SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Agency) –
The claim of the Qur’an that it is a miraculous sign, and the challenge to the doubters offered by this verse, contains in reality two claims: First, the miracles, super-natural events, do occur; second, the Qur’an is one of such miracles. If the second claim is proved, the first will automatically be proved. That is why the Qur’an has challenged the men to bring its like, as it would prove both aspects of the claim.
How does a miracle happen? After all, it is a against the deep rooted system of the cause-and-effect which is never negated. The Qur’an explains this subject in the following two stages:
First: The miracle is a reality; the Qur’an is one of the miracles, which in itself proved the existence of miracles in general; it offers a challenge to its adversaries, and in this way proves its truth.
Second: What is the reality of miracle? How can a thing happen in this world of nature against the universal law of the cause-and-effect?
The Miracle of the Qur’an
Undoubtedly, the Qur’an has offered a continuing challenge, by which it proves itself to be a miracle. This challenge has been given in many verses of Meccan as well as Medinite period. All of them show that this Book is a divine miracle, a super-natural sign. The verse under discussion, “And if you are in doubt as to that which we have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it…”, is one of those challenges: Produce a chapter like one of the Qur’an from someone like the Prophet. It should be noted it does not purport to prove the prophethood of Muhammad (s.a.w.) directly; it does not say, ‘If you are in doubt as the prophethood of Our servant’; instead it says, ‘if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant’. Likewise, all the challenges given in the Quran aim to prove that this Book is a super-natural sign from Allah. And when this fact is established, the prophethood of the Prophet will automatically be proved.
The verses of challenge vary in their scope and generality. The most general is the verse: Say: “If men and jinn should combine together to bring the like of this Qur’an, they could not bring the like of it, even though some of them were aiders of the others” (17:88) The verse is a Meccan period, and it is easy to see that it contains an all-encompassing challenge.
This challenge is not confined to its unsurpassed eloquence and purest style. Otherwise, the challenge would not cover non-Arabs; it could be addressed to only those who spoke pure Arabic before it was debased by foreign influence – in other words, only to the Arabs of the days of paganism or to those whose life-span bridged the time of paganism and that of Islam. But the verse challenges not only the whole mankind but confronts the jinn also.
As for other special qualities of the Qur’an (like the exposition of spiritual realities, the high morals, the most comprehensive and the fairest legal code, the information of the things unseen as well as other subjects which the man had not even thought of when the Qur’an was revealed), they are of such a nature that only a selected group – and not the whole mankind – may appreciate them. But the challenge is general and covers elites and common men and jinn. It is clear in this light that it is not confined to any one quality; it defies them to bring a like of this Book in all its qualities together.
The Qur’an is a miracle: For a man of eloquence, in its spellbinding sublimity and style; for a sage, in its sagacity; for a scholar, in its knowledge; for a sociologist, in its social system; for a legislator, in its legislation; for a politician, in its politics; for a ruler in its rule of justice; and for the whole world, in such things which none of them can grasp like the information of the unseen, prophesies of future events, freedom from discrepancy in in its laws, knowledge and expression.
The Qur’an claims to be a comprehensive miracle, covering all its aspects. It is a miracle of every individual man and jinn – an average person or a select one, learned or ignorant, man or woman, of a very high rank of excellence or of a lower level – in short, anyone who has enough intelligence to understand the Qur’anic speech. Man, by nature, comprehends a virtue and understands its various grades. Every person should look into an excellence which he or someone else has got; then he should compare that excellence or virtue with what the Qur’an contains of the same; and then he should decide – in all honesty and justice – whether it is in human power to bring a like of the Qur’an. Is it possible for a man to bring such divine knowledge, so well reasoned, as the Qur’an has done? Is it within human power to build such character, based on foundation of reality, which may honestly be compared with the Qur’anic teaching in purity and excellence? Can human beings legislate perfect laws covering all human activities without blundering into discrepancies, with the spirit of monotheism and the word of piety permeating every order and its every implication, with purity and cleanliness and all-inclusiveness come from an untaught man? A man who was born and brought up among a people whose only share in human virtues was a life sustained with raids, plunders and wars; they buried their daughters alive, and killed their children for fear of poverty; they boasted of their fathers and married their mothers; debauchery was their pride; they condemned knowledge and showed off their ignorance; in spite of their haughtiness and chauvinism, they were preyed upon by every hunter and were easy targets for anyone who wished to conquer them – one day they were under the Yemenite rule, the next day were ruled over by the Ethiopians; someday Byzantine emperors lorded over them, the other day it was Persia’s turn to humiliate them. This is the picture, in miniature, of the Arabs before Islam. And in such environment, the Qur’an was brought by the Prophet of Islam.
Again, suppose a man brings a book, claiming that it is a guidance for the worlds. Will he dare to include in it the news and information of the unseen – both past and future- not in one or two places but spread over a lot of topics – in stories, in prophecies, and about the events that are to happen in future? And what will be your judgment if not a single detail proves wrong?
Once again, man is a part of this natural world; this world is constantly changing and developing from perfection to perfection. Is it possible for a man to talk about each and every affair of human life; to give the world knowledge, laws, wisdom, admonition, parables, stories – concerning every matter, big or small – without committing any discrepancy, without showing any trace of gradual development? And specially so, if his talks are not delivered all at one time, are delivered piecemeal in a long period of twenty three years? And even more so when some topics are repeated again and again, when there are shoots sprouting from a previously planted root? Undoubtedly it is not possible, because no man can remain unchanged in his knowledge and outlook throughout his life.
When a man ponders over these facts about the Qur’an – containing the above mentioned distinctions besides many more – he can entertain no doubt whatsoever about its divine origin; he will feel sure that it beyond human power, over and above the natural and material causes. If someone is not in a position to understand this clear fact, he should follow the dictate of his nature – in other words, he should ask those who are knowledgeable about this subject.
Question: Why did not the Qur’an confine its challenge to the elite only? What is the use of including general public in this call? After all, a common man is easily influenced by such claims and it takes him no time to accept pretensions of every pretender. Don’t you see that it was this group that surrendered to al-Bab, al-Baha, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiyani and al-Musaylamah, even though what those deceivers brought as their proof was more like a senseless jabber and raving delirium than a sensible talk?
Reply: It is the only way to keep the miracle all-inclusive; the only possible method for discerning the perfection and excellence in a quality that has various ranks and grades. People have different grades of understanding; likewise, the virtues differ in their perfection. Those who have high level of understanding and correct perception will easily appreciate the high quality of an excellent work. Those who have a lower understanding should refer to the former for their judgment. It is the dictate of nature and demand of human psyche.
A miracle that can be universal and comprehensive, that can be addressed to every individual, in every place and at all times, that can be conveyed to all and can remain alive to the last day of the world, must necessarily be a set of divine knowledge and spiritual realities. All other miracles were either material objects or a tangible even that were governed by the laws of nature in as much as they were confined to a certain time and space. They were seen by only a limited number of people; even supposing for the sake of argument, that it was observed by all people of that particular place, it could not be witnessed by people of other localities; and suppose that an impossible happened, that is, it was seen by the whole world, it could not continue eternally for the future generations to observe.
It is for this reason that Allah chose the academic and spiritual miracle, that is, the Qur’an, for the Prophet of Islam, so that it may continue its challenge to the whole mankind – in all places and in all generations. And thus the miracle continues in its generality, defying every person, in every area and every era.
By: Allameh Muhammad Hussein Tabatabaei