On Miracles, Messages and Proofs
The discussion regarding the conclusive proof of the existence of god, even once one concludes that He undoubtedly exists is really not a religious discussion. It does not necessitate that one become a Muslim, a Christian or a follower of any faith, merely that one believes an unlimited Creator exists.
The question regarding which religion, if any, is the correct religion or the truth, is a question of whether God revealed anything to mankind or not. Did He pass to us a message by which to live and if so how do we authenticate this?
It is supposed by advocators of mainstream religions that the Creator did indeed send revelation to us over the course of history. The method of revelation was a message to one from amongst the people, a man who proved that he was a messenger of god to the populace by the performance of a miracle(s). We know their names, Musa, Isa, Muhammad, Ibrahim and so on.
Naturally if any man claimed to be a messenger the people would not believe him simply on his word. Most people would harbour a healthy amount of scepticism to the claim. If however the same man performed a miracle the same people would then believe him. By miracle what is meant is the clear and obvious breaking of the natural laws of the universe, such that an unheard of and totally unnatural occurrence is observed.
One good definition of miracle: “An event that appears so inexplicable by the laws of nature, that it is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.”
So if the man for example split the red sea in the name of God or split the moon into two parts his claims to prophet-hood would be verified in the eyes of those who witnessed the miracle, or later verified its occurrence by some other means.
The breaking of natural law may only occur via the permission of the one who defined them and brought them into existence; the Creator of the universe (see discussion re: conclusive proof of the existence of God). As all of mankind, like everything else in the universe is bound by these laws, the proclaimed messenger who performs a miracle has proven he is indeed a messenger. For only God may alter or suspend the natural laws. Thus the messenger has done so by His permission alone as there is no other way and so authenticated his claims. No ordinary man has the ability to do this.
It would not be correct to say that illusionists and the like appear to break the natural law. Their illusions cannot withstand scrutiny, rather they are revealed to merely be deception. The miracles of the past were so apparent as to withstand any scrutiny. The two examples mentioned already demonstrate this; the splitting of the red sea and the splitting of the moon. In the times of these two miracles, attributed to Musa and Muhammad respectively, there were no cameras, special effects or television.
Any sincere and intelligent man who witnessed Isa give life to the dead and heal with just a touch, or saw Ibrahim emerge from the raging fire unharmed would believe they were indeed, as they claimed to be, messengers of God. There is no other explanation for a miracle, an event which defies the laws of nature, the only possibility is that it occurs by the permission of the Creator. As there is no other possibility this reason must be true, it must be the cause for the effect witnessed. A problem arises because these miracles are lost in time. Millennia later how are human beings in the 21 st century to believe such events did occur?
Miracles have been reported to us in textual accounts such as those found in the new testament and the old testament. The problem with books like the Torah and the Inj’eel (bible) is that they have undoubtedly been subject to alteration over the course of history. There exist very different versions of the same books. This is proof that they have been altered by human beings from their original versions. So the report of Isa walking upon water in the Inj’eel is not something we can believe in as it may be fabricated. It becomes a matter of faith not belief. If the books mentioned were indeed the very revelation sent to Musa or Isa then we would find:
1) Every version would be identical. Any alteration over time would manifest as different forms of the book.
2) There would be some way to authenticate that the book actually is the original. Otherwise how can anyone know the book they hold is really the revelation of a messenger?
It is worth mentioning that all Muslims believe in the revealed books as part of their Aqeedah (belief) as well as the Qur’an. These books are the Torah , Inj’eel and the Psalms of Dawud. Muslims believe that these books were revealed by God but their integrity has been compromised over time as mentioned. The reason they have definite belief in their revelation is because the Qur’an details this and there exists a unique method to verifying the authenticity of the Qur’an which is only applicable to it
This is the same reason Muslims believe in some of the miracles of the previous prophets. They may be lost in time but those miracles that are mentioned in the Qur’an can be believed in as long as one is aware as to how the Qu’ran is the word of God and how its authenticity can be verified.
Muhammad was the final messenger of God and the foremost miracle he brought is the Qur’an itself. The consequences of this are important.
1) As a miracle is a breaking of natural law, they are by definition inimitable by man. This means someone may not alter the Qur’an or insert in additional sections as its style is inimitable and the human made elements would immediately become apparent to someone with mastery of Arabic language.
2) If the Qur’an itself is miraculous in nature then it means the Muslims of today are in possession of a timeless miracle; a miracle that can validate the correctness of Islam at any time, not only around the time of revelation.
However the teachings of Islam can only be believed in today if the miraculous nature of the Qur’an can be understood by any individual of this current age. If its miraculous nature can be understood intellectually then there is no need for the people of the 21 st century to have ‘faith’ in corrupted books or to simply follow the religion of their forefathers. Human beings of this age have often rejected religion because of there lack of evidence and definite proof. Preaching to faith or following tradition is not required in such times. What is required is that mankind understands the proof behind the Creators final revelation and its timeless aspect.
It can only make sense that if Islam was indeed the last religion revealed from God that in His wisdom, its proof would be such that any person could understand its proof from the time of revelation to Muhammad until the last day. Otherwise God would have indeed have left men to faith and their own devices as some believe. This is not the reality as will be seen.
The Nature of the Miracle
How exactly can a book be miraculous?
The Qur’an is miraculous because the eloquence of its language is so amazing, so sublime as to peak in every characteristic of Arabic as to be unmatchable. To the Arabs who heard it, it was undoubtedly not from a human being. Indeed the language is such that it cannot be imitated at all by man, even a small part. This is one of the attributes of a miracle, inimitability, no-one else can repeat the miracle, or even conceive of attempting it as it is beyond the realms of natural law. The splitting of the red sea is an example of this. No-one else can repeat this phenomenon. The revelation of the Qur’an is equally miraculous and inimitable, but requires a little more depth of thought to appreciate.
It is worth noting that the miracles brought by the previous prophets and messengers came as challenges to the people of the time. At the time of Ibrahim there existed many fire worshippers. Yet when he was plunged into the inferno their fire did not burn him. Clearly his God had mastery over the very attributes of the thing they worshipped. At the time of Musa they ruler in the land was the tyrant Fir’awn . In his entourage were a group of illusionists who often performed their tricks in his court. By the will of God Musa’s staff transformed into a snake, which consumed their own staffs. The illusionists who were masters of deception new full well that this was no mere trick and understood it must be from God. Similarly in the time of Isa skill in healing and medicine was respected greatly, and Isa was able to cure the diseased with a touch and restore life with a touch where once there had been death.
The Arabs at the time of the Qur’an’s revelation were enamoured of poetry. They praised one another, admonished and even debated in poetry. Their poets were esteemed members of Makkan society. In Ukaz there took place an annual market where poets would compete in eloquence, the champion’s poetry would be hung from the door of the Ka’bah itself.
When Muhammad brought the Qur’an, it was obvious to these people who were masters of Arabic that it was a supernatural phenomenon. For these people whose mastery of Arabic was it its peak could not match its eloquence, its sublime beauty.
Allah himself challenged the Arabs to match His book.
“Or they say ‘he (Muhammad) forged it’, Say: ‘Bring ten chapters like it and call (to your help) whomever you can other than Allah if you speak the truth”
“If you are in doubt of what we have revealed to our messenger, then produce one chapter like it. Call upon all your helpers, besides Allah, if you are truthful”
Here it can be seen that God himself is challenging the doubters (and all the help they can muster) to produce ten similar chapters to the Qur’an. In the latter challenge the challenge is lessened to only one single like chapter.
Chapter has been translated from the Arabic sura (pl. suwar ). The smallest sura or chapter is sura kauthar which is only three lines long, thus the final challenge made was to produce only three lines that matched the Qur’an. In effect Allah told the Arabs this book is from Him. He laid down the simplest of tasks that they could never achieve. It was a poignant exclamation to the authenticity of the Qur’an.
History attests that the Arabs were not able to meet the challenge. This inimitable quality is known as i’jaz ul-quran , the miraculous nature of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an clearly is an Arabic discourse. If the Arabs could meet the challenge then the Qur’an would have simply been from Muhammad or one of the Arabs. As not one of them could then it could not have been from any one of them. It could not have been from any non-Arabs either being an Arabic book, so it must be from God himself. We will examine this in detail in the next section.
History also attests that the Arabs were awed by what they heard.
One of the finest of the Arab poems was written by an esteemed poet called Labid ibn Rabiah. His poem when recited at Ukaz called all the people present to prostrate themselves before him in admiration. When the same Labid heard the Qur’an recited he immediately embraced Islam and gave up poetry altogether. When he was once asked to recite some poetry the former master replied: “What! After the Qur’an?”
It is worth noting that it cannot be argued that eloquence of language is a subjective phenomenon, and thus judging whether the Qur’anic challenge has been met is a subjective matter. This is because there are rules pertaining to grammar and expression in Arabic and indeed any other language, and it is these rules the Qur’an alone transcends. Examination any given work and its level of excellence with regards to such rules is an objective matter for one with sufficient mastery of the language.
Eloquence, beauty, rhetoric, structure, rhythm, rhyme, grammar, clarity, depth. These are some of the attributes sought for in Arabic poetry, prose and rhymed prose. These were the then three existent styles of artistic expression in Arabic. Also amongst the attributes superlatives are sought in are the number of words used to convey (less is superior) and their depth, coherence, consistency, symmetry and force.
It was impossible for the poets to write verses in Arabic that peaked in each and every considered category all at once. Inevitably quality in on or a few attributes would be at the expense of quality in some of the others. This is a normal rule of any language. The Qur’an when it arrived produced a fourth category of its own. In each and every sura the very highest level of every attribute was achieved all at once. The Qur’an was renowned for its ability to covey an extraordinary depth of meaning in just a few words. All while maintaining excellence in all characteristics of the language. It was in a league of its own, a league no man could produce even one small piece of in the same style.
As a further example in Arabic there are sixteen forms of poetry, sixteen al-Bihar , literally “seas” so-called because of the way the poem moves, according to a rhythm.
In Arabic poetry each one is more suited to one or a few of the above mentioned characteristics at the expense of the others. The Qur’an achieved an unparalleled excellence throughout in all considerations. Thus it transcended any of the Bihar , any prose or rhymed prose.
This is why the Arabs were shaken by what they heard, and many converted upon hearing the spoken words. For them it was akin to seeing the moon split into two.
More on the nature of the Miracle
The Qur’an literary qualities are at a level beyond man’s ability to replicate it. To break this down further we can characterize Qur’an’s style ( usloob ) into three qualities:
a) Force (Quwwah )
b) Beauty (Jamaal )
c) Clarity (wudooh )
The language has a force which has an impact on the one who listens to its verses. It brings tears of ecstasy, fear and hope to the heart which contemplates its meanings. With regards to the force the following narration by Ibn Hisham epitomizes this point. He narrated that Jubayr b. Mut’im b. iddi came to the Messenger of Allah ﷺ regarding Mu’anna (an ally of the polytheists) in order to ransom him. When he came into the room the Prophet ﷺ was reciting Sura at-Tur to him and when he ﷺ came to the section:
“Verily, the Torment of your Lord will surely come to pass”
“There is none that can avert it;”
The polytheist began to shake and then embraced Islam and explained his sudden behaviour by saying: ‘I feared that the torment ( ‘azaab ) would come upon me’.
The Quranic style exhibits a certain beauty in terms of the fittingness ( mulaa’amah ) of the words, as if the words were created for that sentence in which it was used. So for example for where the meaning is delicate the delicate expressions are used as in the following ayah:
“Verily, for the Muttaqeen (God fearing), there will be a success (Paradise); Gardens and grape yards. And maidens of equal age. And a full cup (of wine)”
The expression hadaaiqah a’naaba ‘gardens and grape yards’ and ka’san dihaaqa (a full cup of wine’) are all expressions which give a soft and inviting meaning.
But where the meaning is forceful the Qur’an expresses in this way:
“Truly, Hell is a place of ambush, a dwelling place for the Tagheen (Those who transgress the limits set by Allah (swt)). They will abide therein for ages, nothing cool shall they taste therein, nor any drink. Except boiling water, and dirty wound discharges. An exact recompense (according to their evil crimes).”
So it describes Hell as mirsaada (i.e. a place of ambush) and the only drink available is hameeman ghassaaqa (boiling water and dirty wound discharges).
The Quranic style is also clear and the vivid figurative imagery that it paints is easy to grasp. Look at the following ayah:
“When they are cast therein, they will hear the (terrible) drawing in of its breath as it blazes forth.”
“It almost bursts up with fury. Every time a group is cast therein, its keeper will ask: ‘Did no warner come to you?’”
Here Jahannam (hell) is depicted like an angry human being, every time its sees the disbelievers thrown in it rages with anger.
The literary miracle of the Qur’an is that it combines all of these qualities of force, beauty and clarity throughout its verses. This is something which has not been achieved by any human endeavour simply because the Qur’an is the not result of any human endeavour; rather it is ‘Kalaam Allah’ the Speech of Allah revealed to Mankind from the Seven Heavens.
How do we appreciate the Miracle?
There are 25 letters in the Arabic language. There are only a very limited number of ways to arrange them so they make sense according to the grammatical rules and the finite number of words that exist. There exist far less ways to arrange them to produce fine prose or poetry.
It stands to reason that anyone can with mastery of a language and a blueprint to imitate could easily do so. This is because he possesses all the tools he needs, knowledge of the words and the grammatical rules, and he has the style he must produce.. As an example if one were given a Medical text book and a medical dictionary for the scientific terms and asked to write several paragraphs in the same style, it would take a group of educated people half an hour or so to produce a few paragraph of similar sounding text. A group of consultant physicians could doubtless produce an identical style in a matter of minutes.
In his first challenge Allah سبحانه وتعالى invites the Arabs to a fair contest.
“Say: “If the whole of mankind and Jinn were to gather together to produce the like of this Qu’ran they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support”
The challenge is to produce the like of the Qur’an. The second challenge confers to the Arabs a clear advantage.
“Or they say ‘he (Muhammad) forged it’, Say: ‘Bring ten chapters like it and call (to your help) whomever you can other than Allah if you speak the truth”
Now only ten suwar must be produced. The final challenge is so easy that it should if it could really be matched have taken the Arab poets of the time a very short amount of time to meet.
“If you are in doubt of what we have revealed to our messenger, then produce one chapter like it. Call upon all your helpers, besides Allah, if you are truthful”
There 114 suwar in the Qur’an, the longest of which is 286 ayat (phrase or sentence) long, the shortest is 3 ayat long (or 4 if one includes bimillahir rahmanir rahim ; In the name of Allah the most beneficent, the most merciful) which begins all suwar save one. That is only three sentences.
Given the Arabic language, given the blueprint of the entire Qur’an itself, it should definitely be possible to imitate the style for only three lines. But the challenge to this day remains unmet. How can this be? If a man had produced the Qur’an then another man would have been able to copy the process and achieve the same result. It should be noted that the process only need be replicated for 3 lines! The fact that this cannot be done defies all the known laws of language, and yet it is the case.
This is analogous to giving a team of expert Ferrari engineers the blueprint to a Ferrari, all of the building materials and tools and yet they are unable to assemble it. Pharmaceutical companies may spend years and invest millions of pounds in producing a new drug, but they immediately patent the drug to prevent other companies from producing the same thing. This is because the drug can be examined in a laboratory, its composition analysed, the process replicated. The same rules apply to language, any style can be examined, its rules understood, the style replicated. But with the Qur’an this has never been done. The inimitability is testament to its miraculous nature.
So where did the Qur’an come from? Let us examine the possibilities. They are:
1) From Muhammad
2) From the Arabs
3) From the non-Arabs
4) From the Creator
It would be false to claim that it was from the best of the Arab poets who produced it or one possessed of genius. If it were one such then it would still be possible to imitate his work even if he produced it first. This is according to the normal rules of language. Thus Shakespeare is considered by many the finest writer of English language, yet it is definitely possible to imitate him. There is still debate over certain parts of Henry VIII (‘All is true’) as to who authored them. The same is true of book 10 of Homers ‘Illiad’. In fact neither claims to be beyond human capacity or inimitable but this demonstrates that both can be imitated and equalled, if not bettered. Yet this is not possible with the Qur’an. So it cannot be from the Arabs themselves or they would have been able to replicate it. Instead they could not, and it brought a new style of Arabic language, the Qur’an in addition to the poetry, prose and rhymed prose of the Arabs. It remained however a unique style they could not repeat.
The same argument applies to the Qur’an being from Muhammad. He himself was an Arab and illiterate amongst them. Also it cannot have come from a non Arab being itself an Arabic discourse.
The only other possibility is that it came from the Creator. This is the final possibility and consequently must be true. It also is the only explanation for the Qur’an’s inimitability, for as previously discussed any miracle can occur only by the Creators will.
It is also worth noting also that the Qur’an maintains its flawless brilliance throughout. Had it been produced by men, then there would have been fluctuations in its excellence. People may have been expected to improve their style over time, to eventually peak. People may be expected to not maintain the same incredible standard for every line of every page. But the inimitable perfection of the Qur’an encompasses any three lines that may be put under scrutiny.
Taken from the book “ Ash-shakhsia al-Islaamiya: Vol I”
“Thus their style fluctuates in strength and weakness, apart from the occurrence of some frivolous thoughts and trite expressions in their texts. On the other hand, we find that style of the Quran from the day of the revelation of the first Ayah , “Read! In the name of your Lord and Cherisher, Who created,” (Al-‘alaq: 1) until the day of the revelation of the last Ayah, “O you who believe! Fear Allah سبحانه وتعالى, and give up what remains of your demand for usury (riba), if you are indeed believers” (Al-baqarah: 278) was uniformly at its peak with respect to articulacy and rhetoric and the sublimity of the thoughts therein and the vigour of its expressions. You will never find one trite expression or one frivolous thought in it, but it is one homogeneous piece, to the smallest detail, its entirety is, in respect of style, just like one single sentence. This is proof that it is not the speech of human beings, whose speech is susceptible to divergence in expressions and meanings; but it is indeed the speech of the Lord of the Worlds.”
1) As the Qur’an could not have been from the Arabs, Muhammad, a non-Arab or any man we are left with the conclusion that is revealed from the only other possible source; from the Creator
2) The inimitably of the Qur’an, the fact that the impossibility of such a simple challenge not being met is an actual reality is testament to its miraculous nature. A miracle is: “An event that appears so inexplicable by the laws of nature, that it is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God”, such an inimitable occurrence can only occur via the permission of the one who sets the natural laws and then breaks them Himself, thus the Creator is the only one who could have revealed the Qur’an.
How does one appreciate the Miracle without mastery of classical Arabic?
As Islam came for all of mankind, not only the Arabs, there must be a way for non Arabs to understand the Qur’an’s timeless miracle. Indeed most Arabs these days do not know the fusha (classical) Arabic of the Qur’an. How then do the people of the 21 st century appreciate Islam and understand its truth without first mastering fusha Arabic?
An expert in classical Arabic may well be able to simply hear the Qur’an and appreciate the miracle as the following example demonstrates:
One of the most famous conversions was that of Umar ibn al-Khattab the second of the righteously guided Khulafah and one of the best of the Muslims. Prior to his conversion he was a staunch opponent of the Prophet, devoted to paganism and a drunkard who buried his children alive. On top of this he was a mighty warrior. Ibn Ishaq reports in his Sira that Umar was on his way to assassinate Muhammad one day when he came upon his sister who had embraced Islam secretly, listening to some new verses of the Qur’an being recited. He stormed into the house shouting “What is this nonsense?” and knocked his sister to the ground. He softened slightly when he noticed her bleeding, feeling ashamed of himself somewhat, picked up the manuscript and began to read. Umar was and an acknowledged authority of Arabic poetry and used to be consulted regarding the precise significance of language. But Umar had never encountered the like of the Qur’an and he exclaimed “How fine and noble is this speech!” converting there and then to Islam for which he famously became as mighty a champion for as he ever had been against prior to converting.
However if someone who does not know Arabic listens to the Qur’an being recited, as melodious as it may sound, he would not be able to ascertain its divine nature. It would be akin to the splitting of the red sea before a blind girl. She does not possess the tools to sense the miracle before her.
However what can be understood is that in the 1400 years since Islam was revealed, no scholar of classical Arabic be they Muslim, Christian or of any other belief has upheld any meeting of the Qur’an’s challenge. Their consent over this is unanimous. Testimonials to its miraculous origin and inimitability can be found by the dozens.
Further to this attempts to imitate the Qur’an have been met with the scholar’s derision.
Some claim that the Qur’an was matched by ‘Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa’, Abu ‘Ala al-Ma’arri and others. But the point we need to remember is that the Qur’an did not challenge that someone should make a claim but that he should ‘bring something like it’. Where are the writings of such people which equal the oratory of the Qur’an? In fact it has not been even established conclusively that such people even claimed to have matched the Qur’an.
One of the earliest claimants to rivalling the Qur’an was the amusing concoction of Musaylimah al-Kazzab. Regarding his poetry the great scholar of I’jaz al-Qur’an Imaam al-Baqilanni wrote: ‘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.’ Take a look at the following rendition by Musaylimah and you will see what he means:
“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” !
As regards Ibn Muqaffa’ no texts exist which claim to challenge the Qur’an so the discussion is rather academic. On the contrary it is said that Ibn al-Muqaffa’ himself gave up after attempting to replicate the Qur’an when he came to the verses 42-46 of Surah Hud.
As for Abu ‘Ala al-Ma’arri only some parts survive from his Kitab al-Fusul wal Ghayaat. But these parts are no more than rhymed prose and cannot be described a unique genre of writing which is what it would have to be to challenge the Qur’an. In fact some scholars such as Fakhr ad-Deen ar-Raazi denied that al-Ma’arri ever meant to challenge the Qur’an. Nonetheless ar-Raazi mentions a dozen reasons why the language of the Qur’an is superior to that of al-Ma’arri’s text.
In recent times we have seen the cheap attempts of Christian missionaries who claim they have something better than the Qur’an. What they have is translations of the Bible or stories adapted from the Bible. One quick look at their texts indicates the feeble nature of their attempts; they are written mimicking the style of the Qur’an but always falling short. The Qur’an said bring something like it, not plagiarise its style in a substandard manner. So it’s no wonder no-one studies their works as a piece of literature let alone something which is distinguished for its literary qualities.
The people who spoke the best Arabic, were its recognised masters and loved it most were the ones closest to the time when Qur’an was being revealed. They themselves were unable to replicate the Qur’an. Thus, al-Jaahiz (b. 160 AH) who was a master of Arabic language in his time said: ‘The Prophet came with this Book (Qur’an) which we read and obliged us to adhere to it. He challenged the masters of rhetoric; orators and poets with its word order and composition in many places and great gatherings but no one came or took up the challenge. No one was able to bring a part or the like and no one claimed he could do that’. If this was the case with the Arabs of the pure tongue in the time of the Prophet and after him, then what about the people today who make cheap claims but cannot read classical poetry without constantly referring to dictionaries and commentaries?
It is a physical impossibility for all the scholars of classical Arabic separated by time (over 1400 years) and space (whichever country they may abide in) to have collaborated to fool the entire world into believing the Qur’an is inimitable. Those who are Christians, Jewish or atheist would have no reason to do this anyway. As we know they have not colluded to tell the world that the Qur’anic challenge has gone unmet by the fact there are too many scholars of Arabic who are unknown to each other, in too many different places at any given point in history the only conclusion that can be drawn is that they are telling the truth.
Having understood this anyone, Arab or otherwise can now begin to examine the points expounded in the previous section ‘Appreciating the Miracle’ which explains why this inimitability can only mean the Qur’an is revealed by the Creator. If all the people of Musa told the blind girl of the example the red sea had been split into two, provided the numbers were large enough and the people unknown to each other to such an extent that collaboration were an impossibility, she herself could only conclude a miracle had indeed been performed, though she had not directly sensed it .
In this regard the sincere, thinking man is in a better position to understand the divine origin of the Qur’an than those people of Quraysh, Christian and Jewish Arabic scholars who knew it could not be imitated but would not embrace Islam for other reasons, such as fear of change, or out of pride. Some may have not made the required intellectual linkages developed in the previous section explaining why the Qur’an can only be from the creator.
The continuous transmission of the Qur’an
Barring one or two slightly different manuscripts (which differ only in very minor issues like the angle some tashkil are scribed) the Qur’an the world over is exactly the same book This can be tested easily for there are thousands of huffaz (individuals who have committed the Qur’an to memory, literally ‘guardians’) who have memorised the Qur’an the world over. They recite the Qur’an every day in salat (prayer). During the month of Ramadhan the entire Qur’an is recited aloud in salat in every masjid around the world. Were anyone to recite it differently it would immediately be recognised. Any Muslim is familiar with this for we have all witnessed the correcting of the Imam should he falter or make an error in prayer.
Consider what this means. It means that over the last 1400 years as Muslims have moved to live all over the globe, there has been no alteration at all to any of the manuscripts of the Qur’an. If there had been then there would definitely be variants of the Qur’an. The Qur’an held by a man in London would be different than one held by a woman in Vienna. As the Qur’an is the same the world over this has not occurred.
One can imagine this as a spider’s web. Each strand represents the spread of Muslims around the world and over time. If there were changes to the Qur’an at any point the manuscripts at the end of the web would be different at different points. As they are not it means that we hold the same Qur’an as the version at the centre of our imaginary web.
The centre of the web represents the period where Uthman the third Khalifah of Islam gathered together all variant manuscripts and produced one standard manuscript based on the version that Abu Bakr had used. The sahabi (companions of the prophet) reached a consensus regarding the correct nature of this version as the Prophet had himself made the majority of them memorise the Qur’an before his death. This version was distributed to the other Muslims of the state. As currently we all have the same version of the Qur’an it must be the very same copy of Abu Bakr’s that Uthman standardised for everyone as previously explained.
It cannot be argued the Qur’an may have been tampered with at this point, and that we possess other than that which Allah revealed. If anything had been added into the Qur’an or altered by men, then these verses would have lost their inimitable quality, their miraculous nature. As the entire Qur’an to this day still possesses these attributes, what was compiled by Uthman and the companions was definitely all revelation from the Creator.
Indeed once it is established that it is without a doubt the word of Allah, now we can examine its words in peace and tranquillity. Allah سبحانه وتعالى himself has told us that He will protect the book:
“Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Qur’an and surely, We will guard it”
This is very different from the Christian argument that one should have faith in the Bible. When asked why I should have such faith one missionary replied by opening the bible and pointing out a verse that commanded you must have faith in the Bible! This is known as a circular argument; believe in the book because the book says so, and is intellectually bankrupt. Such an argument cannot amount to a definite belief for any case.
Rather with the Qur’an the Muslim must first understand its challenges, its inimitable nature, and the fact that this demonstrates it is a miracle and finally then that a miracle must come from God. After proving the divine revelation of the Qur’an from without, we can now happily take anything inside knowing that it is from the creator. More than this we are obliged to.
And they will say: ‘Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not have been among the dwellers of the Fire!'”
The Final Conclusion
The sincere and deep man who scrutinises the miracle of the Qur’an will easily arrive at the realisation that mankind is in possession of a perfectly preserved codex of revelation from his Creator. This book, the Qur’an is the only such book in the world today. It explains clearly how all of mankind must live their lives and organise their societies. It teaches him right from wrong and gives us knowledge of life after death and creation that we would otherwise never know. It directs us in each and every one of our personal matters, our family issues, from how we pray and clean ourselves to the relationships between nations and how a state governs itself.
Can there be a more important conclusion, a more important proof that any man will ever ponder?
A beautiful summary
Imam at-Tabari wrote in his tafseer
“There can be no doubt that the highest and most resplendent degree of eloquence is that which expresses itself with the greatest clarity, making the intention of the speaker evident and facilitating the hearer’s understanding. But when it rises beyond this level of eloquence, and transcends what man is capable of, so that none of the servants of God is able to match it, it becomes proof and a sign for the Messengers of the One, the All-powerful. It is then the counterpart of raising the dead and curing of lepers and the blind, themselves proofs and signs for the Messengers…”
Continuing he says:
“. . . it is obvious that there is no discourse more eloquent, no wisdom more profound, no speech more sublime, no form of expression more noble, than this clear discourse and speech with which a single man challenged people at a time when they were acknowledged masters of the art of oratory and rhetoric, poetry and prose, rhymed prose and soothsaying. He reduced their fancy to folly and demonstrated the inadequacy of their logic. He dissociated himself from their religion and summoned all of them to follow him, accept his mission, testify to its truth, and affirm that he was the Messenger sent to them by their Lord. He let them know that the demonstration of the truth of what he said, the proof of the genuineness of his prophet-hood, was the bayan (the clear speech), the hikma (the evidential wisdom), the furqan (the criterion between right & wrong), which he conveyed to them in a language like their language, in a speech whose meanings conformed to the meanings of their speech. Then he told them that they were incapable of bringing anything comparable to even a part of what he brought, and that they lacked the power to do this. They all confessed their inability, voluntarily acknowledging the truth of what he had brought, and bore witness to their own insufficiency . . .”