Is The Qur’an A Perfect Book?

Is the Qur’an a perfect book? This is the argument that the Qur’an offers for itself. There is no book that is like it. Muslims maintain that it was dictated by God himself, handed to an angel, and given to Muhammad. For those who doubt that the Qur’an really is from God, it poses the challenge, “If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants.” (17:88). However it is not only that one could not create a book like the Qur’an. We cannot even create a chapter comparable to the Qur’an. It says, “And if you are in doubt about what We have sent down upon Our Servant [Muhammad], then produce a surah the like thereof and call upon your witnesses other than Allah , if you should be truthful.” (2:23) So is the Qur’an a perfect book?

It should be noted that Muslims do not believe in inspiration in the same way that Christians believe in inspiration. Christians believe that the books of the Bible were inspired by God, but that he used various human authors. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was dictated by God and handed down from Heaven. So if we see sloppy grammar in the Bible, we just chalk it up to human error, even though it achieved God’s purpose. The Qur’an, in contrast, has no such luxury. As being composed in Heaven by God, they argue that the literature is objectively perfect. So, then, is the Qur’an a perfect book?

Can we really argue from aesthetics? Science may be able tell us why a painting or a smell is pleasing to a particular individual. But science cannot tell us that a painting, a smell, a piece of literature is perfect. Why not? For somebody to say that literature is good, or perfect, is to express a subjective opinion. One person might like JRR Tolkien, another person may think that he spends too much time setting the scene with all of the details. For someone to say that a piece of literature is good, is to express their subjective opinion.

In the case of the Qur’an, maybe it is good literature. Maybe it is excellent literature. But who is to say that the Qur’an has better poetry than Robert Frost? How does one compare? What’s the measurement? The Qur’an challenges us to bring forth a book of equal literary quality. What will they say if I bring forth Robert Frost, or Stephen King? It seems to me to be impossible to confirm or deny that one piece of literature is objectively better than another, much less objectively perfect. It is an unfair argument. It is exactly like if Stephen King made divine claims about himself, arguing, “Haven’t you read my work? How could I write such a thing if I were not from God? Give me a better piece of literature and disprove my claims!”

Any piece of literature you bring him, including the Qur’an, would be rejected by him, because it is a matter of his opinion against yours. It is not an argument. It therefore seems to me that the Quranic argument for its’ own divinity is logically invalid. However maybe it is impossible to adopt the linguistic style of the Qur’an. But that treads on very dangerous grounds

The True Furqan The Muslim may retreat from the position that the Qur’an can be argued for as objectively perfect literature, because it is my opinion against theirs. They may say that the Qur’an really means that the linguistic style cannot be duplicated. Well, there was a book known as The True Furqan which did just that. It adopted the unique linguistic style of the Qur’an and implemented Christian theology. The second line of The True Furqan was about the trinity.

One would assume that upon hearing it, Muslims would immediately know that this was not really the Qur’an. But the truth is, The True Furqan fooled Muslims everywhere! It was recited, just like the Qur’an, and Muslims were fooled by it. It thus adopted the linguistic style of the Qur’an, and produced not one, nor ten surahs like it, but 77 surahs just like the Qur’an, just with Christian theology implemented.

Why Is It Only Perfect In Arabic? If one is to read the Qur’an in English, and object that it does not seem perfect, Muslims will reply that they need to read it in Arabic. But why is that? If we are talking about objectively perfect literature, should it not transcend the translations? (And what are the traits of objectively perfect literature anyway? Who is to say that it does not presuppose transcending the translations?) The Psalms, for example, are beautiful literature in all languages and all eras. Sure, we lose a few linguistic traits in translation (acrostics, for example) but still beautiful. Even certain letters written by Paul are beautiful even in English. Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-6 below.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Is The Qur’an A Perfect Book? I do not even know what that means. Thus my counter-challenge my Muslims is this: give me a measurement by which we can determine which piece of literature is better. Something that will help us to determine whether the Qur’an is better literature than Stephen King or The True Furqan or Paul’s epistles. Find such a measurement, and we can talk.

If you would like to get in on the discussion about this, join my Theology Discussion Group!