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.247(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.248 (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.249 (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.250 (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.251 (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.252 (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.253 (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.254 (From George Sale's book, The Koran: The Preliminary Discourse)
A miracle of purity of style of wisdom and of truth.255 (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.256 (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…257 (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.258 (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.259 (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…260 (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.261 (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.262 (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.263 (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.264 (From Rev. Bosworth Smith's book, Muhammad and Muhammadanism)
… the Qur'an is explicit in the support of the freedom of conscience.265 (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.266 (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.267 (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.268 (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.269 (A saying of Goethe quoted in T. P. Hughes' book, Dictionary of Islam)
SOME SCIENTISTS' COMMENTS REGARDING THE QUR'AN
… There are too many accuracies [in the Qur'an] and, like Dr. Moore, I have no difficulty in my mind that this is a divine inspiration or revelation which led him to these statements.270 (Dr. T. V. N. Persaud, Professor of Anatomy, Pediatrics and Child Health, Obstetrics, Gynecology, Reproductive Sciences at the University of Manitoba)
… It follows, I think, that not only there is no conflict between genetics and religion but, in fact, religion can guide science by adding revelation to some of the traditional scientific approaches, that there exist statements in the Quran shown centuries later to be valid, which support knowledge in the Quran having been derived from God.271 (Dr. Joe Leigh Simpson, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Molecular and Human Genetics)
As a scientist, I can only deal with things which I can specifically see. I can understand embryology and developmental biology. I can understand the words that are translated to me from the Quran. As I gave the example before, if I were to transpose myself into that era, knowing what I knew today and describing things, I could not describe the things which were described… So I see nothing here in conflict with the concept that divine intervention was involved in what he [Prophet Muhammad (saas)] was able to write.272 (Dr. E. Marshall Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Anatomy and Developmental Biology at Thomas Jefferson University)
In a relatively few aayahs [Quranic verses] is contained a rather comprehensive description of human development from the time of commingling of the gametes through organogenesis. No such distinct and complete record of human development, such as classification, terminology, and description, existed previously. In most, if not all, instances, this description antedates by many centuries the recording of the various stages of human embryonic and fetal development recorded in the traditional scientific literature.273 (Gerald C. Goeringer, Associate Professor of Medical Embryology at Georgetown University)
It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Qur'an about human development. It is clear to me that these statements must have come to [Prophet] Muhammad [saas] from God, or Allah, because most of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that [Prophet] Muhammad [saas] must have been a messenger of God, or Allah.274 (Dr. Keith L. Moore, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Toronto. Distinguished embryologist and the author of several medical textbooks)
... Because the staging of human embryos is complex, owing to the continuous process of change during development, it is proposed that a new system of classification could be developed using the terms mentioned in the Qur'an and Sunnah. The proposed system is simple, comprehensive, and conforms with present embryological knowledge.275 (Dr. Keith L. Moore, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Toronto)
The intensive studies of the Qur'an and Hadith in the last four years have revealed a system of classifying human embryos that is amazing since it was recorded in the seventh century A.D... the descriptions in the Qur'an cannot be based on scientific knowledge in the seventh century... 276 (Dr. Keith L. Moore, Professor Emeritus, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Toronto)
I think it is almost impossible that he [Prophet Muhammad (saas)] could have known about things like the common origin of the universe, because scientists have only found out within the last few years with very complicated and advanced technological methods that this is the case… Somebody who did not know something about nuclear physics 1400 years ago could not, I think, be in a position to find out from his own mind for instance that the earth and the heavens had the same origin, or many others of the questions that we have discussed here.277(Alfred Kroner, Professor of the Department of Geosciences, University of Mainz, Germany. One of the world's most famous geologists)
If you combine all these and you combine all these statements that are being made in the Qur'an in terms that relate to the earth and the formation of the earth and science in general, you can basically say that statements made there in many ways are true, they can now be confirmed by scientific methods... And that many of the statements made in there at that time could not be proven, but that modern scientific methods are now in a position to prove what [Prophet] Muhammad [saas] said 1400 years ago.278 (Alfred Kroner, Professor of the Department of Geosciences, University of Mainz, Germany)
I say, I am very much impressed by finding true astronomical facts in Qur'an, and for us modern astronomers have been studying very small piece of the universe. We have concentrated our efforts for understanding of very small part. Because by using telescopes, we can see only very few parts of the sky without thinking about the whole universe. So by reading Qur'an and by answering to the questions, I think I can find my future way for investigation of the universe.279 (Professor Yushidi Kusan, Director of the Tokyo Observatory, Tokyo, Japan)
Certainly, I would like to leave it at that, that what we have seen is remarkable, it may or may not admit of scientific explanation, there may well have to be something beyond what we understand as ordinary human experience to account for the writings that we have seen.280 (Professor Armstrong, Professor of Astronomy serving with NASA)
It is difficult to imagine that this type of knowledge was existing at that time, around 1400 years back. May be some of the things they have simple idea about, but to describe those things in great detail is very difficult. So this is definitely not simple human knowledge. A normal human being cannot explain this phenomenon in that much detail. So, I thought the information must have come from a supernatural source.281 (Prof. Dorja Rao, Professor of Marine Geology at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
… I believe that everything mentioned in the Qur'an 1400 years ago is true and can be proven by scientific methods… This must be by inspiration from God, or Allah, Who knows all science. Thus, I believe that this is the time to say: "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah."282 (Prof. Tejatat Tejasen, Head of the Department of Anatomy and Embryology, University of Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, Thailand)
The Qur'an came several centuries ago, confirming what we discovered. This indicates that the Qur'an is the word of God.283 (Prof. Joly Sumson, Professor in Gynecology and Obstetrics)
It [the Qur'an] discusses the past, the recent period, and the future. I do not know the cultural level of the people in the period of [Prophet] Muhammad [saas] and I do not know their scientific level. If it is as we know about the low scientific level in this ancient period, and the absence of technology, then there is no doubt that what we are reading nowadays in the Qur'an is a light from God. He inspired it in [Prophet] Muhammad [saas]. I had made research into the early history of civilization in the Middle East in order to know if there was such perfect information as this. If there was no other information like the Qur'anic information in that ancient period, this strengthens the faith that God sent [Prophet] Muhammad [Prophet]; He sent to him a little amount from His large science, which we have discovered only in recent time. We are hoping for continuous dialogue in the subject of science with the Qur'an in the field of geology.284 (Prof. Palmar, one of the major scientists in geology in the USA)
After a discussion about the function of mountains for the fixing of the earth:
I believe that this [the Qur'an's information] is very very strange, it is nearly impossible, I believe truly that if what you are saying is right, thus, this book [the Qur'an] is very valuable to be noticed, I agree with you.285 (Professor Syawda, a Japanese scientist famous in Japan and internationally in the field of oceanic geology.)
247. H. A. R. Gibb, Islam-A Historical Survey (Oxford University Press: 1980), 28.
248. H. A. R. Gibb, Arabic Literature-An Introduction (Oxford at Clarendon Press: 1963), 36.
249. Ibid., 37.
250. 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.
251. Harry Gaylord Dorman, Towards Understanding Islam (New York: 1948), 3.
252. Edward Montet, Traduction Francaise du Coran (French Translation of the Qur’an), Introduction (Paris: 1929), 53.
253. John Naish, M. A. (Oxon), D. D., The Wisdom of the Qur’an (Oxford: 1937), preface viii.
254. George Sale, The Koran: The Preliminary Discourse (London & New York: 1891), 47-48.
255. Rev. R. Bosworth Smith, Mohammed and Mohammadanism, www.ndirect.co.uk/~n.today/disc160.htm.
256. Alfred Guillaume, Islam (Penguin Books: 1990 [Reprinted]), 73-74.
257. Laura Veccia Vaglieri, Apologie de I’Islamisme (Apology for Islamism), 57-59.
258. John William Draper, A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe I (London: 1875), 343-344.
259. Rev. J. M. Rodwell, M. A., The Koran (London: 1918), 15.
260. Dr. Steingass, quoted in T. P. Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, 528.
261. Arthur J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted (London: Oxford University Press: 1964), x.
262. Maurice Bucaille, The Qur’an and Modern Science, 1981, 18.
263. Edward Montet, Paris, 1890; Quoted by T. W. Arnold in The Preaching of Islam (London: 1913), 413-414.
264. Reverend Bosworth Smith in Muhammad and Muhammadanism (London: 1874).
265. James Michener in “Islam: The Misunderstood Religion,” Reader’s Digest, May 1955, 68-70.
266. Lectures on “The Ideals of Islam,” Speeches and Writings of Sarojini Naidu (Madras: 1918), 167.
267. Hartwig Hirschfeld, Ph. D., M. R. AS., New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qur’an (London: 1902), 9.
268. G. Margoliouth, Introduction to J. M. Rodwell's, The Koran (New York: Everyman's Library: 1977), vii.
269. Goethe, quoted in T. P. Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, 526.
270. Video tape entitled This is the Truth, www.islam-guide.com/ch1-1-h.htm.
274. Video tape entitled This is the Truth, www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Science/scientists.html.