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wordVision Student

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  1. But do we really use our free will to appreciate beauty? I don't decide that a flower is beautiful, that a morning sunrise is magnificent, that the great Sequoias of Yosemite are awe inspiring. It strikes me like a force. Some things require contemplation to appreciate its beauty, but this is due to its complexity, not because we can't make up our mind that it is beautiful. An example of this is recognition of philosophical genius. It takes work to read someone like Kant, but once you've done it, and the pieces he is putting together suddenly click inside your mind, it is an amazing experience, an aesthetic experience of reason.

     

    But where is free will in that? I didn't decide to think it was a brilliant insight, it simply dawned on me once I had understood the genius that went into insight. Perhaps you are right in that the will is exercised in determining to look for beauty, but it seems more questionable that once they have determined to look for beauty, that they also decide whether it is beautiful.

     

    Yes, the free-will is used in choosing to take the effort to look for the beauty. Or the effort expended in learning to appreciate the beauty. For example, the works of Chaucer may be beautiful, but if I don't take the time or effort to learn how to read and understand this type of literature, I will not see the beauty. The same reasoning can be applied to the beauty in the works of the universe at large.

     

    In relation to your latter point, my view is that if a thing is ascribed to chance, its value as a wisely crafted work of art is diminished. As Wattle will tell you, what wisdom can be ascribed to something created by chance? So free-will here is applied in choosing to accept that things are wisely crafted, by a Wise Craftor, as opposed to being the playthings of chance. Now, referring to something in the universe, such as the workings of quantum mechanics, as wise may be an anthropomorphisation - but this is only problematic if you assume a priori the non-existence of a Sentient Creator. In fact, a believer will say that part of the reason why we have been given faculties such as wisdom, intelligence, free-will even, is so that we can use these to understand and know the the One who is true owner of Wisdom etc.


  2. It's not my habit to discuss politics but I'll make an exception on this occasion.

     

    Islam denounces terrorism. The rules of war are clear. We must not resort to unacceptable means to achieve an acceptable end.

     

    Fight with the word. Sharpen your mind, it's your most effective sword. And if for the time being, the enemy is smarter than you, just fight with your mind until you die. To paraphrase the words of the famous warrior Salahuddin: "For me is just to fight. The result is Allah's concern."


  3. Why not post a thread about free-will? I would like to hear a more indepth explanation of it. I doubt I will be able to debate you on any of it, but I would probably have some questions that you could clarify.

     

    Sure, why not. It will force me to do some refresher reading, which I am sorely in need of! But in the mean time, I wanted to add the following point on the relationship between the observation of beauty and free-will. These words are mostly mine, so any errors are attributable to me...:

     

    As I had said in the original post, the purpose of creation is to manifest Allah's beauty so that He can behold it Himself. The purpose of us conscious beings is to manifest beauty, as well as to be observers of beauty. But apart from enabling us to be examined in the usual sense, why the need for free-will? I see it as follows.

     

    Let's imagine a nasty dictator with a penchant for art. The dictator likes to dabble in a little painting from time to time. Naturally, he fancies his own artwork. But what he really likes is for others to fancy it. He displays his artwork in a gallery and when his loyal subjects are not slaving away in the salt mines, they come to see his work. The dictator loves nothing more than to hear his people express their appreciation for his art. But the problem is, (unless he is delusional) he knows that these expressions of appreciation are not really genuine. His people are afraid of him and are acting in accordance with that. They are not freely discerning observers, so the pleasure the dictator receives at hearing their appreciation is quite limited. He knows that his subjects have little choice but to pretend to like his art.

     

    In the case Allah Almighty however, the situation is quite the opposite. He has given us humans limited free-will. With this free-will we can freely choose to see, acknowledge and appreciate beauty. How do we have this choice? Let's take the example of our own selves, that it, our living bodies. A person can choose to look at a 'human body' and marvel not just at it's aesthetic beauty - it's symmetry and proportion - but also at the beauty of the wisdom apparent in its construction and make up. A person can remark at how beautifully well ordered the body is, what amazing faculties it is endowed with and how remarkable it is that it possesses consciousness and intelligence. A person can look appreciatively at how the human being possesses elevated and beautiful qualities like compassion, love and mercy. He studies and contemplates upon this and finally declares, "Look how beautifully this human being has been made!"

     

    On the other hand, using their free-will, a person may choose to see a human being as nothing more than the product of undirected, chance processes. He may choose to deny its beauty thus, claiming that the human being was not beautifully, wisely made - that it is simply the culmination of 15 billion years worth of accidents. That even consciousness and intelligence are unremarkable. He may go so far as to say, "There is no real beauty anywhere. Beauty is merely a construct of the human brain. It has no independent reality. It therefore deserves no further attention."

     

    Or, if a person is apathetic, he may choose to not even search for beauty. Content to amuse himself with his Play Station 3 and DVD collection, in between mind numbing work to service a mortgage only just within his means, he chooses not to concern himself with beauty. With a full tummy and dulled mind - what need has he of exerting himself to read, think, study, travel, enquire, reflect or contemplate?

     

    So we humans, possessing free-will, are not bound to see, much less appreciate, the countless manifestations of Allah's beauty in the universe. Much of this beauty is discernible only after considerable effort and study, such as through scientific discovery, followed by inner contemplation. (It is for this reason that Islam commands us to seek knowledge of the universe.) Therefore, when a human being appreciates beauty, especially the non-aesthetic kinds of beauty, he does so freely and genuinely. If the expression may be pardoned, Allah Almighty, in a manner appropriate to His Dignity, feels an elevated, Divine pleasure at seeing us freely appreciate and love His Beauty.

     

    Happily for humans, there is an additional aspect here. Because Allah is Love, Mercy and Compassion (Wadud, Rahman and Rahim), He loves for us to truly experience the pleasure of beauty. In other words, He loves for us to experience His Beauty, not only for His sake, but also for our sake. And because He is Enduring (Baqi), He requires the existence of enduring observers of His Beauty. Hence the need for the existence of an enduring Afterlife.

    [using large font size is not allowed]Baqi, antal Baqi! - The Enduring One, He is the Enduring One![using large font size is not allowed][using large font size is not allowed]


  4. I wonder if we even know what we are talking about, though. Free will is easy to mention, but hard to pin down. So, I say the following fully recognizing that I could very well be talking nonsense:

     

    How do you know that God's presence would rob us of our free will or ability to choose? Obviously there is no empirical evidence for this (for then God would have done what you said he doesn't want to do). So it would have to be a deduction from the very concept of God, and I suppose free will. If you want, we could try to dig into these concepts, but I can already foresee it getting quite messy (as it does even for people who are of the same religion, nevermind an agnostic and a Muslim).

     

    Yes, it is a deduction from the concept of Allah. Largely, what I have said about free-will is acceptable only if you assume that Allah exists, and has the characteristics described by believers. Of course, this thread is more forum for discussing varying views on the possible meanings of life and the universe, rather than place for argument. You are right that things would otherwise get messy - a non-theist will never accept the theistic view and vice-versa.

     

    Also, even if we did find his presence so compelling that we could not disbelieve in him, we would still be able to reject him, for knowing the truth does not mean you can not act otherwise. And finally, knowing the artist does not prevent us from appreciating his artwork, so why would it do so with God?

     

    With my comments above in mind, I'll elaborate the Muslim view as follows. The ability of a human to reject Allah and commit wrongdoing (I assume you're referring to 'committing wrongdoing' here) after actually seeing Him, is dependent on that human's capacity for withstanding fear. As Allah has created us and knows us better than ourselves, He knows that if He showed himself, we would be unable to withstand the fear of His punishment. Therefore we would not sin and there would be no examination.

     

    There are other forms of conscious life, such as angels, that do not have free-will. They love all of Allah's art for its beauty and do not sin. So they are not 'tested', they do not endure difficulty. Their station is therefore fixed. Humans on the other hand have limited free-will. They have the power to choose right or wrong and are tested on this. Therefore, their station is not fixed - they have the ability to rise to the highest of the high, or fall to the lowest of the low. Since humans have limited free-will, they more comprehensively mirror Allah, since Allah too has free-will. Allah is Most Merciful, Compassionate and Generous. He wishes to see humans, using their limited free-will, to choose also be merciful, compassionate, generous etc. He wishes to see the beauty of these attributes of His, reflected in the conduct of man.


  5. It seems to me that there is an implicit equivocation here between force as in the use of violence or some other coercive measure, and force as in compel through reason. The strength of your argument in this passage seems to me to depend on the negative connotations of the first being unintentionally imported into what is clearly the latter use of the word in your phrase. There is nothing wrong with offering people compelling reasons for believing something, in fact, it is usually considered a virtue when asking someone to believe something to offer this kind of evidence. If God made himself manifest in such a way that his existence and character were beyond dispute, it would be a demonstration of the latter kind of force, but not the former, and so would not have any negative aspect to it.

     

    I understand that Islam teaches that there is no compulsion in religion, but this does not prevent Muslims from offering proofs for its truth. These proofs are aimed at the second kind of force, the force of compelling evidence, but not the second kind, that of coercion. In fact, offering evidence is in fact a sign of respect for the human beings dignity in that it is an appeal to his or her capacity for reason, one of the classic aspects of humanity in contradistinction with other animals.

     

    Thanks for your reply. I will endeavour to have a close look at your link, Allah willing.

     

    In relation to your point on Allah not forcing us to believe, I'll make this clarification. Any apparent equivocation was unintended. I absolutely agree that Allah will not use coercive force to cause belief. But nor will He provide (to most people) totally irrefutable evidence of His existence. This is somewhat different to what you have referred to as 'compelling reasons' for belief. Compelling reasons do exist. Those reasons are not the topic of this thread, but I'll mention some of them very briefly for the sake of other readers.

     

    You have, for example, spoken of something resembling 'personal experience of God' in some of your posts. Indeed, a personal experience of Allah is one compelling reason to believe. (Indeed, this 'Argument from Religious Experience' has been discussed at length by various religious philosophers and theologists and for some, is the most compelling evidence for the existence of God.) In addition, there are various teleological and cosmological arguments including the famous Kalam argument of Mutakallim scholars like Ibn Rushd.

     

    So certainly for me, Allah has provided compelling reasons to believe. But He has provided these in such a way that a person is not forced to accept them, for their total undeniability. He has left the door to unbelief ajar, for those wishing to enter through it. As I have said, this is necessary so that humans retain their limited free-will. Understanding this requires an appreciation of the overwhelming Majesty and Grandeur of Allah. Suffice to say that if Allah somehow physically showed Himself to us, we would be robbed of our free-will. We would be so overwhelmed by the vision of Him, that we would find ourselves unable to choose wrong over right. But this would operate contrary to Allah's setting up this life in the form of an examination. As I have also mentioned, the loss of free-will would mean we were no longer freely discerning observers weighing up the varieties and degrees of Allah's Beauty in the universe.

     

    In relation to choosing disbelief, Said Nursi makes this interesting point. He refers to a 'strategy of Satan' as being to take something improbable, and highlight that it might be possible. I try to understand this as follows. To us believers, it is highly improbable that intelligent, conscious life could have evolved without Allah's will and direction, or His 'fine tuning' of the physical constants of the universe to make carbon based life possible. But this does not force me to believe in Allah. The door is left open for Satan to highlight to me that it might still be possible that the universe is just one of an infinite Multiverse of universes, so that the value of the physical constants or the 'fine tuning' is no longer remarkable. Of course, there is no evidence for the existence of a Multiverse, but none the less, one can still claim that it just might be true! If I choose to rely on this remote possibility to deny Allah, I do so of my own freewill.

     

    A final important matter that I wish to point out is that while Allah does not force me to believe (instead providing me with 'compelling reasons' to do so), He also does not force me to disbelieve. It is for this reason that there is, and never will be, any evidence that disproves Allah's existence. Indeed, most non-theists would admit that they are either agnostics or weak atheists. Few would claim to be 'strong atheists', as doing so would require them to prove that Allah does not exist. This of course, is much different to arguing that He need not exist for the universe to exist.


  6. As some of you would be aware, I am a student of the Risale-i Nur (Treatise of Light) by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi. This treatise is primarily concerned with matters such as the Knowledge of the Attributes of Allah, Belief in the Existence and Unity of Allah, and the Nature and Purposes of Life and Existence. The purpose of this thread is to discuss and invite some views on this latter topic. I am interested in the views of believers and non-believers alike.

     

    I feel that discussion of the purpose and meaning of life has taken somewhat of a backseat in recent times. Modern life has instead seen a focus on the enjoyment of life, or the Utilitarian 'maximization of utility'. Even much of the religious discourse has gotten bogged down in argumentation over the rules of life, about what's right and what's wrong, rather than an emphasis on its meaning. As a result, I feel that many of us would be hard pressed to offer a meaningful insight into the question of the Meaning of Life. (Me included, prior to my good fortune in meeting the students of the Risale-i Nur.) This is particularly sad for Muslims, because it seems that the knowledge of these matters passed down to us from an illustrious line of persons, commencing with none other than Muhammad (sas) himself and including the likes of Abdul Qadir Gilani, Imam Ghazali, Imam Rabbani and Said Nursi, has almost become lost on the mind of the general Islamic populace. This is problematic and unfortunate for believers, as it stunts their development as worshipers of Allah. How can I properly worship Allah, if I don't know the meaning or purposes of my life?

     

    When asked the about the meaning of life, a correct reply from believers is, "To worship Allah". Indeed, Allah says: "And I created not the jinn and mankind, except that they might worship me" (Surah Dhariyat, verse 56). But what is the nature of worship and what are its prerequisites and requirements?

     

     

    The Meaning and Purposes of Life and Existence in the view of Said Nursi.

     

    Nursi, in the Eleventh Word of the Risale-i Nur, elucidates the nature and purposes of life and the universe via a comparison. He imagines a King who has unbounded wealth. He possesses elevated wisdom in all branches of science and learning, and furthermore, is skilled in countless forms of beautiful art. In fact, the King exemplifies beauty and perfection in all of his attributes.

     

    Nursi then applies the truth that "every possessor of beauty and perfection wishes to see and display his own beauty and perfection". Therefore, the King builds a palace in which to display his riches and artistry, and the marvels of his knowledge. He does this so that he can behold his beauty and perfection in his own view, but also so that he can see it through the view of others. To draw an analogy, just as a musician wishes to hear and appreciate his own music, he also wishes for others to hear and appreciate it. Moreover, he wishes for those who can properly appreciate it.

     

    Moving from the comparison to reality, Nursi points out that Allah possesses Absolute Beauty and Perfection (Jamal and Kamal) in all His attributes. Allah wishes to display and manifest His Absolute Beauty and Perfection so that He may behold it Himself. This is the purpose of the Universe and all the other realms of His creation. Allah further wishes to see His Beauty and Perfection through the view of others. This requires conscious observers, such as mankind.

     

    So one of the purposes in the creation of mankind, and one of our duties, is to be conscious and appreciative observers of the universe. It is for this reason that Allah, in the very first words revealed to Muhammad (sas), commands us to, "Read: In the name of thy Lord, who createth" (Quran, 96:1). We are required to read what Nursi calls the Book of the Universe.

     

    Not only is man a conscious observer of Allah's Beauty and Perfection, but he is also a comprehensive place of manifestation - and a mirror that reflects - Allah's attributes (and Names). For example, as Allah possesses the attribute of Love (Wadud) - so too man possesses, to an infinitely lesser degree, the ability to love. As Allah possesses limitless free-will - so too man has been endowed with a small measure of free-will.

     

    Free-will therefore, is an integral part of being human. We have the free-will to make decisions, to do or not to do, to believe or not believe, to love or not to love, to utilize the capital of our lives wisely, or to waste it on the fulfillment of base desires. If humans did not possess this small sample of free-will, they could not be considered a 'comprehensive mirror' to Allah's attributes, and would not be freely discerning observers of Allah's art. It is partly for this reason that Allah does not fully manifest Himself in this world in a manner that would force us to believe.

     

    Allah making Himself Known and Loved

     

    Allah (SWT), being the possessor of Absolute Beauty and Perfection, wishes to see and display to conscious observers, His own Beauty and Perfection. This is so that He can make Himself Known and therefore Loved. Allah possesses Divine Love. In a manner befitting His Glory and Holiness, Allah loves His own art. And He wishes for His art to be loved. Therefore, He has created mankind, a conscious lover of beauty, who is a work of art and who He loves. Allah has shown His elevated Love for us in countless ways. Firstly, he has brought us into existence. He has bestowed upon us the ability to be the most comprehensive mirror to His Names. He has displayed His beautiful art to us. He has given us the senses, tools and faculties to appreciate and gain pleasure from this art. Among these tools and faculties, He has given us limited free-will. With this free-will, not only can we freely discern and weigh up the multifarious types and degrees of Allah's Beauty, we can choose right over wrong. By choosing right over wrong, and truth over falsehood, we truly reflect Allah's attributes and receive a fitting reward.

     

    In response to all this bestowal, Allah wants and truly deserves thanks (Shukur). He also deserves to be exalted. He also deserves to be glorified and declared free of all fault. These are the marks of Knowing Him and Loving Him. Acts of worship, which are all forms of Thanks, display these marks. Therefore, we should firstly believe in and strive to know Allah by observing and reflecting upon the universe (and particularly living beings). Having begun to Know Him, we come to Love Him and come to acknowledge His Glory and His Exaltedness. We then express this through the Thanks, Glorification and Exaltation that is Worship. In other words, we say Alhamdulillah (All Praise be to Allah), Subhanallah (Glory to Allah) and Allahu Akbar (Allah is Most Great).

     

     

    Conclusion

     

    To conclude, the purpose and meaning of our life is to observe Allah's Beauty and Perfection manifest in the universe, and to reflect Allah's attributes in our own selves and actions. It is to Know Allah, then Love Him and acknowledge His Glory and Exaltedness, and then to express these through worship. Let's not confuse the order here. As expressed in a Hadith Qudsi, how can we properly worship Allah if we don't know Him?

     

     

     

    Readings

     

    For those who may be interested in further reading:

     

    The Risale-i Nur in English on Google Books:

    (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_books.google(contact admin if its a beneficial link).au/books?id=DjSBsAvMAvwC&printsec=frontcover&dq=risale-i+nur&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_books.google(contact admin if its a beneficial link).au/books?id=DjSBsA...;q=&f=false[/url]

     

    Articles and audio discussions on the Risale-i Nur:

    (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetwordvision(contact admin if its a beneficial link).au/"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetwordvision(contact admin if its a beneficial link).au/[/url]

     

    Scholarly articles on Said Nursi and the Risale-i Nur:

    (you are not allowed to post links yet)"you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetencyclopedia(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/doc/1O101-SaidNursi.html"]you can't post links until you reach 50 posts_you are not allowed to post links yetencyclopedia(contact admin if its a beneficial link)/doc/1O101-SaidNursi.html[/url]


  7. This is a valid point. But in Islam, hearing about past sins of others should be ignored. Easier said than done, but that's the correct attitude. If you care about past sins of others than you will naturally be upset if you hear rumours. If you don't concern yourself with the past, you can ignore such rumours and get on with your life.

     

    There is another point to all this though. When you speak freely about sins, you normalize them, and even make entertainment out of it. We all know people who have done shameful things but have then turned their lives around. The thing is, these people get a lot of respect and attention. It's a feel-good story, when we hear about people who have overcome their troubled pasts to become successful, righteous people. This is true of the Muslim community as well. I know brothers who talk about their past sins and how they've now become dedicated Muslims to teach others to be grateful for the guidance they have. But these guys get a lot more attention than those brothers who have been dedicated from childhood. It's great entertainment.

     

    Peace

     

    Yes, this is a good point. I can see how the 'normalisation' of sins would be a likely by-product of freely speaking about past transgressions. In the husband-wife context, I guess it would be important to consider firstly, why the sin needs to be revealed, and then, how. In some cases, it may be that revealing a past sin to your partner would be the lesser of two evils. If I felt that I had to reveal a sin in these circumstances, I would try to do so in a way that highlighted my embarrassment and shame at having committed the sin.

     

    Thanks for the relevant hadith, I'll discuss it with my wife post haste!


  8. Personally, I see nothing in Islam which compels me to keep secrets from my wife. What Islam instead requires of me, is that I refrain from disclosing things which I might know about others. Barring certain exceptional circumstances, I must never say something about a person, even if true, if that disclosure would cause the person to feel hurt, should they learn of it. In fact, avoiding hurting people (regardless of their faith) has special importance in Islam.

     

    With this in mind, I feel that I should be open with my wife about my past, lest she be hurt at later hearing about my past from someone else. Yet in the same vain, I needn't tell my wife every sordid detail about my past, lest this hurt her worse. It is matter to be decided on a case by case basis.


  9. Why couldn't it remain the best for all time, even if it were (and I'm not saying it is) the word of man? This isn't even contradictory with the claim that it is possible to better it, since that possibility also has the possibility of never being realized. There is no contradiction in claiming that something is the best and will remain the best for all time, and yet could still be bettered.

     

    You are quite right. The fact that the Quran is considered the best, and has remained so for 1400 years, does not of its own force us to believe in its divine origin, even if it continues to be the best for another 14000 years. A person is left free to ponder why it has remained the best. And from there, the person may choose to believe or not believe in its divine origin.

     

    A person's freedom to believe is in keeping with what I see as the wisdom in the creation of the universe. But what is this wisdom? For me, this question is among the most worthwhile things a human being can ask. If the universe and everything in it, including me, was willed and created by Allah, what is the purpose in it? I think a thread on this topic would be useful, as I would be interested in people's views on this. What is the 'meaning of life', if there is any meaning? This is a vitally important matter, on a number of fronts. If believers can not offer a coherent answer to the question, it will cast doubt on their claims that the universe was created by God. After all, if there is no real purpose in the creation of man and the universe, why should God have bothered creating them? And if there is a purpose or purposes, what are the implications of these for man?

     

    My view is that if we can satisfactorily resolve these questions in our minds, we can obtain a properly informed basis for belief, or unbelief, as the case may be.


  10. "Basic qualities" such as rhyme (especially when the proportion of rhymes is stipulated), rhetorical devices and conciseness ARE the Koran's style. A unique style would have to deliberately NOT use them.

     

    As I have previously said, a challenger may try to use the Quran's style if it wishes, or it may come up with a wholly unique style. But in any case, your statement above is completely invalid. Two books could have different literary styles, but both be concise. Conciseness does not go to style, it is a basic quality of good writing.

     

    Also and more fundamentally, I suspect that if you really did precisely define what the challenge involved (such as actually stipulating the ratio of ideas:words - as you must if you are to judge by objective criteria), you would end up stipulating that any challenger must BE the Koran - any deviation from it would be regarded as being inferior.

     

    Scholars could determine the numbers you seek. It's irrelevant that I have not stipulated all of these. What is relevant is that the numbers are obtainable, should someone put in the time and effort to obtain them. I have already told you, for example, that 50% of all the Quran's verses rhyme with the sound nun. So clearly, someone has gone to the effort of analyzing this particular point. Scholars of literature have remarked that no writer employing rhyme in a work of comparable length, in any language, has ever managed to rhyme 50% of all their verses with a single sound. And remember, the Quran does this whilst still delivering its intended meaning.

     

    Just what books have non-Muslim experts judged to be inferior to the Koran (other than all later works in Classical Arabic)? Did they judge books in other languages? Does a book have to specifically say that it is challenging the Koran to be included? No-one is arguing that the Koran is not the best book in Classical Arabic - I'm saying that it does not follow that it as not written humans. Joyce's Ulysses is generally regarded the best Modernist English book. No-one claims that it was written by a god, even though no-one will ever write a better Modernist novel.

     

    No one will ever write a better modernist novel than Ulysses? You can say this with certainty can you?

     

    As you have said yourself, the Quran is the best book in Arabic. This is agreed. But if the Quran is the word of man, it should not remain the best for all time. It should be possible to better it, yet still, this has not been done.

     

     

    If they are "objective and verifiable fact", then the actual numbers must be available. Once the word:idea ratio is known the "miracle" disappears.

     

    No, the miracle disappears when it can be demonstrated that another piece of literature betters it on those 'numbers'.


  11. Thank you for the discussion. After taking a day off to review my participation here, I have come to the conclusion that it was not to debate Islam. I continue to believe you have a problem with your belief about the Quran and its challenge to eloquence, at least as you are currently formulating it. However, I am not interested in arguing you out of your beliefs. I am satisfied that I have sufficiently explained my position on the matter and that further explanation will do nothing to further elucidate it.

     

    One last thought though, I underlined the above because I do believe that it can be formulated in a way that at least makes the challenge coherent. I earlier suggested using an intersubjective standard rather than attempting to demonstrate an objective one, and I continue to believe that doing so will not only make your argument immune to the sort of arguments I have put forward, but will make it a better and sounder argument. Please understand that what I have argued against is not the Quran, but the way you have been characterizing this particular doctrine of the Quran.

     

    Thank you also Sad Clown.

     

    I appreciate your suggestion to argue from intersubjectivity, however to my mind, we as Muslims have no need of it. We believe that the superiority of the Quran is an objective reality, so we needn't concern ourselves with any standard of truth that falls short of this. To underline the Islamic view, we reject the notion that there can be no objective truth to things like 'beauty', 'best book', or 'best man'. We feel that such views implicitly (and moreover, illicitly) assume the non-existence of Allah, whereas the non-existence of Allah is far from proven.

     

    To reiterate an earlier point, our scholars of the Quran have found it to be miraculous in various respects. A prime example is its conciseness - in that its verses express their numerous ideas using the fewest words. We see no subjectivity in this - it is an objective and verifiable fact. Other aspects of its miraculousness, such as its amazing proportion of rhyme, are also objective facts.

     

    We continue to challenge the Quran's detractors to produce writing that betters it on these points. For as long man can not achieve this, we will remain justified to say that the Quran is not the word of man.


  12. Twoswordali said:

     

    Do you have children?? Well I got two and when they was babies one thought that it was his right to touch fire on the stove. No matter how many times he went towards that stove I removed him from it. He cried and cried and asked if he could touch it and I said NO!! And this went on from age 1 till age 3 and he started to realize and point and say “hot right daddy?†As a loving parent we know whats best for our children. And as a loving God He knows whats best for you.

     

    Nice analogy brother, beautifully insightful! :sl:


  13. There cannot be any 'absolute truth' about an artwork. There might be absolute truth about the number of leaves on a tree. There's a fundamental difference.

     

    Well, we'll have to agree to disagree on this. Your stand point reflects your view that beauty is relative, and merely a human construct, with no independent reality. Various schools of philosophy dispute a lot of this and posit for example, that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder (see Kant for example). Some say that our dis-ingenuity in accurately quantifying the degree of something's beauty does not detract from the fact that it may, in reality, be more or less beautiful than something else.

     

    As believers in Allah, we side with this view and add the following. We believe that Absolute Beauty is manifested in Allah, and that He imbibes some of this beauty, in deliberate measure, in the things He has created. All beauty in the world is merely a shadow of His Beauty. When he imbibes things with beauty, He does so in a certain measure, in accordance with His Wisdom and Justice (through His names Hakim and Adl). Our incompetence in judging the extent of beauty in things with sufficient accuracy does not detract from the reality that some things manifest greater beauty than others. But one of our duties as conscious, discerning observers of the universe is to appreciate and weigh up the beauty apparent in things and to affirm the Beauty of the Creator of those things. This will result in us loving Him and expressing this love through various forms of worship. Hence Allah says:

    "I did not create jinn and man, except that they might worship Me." (Quran 51:56)


  14. If your criteria are simply the same proportion of rhyme (what is that propoertion in the Koran?) number of rhetorical devices (how many are there in the Koran?) and the ratio of ideas/words (what is that ratio in the Koran?) it would obviously not be a superhuman challenge to meet.

     

    But you have STILL not answered my objection that you demand that a challenger has a "unique style" yet must also conform to the style of the Koran.

     

    My apologies pal, I have been remiss in responding to you.

     

    I am not insisting that the challenger conforms to the Qurans particular unique style. It should ideally innovate an entirely new literary style. But this doesn't mean it can not employ the use of basic qualities such as rhyme, rhetorical devices and conciseness. How about this. I'll relax my rules a little and give the challenger a choice on the matter. They may either employ a whole new style, as the Quran does, or may try to emulate the Quran's style. The latter, however, will be much more difficult than the former.

     

    It may seem that the task is not 'superhuman' as you say. But so far, those who have tried have been assessed by non-Muslim experts as having failed.


  15. That sounds cool, but is pretty baseless, especially in this instance. I would be interested in the list of thinkers you have in mind, however, since my degree is in philosophy. I'm not a relativist, but I do think Kant has a pretty good point about the noumena. Even if you qualify it, that still won't get you to objective knowledge of which piece of literature is better, nevermind which is best. I like to think of myself as more of a pragmatist, however, and lean towards thinkers like Pierce and Wittgenstein.

     

    You're not a relativist, yet you make a relativist argument: "One piece of writing can never be objectively assessed as being better than another". The rejection of absolute truth in favor of the view that truth is merely subjective, is a relativist view. Major problems with this view are that it involves double think, and is self-defeating. If all truth is subjective, then you can not assert that Relativism is more true than an opposite view, such as Absolutism. Yet both can not be true at the same time. If one piece of writing can not objectively be assessed as being better than the other, then as a relativist you are forced to make the untenable assertion that all writing is of equal quality, as there is no such thing as 'better' or 'worse' literature.

     

    You call yourself a pragmatist. But you exhibit closet-relativism like 'pragmatists' such as Richard Rory. I'm amused that you doubt whether relativism has been challenged. You make a thinly veiled argument from authority: "I am a philosophy graduate, so show me your list of critics!" As though your qualification in philosophy somehow confers truth upon your assertion. And anyway, if you've studied philosophy and didn't sleep through the course, you ought to know who the critics of relativism are. Have you not heard of Plato or Socrates? Or even (funnily enough) Dawkins?

     

     

    Nevertheless, it isn't hard to see you have failed to put forward anything approaching a rigorous argument for your case. .

     

    Is this your subjective opinion, or the objective truth? If it's your subjective opinion, then by your own logic it's invalid. Recall that your entire argument is based on the idea that the Quran's challenge is invalid, because it could only be judged subjectively.

     

     

    But how has he assessed that Shakespeare is better than a school student? He has applied a set of standards which are an amalgamation of his own education, cultural biases, and personal preference. In addition, if the competition was between Shakespeare and the school student, but the criteria was scientific accuracy, then it very well could come out that the student is better than Shakespeare. Again, our definition of better is subjective and determined by the goal in assessing the piece of literature. The only reason this seems objective is because the criteria is held in common, and so general agreement, especially with comparisons that have clear differences.

     

    If the assessor's standards are based on his cultural biases and personal preferences, then those standards are flawed and he has not assessed competently. His incompetence as an objective assessor in no way negates the truth that Shakespeare's work is better than the average school boy's.

     

     

    Sorry, it doesn't seem like we are going to get anywhere with this topic. The criteria you listed are not only subjective in themselves (one person could legitimately disagree with another over their measure), but are subjective in that one would have to ask why those sets of criteria are the ones we should evaluate literature on. In other words, I have no reason for accepting the Quran's measure of either eloquence or greatness. I am sure you will come again with a rebuttal, but unless it is a very interesting one, I don't see us carrying on this discussion much longer.

     

    Again, you persist in evading the Quran's challenge by relying on your claims of subjectivity. You are forced to maintain this untenable position, as it is easier to do than actually face the challenge. Others have had the courage to face the challenge, and those challenges have been assessed comprehensively by non-Muslim experts (such as von Grunebaum and St Clair Tisdall). So your view that the challenge is invalid is nothing more than your personal view on the matter.

     

    You may feel that the criteria are subjective or inadequate, or that others may prefer different criteria. But the reality is that most of the criteria rely on little more than basic arithmetic to assess. If the Quran is really the word of man, it should be quite easy to produce a work which, for example, employs the same proportion of rhyme as the Quran, whilst still remaining coherent and conveying meaning. Recall that over 50% of the Quran's verses rhyme with the Arabic sound nun. Regardless of what you might think of this attribute, whether you think it makes for good writing or not, the reality remains that man is unable to produce a book that does this.

     

    I am sure you will come again with a rebuttal, but unless it is a very interesting one, I don't see us carrying on this discussion much longer.

     

    Feel free to leave the discussion any time you wish. But you do so without having shown that the Quran is the word of man, nor that the Quran's challenge is invalid.

     

    I was asked to provide criteria against which to judge any challenger. I have done this. A competent group of Arabic linguists could easily and objectively assess whether a challenging book employs the same proportion of rhyme, the same number of rhetorical devices, and just as few words per idea expressed, as the Quran. They could easily determine whether the writing employed a unique literary style, by not resembling any of the presently known categories of writing in that language.

     

    Even if you disagree that these characteristics make for good writing, the fact remains that unless man can produce something that matches the Quran on all these points, the challenge remains unmet.


  16. I'm sure that Sad Clown will argue this effectively, but can I just say that if relativism is 'far from being universally accepted', thus incorrect, the idea that the Koran was dictated by a god is also far from being universally accepted. Does that make it an incorrect idea?

     

    This is irrelevant. My point is that we should not take a given philosophical view as a given.

     

    Not difficult. Every author has their own style.

     

    But in most cases, this style still fits into the various categories of prose or poetry. The Quran is unique in that it does not fit into any previously known category.

     

     

    Again, not difficult. If you can quantify the number of these devices used by the Koran, it's simple to add one more. (Although your word "effectively" again puts us back in the realm of the subjective.)

     

    'Effective' can be objectively judged. Thing 'A' works, in that it achieves the purpose it was designed for. Thing 'B' does not. This can be judged objectively by observing the result.

     

     

    "Depth" is subjective, unless you can quantify it.

     

    Depth here can be viewed as 'the amount or number of messages' conveyed by a given number of words.

     

    Lots of subjectivity there, but simply stipulating that a certain number of verses have to rhyme with something doesn't make for much of a challenge.

     

    If you know anything of poetry or verse, you will understand the importance and value of rhyme. You can dismiss it as easy to do, but talk is cheap.

     

     

    Well, you cannot set up a challenge ithout a complete list of criteria. Also, a more fundamental problem is that you have stipulated that the challenger must have its own unique style, yet you also stipulate that it must conform to the style of the Koran (number of rhyming verses, etc). You can't ask for both.

     

    I was asked to provide objective criteria. I have done this. Perhaps an expert can add some more objective criteria, I don't know. The fact is, I have provided you with some criteria. The fewer the criteria, the easier it ought to be for the challenger. And again, I am not the issuer of the challenge. It is the Quran.

     

    You again made an incorrect leap of logic. Just because one particular book scores better on a certain set of quantifiable criteria than all others does not logically mean that it was dictated by a god.

     

    If it can be demonstrated that it is beyond human ability to 'score better' than the Quran on those criteria, it clearly points to it not being written by man.


  17. No, since I have repeatedly stated that such a judgment is not possible. I would say that, if that were to happen, that most experts like this work more than the Quran, but their disposition towards one literary work does not make one objectively better than the other, because there is no such thing as objectively better. What is better, what is best, is always going to be dependent on the subjective, since it is we, as individuals and collectives, who determine what the criteria is for determining what is better, and what is best. All someone would have to do to arrive at a different conclusion is to bring a different set of criteria to the question and they too would be justified in their belief, just as the first party were.

     

    In conclusion, I do not argue that the Quran is not a great literary work. I do not argue that many or even most find it to be the best they have read. But I do argue that this only tells us about them, about their tastes, dispositions, and preferences, and not about some objective reality having to do with the book.

     

    Your position that it is not possible to objectively judge between two pieces of literature is arguable. It seems to derive itself from Relativism, whereas Relativism and its various permutations such as Subjectivism have been severely challenged on philosophical grounds by a long list of thinkers. To bandy the notion about as being a universally accepted truth is at best a mistake, and at worst deceptive. Is there really any consensus among thinkers on the question of 'objective reality'? I'd say not.

     

    So we return to the Quran's challenge and your allegation that the challenge is invalid. To reiterate your stance, you say that it is impossible to judge whether one piece of writing is objectively better than another. But this seems counter-intuitive. A qualified assessor can easily distinguish the work of Shakespeare as being better than a poem written in haste by a school student. You would be hard pressed to assert that this view was merely the subjective opinion of the assessor. Such an assertion illicitly assumes the non-existence of an objective reality to 'greater quality'. Again, this is a view from Relativism, whereas Relativism is far from being universally accepted.

     

    I have been asked to specify the criteria upon which the Quran could be objectively judged for literary quality against other pieces of literature. It may be useful to take another look at the challenge, as it appears in various places in the Quran:

     

    "And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call your witnesses besides God if you be truthful." (part of Sura Baqara 2:23)

     

    "Or do they say 'He has forged it.' Say: 'Then bring a chapter like it and call whoever you can besides God if you are truthful'." (10:38)

     

    The Quran possesses various literary characteristics which together, give it an elevated eloquence. It is possible to assess objectively whether a given challenger to the Quran possesses these characteristics to the same or a greater extent.

     

    1. A unique literary style. The Quranic style does not fit into any of the 16 categories of Arabic poetry, nor the 3 styles of Arabic prose, nor the style of spoken word. Therefore, any challenger would also need to possess a totally original literary style, by being distinct from any of the known literary styles of the language in which it is written. It must do this whilst maintaining coherence and meaning.

     

    2. The use of rhetorical devices such as grammatical shift. An objective assessment could be made by determining the number of valid rhetorical devices used effectively throughout the text. Further, these should be used in a logical and structured manner, as in the Quran.

     

    3. Conciseness whilst maintaining depth. The number of words used to express a particular meaning should be as short as that in the Quran.

     

    (A landmark treatise on this topic, Isaratul Ijaz - 'Signs of Miraculousness - The Inimitability of Quran's Conciseness' - Said Nursi - with English translations freely accesible on the web - provides a useful insight into this aspect of the Quran.)

     

    4. The use of rhyme resulting in rhythm and cadence. The Quran's unique style, for lack of an existing descriptor, was dubbed 'rhyming prose'. It seamlessly combines a sort of prose with an astounding amount of rhyme. For example, in excess of 50% of all verses in the Quran rhyme with the Arabic sound nun. Any challenger would need to demonstrate that it could match or better this amount of rhyme, whilst remaining coherent and meaningful.

     

     

    The above is by no means an exhaustive list of the Quran's attributes and I'm sure experts in the field could add several more criteria. I believe I have provided a list of objectively assessable criteria against which any challengers could be judged. Remember that the Quran possesses all of these attributes whilst still achieving its purpose, and still conveying its intended meaning. Again, these criteria are not an exhaustive list of the Quran's eloquent qualities, but none the less, provide us with sufficient material for objective comparison.

     

    So I ask you again, is there any book that can match the Quran on these criteria? If not, if it is beyond the ability of humankind to do so, we can say that the Quran is not the word of man.


  18. But rhetoric itself is inherently subjective, for what rules and expressions that convince and influence are not only dependent on the individual, but even vary between cultures and even periods of time within cultures.

     

    Yes, they can evaluate in accordance to the rules they learned from the particular school of rhetoric they follow, their culture, their generation in that culture, plus whatever variations they contribute to such a judgment from their own personal tastes and experiences. No one debates whether an elephant is larger than a mouse, which is why we do not have scholars on the subject. Scholarship is rather an indicator that these matters are up for debate, that they are not certain, and that it is certainly not something that we can objectively measure.

     

    You are of the view that it is not possible to objectively judge between two pieces of literature. But you proffer this view only because it is convenient for your present purposes. It is far easier for you to play the (old) subjectivity card, than deal with the reality that nothing can be found in Arabic literature which can match the Quran's eloquence.

     

    When a group of experts in Stockholm sit around for two months and then award a certain book the Nobel Prize for Literature for that year, most people are be happy to accept that that book is in fact, the best example of literature that year. Granted, the majority of people wouldn't know any better, and maybe wouldn't even find the winning book enjoyable. But those who understand literature will appreciate the fact and even herald the victor. Few would complain that the granting of the Prize is invalid, a total sham, because you could never possibly make such a judgment with even a hint of objectivity. This is so, because the relevant experts at the Stockholm Academy are considered competent, impartial and reliable judges of literature. The fact that some might disagree with their decision does not invalidate the Prize, nor diminish its value.

     

    In the case of the Quran, we see that an overwhelming majority of experts in Arabic literature hold that nothing in Arabic comes close to matching its eloquence. You can dismiss this on the basis of what you perceive to be the subjectivity of judging eloquence and rhetoric, but this is pure dogmatism. Yes, taste may be a subjective thing, but if 100 billion people, past and present, all agree that chocolate tastes better than blue cheese, we can safely say that chocolate tastes better than blue cheese. It matters not that a few crazies dislike chocolate!

     

    I realize you believe the challenge to be valid, and that you are not alone in this. But you do realize that you and those who follow Islam are ideologically commited to the idea that it is a valid challenge, since it is one of the cornerstone arguments in support of the divine nature of the Quran. To dismiss, or worse, deny the validity of the challenge would constitute an attack on those beliefs. You find it valid not because you have in your possession a means of demonstrating its validity, but because it is an integral element in your Muslim faith.

     

    You accuse Muslims of the very dogmatism which you yourself commit. You refuse to entertain the Quran's challenge on the basis of something as weak as perceived subjectivity. Even if another 1400 years passed, and an overwhelming majority of Arabic literature specialists agreed on the Quran's superior eloquence, you would hold fast to your feeble claim that, "No, such a judgement is invalid, because eloquence is a subjective thing".

     

    This is a total cop out my friends. If there did exist a book which bettered the Quran's eloquence, as agreed upon by most experts in Arabic, no doubt you would hold it high above your heads, claiming victory over the Quran. But such a book does not exist, so you are forced to resort to arguments about subjectivity.


  19. But it's nonsense to rank literature like that. There are no criteria by which to judge it, for a start. (You keep implying that there ARE criteria but you don't tell us what they are.) Also, no-one *wants* to (say) write a better Chaucer poem than Chaucer.

     

    I do not think it is detracting from the Koran to say that it was written by a human. And if you really think it's possible to 'challenge" the Koran, set out the terms of the challenge - what are the criteria, who are the neutral judges, etc.

     

    I would have thought the criteria were self explanatory, but none the less, I have outlined them in my previous post. To briefly reiterate, the quality of a piece of writing or an example of speech can be judged on the basis of the limited rules of rhetoric. Remember that 'rhetoric' is eloquent expression that convinces and influences, whilst conforming to the appropriate rules of language such as grammar.

     

    So yet again, it is possible for scholars of rhetoric and literature to assess whether a given example of writing or speech is better than others. In the case of the challenge issued by the Quran (such as at Sura Baqara 2:23), it is not even asking for challengers to beat - just to match it.

     

    Attempts have been made to match it, so seemingly, I'm not the only one who believes the challenge is valid. And the challenge is open to all comers, for all time. That allows plenty of time.


  20. No, I haven't misunderstood the argument. You do not judge the relative quality of anything on an objective basis, for if you had objective basis for judging, it would not be relative.

     

    You turn the argument into one of semantics here. I'm sure you know what I'm trying to convey. If not, I'll spell it out again: It is possible to rank the quality of a range of things of the same kind on an objective basis. In rhetoric, it is quite possible to determine, upon the basis of a set of rules, whether one piece of writing is better than another. An essential component of rhetoric is eloquent expression that influences and convinces. For scholars of rhetoric therefore, it is certainly possible to compare two pieces or writing, or two examples of speech, and determine which best conforms to and achieves the aims of the rules of rhetoric.

     

    The Quran's rank as the best writing in Arabic, in terms of rhetoric, is evidenced by various factors. Certainly, authorities on literature are in agreement on the matter. And its ability to convince and influence is self-evident. But the Quran goes much further than this and claims that its eloquence and ability to convince is so elevated that it can not be matched by the human mind. How can we disprove this? By showing that a certain human authored book better conforms to the rules of rhetoric, and more thoroughly achieves the aims of rhetoric in terms of its ability to convince and influence persons.

     

     

    No one is disputing it is a literary masterpiece, although the Arberry quote is unfortunate in that it attributes that masterpiece to mankind. Nevertheless, it, like the other quotes, is still an opinion, and should we compare it to opinions about the Bible and other major world religion literature, not a terribly uncommon one at that.

     

    Well, that would make perfect sense to me and other Muslims, as we know the Bible and other Scripures (in their original form) to also be the Word of God.

     

    I have no issue with Arberry and others attributing the Quran to man. My aim was to show the esteem in which the Quran is held by authorities on Arabic, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, as a starting point for my argument. As I have argued in other threads, it is not intended by Allah that any given thing in the universe should indubitably prove His existence, in a way that forced us to believe. More on this later.

     

    Had I have quoted only Muslim authorities, you would have claimed that these were biased. I seek to demonstrate that authorities on Arabic, if they are to be fair, must acknowledge the Quran's rank as the finest example of Arabic literature in existence, regardless of their religious beliefs.

     

    It ought to be noted also, that various previously non-Muslim authorities on Arabic have accepted Islam on the basis of their study of the Quran. Pickhall is a notable example, as are Leopold Weiss, Goethe and Lings and Irving to name but a few. This further demonstrates the powerful eloquence of the Quran. Again, I stress that one is never forced to accept that the Quran's eloquence is Divine. This would be contrary to Allah's wisdom in the creation of universe as a testing ground. So it is no surprise that not every reader of the Quran will believe in its Divine authorship. But what authorities on Arabic must admit, if they are unbiased, is that so far, the Quran has not been matched in terms of rhetoric, by any other book (at least in Arabic). This is the starting point for the

     

     

    No, what we see is the general consensus forming around the belief that the Quran ranks among the greatest of religious literature, and so deserving of high accolade, even as other great religious literature has received. I'm sorry, but you continue to make leaps of logic in this defense of yours that are only possible due to your commitment to the idea being propounded. It is the leap from world class literature to divine, from great to greatest. And still, I am left ignorant of what standard you are using to make that leap, to make the determination of greatest, and "beyond mortal ability". It is an inherently subjective and volatile thing you are bandying about, and yet you continue to want to portray it as objective truth.

     

    The criteria to be used are the rules and aims of rhetoric. Consider this:

     

    1. The Quran is considered the best example of Arabic writing in existence so far. (If you disagree, do produce whatever you feel is better than the Quran).

     

    2. Further still, the Quran challenges all comers, claiming that it will always remain the best, because it is from Allah and beyond human ability.

     

    As I have discussed above, this audacious claim could be discredited by the production of an example of writing that better conformed to, and achieved the aims of, rhetoric. Unbiased, non-Muslim scholars of Arabic rhetoric could assess this as far I'm concerned. Should such an example ever emerge, the challenge would be met. In the absence of this, you are forced to concede at the very least, that you can not disprove the claim.

     

    That leap can only be made with the aid of divine intervention, and so far, God hasn't helped me see the light on the matter.

     

    Outstanding! You have understood an important concept. Belief is not forced upon you, nor is it something that may be granted to you automatically. But this is a topic for another discussion - the mystery of limited free-will.


  21. But how do you know that? What is the criteria you are using to make such an assessment?

     

    And honestly, how can you call it a challenge when you have determined before hand who the winner is? You can't use the superior eloquence of the Quran as a proof of its divine origins when the belief in its superior eloquence is an article of faith? Anyone who denies it would simply be dismissed as a liar or spiritually blind, and so it is an argument founded on circular logic.

     

    You have misunderstood the argument. It is quite possible to judge the relative quality of various writings on an objective basis. I am not a scholar of rhetoric nor an authority on literature. But I can still form an opinion on the matter on the advice of scholars in the field. Numerous non-Muslim authorities on Arabic attest to the Quran's superiority (at least in Arabic):

     

    I have been at pains to study the intricate and richly varied rhythms which - apart from the message itself - constitute the Koran's undeniable claim to rank amongst the greatest literary masterpieces of mankind..." - Arthur Arberry.

     

    “It is by far the finest work of Arabic prose in existence.†- Alan Jones.

     

    "Its style, in accordance with its contents and aim is stern, grand, terrible - ever and anon truly sublime - thus this book will go on exercising through all ages a most potent influence." - Goethe.

     

    If there was ever a general consensus among scholars of Arabic that some new book met or excelled the Quran, the challenge would be met. The Quran would begin to lose influence rather than gain it. Islam would be discredited and eventually, discarded. This would happen regardless of any dogmatism or blind faith on the part of Muslims.

     

    However, what we instead see is that the Quran is, and always has been, regarded as the most eloquent Arabic writing in existence by Arabic scholars of all persuasion. We see that this literary masterpiece gains influence at an increasing rate, among people of all languages and cultures. We see that the passage of time, 1400 years of it, has done nothing to diminish the Quran's superiority. In short, the Quran is inimitable, is beyond the ability of man to match and is therefore the Word of Allah.


  22. <!-- [at]page { margin: 2cm } P { margin-bottom: 0.21cm } What a silly challenge: I couldn't produce the like of any great novel. But I do not see why you think that because one particular book in Arabic is better than all the other books in Arabic it therefore follows that it was written by a god. If that was the case, the best book in any language would have to have been written by a god.

     

    The challenge is not from me to you. It is from the Quran to all of humanity. And I say that nobody can match it. Not simply because it is the best book in Arabic, but because it beyond human ability to match it. That's why I can say it comes from Allah.

     

    The concept of 'beating' a piece of literature is foreign to English-speaking writers and I assume to most writers. I really don't understand what it might involve. Chaucer was a great poet. TS Eliot was a great poet. Could Chaucer have written a better 'Eliot' poem than Eliot? No, impossible - Eliot had the advantage of 700 years of development of language, philosophy, etc. Does that mean that Eliot's poems 'beat' Chaucer's? No. Could Eliot have written a better 'Chaucer' poem than Chaucer? No, because Eliot was not Chaucer. Moreover, why would Eliot *want* to try to write like someone else?

     

    The fact is that with most aspects of human endeavour, there will always be examples that are the 'best' or 'worst', when compared to all other examples of their kind. Why do we even remember the likes of Chaucer and Eliot? It is because they were among are 'best' in terms of English literature. The same could be said of countless other names in countless other fields, such as Einstein and Hawking in physics for example. But what sets the Quran apart is not simply the fact that it is the 'best' in its field, but that it is the best by so much, that it will always remain the best - by far. No other work of eloquence will ever encroach upon its superiority. This has remained the case for 1400 years and will remain the case for ever.

     

    Now, if the Quran was the work of man, we could not rationally make such a claim. After all, a man could come along, even in 10,000 years, and write something better. Men can always be beaten by other men (or women, dare I say!). But the Quran is not the work of man. Indeed, it is beyond the ability of man.

     

    The only way to disprove this claim is to produce a superior book written by man. No one needs to actually set out to 'beat' the Quran. They need only write in the normal course of events. If a book ever emerges that, upon an unbiased evaluation by experts in the field, is found to be superior to the Quran, the challenge would be met.

     

    However, it seems that the Quran's present detractors are unwilling to even accept the challenge. If this is the case, they have no grounds to say, "The Quran is not the word of God". They can only say, "I don't care whether the Quran is the word of God" or in agnostic vein, "We can never know whether it's the word of God"!

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