Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Proof for Textual Divinity...Right?

And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if your (doubts) are true. But if ye cannot- and of a surety ye cannot- then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones,- which is prepared for those who reject Faith. (Qur'an 2:23-24)

Or do they say: "He (Muhammad(P)) has forged it?" Say: "Bring then a surah (chapter) like unto it, and call upon whomsoever you can, besides Allah, if you are truthful!" [Qur'an 10:37-38]
(Culled from here, as is most of the following)

When Muhammad was challenged regarding the divine origin of the Koran, he pointed to the text itself as his defining miracle. Arab poetry at the time of Islam's origin had two styles: tightly constrained rhymed poetry with clearly set meters, and prose. On the other hand:
"The Qur'an is not verse, but it is rhythmic. The rhythm of some verses resemble the regularity of [rhymed prose], and both are rhymed, while some verses have a similarity to Rajaz in its vigour and rapidity. But it was recognized by Quraysh critics to belong to neither one nor the other category."
In other words, Muhammad offered a simple challenge: if the Koran was a fake, someone should produce Arabic writing--even just a bit of it--that approaches the linguistic majesty of the Koran, which is neither poetry nor prose, rhythmic yet meaningful. It was something as yet
unseen in Arabic writing. But as scholar EH Palmer admitted, "the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur'an." Oxford Arabist Hamilton Gibb similarly wrote: "As a literary monument the Koran thus stands by itself, a production unique to the Arabic literature, having neither forerunners nor successors in its own idiom. Muslims of all ages are united in proclaiming the inimitability not only of its contents but also of its style."

The point should be obvious. Mohammad claimed his work's style reflected its divine origins. Now, if he was wrong, no one should have believed him, right? How would you start a mass lie about the nature of Arabic writing? Or was it a mass conspiracy? Unlikely. If even one talented Arabic poet in the last fifteen hundred years could write in the same style, surely people would have heard about it and rejected what Mohammad said. But the very fact that the Meccans accepted Mohammad's point--along with the Koran's claim being upheld, with no one paralleling it since--shows that he spoke the truth. Therefore, the Koran must be divine.

Right, Kiruv Rabbis?


Shilton HaSechel said...

Well the Kuzari shlugged that one up already - the Khazar king said "I don't know any Arabic, so God basically sucks at sending the message to us non-Arabic speakers"

Why he didn't bother to learn Arabic instead of skipping straight to Judaism is awfully... convenient. ;-)

though you do have to admit that it's kinda hard to define "linguistic majesty" and it all basically boils down to personal opinion. As "proofs" of divinity go - mass revelation at Sinai is a lot better than an all to subjective majestic "prose-poetry".

JewishGadfly said...

But the Arabs who did know Arabic at the time all accepted it as a valid proof, and I included quotes from Western scholars who agreed with the point. So clearly it was true, and if you learned the Arabic you would see that for yourself.

Mass revelation also ends up resting on what the people at the time accepted, and so what must have been true.

In any case, I'll get to Christianity next.

G*3 said...

I don’t think unique textual qualities are equivalent to mass revelation. Even today, only literary scholars would be able to say whether the Koran is as unique as is claimed. That would have been even more true in the generally illiterate society Mohamed lived in.

That said, that Mohamed may have invented a pretty style of writing (or dictating, in his case) is hardly proof that the text is divine.