

  1. Mohammed Nafeez

    As salaamu alaikum dear brother

    The last couple of paragrpahs have left me somewhat confused on your position on the various ahadith mentioning the 7 ahruf. In a much earlier post regarding the position of Prima Quran and in connection with the matter you stated:

    “#9) We accept all the Qir’at and Ahruf of the Holy Qur’an as being divine inspiration.”

    Yet in the last couple of paragraphs it seems as though you are more skepticle of these narrations and the various different ahruf. Has your position changed or was it me taking away unintended inferences from your composition?

    Was Salaam

    • Bismillah,

      walakum salaam wr wb, Dear respected Mohammed Nafeez.

      You are correct and it is something that I need to amend and will put in the emendations, and corrections section.

      I am not certain if there are different ahruf of the Holy Qur’an in light of some recent research and findings.

      However, let us assume for the sake of discussion that I did; where would I find them? Where would anyone find them?

      So the challenge to make something like the Holy Qur’an would only truly be fair in light of the hadith literature, if these 7 versions of the Holy Qur’an were available so that one maybe able to analyze and understand the underlying structure, word form, grammar and syntax in order to be able to possibly meet the challenge.

      Hopefully this helps.

      • Mohammed Nafeez

        As Salaamu alaikum again,

        Would be interesting to hear your thoughts on the matter in the form of an article so that perhaps I could fully engage with it.

        From my part I am inclined to agree with the narrations concerning the seven ahruf due largely to the fact that it is clearly established that there are various different readings of the Quran which are accepted by a vast majority of Muslims today (naturally as Sunni Islam comprise the bulk of Muslims). Anyway, just so we’re on the same page I would encourage you to read the relevant section in the translation of Mufti Taqi Usmani’s Book “An Approach to the Quranic Sciences” here (chapter 3 The Seven Readings of the Quran):

        I know you have engaged with some material from the book concerning Abrogation but truth be told it is one of the weaker sections of the Book. The section regarding the 7 different Ahruf and their relation to the various readings (qira’ah) is well reasearched (from a traditional perspective of course) and fairly thoroughly deals with the issue. Although I do have some minor qualms with him trying to deal with every single narration in regards to this when some of them would be better off dismissed as unauthentic.

        Anyway the point being if you do not accept the narrations concerning the 7 ahruf than where do the various readings come from? I have come accross basically 2 ways to deal with this issue:

        1. The Quran has reached us through mass transmission. Therefore any reading disagreeing with the majority reading (i.e. Hafs with 95%) is simply dismissed. Why? Because Allah the most High promised to preserve the Quran (oversimplification alert).

        My issue with this first line of thinking is that it clearly dismisses the history of Quranic transmission from the time the 7/10 readings were canonised. Most research has indicated that there were various readings during this time and that the 7/10 chosen to be canonised represented the ones prevailing in major parts of the Muslim world and which also had established chains of narration. Whether you wish to agree or not that these chains of narration were mutawatir is irrelevant. The fact is the various readings existed and I have yet to come accross any research that shows the didnt exist at that time. The fact that Hafs has been adopted as the widespread reading was merely a subject of circumstances and not that the Muslims have predominantly accepted it as the official rendering. To believe this would be akin to reading history with ones conclusions already drawn beforehand. It is historically inaccurate and I am not aware of any research which indicates this. It is one thing to dismiss all the orthodox (read sunni) literarue concerning these variants as spurious, yet no historical evidence has been advanced to show that the various readings didn’t exist and that the Muslim on the whole were supposedly united on what is now considered as Hafs.

        2. The second way of dealing with this is to agree that there are variants but that these variants do not necessary go against the Quranic claim to be safe guarded from corruption. This is more plausible and in fact a lot of Orientalist reserach has shown that the difference in at least two of the qira’ah available in print form viz Warsh & Hafs are minimal and mostly to do with minor graphical variations or variations in vocalisation. Even in the few instances where there have been differences in meaning it is only within the immediate context and supposedly does not effect the entire Muslim thought.

        Just curious is to what your thoughts are? You may well have a 3rd explanation and I would definately appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the matter.

        Was Salaam

        p.s. sorry I know I haven’t provided references and have made blanket statements such as the ones suggesting there are no studies showing these variations didn’t exist. Pardon me as I was in a rush and haven’t thoroughly researched the matter. If you found otherwise please do share your references with us 🙂 As I said I am keen to hear your thoughts.

  2. Raskolnikov Seeking Redemption

    Salaam Alaykum Dear Brother,

    Firstly, I wish you a blessed Shahr Ramadhan Mubarak. May the Lord of Mercy Bless you, your loved ones, accept your fasts and prayers and always watch over you and your loved ones. May the Untaught Knower increase you in knowledge, wisdom and all that is good.

    I just want to say that I love you for the sake of Allah (sincerely). I love you because you are committed to the primacy of God’s Word and are not arrogantly dismissive of the rich tradition (including the corpus of hadith) of Islam. You simply oppose the placing of dubious words, some that are clearly attributed in a false manner to our Beloved Prophet (Infinite Salaams be Upon Him and His Progeny), over and above the Holy Quran.

    Just to be clear, I identify with Twelver Shi’i theology (in general not absolute terms) and their general take on Islamic history. However, I don’t ever want to be a sectarian fanatic. Lord knows I’ve been through that dark and nafsee phase (been through Salafism and Sufism too) and I ask Him to protect me from any outbreaks of resurgent sectarian atavism.

    I’m absolutely hooked on the treasure trove of information and reasoned (plus humble) arguments and facts that you present on this site. It’s a real blessing from Allah, in this Holy Month, for me to find this.

    I’m at the stage where I want to take the good things (it’s a subjective call as to what I find ‘good’ in the end) from the various sects of Islam, and to leave the ‘bad’ (again another subjective call on my part). Your Prima Quran position is a wonderful, illuminating aid on my journey. Your position actually strengthens my imaan. It really resonates in my heart (I can’t thank you enough).

    Honestly, I don’t mean to say that my sectarian biases are now confirmed (that would be contra to the spirit and aims of what you write), just that I feel a sense of further liberation from a mind-set of blind and foolish partisanship. Your work helps me on this journey. Your aim of going back to the essential way of the early Muslims (not in the ahistorical Salafi sense) prior to the civil war is so noble, that I pray Allah gives you the highest level of Jannah.

    Your are more of a brother to me than a sectarian Twelver fanatic. The greatest gift that you’ve given me is the realisation of how far from the Quran I have been (am). That’s a great gift to bestow (by the grace of The One).

    Theology has come first and from there hadith have followed, some true but so many false. I choose Allah and His Messenger (Peace be Upon Him and His Progeny) above theology.

    With love and duas.

  3. Pingback: “My ordeal with the Qur’an” part 2 | Prima Quran

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