I think every Muslim has encountered the ayat from the Quran where Muhammad/Allah states that the Quran is so unique that they challenge anyone to bring a similitude or something like it(or better). Dawah efforts and khutbahs are built around these verses to induce awe at the magnificence of the Quran. The first appearances of this challenge were revealed in Mecca because the Quraysh would question Muhammad about the authenticity of the Quran:
“But when the truth(Muhammad with his Message) has come to them from Us, they say: “Why is he not given the like of what was given to Musa? Did they not disbelieve in that which was given to Musa of old? They say: “Two kinds of magic(Torah and Quran) each helping the other! And they say: “Verily, in both we are disbelivers.” Surah Al-Qasas(28) verse 48
Muhammad/Allah then goes on to say:
“Say(to them oh Muhammad) “Then bring a Book from Allah, which is a better guide than these two(Torah and Quran), that I may follow it, if you are truthful.” Surah Al-Qasas(28) verse 49
and so the competition begins.
In the next revelation(also in Mecca) Allah, who is not in need of any of His creation, shows Himself not only to be competitive with His creation but also something of a braggart. Perhaps Allah the Most Braggadocious is from the names that were not revealed to any of His creation. Muslims should know Allah has more than 99 names because Muhammad would say in his supplications “Oh Allah I ask you by every name you have named yourself….or that you have kept hidden in the unseen knowledge with Yourself.”
“Say: If mankind and the jinn were together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another” Surah Al-Isra(17) verse 88
I find it interesting that the verse that follows next, verse 89, states that “And indeed We have fully explained to mankind, in this Quran, every kind of similutude…..”. How is it that a Meccan surah, one that was revealed in the early stages of Islam, have produced every example possible even though the Medina verses had yet to be revealed?
No comprende amigo. Apparently the disbelievers didn’t understand exactly what was being said because another Meccan verse soon followed:
“Or do they say: He(Muhammad) has forged it? Say: Bring then a surah(chapter) like it, and call upon whomsoever you can besides Allah, if you are truthful!” Surah Yunus(10) verse 38
The verse prior to the one above, verse 37 of Surah Yunus, reads more like Allah is trying very hard to convince people that it is true. As a Muslim, I found these verses to be embarrassing because Allah should not have to sell His creation on divine revelation. Apparently the Quraysh continued to taunt Muhammad because Allah’s double-dare continues into yet another verse that was revealed in Mecca:
“Or they say, “He(Muhammad) forged it(the Quran).” Say: “Bring you then ten forged Surah(chapters) like to it, and call whomsoever you can, other than Allah(to your help), if you speak the truth!” Surah Hud(11) verse 13
Then, with renewed vigor, Allah sends some more verses while Muhammad was still in Mecca:
“Or do they say: “He(Muhammad) has forged it(this Quran)? Nay! They believe not. Let them then produce a recitation like it(the Quran) if they are truthful.” Surah At-Tur(52) verses 33-34
By this time, Muhammad sounds painfully desperate as the verses before and after the aforementioned reek of desperation and mockery, characteristics that are unbefitting for Allah ta’ala.
Once Muhammad made hijrah to Madina, he did not waste time letting the inhabitants of Yathrib know about the open-ended competition:
“And if you(Arab pagans, Jews, and Christians) are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down(i.e. the Quran) to our slave(Muhammad) then bring a surah(chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses(supporters and helpers) besides Allah, if you are truthful. But if you do it not, and you can never do it, then fear the Fire(Hell) whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers”. Surah Baqarah(2) verses 23-24
The question begs to ask, if Surah Baqarah was the first surah revealed in Madina, why did Muhammad/Allah feel the need to reveal a new verse concerning the challenge? Why couldn’t Muhammad just recite the previous verses from the surahs that had already been revealed in Mecca?
While contemplating this challenge, there are times I couldn’t help but think about some of the ayat and how simple they are. While I know the challenge means produce an entire surah, some of the verses alone are weak and just not all that amazing. For example:
“Alif-Lam-Mim.”[These letters are one of the miracles of the Quran and none but Allah knows their meaning.
“Alif-Lam-Ra.” [same thing]
“Alif-Lam-Mim-Ra.” [same thing]
“Kaf-Ha-Ya-Ain-Sad.” [same thing]
“Ta-Ha.” [same thing, and an entire chapter(20) named after these unknown words]
“Ta-Sin-Mim.” [same thing]
“Ta-Sin.” [same thing]
“Ya-Sin.” [same thing, and an entire chapter(36) named after these unknown words]
“Sad.” [same thing, and an entire chapter(38) named after these unknown words]
“Ha-Mim.” [same thing]
“Qaf.” [same thing, and an entire chapter(50) named after these unknown words]
“Nun.” [same thing]
All of these are beginning ayat of several different surahs. They are all described to be miracles of the Quran and as words that only Allah knows their meaning. Some of them, as I stated above, have the added benefit of being the actual titles of the Surah. When I was Muslim(and now) I didn’t(and don’t) see any wisdom in revealing ayat but hiding the meaning. Why the big secret? Allah is playing games now? I didn’t feel captivated nor enamored by these “miraculous” words enough to see where a challenge was warranted to be issued to non-believers. And I imagine they felt the same which is why they didn’t even bother to attempt to produce anything, they just kept going and let Muhammad talk his nonsense.
So, I am stepping up to the mic and offering my surah. *clears throat*:
Surah Al-Letters(Chapter of The Letters)
– A, Beee, C, Deeee
– E, F
– Verily, these letters are sent to those as a sign for those who reflect
– H, Eye, Jay, Kay, L
– See not how thine Rabb produces a miraculous speech, of that He is only able to benefit?
– Verily, the hearts are rendered pure from this illustrious speech.
– In, Oooo, P
– For those that turn away, there is a blazing Fire.
– R, Sssss, Tee, You
– Where the heat will melt your skin, devils will poke out your eyes with knives, forked hooks will hang thee from a Hell that is eternal
– Veee, Dubya, Ex
– Unless thou gives in to Our, I mean My, call to way of everlasting Bliss. In these verses you cannot deny the truth therein.