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By: Anonymous Muslim

 

Almighty Allah’s challenge to Mankind to Produce One Surah like his Noble Qur’an

 

Almighty Allah clearly tells his creation if they do not believe in his revelation then created just ONE Surah like his Holy Qur’an.  No one has been able to ever met this challenge and Almighty Allah assures us that NO ONE will ever meet his challenge!

 

Here is a terrific article from www.islamic-awareness.org

 

What Is The Challenge Of The Qur'an With Respect To Arabic Prose & Poetry?

M S M Saifullah, cAbd ar-Rahman Robert Squires & Muhammad Ghoniem

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

Last Modified: 9th September 1999


Assalamu-alaikum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

The Qur'an in many places challenges the people to produce a surah like it. It appears that the Christian missionaries who call the challenge irrelevent or an utterly subjective criterion are pretty much unaware of how the Arabic poetry and prose compares with the Qur'an. This article is devoted to deal with one aspect of the Qur'anic challenge of produce a surah like it. What is meant by surah like it with respect to the Arabic prose and poetry?

The verses of the Qur'an dealing with the challenge are given below (Hilali and Muhsin Khan's Translation):

Say: "If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another." [Qur'an 17:88]

And if you (Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur'an) to Our slave (Muhammad Peace be upon him ), then produce a surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful. [Qur'an 2:23]

And this Qur'an is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah (Lord of the heavens and the earth), but it is a confirmation of (the revelation) which was before it [i.e. the Taurat (Torah), and the Injeel (Gospel), etc.], and a full explanation of the Book (i.e. laws and orders, etc, decreed for mankind) - wherein there is no doubt from the the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns,and all that exists).

Or do they say: "He (Muhammad(P)) has forged it?" Say: "Bring then a surah (chapter) like unto it, and call upon whomsoever you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!" [Qur'an 10:37-38]

Or they say, "He (Prophet Muhammad(P)) forged it (the Qur'an)." Say: "Bring you then ten forged surah (chapters) like unto it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah (to your help), if you speak the truth!" [Qur'an 11:13]

Or do they say: "He (Muhammad(P)) has forged it (this Qur'an)?" Nay! They believe not! Let them then produce a recital like unto it (the Qur'an) if they are truthful. [Qur'an 52:33-34]

cAbdur Rahim Green mentions that:

These are the sixteen al-Bihar (literally "The Seas", so called because of the way the poem moves, according to its rhythmic patterns): at-Tawil, al-Bassit, al-Wafir, al-Kamil, ar-Rajs, al-Khafif, al-Hazaj, al-Muttakarib, al-Munsarih, al-Muktatab, al-Muktadarak, al-Madid, al-Mujtath, al-Ramel, al-Khabab and as-Saria'. So the challenge is to produce in Arabic, three lines, that do not fall into one of these sixteen Bihar, that is not rhyming prose, nor like the speech of soothsayers, and not normal speech, that it should contain at least a comprehensible meaning and rhetoric, i.e. not gobbledygook. Now I think at least the Christian's "Holy spirit" that makes you talk in tongues, part of your "Tri-Unity" of God should be able to inspire one of you with that!

To begin with; the Arabic language and Arab speech are divided into two branches. One of them is rhymed poetry. It is a speech with metre and rhyme, which means every line of it ends upon a definite letter, which is called the 'rhyme'. This rhymed poetry is again divided into metres or what is called as al-Bihar, literally meaning 'The Seas'. This is so called because of the way the poetry moves according to the rhythmic patterns. There are sixteen al-Bihar viz; at-Tawil, al-Bassit, al-Wafir, al-Kamil, ar-Rajs, al-Khafif, al-Hazaj, al-Muttakarib, al-Munsarih, al-Muktatab, al-Muktadarak, al-Madid, al-Mujtath, al-Ramel, al-Khabab and as-Saria'. Each one rhymes differently. For metres of Arabic poetry please see please see Lyall's book Translations Of Ancient Arabian Poetry, Chiefly Pre-Islamic.[1] He discusses al-Kamil, al-Wafir, al-Hajaz, at-Tawil, al-Bassit, al-Khafif and al-Madid briefly.[2]

The other branch of Arabic speech is prose, that is non-metrical speech. The prose may be a rhymed prose. Rhymed prose consists of cola ending on the same rhyme throughout, or of sentences rhymed in pairs. This is called "rhymed prose" or sajc. Prose may also be straight prose (mursal). In straight prose, the speech goes on and is not divided in cola, but is continued straight through without any divisions, either of rhyme or of anything else. Prose is employed in sermons and prayers and in speeches intended to encourage or frighten the masses.[3] One of the most famous speeches involving sajc is that of Hajjaj bin Yusuf in his first deputation in Iraq in post-Islamic and Quss bin Sa'idah in pre-Islamic times.

So, the challenge, as cAbdur Rahim Green mentions, is to produce in Arabic , three lines, that do not fall into one of these sixteen al-Bihar, that is not rhyming prose, nor like the speech of soothsayers, and not normal speech, that it should contain at least a comprehensible meaning and rhetoric, i.e. not gobbledygook. Indeed

The Qur'an is not verse, but it is rhythmic. The rhythm of some verses resemble the regularity of sajc, and both are rhymed, while some verses have a similarity to Rajaz in its vigour and rapidity. But it was recognized by Quraysh critics to belong to neither one nor the other category.[4]

It is interesting to know that all the pre-Islam and post-Islamic poetry collected by Louis Cheikho falls in the above sixteen metres or al-Bihar.[5] Indeed the pagans of Mecca repeated accuse Prophet Muhammad(P) for being a forger, a soothsayer etc. The Arabs who were at the pinnacle of their poetry and prose during the time of revelation of the Qur'an could not even produce the smallest surah of its like. The Qur'an's form did not fit into any of the above mentioned categories. It was this that made the Qur'an inimitable, and left the pagan Arabs at a loss as to how they might combat it as Alqama bin cAbd al-Manaf confirmed when he addressed their leaders, the Quraysh:

Oh Quraish, a new calamity has befallen you. Mohammed was a young man the most liked among you, most truthful in speech, and most trustworthy, until, when you saw gray hairs on his temple, and he brought you his message, you said that he was a sorcerer, but he is not, for we seen such people and their spitting and their knots; you said, a diviner, but we have seen such people and their behavior, and we have heard their rhymes; you said a soothsayer, but he is not a soothsayer, for we have heard their rhymes; and you said a poet, but he is not a poet, for we have heard all kinds of poetry; you said he was possessed, but he is not for we have seen the possessed, and he shows no signs of their gasping and whispering and delirium. Oh men of Quraish, look to your affairs, for by Allah a serious thing has befallen you.

It is a well known fact that the Qur'an was revealed in seven ahruf (or seven forms) to facilitate greater understanding of it among the Arabs who had different dialects. This was also to challenge them on their own grounds to produce a surah like that of the Qur'an. The challenge became more obvious when none of the seven major tribes could imitate it even in their own dialects as no one could claim that it was difficult to imitate due to it not being in their own dialect.[6]

What Do The Orientalists Say About The Inimitability Of The Qur'an?

E H Palmer, as early as 1880, recognized the unique style of the Qur'an. But he seem to have been wavering between two thoughts. He writes in the Introduction to his translation of the Qur'an:

That the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur'an itself is not surprising. In the first place, they have agreed before-hand that it is unapproachable, and they have adopted its style as the perfect standard; any deviation from it therefore must of necessity be a defect. Again, with them this style is not spontaneous as with Muhammad and his contemporaries, but is as artificial as though Englishmen should still continue to follow Chaucer as their model, in spite of the changes which their language has undergone. With the Prophet, the style was natural, and the words were those in every-day ordinary life, while with the later Arabic authors the style is imitative and the ancient words are introduced as a literary embellishment. The natural consequence is that their attempts look laboured and unreal by the side of his impromptu and forcible eloquence.[7]

The famous Arabist from University of Oxford, Hamilton Gibb was open upon about the style of the Qur'an. In his words:

...the Meccans still demanded of him a miracle, and with remarkable boldness and self confidence Mohammad appealed as a supreme confirmation of his mission to the Koran itself. Like all Arabs they were the connoisseurs of language and rhetoric. Well, then if the Koran were his own composition other men could rival it. Let them produce ten verses like it. If they could not (and it is obvious that they could not), then let them accept the Koran as an outstanding evident miracle.[8]

And in some other place, talking about the Prophet(P) and the Qur'an, he states:

Though, to be sure, the question of the literary merit is one not to be judged on a priori grounds but in relation to the genius of Arabic language; and no man in fifteen hundred years has ever played on that deep-toned instrument with such power, such boldness, and such range of emotional effect as Mohammad did.[9]

As a literary monument the Koran thus stands by itself, a production unique to the Arabic literature, having neither forerunners nor successors in its own idiom. Muslims of all ages are united in proclaiming the inimitability not only of its contents but also of its style..... and in forcing the High Arabic idiom into the expression of new ranges of thought the Koran develops a bold and strikingly effective rhetorical prose in which all the resources of syntactical modulation are exploited with great freedom and originality.[10]

On the influence of the Qur'an on Arabic literature Gibb says:

The influence of the Koran on the development of Arabic Literature has been incalculable, and exerted in many directions. Its ideas, its language, its rhymes pervade all subsequent literary works in greater or lesser measure. Its specific linguistic features were not emulated, either in the chancery prose of the next century or in the later prose writings, but it was at least partly due to the flexibility imparted by the Koran to the High Arabic idiom that the former could be so rapidly developed and adjusted to the new needs of the imperial government and an expanding society.[11]

As the Qur'an itself says:

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 your (doubts) are true. 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. (Qur'an 2:23-24)

Lastly, the beautiful style of the Qur'an is admired even by the Arab Christians:

The Quran is one of the world's classics which cannot be translated without grave loss. It has a rhythm of peculiar beauty and a cadence that charms the ear. Many Christian Arabs speak of its style with warm admiration, and most Arabists acknowledge its excellence. When it is read aloud or recited it has an almost hypnotic effect that makes the listener indifferent to its sometimes strange syntax and its sometimes, to us, repellent content. It is this quality it possesses of silencing criticism by the sweet music of its language that has given birth to the dogma of its inimitability; indeed it may be affirmed that within the literature of the Arabs, wide and fecund as it is both in poetry and in elevated prose, there is nothing to compare with it.[12]

The above sentences speak of themselves. Summing up: Within the Arabic literature, either poetry or prose, there is nothing comparable to the Qur'an. Muslims throughout the centuries are united upon the its inimitability.

There is also a talk by Christian missionaries that there are grammatical 'errors' in the Qur'an. In retort, it can be mentioned that the Arab contemporaries of Muhammad(P) were most erudite and proficient in the idiosyncrasies of Arabic speech; and hence, if they had found any grammatical 'errors' in the Qur'an, they would have revealed it when Muhammad(P) challenged them with to do so. Therefore, since they did not take up his challenge on this issue, we can be rest assured that no such grammatical 'errors' exist in the Qur'an.

Indeed the grammatical errors claimed by Christian missionaries have been already discussed and refuted in a reputed journal.[13] It turns out that lack of knowledge of intricate constructions in classical Arabic by Christian missionaries gave rise to so-called grammatical 'errors'.

I'jaz al-Qur'an (Or Inimitability Of The Qur'an) & Its Exposition

I'jaz literally means "the rendering incapable, powerless". It is the concept relating to the miraculous nature of the Qur'an. What consitutes this miracle is a subject that has engaged Muslims scholars for centuries. By the early part of the third century AH (ninth century CE), the word i'jaz had come to mean that quality of the Qur'an that rendered people incapable of imitating the book or any part; in content and form. By the latter part of that century, the word had become the technical term, and the numerous definitions applied to it after the tenth century have shown little divergence from the key concepts of the inimitability of the Qur'an and the inability of human beings to match it even challenged (tahiddi).[14]

Thus, the Islamic doctrine of i'jaz al-Qur'an consists in the belief that the Qur'an is a miracle (mu'jizah) bestowed on Muhammad(P). Both terms, i'jaz and mu'jizah come from the same verbal root. While mu'jizah is the active principle of a'jaza, i'jaz is its verbal noun.[15]

The early theological discussions on i'jaz introduced the hypothesis of sarfah ("turning away") and argued that the miracle consisted of God's turning the competent away from taking up the challenge of imitating the Qur'an. The implication of sarfah is that the Qur'an otherwise could be imitated. However, cAbd al-Jabbar (d. 1025 CE), the Mu'tazilite theologian rejected sarfah because of its obvious weaknesses.

cAbd al-Jabbar rejects the doctrine of sarfah for two main reasons. Firstly, because it contradicts the verse of the Qur'an stating that neither jinn nor human can rival the Qur'an, and secondly because it makes a miracle of something other than the Qur'an, i.e., the sarfah, the prohibition from production, and not the Qur'an itself. In addition to this, according to 'Abd al-Jabbar, the doctrine of sarfah displays four major weaknesses:

    1. It ignores the well-known fact that the Arabs of Muhammad's time had acknowledged the superior quality of speech of the Qur'an;
    2. It is in direct conflict with the meaning of the verses of the Challenge;
    3. It implies that the Qur'an is not a miracle; and
    4. It asserts that the Arabs were out of their minds (khuruj 'an al-'aql).

This doctrine, in fact, implies that they could have produced a rival to the Qur'an, but simply decided against doing so. It effectively calls into question either their motives or their sanity. Therefore, according to cAbd al-Jabbar the correct interpretation of sarfah is that the motives to rival the Qur'an disappeared (insarafah) because of the recognition of the impossibility of doing so.[16]

cAbd al-Jabbar insisted on the unmatchable quality of the Qur'an's extra-ordinary eloquence and unique stylist perfection. In his work al-Mughni (The Sufficient Book), he argued that eloquence (fasahah) resulted from the excellence of both meaning and wording, and he explained that there were degrees of excellence depending on the manner in which words were chosen and arranged in any literary text, the Qur'an being the highest type.[17]

al-Baqillani (d. 1013 CE), in his systematic and comprehensive study entitled I'jaz al-Qur'an upheld the rhetorically unsurpassable style of the Qur'an, but he did not consider this to be a necessary argument in the favour of the Qur'an's uniqueness and emphasized instead the content of revelation.

The choice and arrangement of words, referred to as nazm was the focus of discussion by al-Jahiz, al-Sijistani (d. 928 CE), al-Bakhi (d. 933 CE) and Ibn al-Ikhshid (d. 937 CE). al-Rummani and his contemporary al-Khattabi (d. 998 CE) discussed the psychological effect of nazm of the Qur'an in their al-Nukat fi I'jaz al-Qur'an and Bayan I'jaz al-Qur'an, respectively.

The author who best elaborated and systematized the theory of nazm in his analysis of the i'jaz is cAbd al-Qahir al-Jurjani (d. 1078 CE) in his Dala'il al-I'jaz. His material was further organized by Fakhr ad-Din al-Razi (d. 1209) in his Nihayat al-I'jaz fi Dirayat al-I'jaz and put to practical purposes by al-Zamakhshari (d. 1144 CE) in his exegesis of the Qur'an entitled al-Kashasaf, rich in rhetorical analysis of the Qur'anic style.[18]

Hardly anything new has been added by later authors.

Is The Bible Inimitable?

Anyone who has read the history of the Bible as a text as well as the constantly changing canon at the whims of the leaders of the Church and some 300,000+ variant readings in the New Testament itself would suggest that no book in history enjoyed such as reputation. The process of serious editing through which the Christian Bible went through is unparalleled in its almost 2000 year history. This would itself make the Bible an inimitable book.

As far as the language of the Bible and its stylistic perfection is concerned, the Bible does not make any such claim. Therefore, it not does challenge the mankind of produce a few verses or a chapter like it. Further, it is a Christian claim that the Bible contains scribal and linguistic errors. The language in which the Greek New Testament was written is demotic Greek which itself has little or no regard for grammatical rules of classical Greek. Comparing the stylistic perfection of the Qur'an versus stylistic imperfection of the Bible, von Grunebaum states:

In contrast to the stylistic perfection of the Kur'an with the stylistic imperfections of the older Scriptures the Muslim theologian found himself unknowingly and on purely postulative grounds in agreement with long line of Christian thinkers whose outlook on the Biblical text is best summed up in Nietzsche's brash dictum that the Holy Ghost wrote bad Greek.[19]

Futher, he elaborates the position of Western theologians on the canonization process and composition of the Bible:

The knowledge of the Western theologian that the Biblical books were redacted by different writers and that they were, in many cases, accessible to him only in (inspired) translation facilitated admission of formal imperfections in Scripture and there with lessened the compulsive insistence on its stylistic authority. Christian teaching, leaving the inspired writer, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, free in matters of style, has provided no motivation to seek an exact correlation between the revealed text on the one hand and grammar and rhetoric on the other. It thereby relieved the theologian and the critic from searching for a harmony between two stylistic worlds, which at best would yield an ahistoric concept of literary perfection and at worst would prevent anything resembling textual and substantive criticism of Revelation....

In Christianity, besides, the apology for the "low" style of the Bible is merely a part of educational problem - what to do with secular erudition within Christianity; whereas in Islam, the central position of the Kur'an, as the focal point and justification of grammatical and literary studies, was theoretically at least, never contested within the believing community.[20]

That pretty much sums up the Bible, its stylistic perfection (or the lack of it!) and the position of Western theologians.

And Allah knows best!

Relevent Articles

Is Quss Bin Sa'idah's 'Poetry' Meeting The Challenge Of The Qur'an?

On Pre-Islamic Poetry & The Qur'an

   Islamic Awareness Qur'an Miracle What Is The Challenge Of The Qur'an?


References

[1] C J Lyall, Translations Of Ancient Arabian Poetry, Chiefly Pre-Islamic, Williams & Norgate Ltd., London, 1930.

[2] Ibid., pp. xlv-lii.

[3] Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, Franz Rosenthal (Translator), Volume III, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1958, p. 368.

[4] A F L Beeston, T M Johnstone, R B Serjeant and G R Smith (Editors), Arabic Literature To The End Of The Ummayad Period, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p. 34.

[5] Louis Cheikho, Shucara' 'al-Nasraniyah, 1890-1891, Beirut.

[6] Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, Tafseer Soorah al-Hujuraat, 1988, Tawheed Publications, Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), p. 28.

[7] E H Palmer (Tr.), The Qur'an, 1900, Part I, Oxford at Clarendon Press, p. lv.

[8] H A R Gibb, Islam - A Historical Survey, 1980, Oxford University Press, p. 28.

[9] Ibid., p. 25.

[10] H A R Gibb, Arabic Literature - An Introduction, 1963, Oxford at Clarendon Press, p. 36.

[11] Ibid., p. 37.

[12] Alfred Guillaume, Islam, 1990 (Reprinted), Penguin Books, pp. 73-74.

[13] M A S Abdel Haleem, Grammatical Shift For The Rhetorical Purposes: Iltifat & Related Features In The Qur'an, Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies, Volume LV, Part 3, 1992. (Now online)

[14] Mircea Eliade (Editor in Chief), The Encyclopedia Of Religion, Volume 7, Macmillam Publishing Company, New York, p. 87, Under I'jaz by Issa J Boullata.

[15] Yusuf Rahman, The Miraculous Nature Of Muslim Scripture: A Study Of 'Abd al-Jabbar's I'jaz al-Qur'an, Islamic Studies, Volume 35, Number 4, 1996, p. 409.

[16] Ibid., pp. 415-416.

[17] The Encyclopedia Of Religion, Op.Cit, p. 88.

[18] Ibid.

[19] B Lewis, V L Menage, Ch. Pellat & J Schacht (Editors), Encyclopedia Of Islam (New Edition), 1971, Volume III, E J Brill (Leiden) & Luzac & Co. (London), p. 1020 (Under I'djaz).

[20] Ibid.

 

 

 

Another great article on the same general topic from www.islamic-awareness.org

 

The link is here: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Miracle/Quss.html

Is Quss Bin Sa'idah's 'Poetry' Meeting The Challenge Of The Qur'an?

M S M Saifullah

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

Last Modified: 9th September 1999


Peace be upon those who follow the guidance:

A few years ago cAbdur Rahim Green debated on various issues of Qur'an with Joseph Smith. One of the issues was also the inimitability of the Qur'an which I think he answered reasonably well. This post was addressed to Jochen Katz too who is now shelling out cheap excuses that the challenge is irrelevent. The issue was discussed by cAbdur Rahim Green.

For the sake of easy reference of the issues, I have divided the contents in the following manner:

The Challenge Of The Qur'an

The Qur'an in many places challenges the people to produce a surah like it. The ayahs of the Qur'an dealing with the challenge are given below (Hilali and Muhsin Khan's Translation):

Say: "If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another." [Qur'an 17:88]

And if you (Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur'an) to Our slave (Muhammad Peace be upon him ), then produce a surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful. [Qur'an 2:23]

And this Qur'an is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah (Lord of the heavens and the earth), but it is a confirmation of (the revelation) which was before it [i.e. the Taurat (Torah), and the Injeel (Gospel), etc.], and a full explanation of the Book (i.e. laws and orders, etc, decreed for mankind) - wherein there is no doubt from the the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinns,and all that exists).

Or do they say: "He (Muhammad(P)) has forged it?" Say: "Bring then a surah (chapter) like unto it, and call upon whomsoever you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!" [Qur'an 10:37-38]

Or they say, "He (Prophet Muhammad(P)) forged it (the Qur'an)." Say: "Bring you then ten forged surah (chapters) like unto it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah (to your help), if you speak the truth!" [Qur'an 11:13]

Or do they say: "He (Muhammad(P)) has forged it (this Qur'an)?" Nay! They believe not! Let them then produce a recital like unto it (the Qur'an) if they are truthful. [Qur'an 52:33-34]

cAbdur Rahim Green mentions that:

These are the sixteen al-Bihar (literally "The Seas", so called because of the way the poem moves, according to its rhythmic patterns): at-Tawil, al-Bassit, al-Wafir, al-Kamil, ar-Rajs, al-Khafif, al-Hazaj, al-Muttakarib, al-Munsarih, al-Muktatab, al-Muktadarak, al-Madid, al-Mujtath, al-Ramel, al-Khabab and as-Saria'. So the challenge is to produce in Arabic, three lines, that do not fall into one of these sixteen Bihar, that is not rhyming prose, nor like the speech of soothsayers, and not normal speech, that it should contain at least a comprehensible meaning and rhetoric, i.e. not gobbledygook. Now I think at least the Christian's "Holy spirit" that makes you talk in tongues, part of your "Tri-Unity" of God should be able to inspire one of you with that!

The pagans of Mecca repeated accuse Prophet Muhammad(P) for being a forger, a soothsayer etc. Interestingly enough, these old arguments are recycled again and again by the people even today! The Arabs who were at the pinnacle of their poetry and prose during the time of revelation of the Qur'an could not even produce the smallest surah of its like. Poetry in Arabic falls into sixteen different al-Bihar as mention above and other than that they have the speech of soothsayers, rhyming prose, and normal speech. The Qur'an's form did not fit into any of these categories. It was this that made the Qur'an inimitable, and left the pagan Arabs at a loss as to how they might combat it as Alqama bin cAbd al-Manaf confirmed when he addressed their leaders, the Quraish:

Oh Quraish, a new calamity has befallen you. Mohammed was a young man the most liked among you, most truthful in speech, and most trustworthy, until, when you saw gray hairs on his temple, and he brought you his message, you said that he was a sorcerer, but he is not, for we seen such people and their spitting and their knots; you said, a diviner, but we have seen such people and their behavior, and we have heard their rhymes; you said a soothsayer, but he is not a soothsayer, for we have heard their rhymes; and you said a poet, but he is not a poet, for we have heard all kinds of poetry; you said he was possessed, but he is not for we have seen the possessed, and he shows no signs of their gasping and whispering and delirium. Oh men of Quraish, look to your affairs, for by Allah a serious thing has befallen you.

Of course, when challenged to produce something of the sort present in the Qur'an, the obvious reaction of the Christian missionary is to shell out cheap excuses.

As we have seen before the Christian's "Holy Spirit" did not tell them that the Surah al-Waliya and Surah an-Nurayn were forgeries. Neither we expect from them any solid answer when asked about the Arabic poetry itself.

On 4 Oct 1997, Jochen Katz wrote:

> I asked you which bihar it is, and you couldn't answer. You then
> continued to waffle about many things, but you were not able to identify
> it as poetry. So, if it is not poetry, then it is not Jahiliyya poetry
> either. It is from before Islam, but it is not poetry and your attack
> falls flat on its nose.

When this post came in I was still busy with gathering the references which are quoted in the Christian missionary's page as well as gaining knowledge about the Arabic poetry from a learned Muslim brother who happened to be there on a holiday in Cambridge (May Allah, The Most High, reward him for his patience and help). The reference which I could catch hold of was Shucara' al-Nasraniyah (The Christian Poets) by Louis Cheikho, published from Beirut (Lebanon) in 1890-1891. The other reference is not available in the University of Cambridge library. This book was re-published in two volumes by Dar al-Mashriq, Beirut in 1968 as

Shucara' al-Nasraniyah, Vol. 1: Qabla al-Islam and Vol. 2: Bacda al-Islam

to make a division between the poets who came before Islam and the poets who came after Islam, respectively. Louis Cheikho was a Jesuit priest in the city of Beirut who was responsible for collecting a lot of poetry from pre-Islamic as well as post-Islamic times and labelling all the poets as Christians. His work has been critically reviewed which I will be discussing later in this post, inshallah.

Quss bin Sa'idah's Works and Jahiliyyah Poetry

Being experienced in dealing with Christian missionaries for quite some time in their deception when it comes to the references which they quote, I decided to start off from the sources which they quote. From the above reference [1] we see that in the chapter "Shucara Najad wa al-Hijaz" (Poets of Najd and the Hijaz) the poetry of Quss bin Sa'idah al-Iyad has been placed.[1] After the brief introduction of the lineage of the poet Quss bin Sa'idah, his poetry is discussed. In the beginning of each poem, the type of poem (i.e., the Bihar) is also quoted. This is done through out the book. Let me start off with the poems one of one. [The Bihar is in the square brackets]

Poem 1 [From al-Khafif] : "haja lilQalbi....... ..... wa uutibaar"[2]

Poem 2 [From al-Kamil] : "fid-dhahibina...... .... al-qawmi saa'eer"[3]

Poem 3 [From al-Bassit] : "baanaaiyal mauti...... .... manhajul khalaq"[4]

Poem 4 [From at-Tawil] : "khalilay...... .... in bakaakum"[5]

Poem 5 [From al-Kamil] : "man'al baqaa'...... .... fin-nafsi"[6]

Poem 6 [From al-Bassit] : "alhamdulillahi...... .... abath"[7]

Poem 7 [From al-Muttakarib] : "wa yakhlufu...... .... awwalu"[8]

Poem 8 [From al-Kamil] : "khad kuntu...... .... arwaahi"[9]

Poem 9 [From al-Khafif] : "kullu yahma'...... .... irkhaala"[10]

We see that the above mentioned poems fall in to the 'Bihar' which are quoted by cAbdur Rahim Green. For a quick recapitulation, the sixteen al-Bihar are

at-Tawil, al-Bassit, al-Wafir, al-Kamil, ar-Rajs, al-Khafif, al-Hazaj, al-Muttakarib, al-Munsarih, al-Muktatab, al-Muktadarak, al-Madid, al-Mujtath, al-Ramel, al-Khabab and as-Saria'. So the challenge is to produce in Arabic, three lines, that do not fall into one of these sixteen Bihar, that is not rhyming prose, nor like the speech of soothsayers, and not normal speech, that it should contain at least a comprehensible meaning and rhetoric, i.e. not gobbledygook.

The conclusion here is very obvious. The poetry of Quss bin Sai'ada does not come anywhere near the Qur'an.

And all this by the way, is from the sources which is quoted in Jochen's homepage. The source itself gives the answer which Jochen has asked for!! This not only shows Jochen does not even read his own sources but also hides the information given in them. It has been a routine habit of Christian missionaries to do such a thing.

Now let us go into the second part, i.e., what Jochen has stuck into his homepage. It says "A verse by Quss bin Sa'idah". To start with: The material quoted is not a verse, it is a prose which is called Sajc. The level of knowledge of Jochen Katz in Arabic literature is very obvious here. Need I say: Is it worth casting pearls before the swine? But anyway, let us go further and expose the case. The prose quoted is present just before the starting of Poem 2 as discussed above.[11] The quotation is only partial not even one fourth of what is there in the whole of the prose!!

To deal with what is there in Jochen's page requires a bit of understanding of Sajc which in english is loosely translated as "rhymed prose". According to Goldhizer, Sajc is the oldest form of speech in Arabic, pre-dating Rajaz and the Qasidah. For the terms used here, let me just briefly summarize them:

A Rajaz metre is a far more regular form of rhythmic expression that Sajc.[12]

The Qasidah ('ode' in English) is a supreme form of Arabic eloquence, consisted of three sections, each leading into the next following it. Description (Wasf) and aphorism or wise sayings (hikmah) are among the main purposes of Qasidah.[13]

A quick reminder: when we have a end word rhyme in the poetry it is called Khaafiyah.

From pre-Islamic times until this century, Sajc has continuously occupied an important place in Arabic literature and in Arab society. It has been used in the sayings of pre-Islamic kuhhan, in sermons and prayers, proverbs and aphorisms, epistles, maqamat, biographies, and histories. From the tenth until the twentieth century, book titles were almost invariably written in Sajc. Introductions to works of many genres were often written entirely in Sajc. In short, Sajc constitutes an extremely important feature in Arabic writing, including both elite and popular literature. For more information on various other types of poetry one can see this reference.[14]

The transliteration given below deals with the prose which is only partially quoted in Katz's homepage (which is towards the end). This was the speech of Quss bin Sa'idah which he gave in the market of Ukaz. He uses Sajc in his speech where the sentences rhyme with each other (at least every couple of them and not necessarily all). I have arranged all the like sounding prose together for the quick identification of Sajc. Please enjoy the transliteration of the Arabic (which may be a bit improper because of Arabic sounds!! but I have tried as much as possible to faithfully reproduce it):

fa-khala hayna khataba faatanab
wa raggaba wa rahhab

wa haddara wa andhar

wa khala fi khutbathi:

ayyuhan-naasu ismawo wa oowa
wa idha wa aytum fantafiooa

innahu man aasha maat
wa man maata faat
wa kullu ma huwa aatin aat
matur wa nabaat
wa arzaaq wa 'akhwaat
wa aaba' wa ummahat
wa ahya' wa amwaat
wa jam' wa shataat
wa aayat ba'd aayat

laylun maudu'
wa sakhafan marfu'

wa nujumun tagur
wa 'araadin tamur

wa bahurun tamuz
wa tizaratun taruz

wa dhu-un wa dhalaam
wa birrun wa aatham

wa mata'mun wa mashrab
wa malbasun wa markab

a'la anna a'blagal ajaat
as-sayru fil falawaat
wan-najar ila mahalli al-amwaat

inna fis-sama'i lakhabaran
wa inna fil ardhi la-ibran

laylun daaj
wa samaaun dhati abraaj
wa 'ardun dhati ritaaj
wa biharun dhati amwaaj

maali 'ara' an-nasi yadh-habuna falaa yarzi-oon

'ara dhawaa bil maqaami faaqaamu
am turikawa hunaka fanamu

'aqsama qussu billahi qasman haqqan
laa aathiman fihi walaa haanithan

inna lillahi deenan huwa ahabbu ilayhi min deenakum al-ladhi antum alaihi
thumma khala: tabban laari baabal ghaflati

minal-umami al-khaliyah
wa al-khurunil maadhiyah

ya ma'shar 'iyaad
aynal aba' wa al-ajdaad
wa ayna al-mareed wa al-awwaad
wa ayna al-firaa-inah ash-shidaad

ayna min bana wa shay-yada wa zakhrafu wa nazzad
wa garrahal maal wal-walad

ayna min baga wa taga
wa jama' fa 'awa
wa khala 'ana rabbukum al-'ala
'alam yakunu akthara minkum amwaala
wa atula minkum aajala

tahnahumul thari bi kalkalihi
wa mazzakhakum bita-taawili

fatilka adhamahum baaliyah
wa buyutuhum khawiyah
ammarat-ha adh-dhi'ab al-awiyah

kalla bal huwa ma'bud

thumma ansha' yakhulu [15]

and then he goes to the Poem 2 which we have already discussed.

Coming back to the business. The use of Sajc is common when delivering a sermon or lecturing because it attracts the attention of the listener. Sajc is not a form of poetry that has to be remembered. It is a rhymed prose. So the challenge is to produce in Arabic, three lines, that do not fall into one of these sixteen Bihar, that is not rhyming prose (i.e., Sajc), nor like the speech of soothsayers, and not normal speech, that it should contain at least a comprehensible meaning and rhetoric, i.e. not gobbledygook.

The Qur'an is not verse, but it is rhythmic. The rhythm of some verses resemble the regularity of Saj', and both are rhymed, while some verses have a similarity to Rajaz in its vigour and rapidity. But it was recognized by Quraysh critics to belong to neither one nor the other category.[16] [[2], pp. 34]

It is anybody's guess whether Quss bin Sa'idah's Sajc can be of any comparision to the Qur'an. A bit of research needs to be done in the regularity of the metre of Sajc in the above mentioned prose of Quss bin Sa'idah to know how good is the composition. This is definitely a homework for me. And reminding what the Qur'an says:

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 your (doubts) are true. 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. (Qur'an 2:23-24)

It is a well known fact that the Qur'an is neither poetry nor prose. In the article Rhetorical Interpretation Of The Qur'an: Ijaz And Related Topics, Issa J Boullata deals with the modern writers who dealt the Qur'an from a literary point of view. One such work of A'isha cAbd al-Muslim who goes by the pseudonym of Bint Shacti has received a lot of attention. It is said that her work will provide new insights on the concept of I'jaz of the Qur'an. Issa Boullata says:

Her conclusion is that the Qur'an, being neither prose nor verse, is a literary genre of its own that is of the highest eloquence and of matchless stylistic perfection.[17]

A better insight of the language of the Qur'an can be seen by the people who translated it. Going back to the last century, the Cambridge scholar Edward Henry Palmer was asked by Max Mueller who was planning his monumental series of "Sacred Books of East" for Oxford University Press, to contribute to a new translation of the Qur'an. Arberry says:

Palmer, who was an astonishingly versatile and rapid worker, readily accepted; his translation, in two volumes, was published in 1880, two years before its author was murdered in the Egyptian desert. Palmer, a poor orphan who was thought in his teens to be dying of consumption, had remarkable gifts as a translator, especially of poetry into verse; his complete rendering of the collected poems of the Egyptian Baha al-Din Zuhair testifies amply to his accomplishments, and his translation of the Koran was equally remarkable.[18]

E H Palmer, as early as 1880, recognized the unique style of the Qur'an. But he seem to have been wavering between two thoughts. He writes in the Introduction to his translation of the Qur'an:

That the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur'an itself is not surprising. In the first place, they have agreed before-hand that it is unapproachable, and they have adopted its style as the perfect standard; any deviation from it therefore must of necessity be a defect. Again, with them this style is not spontaneous as with Muhammad and his contemporaries, but is as artificial as though Englishmen should still continue to follow Chaucer as their model, in spite of the changes which their language has undergone. With the Prophet, the style was natural, and the words were those in every-day ordinary life, while with the later Arabic authors the style is imitative and the ancient words are introduced as a literary embellishment. The natural consequence is that their attempts look laboured and unreal by the side of his impromptu and forcible eloquence.[19]

The famous Arabist H A R Gibb was open upon about the style of the Qur'an. In his words:

...the Meccans still demanded of him a miracle, and with remarkable boldness and self confidence Mohammad appealed as a supreme confirmation of his mission to the Koran itself. Like all Arabs they were the connoisseurs of language and rhetoric. Well, then if the Koran were his own composition other men could rival it. Let them produce ten verses like it. If they could not (and it is obvious that they could not), then let them accept the Koran as an outstanding evident miracle.[20]

And in some other place, talking about the Prophet(P) and the Qur'an, he states:

Though, to be sure, the question of the literary merit is one not to be judged on a priori grounds but in relation to the genius of Arabic language; and no man in fifteen hundred years has ever played on that deep-toned instrument with such power, such boldness, and such range of emotional effect as Mohammad did.[21]

As a literary monument the Koran thus stands by itself, a production unique to the Arabic literature, having neither forerunners nor successors in its own idiom. Muslims of all ages are united in proclaiming the inimitability not only of its contents but also of its style.[22]

.... and in forcing the High Arabic idiom into the expression of new ranges of thought the Koran develops a bold and strikingly effective rhetorical prose in which all the resources of syntactical modulation are exploited with great freedom and originality.[23]

On the influence of the Qur'an on Arabic literature Gibb says:

The influence of the Koran on the development of Arabic Literature has been incalculable, and exerted in many directions. Its ideas, its language, its rhymes pervade all subsequent literary works in greater or lesser measure. Its specific linguistic features were not emulated, either in the chancery prose of the next century or in the later prose writings, but it was at least partly due to the flexibility imparted by the Koran to the High Arabic idiom that the former could be so rapidly developed and adjusted to the new needs of the imperial government and an expanding society.[24]

Before I go any further, a word of caution: Anyone trying to use the reference [1] which consists of pre-Islamic as well as post-Islamic poetry to challenge the Qur'an should be warned that all the poetry quoted in that book falls within the 16 al-Bihar mentioned above. I have personally checked all the poetry quoted in that book to make sure of it.

The Spin-Offs: Is The Qur'an Borrowed From The Bible?

Louis Cheikho's aim for collecting the poetry was to show that the Qur'an had the origins from jahiliyyah poetry. But what is remarkable is that the poetry which he collected resulted in the opposite conclusion!!

At the beginning of this century, the Jesuit fathers of Beirut did extensive research on this (the Christian influence in jahiliyyah) subject order to determine the role of "Christian Poets of Jahiliyya". The research resulted only in a literary composition, which has had the remarkable and unexpected result of proving the contrary of what the authors intended. Neither in pre-Islamic Mecca nor in its surrounding area, was there any record of a monotheistic cultural centre which could have disseminated the Biblical thought that we find expressed in the Holy Qur'an.[25]

An observation from the point of view of Islamic traditions had been made by Richard Bell quite a long time ago. He says:

...in spite of traditions to the effect that the picture of Jesus was found on one of the pillars of Ka'aba, there is no good evidence of any seats of Christianity in the Hijaz or in the near neighbourhood of Makkah or even of Madina.[26]

And the Christian missionaries to this date say that Muhammad(P) borrowed the Qur'an from the Judeo-Christian sources!! The evidence that we have point against their views. But they will still be parroting the same story again and again.

This is also mentioned in the books dealing with Christianity among Arabs in pre-Islamic times from the point of view of poets.

The testimony of poets to the influence of Christianity in a spiritual and a sociological sense is negative.[27]

Louis Cheikho work has come under a lot of criticism because he has labelled all the jahiliyyah poets as Christians. His book is surprisingly devoid of references. Camille has reviewed his work and found that the following:[28]

Certaintly Christian

1

Probably Christian

2

Less probably Christian

2

No evidence that Christian

20

Dr. Christopher Heger has informed us in a post dated 02/09/1997 that Camille also published a book in 1970 called Al-Ab Luwis Shaiho wa Shucara' an-Nasraniyah fi l-Jahiliyyah, 1970, Camille Hechaime (Kamil Hushaima), Dar al-Mashriq (Beirut),pp. 298-322, where he again distributes the 61 poets into four categories:

Certaintly Christian

7

Probably Christian

5

Less probably Christian

8

No evidence that Christian

41

Unfortunately, this reference is not available in my library.

Now it is interesting to see what the Christian missionaries who read the Qur'an say about the book itself. St. Claire Tisdall states that:

From the careful examination of the whole subject dealt with in this chapter (i.e., The Influence Of Christianity & Christian Apocryphal Books) we therefore conclude that the influence of true and genuine Christian teaching upon the Qur'an and upon Islam in general has been very slight indeed, while on the other hand aprocryphal traditions and in certain respects heretical doctrines have a claim to be considered as forming one of the original sources of Muhammadan faith.[29]

Regarding one of the apocryphal books he states:

The style of the Arabic of this apocryphal Gospel, (Gospel of The Infancy) however, is so bad that it is hardly possible to believe that it dates from Muhammad's time.[30]

He does not prove the existence of other aprocryphal sources of the Bible in Arabic either. St. Claire Tisdall book, The Original Sources Of The Qur'an, once upon a time hailed as one of the most original work on the sources of Islam, is now considered as one of most speculative work on Islam. The reason why it is so is because the author assumes that the Prophet(P) knew all the sources before he could compile the Qur'an. The sources being Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Hanif and ancient Arab beliefs. This directly contradicts from the evidence that we have of what the Prophet(P) was. He was considered to be ummi, i.e., illiterate. This is the reason why it is not quoted by the scholars today, except of course, Christian missionaries who still believe in living in the past.

Now we turn to the fact whether an Arabic Bible was present in the hands of the people during the time of the Prophet(P). Malik Ben Nabi narrates an interesting story:

Moreover, if Judeo-Christian thought had really made inroads into Jahiliyyan society and culture, the absence of an Arabic translation of the Bible could not be explained. As for the New Testament, it is certain that no Arabic translation of it existed in the fourth century of Hijrah. This is evident from the reference by Ghazzali, who had to resort to a Coptic manuscript to write his Rad, a respectable refutation of the divinity of Jesus according to the Gospel. In translating the work of the Arab philosopher, Rev. Fr. Chidiac searched everywhere for Gospel sources which could have served at the time of the composition of Rad. He finally found a manuscript in the library of Leningrad written about 1060 by a certain Ibn al-Assal as the first edition of a Christian text in Arabic. Thus, there did not exist an Arabic edition of the Gospels at the time of Ghazzali, and, a fortiori, it did not exist during the Pre-Islamic period.[31]

So, the influence of Christian Jahiliyyah poets as well as lack of presence of the Bible suggests that the Qur'an is not borrowed from the Bible. A Critical Review of the Authorship theories of the Qur'an by Hamza Mustafa Njozi (Version 2.1 edited by Dawah to The People) can be seen here.

This is probably the most well researched work on this topic that I have come across on the internet.

Lastly, if the Qur'an was borrowed from the Bible then why would the Christian Arabs admire the style of a copied book?

The Quran is one of the world's classics which cannot be translated without grave loss. It has a rhythm of peculiar beauty and a cadence that charms the ear. Many Christian Arabs speak of its style with warm admiration, and most Arabists acknowledge its excellence. When it is read aloud or recited it has an almost hypnotic effect that makes the listener indifferent to its sometimes strange syntax and its sometimes, to us, repellent content. It is this quality it possesses of silencing criticism by the sweet music of its language that has given birth to the dogma of its inimitability; indeed it may be affirmed that within the literature of the Arabs, wide and fecund as it is both in poetry and in elevated prose, there is nothing to compare with it.[32]

And Allah knows best!

Relevent Articles On I'jaz Of The Qur'an

What Is The Challenge Of The Qur'an?

Articles On The Borrowing Theories Of The Qur'an

See Our Comprehensive Response To The Borrowing Theories Of The Qur'an

   Islamic Awareness Qur'an Miracle Is Quss Bin Sa'idah's 'Poetry' Meeting The Challenge?


References

[1] Louis Cheikho, Shucara' al-Nasraniyah, 1890-1891, Beirut, pp. 211-218.

[2] Ibid., p. 212.

[3] Ibid., p. 213.

[4] Ibid., pp. 213-214.

[5] Ibid., pp. 214-216.

[6] Ibid., p. 216.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., pp. 217-218.

[10] Ibid., p. 218.

[11] Ibid., p. 213.

[12] A F L Beeston, T M Johnstone, R B Serjeant and G R Smith (Ed. ), Arabic Literature To The End Of The Ummayad Period, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p. 33.

[13] Ibid., pp. 38-39.

[14] Ibid., Check out various chapters that deal with Arabic poetry and prose.

[15] Cheikho, Shucara' al-Nasraniyah, Op. Cit., pp. 212-213.

[16] Beeston et al., Arabic Literature To The End Of The Ummayad Period, Op. Cit., p. 34.

[17] Andrew Rippin (Ed.), Approaches of The History of Interpretation of The Qur'an, 1988, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 154.

[18] A J Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, 1955, Volume I, George Allen & Unwin Limited, London, p. 19.

[19] E H Palmer (Tr.), The Qur'an, 1900, Part I, Oxford at Clarendon Press, p. lv.

[20] H A R Gibb, Islam - A Historical Survey, 1980, Oxford University Press, p. 28.

[21] Ibid., p. 25.

[22] H A R Gibb, Arabic Literature - An Introduction, 1963, Oxford at Clarendon Press, p. 36.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., p. 37.

[25] Malik BenNabi, The Qur'anic Phenomenon, 1983, American Trust Publications, pp. 153-154.

[26] Richard Bell, The Origin Of Islam In Its Christian Environment, 1926, The Gunning Lectures Edinburgh University, Macmillan & Co. Ltd., London, p. 42.

[27] J S Trimingham, Christianity Among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times, 1971, Longman Publishers, p. 247.

[28] Hechame Camille, Louis Cheikho et son livre le Christianisme et la Littrature Chretienne en Arabie avant l'Islam: Etude Critique: 1967, Dar el-Machreq, Beirut, p. 183.

[29] Rev. W. St. Clair Tisdall, The Original Sources Of The Qur'an, 1905, Society For The Promotion Of Christian Knowledge, London, pp. 210-211.

[30] Ibid., p. 170.

[31] Malik BenNabi, The Qur'anic Phenomenon, Op. Cit., p. 154.

[32] Alfred Guillaume, Islam: 1990 (Reprinted), Penguin Books, pp. 73-74.

 

 

 

All Praise is Due to Almighty Allah!!!!

 

 

Rebuttals, and exposing the lies of the Answering Islam team section.

Islam and the Noble Quran: Questions and Answers.

The Scientific Miracles in the Noble Quran.

Contradictions and History of Corruption in the Bible.

Anonymous Muslim 's Rebuttals section.


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