Is the challenge in 2:23 one of a poetic nature?

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

For many centuries, the Arab Muslims have claimed that the challenge delivered by God in 2:23 is related to producing a book that matches the poetic style of the Quran.

This challenge is given in 2:23 and also in the following verse:

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 truly of a poetic nature? To reply to this question, we must analyse the feasibility of a poetic 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 book from a poetic point of view? Would the number of rhymes be the deciding factor? Would the total number of different words used 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! We realise that it is hard enough to compare two works by the same author with any degree of practicality. The comparison gets more problematic if we compare two books by different authors. If we take two works by Shakespeare for example, say Hamlet and Macbeth, what criteria can we use to say with any certainty that one is superior than the other? Naturally any one reader would be justified to say, "I like Hamlet more" or "I like Macbeth more", but that would be a result of personal preference and not a result of applying any reliable criteria to arrive at a verdict.

It soon becomes apparent that with respect to any two works of art, whether they are novels, symphonies or sculptures, and because of the lack of measuring devices and criteria, it is not possible to obtain a conclusive verdict or outcome of the comparison; it all depends on the individual taste of different people.

The same rationale applies when we compare the Quran to any other book from a poetic point of view. Any verdict or claim of superiority will only be subjective and never conclusive.

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?

It was not until the year 1974, when an Egyptian chemist, Dr. Rashad Khalifa discovered the true meaning of the challenge in 2:23 and 17:88. 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 comprises a collection of theories, reflecting current knowledge that is constantly being re-assessed and revised. Not so when it comes to mathematics. No one is likely to come up tomorrow or next century and discover that 1 + 2 does not equal 3! Nor is anyone likely to discover any day in the future that the sum of any two positive numbers does not yield a positive number!

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 awesome designs and configurations that are impossible to duplicate, even with the most advanced computers of our day.

For an introduction to the mathematical miracle of the Quran, please see: Miracle of the Quran.