By Tawus Raja
26 July 2017
In order to understand why and how the
Qur’an is a miracle, we should first consider the objective that it seeks. The
Qur’an addresses questions that are most fundamental to our existence in this
world, such as our origin, our reality, our purpose in this life, choice,
responsibility, death, and afterlife. Many of these, if not all, are beyond the
reach of ordinary human knowledge and capacity. The entire system offered by
the Qur’an – which covers both the theory and practice – is by nature unique
and unrivalled by human production. The Qur’an also speaks to the heart and
conscience of each human being, enabling the person to verify its authenticity
at the individual level.
A Magnificent Book from an Unschooled
The Qur’an challenges its audience in many
verses to gather around and do everything that they can in order to bring a
book, ten chapters or even one chapter like it (2:23, 10:38, 11:13, 17:88,
52:34). It clearly says:
“This Qur’an could not have been fabricated
by anyone besides Allah” (10:37) and denies the claim that: “It [the Qur’an] is
nothing but the speech of a human being” (74:25).
Sometimes it specifically points to the
fact that the Prophet (?) is an unschooled individual and that his past shows
that he could not have come up with this book on his own (7:157-158, 10:16,
“You did not use
to recite any scripture before it, nor did you write it with your right hand,
for then the impugners would have been sceptical” (29:48).
It also refutes the claim that the Prophet
(?) has been taught the book by someone else (6:105, 16:103, 25:4-6). Here are
some verses that provide more insight to the Qur’an’s miracle:
to the Qur’an, mankind’s incapability to bring the like of this Book proves its
authenticity as the word of God and makes it binding on them to follow it: “And
if you are in doubt concerning what We have sent down to Our servant, then
bring a Surah like it [or from one like him – Muhammad], 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” (2:23-24); “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.’ But if they do not respond to you, know that it
has been sent down by Allah’s knowledge, and that there is no god except Him.
Will you, then, submit [to Allah]?” (11:13-14).
Qur’an has been described as a sign (ayah), evidence (Bayyinah), proof (Burhan)
and light (Nur) from God. For example: “And this Book that We have sent down is
a blessed one; so follow it, and be God-wary so that you may receive [His] mercy.
Lest you should say, ‘The Book was sent down only to two communities before us…
or [lest] you should say, ‘If the Book had been sent down to us, surely we
would have been better-guided than them.’ There has already come to you a
manifest proof from your Lord and a guidance and mercy. So who is a greater
wrongdoer than him who denies the signs of Allah, and turns away from them?
Soon We shall requite those who turn away from Our signs with a terrible
punishment because of what they used to evade“(6:155-157); “O mankind!
Certainly a proof has come to you from your Lord, and We have sent down to you
a manifest light” (4:174); “Certainly there has come to you a light from Allah,
and a manifest Book” (5:15); “So have faith in Allah and His Apostle and the light
which We have sent down” (64:8).
Qur’an presents itself as a sign and proof that should suffice from any other
sign or miracle:”Certainly we have drawn for mankind in this Qur’an every [kind
of] parable. Indeed if you bring them a sign [that is, a miracle], the
faithless will surely say, ‘You are nothing but fabricators!’ “(30:58); “Those
who have no knowledge say, ‘Why does not Allah speak to us, or come to us a
sign?’ So said those who were before them, [words] similar to what they say.
Alike are their hearts. We have certainly made the signs clear for a people who
have certainty” (2:118); “They say, ‘Why does he not bring us a sign from his
Lord?’ Has there not come to them a manifest proof in that which is in the
former scriptures?” (20:133).
It should be noted here that even though
the Qur’an is the primary and top miracle of the Prophet Muhammad (?), it is
not his only miracle. He also had other miracles that were more physical and
apparent. One that is hinted at in the Qur’an is the splitting of the moon
(54:1-5). There were also several cases of foretelling future events or dreams
that came true later, but these were not presented as proofs for the Prophet’s
(?) claim of apostleship, therefore they cannot be considered as miracles in
the specific sense of it. There are many more mentioned in Hadith (narrations),
such as informing the polytheists about their caravan in the desert after his
night journey,  the testimony of the lizard, and the uprooting, splitting
and moving of a tree. What makes the Qur’an distinct from all other miracles
is that it is not an event that occurred at one point in history, in a single
location and before a limited audience. Rather, it is an everlasting miracle
for everyone everywhere, and its preservation is guaranteed by God (15:9),
which could itself be another miracle.
The above points about the Prophet’s (?)
life and the Qur’an being a miracle and a decisive proof are summarised in the
“When Our manifest signs are recited to
them, those who do not expect to encounter Us say, ‘Bring a Qur’an other than
this, or alter it.’ Say, ‘I may not alter it of my own accord. I follow only
what is revealed to me. Indeed should I disobey my Lord, I fear the punishment
of a tremendous day.’ Say, ‘Had Allah [so] wished, I would not have recited it
to you, nor would He have made it known to you, for I have dwelled among you
for a lifetime before it. Do you not apply reason?’ So who is a greater
wrongdoer than him who fabricates a lie against Allah, or denies His signs?
Indeed the guilty will not be felicitous” (10:15-17).
The Qur’an’s Challenge
The question to ask here is: What makes the
Qur’an a miracle? What makes it clear evidence to the truth of the Prophet
Muhammad (?) and a binding proof that one should follow him as an apostle of
God? Is it because of the Qur’anic claim and challenge that ‘no one else can
bring the like of it’? If so, then one should be able to apply the same logic
to any other book or act: bring another book like the Divan of Hafiz; bring
another book like Mulla Sadra’s Asfar; bring another set of tragedies and
sonnets like Shakespeare’s; bring another theory like Einstein’s theories of
general and special relativity; and so on. Moreover, is it just a matter of
language and Arabic eloquence? If so, then how would this challenge ever be
even applicable to non-Arabs? One could equally come from a remote village with
an unknown language, compose a book or poem, and then claim, ‘Even if all of
mankind and jinn gather they cannot make the like of it.’ Would that prove that
person or book to be divine and make it incumbent on others to follow him?
These are important and common questions
that are heard in one way or another from time to time. Before answering the
Qur’an’s challenge and miracle in particular, we should emphasise that religion
by nature involves an element of test and trial, and any claim or proof in
religion falls under such a paradigm. Therefore, we should not be deceived into
expecting some event or evidence in religion to leave people with no choice but
to accept, because that would be contradiction.
As with the Qur’an in particular, sometimes
its eloquence and linguistic excellence is presented as what makes it a
miracle. However, it should be noted that elegance of expression is only one
aspect of the Qur’an, while when the Qur’an presents itself as a miracle it
presents itself in its entirety. The Qur’an as a whole, including all of its
aspects and traits, is a miracle that no one other than God can compose.
Emphasising the eloquence of Qur’an essentially reduces it to a literary
masterpiece or a work of art. This is far from the whole purpose of the Qur’an.
The Book is certainly a literary miracle, but that should be thought of as a
secondary feature and a by-product of the real theme of God’s Book.
Furthermore, the Qur’an is a miracle for all mankind, in all places and at all
times, who are mostly non-Arabs and have no knowledge of Arabic. It is rather
absurd to challenge such an audience to produce a work of Arabic literature and
then conclude that ‘because you are incapable of doing so I am the word of God
and it is incumbent on you to follow me.’
The objections, criticisms and accusations
of the disbelievers against the Qur’an were things like:
say, ‘This is nothing but a lie that he has fabricated, and other people have
abetted him in it’… They say, ‘He has taken down myths of the ancients, and
they are dictated to him morning and evening’ “(25:4-5).
They likened the Qur’an to the myths and
legends of the ancients, and the problem with those myths was not a matter of
linguistics, nor was their merit in their eloquence. Rather, these objections
show that their problem with the Qur’an pertained to its message and content.
Hence, when the Qur’an answers their objections by saying, ‘Bring one like it’
it also pertains to the aspect of message and content. 
Key Point: Comparison with the Torah
As with a full answer to the question of
Qur’an’s miracle, it can be deduced from reflecting on the following verses:
“It is We who are the senders [of the
apostles]. And you were not on the side of the Mount when We called out [to
Moses], but [We have sent you as] a mercy from your Lord that you may warn a
people to whom there did not come any warner before you, so that they may take
admonition. And lest – should an affliction visit them because of what their
hands have sent ahead – they should say, ‘Our Lord! Why did You not send us an
apostle so that we might have followed Your signs and been among the faithful?’
But when there came to them the truth from Us, they said, ‘Why has he not been
given the like of what Moses was given?’ Did they not disbelieve what Moses was
given before, and said, ‘Two magicians [or ‘Two sorceries’; that is, the Torah
and the Qur’an] abetting each other,’ and said, ‘Indeed we disbelieve both of
them’? Say, ‘Then bring some Book from Allah better in guidance than the two so
that I may follow it, should you be truthful.’ Then if they do not respond to
you[r] [summons] know that they only follow their desires. And who is more
astray than him who follows his desires without any guidance from Allah? Indeed
Allah does not guide the wrongdoing lot” (28:45-50).
In verse 28:48, there is a disagreement
among exegetes and scholars whether the two magicians or sorceries refer to
Prophets Moses and Aaron (‘a), Prophets Moses and Muhammad (?), the two initial
miracles of Moses, or the Torah and the Qur’an. However, verse 49 is more than
clear: “Say, ‘Then bring some Book from Allah better in guidance than the two
so that I may follow it, should you be truthful'”. Unlike the other verses
where the Qur’an challenges the people to bring a book like itself, here it
challenges them to bring a book like itself or the Torah. In other words, the
Torah is also a miracle just as the Qur’an is a miracle, for neither can be
composed by other than God. Now, what makes these two books miracles? The
answer is found in verse 28:49 where it says: “better in guidance.” This verse
clearly shows that the salient feature of the Qur’an which makes it a miracle
is that it is a book of guidance. It comprises of what guides mankind to his
Based on the above, what makes the Qur’an a
miracle is not merely its linguistic eloquence. Of course, the Qur’an has
repeatedly described itself as being in a clear and lucid Arabic language
(16:103, 26:195, 39:28, 41:3), but that is only so that its direct and primary
audience at the time of revelation may comprehend it and take admonition from
it (12:2, 20:113, 39:28, 42:7, 43:3). Otherwise, the Qur’an has described its
real nature and reality as follows:
There has certainly come to you an advice from your Lord, and a cure for what
is in the breasts, and a guidance and mercy for the faithful” (10:57)
The idea of the Qur’an being a cure for the
believers is also found in verses 17:82 and 41:44.
Advice, guidance, cure, and mercy from God
are the unique commodities that the Qur’an offers and no one other than God can
offer. The significance of these commodities is better understood if one
reflects on the fact that we are eternal beings that face everlasting life
after death. We need to prepare our eternal abode and secure our everlasting
happiness, but to do so we are in dire need of instruction, guidance,
education, training, and purification. This is what makes the Qur’an stand out
as a miracle. It is indeed the best miracle and sign because it has the same
nature as the message and mission that it is supposed to prove, as opposed to
apparent and physical miracles that do not have a nature of guidance and
This could itself explain why the Qur’an
has sometimes challenged its audience to bring the like of it (17:88), a speech
(Hadith) like it (52:34), ten chapters like it (11:13), or a single chapter
(Surah) like it (2:23, 10:38). This is because what makes the Qur’an a miracle
is its content of advice, guidance, cure and mercy. Such content is conveyed in
at least one Surah (chapter), for a Surah is a set of verses that pursue a
specific objective that distinguishes them from the other verses. Then there
can be more general and encompassing objectives pursued by sets of chapters
(such as ten Surahs), and then a more universal objective pursued by the Book
as a whole. 
Another verse that shows the miracle of the
“Do they not
contemplate the Qur’an? Had it been from [someone] other than Allah, they would
have surely found much discrepancy in it” (4:82)
The significance of this lack of
discrepancy is better appreciated if one reflects on the gradual descent of
this Book over 23 years and in various different conditions such as ease,
hardship, war, peace, victory, defeat, hope, fear, home, journey, Mecca,
Medina, etc. (see 17:106 and 25:32). This verse again shows that the Qur’an’s
miracle is not a matter of linguistic excellence, but a matter of content,
because the verse is about the consistency of the content and lack of
discrepancy in it, \
 and it bases its argument on
“Do they not
contemplate the Qur’an?” (4:82)
This could be another reason for why the
Qur’an challenges its audience to bring ten chapters in addition to its
challenge of one chapter: it is a challenge of consistency and lack of
The Qur’an’s view about miracles –
especially about itself as a miracle – can be summarised by the following
“They say, ‘Why
has not some sign [that is, a miracle] been sent down to him from his Lord?’
Say, ‘The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a manifest warner.’ Does it
not suffice them that We have sent down to you the Book which is recited to
them? There is indeed a mercy and admonition in that for a people who have
faith. Say, ‘Allah suffices as a witness between me and you: He knows whatever
there is in the heavens and the earth. Those who put faith in falsehood and
defy Allah, – it is they who are the losers’” (29:50-52); “If only it were a
Qur’an whereby the mountains could be moved, or the ground could be split, or
the dead could be spoken to… Rather, all command belongs to Allah. Have not the
faithful yet realised that had Allah wished He would have guided mankind all
 Qummi, 2/13. Amali.?, 448, ? 1.
 ?abarani, al-Majma‘ al-Awsa?, 6:127.
Kharraz Razi, Kifayat al-Athar, 172-173. Rawandi, al-Khara’ij wa al-Jara’i?,
1/38, ? 43. Haythami, 8/293. Kanz, 12/355-356, ? 35364.
 Nahj, Sermon 192. Kanz, 12/354, ?
 I?fahani, Abwab al-Huda, 52-53.
 Incidentally, the Torah is also a
book of literary excellence and eloquence, with many poetic subtleties.
However, these verses explicitly argue based on the guidance involved in the
two scriptures, not their eloquence.
 Mizan, 10/166-169.
 Mizan, 10/163.
 Mizan, 10/164-165.