Existence - Random or with Reason?

Who are we? Why are we here? What is our purpose?


This section will make an attempt to educate the masses on the inimitability and miraculousness of the Qur'anic discourse. Any argument that attempts to question the Qur'ans authorship is challenged by questioning and analysing its methodology, assumptions and 'evidences'.

This site will argue that there can be no materialistic explanation for the miraculous nature of the Qur'anic discourse.

The Challenge


The Qur'an challenges humanity to attempt to match the reality of the Qur'anic text, the smallest chapter (surah) to be exact. In chapter 2 verse 23 the Qur'an states:

"And if you are in doubt about which We have revealed to Our Servant then bring one chapter like it"

In order to understand this challenge one must first understand the reality of the Qur'an. With regards to its language there are many features which render the Qur'an matchless, unique and miraculous. The main arguments with regards to its linguistic and literary superiority will be briefly explained below.


The Main Arguments


Unique Linguistic Genre

The Qur'an achieves a unique linguistic genre by unifying rhetorical and cohesive elements of language in every verse. Most Arabic texts simply use cohesive elements with some use of language that attempts to please or persuade (rhetoric). Any change to the Qur'anic structure ceases to sound like a Qur'an and removes its communicative effect.

“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[1] in which all the resources of syntactical modulation are exploited with great freedom and originality.”[2]

This statement coming from the famous Arab Grammarian H. Gibb, is an apt description of the Qur’anic style, but this genre is not simply a subjective conclusion, it is a reality based upon the use of features that are abundant in all languages. This may seem strange that the Qur’an has developed its own style by using current literary elements. However, it should be noted that the Qur’anic discourse uses these common elements of language in a way that has never been used before. [3]

This unique genre is part of the Qur’an’s challenge to mankind to produce a chapter like it. [4] Preserved and recorded historical documents have shown that many attempted to meet this literary and linguistic challenge. [5] Modern and Classical Scholarship have proven that these challenges failed to match the linguistic and literary reality of the Qur’anic discourse. [6] Penrice acknowledges the Qur’ans literary excellence:

"That a competent knowledge of the Koran is indispensible as an introduction to the study of Arabic literature will be admitted by all who have advanced beyond the rudiments of the language. From the purity of its style and elegance of its diction it has come to be considered as the standard of Arabic…”[7]

The Qur’an is an independent genre in its own right. [8] Its unique genre is realised through two inseparable elements; rhetorical and cohesive elements. [9] From a linguistic point of view, rhetoric can be defined as the use of language to please or persuade. The term in the Arabic-Islamic tradition would more appropriately be defined as ‘the conveying of meaning in the best of verbal forms’. [10] Cohesiveness is the feature that binds sentences to each other grammatically and lexically. It also refers to how words are linked together into sentences and how sentences are in turn linked together to form larger units in texts. [11]

These elements combine with each other in such a way that interlock and become inseparable. [12] This unique combination captivates the reader and achieves an effective communicative goal. [13] The rhetorical and cohesive components of the Qur’anic text cannot be divorced from each other. [14] Cragg points out that,

“…the Qur’an is understood to say what it says in an inseparable identity with how it says it.” [15]

When these elements are stripped off the Qur’anic text, the text ceases to be a Qur’an and does not sound like one. This is because the Qur’an has a word order that is semantically driven, exhibits meticulous accuracy and achieves staggering adequacy; furthermore it combines linguistic and literary devices in a way that has not been achieved with any other Arabic text [16] Arbuthnot states:

“…and that though several attempts have been made to produce a work equal to it as far as elegant writing is concerned, none has as yet succeeded.” [17]

From a linguistic point of view the Qur’an employs various rhetorical features such as the use of rhythm, figures of speech, similes, metaphors, and rhetorical questions. Also, the use of irony and the repetition of words are a just a small part of the Qur’ans repertoire of rhetorical devices. Its cohesiveness includes various methods such as parellelistic structures, phrasal ties, substitution, reference and lexical cohesion. [18] These features provide the bedrock and hang together to create the Qur’ans unique genre. [19]

Non-Qur’anic Arabic texts mostly employ cohesive elements [20] but the Qur’an uses both cohesive and rhetorical elements in every verse. [21] The following linguistic analysis is a good example to highlight the uniqueness of the Qur’anic style:

“Men who remember Allah much and women who remember” [22]Al-dhalikirin Allaha kathiran wa’l-dhakirati

The Qur’anic verse above, in a different word order such as the verse below,

“Men who remember Allah much and Women who remember Allah much” [23] al-dhakirina Allaha kathiran wa’l-dhakirati Allaha kathiran

would not deliver the same effect, as the word ‘Allah’ has become linguistically redundant, in other words it has become needlessly wordy or repetitive in expression. The original Qur’anic structure achieved its objective by separating the two subjects in order to sandwich the word ‘Allah’ and using the ‘wa’ particle as a linguistic bond. [24] This Qur’anic verse has also a rhetorical element as the word Allah is ‘cuddled’ and hugged’ by the pious who remember Him a lot, which is indicated by the arrangement of the words in this verse. Additionally the arrangement of the structure provides a pleasing, sweet acoustic effect so as to please the ear; which in linguistics is called euphony. In the above example the Qur’an combines rhetorical and cohesive elements to produce the intended meaning. [25]

There are many other striking examples, for example:

“Yet they make the Jinns as associates with Allah, though Allah did create the Jinns; and they falsely, having no knowledge, attribute to Him sons and daughters. Praise and glory be to Him! (for He is) above what they attribute to Him!” [26]

In this example the word ‘associates’ is used as a buffer word as it is placed between the two words ‘Allah’ and ‘Jinn’ to deliver a strong rhetorical linguistic protest against this claim. [27] Normally the word ‘Jinn’ should have appeared next to the word ‘Allah’, [28] but the Qur’an has specifically chosen the word order to disassociate the word ‘jinn’ with the word ‘Allah’, to exhibit this objection, namely that Allah can have no associate. The other claim made by the non-believers is that God has children. The rhetorical aspect of the whole verse is that it achieves euphony. The cohesive element in this structure is the ‘wa’ particle which acts as a cohesive tie. This links the two claims together. Furthermore the above verse ties in with other major themes of the Chapter such as tawhid (oneness of God). [29]

Any change to the structure of a Qur’anic verse simply changes its meaning, style and literary effect.  It is no wonder that Cragg mentioned that, in order for humanity to deal with the challenges it faces today,

“…multitudes of mankind…will need to be guided and persuaded Qur’anically.” [30]

Scholars, linguists and Arabists need a sound linguistic competence in Classical Arabic but also an advanced knowledge in Arabic syntax and rhetoric in order to appreciate the complex linguistic and rhetorical patterns of Qur’anic structures.  Most importantly he or she must refer to the major exegeses in order to derive and provide the accurate underlying meaning of a Qur’anic expression, preposition or particle [31].

The unique genre of the Qur’an is part of its linguistic challenge to the whole of humanity. Further research and study into the references below should provide the reader with adequate information to observe how the Qur’an achieves this unique genre and how it can not be possible for any writer to produce its like.

To end and conclude, Bruce Lawrence states:

"As tangible signs Qur’anic verses are expressive of an inexhaustible truth. They signify meaning layered with meaning, light upon light, miracle after miracle." [32]


[1] The Qur’an’s literary form has been the subject of many studies from Muslim and non-
Muslim academics. Due to its unique literary form, some scholars have found it difficult to
describe what form the Qur’an falls in to (e.g. Prose – Mursal, Rhymed Prose – Saj or
Poetry). Hence, some have simply tried to describe it as a form of rhymed prose, to
illustrate this R. A. Nicholson in his book ‘Literary History of the Arabs’ (1930. Cambridge
University Press, p. 159) states,

    Thus, as regards its external features, the style of the Koran is modelled upon saj,
    or rhymed prose, of the pagan soothsayers, but with such freedom that it may
    fairly be described as original.

This is inaccurate as the Qur’an does not fall into any of the known forms of Arabic.
Please see www.theinimitablequran.com/QuranicStyle.html,
and www.islamic-awareness.org//Quran/Miracle/ijaz.html for more information.

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

[3] Please see F Esack. 1993. Qur’anic Hermeneutics: Problems and Prospects. The
Muslim World, Vol. 83, No. 2. p. 126 -128; H E Kassis. 1983. A Concordance of the Qur’
an. University of California Press, p. xvii and Muhammad Abdullah Draz. 2001. The Qur’
an: An Eternal Challenge. The Islamic Foundation.

[4] The Qur’an challenges humanity to produce a single chapter like it, please see Qur’
an chapter 2 verse 23. As a result of the inimitability of the Qur’anic discourse, there is a
consensus amongst Modern and Classical Scholars such as al-Baqillani and al-Rafi’i that
the Qur’an is the Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) eternal miracle. This view has also been
supported by many non-Muslim Qur’anic Scholars and Arabists.

See www.theinimitablequran.com/IntroLinguisticLiteraryExcellenceQuran.html for the
western perspective.

[5] Please see www.theinimitablequran.com/History.html for articles and references
dealing with this issue.

[6] Ibid.

[7] John Penrice. 2004. Preface of "A Dictionary and Glossary of the Koran". Dover

[8] Please see reference [3], www.theinimitablequran.com/QuranicStyle.com and H Abdul-
Raof. 2003. Exploring the Qur’an. Al-Maktoum Institute Academic Press, p. 60-110.

[9] H Abdul-Raof. 2001. Qur’an Translation: Discourse, Texture and Exegesis. Curzon
Press, p. 137

[10] I Boullata. 1988. The Rhetorical Interpretation of the Qur’an: I’jaz and Related
Topics in A Rippin (ed.), Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur’an.
Oxford: Claredon Press, p. 143.

[11] For more details about the definition of cohesion (including consonance which
details the Qur’anic text has lexical and thematic logical harmony) and its manifestation
in the Qur’anic discourse please see H Abdul-Raof. 2003. Exploring the Qur’an. Al-
Maktoum Institute Academic Press, p. 261-281 & 341-344; M Mir. 1983. Islahi’s Concept
of Surah Pairs. In the Muslim World. Vol. 73, No.1, p. 22-32; M Mir. Coherence in the Qur’
an. Washington: American Trust Publications; M Mir. 1993. The Surah as a Unity: a
twentieth century development in Qur’an exegesis. In G. R. Hawting and A-K. A. Shareef
(eds.). Approaches to the Qur’an, p. 211-224; and H Abdul-Raof. 2003. Conceptual and
Textual Chaining in the Qur’anic Discourse. In Journal of Qur’anic Studies. Vol. V, Issue
11, p. 72-94.

[12] Qur’an Translation: Discourse, Texture and Exegesis, p. 137.

[13] H Abdul-Raof. 2000. The Linguistic Architecture of the Qur’an. In Journal of Qur’anic
Studies. Vol. II, Issue II, p. 37-51.

[14] Qur’an Translation: Discourse, Texture and Exegesis, p. 137.

[15] K Cragg. 1994. The Event of the Qur’an. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oneworld, p. 46

[16] See reference [3]

[17] F. F. Arbuthnot. 1885. The Construction of the Bible and the Koran. London, p 5

[18] For more information on the Rhetorical Features in the Qur’anic discourse see H
Abdul-Raof. 2003. Exploring the Qur’an, p. 265-398 and F Esack. 1993. Qur’anic
Hermeneutics: Problems and Prospects. The Muslim World, Vol. 83, No. 2. p. 126 -128.

For information of the Cohesion in the Qur'anic please see reference [11]

[19] Qur’an Translation: Discourse, Texture and Exegesis, p. 107.

[20] Ibid p. 108

[21] Ibid p. 107-108

[22] Qur’an Chapter 33 Verse 35

[23] The Linguistic Architecture of the Qur’an. In Journal of Qur’anic Studies. Vol. II,
Issue II, p. 37-51.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid. and see reference [21]

[26] Qur’an Chapter 6 Verse 100

[27] Exploring the Qur’an, p. 70

[28] Ibid.

[29] For a list of the major themes for this Qur’anic chapter please see http://www.usc.
edu/dept/MSA/quran/maududi/mau6.html and see reference [11] for details concerning
cohesion and coherence in the Qur’anic discourse.

[30] The Event of the Qur’an, p. 23

[31] Qur’an Translation: Discourse, Texture and Exegesis, p. 2.

[32] Bruce Lawrence. 2006. The Qur’an: A Biography. Atlantic Books, p. 18

Unique Literary Form

The Qur'an is a literary form in its own right. It is can not fit into the forms of poetry, rhymed prose and prose. This is achieved by the unique combination of metrical and non-metrical composition, by not adhering to the rules of poetry and prose and by the use of literary devices that are unknown in Arabic prose. This is done within the scope of the classical Arabic


"Read in the Name of your Lord". [1] These were the first few words of the Qur'an revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over 1400 years ago. Muhammad, who was known to have been in retreat and meditation in a cave outside Mecca [2], had received the first few words of a book that would have a tremendous impact on the world of Arabic literature.[3] Not being known to have composed any piece of poetry and not having any special rhetorical gifts, [4] Muhammed had just received the beginning of a book that would deal with matters of belief, legislation, international law, politics, ritual, spirituality, and economics [5] in an 'entirely new literary form'. Armstrong states,

"It is as though Muhammad had created an entirely new literary form…Without this experience of the Koran, it is extremely unlikely that Islam would have taken root." [6]

This unique literary form was the cause of the dramatic intellectual revival of desert Arabs [7], and after thirteen years of the first revelation, it became the only reference for a new state in Medina. [8] This new form of speech, the Qur'an, became the sole source of the new civilisation's political, philosophical, and spiritual outlook.

It is well known amongst Muslim and Non-Muslim scholars that the Qur’anic discourse cannot be described as any of the known forms of Arabic speech; namely Poetry and Prose. [9]

Taha Husayn, [10] a prominent Egyptian Litterateur, during the course of a public lecture summarised how the Qur’an achieves this unique form:

“But you know that the Qur’an is not prose and that it is not verse either. It is rather Qur’an, and it cannot be called by any other name but this. It is not verse, and that is clear; for it does not bind itself to the bonds of verse. And it is not prose, for it is bound by bonds peculiar to itself, not found elsewhere; some of the binds are related to the endings of its verses and some to that musical sound which is all its own. It is therefore neither verse nor prose, but it is “a Book whose verses have been perfected the expounded, from One Who is Wise, All-Aware.” We cannot therefore say its prose, and its text itself is not verse. It has been one of a kind, and nothing like it has ever preceded or followed it.” [11]

Any expression of the Arabic language falls into the literary forms of Prose and Poetry. There are other ‘sub’ forms that fall into the above categories. Kahin, which is a form of rhymed prose, is one of these ‘sub’ forms; but all literary forms can be described as prose and poetry.


Arabic Poetry is a form of metrical speech with a rhyme. [12] The rhyme in Arabic poetry is achieved by every line of the poem ending upon a specific letter. [13] The metrical aspect of Arabic poetry is due to its rhythmical divisions, these divisions are called ‘al-Bihar’, literally meaning ‘The Seas’ in Arabic. This term has been used to describe the rhythmical divisions as a result of the way the poem moves according to its rhythm.

In Arabic poetry there are sixteen rhythmical patterns, which all of Arabic poetry adheres too or is loosely based upon;

1.        at-Tawîl
2.        al-Bassit
3.        al-Wafir
4.        al-Kamil
5.        ar-Rajs
6.        al-Khafif
7.        al-Hazaj
8.        al-Muttakarib
9.        al-Munsarih
10.        al-Muktatab
11.        al-Muktadarak
12.        al-Madid
13.        al-Mujtath
14.        al-Ramel
15.        al-Khabab
16.        as-Saria'

Each one of the al-Bihar have a unique rhythmical division. [14] The al-Bihar were first codified in the 8th century by al-Khalil bin Ahmad and have changed little since. The al-Bihar are based on the length of syllables. A short syllable is a consonant followed by a short vowel. A long syllable is a vowelled letter followed by either an unvowelled consonant or a long vowel. A nunation sign at the end of a word also makes the final syllable long. In Arabic poetry each line is divided into two halves.

Below are basic scansions of the metres commonly found in Arabic poetry, showing long (—) and short (^) syllables. They represent pairs of half-lines and should be read from left to right. The patterns are not rigidly followed: two short syllables may be substituted for a long one.

^ — — | ^ — — | ^ — — | ^ — — |
^ — — | ^ — — | ^ — — | ^ — — |

^ ^ — ^ — | ^ ^ — ^ — | ^ ^ — ^ — |
^ ^ — ^ — | ^ ^ — ^ — | ^ ^ — ^ — |

^ — ^ ^ — | ^ — ^ ^ — | ^ — — |
^ — ^ ^ — | ^ — ^ ^ — | ^ — — |

— — ^ — | — — ^ — | — — ^ — |
— — ^ — | — — ^ — | — — ^ — |

^ — — — | ^ — — — |
^ — — — | ^ — — — |

— — ^ — | — ^ — | — — ^ — | — ^ — |
— — ^ — | — ^ — | — — ^ — | — ^ — |


— ^ — — | — — ^ — | — ^ — — |
— ^ — — | — — ^ — | — ^ — — |

— — ^ — | — — ^ — | — ^ — |
— — ^ — | — — ^ — | — ^ — |

An example of an Arabic poem, is the ancient Arabian poem called ‘Abu-l-‘Ata of Sind’:

Of thee did I dream, while spears between us were quivering And sooth, of our blood full drop had drunken the tawny shafts! I know not, by heaven I swear, and true is the word I say This pang, is it love sickness, or wrought by a spell from thee. If it be a spell, then grant me grace of my love-longing If other the sickness be, then none is the guilt of thine. [15]

This poem, in the original Arabic, falls into the rhythmical pattern of Tawil, one of the al-Bihar shown above. [16] A literary analysis on any Arabic Poem will conclude that it adheres too or is based upon the rhythmical patterns. This is supported by Louis Cheikho who collected pre-Islamic and Islamic poetry and concluded that all of the poems conformed and were based upon the al-Bihar. [17]


Arabic Prose can be called non-metrical speech, meaning it does not have a rhythmical pattern like poetry mentioned above. Arabic prose can be further divided into two categories; Saj’ which is rhymed prose and Mursal which is straight prose or what some may call ‘normal speech’. [18]

An apt description of Saj’ is, in the words of Von Deffer:

“A literary form with some emphasis on rhythm and rhyme, but distinct from poetry. Saj’ is not really as sophisticated as poetry, but has been employed by Arab poets, and is the best known of the pre-Islamic Arab prosodies. It is distinct from poetry in its lack of metre, i.e. it has not consistent rhythmical pattern, and it shares with poetry the element of rhyme, though in many cases some what irregularly employed.” [19]

Mursal can be defined as a literary form that goes on and is not divided, but is continued straight throughout without any divisions, either of rhyme or of anything else. [20] Mursal is meant as a way of expression close to the everyday spoken language, examples can be seen in speeches and prayers intended to encourage or motivate the masses.

The Qur’ans Literary Form

The Qur’anic discourse cannot be described as any of the known literary forms. The most predominant opinion is that it doesn’t adhere to any of the rules known to poetry and prose. Another opinion is that the Qur’an combines metrical and non-metrical composition to create its own literary form. Some scholars disagree with the above opinions and claim that the Qur’an is a form of rhymed prose, saj’. This opinion has arisen mainly due to the similarities of pre-Islamic prose and early Meccan chapters of the Qur’an. However, the scholars who carry this opinion do not contend that the Qur’an is unique by its use of literary and stylistic elements that render it inimitable. This unique use of literary elements has not been found in any Arabic Prose, past or present.

Below is an explanation, with reference to the main opinions above, on how the Qur’an achieves its unique inimitable form.

Non-compliance to the Rules of Prose or Poetry

The Qur’anic literary form differs as it does not fit in to any of the literary categories explained above, [21] it is not like the prose of Saj’ or Mursal and it doesn't fit into any of the al-Bihar. This can be seen by the following example:

    Wad Duha wal laili idha saja
    Ma waddaka Rabbuka wa maa qala
    Wa lal akhiraatu khairul laka minal oola
    Wa la sawfa ya teeka Rabbuka fa tarda…

    By the morning hours and by the night most still
    Your Lord has neither forsaken you nor hates you
    And indeed the hereafter is better for you than the present
    And verily your Lord will give you so that you shall be well pleased…

The examination of the whole chapter with reference to the above literary forms indicates that it is not Saj’ or Mursal as this verse has an internal rhythm,whereas Saj’ does not have a consistent rhythm and Mursal has no rhythm or rhyme. Also it cannot be described as poetry; the totality of this chapter, or any other chapter for that matter, does not adhere to any of the al-Bihar.

Unique Fusion of Metrical and non-Metrical Speech

Some parts of the Qur’an follow the rules of poetry, that is, some verses can be described as one of the al-Bihar. [23] When the totality of a Qur’anic Chapter, that contains some these verses is analysed, it is not possible to distinguish its literary form.

“The Qur'an is not verse, but it is rhythmic. The rhythm of some verses resemble the regularity of saj’…But it was recognized by Quraysh critics to belong to neither one nor the other category.” [24]

The Qur’an achieves this unique literary form by intermingling metrical and non-Metrical speech in such a way that the difference can not be perceived. [25] This intermingling of metrical and non-metrical composition is present throughout the whole of the Qur’an. The following examples illustrate this,

“But the righteous will be in Gardens with Springs – ‘Enter in Peace and Safety!’ – and We shall remove any bitterness from their hearts: [they will be like] brothers, sitting on couches, face to face. No weariness will ever touch them there, nor will they ever be expelled. [Prophet] tell My servants that I am the Forgiving, the Merciful, but My torment is the truly painful one. Tell them too about Abraham’s guests: when they came to him and said “Peace,” he said, ‘We are afraid of you’” [26]

When reading the original Arabic of the above verse the reader moves from metric composition to prose with out experiencing the slightest change of style or mode. [27] The same mingling of metrical and non-metrical composition can be observed in the following verse from Chapter 12 of the Qur’an.

“When she heard their malicious talk, she prepared a banquet and sent for them, giving each of them a knife. She said Joseph, ‘Come out and show yourself to them!’ and when the women saw him, they were stunned by his beauty, and cut their hands, exclaiming, ‘Great God! He cannot be mortal! He must be a precious angel!’ She said, ‘This is the one you blamed me for. I tried to seduce him and he wanted to remain chaste, but if he does not do what I command now, he will be put in prison and degraded.’” [28]

The phrase “This is the one you blamed me for” in Arabic is poetic. It has a metrical structure in which the rules of Arabic poetry are observed, [29] Commenting on this feature Mitwalli states,

“It is almost impossible for the listener to detect the shift from one form to the other, nor does this exquisite mingling impinge on the fluidity of expression or impair its meaning.” [30]

The Qur’an is truly unique in composition. It is neither prose nor poetry. [31] This inimitable style is achieved by intermingling metrical and non-metrical composition and by not adhering to the rules of poetry or prose.  In addition to this, the Qur’an uses expressions that are eloquent, full of sublime rhetoric and adheres to the grammatical rules of Classical Arabic. [32]

Literary and Stylistic Differences

The most predominant opinion on the inimitability of the Qur’an is that it exhibits a unique literary form. However, some Scholars are of the opinion that the early Meccan chapters have similar structural features than that of the kahin form of rhymed prose [33]. These same Scholars still admit that the Qur’an is unique due to its stylistic and literary features [34]. This could be the main reason why those who used to recite in the kahin form of Arabic were not able to challenge the Qur’an. But this can also raise the question ‘If the Qur'an is a form of rhymed prose then why were those who used kahin unable to challenge the Qur'an?’ [35]

Even if this opinion is accepted, the stylistic and literary features that render the Qur’an inimitable and unique include semantically driven assonance and rhyme [36], grammatical shift [37]; interrelation between sound, structure and meaning [38] and its unique linguistic genre. [39] These are valid and powerful arguments that explain how the Qur'an differs from rhymed prose from a literary and stylistics point of view. Please see references above for more information.

A note on Western Scholarship

Non-Muslim Scholarship testifies that the Qur’an has a unique literary form. Some of these western Scholars include Robinson, Gibb, Arberry, Zammit, Lawrence, Johns, Casanova, Nicholson, Kasis and many others. [40] For example Arberry states.

“For the Koran is neither prose nor poetry, but a unique fusion of both” [41]

What must be noted is that some of the Western Scholars who continue to call the Qur’an’s literary form as rhymed prose do so on the basis that the Qur’ans uniqueness is acknowledged. To illustrate this R. A. Nicholson in his book ‘Literary History of the Arabs’ states,

“Thus, as regards its external features, the style of the Koran is modelled upon saj’, or rhymed prose, of the pagan soothsayers, but with such freedom that it may fairly be described as original.” [42]

Although they try to fit the Qur’an into rhymed prose they still concluded that it is a unique or an original form of rhymed prose, thus supporting our hypothesis. To highlight this fact Bruce Lawrence states,

“Those passages from the Qur’an that approach saj’ still elude all procrustean efforts to reduce them to an alternative form of saj’.” [43]

This analysis has been summarised by Ibn Khaldun’s in his classical work ‘The Muqadimah’:

“It should be known that the Arabic language and Arab speech are divided into two branches. One of them is rhymed poetry…The other is prose, that is, non-metrical speech…The Quran is in prose. However, it does not belong in either of the two categories. It can neither be called straight prose nor rhymed prose. It is divided into verses. One reaches breaks where taste tells one that speech stops. It is then reused and ‘repeated in the next verse. (Rhyme) letters, which would make that (type of speech) rhymed prose are not obligatory, nor do rhymes (as used in poetry) occur.” [44]

A note on ‘Subjective and Aesthetic Criteria’

Some Qur’an critics often claim that the Qur’anic challenge is subjective and is based upon aesthetic criteria. This is a false accusation. The Qur’an can either be described as prose, poetry or unique. Literary forms are not based upon aesthetic criteria; they are based upon the structural features of a text. It can be clearly seen above that literary forms are defined and can been distinguished from one another.


The Qur’an is a unique form of Arabic speech. The form of its language can not be described as Prose or Poetry. It achieves this unique literary form by intermingling metrical and non-metrical speech in such a way that its style is not affected and its meaning not distorted. Furthermore, the Qur’an does not adhere to the rules of Prose or Poetry but yet its expression is grammatically sound. This can been seen by analysing every Qur’anic chapter. The totality of every chapter has a special character, with its own unique form, and its unique use of literary devices. These features of the Qur'an are part of the reason of why it has not been emulated to this day. [45] Hammilton Gibb’s states,

“.…the Meccans still demanded of him a miracle, and with remarkable boldness and self confidence Muhammad appealed as a supreme confirmation of his mission to the Koran itself. Like all Arabs they were 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 evidential miracle” [46]

There are many Muslim and Non-Muslim Scholars who testify that the Qur’an is indeed unique and inimitable. An interesting analysis by Aisha Abd al-Rahman, which built upon the works of many Islamic Scholars throughout the decades, supports the conclusion voiced by Taha Hussein that ‘Arabic composition should be divided into three categories, prose, verse and Qur’an, saj’ forming a part of prose but the Qur’an being a category of its own.’ [47]

As a result of researching Western and Muslim Scholarship it can concluded that the Qur’an is a unique literary form that cannot be emulated. Further research into the references below will consolidate the points raised in this article and will provide the correct understanding on how no one has been able to produce anything like the Qur’anic discourse. To conclude, E. H. Palmer correctly asserts,

“That the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur'an itself is not surprising.” [48]


[1] Qur’an Chapter 96 Verse 1. This verse is known to have been the first revelation,
there is a consensus amongst the scholars on this issue. Please see http://
edu/dept/MSA/quran/maududi/mau96.html for further information.

[2] Please see Martin Lings. Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. 1987.
Inner Traditions; for a detailed account on the life of the Prophet Muhammad and details
of the first revelation.

[3] The Qur’an is undoubtedly the most influential book in Arabic literature. Non-Muslim
and Muslim Scholars do not contend that the Qur’an is an authority in Arabic literature
and has had an unparalleled influence.  For example Chicago University Wadad Kadi
and Mustansir Mir, Professor of Islamic studies at Youngstown State University state that:

    "Although Arabic, as a language and a literary tradition, was quite well developed
    by the
    time of Muhammad's prophetic activity, it was only after the emergence of
    Islam, with its
    founding scripture in Arabic, that the language reached its utmost
    capacity of
    expression, and the literature its highest point of complexity and
    sophistication. Indeed, it
    probably is no exaggeration to say that the Qur'an was
    one of the most conspicuous
    forces in the making of classical and post-classical
    Arabic literature."

    Wadad Kadi and Mustansir Mir, Literature and the Qur'an, Encyclopedia of the
    Qur'an, vol. 3, pp. 213, 216

Please also see Muhammed Abdel Haleem. 1999. Understanding the Qur’an: Themes &
Styles. I. B.Tauris Publishers, p. 1 - 4

[4] Understanding the Qur’an: Themes & Styles, p. 1

[5] The Qur’an is a book that gives guidance on all of life’s affairs. This includes the
personal and political sphere, for example the Qur’an details how treaties with other
nations should be undertaken and how prisoners of war should be treated
(Understanding the Qur’an: Themes & Styles, p. 66-67)

[6] K. Armstrong. 1993. A History of God: the 4,000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity
and Islam. Vintage, p. 171

[7] Part of the Qur’an’s intellectual miracle is its literary form. God has challenged the
whole of mankind to try and produce a single chapter like it (Qur’an 2:23). This
challenge, which has remained unchallenged, is what captivated the minds of the Arabs
at the time of revelation. They rationally assessed that if an Arab cannot challenge the
Qur’an and a Non-Arab could not, then the only ‘entity’ that could have possibly
produced the Qur’an is the Creator. Margoliouth explains the results of this intellectual

    "The Koran [sic] admittedly occupies an important position among the great
    books of the world. Though the youngest of the epoch-making works
    belonging to this
    class of literature, it yields to hardly any in the wonderful effect
    which it has produced on
    large masses of men. It has created an all but new
    phase of human thought and a fresh
    type of character. It first transformed a
    number of heterogeneous desert tribes of the
    Arabian peninsula into a nation of
    heroes, and then proceeded to create the vast
    politico-religious organizations of
    the Muhammadan world which are one of the great
    forces with which Europe and
    the East have to reckon today."

    G. Margoliouth. 1977. Introduction to J.M. Rodwell’s, The Koran. Everyman’s
    Library, p. vii

[8] To understand the functions and objectives of this state, and its impact on the
modern world please see the very informative site

[9] Please see F Esack. 1993. Qur’anic Hermeneutics: Problems and Prospects. The
Muslim World, Vol. 83, No. 2. p. 126 -128; H E Kassis. 1983. A Concordance of the Qur’
an. University of California Press, p. xvii; Arthur J Arberry. 1998. The Koran. Oxford
University Press, p. x and Bruce Lawrence. Journal of Qur’anic Studies. Vol VII, Issue I
2005. Approximating Saj’ in English Renditions of the Qur’an: A Close Reading of Suran
93 (al-Duha) and the basmala p. 64

[10] The influential Egyptian Litterateur born in 1889 and died in 1973.

[11] Lecture entitled "Prose in the second and third centuries after the Hijra" delivered at
the Geographical Society in Cairo 1930. Dar al Ma-arif.

[12] Metrical speech is a form of speech that employs a strict rhythmical pattern, that is,
it follows a type of poetic metre.

[13] Sir Charles J. Lyall. 1930. Translations of Ancient Arabian Poetry. Columbia
University Press, p. xlv

[14] Please see Sir Charles J. Lyall. Translations of Ancient Arabian Poetry, p. xlv-lii and
William Wright. 1955 (1898). A Grammar of the Arabic Langugage, Vol II, part 4.
Cambridge University Press, p. 350-390 for more information on the poetic metres.

[15] Sir Charles J. Lyall. Translations of Ancient Arabian Poetry, p 13.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Louis Cheikho, Shu’ara' 'al-Nasraniyah, 1890-1891, Beirut.


[19] A. Von Deffer. 2003 (Revised Ed. 1994). ‘Ulum al-Qur’an: An Introduction to the
Sciences of the Qur’an. The Islamic Foundation, p. 75

[20] Ibid.

[21] See reference [9]

[22] Qur’an Chapter 93 Verses 1-4

[23] Kristina Nelson. 1985 (2nd Print 2002). The Art of Reciting the Qur’an. The
American University in Cairo Press, p. 10

    “Although some of the lines of the Qur’an may be scanned according to the
    Arabic metres*, these are not as characteristic of Qur’anic syllabic
    rhythmic patterns as
    are the abrupt or progressive shifts in rhythmic patterns and
    length of line, and the shifts between regular and irregular patterns.”

    * See al-Sa’id (1997: 324 – 25) and al-Suyuti (1910: I/96 – 105) for a list of some
    of these lines.

[24] 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.

[25] Mitwalli al-Sharawi, The Miracles of the Qur’an. Dar ul Taqwa, p. 31

[26] Qur'an Chapter 15 Verses 45-52

[27] The Miracles of the Qur’an, p. 31

[28] Qur’an Chapter 12 Verses 31-35

[29] The Miracles of the Qur’an, p. 31-32

[30] Ibid, p. 32

[31] See reference [9] and Mitwalli al-Sharawi, The Miracles of the Qur’an.

[32] For more information on the Rhetorical Features in the Qur’anic discourse see H
Abdul-Raof. 2003. Exploring the Qur’an, p. 265-398 and F Esack. 1993. Qur’anic
Hermeneutics: Problems and Prospects. The Muslim World, Vol. 83, No. 2. p. 126 -128.

For examples of the eloquence of the Qur’an please see
com/MeticulousAccuracyAndStaggeringAdequacy.html and www.theinimitablequran.

The Qur’an is grammatically sound. For refutations of so-called grammatical errors
please see
com/GrammaticalShiftInPersonNumberRhetoricalHaleem.html , www.theinimitablequran.
com/GrammaticalErrorsInTheQuran.html and www.theinimitablequran.

[33] S. M. Hajjaji-Jarrah. 2000.The Enchantment of Reading: Sound, Meaning, and
Expression in Surat Al-Adiyat. Curzon Press, p. 228

[34] Ibid, p. 229

[35] Please see
www.theinimitablequran.com/History.html for further information.

[36] See al-Hassan al-‘Askari (ed. Mufid Qamima). 1981. Kitab al-Sina-‘atayn: al-Kitaba
wa ‘l-Shi’r. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, p. 285

[37] Please see
www.theinimitablequran.com/DynamicStyle.html, Muhammed Abdel Haleem. 1999.
Understanding the Qur’an: Themes & Styles. I. B.Tauris Publishers, p. 184-210 and Neal
and Neal Robinson. 1996. Discovering The Qur'an: A Contemporary Approach To A
Veiled Text. SCM Press Ltd., p. 245-252

Please see www.theinimitablequran.
com/InterrelationOfStructureSoundMeaningSurah103And104.html, Sayyid Qutb. 1966.
al-Taswir al-Fanni fi al-Qur’an. Cairo: Dar al-Ma’arif, Sayyid Qutb. 1966. Mashahid al-
Qiyama fi ‘l-Qur’an. Cairo: Dar al-Ma’arif., Michael Sells. 1991. Sound Spirit and Gender
in Surat al-Qadr. Journal of the American Oriental Society 111, 2 p. 239-259, M. Sells.
Sound and Meaning in Surat Al- Qariah in Arabica Vol 40, and M. Sells. 2000. A Literary
Approach to the Hymnic Surahs of the Qur'an: Spirit, Gender and Aural Intertextuality.
Curzon Press, p. 3-25.

[39] Please see
www.theinimitablequran.com/UniqueGenre.html for more details.

[40] For a good introduction and comments by western Scholars please see

[41] Arthur J Arberry. 1998. The Koran. Oxford University Press, p. x

[42] R. A. Nicholson. 1930. Literary History of the Arabs. Cambridge University Press, p.

[43] Bruce Lawrence. Journal of Qur’anic Studies. Vol VII, Issue I 2005. Approximating
Saj’ in English Renditions of the Qur’an: A Close Reading of Suran 93 (al-Duha) and the
basmala p. 64

[44] Ibn Khaldun. 1967. The Muqaddima. Princeton, Vol. 3, p.368; Muqaddima, Cairo, n.
d., p.424

[45] See reference [35]

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

[47] Saj’ in English Renditions of the Qur’an: A Close Reading of Suran 93 (al-Duha) and
the basmala p. 64

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

Rhetoric and Eloquence

The Qur'an can only be described as a 'sea of rhetoric'. It employs more rhetorical features than any other text.


The Quran is a sea of rhetoric. Quranic discourse abounds with rhetorical features more than any other Arabic discourse, classical or modern [1].The purpose of the heavy employment of figures of speech and embellishments is part of the linguistic defiance to mankind to match the Qurans unique stylistic and textural construction. In the study of the rhetorical components of the Quranic discourse it is important to recognise the delicate balance between the use of small linguistic elements, like conjunctions, their rhetorical functions, as well as their semantic impact on the overall meaning of a Quranic structure. Stylistically the Quran stands out from any type of discourse[2]. The Quran exhibits rhyme, rhythm, assonance, alliteration and other qualities which are unique to the text.

A close up stylistic analysis of the Quran can highlight a wide rainbow of textural and rhetorical features which are an extremely unique use of the language.

As an example the interrogative particle is used in the Quran to signify a number of meanings; its employment is stylistically better and semantically more accurate that the interrogative word in certain co-texts i.e. the linguistic environment it occurs in. See Q10:59, Q5:116 etc.

This is a huge subject but just to highlight the Qurans uniqueness and inimitability; the Quranic discourse employs more rhetorical features than any other text.

Analogy: See AL-GHASHIYA 88:15–16, AD-DHUHA 93:9-10

Alliteration See AL-AHZAB 33:71, AL-MURSALAT 77:20 etc

Antiphrasis See AD-DUKHAN 44:49

Antithesis See FATIR 35:7, AT-TAWBA 9:82 etc

Asyndeton See AR-RAD 13:2

Assonance See AL-GHASHIYA 88:25-26, AL-GHASHIYA 88:14-15 etc

Cadence (This is the whole Quran itself, it is a major rhetorical feature which is an inimitable feature of the Quran. The Quranic discourse uses assonance to deliver all the rhetorical features while employing the use of many phonetic features such as assimilation, nasalisation, etc. No other text has done this before, especially in such frequency)

Chiasmus See AAL-E-IMRAN 3:27

Epizeuxis See AL-INSHIRAH 94:5-6

Equivoque See AN-NOOR 24:43

Homonymy See AL-BAQARA 2:14-15, AAL-E-IMRAN 3:54 etc

Hyperbole See AL-ARAF 7:40, AL-AHZAB 33:10,AZ-ZUMAR 39:71-72 etc

Isocolon See AT-TALAQ 65:7-10

Metaphor See MARYAM 19:4, AL-ANBIYA 21:18 etc

Metonymy See AL-QAMAR 54:13, AL-ANAAM 6:127 etc

Parenthesis See Q7:42, Q4:73 etc

Polypton Q80:25-26

Rhetorical Questions See Q55:60, Q37:91-92 etc

Stress See Q:29:62, Q3:92 etc (Stress has a unique semantic function in the Quran)

Synedoche See Q:90:12-13 [3]

Syntactico-Rhetorical Infertilisation

Quranic discourse displays numerous examples where syntactic mechanisms are employed to achieve many rhetorical features,[4] this is a unique feature of the Quran that is achieved by placing the correct word for the intended meaning while structuring the phrase to evoke rhetorical features, as in:

[For that We pour forth water in abundance, and We split the earth in Fragments. Q80:25-26]

The verbs ‘pour forth’ and ‘split’ and their respective morphological derived absolute objects ‘in abundance’ and ‘in fragments’ have produced polypton (a rhetorical feature). This provides a textual enhancement and which also acts as an element that stresses proposition as a whole.

Also through syntactic mechanism, the Quranic structure has achieved parallelistic structuring which feeds into and interlocks with another rhetorical feature which is that of assonance.

Quranic discourse also employs the syntactic means of passive voice to create rhetorical features, as in:

[You will do no wrong, and neither will you be wronged. Q2:279]

Where we have got Chiasmus (a rhetorical feature) through the morphological change from active to passive.[5]


[1] Please see H, Abdul-Raof. 2003. Exploring the Qur'an. Al-Maktoum Institute
Academic Press; and H. Abdul-Raof. 2000. Qur'an Translation: Discourse,Texture and
Exegesis. Curzon Press. For a brief historical debate http://www.theinimitablequran.

[2] Please see M. Abdullah Draz. 2001.The Qur'an an Eternal Challenge (al-Naba'
al-'Azim).The Islamic Foundation.

[3] See Hana E. Kasis, A Concordance of the Quran (Berkeley-LosAngeles-London:
University of California Pres, 1982) and H, Abdul-Raof. 2003. Exploring the Qur'an
(Chapter: Understanding Qur'anic Rhetoric). Al-Maktoum Institute Academic Press.

[4] Please see H. Abdul-Raof. 2000. Qur'an Translation: Discourse,Texture and
Exegesis. Curzon Press.

[5] Ibid

Also, the Qur'an achieves an amazing accuracy of language with its choice of words and sentence structure (eloquence)


Meticulous Accuracy and Staggering Adequacy

If the Qur’anic verses report a major event, like those that speak about the end of the Flood, their sentences become very short as if they were Morse Code signals. A verse in its entirety becomes like a pithy telegram with a momentous impact:

“A voice cried out: ‘Earth swallow up your waters; heaven, cease your rain! The floods abated and God’s will was done.” [Qur’an 11:44]

Such varying effects in word morphology, syntax, and the concordance of rhythms with meanings and feelings reach to the very summit in the Qur’an. They are always achieved in a smooth and easy manner without any artificiality or affectation.

If we further pursue this line of analysis, we will discover a meticulous accuracy and staggering adequacy: every letter is in its precise place neither advanced nor retarded. You cannot substitute one word for another, nor put one letter in place of the other. Every word has been chosen from among millions by a very sensitive act of discernment.

We shall presently encounter such accuracy as has never been equaled in composition. Examine, for example, the word ‘fertilizing’ in the following verse:

“We let loose the fertilizing wind” [Qur’an 15:22]

It was in the past understood in a figurative sense to mean that the wind stimulates the clouds causing then to rain; the rain would then ‘fertilize’ the soil, that is, make it productive. Nowadays, however, we know that the winds drive positively charged clouds into negatively charged ones causing lighting, thunder, and rain. In this sense they ‘fertilize’ the clouds. We also know that winds carry the pollen from one flower to another thus literary fertilizing them. Hence, we are before a word which is true figuratively, literally, and scientifically. It is, moreover, aesthetically superb and rhythmically pleasing. This is what we mean by meticulous accuracy in the choice and placing of a word.

Let us also consider the following verse:

“Do not usurp each other’s property by unjust means, nor bribe judges with it in order that you may knowingly and wrongfully deprive others of their possessions.” [Qur’an 2:188]

The Arabic word used here for ‘bribe’ here is ‘todloo’ which literally means to ‘lower’ something or send it down. This may seem a strange use putting in my mind that the judge or ruler to whom the money is given is in a higher not a lower position vis-ŕ-vis the givers. The Qur’an, however, effects an appropriate correction with this use: the hand that accepts bribes is a lower hand even if it is the ruler’s or the judge’s. This is how the expression ‘lower it down to the judges’ comes in an unequalled stylistic adequacy to convey meanness and degradation of those who receive bribes.

The Qur’an speaks about the killing of children for fear of poverty in two similar verses which only differ in a significant respect:

“You shall not kill your children because you cannot support them. We provide for you and for them.” [Qur’an 6: 151]

“You shall not kill your children for fear of want. We will provide for them and for you.” [Qur’an  17: 31]

The underlined word difference in word order is not haphazard but calculated. When the killing of children is motivated by actual want, by the poverty of the family at that time, the Qur’anic emphasis is on God’s succor of the parents; hence they are mentioned first (in the first verse). If, on the other hand, the killing is impelled by fear of expected want, of the future possibility of poverty, the Qur’an delivers its assuring message by placing the children (the future) before the family as recipients of God’s provision (in the second verse). Such minutiae can hardly occur to the mind of any human author. [Especially if the verse where revealed instantaneously, and other verses exhibiting this accuracy invalidates chance as an explanation]

Still pursuing the meticulous accuracy of the Qur’anic expression, we find two identical verses about patience that differ only in an ‘l’ letter added to a word in the second of them. In the first verse Luqman, the wise, says to his son:

“Endure with fortitude whatever befalls, for this is will power.” [Qur’an 31:17]

In the second verse we read:

“Who endures and forgiveness this truly is will power” [Qur’an 42:43]

Patience in the first verse is “min AAazmi al-omoori” (will power) while in the second verse it is “lamin AAazmi al-omoori”. The secret behind the emphasis with ‘la’ in the latter construction is that the patience involved in this case is doubly more demanding than the endurance exhorted in the first verse. It is patience vis-ŕ-vis aggression by an opponent and the person advised is required not only to endure but to forgive. This is certainly more difficult than the endurance of unavoidable divine fate.

Subtle and exact stylistic touches in the Qur’an extend to word inflections. In the verse:

“If two parties of believers fight each other, make peace between the.” [Qur’an 49:9]

The two parties are referred to first in the plural mode: the verb ‘iqtataloo’ – fight each other/against themselves – is used. But later on they are spoken of in the dual mode: in the word ‘baynahuma’ which means ‘between the two of them’. There is a very subtle and fine touch here. For in the thick of fighting the two parties will merge into each other becoming a ‘host’or‘pluralism’ of striking arms, but if at peace they will separate again into two (the dual mode) groups each sending an envoy for talks. Hence the precision of the Qur’anic manner of expression.

Even prepositions and conjunctions are employed in (or are absent from) the Qur’anic text for weighty considerations and according to a precise and accurate calculation. An example of this method is afforded by a repeated Qur’anic structure based on the phrase, ‘they ask you’:

“They ask you about what they should give in alms. Say: What you can spare.” [Qur’an 2:219]

“They ask you about the phases of the moon. Say: They are timings for people and pilgrimage.” [Qur’an 2:189]

The word ‘say’ (Qul) come invariably as an answer to the question introduced by the phrase, ‘they ask you’.

An exception, however, occurs when a verse speaks about the condition of the mountains on the day of Judgement:

“They ask you about the mountains. Then say: My Lord will crush then into fine dust.” [Qur’an 20:105]

Hence the word ‘say’ comes in the Arabic form ‘faqul’ or ‘then say’ instead of ‘qul’. The reason is that all previous questions have already been put to Muhammad, but no one
has yet asked him about what happens to mountains on the day of Judgement because this is one of the secrets of that day. Thus, God is in effect saying to him: if you are asked about that subject, then say such and such a thing. The prefix ‘fa’ is not superfluous but semantically functional in a calculated manner.

Instances of eloquent Qur’anic accuracy of expression are inexhaustible.

All the previous examples illustrate the precise structuring and extreme accuracy of Qur’anic expression. The words are meticulously chosen even the letters are meaningfully used. No addition, elision, advancing, or retarding occurs but by careful design. This approach is unequalled in any human composition. It is only found in the Qur’an.

Historical Argument

It is a historical fact that the Arab linguists at the time of revelation (approximately 1500 years ago) were the greatest at appreciating Arabic literature. If the Arabs of the time were unable to challenge the Qur'an then what does this say about its authorship? Can it be the utterances of a human being?

A Brief History of the Qur'anic Challenge

I have tried to quote as many references as possible to avoid the views of the author who is writing about this topic. The main source that I used to cross check was Encyclopedia Of Islam published by E J Brill, Leiden. This is definitely a monumental source for most of the information regarding the biographies of the people. So here we go:

Ibn Al-Mukaffa': In the Encyclopedia Of Islam we see that:

One highly individual aspect of the spiritual interests of this [i.e., Ibn al-Mukaffa'] writer is finally revealed by the fragments (if they are authentic, as we believe) of a religious work, a Manichaean apologia, preserved in the refutation made a century later by Zaydi Imam al Qasim b. Ibrahim, in a treatise published by M Guidi. We are already familiar with the charges brought against Ibn al-Mukaffa' of having attemped to make an "imitation" of the sacred book of Islam: The work refuted by al-Qasim appears rather in our view, to be an attack on Muhammad, the Kuran and Islam in the name of another faith, namely the Manichaean faith which several of the friends of Ibn al-Mukaffa' had adopted and of which the writer himself was suspected.[1]

The reference 2 gives a brief review of his work:

The prominent Arabic prose writer of Iranian descent who was cruelly put to death in 139/756, is said to have tried to imitate the Qur'ân at the behest of the group of heretics, but he had to abandon this endeavour because it proved too difficult. This is of course a legend. But Ibn al-Mukaffa' did compose a polemic in which he took issue with Islam, and especially with the Qur'ân from a Manichaean standpoint. Fragments of this polemic have come down to us in a refuationwritten by Zaydi Imam, al-Qasim b. Ibrahim (d. 246/860). The first four words of this polemic - and they alone - are obviously modelled on the first our words of the Qur'ân. They read: "In the name of Compassionate and Merciful light - a Manichaean variation of the familiar Islamic basmalah which must strike any Muslim as blasphemy.[2]

Now does that strike any of us as copying from the Qur'ân or producing a better verse than that of the Qur'ân?

And to complete the thoughts on Ibn al-Mukaffa':

It is possible that the celebrated Iranian convert, the great stylist Ibn al-Mukaffa', actually try his hand at such a mu'arada, but found it impossible to complete his task - a fate shared by some other writers to whom tradition imputes the same ambition.[3]

On Ibn al-Mukaffa''s attempt to match the Qur'ân, we read:

When Ibn al-Muqaffa' arrived at the passage Sura 11:42-46 he realized that it was impossible for any human being to equal the book. So, he desisted from his mu'arada and tore up what he had done.[4]

Musaylimah: During the time of Prophet Muhammad(P) there arose a man called Musaylimah who started claiming the Prophethood. So, he also started saying "revelatory pronouncements". His revelatory pronouncements resembled:The form of these sayings correspond to a large extent with that of the earliest surahs, and they are in part prefaced by strange oaths, just like the surahs. It is however questionable whether Musaylimah was in fact the source of any of these sayings. Perhaps they were all invented at a later date and ascribed to him as a clumsy imitator of Muhammad. One of the sayings is modelled in a particularly obvious fashion on the mode of expression of the Qur'ân. it runs:

"The elephant. What is the elephant? And who shall tell you what is the elephant? He has a ropy tail and a long trunk. this is a [mere] trifle of our Lord's creations."[5]

Concerning the style of his speech:

He followed the kahin style of rhymed prose, and of the pronouncing of oaths. One such, swearing by mountain goat, the black smooth-skinned wolf and dark night are suggestive of animals symbolic of the pagan gods.[6]


When Musaylimah met the Prophetess Sajah they parleyed in rhymed prose, Musaylimah being credited with the use of "Islamic" turns of phrase such as 'Alay-na min salawati ma'shari abrar, ... yaqumuna 'l-layla wa-yasumuna 'l-nahar, li-rabbi-kumu'l-kubbar, rabbi 'l-ghuyumi wa 'l-amtar (Upon us are the blessings from a
company of dutful men ... The night they spend in vigil; during the day they fast for your great Lord, Lord of the cloud and rains).[7]

Al-Baqillanî, who systematically analyzed the poetry of Musaylimah (apart from Imru' al-Qais and others) has been quoted:

The pieces reported to have been composed by Musaylimah are so ridiculously poor in style that nobody could seriously compare them with the Qur'ân.[8]

Abu'l-'Ala Al-Marri: According to cAlî Dashti:

It is widely held that the blind Syrian poet Abu'l-'Ala ol-Ma'arri wrote his Ketab ol-Fosul wa'l-Ghayat, of which part survives, in imitation of the Qor'an.[9]

This statement is an unfinished thought. If we look at Rudy Peret's article, we see that:It was also reported of a sceptic and writer of the 5th/11th century, the blind Abu'l-'Ala' al-Ma'arri who died in 449/1057, that he tried to produce the imitation of the Qur'ân. The accusation refers to his compendious work al-Fusul wa-'l-Ghayat, only the first seventh of which has survived, a supreme example of the art of poetry and rhyme that was based on the classical Arabic literary language, and of which the author was the master. It is written in elaborate rhyming prose, and individual sections of stanzas occasionally open
with archiac oaths such as: "I swear by him who created horses and the yellowish white [camels] who lope along in ar-Ruhayl............." These incantations are reminiscent of early Qur'ânic texts (e.g. lxxv. 1-2) which in turn go back to ancient Arabic oracles; presumably they are indeen modelled on the Qur'ânic texts.[10]

And further more the author went on to say:

But this is not to say that al-Ma'arri intended his work as a whole to be an imitation of the Qur'ân, let alone surpass it. Furthermore, by the time al-Ma'arri was writing, rhyming prose had long since being accepted as a stylistic device characteristic of elevated language, so that it could be employed without second thoughts. If we look beyond the elaborate torrent of words and try to estabhlish the theme of the work, the subject matter amounts to little more than songs of praise of God and religious and ethical admonitions (with pessimistic undercurrents).[11]

In another reference:

Kremer endeavoured to disprove in his latest writing about the noble free-thinkers, and to explain as a misunderstanding of later literary historians, the assumption that Abu'l-'Ala' al-Ma'arri wrote an imitation of the Koran. For the sake of completion it may be pointed out that al-Zamakhshari also presupposes that Abu'l 'Ala' intended to imitate the Koran. It is likely that he has the title of Abu'l 'Ala's work in mind when he says in the introduction to his Kashshaf: wa-mayyaza baynahunna bi fusul wa-ghayat. In his commentary to Sura 77:30-3 he expresses the opinion that Abu'l 'Ala' wished to excel the beauties of this passage in a verse which he wrote in order to compete with God's word. In those verses of the Koran the infidels are addressed:

"Go then in shade (of the smoke of hell) which rises in three columns, verily it is not shady there and there is no protection from the hell fire. Verily, it throws sparks as big as palaces, as if they were reddish-yellow camels."

Abu'l 'Ala' in the verse in which he is said to imitate this passage of the Koran does not speak of the hell fire but of the fires burning in hospitable houses in order to invite the tired traveller. Of this fire he says:

"A red one, with hair (rays) which float far in the darkness, and throws sparks as big as tents."

This verse is in fact contained in a dirge and consolation which the poet addressed to the family of the 'Alid Abu Ahmad al-Musawi after his death. Fakhr al-din al-Razi reproves al-Zamakhshari for suggesting that Abu'l-'Ala' intended this as an imitation of the Koran; but he declares that, as a parallel was suggested, he is obliged to show in how many respects the expression of the Koran is superior to that of the poet. After giving twelve proofs he concludes:

"These points came to me in a flash, but if we were to beseech God to help us in search for more, he would undoubtedly offer us as many more as we could desire."[12]

Yahya b. Al-Hakam al-Ghazal:

He was a belletrist in Andalus, Spain in 3rd century....the Andalusian belletrist Yahya b. al-Hakam al-Ghazal, called by his biographers the 'The sage of al-Andalus, its poet and oracle', dared to attempt to produce a pendant to surah 112 containing the Islamic credo. 'But he has overcome by terrible fear and shuddering when he embarked upon this work and thus returned to God.'[13]

Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad (Also known as Bab):

A work from the middle of the nineteenth century by Sayyid 'Ali Muhammad from Shiraz, known as Bab, the founder of the Babi sect (which survives to this day in the Bahai sect) deserves to be mentioned.

Bab felt that he had been caled upon to replace Muhammad as a Prophet and to replace the outmoded Islam with a new religion. In the Bayan he summed up his doctrine. The mode of expression is prosaic, the arrangement of the material unsystematic despite the division into eleven units (Wahid) of the nineteen chapters (bab) each. The work was designed not to outdo the Qur'ân in rhetorical power but to supercede it as a sober statement of the new faith. Yet it accords with the Qur'ân in one respect - that the revelations derive from God himself. Moreover, there are several points, both in the subject matter and in the formulation, which are not only inspired by the Qur'ân but modelled on it, consciously or unconsciouly.[14]

Ibn al-Rawandi:

He was a Mu'atazili and a heretic, born in the beginning of 3rd/9th century. At first he was an adherent of Mutazilism, then left his friends and attacked them mercilessly.

In the Encyclopedia Of Islam we read:

The plentiful extracts from the K. al-Zumurraudh provide a fairly clear indication off the most heterodox doctrine of Ibn al-Rawandi, that or which posterity has been least willing to forgive him: a biting criticism of prophecy in general and of the prophecy of Muhammad in particular; he maintains in addition that religious dogmas the not acceptable to reason and must, therefore be rejected; the miracles attributed to the Prophets, persons who may reasonably be compared to sorcerers and magicians, are pure invention, and the greatest of the miracles in the eyes of orthodox Muslims, the Kuran, gets no better treatment: it is neither a revealed book nor even an inimitable literary masterpiece. In order to cloak his thesis, which attacks the root of all types of religion, Ibn al-Rawandi used the fiction that they were uttered by Brahmans. His reputation as irreligious iconoclast spread in the 4th/10th century beyond the borders of Muslim literature.[15]

Very tersely, Ibn al-Rawandi's attitude has been put as:

He resembled somewhat the so-called free lance journalist of these days and could write for or against the same cause without any scruple.[16]

Bassar bin Burd, Sahib Ibn 'Abbad & Abu'l - 'Atahiya:

I am clubbing all of them together because they both seem to have claimed that their composition is better or slight less better than the Qur'ân. I crossed checked their work in the Encyclopedia Of Islam but there is no mention of their composition against the Qur'ân.

Bassar bin Burd rates some of his verses superior to surah 59. Towards the end of the 10th century the Sahib Ibn 'Abbad could still publicly accept the compliment made to him by a Jew from Isfahan that the style of the Koran was only slightly superior to his own.[17]Or in another reference:

Bashshar b. Burb is quoted as freely comparing to its disadvantage Kur'anic with contemporary verse and as having boasted of having personally surpassed surah LIX; a similar statement is attributed to Abu'l-'Atahiya with reference to surah LXXVII.[18]

Bashar did in fact praise one of his own poetic products when he heard recited by a singing girl in Baghdad as being better than the Surah al-Hashr.[19]

But the surprising thing is that al-Baqillani in his I'jaz al-Qur'ân compares the work of Bassar bin Burd and others with the Qur'ân and there is no mention of Bassar bin Burd's work being better than the Qur'ân!! Reference 2, which is a rather comprehensive book on Arabic literature pre-Islamic as well as post-Islamic, also mentions about Bassar bin Burd being a great post-Islamic poet who introduced new ideas in the poetry. Again there is no mention by Rudy Paret about he surpassing the style of the Qur'ân.

In the article Rhetorical Interpretation of the Qur'ân: I'jaz and related topics, Issa J Boullata deals with the modern writers who dealt the Qur'ân from a literary point of view. One such work of A'isha cAbd al-Rahmân who goes by the pseudonym of Bint Shacati 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'ân. Issa Boullata says:

A'isha cAbd al-Rahmân studies inductively other aspects of Qur'ânic usage and offers fresh ideas and new interpretation, uncovering certain consistencies never observed before, such as those regarding the use of passive voice in the Qur'ânic scenes of the day of resurrection, which in her view, emphasize the passivity of the universe and the spontaneity of all creation in obeying the overwhelming events of the day. These and other observations of hers transcend traditional Arabic syntax and rhetoric as she attempts to capture the reality that lies behind Qur'anic expression. Her conclusion is that the Qur'ân, being neither prose nor verse, is a literary genre of its own that is of the highest eloquence and of matchless stylistic perfection.[20]

cAlî bin Rabbân at-Tabarî who was Nestorian Christian, and at the age of 70 converted to Islam, asserts that he has never in any language found stylistic perfection equaling that of the Qur'ân:

When I was a Christian I used to say, as did an uncle of mine who was one of the learned and eloquent men, that eloquence is not one of the signs of prophethood because it is common to all the peoples; but when I discarded (blind) imitation and (old) customs and gave up adhering to (mere) habit and training and reflected upon the meanings of the Qur'ân I came to know that what the followers of the Qur'ân claimed for it was true. The fact is that I have not found any book, be it by an Arab or a Persian, an Indian or a Greek, right from the beginning of the world up to now, which contains at the same time praises of God, belief in the prophets and apostles, exhortations to good, everlasting deeds, command to do good and prohibition against doing evil, inspiration to the desire of paradise and to avoidance of hell-fire as this Qur'ân does. So when a person brings to us a book of such qualities, which inspires such reverence and
sweetness in the hearts and which has achieved such an overlasting success and he is (at the same time) an illiterate person who did never learnt the art ofwriting or rhetoric, that book is without any doubt one of the signs of his Prophethood.[21]



[1] The Encyclopedia Of Islam, 1971, Volume 3, E J Brill, Leiden, p. 885.
[2] A F L Beeston, T M Johnstone, R B Serjeant and G R Smith (Ed.), Arabic Literature
To The End Of The Ummayyad Period, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p. ??.
[3] The Encyclopedia Of Islam, Op. Cit., p. 1019.
[4] Gustave E Von Grunebaum, A Tenth-Century Document Of Arabic Literary Theory
and Criticism, 1950, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, p. xiv.
[5] A F L Beeston, T M Johnstone, R B Serjeant and G R Smith (Ed.), Arabic Literature
To The End Of The Ummayyad Period, Op. Cit., p. 212.
[6] Ibid., pp. 127-128.
[7] Ibid., p. 128.
[8] cAbdul Aleem, I'jaz ul Qur'ân, 1933, Islamic Culture, Volume VII, Hyderabad Deccan,
p. 221.
[9] cAlî Dashti (Translated from the Persian by F R C Bagley), Twenty Three Years: A
Study Of The Prophetic Career Of Mohammad, 1985, George Allen & Unwin Ltd.,
London, p. 48.
[10] A F L Beeston, T M Johnstone, R B Serjeant and G R Smith (Ed.), Arabic Literature
To The End Of The Ummayyad Period, Op. Cit., p. 213.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ignaz Goldziher, Ed. S M Stern, Muslim Studies (Muhammedanische Studien) II,
1971, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., London, pp. 364-365.
[13] Ibid., p. 364.
[14] A F L Beeston, T M Johnstone, R B Serjeant and G R Smith (Ed.), Arabic Literature
To The End Of The Ummayyad Period, Op. Cit., p. 213.
[15] The Encyclopedia Of Islam, Op. Cit., p. 905.
[16] cAbdul Aleem, I'jaz ul Qur'ân, Islamic Culture, Op. Cit., p. 232.
[17] Gustave E Von Grunebaum, A Tenth-Century Document Of Arabic Literary Theory
and Criticism, Op. Cit., p. xiv.
[18] The Encyclopedia Of Islam, Op. Cit., p. 1019.
[19] Ignaz Goldziher, Muslim Studies (Muhammedanische Studien) II, Op. Cit., p. 363.
[20] Andrew Rippin (Ed.), Approaches of The History of Interpretation of The Qur'ân,
1988, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 154.
[21] cAbdul Aleem, I'jaz ul Qur'ân, Islamic Culture, Op. Cit., pp. 222-223.


Musaylamah's Attempt to Imitate the Qur'an


In the books of Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wan-Nihayah and Al-Isabah, Musaylamah attempted to produce something like the Qur’an. Musaylamah tried to imitate the Qur’an’s style, rhythm, structure, informativity, genre and literary merit. In response to the Qur’anic chapter “al-Asr” - chapter 103,

“By al-Asr, Verily man is in loss. Except those who believe and do good deeds, and recommend one another to the truth, and recommend one another to patience.”

Musaylamah thought for a while then said “Indeed something similar has also been revealed to me”, he continued,

“O Wabr (a small, furry mammal, hyrax), O Wabr! You are only two ears and a chest, and the rest of you is digging and burrowing.” (1)

By analysing the above attempt to imitate the Qur’an it can be seen that the contemporary of Muhammad (pbuh), just extrapolated verses from the Qur’an, retaining its rhythm but using words that lacked informativity. (2) Furthermore, while providing structures of assonance, it clearly fails to provide relevant information and fails to match the linguistic features of the Qur’an.

Draz states,

“An Arab living at a time of high literary standards as he was, he could not maintain his own style. He went so low as to produce something similar to what children do when they change the words of songs and poems to give them different meanings. Needless to say, this is no more than distorting the work of others. A person who seriously wishes to take up the challenge to produce something similar to the Qur’an should take a particular idea expressed in the Qur’an, then express it in a different style of equal or greater merit to that of the Qur’anic text. Anyone who wishes to try this with the ideas of the Qur’an will only try what is impossible. Experience provides irrefutable proof.” (3)

Al-Baqillani, who systematically analyzed the poetry of Musaylamah (apart from Imru' al-Qais and others) has been quoted:

“The pieces reported to have been composed by Musaylimah are so ridiculously poor in style that nobody could seriously compare them with the Qur'an.” (4)

Furthermore Musaylamah’s other attempts are extremely poor in literary merit and fail to match the literary form of the Qur’an, for example:

"The elephant. What is the elephant? And who shall tell you what is the elephant? He has a ropy tail and a long trunk. This is a [mere] trifle of our Lord's creations." (5)

The book ‘Arabic Literature to the End of the Ummayyad Period’ summarises Musaylamah’s attempts to produce something like the Qur’an,

“He followed the
kahin style of rhymed prose
, and of the pronouncing of oaths. One such, swearing by mountain goat, the black smooth-skinned wolf and dark night are suggestive of animals symbolic of the pagan gods.” (6)

As can be seen above, Musaylamah’s utterances were not unique, as they were in the known form of rhymed prose (saj). Furthermore they did not provide linguistic and literary devices anywhere close to the Qur’anic text. (7)


1)        Tafsir Ibn Kathir (abridged), Vol. 10, Darusalam, p. 582; Please also see Al-
Bidayah wan-Nihayah 6:320 and Al-Isabah 3:225

2)        Ibid p. 583

3)        Muhammad Abdullah Draz. 2001. The Qur’an: An Eternal Challenge. The Islamic
Foundation, p. 69 – 68.

4)        Abdul Aleem, I'jaz ul Qur'an, 1933, Islamic Culture, Volume VII, Hyderabad
Deccan, p. 221.

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

6)        Ibid. p. 127 – 128

7)        Please see Muhammad Abdullah Draz. “The Qur’an: An Eternal Challenge” and
Hussein Abdul-Raof book “Exploring the Qur’an” for details on the Qur’anic challenge, its
literary and linguistic inimitability.


A non-Arabs appreciation  of the Qur'anic Mircacle: Al-Walid's Verdict

Source: M. Draz. 2001. The Qur’an: An Eternal Challenge, p. 77 - 79

What is new in the language of the Qur’an is that in every purpose the Qur’an tackles, it selects the best material and the closest to the meaning intended, bringing together all required shades that can readily be mixed together. It puts every little elements in its most suitable and fitting place. Its meaning is reflected superbly in its words, as if the words return a mirror image depicting its complete and true picture. To a word, its meaning is its secure home where it is permanently settled. The home does not look for a different dweller, and the resident does not aspire for a better home. The Qur’anic style gives you this perfect example of literary excellence.

Proof of this is in abundance, but we will not look into such evidence now. We will come to it later. We are only concentrating for the present on the point that not all Arabic speech is the same. Linguistic and literary excellence may sink to the point of total inadequacy or may rise to a most sublime standard defying all imitation.

If someone wishes to look for proof of the Qur’anic excellence in this respect, when he is not qualified to be a judge of literary styles, the he has to realise that only through a fine sense and a wealth of experience can judgment be fair. Hence, his only alternative is to accept the verdict of other people and to be content with the testimony of those who are qualified to so return one. Therefore, it is pertinent to give here one such testimony.

Al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah was on of the chiefs of the Quraysh tribe in Makkah. He came once to talk to the Prophet, but the Prophet read a passage of the Qur’an to him. It seems that al-Walid softened his hostile attitude to the Prophet as a result. When Abu Jahl, the most unyielding opponent of Islam among the Quraysh, heard of this, he went to al-Walid and said “Uncle, your people are collecting some money to give you, because you went to Muhammad seeking what he may have to give to you.” Al-Walid replied “The Quraysh is aware that I am among the richest people here.” Abu Jahl suggested “Then you have to say something about him which would indicate to your people that you are hostile to him” Al-Walid said “What can I say? There is none among you who is a better judge of poetry, with all its forms and styles, including the poetry said by the jinn, than me. By God, what Muhammad says is refinement. It is all light at the top, shining at the bottom. It is surpassing, overpowering. Nothing can stand up to it.” Abu Jahl insisted “Your people will not be satisfied until you have said something against it.” Al-Walid asked for time to think, and when he had finished his thinking he said “This is sorcery that he has learnt from someone else.”

In response to this, the following verses were revealed to the Prophet:

“Leave Me to deal with him whom I have created alone, and to whom I have granted vast resources, and children as [love’s] witness, and to whose life I gave so wide a scope; and yet, he greedily desires that I give yet more! No, indeed. It is against Our revelations that he knowingly, stubbornly sets himself. So I shall constrain him to endure a painful uphill climb! Behold, [when Our revelations are conveyed to him] he reflects and meditates – and thus he destroys himself, the way he meditates. Yes, indeed, he destroys himself, the way he meditates! Then he looks around [for new arguments], and the he frowns and glares, and in the end he turns back and glories in his arrogance, and says, “All this is mere spellbinding eloquence handed down to him [from olden times]! This is nothing but the word of mortal human beings.”” [Qur’an 74: 11-25]

Consider for a moment how the Qur’an describes how hard the man labours in order to reach his final verdict on the Qur’an; he reflects and meditates, looking around for argument, frowning and glaring, turning his back and behaving most arrogantly. All this shows how he struggles with his own nature, trying to come up with a verdict that his own conscience is bound to disapprove of. This constrained him no end. Yet finally, he had to succumb to his people’s desire and return to a hostile verdict. Consider also the wide gulf between this arbitrary verdict and the one that comes naturally from the same person when he expresses his opinion freely “It is surpassing, overpowering. Nothing can stand up to it.”

That is the final testimony for anyone who does not have the qualification to distinguish styles and judge literary expression. Sufficient to say that it is a testimony given by one who knows, a person from among the people whose native language was the language of the Qur’an. And yet he was as hostile to Islam as its hardest enemies.

What Does this Mean?

When questioning the authorship of the Qur'an in the context of the above arguments one must first understand who the Qur'an could have possible come from. There are a few options:

1) An Arab
2) A non-Arab
3) Muhammad
4) The Creator

The Qur’an is matchless in its Arabic and beyond comparison amongst other literature. It defies sense for it to have been written by someone who could not understand Arabic. Think of a literary work in English e.g. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Could one without English have been the author? Do the same for literature in other languages. Dante’s Divine Comedy, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Aristophanes’ Clouds and so on. It would not be serious to claim that such work could be achieved without access to the language itself therefore the first option of a non-Arab authoring the Qur’an can be safely eliminated.

If the Qur’an was authored by an Arab then the test of inimitability would not pose a real challenge just as it does not in other languages. Whatever one writes another can write a little in the same style but the challenge has been attempted by leading authorities in Arabic throughout history and has left all exhausted. Whenever an Arab attempts a passage trying to imitate the Qur'an's style and literary form he/she remains utterly elusive so we can safely state that the author of the Qur’an could not have been an Arab.

Muhammad, for all his greatness, was still an Arab like his brethren. It is also a matter of fact that the Prophet Muhammad  was never accused of authoring the Qur’an by his contemporaries, even those who sought his death and ruin. Furthermore the hadith (recorded narrations attributed to the Prophet) are in a totally different style to the Qur'an. How can any man speak with two distinct styles over a 23 year period?

The only rational answer left is the Creator.




Some Comments on the Literary Excellence and Inimitability of the Qur'an

... 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), them let them accept the Koran as an outstanding evident miracle.1 (The well-known Arabist Hamilton Gibb of the University of Oxford)

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.2 (Well-known Arabist Hamilton Gibb)

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 less 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.3 (Well-known Arabist Hamilton Gibb)

Whenever [Prophet] Muhammad [saas] was asked a miracle, as a proof of the authenticity of his mission, he quoted the composition of the Qur'an and its incomparable excellence as proof of its divine origin. And, in fact, even for those who are non-Muslims nothing is more marvellous than its language with such apprehensible plenitude and a grasping sonority… The ampleness of its syllables with a grandiose cadence and with a remarkable rhythm have been of much moment in the conversion of the most hostile and the most sceptic.4 (From Paul Casanova's article, "L'Enseignement de I'Arabe au College de France" [The Arab Teaching at the College of France])

It [the Qur'an] is a literal revelation of Allah, dictated to [Prophet] Muhammad [saas] by Gabriel, perfect in every letter. It is an ever-present miracle witnessing to itself and to [Prophet] Muhammad [saas], the Prophet of Allah. Its miraculous quality resides partly in its style, so perfect and lofty that neither men nor Jinn could produce a single chapter to compare with its briefest chapter, and partly in its content of teachings, prophecies about the future, and amazingly accurate information such as [Prophet] Muhammad [saas] could never have gathered of his own accord.5 (From Harry Gaylord Dorman's book, Towards Understanding Islam)

All those who are acquainted with the Qur'an in Arabic agree in praising the beauty of this religious book; its grandeur of form is so sublime that no translation into any European language can allow us to appreciate it.6 (From Edward Montet's Traduction Francaise du Coran [French Translation of the Qur'an])

The Qur'an in its original Arabic dress has a seductive beauty and charm of its own Couched in concise and exalted style, its brief pregnant sentences, often rhymed, possess an expressive force and explosive energy which it is extremely difficult to convey by literal word for word translation.7 (From John Naish's book, The Wisdom of the Qur'an)

The Koran is universally allowed to be written with the utmost elegance and purity of language, in the dialect of Koreish, the most noble and polite of all Arabians… The style of the Qur'an is generally beautiful and fluent,… and in many places, specifically where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent… He succeeded so well, and so strangely captivated the minds of his audience, that several of his opponents thought it the effect of witchcraft and enchantment.8 (From George Sale's book, The Koran: The Preliminary Discourse)

A miracle of purity of style of wisdom and of truth.9 (From Rev. R. Bosworth Smith's book, Mohammed and Mohammadanism)

It [the Qur'an] 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… 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.10 (From Alfred Guillaume's book, Islam)

Some Comments on the Divine Nature of the Qur'an and Its Effect on People

On the whole we find in it a collection of wisdom which can be adopted by the most intelligent of men, the greatest of philosophers and the most skilful of politicians… But there is another proof of the Divinity of the Qur'an; it is the fact that it has been preserved intact through the ages since the time of its Revelation till the present day… Read and reread by the Muslim world, this book does not rouse in the faithful any weariness, it rather, through repetition, is more loved every day. It gives rise to a profound feeling of awe and respect in the one who reads it or listens to it… Therefore, above all, what caused the great and rapid diffusion of Islam was through the fact that this Book… was the book of Allah…11 (From Laura Veccia Vaglieri's book, Apologie de I'Islamisme)

The Koran abounds in excellent moral suggestions and precepts, its composition is so fragmentary that we cannot turn to a single page without finding maxims of which all men must approve. This fragmentary construction yields texts, and mottoes, and rules complete in themselves, suitable for common men in any of the incidents of life.12 (From John William Draper's book, A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe)

It must be acknowledged, too, that the Koran deserves the highest praise for its conceptions of the Divine nature in reference to the attributes of Power, knowledge and universal Providence and Unity-that its belief and trust in the one Allah of Heaven and Earth is deep and fervent-and that… it embodies much of the noble and deep moral earnestness, and sententious oracular wisdom, and has proved that there are elements in it on which mighty nations and conquering… Empires can be built up.13 (From the preface of The Koran, translated from the Arabic by Rev. J. M. Rodwell)

Here, therefore, its merits as a literary production should perhaps not be measured by some preconceived maxims of subjective and aesthetic taste, but by the effects which it produced in [Prophet] Muhammad's [saas] contemporaries and fellow countrymen. If it spoke so powerfully and convincingly to the hearts of his hearers as to weld hitherto centrifugal and antagonistic elements into one compact and well-organized body, animated by ideas far beyond those which had until now ruled the Arabian mind, then its eloquence was perfect, simply because it created a civilized nation out of savage tribes…14 (A statement of Dr. Steingass, quoted in T. P. Hughes' Dictionary of Islam)

In making the present attempt… to produce something which might be accepted as echoing however faintly the sublime rhetoric of the Arabic Koran, I have been at pains to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which-apart from the message itself-constitute the Koran's undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind… This very characteristic feature-"that inimitable symphony," as the believing Pickthall described his Holy Book…-has been almost totally ignored by previous translators; it is therefore not surprising that what they have wrought sounds dull and flat indeed in comparison with the splendidly decorated original.15 (From Arthur J. Arberry's book, The Koran Interpreted)

A totally objective examination of it [the Qur'an] in the light of the modern knowledge, leads us to recognize the agreement between the two, as has been already noted on repeated occasions. It makes us deem it quite unthinkable for a man of [Prophet] Muhammad's [saas] time to have been the author of such statements on account of the state of knowledge in his day. Such considerations are part of what gives the Qur'anic Revelation its unique place, and forces the impartial scientist to admit his inability to provide an explanation which calls solely upon materialistic reasoning.16 (Dr. Maurice Bucaille, former chief of the Surgical Clinic, University of Paris)

… [T]he Qur'an has invariably kept its place as the fundamental starting point… A creed so precise, … so accessible to the ordinary understanding might be expected to possess and does indeed possess a marvellous power of winning its way into the consciences of men.17 (Edward Montet, a French intellectual)

... We have a book absolutely unique in its origin, in its preservation… on the Substantial authority of which no one has ever been able to cast a serious doubt.18 (From Rev. Bosworth Smith's book, Muhammad and Muhammadanism)

… the Qur'an is explicit in the support of the freedom of conscience.19 (From James Michener's article, "Islam: The Misunderstood Religion")

Sense of justice is one of the most wonderful ideals of Islam, because as I read in the Qur'an I find those dynamic principles of life, not mystic but practical ethics for the daily conduct of life suited to the whole world.20 (From a lecture on "The Ideals of Islam" quoted in the book Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu)

We must not be surprised to find the Qur'an the fountainhead of the sciences. Every subject connected with heaven or earth, human life, commerce and various trades are occasionally touched upon, and this gave rise to the production of numerous monographs forming commentaries on parts of the holy book. In this way the Qur'an was responsible for great discussions, and to it was indirectly due to the marvellous development of all branches of science in the Muslim world… This again not only affected the Arabs but also induced Jewish philosophers to treat metaphysical and religious questions after Arab methods. Finally, the way in which Christian scholasticism was fertilised by Arabian theosophy need not be further discussed.

Spiritual activity once aroused within Islamic bounds was not confined to theological speculations alone. Acquaintance with the philosophical, mathematical, astronomical and medical writings of the Greeks led to the pursuance of these studies. In the descriptive revelations [Prophet] Muhammad [saas] repeatedly calls attention to the movement of the heavenly bodies, as parts of the miracles of Allah forced into the service of man and therefore not to be worshipped. How successfully Moslem people of all races pursued the study of astronomy is shown by the fact that for centuries they were its principal supporters. Even now many Arabic names of stars and technical terms are in use. Medieval astronomers in Europe were pupils of the Arabs.

In the same manner the Qur'an gave an impetus to medical studies and recommended the contemplation and study of Nature in general.21 (From Prof. Hartwig Hirschfeld's book, New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qur'an)

The Koran admittedly occupies an important position among the great religious books of the world. Though the youngest of the epoch-making works belonging to this class of literature, it yields to hardly any in the wonderful effect which it has produced on large masses of men. It has created an all but new phase of human thought and a fresh type of character. It first transformed a number of heterogeneous desert tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a nation of heroes, and then proceeded to create the vast politico-religious organizations of the Muhammadan world which are one of the great forces with which Europe and the East have to reckon today.22 (From G. Margoliouth's introduction to The Koran, translated from the Arabic by Rev. J. M. Rodwell)

However often we turn to it [the Qur'an]…, it soon attracts, astounds, and in the end enforces our reverence… Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim is stern, grand, terrible-ever and anon truly sublime-Thus this book will go on exercising through all ages a most potent influence.23 (A saying of Goethe quoted in T. P. Hughes' book, Dictionary of Islam)



1. H. A. R. Gibb, Islam-A Historical Survey (Oxford University Press: 1980), 28.
2. H. A. R. Gibb, Arabic Literature-An Introduction (Oxford at Clarendon Press: 1963), 36.
3. Ibid., 37.
4. Paul Casanova, “L’Enseignement de I’Arabe au College de France” (The Arab Teaching at the College of France), Lecon d’overture, 26 April 1909.
5. Harry Gaylord Dorman, Towards Understanding Islam (New York: 1948), 3.
6. Edward Montet, Traduction Francaise du Coran (French Translation of the Qur’an), Introduction (Paris: 1929), 53.
7. John Naish, M. A. (Oxon), D. D., The Wisdom of the Qur’an (Oxford: 1937), preface viii.
8. George Sale, The Koran: The Preliminary Discourse (London & New York: 1891), 47-48.
9. Rev. R. Bosworth Smith, Mohammed and Mohammadanism, www.ndirect.co.uk/~n.today/disc160.htm.
10. Alfred Guillaume, Islam (Penguin Books: 1990 [Reprinted]), 73-74.
11. Laura Veccia Vaglieri, Apologie de I’Islamisme (Apology for Islamism), 57-59.
12. John William Draper, A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe I (London: 1875), 343-344.
13. Rev. J. M. Rodwell, M. A., The Koran (London: 1918), 15.
14. Dr. Steingass, quoted in T. P. Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, 528.
15. Arthur J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted (London: Oxford University Press: 1964), x.
16. Maurice Bucaille, The Qur’an and Modern Science, 1981, 18.
17. Edward Montet, Paris, 1890; Quoted by T. W. Arnold in The Preaching of Islam (London: 1913), 413-414.
18. Reverend Bosworth Smith in Muhammad and Muhammadanism (London: 1874).
19. James Michener in “Islam: The Misunderstood Religion,” Reader’s Digest, May 1955, 68-70.
20. Lectures on “The Ideals of Islam,” Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu (Madras: 1918), 167.
21. Hartwig Hirschfeld, Ph. D., M. R. AS., New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qur’an (London: 1902), 9.
22. G. Margoliouth, Introduction to J. M. Rodwell's, The Koran (New York: Everyman's Library: 1977), vii.
23. Goethe, quoted in T. P. Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, 526.





Everything made so much sense. This is the beauty of the Qur'an; it asks you to reflect and reason... When I read the Qur'an further, it talked about prayer, kindness and charity. I was not a Muslim yet, but I felt the only answer for me was the Qur'an and Allah had sent it to me.1 (Yusuf Islam [Cat Stevens], former British pop star)

I am not a Muslim in the usual sense, though I hope I am a "Muslim" as "one surrendered to God," but I believe that embedded in the Quran and other expressions of the Islamic vision are vast stores of divine truth from which I and other occidentals have still much to learn, and "Islam is certainly a strong contender for the supplying of the basic framework of the one religion of the future."2 (From the book Islam and Christianity Today)

The essential and definite element of my conversion to Islam was the Qur'an. I began to study it before my conversion with the critical spirit of a Western intellectual... There are certain verses of this book, the Qur'an, revealed more than thirteen centuries ago, which teach exactly the same notions as the most modern scientific researches do. This definitely converted me.3 (Ali Selman Benoist, France, Doctor of Medicine)

I have read the Sacred Scriptures of every religion; nowhere have I found what I encountered in Islam: perfection. The Holy Qur'an, compared to any other scripture I have read, is like the Sun compared to that of a match. I firmly believe that anybody who reads the Word of Allah with a mind that is not completely closed to Truth, will become a Muslim.4 (Saifuddin Dirk Walter Mosig)

The strength of the Koran is that a Muslim, or anyone, can open it to any page and get a message dealing with life's meaning.5 (The well-known theologian John Esposito)

I hope the time is not far off when I shall be able to unite all the wise and educated men of all the countries and establish a uniform regime based on the principles of Qur'an which alone are true and which alone can lead men to happiness.6 (French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte)

Tony Blair: "Qur'an Inspired Me"

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that he has read the whole Qur'an three times. In his statements, he often mentioned his admiration for the Qur'an's moral teaching. On March 29, 2000, the BBC reported on Blair's admiration for the Qur'an in a feature entitled "Blair: Qur'an Inspired Me." He was reported to have said that Islam was a good and peaceful religion, that he owned two copies of the Qur'an, and that he was quite inspired by it:

If you read the Koran, it is so clear… the concept of love and fellowship as the guiding spirits of humanity.7

Two or three days before the 9/11 attacks, the British newspaper The Mail on Sunday published an article in which Blair said that former US president Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea had given him a copy of the Qur'an as a gift, that he had begun to read it and that it given him courage in times of difficulty.8 After the attacks, Blair once again said in an interview on Al-Jazeera television that had read the Qur'an. He also added:

I read the message of the Koran, insofar as it can be translated. And I read about Islam and I enjoy doing that. And I think that I have learned things about the Koran that I never knew before and I think a lot of Christians would be interested.9

Time magazine described Blair as "long-time student of the Koran" in one article about him.10

A speech by Bill Clinton which described how influenced he was by the Qur'an

In his last year in the White House, former US President Bill Clinton received a number of Muslims during Ramadan. At the meeting, which began with a reading from the Qur'an, Clinton used verses from the Qur'an in his own address and frequently stated his interest in Islam:

And I thought it was particularly moving that Imam read the passage from the Koran that said that Allah created nations and tribes that we might know one another, not that we might despise one another. There's a wonderful passage in the Hebrew Torah, which warns people never to turn aside the stranger, for it is like turning aside the most high God. And the Christian Bible says that people should love their neighbor as themselves. But it's quite wonderful to say that Allah created the nations and tribes that they might know one another better... Let me say, also, that there is much that the world can learn from Islam. It is now practiced by one of every four people on Earth. Americans are learning more in our schools and universities. Indeed, I remember that our daughter took a course on Islamic history in high school and read large portions of the Koran, and came home at night and educated her parents about it, and later asked us questions about it... So I ask you again to rededicate yourselves in this coming year to making sure that others in this country truly understand and appreciate the faith you embrace, its practices, its beliefs, its precepts and its inclusive humanity... The Koran also teaches, in addition, to the fact that we should do unto others as we wish to have done to us, and reject for others what we would reject for ourselves, but we should also make a commitment to live in peace…11

George W. Bush:

"It's [the Qur'an is] a very thoughtful gift."

On 26 September 2001, President George W. Bush held a substantive meeting with American Muslim leaders, and said that "the teachings of Islam are the teachings of peace and good." During this meeting, Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), presented a copy of the Holy Qur'an to President Bush. During a brief press conference after the meeting, the President expressed his pleasure saying:

And I want to thank you very much for the-the gift you gave me, Imam, the Koran. It's a very thoughtful gift. I say, "Thank you very much for the gift." He said, "It's the best gift I could give you, Mr. President." I appreciate that very much.12

On September 17, 2001, President Bush visited the Washington Islam Center mosque, one of the oldest in the United States. In his speech, he emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace and that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have nothing to do with the teachings of Islam or the sincere Muslims of the world, all of whom deplore terrorism. Bush stated that those who inflict harm on innocent and civilian Muslims are just as in the wrong as those who carry out terrorist attacks. At this crowded meeting, covered live by a large number of domestic and international television stations, President Bush read the following verse from the Qur'an:13


"In the long run, evil in the extreme will be the end of those who do evil. For that they rejected the signs of Allah and held them up to ridicule." (Qur'an, 30:10)




1. www.al-sunnah.com/call_to_islam/articles/what_they_say_about_islaam.html
2. W. Montgomery Watt, Islam and Christianity Today (London: 1983), ix.
3. www.al-sunnah.com/call_to_islam/articles/what_they_say_about_islaam.html
4. Ibid.
5. John Esposito, quoted in Jacqueline Blais’ “People Want to Know, So Koran is Best Seller,” USA Today, 27 November 2001.
6. Napoleon Bonaparte, quoted in Christian Cherfils’ Bonaparte et Islam (Bonaparte and Islam) (Paris, France: 1914), 125.
7. BBC News, 29 March 2000.
8. “Blair Kuran’a Merak Salmis” (Blair is Interested in the Qur’an), Milliyet, 11 September 2001.
9. Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Interview with Al-Jazeera, 9 October 2001, www.number-10.gov.uk/output/page3562.asp.
10. Travels With Tony, Time 158, 12 November 2001, no. 20.
11. www.amaana.org/ISWEB/ramadan.htm.
12. www.ama-nj.org/bush_meeting.html.
13. “Remarks by the President at Islamic Center of Washington, D.C.,” 17 September 2001, http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/islam/s091701b.htm..