What is the challenge of the Qur’an?
Well, traditionally – that is to say – qur’anically, the challenge was literary or perhaps one of orality, because the culture the Qur’an came into was a time where the poets were esteemed and would hold sparring verbal competitions like modern day spoken word slams and rap battles; spontaneity and immediacy was the order of the day.
However, putting the spontaneity aside to make things easier for the challengers, the Qur’an itself says, a number of times with slight differences of emphases each time, the following:
Ten Surah Challenge: ‘Or do they say, “He invented it”? Say, “Then bring ten surahs like it that have been invented and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah, if you should be truthful.”‘ (Qur’an 11:13)
One of the main arguments against the Qur’anic historicity has ‘traditionally’ (orientalism-ally speaking) meant that for a long while the earliest extant copy of the Qur’an was Uthmanic. And this was wrapped up (negatively) in the supposed ‘politics’ of the Uthmanic time period or thereafter. The claims, therefore, were that the Qur’an we currently possessed did not correspond to the one from the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him). However, the Qur’anic manuscript found in Birmingham has revised that old fossil of a critique.
I have already posted this video and discussed the range of arguments about the age of Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her), here. This post (below), however, focusses on a very interesting discussion that took place during the question and answer session regarding the centrality of hadiths in the Islamic tradition. Continue reading
On Paul Willilams’ site, Blogging Theology, there was a conversation in the comments section of one post about the veracity of the (early) hadith tradition (which was very interesting) begun by a chap named Graham:
The main argument about the criticisms of Early Islamic history has been put forward in recent times by Tom Holland, the fiction writer and historian (Islam – The Untold Story). His argument can be summarised as:
- The religion was invented – about a century after the Arab Conquest – to justify Muslim rule; and
- Prophet Muhammad did not exist at all (in the way history, so far, has told us).
Putting aside the absolute hilarity of his claims, his points have, nonetheless, been critiqued – as weak – in many places, the most succinct of which (on the net) includes:
There seems to be some issues with the Theory of Evolution. Let us use this opportunity to identify what they might be – if any… Please ensure you’ve at least read the Conclusion before you go. Thanks.
The historian Marcel Boisard states in his journal “On the probable influence of Islam on western public and international law”, published in the International Journal of Middle East studies[i]:
“It was above all the very high ethical standard of Islamic law that impressed the medieval West and provoked the development of a more refined legal thinking. This aspect is undoubtedly the most durable merit of Muslim influence, as illustrated by the administration of justice. Until the Crusades, legal procedure in the West consisted of “God’s judgments” by boiling water or by duel, or by “ordeal” during which people were burnt with red-hot irons or boiling oil and, if they survived, declared “not guilty.” In contrast, we have only to quote the instructions given by Omar in the seventh century to the Muslim judges to show what a chasm separated the two conceptions:
“Only decide on the basis of proof, be kind to the weak so that they can express themselves freely and without fear, deal on an equal footing with litigants by trying to reconcile them.”