The Miraculous Qur’an
EIGHTEENTH SIGN: The Messenger’s greatest and eternal miracle is the Qur’an, which encompasses hundreds of proofs of his Prophethood and whose 40 miraculousness aspects have been proved.324 Here we mention only a few significant points in this respect, as follows:
FIRST POINT: QUESTION: The Qur’an’s miraculousness mainly lies in its eloquence, which can be comprehended only by one out of a thousand discerning scholars. Should not everyone be able to glimpse this miraculousness according to their own understanding?
ANSWER: The Qur’an has a different kind of miraculousness for everyone and indicates this in the most perfect way. To people of eloquence and rhetoric, it shows its miraculous eloquence; to poets and orators, it displays its miraculous and uniquely exalted style, one that cannot be imitated although it is liked by everyone. The passage of time does not effect its freshness, so it is always new. Its metrical and rhythmical prose and its verse have the greatest nobility and charm.
To soothsayers and foretellers, the Qur’an’s miraculousness consists of the reports it gives about the Unseen. To historians and chroniclers, its miraculousness is the information it relates about past nations, future conditions and events, and the Intermediate World and the Hereafter. To social and political scientists, it presents the miraculousness of its sacred principles, which comprise the Sharia. To those engaged in the knowledge of God and the Divine laws of nature, the Qur’an shows its miraculousness in its sacred Divine truths. To those following a spiritual way to sainthood, it manifests the profound, manifold meanings in its verses that rise in successive motions like waves of the sea.
In short, the Qur’an shows its 40 aspects of miraculousness to everyone by opening a different window. Even those who just listen to it and can derive a very limited meaning from it agree that the Qur’an sounds like no other book. Any ordinary person who listens to it says: “This Qur’an is either below other books in degree—which is utterly impossible, and which even its enemies [and Satan] do not claim—or above them all and therefore a miracle.” Now, we explain the aspect of miraculousness perceived by an ordinary person who simply listens to it.
The miraculous Qur’an challenges the world and stirs up two kinds of feelings: First, its friends desire to imitate its style and to speak and write like their beloved Qur’an. Second, its enemies acquire a passion to criticize and dispute, as well as to nullify its claim of miraculousness by competing with its style. Under these two influences, millions of books have been written in Arabic—and we still have them. Whoever listens to even the most eloquent and rhetorical of them will say that the Qur’an sounds like none of them.
Another miraculous aspect that it shows to illiterate people is that its recitation does not bore anyone. An illiterate person, even one who does not comprehend the Qur’an’s meaning, undoubtedly would say upon hearing it recited: “If I hear a most beautiful and famous couplet two or three times, it starts to bore me. But this is not true with the Qur’an, for the more I listen, the more pleasant it becomes. It cannot be a human composition.” The Qur’an shows its miraculousness even to children learning it by heart. Although the Qur’an has many similar verses and passages that might cause confusion, children memorize it easily even though they cannot retain a single passage about something else for long. For those who are sick and close to death, who are disturbed by the slightest noise, the Qur’an’s recitation and sound becomes as sweet and comforting as the water of Zamzam, thereby displaying another aspect of its miraculousness. For those who can see but cannot hear or learn, one of the almost 40 classes of people to whom the Qur’an shows its miraculous qualities without depriving any of them, there are other signs.325
SECOND POINT: As magic was widespread during Moses’ time, his miracles were of that nature. As medicine was in demand during Jesus’ time, his miracles were of that kind. When Muhammad was raised as a Prophet, four arts were popular in Arabia: eloquence and fluency in writing and speaking, poetry and oratory, soothsaying and divination, and knowledge about the past and cosmology.
When the miraculous Qur’an came, it challenged all experts in these four fields. First, it brought people of eloquence to their knees as they listened to it in total admiration. Second, it shocked poets and orators so much that they bit their fingers in amazement and removed their most celebrated Seven Poems, which until then were written in gold and hung on the Ka‘ba’s walls. Third, it forever silenced soothsayers and magicians by making them forget their knowledge of the Unseen and causing their jinn to be expelled from the heavens. Fourth, it saved those who knew some history and cosmology from myths and fabrications, and instructed them in the reality of past events and the illuminating facts of creation. Thus these four groups, kneeling before the Qur’an in absolute astonishment and awe, became its students and never tried to challenge it.
A POSSIBLE QUESTION: How do we know that nobody has disputed with the Qur’an or that such a challenge is impossible?
ANSWER: If this were possible, someone would have tried it. Actually, the Qur’an’s opponents needed such a challenge, for they felt that it endangered their religion, life, and property. Thus they would have challenged the Qur’an if they could have done so. Many unbelievers and hypocrites were ready to advertise such a contest, just as they spread malicious propaganda against Islam. If any challenge had been successful, it would have been recorded (with exaggeration). But all history books have come down to us, and none of them contains anything other than a few nonsensical lines of Musaylima al-Kazzab (the Liar), a self-proclaimed (and false) Prophet. They never dared to challenge it, although the Qur’an challenged them for 23 years in a way that provoked and annoyed them, as follows:
Come on and produce a like of this Qur’an. Let an unlettered man, like Muhammad the Trustworthy, do so. If he cannot, let the most knowledgeable and well-versed in writing try. If he cannot, gather all of your learned and eloquent people and let them work together. Call upon your gods and goddesses. If you still cannot produce anything, use of all books of the highest eloquence, and let all unbelievers to come until Doomsday use your experiences in their attempt. If even then you cannot do so, try to produce the like of only 10 suras. If you cannot do this, make a composition from baseless stories and imaginative tales to match only the Qur’an’s metrical verse and eloquence. If you cannot, produce only one chapter. If you cannot do even this, produce a short chapter, or else your religion, lives, properties, and families will be at stake in this world and the Hereafter!
With these eight alternatives, the Qur’an has challenged and silenced all people and jinn for the last 14 centuries. Instead of preferring the easiest way (open challenge), the unbelievers living during the early days of Islam chose the hardest way (warfare) and so jeopardized their lives, properties, and families. If someone could have met even the easiest condition of this challenge, no people of wisdom, especially those living at the Prophet’s time and the Qurayshi intellectual elite, would have been forced to choose warfare. In summary, as Jahiz put it, they had to resort to struggle by the sword since challenge by words was impossible.
QUESTION: Some discerning scholars maintain that no Qur’anic sura, verse, sentence, or word can be disputed and that no one has ever done so successfully. This sounds exaggerated and hard to accept, as many human produced words bear some resemblance to the Qur’an.
ANSWER: There are two opinions on the Qur’an’s miraculousness. The prevailing opinion is that its eloquence and meaning’s virtues are beyond human capacity. The other one says that one can challenge and compete with a sura, but that God Almighty prevents it as a miracle of Muhammad. For example, if a Prophet told someone who could stand: “You will be unable to stand” and this came true, it would be considered a miracle of the Prophet. This school is known as Sarfa, which teaches that the All-Mighty prevents people and jinn from producing even a sura. If this were not true, they might challenge one sura. Thus scholars who maintain that not even a word of the Qur’an can be challenged are correct, for the All-Mighty prevents this on account of the Qur’an’s miraculousness.
As for the prevailing, more preferable view, it has a subtle point: All Qur’anic words and verses are interrelated. Sometimes a word is related to 10 other occurrences, thus bearing 10 relationships and providing 10 instances of eloquence. In my Isharat al-I‘jaz (Signs of Miraculousness), a key to the Qur’an’s interpretation, I show some examples drawn from the initial verses of Surat al-Fatiha and Surat al-Baqara.
For example, one can place a most important gem in the most proper place in the decorative pattern of a well-ornamented palace’s wall only after knowing the whole design. Likewise, placing the eye’s pupil in its correct location entails knowing all of the body’s functions and complex organization as well as its relationship with the eye’s function. In just the same way, the foremost people of science and profound truth demonstrate numerous relationships between the Qur’an’s words and each word’s manifold relationships with other verses and expressions. Scholars of the mysteries of letters go even further, proving that each letter of the Qur’an has many inner meanings that, if explained fully, might cover pages.
Since the Qur’an is the Word of the Creator of everything, each word may function as the core or heart of an ideal body made of hidden meanings placed around it or as the seed of an ideal tree. Therefore, although some human-made words may be similar to those of the Qur’an, placing them properly by means of considering all relationships between [and among] the Qur’anic words calls for an all-comprehending knowledge.
THIRD POINT: God Almighty once inspired in my heart a brief reflection on the Qur’an’s miraculous nature. I give its translation (from the original Arabic) below:
Glory be to God, Who Himself witnesses to His Oneness; Who has disclosed the qualities of His Grace, Majesty, and Perfection through the Qur’an; and Whose six sides are luminous and contain neither misgiving nor doubt. Supported by God’s Throne of Sovereignty, from which it holds the light of Revelation, it leads to the happiness of the two worlds and aims at the light of Paradise and eternal bliss. Above it shines the seal of miraculousness, beneath it lie the pillars of proof and evidence, and inside it is pure guidance. It urges minds to seek its confirmation through such warnings as: Will they not comprehend and reflect? The spiritual pleasures it bestows upon the heart makes the conscience testify to its miraculousness. From which side or corner, then, could the arrows of doubt invade such a miraculous Qur’an?
The miraculous Qur’an includes the content of all books given to all Prophets as well as of all saints and monotheists regardless of path, temperament, and time. In other words, all people of heart and intellect mention the Qur’an’s laws and fundamentals in their books in a way that shows their affirmation, and so are like roots of the “celestial tree of the Qur’an.”
The Qur’an is truly a Revelation. The Majestic One Who revealed it proves this via the miracles He created at Muhammad’s hands. Even the Qur’an’s own miraculousness shows that it comes from God’s Exalted Throne. Lastly, Prophet Muhammad’s alarm when the Revelation began, his state of absorption and concentration when receiving it, and his unmatched sincere respect and devotion to the Qur’an all prove that it is Revelation, derived from past eternity,326 and entrusted to the Prophet.
The Qur’an is pure guidance, since its opposite (unbelief) is obviously misguidance. Of necessity, the Qur’an is the source of the light of belief, for the opposite of this light is darkness. The Qur’an is the spring of truths into which neither imagination nor superstition can find a way. The truthful world of Islam shaped by its Revelation, the well-founded law it presents, and the highest virtues that it manifests all testify to its complete truthfulness vis-à-vis the Unseen and the visible worlds.
The Qur’an shows the way and guides people to happiness in both worlds. Whoever doubts this should read it once and heed its words. Its perfect and life-giving fruits demonstrate that it is deeply rooted in truth and true vigor, for a fruit’s vigor indicates a tree’s life. Just look at how many perfect, vigorous, and luminous fruits—people of sainthood, purity, and profound learning—it yields in each century. Through the conviction and intuition coming from countless indications, the Qur’an is so esteemed and sought after by people, jinn, and angels that its recitation causes them to gather around it like moths.
In addition, all people of the profoundest knowledge agree that the Qur’an is confirmed and fortified by rational proofs. Such geniuses of philosophy as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), and especially the most learned theologians, prove the truth of the Qur’an’s fundamentals with their own methods of reasoning. Humanity’s very nature, so long as it remains unspoiled, affirms the Qur’an’s truth, for only its light can satisfy a person’s conscience and place his or her heart placed at rest.
The Qur’an is an everlasting miracle that continually unfolds its miraculousness. It never fades or perishes like other miracles, nor does it age over time. The Qur’an’s guidance is so inclusive and comprehensive that Archangel Gabriel and young children listen to it side by side, both deriving their lessons. Such a brilliant philosopher as Ibn Sina sits before it knee to knee with ordinary reciters to receive its teaching. Sometimes ordinary reciters, by virtue of their purity and strength of belief, derive more benefit than Ibn Sina.
The Qur’an’s guidance provides such penetrating insight that the universe can be seen and comprehended like a book’s pages. Like a watch-maker who opens and describes a watch down to its smallest part, the Qur’an expounds the universe with all of its spheres and particles. Above all, it states that “There is no deity but God” and declares His Oneness.
O God, make the Qur’an our companion in the world and our confidant in the grave, our intercessor in the Hereafter and our light on the Sirat Bridge, a veil and protection against Hellfire, a friend in Paradise, and a guide and a leader to all goodness. O God, illumine our hearts and graves with the light of belief and the Qur’an, and brighten the evidence of the Qur’an for the sake of him to whom You sent it. Upon him and his Family be peace and blessings from the Compassionate and Solicitous One. Amen.
324 See Said Nursi, The Words.
325 For example, Hafiz ‘Uthman’s copy features many related words that correspond to each other on different pages. If the sheets beneath their dog being the eighth (Surat al-Kahf) are pierced, with a slight deviation it will go through Qitmir (Surat al-Fatir), thus giving the dog’s name. Mukhdarun and mukhdarin (they will be brought before us) in Surat al-Saffat correspond to each other and to the one found in Sura Ya Sin twice, one below the other. Mathna (in pairs) occurs three times in the Qur’an; that the two of them correspond to each other, one at the beginning of Surat al-Fatir and the other toward the end of Sura Saba’, cannot be by chance.
Many similar examples exist. Sometimes the same word occurs almost in the same place on five or six pages. I once saw a Qur’an in which similar passages, written in red ink, faced each other on facing pages. This pointed to a different kind of miracle. Later, I noticed many more passages on various pages significantly facing each other. Since the Qur’an’s verses and chapters were arranged at the Prophet’s direction and later on copied through Divine inspiration, its design and calligraphy are miraculous. Any slight deviation is the result of human acts.
Furthermore, each long or medium Medinan sura repeats Allah in a very significant manner: five, six, seven, eight, nine, or eleven times on both sides of a sheet or on two facing pages—a beautiful and significant numerical proportionate.
Although the Qur’an has all the features of persuasive eloquence (e.g., rhythm, rhyme, and artistic style) that capture our attention, it always provides sublime seriousness, serenity of mind, and the peace of being in His presence to those who remember and supplicate God. Other kinds of persuasive eloquence often disturb, for their elegance intrudes upon one’s peace of mind and undermines seriousness and inward concentration.
For the last 8 or 9 years I have read Imam Shafi‘i’s famous supplication daily. Although it is the most graceful, meaningful, and eloquent one of its kind, and even ended a season of drought and famine in Egypt, I came to see that its rhymed and metrical wording interrupts the supplication’s solemnity. I therefore deduced that the Qur’an’s miraculously genuine, natural, matchless, and unique rhythm and rhyme preserves peace and solemnity. Those who remember and supplicate God feel this miraculousness in their hearts, even if their minds do not realize it.
Another miraculous aspect is that the Qur’an shows the belief of the highest and brightest degree possessed by God’s Messenger, the object of the Greatest Divine Name’s manifestation. Like a sacred map, it details the sublime truths of the Hereafter and the Lord’s kingdom and shows us, in a natural way, how exalted is the true and comprehensive religion of Islam.
It also conveys the address of the universe’s Creator as the Lord of creation, with all His glory and majesty. Therefore, as the Qur’an states: Say: If all humanity and jinn were to come together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it (17:88). All such attempts are worth almost nothing in comparison, as the Qur’an cannot be imitated, due mainly to the three essential aspects mentioned above.
At the end of each page, its verses become complete with a beautiful rhyme. Another sign of its miraculousness, this fine aspect is due to the fact that its longest verse (Mudayana [loan business]) provides the norm or standard length for pages, while Surat al-Ikhlas (Sincerity) and Surat al-Kawthar (Abundance) do the same for its lines.
326 Past eternity (azal) is not, as people imagine, just the starting-point of time and therefore essential for a thing’s existence. In fact, past eternity is like a mirror that reflects the past, present, and future. Excluding themselves from time’s passage, people tend to imagine a limit for past time that extends through a certain chain of things. They call this past eternity. Such a method of reasoning is neither right nor acceptable. The following subtle point may clarify matters. Imagine that you are holding a mirror. Everything reflected on the right represents the past, while everything reflected on the left represents the future. The mirror can reflect only one direction, since it cannot show both sides simultaneously while you are holding it. To do that, you have to rise so high above your original position that left and right become one, and there is no longer any difference between first and last, beginning or end. (Tr.)