The Eternal Challenge
By Huraira Maneer
قَدْ جَاءَكُمْ مِنَ اللَّهِ نُورٌ وَكِتَابٌ مُبِينٌ
“…There has come to you from Allah a light and a clear Book.”
Evidence is fascinating. It governs what we believe and don’t believe in. It outlines what we take as truth and what is false. It also ensures that our beliefs and actions, whether they be connected to worldly or religious affairs, are based on sure knowledge and insight.
A couple of years ago I was at a conference where the scholar delivering the lecture asked the audience a question: “What evidence is there the Quran is the word of God (from an objective standpoint)?” This startled us – you would think the answer would be just ‘belief’ rather than having solid textual evidence for it. The question wanted the evidence for the evidence – looking for an explanation for why the Quran is definitely and only the word of God, should be believed in and abided by all, and as a result used as a basis on how to live our lives. This is a fundamental question every Muslim should be able to answer, particularly living in the west so (a) We can strengthen our own belief in Allah & the Quran and (b) Call/give Da’wah to others upon sure and firm insight. For this reason, I have compiled this piece, so this essential question may be addressed:
Upon what basis and reasonings can we attest that the Quran is definitely the word of God – and as a result should be believed and lived by? This is through the Quran’s miraculous nature, miraculous from a plethora of perspectives. So, what exactly makes the Quran miraculous, which would support our belief that it is from God/Allah?
The framework of the answer can be summarised as follows: 1. Preservation 2. Scientific relevance 3. Literary features 4. Accurate predictions 5. Cannot be imitated 6. Societal Impact
(1) Preservation – the Qur’an we have today is exactly the one revealed to the Prophet ﷺ, word for word, letter by letter.
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur’an) and surely, we will guard it (from corruption)
- Linguistically – the words and verses that make it up are preserved and unchanged. Yet, books and manuscripts are inevitably prone to alterations and change.
- Tajweed (correct pronunciations) – The rules and regulations for pronouncing each individual letter have also been preserved, as well the actual content.
- Language – the meanings of words are also preserved. This is as time goes on, meanings of words may change. For example, the English word ‘nice’, used to mean ‘foolish’ and stupid’ in the 14th century
(2) Scientific relevance
We are currently experiencing magnificent rate of technological progress; new theories are being formed and old disproven consistently (e.g. our understanding of the speed of light was only proven incorrect in 2011). Even if we were to gather the greatest scientists in the world to write a book of theories/workings about the natural world, it wouldn’t be long until parts become outdated and proven incorrect (especially if the facts proposed couldn’t be proven with the technology we have!) as newly developed technology allows us to falsify such theories.
Yet, the Quran puts forward many facts about the natural world, that are only being proven, and proven correct at that, in our current technological age – with none have been proven incorrect. Further, the Quran was revealed more than 1400 years ago – such propositions (a)could not be tested and (b) have also stood a very long test of time. It is not rational to suggest aa norma illiterate arab orphan, let alone a group of the most academically skilled to bring forth such a proposal without parts soon being proven incorrect. Such perfection and knowledge therefore point only to a greater more higher being that is all knowing – the existence of God/Allah. Such scientific miracles also include embryonic development, the expanding universe, oxygen saturation at higher altitudes and so on.
(3) Literary Features
Many verses of the Qur’an were revealed in response to sudden unplanned questions and challenges. Anything revealed was final, thus none of the 6236 verses underwenthrou any editorial process. If we were to gather the greatest poets/linguists of all time – it would not be possible for them to integrate such eloquent literary features, even more so on their first attempt – even more so for hundreds of pages and thousands of verses!
I will highlight a couple of those literary features with the aayaat/verses below:
3i: Subtlety – “Allah has not made for a man two hearts in his interior…” Allah specified man, excluding women. Had women been included, the verse would not be entirely applicable to the specific case of a pregnant woman who has her and her babies’ heart in her interior.
3ii Precision – In the Quran, Moses addresses the Israelites with the phrase “My people”, while Jesus/Isa addresses them with “Oh Children of Israel”. Both were addressing the Israelites, yet Jesus never addresses them with “My People”. This is as, in Jewish tradition, identity is given by the father. Thus, as Jesus/Isa was of no father, he did not have his identity connected as so to the israelites. Yet Musa was, so they were ‘his’ people in the technicality of lineage.
(4) Accurate time-bound predictions about of future events
Many people of history have come forward claiming to be Prophets – putting forward prophecies about future events. False prophets often have ambiguous, jumbled prophecies that ultimately become falsified. Let us compare this to prophecies in the Quraan:
(4i) Victory of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) over the Persians. The Byzantines had just suffered defeat, at a time when victory would seem impossible, Allah states they will be victorious after their defeat – exactly by a few years. And as so did it occur! Had they not become victorious after their defeat the Prophecy would be incorrect and proven wrong, as it specified victory within several years.
(4ii) Abu Lahab dying a disbeliever – Allah says Abu Lahab will enter into the fire, thus die disbelieving. By outwardly professing belief he could have easily proven the Quran ‘wrong’ – yet did not, fulfilling Allah’s promise.
Examples of other prophecies include: The Prophet conquering Makkah, competition in constructing high buildings, preservation of the Quran, women being dressed yet naked.
It was not possible for the Prophet ﷺ to guess them as they spanned a multitude of nations of different time periods, many outside the sphere of influence the Muslims – without a single mistake, all the while being very specific. The rational mind concludes that the Prophet ﷺ must have been divinely inspired with such knowledge by an all-knowing being who knew what has occurred and will occur – God/Allah.
(5) Cannot be imitated
Allah issues forth a challenge to the Arabs and the whole of mankind in general by saying:
“..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.”
If this book was from a human being, then surely it can be reproduced – in its style and content. The reproduction should also be future proof (cannot be outdated and produced on its first attempt – just like the Quran).
The fact that they could not do so, in the peak era of Arabic eloquence and pinnacle of its linguistic mastery, shows that not only that it hasn’t been reproduced – but that it will not, and cannot ever be reproduced (since such a pinnacle will not be reached again). As a result, if this book cannot be imitated by a human, our rationality tells us the author of the Quran is of unmatched perfect knowledge, unlike the limited knowledge and ability of humans – from God/Allah. Further, God states that they may falsify or validate what they produce by ‘call[ing] upon your witnesses other than Allah’ to assess whether they have indeed reproduced a surah the like thereof – this makes the challenge a fair one, since the reproduction must be testified to by scholars of the Arabic language the can do so.
(6) Impact on society
The morality presented in the Quran totally transformed the savage pre-Islamic Arabia – and at that, within a mere 23 years. Slavery was an economic institution; adultery, alcoholism and illiteracy were widespread; the powerful oppressed the poor and needy; men could marry any number of women; sons ‘inherited’ their father’s wives once their father died; Women could not own property and had little/no inheritance rights; female infanticide was rife. Can you imagine having to reform such a society? To demonstrate the magnitude of solving a multitude of social ills, one only has to look at the American ‘prohibition’ – where one of the most powerful governments was not able to solve the single social ill of alcohol use. Yet, in the span of 23 years, an illiterate man reformed a whole society of poor Arab Bedouins, such that they then went onto establish a political and cultural societal entity spanning from Morocco to China that lasted for centuries – miraculous!
It was the absolute moral justice of the Quran that appealed to the populations of the nations that were being conquered – to the extent that not only were the Muslims welcomed, but (e.g. Coptic’s of Egypt) actually facilitated and joined the Muslim ranks when they approached non-Muslim lands – societies had the age-old oppression uprooted and then went on to thrive. This is as the Quran presented the (a)all just Islamic law; from this justice came (b) peace and coexistence. This thus permitted (c) free intellectual activity such as literacy – and it was from this (d) knowledge originated, ushering Europe out of the dark ages and into the Renaissance. Thus, this is a book unique in its total impact of reforming whole civilizations, rather than one or two social ills! Is a human himself able to author a book which can achieve such a level of moral justice, and thus impact societies in such a way? Such a morality must have come from a being who is all just and fair, knowing about the human creation – Allah.
That all folks for the blog folks! So, if someone asks yourself, what evidence is there that the Quran is from God. I ask Allah to make this post of benefit in strengthening our belief in him and increasing our efforts of inviting and educating non-Muslims about the Quran – the everlasting miracle.
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته