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The Unlettered Prophet (sws) (10)
Khalid Masud
(Tr. by:Nikhat Sattar)


Objections of the Quraysh on the Qur’an


Poetry and Story Telling

When the Qur’an began to be revealed, the initial verses that are included in the latter part of the Book were in the form of concise, short but extremely powerful sentences. This text was, and is, most eloquent, linguistically sublime, a miraculous example of articulation, full of depth of meaning, majesty and dignity. It possesses grandeur and glory which is not of this world. Additionally, it also rhymes. The verses repeatedly mention the end of this worldly life, the events that will occur afterwards, the accountability that human beings will face for their actions, and subsequent reward and punishment. These matters are all related to future happenings in another world. Consider for example the following:


كلَّا وَالْقَمَر وَاللَّيْلِ إِذْ أَدْبَرَ وَالصُّبْحِ إِذَا أَسْفَرَ إِنَّهَا لَإِحْدَى الْكُبَر نذِيرًا لِّلْبَشَرِ مَن شَاءَ مِنكُمْ أَن يَتَقَدَّمَ أَوْ يَتَأَخَّرَ (٧٤: ٣٢-٣٧)

No! By the moon and [by] the night when it departs. And [by] the morning when it brightens. Indeed, this is from among great matters. A warning to humanity: to whoever wills among you to proceed or stay behind. (74:32-37)


Note the repeat of the letter ر at the end of each verse.


اذَا السَّمَاءُ انفَطَرَتْ وَإِذَا الْكَوَاكِبُ انتَثَرَتْ وَإِذَا الْبِحَارُ فُجِّرَتْ وَإِذَا الْقُبُورُ بُعْثِرَتْ عَلِمَتْ نَفْسٌ مَّا قَدَّمَتْ وَأَخَّرَتْ (٨٢: ١-٥)

When the sky breaks apart and when the stars fall, scattering, and when the seas are erupted and when the [contents of] graves are scattered, a soul will [then] know what it has put forth and kept back. (82:1-5)


In these verses almost all sentences are equal and end on تْ.


إِنَّ الْإِنسَانَ خُلِقَ هَلُوعًا إِذَا مَسَّهُ الشَّرُّ جَزُوعًا وَإِذَا مَسَّهُ الْخَيْرُ مَنُوعًا (٧٠: ١٩-٢١)

Indeed, mankind was created anxious: When evil touches him, he becomes impatient. And when good touches him, he becomes stingy. (70:19-21)


Here the sentences are of equal length and end on وُعًا.


كَلَّا إِذَا بَلَغَتِ التَّرَاقِيَ وَقِيلَ مَنْ رَاقٍ  وَظَنَّ أَنَّهُ الْفِرَاقُ وَالْتَفَّتِ السَّاقُ بِالسَّاقِ إِلَىٰ رَبِّكَ يَوْمَئِذٍ الْمَسَاقُ (٧٥: ٢٦-٣٠)

No! When the soul has reached the collar bones And it is said: “Who will cure [him]?” And the dying one is certain that it is the [time of] separation. And the shank shall embrace the shank. To your Lord, that day, will be the procession. (75:26-30)


All verses here are ending on اَق.

The verses appear to be poetry, given their rhyming nature, but they do not possess the balance that is found in poetry. This is text in prose.  Short sentences that rhyme with each other were often the style of magicians and fortune tellers, but the Qur’anic text is purposeful, full of wisdom and gives a clear message, while that of the magicians used to be merely rhymes that were difficult to comprehend. The Qur’anic verses are pointing to a future in unequivocal terms, explaining an unseen reality, while the predictions of the fortune tellers were vague and carried double meanings. As far as eloquence and beauty of language is concerned, the text is of such noble quality that is not to be found in the speech or writings of any human being, including that of the Prophet (sws). It does not contain any of the meaningless words that are usual in a magician’s incantations. Each point is full of meaning, pointing to realities of human existence and appealing to the heart. The entire Qur’an consists of text that is as eloquent and thoughtful. Perceiving these characteristics, it was not an easy task to criticize it and aim to create feelings against it among the people. But the Quraysh decided to target the Qur’an for the sake of propaganda, and started to belittle its significance by calling it poetry, fortune telling, human effort or magic.

The Arabs were great critics of literature and could discern between the good and bad. Declaring the Qur’an a form of poetry was to admit to their foolhardiness. But there was one point which the Quraysh could give in support of their claim. Arabs believed that poets presented their work under the influence of a jinn. Since the Prophet (sws) had said that an angel had brought the wahi to him, the Quraysh attributed this to a misunderstanding, saying that the angel was in reality a jinn, who brought poetry to people.

The Arabs were also great admirers of sorcerers who claimed to predict the future. When people approached them to take advice on any matter, they would pretend to go into a trance in order to contact jinn and devils. Then they would speak in a form of poetry that had short lines that rhymed. Their claim about such poems that ended with rhyming words at the end of both verses was that these had been revealed to them. It was always possible to interpret more than one meaning from what they said which held some predictive elements too. Whenever the Quraysh compared the Qur’an to fortune telling, they had in mind the initial verses that were short, their rhyme and the manner in which they foretold of the future. Thus they declared it to be the result of contact with jinn. 

This propaganda was completely baseless. The reasons are obvious. Firstly, poetry is based on the emotions, thoughts and experiences of the poet. The poet moulds whatever affects his heart into a unique form of verse and presents it to his audience. Poets are not concerned with the fact that if they had said something with a clear conscience in the past, why are they now presenting poetry with obscene messages today? If one looks at the works of the greatest of poets, one realizes that they have expressed the best and the vilest human feelings when under their passing influence. There is a clear difference between what they wrote in their youth, and in their old age. At one stage, they appear to be overly fond of wining and whoring, and at another stage, they seem pious and true believers in God. Secondly, poets are masters of the language; they are least concerned with character. Their poetry may contain the message of obedience to God and His prophet, but their own acts belie their word. They may expound the details of mysticism, but much of their time might be spent in drunken stupor. In their martial poetry, they exaggerate to create scenes of courage and chivalry, but may be such cowards in their own lives as to cringe on seeing a house lizard. Thirdly, all kinds of people find topics of their interest in the work of poets, and they become their fans. Some good people are among their followers, as well as those who are misguided, who create problems for others and are corrupt.

As opposed to characteristics of poetry and the character of poets, the text that was being revealed to the Prophet (sws) had a very clearly identified target audience. The message that he gave the very first day was clarified in different ways subsequently without wavering. In actual fact, this was the greatest cause of worry for the Quraysh. For example, if the theme of tawhid, or the Oneness of God had been incidental, and came occasionally, they might have tolerated it. It was the consistent repetition of the theme that hammered at their system, and this was what was so painful for them. Then, the Prophet (sws) was practicing what he preached, and so were his companions. Consequently, a large group of people was emerging within the society that had no contradiction between its word and action. They were ready to sacrifice everything for their belief. This was the reason that others sought also to follow in their footsteps. No wayward or immoral person could join the Prophet’s followers because he and his companions valued a strict moral code of belief and action. The Qur’an often asked the Quraysh to reflect on the fact why so many honest and pious individuals of society were becoming believers and followers of the Prophet (sws). Why did this message not appeal to dissolute individuals and people with loose morals? The only reason was that the Prophet (sws) was establishing the highest codes of ethical values in society. He was placing submission to one God, a sense of sacrifice for others, feelings of benevolence and kind heartedness for the poor as the target for life for others, and strove to achieve this target himself while presenting the case for it with substantive arguments. This was the basis of the strong appeal of Islam for the individuals who are already inclined towards goodness and piety. Had the Prophet (sws) been a poet, he would not have been different from other poets.

Calling the Qur’an a collection of poems divined through the jinn and the devils was a shot in the dark by the Quraysh. Text such as that of the Qur’an is so pure, meaningful, God conscious and replete with calls to mankind to serve its fellow creatures that it cannot have any relationship with satanic aims. Why would evil forces bring such a message to mankind and create problems for themselves? The message of God was also very different from that of the practitioners of the occult. The latter were totally incapable of creating such eloquence of content and word. Devils do not send their messages down to human beings with deep rooted morality. Only liars and cheats are influenced by Satan, because the sorcerers themselves make fools of people through fraudulent means. Such people also possess poor ethical values. The predictions made by sorcerers are often a mix of truth and lies, because the jinn and the devils do not have access to matters related to God. They possess much that is nonsensical and filthy, messy information based on untruths that they pass on to those who believe in them. In contrast, a prophet obtained his information through divine sources (the Angel Gabriel), and possessed unparalleled honesty and moral values.


Human Endeavour

When the Qur’an presented evidence for its message, and people reflected on it, wondering on the improbability of any human being able to do so without divine guidance, and came to the leaders of the tribe to raise their doubts, the latter attempted to convince them otherwise, saying that it was, in fact, Muhammad (sws) who was fabricating the message, but that he was not doing it alone.  He was being helped by some non-Arabs and some People of the Book who developed it together. When they were ready with a piece, Muhammad (sws) came and delivered it, and in order to give it authenticity, claimed it to have come from God. Had it been from God, it would not have come down in pieces, but in one whole piece at one time.  

This objection from the Quraysh, too, was unfounded and lacked a basis. The Qur’an is worded in the purest form of Arabic. It was impossible for any non-Arab or even the Prophet (sws) to have created such a text. Had the Qur’an been a human effort, the Quraysh had no lack of excellent poets or orators. It would not have been difficult to gather scores of individuals who could have been charged with creating such text. That it proved to be impossible to do so was evident when the Quraysh were asked to create just one surah, they did not take up the challenge. The Qur’an was not revealed in one piece because it is not advisable to reveal a message so serious and full of such wisdom when its purpose is to provide guidance and the knowledge of the truth to people. A work of fiction may be read in one sitting, but it is not possible to read and comprehend a book of science or philosophy thus. The manner in which the Qur’an was revealed is not related to the power of God, but to the capacity of human beings to absorb and understand.  



The manner in which the message of the Qur’an was attracting people was evidence to the fact that not only was it unique in beauty and eloquence, but held great impact and influence on the human heart and mind. When one heard it, one was spellbound  and would not pay heed to one’s family or tribe’s protests. This is why the Quraysh attributed the Qur’an to magic. Such kind of influence was not limited to the Qur’an only. Moses’ (sws) call to his people was also branded magic by his adversaries. This opinion of the Quraysh was also wrong. Divine revelation and magic spells have absolutely nothing in common. The latter is a temporary condition that can never be successful over the long term, and is quickly dispersed. The Qur’an has the power to change the hearts and minds of people completely. Magic is based on lies and proves to be baseless when faced with the truth. The Qur’an is truth to the core, and has come to destroy every falsehood. The Quraysh were witness to their falsehoods being crushed constantly by the Qur’an. Magic does not create people with lofty characters, whereas the Qur’an was instrumental in character building of a large number of people. The propaganda generated by the Quraysh may have satisfied the simple minded, or sycophants, but the more intelligent among them were not influenced.


The Status of the Qur’an

The propaganda of the Quraysh was answered within the Qur’an itself in various ways, and the status of the message being delivered by the Prophet (sws) was clarified again and again to remove the confusions in their minds. The purpose was to assist those with a pragmatic turn of mind to give up their racial and tribal prejudices and open their minds to the Prophet’s message. Several verses explained the source of the Qur’an, the characteristics of the angel who brought it and the Prophet (sws) who received it and propagated it:  


فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِمَا تُبْصِرُونَ وَمَا لَا تُبْصِرُونَ إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلُ رَسُولٍ كَرِيمٍ وَمَا هُوَ بِقَوْلِ شَاعِرٍ قَلِيلًا مَّا تُؤْمِنُونَ وَلَا بِقَوْلِ كَاهِنٍ قَلِيلًا مَّا تَذَكَّرُونَ تَنزِيلٌ مِّن رَّبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ (٦٩: ٣٨-٤٣)

So I swear by what you see. And what you do not see [that] indeed, the Qur’an is the word of a noble Messenger. And it is not the word of a poet; little do you believe. Nor the word of a soothsayer; little do you remember. [It is] a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. (69:38-43)


فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِالْخُنَّسِ الْجَوَارِ الْكُنَّسِ وَاللَّيْلِ إِذَا عَسْعَسَ وَالصُّبْحِ إِذَا تَنَفَّسَ إِنَّهُ لَقَوْلُ رَسُولٍ كَرِيمٍ ذِي قُوَّةٍ عِندَ ذِي الْعَرْشِ مَكِينٍ مُّطَاعٍ ثَمَّ أَمِينٍ وَمَا صَاحِبُكُم بِمَجْنُونٍ وَلَقَدْ رَآهُ بِالْأُفُقِ الْمُبِينِ وَمَا هُوَ عَلَى الْغَيْبِ بِضَنِينٍ وَمَا هُوَ بِقَوْلِ شَيْطَانٍ رَّجِيمٍ فَأَيْنَ تَذْهَبُونَ (٨١: ١٥-٢٦)

So I swear by the retreating stars – those that run [their courses] and disappear, and by the night as it closes in and by the dawn when it breathes [that] indeed, the Qur’an is a word [conveyed by] a noble messenger [who is] possessed of power and with the Owner of the Throne, secure [in position], obeyed there [in the heavens] and trustworthy. And your companion is not [at all] mad. And he has already seen Gabriel in the clear horizon. And Muhammad is not a withholder of [knowledge of] the unseen. And the Qur’an is not the word of a devil, expelled [from the heavens]. So where are you going?  (81:15-26)


وَإِنَّهُ لَتَنزِيلُ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ نَزَلَ بِهِ الرُّوحُ الْأَمِينُ۔عَلَىٰ قَلْبِكَ لِتَكُونَ مِنَ الْمُنذِرِينَ بِلِسَانٍ عَرَبِيٍّ مُّبِينٍ وَإِنَّهُ لَفِي زُبُرِ الْأَوَّلِينَ أَوَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُمْ آيَةً أَن يَعْلَمَهُ عُلَمَاءُ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (٢٦: ١٩٢-١٩٧)

And indeed, the Qur’an is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds. The Trustworthy Spirit has brought it down. Upon your heart, [O Muhammad] – that you may be of the warners – In a clear Arabic language. And indeed, it is [mentioned] in the scriptures of former peoples. And has it not been a sign to them that it is recognized by the scholars of the Children of Israel? (26:192-197)


These verses make it clear that the Lord of the universe made elaborate arrangements to send His message for the guidance of His subjects in this world. The angel He selected for this purpose was extremely powerful, wise and honest and true in his character. He took his responsibilities seriously and fulfilled them to the last level of detail. He was bestowed with the best of qualities and no one except the Lord Himself has any power over him. No one could ever take advantage of him, and he could never be tempted by anything. Thus the mixing of any falsehood in the message from God could be ruled out completely. This confidant angel taught the divine revelation to the Prophet (sws) with full attention, focus and kindness. The Prophet himself had no desire for revelation; such a responsibility came upon him suddenly and he fulfilled it to the best of his capabilities. It was not a creation of his mind. The revelation was of the very highest of standards and clear, of which there was no example available anywhere. The message it carried had no distortions or unclear ideas: its guidance was natural, appealed to human intellect and pointed in the right direction. Its arguments were rooted in wisdom, nature, the universe and human psychology. If the Quraysh resisted the message despite these facts, it was due entirely to their prejudice, arrogance and personal interests.


Similar views of the Quraysh about Pilgrims

Makkah was the religious centre of all Arab tribes, and offering hajj and ‘umrah were popular rituals, due to which there was regular inflow of pilgrims to the city. The Quraysh were worried in case they came to learn of the prophethood of an individual and were curious to know the details. They might wish to meet the Muslims and thus cause Islam to spread more widely. Steps had to be taken to curb this possibility. When Walid ibn Mughirah, one of the older and more intelligent leaders realized this, he suggested that instead of giving different opinions to the pilgrims when meeting them and creating in them a desire to meet the Prophet (sws), they should present a single view of what they think of him. It was decided that each one of them would think about what should be said and meet again. At the next meeting, some suggested that Mohammed’s verses be called the poems of those who practiced the occult. Walid responded by saying that they had seen such practitioners and heard them too. Mohammed’s message was not all similar to the rhyme of their poetry. Some suggested that Mohammed (sws) be presented as a madman. Walid disagreed, saying that Mohammed (sws) did not have any symptoms of madness, such as fears and confusion of mind. Other people wanted the Prophet (sws) to be shown to be a poet. Waleed rejected this idea too, since all of them recognised all forms of poetry, and the Qur’an did not possess any of the characteristics. Yet another suggestion was to say that the Prophet (sws) was a magician. Walid said that magicians speak mantras, blow on and make knots. Muhammad (sws) does nothing of the sort.  Finally, the people asked him to give his opinion which they would then follow. He said: “By God, Mohammed’s message has sweetness in it. It is like a tree that is growing deep down in the pit, whose branches bear fruit. Whatever you say about Muhammad (sws) will be considered a falsehood. However, if you declare him to be a sorcerer, that is one possible way out. We can say that his message carries the impact of a spell. Just as spells have the power to create feelings of love, hatred and animosity, so does this message that creates divisions between a man and his father, between brothers, between a husband and wife and between members of a tribe”. Thus it was decided that if anyone coming to Makkah asked about the Prophet (sws), he would be told that the latter’s message was in reality magic and he would be frightened away from its impact. Although the Quraysh implemented this suggestion, the results were not encouraging.1

Biographies of the Prophet (sws) mention Tufayl ibn ‘Amr, a very able leader of the tribe of Daws. When he went to Makkah for ‘umrah, and heard that a man had claimed prophethood, and people were listening to him, he made inquiries. Everyone from the Quraysh spoke ill of the Prophet (sws) and warned him to stay away. They told him that the Prophet (sws) possessed such a magic that divided a husband and wife. Tufayl avoided the Prophet (sws) for a few days. When he came to the mosque, he would put cotton in his ears, in case he might hear whatever the Prophet (sws) was saying. One day, the Prophet (sws) was offering prayers when Tufayl heard a few verses of the Qur’an. He realised that he was being immature, since he was himself capable enough, had seen the world and could distinguish between good and evil. He could also tell the difference between good and bad poetry since he was a poet too. How could another man lead him astray? He waited until the Prophet (sws) had finished his prayers and followed him to his house, where he requested a meeting. He then introduced himself and asked if he was spreading a spell inducing message. He was very truthful and told the Prophet (sws) clearly why he had been avoiding him, and that he now wanted to hear the Qur’an. When the Prophet (sws) recited a few verses, Tufayl was so impressed that he accepted Islam immediately. Upon his return, he also converted his father and wife. Later, several members of his tribe accepted Islam. 2 



(Translated from Hayat-i Rasul-i Ummi by Nikhat Sattar)



1. Ibn Hisham, Al-Sirah al-Nabawiyyah, vol. 1, 270.

2. Ibid., vol. 1, 382.

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