by Anthony Wales
The Qur'an says that if human beings and jinn together attempted to produce something like the Qur'an they would fail. This claim appears in chapter 17, verse 88 in the following translations:
DAWOOD: If men and jinn combined to produce a book akin to this Koran, they would surely fail to produce its like, though they helped one another as best they could. (N. J. Dawood, The Koran, Penguin Books, 2003)
YUSUF ALI: Say: "If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support. (Source)
PICKTHALL: Say: Verily, though mankind and the jinn should assemble to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof though they were helpers one of another. (Source)
SHAKIR: Say: If men and jinn should combine together to bring the like of this Quran, they could not bring the like of it, though some of them were aiders of others. (Source)
This statement is related to the claim that if unbelievers cannot produce something like the Qur'an they must accept the idea that the Qur'an is the word of God (2:23 and 11:13). Muslims believe this challenge is serious, which means the statement about the jinn is serious. In other words, one of the principal Islamic arguments for the divine origin of the Qur'an is that jinn and human beings working together cannot produce anything like the Qur'an. However, there are some serious weaknesses with this argument, which leave the principal argument for the divine origin of the Qur'an unsupported.
Arguments for the truth of a religion should be supported with good reasons or evidence. This is particularly important for the principal arguments for the truth of a religion. The Muslim argument in question is clearly one of the principal arguments, if not the principal argument, for the divine origin of the Qur'an. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect Muslims to present good reasons to support it. A lack of supporting evidence would be a serious weakness, and give people good grounds for not being persuaded by this argument.
I am yet to see any evidence to support the Islamic argument that jinn and human beings working together cannot produce anything like the Qur'an. I have not seen Muslims present any combined attempts by jinn and humans, and explain why these attempts are not like the Qur'an. In other words, there is no evidence supporting the principal Muslim argument for the divine origin of the Qur'an. This means there is no reason to believe that the Qur'an is the word of God, and no reason to become a Muslim.
The Qur'anic argument about the jinn and human beings working together may actually be an unverifiable challenge. I say this because it is highly unlikely that jinn and humans will ever work together on such a project. Therefore, there is no reason to believe Islam. Its principal argument cannot be verified, which means its truth cannot be verified. Presenting an unverifiable argument also raises questions about the intelligence and confidence of a religion and its founder. Would not an intelligent person who was confident about the truth of their message put forward a good argument that people can actually test?
Imagine if the principal argument for the truth of Christianity was that there is a cross in the centre of the sun that is miraculously protected by God. No one could verify whether or not this argument was true because no one can reach the centre of the sun alive. This means no one would accept Christianity because there is no argument for it that they can examine and be persuaded by. The mere fact that no one can disprove the existence of a cross in the centre of the sun does not mean that Christianity is true. This is an extreme example, but I believe the Qur'anic argument about the jinn falls into the same general category. There is a difference of degree between the two arguments, but they belong to the same kind.
Another issue with this Islamic argument is the existence of jinn. Do the beings that Islam calls 'jinn' actually exist? Muslims cannot argue that Islam mentions jinn so they must exist. The current debate is whether or not we should believe what Islam tells us. Therefore, Muslims must produce some reasons for the existence of jinn that do not depend on the truth of Islam. If no reasons are produced, there are further grounds for not being persuaded by the Qur'anic challenge. Why should anyone believe the Qur'an is the word of God because some (alleged) beings, whose existence there is no reason to believe in, cannot produce anything like it?
Again, imagine someone saying, "even if men and green martians came together to produce a book like book X, they wouldn't be able to. Therefore, everyone must accept that book X is the word of God." Would anyone take this argument seriously? Is there any evidence that green martians actually exist? Assuming their existence, is there any evidence that they cannot produce a book like book X? Assuming their existence, is it likely that green martians will even bother attempting to produce a book like book X? If book X is the word of God, surely a better argument for its divine origin could be presented.
Is the Qur'an Miraculous?
Articles by Anthony Wales
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