The literary miraculousness of the holy Qur’an

The Holy Prophet performed various miracles, the commentaries upon which are recorded in books of Hadith and history. But the eternal miracle which radiates throughout all the ages is the Holy Qur’an; and the secret as to why the Prophet of Islam, and not any other Prophet, should have been distinguished by this miracle resides in this: The religion brought by him is the last religion, and it is to last until the end of time. An everlasting religion needs an everlasting miracle, so that it be a decisive proof of prophecy in each age and for each succeeding generation; and so that mankind might, throughout the course of the centuries, have recourse directly to this miracle itself, rather than depend on the words of others.

The literary miraculousness of the holy Qur’an

From the time of the descent of the Holy Qur’an, the first thing that struck the Arabic-speaking world and those versed in oratory and rules of eloquence, was the beauty of the language, the elegance and originality of its composition, and the sublime meanings contained in the Scripture. This special feature of the Qur’an was clearly evident to the Arabs of that time, as it is for those of today. Thus, the pprophet challenged anyone in the world to produce the like of it; but nobody at the time of the Revelation could respond to the challenge. Even to this day, after the passage of centuries, the Qur’an ‘s inimitable uniqueness remains; as it says in the Book:

Say, ‘Should all humans and jinn rally to bring the like of this Quran, they will not bring its like, even if they assisted one another.’(Sura Bani Isra’Il, 17:88)

and because of this, the Prophet, through continuous recitation of its verses, and through repeated invitations to ponder the uniqueness of the Qur’an, cast the champions of oratory and the masters of eloquence into abasement and humiliation, causing them to gnaw at their fingers in bewildered rage at the majestic speech of the Qur’an, bitterly acknowledging its super-human quality.

Walid b. Mughayra, a renowned poet and a master orator among the Quraysh, declared, after hearing the Prophet recite some verses:

‘By God, I have just heard something from Muhammad that is unlike the speech of man or the speech of jinn. It is a speech with its own unique sweetness and beauty. The branches of its words are laden with fruit, its roots are full of blessings; it is a surpassing discourse, than which no more distinguished speech exists. Indeed, nothing can begin to rival its excellence. ‘[1]

It was not just Walid b. Mughayra who extolled the outward beauty and inward profundity of the Qur’an; other great orators also, such as ‘Utba b. Rabi’a and Tufayl b. ‘Umar, also expressed their utter incapacity to compete with the Qur’an and acknowledged it as a literary miracle.

Of course, the Arabs of the Jahiliyya, because of their low level of culture, did not grasp anything but this aspect of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. But when the sun of Islam illumined a quarter of the inhabited world, the great thinkers of the world reflected deeply upon the profound verses of the Qur’an, and were able to benefit not only from its miraculous literary aspects, but also from the evident connection that each of its other aspects had with the sacred and the miraculous; and in every age, new dimensions of its endless verities would be discovered, a process which continues to this day.

1. Fadl b. al-Hasan al-Tabarsi, Majma’ al-bayan (Tehran, n.d.), vol. 5, p. 387.