CHAPTER iii / A Challenge to All Mankin

A Challenge to All Mankin

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A further example is the challenge to all creation to produce anything that resembles the Qur’an at any time:

“Say: If all mankind and the jinn combined to write the like of this Qur’an, they would surely fail to come up with anything like it, even though they would all join efforts to do so.”

(17: 88.)

“If you doubt what We have revealed from on high to Our servant, produce even one surah comparable to this Book. Call on your witnesses to help you, if what you say be true. But if you fail, as you will certainly fail,…”

(2: 24.)

Consider this absolute and categorical statement. Can any Arab who knows what he is talking about give such a verdict when he knows that literary excellence was a major pursuit of the Arabs, and competition in that field was open to all? [It should be added here that although the Arabs did not read and write, they had natural literary gifts of the highest calibre, reflected mainly in their poetry which continues to be studied as model of literary excellence.] Everyone knows that a critic can carefully study what an earlier writer has produced and then be able to find in it something that the original writer missed out or overlooked.

He then improves on it or adds to its beauty. When the Prophet put this challenge to them, did he not consider that he would risk a great literary confrontation with a community that enjoyed native literary gifts in abundance?

What could he do if a group of them commanding proven literary talents joined forces to come up with a text that excelled the Qur’an, or at least matched it in some aspects? This would involve one of them writing something with which to pick up the challenge, then all of them trying to improve on it, as they often did with poetry. Could he risk the possibility that such an effort could meet the challenge he put to them?

Moreover, if he felt that he could get away with such a challenge in his own generation, how could he make the same verdict applicable to all future generations, right up to the Day of Judgement, and to mankind and the jinn alike?

That is indeed a risk no one in his right mind would take unless he was fully certain of what fate would bring about, and be assured of it by none other than God. He threw the challenge out to all the world, and it was like a judgement that applied to all and sundry. No one ever tried to come up with anything similar to the Qur’an without his attempt ending in miserable failure.

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Guaranteed Protection

A third example is found in the verse in which God guarantees to protect His Messenger and assures him of his safety until he has completed...

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