Answering the “Qur’an Challenge”

“Neither the Qur’an’s eloquence nor its moral and legal precepts are miraculous. The Qur’an is miraculous because it enabled Muhammad, single-handedly and despite poverty and illiteracy, to overcome his people’s resistance and found a lasting religion; because it moved wild men to obedience and imposed its bringer’s will on them.”


Ali Dashti, Twenty-Three Years

“If the Qur’an is not the word of God, then produce something like it, if you can!” Apologists for Islam love to issue this challenge to non-Muslims mockingly, assuming that it has never been met, and never can be. This is in accordance with the Qur’an itself, which challenges its critics in multiple instances to come up with something comparable to it. One example would be verse 38 of Surah Yunus:

Or do they say: “He has forged it”? Say: “Bring then a surah like unto it, and call upon whomsoever you can besides Allah, if you are truthful!”

In reality, the “Qur’an Challenge” has been met handily. In 1999, a number of Arab Christian scholars came together to produce The True Furqan, a collection of surahs remarkably similar in style and structure to the Qur’an. Brilliantly, the book not only serves as an answer to the Qur’an Challenge, but as a scathing critique of its precepts. Surat al-Nisa, for example, takes the Qur’an to task for its abhorrent treatment of women:

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But of course, Muslim apologists are not interested in the truth; rather, their prerogative is the advancement of Islam. Thus, when the Qur’an Challenge is met, Muslims either obfuscate the criterion underpinning the challenge, thereby making it impossible, or they summarily declare the competing text to be “not as good” as the Qur’an. This is essentially what their argument amounts to:

“My wife is the most beautiful woman in the world! Bring me any woman like her! If you cannot, then you have to accept that everything she says is right.”

Needless to say, this is not a sound argument. With regards to a woman, one cannot infer anything about her virtue or knowledge from the property of beauty; neither is there any logical connection between eloquence and divine origin. But even if there were such a connection, there is no fixed standard by which we can judge. Beauty of women is just as subjective as beauty in literature. Different people have different tastes; who is to say that one’s idea of beauty is superior to another’s? Some find the Qur’an to be eloquent, and others do not.

Furthermore, if a man is truly in love with his wife, he will be totally convinced that she is the most beautiful woman on earth, even if no one else thinks the same. It is a question of his relationship to her, and not a question of his ability to judge her objectively. The Muslim is in love with the Qur’an in much the same way, and is thus unable to judge the book objectively.

It is impossible to disprove the challenge “Bring any woman more beautiful than her”, for the proponent has made himself the last judge – nobody can overrule him. And in the end, the proponent can still escape by claiming that he was only speaking of “inner beauty”, which cannot be appreciated by one who does not really know her. Similarly, the Qur’an is taken out of the sceptic’s reach by claiming that only the believer can “truly” appreciate its eloquence. This is utter subjectivity; it is useless as a criterion for seeking objective truth.

*****

Surah Shakin (Doubt)

In the name of Iblis, the most gracious and most merciful,

  1. A message we have written in English, and indeed we have arranged it well; 
  1. To make it clear to Western Muslims that what came to their ancestors was a human book. 
  1. They say, “So let the deniers bring verses like it.” 
  1. Do those who believe in the Qur’an think we cannot bring the like of it? 
  1. Nay, we are able to bring something far more rational in elucidation. 
  1. Did not the Messenger say that the earth is flat, like a carpet spread out? 
  1. Yet when knowledge reached them of how the earth is round, they denied it outright; 
  1. Or they scrambled to rationalise the Messenger’s folly. 
  1. See how they differ so furiously while following the same religion. Indeed, they are a people averse to reflection. 
  1. And they make between them and the world an enclosed barrier. 
  1. They say to their brethren, “Don’t listen to them! They are just telling lies!” 
  1. Was not Abraham accused of the same by his fellows, 
  1. When he implored them to abandon idolatry? Here, then, is the room for doubt. 
  1. They reject science when it disrupts their narrative, decrying it as a heathen plot; 
  1. While those facts of convenience are presented as miracles of the Qur’an. 
  1. They say that what we have brought is not the same (as the Qur’an). Indeed, it is much closer to the truth; 
  1. And their desire to suppress it is proof enough of this. 
  1. Reason has spoken the truth, while the believers persist in error. 
  1. Over them are a hundred billion stars.

*****

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Support group and social network for ex-Muslims in Ireland. Empowering apostates from Islam and raising awareness of the jihadist threat. Affiliate of Atheist Alliance International.

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