How would you respond to the following Muslim claim made in ‘The Qur’an in many places challenges the people to produce a surah like it. It appears that the Christian missionaries who call the challenge irrelevent or an utterly subjective criterion are pretty much unaware of how the Arabic poetry and prose compares with the Qur’an. This article is devoted to deal with one aspect of the Qur’anic challenge of produce a surah like it. What is meant by surah like it with respect to the Arabic prose and poetry? The verses of the Qur’an dealing with the challenge are given below (Hilali and Muhsin Khan’s Translation):

Say: “If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.” [Qur’an 17:88] And if you (Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down (i.e. the Qur’an) to Our slave (Muhammad Peace be upon him ), then produce a surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful. [Qur’an 2:23]

And this Qur’an is not such as could ever be produced by other than Allah (Lord of the heavens and the earth), but it is a confirmation of (the revelation) which was before it [i.e. the Taurat (Torah), and the Injeel (Gospel), etc.], and a full explanation of the Book (i.e. laws and orders, etc, decreed for mankind) – wherein there is no doubt from the the Lord of the ‘Alamin (mankind, jinns,and all that exists). Or do they say: “He (Muhammad(P)) has forged it?” Say: “Bring then a surah (chapter) like unto it, and call upon whomsoever you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!” [Qur’an 10:37-38] Or they say, “He (Prophet Muhammad(P)) forged it (the Qur’an).” Say: “Bring you then ten forged surah (chapters) like unto it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah (to your help), if you speak the truth!” [Qur’an 11:13] Or do they say: “He (Muhammad(P)) has forged it (this Qur’an)?” Nay! They believe not! Let them then produce a recital like unto it (the Qur’an) if they are truthful. [Qur’an 52:33-34]   Abdur Rahim Green mentions that:

These are the sixteen al-Bihar (literally “The Seas”, so called because of the way the poem moves, according to its rhythmic patterns): at-Tawil, al-Bassit, al-Wafir, al-Kamil, ar-Rajs, al-Khafif, al-Hazaj, al-Muttakarib, al-Munsarih, al-Muktatab, al-Muktadarak, al-Madid, al-Mujtath, al-Ramel, al-Khabab and as-Saria’. So the challenge is to produce in Arabic, three lines, that do not fall into one of these sixteen Bihar, that is not rhyming prose, nor like the speech of soothsayers, and not normal speech, that it should contain at least a comprehensible meaning and rhetoric, i.e. not gobbledygook. Now I think at least the Christian’s “Holy spirit” that makes you talk in tongues, part of your “Tri-Unity” of God should be able to inspire one of you with that!’

p.s. I did find this article which responds to the above which is a good response but I would also be interested in how you would respond


This debate has been held for a very long time.  If we look at what Islamic interpreters say, and allow them to interpret what Muhammad claimed, essentially, Muhammad claimed that his poetry was of a very high quality which cannot easily be reproduced.  It amounts to a sort of claim of inspiration by Muhammad.

My answer is that I know nothing of Arabic poetry, but I will allow Muslim scholars to evaluate the Qur’an and will concede that the quality of the  poetry of the Qur’an is quite high.  The challenge to produce a surah like this or greater than this is a red herring at this point, as the standard by which such a challenge would be measured assumes that what Muhammad wrote is the perfect, ideal style.  To meet the challenge, a Christian or a Jew or anyone else would have to have as their native speech the dialect of the Arabic language which was spoken in the West of the Arabia peninsula abound 600 AD.  Of course, almost by definition, no one could ever meet such a  challenge.  Given this fact, the claim made by Muslims today is really pretty much meaningless.  The claim is really meaningless if it is a challenge for a non-Muslim today to write a better line of poetry in Muhammad’s dialect and in his unique style.  Of course, no one can do this, but so what?

Here is the bottom line, at least as far as I see it.  Is the unique style of Muhammad’s poetry, and the relatively high quality of his poetry proof that the Qur’an is inspired by God?  I will let people decide for themselves.

But let us put the shoe on the other foot.  Is there anything in the Qur’an like Isaiah 53 or Micah 5 or Psalms 22 or Daniel 9?  These are prophecies, written many hundreds of years before the events, that were fulfilled in astoundingly specific detail by Jesus.  As prophesied, Jesus was  pierced, was despised and rejected, was silent when accused, and was buried in the tomb of a rich man (Isaiah 53).  As prophesied, Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5).  As prophesied, Jesus was crucified, and his garments were gambled over while he was being crucified (Psalm 22).  As prophesied, Jesus was killed in Jerusalem in the year AD 30 (plus or minus three years, Daniel 9.  There are dozens of more very specific prophecies of the future fulfilled by Jesus, many of which he had no control over personally.  That the Bible is inspired by God is proved by evidence that does not require circular reasoning or subjective evaluation.

So, here is my reverse challenge to the Muslim:  Can you produce a single line of prophecy of the future, with great specificity, which was fulfilled hundreds of years later?  We know the answer, do we not?

Which is a more convincing sign of inspiration–good poetry or miraculous and supernatural prophecy of the future?  And remember, if the Bible is true, then Jesus is God, he was crucified for our sins.  If this is true, then Muhammad is a false prophet, as he said that these  things are not true.  The fact is that Muhammad is a false prophet.  If people believe, despite this fact, that his poetry is of sufficient quality to  prove that the Qur’an is inspired, then more power to them, but I find the comparison to be very much in favor of Christianity and in favor of Jesus who was raised form the dead, who was crucified for our sins, and who claimed to be God in the flesh.

John Oakes

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