Perhaps one of the first impressions a first time reader of the Quran may get is that the Book does not conform to traditional formats and styles. To a sceptic, the book presents a number of confusing issues. In a paper entitled "Is the Quran the Word of God?" the sceptic Joseph Smith wrote:
" ..... The Qur'an, on the other hand, reads more like a jumbled and confused collection of statements and ideas, many of which bear little relationship to preceding chapters and verses. Many scholars admit that the Quran is so haphazard in its make-up that it requires the utmost sense of duty for anyone to plough through it."
The German secular scholar Salomon Reinach wrote:
"From the literary point of view, the Koran has little merit. Declamation, repetition, puerility, a lack of logic and coherence strike the unprepared reader at every turn. It is humiliating to the human intellect to think that this mediocre literature has been the subject of innumerable commentaries, and that millions of men are still wasting time in absorbing it." (Reinach 1932:176)
Others have criticised the symmetry of the Quran. Normally, in any literary work, one would expect to find a number of chapters that are fairly comparable in length. In contrast, the Quran contains 114 chapters, called Suras, arranged in progressively diminishing lengths. With the exception of the opening Sura (The Key), the longest Suras are placed at the front of the Book with the shortest at the back. The variation in size is also quite conspicuous. The longest Sura, which is the second Sura, contains 286 verses while the shortest (Suras 103, 108 and 110) are made up of no more than 3 verses!
That is not all. In any man-written book we would normally expect to find every chapter dealing with one major theme. This is not always the case in the Quran, for although many of the shorter Suras are confined to a single topic or incident, it is not uncommon to find other Suras which deal with most of the subjects of the Quran.
Moreover, we often find the topic categorically changed between one verse and its successor. This is another area of confusion to any sceptic. After all, and in any other book, any subject is introduced after sufficient preparation. The fact that in the Quran a major subject may suddenly, and without any preparation, be upon the reader prompts such remarks as "jumbled arrangement of statements" that we have read above.
But is the Quran truly a "jumbled arrangement of statements"?
Is the Quran in reality a book that lacks logic and coherence? The reply to this question is: It all depends on the criteria we employ.
If we assess the Quran as we would assess a novel by Dickens or a play by Shakespeare, and proceed to evaluate it solely on whether the Quran conforms to the recognised literary norms, then the Quran would appear to be very odd, and indeed, 'haphazard'. In any literary work we normally find a beginning, middle and an end; but with the Quran, this format is absent. In actual fact, unlike any other book, it is possible to start reading the Quran from any chapter and not feel at all out of sync.
However, it is important to remember that if we place a book of logarithms next to a play by Shakespeare and assess it by the same literary expectations, we would also end up with the conclusion that the book of logarithms is no more than a jumbled and odd book, but is it really so? The answer is a clear no. A book of logarithms is a perfectly constructed book and is not odd in any way. The error in the assessment was due to the use of the wrong criteria.
Since the majority of the sceptic comments written about the Quranic style come from Biblical critics, it is understandable that they would have compared the style of the Quran with that of the Bible. In the Bible, stories have beginnings and endings within the same chapter. Subjects do not fluctuate between adjacent verses as they do in the Quran, and to a great extent, the Bible is more systematic in its style and narration.
Critics of the Quran are also taken aback by the language of the Quran. Indeed the language of the book (Arabic) is the language of men, however, the meanings expressed are delivered with such assured and absolute authority that it seems to provoke these sceptics and lead them into making uninformed judgements.
Following on from the above considerations, it is appropriate to inquire as to why the Quran is written in such a fashion. The reply can only be evident if we factor in the following characteristics of the Quran:
1- Scientific Presentation
Although the Quran is not a scientific reference as such, the delivery of information throughout the Book is in the mould of scientific references. If we read a book of physics or chemistry, we note the lack of theme presentation. To present a scientific fact, whether it is the number of electrons in elements, or the resistance of semi-conductors, no literary preparation is necessary. The bare facts are simply stated and they stand on the merit of their scientific content and not on the language or style they are written in.
This is not the same in a work of literature, be it a novel, a play, etc. The author is first and foremost creating a work of art, so he may engage in lengthy preparations, elaborations, phrase ornamentations and witty development of the theme in order to produce a creditable literary work. This is not the style, nor the aim in the Quran.
With the exception of a few occasions where a complete story is told from beginning to end in one chapter, such as the story of Joseph in Sura 12, the Quran is not a collection of tales placed one next to the other. In addition, although the Quran contains many historical accounts of various people and times, yet it is not a historic reference as such. This explains why some narrations of past peoples and Prophets are given more detail in the Quran than others. The reason being, that such narrations are not mentioned for their historic value, but for their relevance to the message of the Book.
Quranic verses present pieces of truths that do away with elaborate presentation and ornate diction. The Quran, being the word of God, is truth. God is not in need of elaboration or skilful justification to convince the reader. In that sense, it is possible to compare the presentation of information within the Quran with that of a scientific reference.
A Quranic verse can present the reader with a truth on its own, without the need for this truth to be developed in previous verses. Various adjacent verses may relate to the same truth, or may contain independent truths that are placed side by side. Having said that, it is still necessary for any person studying a specific subject in the Quran, to study all verses in the book that speak of a common theme. These are often found in a number of Suras and not one single Sura. Many readers have often arrived at false interpretations of Quranic verses simply because they studied one verse in isolation.
For more info see: Hints for reading the Quran
The Quran, although not a scientific reference, contains an abundance of scientific information that was not known to man at the time of the revelation of the Quran in the early 7th century (see: Science in the Quran). Remarkably, the majority of this scientific information is delivered in a language that is both reflective and also very accurate in its scientific content. Examples of those are 21:30, which confirms the Big Bang theory and 51:47, which states that the universe is expanding, a fact discovered only in the 20th century.
2- Challenge of the Quran
The Quran is not a book of poems, yet much of it is written in rhyming style. It is not uncommon to find thirty or more consecutive verses ending in rhyme (e.g. the last 35 verses of Sura 78). However, an important matter must be clarified here. For many centuries, the Arab Muslims have understood the challenge given by God in verses such as 2:23 and 17:88 to be related to the poetic style of the book.
"And if you are in doubt regarding what We brought down upon Our servant, then produce one Sura of its like, and call upon your own witnesses besides God, if you are truthful." 2:23
"Say, "If all the humans and the jinn were to get together to produce a Quran like this, they could not come up with its like, even if they backed each other up." 17:88
Is the challenge of the Quran really one of a poetic or literal nature? To reply to this question, we must first analyse the feasibility of such a challenge. First, we must find out whether it is possible to set some criteria for resolving the outcome. What criteria must we use to compare the poetic style of the Quran to that of any other book? What are the deciding factors that would lead us to decide that one book is superior to the other from a poetic point of view? Would it be the number of rhymes? Would the diversity and richness of the vocabulary be a deciding factor? Should we consider the diversity or frequency of the allegorical phrases? Should we count the metaphors? Exactly what criteria should we use?
Immediately, we are faced with a major dilemma! It is hard enough to compare two works by the same author (e.g. Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth), let alone the Quran with any other book? It is just not possible. For although one can say "I like Hamlet more" or "I like Macbeth more", at the end of the day it is not possible to say which is a superior work. This is not any different from the inability to determine which of Mozart's piano works is the most superior. Different people will always have different favourites, and who is to say who is correct and who is not?
It soon becomes apparent that with any two works of art, whether they are novels, symphonies or sculptures, it is not possible to determine which is more superior simply because, in art, there are no conclusive measuring devices. It all depends on individual taste. Thus the verdict can only be a subjective one.
Nevertheless, traditional Islamic scholars have always maintained that the poetic style of the Quran is the subject of the challenge of the Quran (2:23). They add that the poetic style of the Quran is superior to any other book and can never be duplicated. Non-Muslims would obviously disagree. Who is to decide the outcome? It is not possible to arrive at a conclusive outcome since any comparison can never be resolved.
It follows that since no verdict can be obtained, any challenge becomes meaningless. This leads us to ask if God in His infinite wisdom would place a challenge in the Quran that can never be resolved. The reader is reminded to distinguish between a challenge that can be contested as opposed to a challenge that can be resolved with a verdict.
It was not until the year 1974 when the Egyptian chemist Dr. Rashad Khalifa discovered the true meaning of the challenge of the Quran.
Dr. Khalifa discovered that the Quran is coded with the number 19 in such an intricate manner that it leaves us with a miraculous structure that cannot be duplicated.
Mathematics, being the ultimate science, cannot be refuted or disclaimed. Any field of science is based on a collection of theories current to man's current knowledge and understanding. Scientific theories are always open to revision. Moreover, the validity of any scientific theory depends on the accuracy of the available "measuring devices". Not so in mathematics! 1 + 2 = 3. This was true yesterday, it is true today and will be true for all time. No one is likely to come up tomorrow and discover that 1 + 2 = 4!
This is why mathematics is called the ultimate science. It is also the reason why God chose mathematics to provide mankind with a visible proof of His existence and also that the Quran is His word. The challenge in 2:23 is simply to duplicate the numerical miracle of the Quran. Within the numerical structure of the Quran we witness individual features which constitute a total defiance of the laws of probabilities.
For the detailed information, please go to: The Miracle of the Quran
The Quran, like all divine Scriptures, contains God's law. The Quran contains rules and laws that define the rituals and practices of worship as well the means to attain righteousness and ultimately salvation. The Quran always offers firm and straightforward solutions and is not interested in half solutions. If more than one solution is offered the second solution is offered only as a concession granted for difficult or unusual situations.
The Quran presents man with the invitation to accept God spiritually as well as intellectually. The invitation to reflect on God's signs and revelations is well pronounced throughout the Quran. The Quran condemns dogmatic and unverified convictions. Verse 17:36 provides an invitation to only uphold that which we have verified for ourselves. While numerous other verses invite us to reflect on God's infinite signs found in the universe around us:
"Do not follow what you have no knowledge of. The hearing, the sight and the heart, will all be questioned for it." 17:36
"In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, are signs for those who possess intelligence." 3:190
"Do they not reflect on the Quran or are there locks on their hearts?" 47:24
"Those who remember God while standing, sitting and on their sides and they reflect upon the creation of the heavens and the earth ....... " 3:191
"We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves, until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient that your Lord is Witness over all things?" 41:53
The above verses, and particularly the last one, speak of some of the proofs which God gave us of His existence. The call for the rational acceptance of God in the Quran is in sharp contrast to the "just have faith" type of faith preached by the Christian clergy. This call to "just have faith" is replaced in the Quran by the call to read, reflect and verify.
Sadly, and quite ironically, the majority of Muslims in the world today reject the great mathematical miracle of the Quran. This rejection is a result of their rejection of the man who discovered it rather than a result of any intellectual justification. The majority of those who reject the code 19 in the Quran have never verified the mathematical structure for themselves, but have relied on the verdict of their Imams and Ulamas blindly!
When Dr. Rashad Khalifa first discovered the code 19 in the Quran he was made a hero and he toured a number of Islamic countries giving lectures about his discovery. However, when he started calling on all Muslims to follow the Quran as the only source of religious law, he was persecuted and his discovery was disclaimed! As a result, the majority of Muslims today still refuse to believe the Quranic words which state clearly that God has given a concrete and scientific proof of His existence in the Quran. Sadly, this only exposes their ignorance with the Quran:
"O people, a proof has come to you from your Lord, and We have brought down to you a clear light (Quran)." 4:174
The link between the proof and the Quran in the same verse is self-evident.