The word ijaz literally means to incapacitate someone or to exceedingly go beyond something. In the technical sense, however, it means the ineffectiveness of the whole of humanity in producing something similar to the Quran, in terms of its eloquence, legislative value and its news of the unseen, as it comes from the highest of sources.

As Allah, glory unto Him, willed the last scripture revealed to humanity to be in the most perfect form and in the Arabic language, He gave those who spoke this language, from the earliest times, a zest for literary eloquence and articulation. By taking part in numerous literary activities and competitions, the Arabs were able to develop the language further and as a consequence, give it a richness and perfection that could enable it to express Divine words and meanings.

Such activities saw eloquence among Arabs become a profession. Poets and orators rose to publicly envied ranks. So it should be kept in mind that it was within this sort of an environment that the Holy Quran, the Divine words delivered by the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, came to be regarded as the greatest of miracles, the most elegant of discourses.

Because the most important qualities that separate man from other beings are reason, understanding and expression, the miracle of the Quran, the last and most perfect Divine book, emerges in these very qualities. The Almighty says:

اَلرَّحْمنُ. عَلَّمَ الْقُرْآنَ. خَلَقَ اْلاِنْسَانَ. عَلَّمَهُ الْبَيَانَ

“The Beneficent Allah, taught the Quran. He created man, taught him clear expression.”(ar-Rahman, 1-4)

Many books have been written by numerous scholars with precise observations regarding the unfathomable ijaz of the Quran, of which we shall now present a small summary.

When the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- declared his prophethood, the idolaters objected, saying:

وَقَالُوا لَوْلَا أُنزِلَ عَلَيْهِ آيَاتٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِ

“And they say: Why are not signs sent down upon him from his Lord?”

The Almighty responded in the following:

قُلْ اِنَّمَا اْلاَيَاتُ عِنْدَ اللهِ وَاِنَّمَا اَنَا نَذِيرٌ مُبِينٌ اَوَلَمْ يَكْفِهِمْ اَنَّا اَنْزَلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ يُتْلَى عَلَيْهِمْ اِنَّ فِى ذَلِكَ لَرَحْمَةً وَذِكْرَى لِقَوْمٍ يُؤْمِنُونَ

“Say: The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a plain warner. Is it not enough for them that We have revealed to you the Book which is recited to them? Most surely there is mercy in this and a reminder for a people who believe.” (al-Ankabut, 50-51)

The ijaz of the Quran is explicit in many aspects like its eloquence and style, richness of content, the convincing power of its principles, its informing of the unknown, its ability to constantly preserve its validity and its legislative supremacy.

The most important aspect of the Quran’s miracle is provided by its eloquence and style. Entailed by eloquence is to say the most appropriate word in terms of content, aim or the subject in accordance with what the given situation demands. In the issues it deals with, the holy Quran puts eloquence into practice in the best of ways.

The Quran is also a masterpiece of clarity of speech. It is impossible to find the least of flaws in the words it chooses, in its sentences and the meanings they express.

Like the meaning, the wording[1] of the Quran also belongs to Allah, glory unto Him. This is the most fundamental difference that separates it from a sacred hadith. For that reason, changing a word from the text of the Quran with another from the Arabic language leads one to heresy if done intentionally; if not intentional, then the most it can do is annul a deed of worship owing to a change in meaning to a certain extent. Under the discussion zhallat’ul-qari, scholars have put forth numerous rulings in books of jurisdiction regarding the legal consequences of unintentional yet mistaken pronunciations or change of words during salat.

In spite of all this, the nonsense that it is permissible for one to worship with a translation of the Quran, which is at best produced only according to the understanding of the translator, betrays intellectual bankruptcy, to say the least.

The style of the Quran observes a balance between meaning and wording. For every meaning it wants to put forward, it uses a word most fitting for the purpose. It therefore establishes a balance between the meaning and the word, in a manner that befits the Absolute Possessor of Speech. This baffles even the most elegant canons of literature.

The famous Andalusian exegete Ibn Atiyya said:

“The Quran is such a book that if a word were to be removed from it, it would be impossible to find a better substitute even if the entire Arabic language was rummaged.”[2]

Being a Divine word, the Quran expresses various parables, advices, debates, historical accounts, legal matters, and information regarding the Hereafter, paradise and hell, including verses of glad tidings as well as warnings, separately, according to the force of their meanings, yet within a unity of style, by preserving an equal level of harmony in their clarity and eloquence.

The Quran simultaneously addresses different people with distinct intellectual levels living in various times and places. When the ayah of the Quran are recited next to people of various levels, each present understands what he/she hears differently, according to his/her understanding. Again, this is a quality that surpasses human capability.

To sum up, the miracle of each prophet belongs to his time. But as the Prophet Muhammad -upon him blessings and peace- has been sent a prophet for the whole of humankind, his greatest miracle, the Quran, will remain strong until the Day of Judgment, incorporating within its realm all times and places.

To help illustrate the existence and power of the Almighty, the Quran also makes numerous references to scientific truths. The rapid development and discoveries in the scientific arena during the last 1400 years has not only been unable to refute any verdict of the Holy Quran, but has further strengthened them. Again, this only highlights its miraculous nature.

The nations of the world today have their most capable minds produce encyclopedias with which they vie against one another. One can think of the British Britannica or the French Larousse as examples. But they also have the frequent need to produce additional volumes for correcting or completing previous errors or deficiencies. New discoveries force them to make additions and correct previous claims. Even in our times marked by an incredible vigor of scientific discovery, encyclopedias produced by scientific commissions that consist of the most exceptional scholars, are continually outdated and need correction. Yet, the need to correct the scientific assertions of the Quran has not come about over the passage of centuries. This is one of the greatest proofs of its Divine origin, and of the fact that it is the Word of the Almighty.

In a hadith which emphasizes the fact that the miracle of the Holy Quran is destined to survive until eternity, the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- says:

“The Quran is a Divine word that guides man to safety from all the tribulations to come, that gives news of past peoples, forewarnings of future peoples and verdicts of all controversies to take place between them. It separates between right and wrong. It is not vain. The transgressor who deserts it, Allah destroys; the person who seeks any other guidance Allah causes to go astray. It is Allah’s strong rope, His great remembrance and straight path. Those who live by it never deviate, the tongues that pronounce it are never mistaken, its scholars can never have enough of its insights. Its repetition never wears it out, and its miracles never cease to amaze. Upon hearing it the jinn could not help but say,

إِنَّا سَمِعْنَا قُرْآنًا عَجَبًا

‘Surely, we have heard a fabulous Quran!’ (al-Jinn, 1). Those who speak with it only speak the truth, and those who judge with it only judge with justice. Those who practice it reap rewards and those who call to it find in it the truest of paths.” (Tirmidhi, Fadail’ul-Quran, 14; Darimi, Fadail’ul-Quran, 1)

The Quran is a miracle in all its aspects. It is in this respect that the Quran has for centuries continued to challenge all men and jinn, as it did the Arabs of then, who had reached the heights of eloquence, to produce a similar text. This reminds one of the 34th ayah of at-Tur:

فَلْيَأْتُوا بِحَدِيثٍ مِّثْلِهِ إِن كَانُوا صَادِقِينَ

“Then let them bring a speech like it if they are truthful.”

The helplessness of the idolaters before this Divine challenge was further exposed by the Almighty:

أَمْ يَقُولُونَ افْتَرَاهُ قُلْ فَأْتُواْ بِعَشْرِ سُوَرٍ مِّثْلِهِ مُفْتَرَيَاتٍ وَادْعُواْ مَنِ اسْتَطَعْتُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

“Or, do they say: He has forged it. Say: Then bring ten forged chapters like it and call upon anyone you can besides Allah, if you are truthful.” (Hud, 13)

وَإِن كُنتُمْ فِي رَيْبٍ مِّمَّا نَزَّلْنَا عَلَى عَبْدِنَا فَأْتُواْ بِسُورَةٍ مِّن مِّثْلِهِ وَادْعُواْ شُهَدَاءكُم مِّن دُونِ اللّهِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

“And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it and call on your witnesses besides Allah if you are truthful.” (al-Baqara, 23)[3]

قُلْ لَئِنِ اجْتَمَعَتِ اْلاِنْسُ وَالْجِنُّ عَلَى اَنْ يَأْتُوا بِمِثْلِ هذَا الْقُرْاَنِ لاَ يَأْتُونَ بِمِثْلِهِ وَلَوْ كَانَ بَعْضُهُمْ لِبَعْضٍ ظَهِيرًا

“Say: If men and jinn should combine together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like of it, even if they helped one another.” (al-Isra, 88)

But the idolaters continued with their unfounded claims that only served to reveal their own inconsistencies and misgivings.

إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ يُؤْثَرُ

“…This is nothing but enchantment, narrated (from others).” (al-Muddaththir, 24)

سِحْرٌ مُّسْتَمِرٌّ

“…Transient magic.” (al-Qamar, 2)

إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا إِفْكٌ افْتَرَاهُ

“…This is nothing but a lie which he has forged.” (al-Furqan, 4)

اِنْ هذَا اِلاَّ اَسَاطِيرُ اْلاَوَّلِينَ

“…This is nothing but the stories of the ancients.” (al-Anaam, 25)

Up until now, the Quran’s challenge to its enemies to bring forth a similar chapter has resulted in their utter defeat. And that is how it shall remain until the end of time.

Over the years, Christians have been able to raise priests eloquent enough to teach Arabic to Arabs. But none of them has ever had had the nerve to answer the particular challenge of the Quran. Shouldn’t the nonbelievers, who have endured all kinds of hardship just to extinguish the light of Islam, instead have simply tried to answer this challenge? Isn’t just this historical fact enough to prove the greatness of the Quranic challenge and the helplessness of its enemies, as well as the impossibility of refuting it?

Many figures famed for their eloquence have worked for months on end behind closed doors without being able to even produce a verse at the end of their painstaking efforts. Musaylama and many others who tried producing alternatives to the Quran in fact only brought ridicule upon themselves, as what they wrote only served to highlight their own ineptness. This is because the Quran is not only a miracle of eloquence, but also a book that encompasses within itself all ages with all their truths. Therefore, it is certainly impossible for a vulnerable human being, who does not even know where and when he is to die, to produce a miraculous verse of truths beyond compare. The current fate of the Torah and the Bible are clear. Having been subjected to human intervention, both books are several removes from their origins and are now virtually a web of contradictions.

A look at past experiences provides the greatest and unchallengeable proof of the fact that the Holy Quran is a book of miraculous eloquence. From the first day of its revelation through to the 15 centuries that have passed as we speak, there has not been a single person to challenge the Divine Book with success. Those who have tried have only humiliated themselves before all humankind and have incurred shame that will never leave them until the Final Hour.[4]

The Quran is neither poetry nor prose. It has a style that combines the characteristics of both poetry and prose with an unsurpassable inner harmony that presides over its style. One can feel the affects of this inner harmony in the depths of the soul whenever one recites the Quran. It only takes a slight alteration of the order of the wording to do away with both the harmony and the meaning.

With this characteristic, the Quran has had an enormous impact on people. Hearing its recital with the pure tongue of the Noble Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, has had many an Arab hasten to profess faith. As they could not produce a word of similar greatness, all idolaters accepted in their hearts the eloquence of the Quran. Their only reason for denying the Quran was that it stood in the way of their self-interests and that they found unbearable the idea of following an orphan in the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-.

Ibn Abbas –Allah be well-pleased with him- narrates that one day Walid ibn Mughira came to the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- and asked him to recite the Quran. The Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- read him the following:

إِنَّ اللّهَ يَأْمُرُ بِالْعَدْلِ وَالإِحْسَانِ وَإِيتَاء ذِي الْقُرْبَى وَيَنْهَى عَنِ الْفَحْشَاء وَالْمُنكَرِ وَالْبَغْيِ يَعِظُكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَذَكَّرُونَ

“Surely Allah enjoins the doing of justice and the doing of good (to others) and the giving to the kindred, and He forbids indecency and evil and rebellion; He admonishes you that you may be mindful.” (an-Nahl, 90)

Walid asked the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- to recite it again, after which he could not help but say:

“I swear, there is such sweetness, such beauty and brightness in these words that they resemble a lusciously green tree, with a moist root and fruits overhanging from its branches. It is impossible for any man to make these up. Nothing shall defeat them and they most certainly will overcome whoever resists them.”

Leaving in amazement, Walid got up and headed to the house of Abu Bakr –Allah be well-pleased with him- and asked him a few questions about the Quran. Then, he turned up went next to the leaders of Quraysh.

“The things the son of Abu Kabshah says are amazing indeed! I swear they are neither poetry, nor sorcery nor mad nonsense! What he says is without a doubt the word of Allah!” he said.

When Abu Jahl heard him, he grumbled:

“I swear that if Walid turns away from his religion then so will the rest of Quraysh!” He then immediately went next to Walid and mockingly said:

“Uncle, your tribesmen are collecting riches to give to you, because apparently you went to Muhammad to beg!”

“The Quraysh should know better. I am the richest man among them!” Walid replied.

“Then say such a thing about Muhammad that will make him know your denial and dislike of him”, Abu Jahl suggested.

“What should I say? I swear there isn’t anyone among you who knows poetry, qasida and rajaz[5] better than I. What he says doesn’t resemble any of that. I assure you that what I heard from Muhammad sounded nothing like the words of man or jinn. It had a magnificent sweetness and elegance to it”, Walid responded.

Abu Jahl was adamant.

“Your tribesmen will not approve of you until you say something against him!”

“Give me some time to think then”, Walid then said.

After he had his moment of thought, he came out to claim, “It is but the magic of old!” (Hakim, II, 550/3872; Tabari, Tafsir, XXIX, 195-196; Wahidi, s. 468)

His story is vividly retold in the Holy Quran:

إِنَّهُ فَكَّرَ وَقَدَّرَ

فَقُتِلَ كَيْفَ قَدَّرَ

ثُمَّ قُتِلَ كَيْفَ قَدَّرَ

ثُمَّ نَظَرَ

ثُمَّ عَبَسَ وَبَسَرَ

ثُمَّ أَدْبَرَ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ

فَقَالَ إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ يُؤْثَرُ

إِنْ هَذَا إِلَّا قَوْلُ الْبَشَرِ

“Truly he reflected and plotted. May he be cursed—how he plotted! Again, may he be cursed how he plotted! Then he looked, Then he frowned and scowled, Then he turned back and was puffed up with pride, Then he said: This is naught but enchantment that was passed down; this is naught but the speech of men.” (al-Mudaththir, 18-25)

Idolaters like Abu Sufyan, Abu Jahl and Ahnath ibn Shariq, who were preventing the public from listening to the Quran, once came to the Kaabah three nights in a row, without any knowledge of each other’s presence, to secretly listen to the Blessed Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- recite the Quran. However, they were left red faced when they accidentally bumped into each other. After a moments shock, they reproached themselves.

“Whatever happens, nobody must know of this! We’ll be disgraced if the others find out…Our words will no longer have any effect when we try to prevent them from listening to the Quran!” Then pledging not to repeat this ever, they separated. (Ibn Hisham, I, 337-338)

Many people accepted Islam due to this inner beauty of the Quran. Celebrated is the case of Omar –Allah be well-pleased with him-, notorious for his temper, whose world was turned upside down in the house of his brother-in-law, when his heart melted, as well as his anger, at the pleasant sound of the Quran.

Another person who accepted Islam after becoming captivated by the Quran was Jubayr ibn Mutim –Allah be well-pleased with him-. Hearing the recital of chapter at-Tur from the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace-, his heart quivered, after which he said:

“I thought my heart would crack!” (Ahmad, IV, 83, 85)

His own account of the event is as follows:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah -upon him blessings and peace- recite chapter Tur during the salat of maghrib.

أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ

أَمْ خَلَقُوا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بَل لَّا يُوقِنُونَ

أَمْ عِندَهُمْ خَزَائِنُ رَبِّكَ أَمْ هُمُ الْمُصَيْطِرُونَ

‘Or were they created without there being anything, or are they the creators? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay! They have no certainty. Or have they the treasures of your Lord with them?’ (at-Tur, 35-37) At that point my heart was about to fly out of its cage from sheer excitement.” (Bukhari, Tafsir, 52)

During the first years of Prophethood, the sister of Imr’ul-Qays, the famous poet whose poems were hung on the wall of the Kaabah for their triumph in poetry contests, was still alive. They read a few ayah of the Quran to her. The woman, an expert in eloquence and clarity of speech, exclaimed:

“This cannot be the word of any human! With such words around on Earth, my brother’s poems no longer deserve to be displayed on the wall of the Kaabah! They must be brought down to make way for these!” She then removed her brother’s award winning poem from the Kaabah with her own hands. And naturally, the other lesser poems among the Muallaqat were also removed.[6]

Just listening to the Quran is enough for any person with the right mind to realize it is the word of Truth. It is for this reason that the Prophet -upon him blessings and peace- was entrusted with the duty of presenting the Quran to the hearing of others.

The Quran in fact says:

وَإِنْ أَحَدٌ مِّنَ الْمُشْرِكِينَ اسْتَجَارَكَ فَأَجِرْهُ حَتَّى يَسْمَعَ كَلاَمَ اللّهِ ثُمَّ أَبْلِغْهُ مَأْمَنَهُ

“And if one of the idolaters seeks protection from you, grant him protection till he hears the word of Allah, then make sure he reaches his place of safety; this is because they are a people who do not know.” (at-Tawba, 6)

It is therefore clear that the delivery of the Divine word to people allows for the light of faith to take root in their hearts.

The melody of the Quran that captivates the soul springs from the harmony of its sound, from the impeccable arrangement of its words, long and short syllables and vowel points. Passing from one sound to another with exceptional harmony, it seduces hearts. Even those who do not understand its meaning can take much delight from its unique sound when the Quran is properly recited according to its rules.[7]

Source: Osman Nuri Topbaş, The Prophet Muhammed Mustafa the Elect, Erkam Publications

[1] Denoted here are the Quran’s intonation, choice of words appropriate with the language utilized, pronunciation and clarity of expression; its eloquence, articulacy and fluency.

[2] Zarqânî, Manâhilü’l-İrfân, II, 325; Muhammad Abdullâh Dırâz, an-Nabau’l-Azîm, s. 112; Atâ, Azamatu’l-Kur’ân, p. 85.

[3] Also see, Yûnus, 38.

[4] Bûtî, Min Rawâii’l-Kur’ân, p. 126, 129, 130.

[5] Rajaz is one of the poetic meters in Arabic prosody. The rhythmic and accented meeting therein of a slow and fast tempo enables it to be performed by a host of different instruments, evoking thereby the rallying of a variety of feelings. Making possible the expression of both joy and sorrow, rajaz is moreover said to contain around fifteen subbranches. (Tahir’ul-Mevlevi, Edebiyat Lügati, p. 120, “recez” article.)

[6] See Ahmed Cevdet Paşa, I, 83.

[7] Even the recitation of the Quran alone has therefore developed as a separate branch of knowledge, which focuses on the ten different styles of recital, or qiraah, known as the ten canonical readings (qiraat’ul-ashara). Akin to the imams of madhabs, each manner of recital has its own initiators, known as an imam of qiraah. Prevalent in Turkey is the qiraah of Asim.