fbpx
Faith

Miraculousness of the Quran: A Historical Overview

Advertise on TMV

The opinions of Muslim scholars with respect to the Quran and its miraculous dimension can be divided into two very general categories. Firstly, there are those who believed that the miracle of the Quran is not in its text, but rather it is something external to it. Secondly, there are those who believe that the miracle is contained within the text of the Quran itself.

That the Quran is a miracle, is a belief not disputed by the Muslims. The belief remains a central pillar for us, and denying such a belief could possibly render the book irrelevant. What remained contested, however, was the nature of its miracle. What aspect of the Quran was miraculous? What was understanding its miracle dependant on? Was the miracle in the way words were employed or in the meanings they implied? It was these questions that forced Islamic scholarship to discuss these various aspects of the Holy Book and provide explanations.

Before looking at the miraculous aspect of the Quran as explained by Muslim scholars over the centuries, what needs to be known is that no book revealed on a previous Messenger has been deemed a miracle. This is all the while different Prophets (p) were given miracles, yet these miracles remained of an empirical nature. Even though numerous empirical miracles have also been attributed to the Messenger of Islam (p), it appears that the Quran – if it is to be considered an everlasting miracle – is not merely an empirical miracle, rather there is an aspect to it which demands intellectualization.

As human intellectual capacity grows and their knowledge with regards to their selves and their surroundings increases, the Quran is still meant to remain a miracle. As such, while most miracles of the Prophets (p) ceased to exist after a certain period of time, or with the demise of a Prophet (p) himself, the miracle of the last Messenger (p) is considered to be everlasting and accessible by all those who come after him (p).

Another major difference between the Quran and other miracles, as pointed out by Ibn Khaldun in his al-Muqaddimah, is that unlike other Prophetic miracles, the Quran is revelation itself. This is all the while other miracles demonstrated by previous Prophets (p) or even Prophet Muḥammad (p) himself were not divine revelation. Though these and other qualities are what makes the Quran stand out, the question regarding what constitutes its miraculous aspect remains to be explained.

The opinions of Muslim scholars with respect to the Quran and its miraculous dimension can be divided into two very general categories. Firstly, there are those who believed that the miracle of the Quran is not in its text, but rather it is something external to it. Secondly, there are those who believe that the miracle is contained within the text of the Quran itself.

The first opinion upholds the view that what makes the Quran miraculous is not its literary style and nor its text, but rather the great poets and eloquent individuals of the time were literally rendered incapable to produce anything like it. This incapacitation was bestowed upon them through Divine interference and it was this external aspect that makes the Quran a miracle. This view is famously known as al-sarfah and we will get into it more in subsequent posts.

The second opinion – which constitutes the opinion of the majority – is that the miracle of the Quran is contained within the text itself. Some of the scholars in this camp argue against the view of al-sarfah saying such a view would mean that the Quranic text is not any different than the books revealed upon previous Prophets (p).

However, what do the scholars in this second camp understand the miracle of the Quran to be? We can narrow down their opinions into four general notions:

1) Its eloquence

2) It being clear and understandable

3) Its organization and style

4) Its reports regarding the unseen and absence of contradictions

The Challenge

The second aspect of any miracle is its accompanying challenge. Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli explains how the Quran puts forth this challenge to mankind:

“If this book is not the word of God, then it is the word of a human. If it is a word of a human, then since you are also a human, bring forth something like it. If you are able to bring something like it, it will prove that the book is the word of a human. If you are unable to bring something like it, it will prove that it is not the word of a human – and it being a miracle will be shown, subsequently proving the claim of Prophethood and the message” (Tafsir Mawdu’i Quran, vol. 1, pg. 138 – by Ayatullah Jawadi Amuli).

Advertise on TMV

The Quran puts forth its challenge in a number of verses. We will list them below:

[17:88] “Say, ‘Should all humans and jinn rally to bring the like of this Qur’an, they will not bring the like of it, even if they assisted one another.’”

[10:38] “Do they say, ‘He has fabricated it?’ Say, ‘Then bring a surah like it, and invoke whomever you can, besides Allah, should you be truthful.’”

[11:13] “Do they say, ‘He has fabricated it?’ Say, ‘Then bring ten surahs like it, fabricated, and invoke whomever you can, besides Allah, should you be truthful.’”

[52:33-34] “Do they say, ‘He has improvised it [himself]?’ Rather they have no faith! Let them bring a discourse like it, if they are truthful.”

[2:23-24] “And if you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down to Our servant, then bring a sūrah like it, and invoke your helpers besides Allah, should you be truthful. And if you do not—and you will not—then beware the Fire whose fuel will be humans and stones, prepared for the faithless.”

There are a number of points that can be extracted from these verses.

1) The earliest chapter in which a challenge is put forth is Surah al-Isra, a Makki chapter revealed during the final years of the Prophet (p) in Makkah. The last chapter in which we find a challenge is Surah al-Baqarah, which was revealed soon after the Prophet’s (p) migration. This shows that the challenges revealed in the Quran were during the time period when the polytheists had increased their pressure on the Prophet (p) up until his migration to Medinah.

2) All the verses are addressing the polytheists and in the context of establishing the truth of the Prophet’s (p) message.

3) What they are being challenged on is different, at times being asked to bring something like the Quran itself, or 10 chapters like it, or even just 1 chapter.

It thus appears that the challenge put forth to the Arab polytheists of the time is to bring something like the Quran, in terms of its prose, literary style, and eloquence.


This article was originally posted on Iqra Online, written by author Sayyid A, found here.

Keep Reading

Subscribe on YouTube
Menu