Refutation of the claim that Quran is comparable to poetry
Fatwa No: 239494

  • Fatwa Date:13-2-2014 - Rabee' Al-Aakhir 13, 1435
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Question

As-salaamu 3laikum, I am trying to learn Arabic and one of the books I have is written by a non-Muslim. In the chapter on the rules of Arabic poetry he says that parts of the Qur’an can be classed as poetry according to these rules even though Muslims do not accept that. I know this allegation is false but what is the response to this based on knowledge of the Arabic language? Because I do not have enough knowledge of Arabic for that. Jazaak Allahu khair

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the Worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah, and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

The style of the Quran surpassed the style of poetry in its composition, rhythm, eloquence and its effect on the souls of the people. Indeed, many poets testified that it does not resemble poetry. Ibn ‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him narrated that Al-Waleed ibn Al-Mugheerah came to the Prophet  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) and the Prophet recited the Quran to him. Al-Waleed seemed to be affected and softened by it. Abu Jahl heard about this, so he came to Al-Waleed and said: "Don't you see that your people are collecting charity for you?” He said: “And why is that?Abu Jahl replied: “So that they can give it to you, as they see that you went to Muhammad to get some of his money.Al-Waleed said: “Quraysh know that I am of the wealthiest of its sons.Abu Jahl said: “So, say about Muhammad something that would convince your people that you oppose him.Al-Waleed replied: “And what can I possibly say? There is not a single man who is more knowledgeable of poetry and prose than I, even the poetry of the Jinn, and by Allaah, what he [Muhammad] says bears no resemblance to these things. By Allaah, what he says has a sweetness to it, and a charm upon it; the highest part of it is fruitful and the lowest part of it is gushing forth with bounty; it dominates and cannot be dominated, and it crushes all that is under it.Abu Jahl said: “Your people will not be pleased with you until you say something against him [Muhammad].” Then he said: “Let me think about it.” After thinking he said: “This is not but magic imitated [from others].” Thereupon, Allaah revealed (what means refering to Al-Waleed ibn Al-Mugheerah, who after inclining toward the Quran denied it publicly in order to win the approval of the Quraysh): {Leave Me with the one I created alone [i.e. without wealth or children.} [Quran 74:11] [Al-Haakim said it is authentic fulfilling the conditions of Al-Bukhari and Ath-Thahabi agreed with him]

Besides, Abu Tharr  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him in the course of narrating the story of his conversion and his brother Unays' conversion to Islam, said: (Unays said: “I have something to do in Makkah; so stay with my mother.Unays set out until he came to Makkah and he delayed in coming back, then he came back, and I asked him, “What did you do? He replied: “I met a man in Makkah on your religion, who claims that Allaah had sent him as a Prophet.” I asked: “What are the people saying?” He replied: “They say he is a poet, a fortune-teller, a magician.” Now, Unays was a poet, so he said, “I have heard the words of the fortune-tellers, but it is not like what they say; and I have compared his words to the kinds, methods and rhymes of poetry and it does not correspond to any of them, i.e. it is not poetry; I swear by Allaah, he is truthful and they are liars...”). [Muslim]

Abul ‘Abbaas Al-Qurtubi  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him said: “The meaning of this statement is that when he compared the Quran to the kinds of poetry, it came out that it is not one of its types, and then he decisively determined that it is not valid for anyone to say that it is poetry.” [Excerpt from Al-Mufhim lima Ashkal min Talkhees Saheeh Muslim]

If the Quran were poetry, the eloquent Arabs would have tried to come up with something like it, and Allaah challenged them but they were unable to produce something like it. Then Allaah challenged them to bring ten chapters like it, and they were again unable to do so. Finally, Allaah challenged them to bring one chapter like it, and again they were unable. Then Allaah told us that they will never be able to do so, as Allaah says (what means): {Say, “If mankind and the jinn gathered in order to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce the like of it, even if they were to each other assistants.”} [Quran 17:88]

Nonetheless, it is possible that some sentences in the Quran may correspond to some poetry/prose standards but this is very little and the scholars do not deny this. Indeed, some scholars of prosody do not mention a Bahr (a metrical line) of poetry without citing a verse from the Quran or part of the verse which corresponds to a meter of that Bahr of poetry.

However, the style of the Quran remains superior, better formulated and better expressed than poetry, and it is distinguished with its unique style in its articulation and quality.

Taha Husayn said in one of his articles: “But you know that the Quran is not prose, just as it is not poetry, but it is the Quran which cannot be called by any other name. It is not poetry; it is unique in its kind, as it did not adhere to the restrictions of poetry; and it is not prose because it is restricted to its own restrictions which do not exist in other prose, so it is not poetry and it is not prose, but it is as Allaah says (what means): {[This is] a Book whose verses are perfected and then presented in detail from [one who is] Wise and Acquainted.} [Quran 11:1] so we cannot say that it is prose, and the Quran stated that it is not poetry.

The Quran was unique in its kind, nothing existed like it before it was revealed, and nothing existed like it after it was revealed. Nobody tried to produce something like it; it challenged the people to produce something like it, and it warned them that there is no way for them to do so...”

Allaah Knows best.

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