Whenever we present the many blunders in the Quran to Muslims, their favourite reply is that their Quran is a divine book because no one can produce a book like it. At times when I ask why this is so, they will say “because the Quran says so!” Well, that is a fallacy of circular reasoning which proves nothing. Such an assertion can only be accepted by those who have already assumed the divine origin of the Quran. Here is what the Quran itself says on the issue:
Sura 2:23 “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], then produce a Surah (chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses (supporters and helpers) beside Allah…”
Sura 17:89 “If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an; the could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.”
These were Muhammad’s “defenses” against the critics of his time and they are still the same verses Muslims like to trot out today. Demolish these “defenses” and the divine origin of the Quran along with the integrity of Muhammad go down the tubes.
This line of argument fails at least 3 major tests.
1. The Test of Logic
The claim that there can’t be a book like the Quran begs the question because every book is unique. Every human being is unique and different. In fact, no two people are exactly the same. Even in writing or other abilites, each person’s style is different and unique.
For instance, there is a particular way I write, which could also be linked to the way I think. Even if you read what I read, you can’t write exactly like I do. So when someone then says “Until you write a book like the Quran you can’t beat it” such a line is puerile and silly. We don’t need to write a book like the Quran.
Muslims claim Al-Quran is beautiful and eloquent that no one can produce its like. This is a fallacy of irrelevance. First of all, beauty or elegance is subjective and cannot even be a measure of truth. You can look at a book and call it beautiful while I see it as ugly. That is why we are unique.
If a man says “Find a lady as beautiful as the one I love,” hardly can his challenge be met because his love for her blinds him to her defects. The same thing applies here. Muslims have blindly believed the Quran as divinely inspired and have refused to see the many absurdities in it: they even call them “beauty.” In reality, no book can match the Quran in its confusion and negative influence.
2. The Test of Textual Stability.
When Muhammad was alive, the texts of the Quran he was reciting were anything but stable. He would recite a verse today from Allah and edit or change it the next day. This raised the suspicions of many of his people, then ‘Allah’ explained:
“When We (Allah) substitute (or change) one revelation for another (in place of another) – and Allah knows best what He reveals – They say ‘Thou art a forger’: But most of them understand not” (Sura 16:101).
“Such of our revelations as We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring (in place) one better or like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is able to do all things?” (2:106)
These verses are quite revealing. They show that Muhammad came under so much fire from the people that he had to find a way to excuse the constant changes in his recitations. You can see that his listeners rightly dismissed him as a forger for this. Though they were illiterates, they would not be taken for a ride. They knew that a supposed divine revelation that keeps changing must be a fraud. Muhammad had to do some damage control- “most of them understand not“– understand what? That God swallows His words?
He says they don’t know that “Allah is able to do all things“– Really? Changing verses like a failed redactor? What kind of a deity is that? Wait a minute, why would the all-knowing God be bringing “a better verse?” Why didn’t Allah save us the confusion and lengthy explanations by giving a better verse from the start?
Obviously, if Muhammad had lived longer, with the way his “revelations” kept changing, the Quran wouldn’t be what it is today. Perhaps, it would have been a bigger book with a different content entirely. Islamic biographers even admit that Satan spoke some verses through the prophet praising the pagan deities (daughters of Allah) mentioned in Sura 53:19-20 (see Bukhari 2:19:177 and Sirat, 165-166). If Satan can also produce a sura like the Quran, then the challenge has been met and that makes the Quran quite cheap.
3. The Test of originality.
There is simply nothing new in the Quran. Allah revealed nothing that had not been unknown in older religions or Scriptures. The only “new” thing the Quran said is that Muhammad is the prophet of God.
There is simply no shred of originality in the Quran. Many of the stories and ideas relayed in it were slight modifications of Pagan, Jewish and Christian legends and some stuffs Muhammad gleaned from the Bible. For example, the story of Abraham being thrown into the fire of a wicked king (Nimrod) in Sura 21:69-71 was an old Jewish legend found in Midrash Rabba.
The two angels “Harut and Marut” mentioned in Sura 2:102 were the very names of two idols mentioned in Talmudic fairytales. The idea of seven heavens and seven hells in Suras 15:44 and 17:44 were adopted from the Jewish Hagigah and Zohar. The story of the 7 sleepers in the cave which kept Allah at the guessing table was an old Christian fairy tale found in the writings of Jacob Sarug (d. 521 AD).
The idea of the bridge of Sirat over hell was stolen from Zoroastrianism. They called their bridge “Chinavad.” The so-called “99 names of Allah” was a patent plagiarism of the “75 names of Ahura Mazda” in the Avesta. The idea of balances weighing the works of the dead in Sura 101:5-6 was stolen from a Gnostic work called the Testament of Abraham and the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Is it really hard work to collect old stories from different religions, modify them and use them to build your own fiction?
As if repeating something over and over magically makes it true, the editor of the hadith Mishkat’ul Masabih wrote: “It [the Quran] repeatedly challenged the people of the world to bring a chapter like it, but they failed and the challenge remains unanswered up to this day…” (Vol. III, p 664).
We cannot blame them for this mulish mentality. If the Quran is a challenge, how come Islamic leaders today get violent and issue death penalty whenever it is criticized or challenged? Is that not a sign of weakness? Even after Muhammad told the people to write a sura like it, he quickly adds:
“But if ye cannot and of a surety ye cannot [produce a sura like it]- then fear the fire whose fuel is men and stones- which is prepared for those who reject faith” (Sura 2:24).
On one hand they were told to “produce a sura like it” and at the same time, he said those who cannot do so must surely burn in Hell. This was a psychological weapon because no one would want to “produce a sura like it” since Muhammad has attached a clause to it. Smart old Mo.
No, the Quran has never “repeatedly challenged” the people of the world. These are just empty, propagandist, cliches meant to psyche the naïve.
Middle East scholar, Canon Sell agrees: “Men can produce its like in eloquence and arrangement. A man, named Nadir ibn Haritha, was bold enough to accept the challenge, and arranged some stories of the Persian kings in chapters and Suras and recited them.” (Studies in Islam, Diocesan Press, London, 1928, 208).