Quranic Reflection No 633. Āyat 10:38 – The Miraculous Eloquence of the Quran

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ ۖ قُلْ فَأْتُوا بِسُورَةٍ مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُوا مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللَّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

Do they say, ‘He has fabricated it?’ Say, ‘Then bring a surah like it, and invoke whomever you can, besides Allah, should you be truthful.’

(Sūrat Yūnus, No. 10, Āyat 38)

The Noble Quran is the primary miracle of Messenger of Allah sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam. An everlasting miracle in the form of speech for the final religion sent to all mankind. From the onset of the Prophet’s prophethood in Makkah the Quran was presented in this way – as an inimitable miracle. In different verses such as the one quoted above, Allah ‘azza wajall tells the Prophet (s) to challenge the disbelievers to bring a book or even just a single chapter like it. But it was impossible for them to do so, even though the shortest chapters of the Quran are about one line long! Even the experts of Arabic eloquence admitted their inability to mimic the Quran.

In a story narrated in books such as Tafsir al-Tabarī and the Sīrah of ibn Hishām, one of the powerful and eloquent chiefs of the Arabs named Walīd bin Mughīrah once passed by the Prophet (s) and overheard him reciting some verses of Sūrah al-Mu’minūn in prayer. He said:

By God! Recently I have heard speech from Muhammad which is neither like that of a man nor like that of a Jinn. By God! His speech has a special melody and elegance. It is like a tall abundant tree whose branches are full of fruits, whose trunk is firm with roots well entrenched. Indeed, it is superior [to other speech] and none can surpass it. (quoted by Āyatullāh Muhammad Hādī Ma‘rifat in Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an, v. 1, p. 230)

Undoubtedly, the Quran in history has played the same role as the miracles of other prophets like the staff of Mūsā (a) or the breath of ‘Īsā (a). Just as those miracles proved the veracity of the Prophets’ call and claim to prophethood, so too the Quran proved the truth and prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (s). As opposed to people first accepting Islam and then along with it accepting the Quran, the reality in many cases at least is that it was first the Quran that inspired and touched the hearts of people and then, as a result, they were attracted to Islam.

For those of us who have not been able to delve deeply into the Arabic language and appreciate the beauty of Arabic eloquence, to categorically validate the miraculous nature of the Quran may seem out of our reach. However, there are some points to bear in mind:

–        If we are unable to recognize the miraculous eloquence of the Quran ourselves, we can still rely on the testimony of other experts. From the most eloquent of Arab Muslims like Sharīf al-Radī in the past or Taha Hussein in recent times, such testimony can be found. Even non-Muslim eloquent Arabs like Khalil Gibran and George Jordac respected the Quran and recognized its eloquence.

–        With a little effort in familiarizing ourselves with Arabic, regularly reading the Quran and most importantly striving to abide by the teachings of Islam in our lives, we can undoubtedly experience the sweetness of the Quran’s beauty for ourselves. One of the spiritual pleasures that a true believer engages in is to read the Quran and allow it to penetrate his soul.

–        Other aspects of the Quran’s words such as how it lends itself to be recited in a beautiful melodious tone, or how easy it is for people to memorize it word-by-word, are themselves further indications of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an.

–        In addition to the eloquence of the Quran, the profound and deep knowledge that the Quran came with is another aspect of the miraculous nature of the Quran. By the grace of Allah, an example of this knowledge will be given in an upcoming Quranic Reflection.

We pray to Allah to give us love of the Quran in our lives and recite it regularly allowing it to touch our hardened hearts and fill us with its light. We beseech Him by the sake of the Noble Messenger (s) and his pure family to allow us in our short life, to learn the Arabic language and be able to firsthand appreciate the beauty and eloquence of the Quran.

Sources: Muhammad Hadi Ma’rifat, Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an; Martyr Murtadā Mutahharī, I’jāz-e Qur’an