This is the second of probably about a dozen posts it will take to work through the second Surah. If you want to read them in succession then you can go to the commentary on 2:1-22 here. This Surah (chapter) is by most lists considered the first of the Medina Surahs. The Quran as we have it today has 114 Surahs. I don’t have time here to discuss the controversy around the compilation of the Quran but if you want to read it you can click here. The short version is that Uthman, one of the early successors of Muhammed, ordered that the Quran be compiled into written form. He then ordered that all copies other than the one he deemed right and proper be destroyed. Some of the earliest manuscript copies that we have today (dating about 150 years after the death of Muhammed), do vary greatly from what is today considered the official version. This destruction of variant copies of the Quran being destroyed happened many times in Muslim history and you can see a short explanation here.
Anyways, I am getting off course. The modern Quran contains 114 Surahs and of these 86 are considered Meccan, or early, Surahs and the remaining were given in Medina. As a general rule, the early Meccan Surahs will have the stuff about peace and the later Medinan Surahs will have the more violent commands. More on that next time, I am sure. For now, on with the text. Surah 2:23-24
23. And if you are in doubt about what We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like these, and call your witnesses apart from Allah, if you are truthful.
24. But if you do not—and you will not—then beware the Fire whose fuel is people and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.
23. This verse is recited to me all the time when my Muslim friends and neighbors will try and tell me about “the miracle of the Quran”. There are really three different ways to dispute this. The first is to point out how ridiculous it is as proof of divine inspiration. Does this mean that since William Shakespeare is unparalleled as a playwright that he was divinely inspired? Since Tolstoy’s novel was the greatest written good ole Leo was divinely inspired? But you might be thinking, “No, Shakespeare wasn’t the greatest playwright, Tennessee Williams is.” Or, “No, War and Peace isn’t the greatest novel of all time, Moby Dick is.” Exactly. Beauty is subjective. Greatness is subjective. Some people foolishly insist that Kobe or Lebron is the greatest of all time when obviously Michael Jordan is. In the same way, calling the “beauty” of the Quran a miracle is only subjective confirmation bias that will convince no one.
The second argument against this is to demonstrate that the claim, as it is made by most modern Muslims, is simply not factually true. If you want to endure a 30 minute rant of these claims then you can click here. But I would encourage you to then click on this to see how ridiculous that previous link truly is. Jay Smith among others has a lot to say about all the ways the Quran uses bad grammar, loan words from other languages, plagiarism from Hebrew scripture, the Mishnah (Hebrew commentaries), Zoroastrianism, and many other sources. But it isn’t just Christian and atheist scholars who say this. Muslim scholars like Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Roshd (Averroes whose books were burned by other Muslims) as well as more modern scholars like Ibn Warraq (a pseudonym because he doesn’t want to be killed) and Nasr Abu Zayd (who was sued, declared an apostate, forced to divorce his wife and kicked out of Egypt) have dared to challenge the “miracle of the Quran”.
The third argument against “the miracle of the Quran” is to take up a challenge and “produce a Surah like it”. When a friend or neighbor issues the challenge like this to me, I will simply say OK. Then I will quote Psalms 23 and tell them it is the words of God from the Tawrat (the Muslim word for the Tanakh, or Old Testament) and then quote 1 Corinthians 13 which are the words of God from the Injeel (New Testament). If I am speaking with a Turkish friend, I will quote it in English while showing the same scripture from my phone in Turkish. This has more than once led to me showing them how they can get a Turkish version of the Bible as an App for their phone. If I am speaking with an Arabic friend and have internet access, rather than quoting Psalms 23 I can show them this video which recites it in a similar way to how the Quran is recited in the mosque. Then I will turn around and ask them to now produce for me a Surah from the Quran which is just as beautiful. So far nobody has been able to do so.