Perhaps the first and most immediate impression received by a first time reader of the Quran is that the book does not conform to traditional formats or styles.
To a sceptic, the book offers many confusing issues. In a paper with the title "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 Qur'an 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, and in any literary work, one would expect to find a number of chapters relatively comparable in length, but the Quran contains 114 chapters, called Sura's, 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 and the shortest at the end. The variation in size is once again obvious. The longest Sura contains 286 verses (ayat) while the shortest is made up of no more than 3 verses!
But that is not all. In any 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 only 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 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 it conforms to the style in these works, then the Quran would appear to be very odd, and indeed, 'haphazard'. In any work by Dickens or Shakespeare, we find a beginning, a middle and an end. But with the Quran, this format is absent. In actual fact, it is possible to start reading the book from any chapter and not feel at all out of sync. Thus we can say that in this comparison the Quran would indeed appear quite odd. But with the same token, if we place a book of logarithms next to a play by Shakespeare and judge it similarly, 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 work written about the Quran comes from Biblical critics, it is understandable that they 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.
The same critics are often taken aback by the language of the Quran. Indeed the language of the book is the language of men, however, the meanings expressed are delivered with such assured and absolute authority that it seems to provoke these sceptics for one reason or another! So why is the Quran written in such a fashion?
To reply to this question we must consider the following characteristics of the Quran:
1- Scientific Presentation
Although the Quran is not a scientific reference, yet the presentation and delivery of information throughout it is often more 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 various elements or the resistance of semi-conductors, no literary presentation 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 of their presentation.
This is not the same in a work of literature, that being a novel, a play ... etc. The author is always trying to impress the reader with his/her work. To achieve this, the author engages in often lengthy preparation, elaboration, phrase ornamentation and witty development of the theme in order to attain the best impact on the reader.
With the exception of a few locations where a complete story is told from beginning to end in one chapter (e.g. the story of Joseph in Sura 12), the Quran is not a collection of tales placed one next to the other. In addition, it can be said that although the Quran contains many historical accounts of various people and times, yet the Quran is not a historic reference.
Indeed, all these scientific, historic and also allegoric references in the Quran are placed in the book for serving the overall message.
Quranic ayats (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 skillful justification to convince the reader. If the reader is guided by the truth of the Quran, it is for his own good and this is not of any benefit to God. In that sense, it is possible to compare the presentation of information within the Quran with that of a scientific reference.
A Quranic verse (ayat) can present the reader with a truth on its own, and without the need for this truth to be developed in previous verses. Various adjacent verses 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 the verses in the book that speak of the 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 : 24:35 which speaks of nuclear reactions inside stars, and 21:30 which describes the event of the Big Bang..
2- Challenge of the Quran
The Quran is not a book of poems, yet much of it is written in a poetic manner. 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 like 2:23 and 17:88 to be related to the poetic style of the book.
"If you have any doubt regarding what We revealed to our servant, then produce one sura like these, and call upon your own witnesses against God, if you are truthful." 2:23
"Say, "If all the humans and all the jinn banded together in order to produce a Quran like this, they could never produce anything like it, no matter how much assistance they lend one another." 17:88
But is the challenge of the Quran really one of 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 ...... or what?
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 just say "I like Hamlet more" or "I like Macbeth more", yet at the end of the day it is not possible to say which is a superior work. Equally, it is not possible 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 will soon be apparent that with respect to 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 "measuring devices". It all depends on the individual taste of different people.
Consequently, we find that this was very much the verdict of all those who had to give an opinion regarding the poetic claim of the superiority of the Quran. All the Muslims would say that the Quran is the most superior book with regards to poetic fluency, and all non-Muslims would say otherwise. Who is to decide the outcome? Is it rationally possible to arrive at a conclusive outcome? The answer is once again NO. The lack of a unified "measuring device" makes any comparison inconclusive.
The next question is whether God in His infinite wisdom would really give us a challenge in the Quran when He knows that this challenge cannot be resolved? Once again the answer is NO.
It was not until the year 1974, when an Egyptian chemist, Dr. Rashad Khalifa discovered the true meaning of the challenge of the Quran.
Dr. Khalifa discovered that the whole Quran was coded with the number 19 in such an intricate manner that it presented a miraculous structure that is easy to see but impossible to duplicate.
Mathematics, being the ultimate science, cannot be refuted or disclaimed. Any field of science is based on a collection of theories current to our present 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". But 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 or next century and discover that 1 + 2 = 4!
This is the reason why God has chosen mathematics to present mankind with a visible proof of His existence and the proof that the Quran is His word. The challenge from God 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 detailed information about the miracle and the challenge please go to:
The Quran, like all other divine Scriptures contains God's law. Not only does it contain the laws that prescribe the rituals and practices of worship, but also the means to attain righteousness. 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 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 mind, will all be questioned for it.” 17:36
"In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day, there are signs for those who utilise their minds" 3:190
"Why do they not study the Quran carefully? Do they have locks on their minds?" 47:24
"They 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 proofs in the horizons, and within themselves, until they realize that this is the truth. Is your Lord not sufficient as a witness of all things?" 41:53
These above verses, and particularly the last one, confirm that God has given us proofs of His existence in the Quran and also in the whole universe. This intellectual call for accepting God is in contrast to the "just believe" type of faith preached by the Christian clergy. Consequently, the call of "just have faith" that is echoed in many Churches today, is replaced in the Quran by a call to read, reflect and verify.
Sadly, 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.
When Dr. Rashad Khalifa first discovered the numerical structure in the Quran he was made a hero and he toured a number of Islamic countries demonstrating his discovery. However, when he started his call for 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; we have sent down to you a profound beacon (Quran)." 4:174
The link between the proof and the Quran in the same verse is self-evident.