It is my goal to read the Surah via three different translations and to consider the remarks presented by these translators especially in relation to what the Bible actually teaches. In other words, what does the Qur’an say about what the Bible teaches? Does it assert something the Bible does not? Does the Qur’an misuse the Bible? Please my first article in this series.
In Surah 2:23, the Qur’an sets forth an evidentiary test. The focus of this test is in ascertaining whether or not one can know “that there is revelation” from Allah. This is called a “concrete test” (Yusuf), the challenge given to man is for him to produce a Surah that “can inspire spiritual truth in such noble language” (footnote 42). Reading the words of Maulana one gets a better sense of what might be in mind. “Is it a question of mere style and diction?” After asking the question, Maulana says the Qur’an gives no indication of such, but its “chief characteristic….is the wonderful transformation which it accomplished, and it is to this characteristic that it lays claim in the very commencement when it says that this Book is a guide” (Maulana, footnote 36). Asad gives a different perspective than Maulana, but somewhat akin to Yusuf: one is to come forth with a Surah and a witness to “attest that your hypothetical literary effort could be deemed equal to any part of the Qur’an” (footnote 2:14).
This is not all that we should understand. “…every word of the Qur’an gives expression to divine majesty and glory in a manner which is not approached by any other sacred book” (ibid). Thus, in conjunction with this portion of the 2nd Surah (2:23), there are three other places where this challenge is set forth: Surah 10:38, Surah 11: 13, and Surah 17:88. In 10:38 and 11:13, the charge is laid against Muhammad that he forged this word rather than received it in revelatory fashion. In 10:38, his challengers are asked to bring forth a Surah and a counter to what he has offered, and in 11:13, his challengers are asked to bring forth ten Surahs. Yusuf gives nothing in the way of commentary on this, but references his words in 2:23. Maulana does comment on 11:13 and connects it to Surah 17:88 where we are told that there was an initial challenge given by Muhammad to his objectors to produce a similar work as that which is found in the Qur’an; later, this challenge is reduced for an objector to produce only ten Surahs, and finally, the challenge is for one to produce a single Surah (as stated in 2:23).
SUMMARY CONCLUSION: From the preceding we are to understand: 1) there is a concrete test of verification and authenticity, 2) an objector to the Qur’an should be able to produce something comparable to the Islamic holy book, otherwise his objection has no merit, 3) the style and diction is of great quality and majesty, 4) that the Qur’an merits the status of divine inspiration is seen in the lives transformed from ungodliness to godliness, 5) there is no other book given among men that is uncorrupted, the text standing pure. In this light, Yusuf Ali tells us that the Qur’an “is the only revealed Book whose text stands pure and uncorrupted today” (footnote 2289). More will be said on the corrupted text later.
A CONTRAST IN METHODS: This is to be understood in contrast to that which the Scripture says of itself and verifiability. First, there is the historicity of the Scriptures that can easily be verified (or not). For instance, one can check on the places mentioned in Scripture to ascertain accuracy. One can consider the people mentioned in Scripture against the historical records of the various nations. Josh McDowell has a chapter on the reliability of the Bible, the Old Testament especially. He writes: “The Old Testament has been shown to be reliable in at least three ways: (1) textual transmission (the accuracy of the copying process down through history), (2) the confirmation of the Old Testament by hard evidence uncovered through archaeology, and (3) documentary evidence also uncovered through archaeology” (New Evidence, p. 69). Contrast this veracity methodology with that which is proffered by the Qur’an.
Second, the Lord Himself has set forth a method of testability for the Israelites in the long ago, “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet, that shall speak a word presumptuously in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if thou say in thy heart: ‘How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?’ When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken; the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:18-22, the Jewish Publication Society translation).
Jesus reaffirm this approach in John, “The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, “I said, you are gods”? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came–and Scripture cannot be broken–do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, “You are blaspheming,” because I said, “I am the Son of God”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father” (John 10:33-38, ESV).