Some Muslims claim the Quran itself is perfectly written, and since they claim Muhammad was illiterate, the Quran must be written by Allah. This rather strange claim is related to what is known as the Quran Challenge.
Surat Al-Baqarah 2:23 reads, “And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah , if you should be truthful.” This so-called “challenge” has been met by countless individuals through the ages who have produced Arabic poetry similar to that found in the Quran, most notably 11th century Syrian philosopher and skeptic Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri. But Muslims reject this and any other attempt to meet their so-called “challenge.” The reason for this is obvious.
Who determines if the challenge is met? Muslims? Is there really any Muslim on earth whose faith is so weak they would stop believing in Allah simply because someone wrote something similar to what is found in the Quran? This “challenge” then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby Muslims will say anything written before or after the Quran which meets this so-called “challenge” is not enough like the Quran. This is a matter of subjective literary opinion.
Some claim the Quran contains poetry unlike that found anywhere else. I personally prefer Walt Whitman or Robert Frost, but the Bible contains poetry much like what is found in the Quran. The entire book of Psalms is poetry. There is even poetry in Exodus and Numbers. In fact, the Quran acknowledges its challenge has already been met by Moses.
Surat Al-Qaşaş 28:49-50 reads, “But when the truth came to them from Us, they said, ‘Why was he not given like that which was given to Moses?’ Did they not disbelieve in that which was given to Moses before? They said, ‘[They are but] two works of magic supporting each other, and indeed we are, in both, disbelievers.’ Say, ‘Then bring a scripture from Allah which is more guiding than either of them that I may follow it, if you should be truthful.’”
So here we have the poetry and prose of Muhammad being compared to that of Moses, whereby that of Moses is implied to be superior, and the challenge is altered to request anything “more guiding” and “from Allah.” Well, who is to say what is from Allah and what’s not? Muhammad claimed to be the last prophet but so did Joseph Smith. There is no evidence the Quran is from Allah. If poetry is to be our standard for meeting that burden of proof then one might just as well say any random Radiohead album is from Allah. The Quran apparently isn’t even a good guide considering the nations which have adopted it are some of the most technologically and socially backwards nations on earth.
The Dalai Lama has said, “If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” I personally find this to be “more guiding.” Depending on any particular person’s subjective perspective, the writings and statements of Carl Sagan, Karl Popper, Confucius, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lao Tzu, Aristotle, Epicurus, Thomas Paine or Martin Luther King Jr. could all be considered “more guiding.”
Muslim Grammar Nazi
Some claim the Quran contains perfect grammar. But numerous grammatical errors are noted here, here and here. Even if the Quran was absent any grammatical errors, so what? There are thousands of books without grammatical errors. That doesn’t mean they were authored by a god speaking though an angel to the person who actually put pen to paper.
Muhammad didn’t write the Quran anyway so it doesn’t matter if he was or wasn’t illiterate. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, ordered the compilation now known as “The Quran” after Muhammad died in 632 CE. This compilation was gathered from the writings of Muhammad’s followers who had written some of it on leaves, leather, bones, stones and cloth. Some of it was recorded only according to what his followers remembered. The writings were then put in the order they appear in today. But Arabic grammar was ambiguous at the time due in part to the lack of dots denoting proper pronunciation. Thus when copies of this text were produced in Arabic and other languages, variations became abundant. The third Caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, ordered a council in 650 CE to clarify these discrepancies in what is known as the Uthmanic recension. From this we have the current version of the Quran. Many other versions were burnt to avoid further controversy.
Jinn and Tonic
Surat Al-'Isrā' 17:88 reads, “Say, ‘If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants.’” Here we see yet another version of the so-called “challenge.” For those who don’t know, a jinn is a creature in Islamic mythology made of smokeless fire. Satan (Iblis) is a jinn according to the Quran. Some Muslims claim to have been possessed by jinn and required Islamic exorcism in the same way some Christians claim to have been possessed by demons. The jinn are the source of what Westerners call genies.
With this in mind I would like to offer a counter challenge to any and all Muslims. Present me with a jinn and I and your smokeless fire demon thingy will get right to work producing some poetry as silly and barbaric as the Quran. If you can’t present me with a jinn then do yourself a favor and stop repeating this ridiculous “challenge.”