Is the challenge of the Qur'an honest?

In response to a Muslim on the question how do we know that the Qur'an
is indeed the word of God.

  First, the Quran is a reality it is here among us, we can see the
  quran, touch it and for those who know the Arabic language, they can
  read it. Therefore it is a reality. Thus rationally, the question
  becomes: who wrote it? since it can not write itself, somebody has to
  have written it. It did not come out of nowhere.
Exactly, that is the question. Who wrote it? What historic witness do we
have of its development? How is it historically reliably authenticated.

  Second, rationally, let us look at all possibilities regarding who
  could have done it. It could have been Mohammed (saw). It could have
  been Arabs at his time or later as Mr Smith is suggesting. It could be
  non-Arabs, or it could be some other force, call it God, Allah, call
  it whatever you want, unknown and more powerful than human beings.
Your options are valid.  

   If you study all the above options, you will notice they cover all
  available rational options. 
Yes. Muhammad or some other human beings at some time on their own or
with some 'spiritual' input (whether from the one and only God, or from
some other spirit beings).

  So let us go through the options one by one.

Long explanation that the Qur'an is very eloquent and nobody can imitate 
it, that people tried and all failed etc. No Arabs, no non-Arabs, and 
especially not the illiterate Muhammad.

Though I do not believe it is conclusively shown. But anyway.

  The only remaining rational argument is that the Quran is from a power
  unknown to man and beyond his ability to understand and comprehend.
  That power reveals its name in the quran as Allah and informs us
  through this miracle that we have to obey him and follow his command,
  and that we are created by him. 
  The above is why Muslims KNOW rationally that the Quran is the word of
  Allah. Any human being thinking rationally will reach the same
  conclusion and will accept islam on that basis.
Okay. A few comments on those rational conclusion. The Qur'an puts up
this challenge of producing a few verses that rival it in eloquence and
beauty. My question would be:

What are the rules for the game? If you put up any kind of REASONABLE 
competition you have to give rules, standards by which to decide who
is going to win the competiton. 

And those rules have to be OBJECTIVE. There is a saying: Beauty is in
the eye of the beholder - which is expressing, how incredibly subjective
'beauty' is as a criterion. 

If you want to convince me, a person who doesn't know Arabic, and can't
appreciate its alleged beauty (and let me say, whatever the content, 
French language sounded to me always more beautiful (melodic) than 
Arabic, which seems to my ear/feeling to be a rather 'harsh' language)
then you will have to present something I can verify for myself. Evidence
needs to be objective to convince. 

When Jesus raised several dead people (as one small part of evidence that
he was sent by God), that was objective. There wasn't much of a discussion
among those who saw it, if you think those who now are talking and walking
again, are indeed risen or still dead. And it was the same if your language
was Hebrew, Aramaic, or you were a tourist from Spain or Rome and only 
could talk to the person via a third language. 

But even if you would like to stick to this 'beauty' challenge. 
Has anybody ever put up any rules according to which to decide if a 
competitor met the challenge or not? And who is the authority who is to 

If for example I were to produce something that is more beautiful than 
the Qur'an (does it have to be in Arabic? or just more eloquent?) and I 
go to the Imam of your Mosque, and the Imam is so impressed that he can't
but testify that it is more beautiful than the Qur'an, would you follow
his decision? WHO IS THE JUDGE IN THE COMPETITION? Is it every Muslim's
personal impression of what is beautiful and what not? Is it determined
by the majority vote? I hope you aren't going to say, that truth is
to be determined by majority vote. Majorities have been wrong so often. 
And even if. Who is allowed to vote? Every human being? (only at most
1/4 of the world's population is Muslim currently, I guess you would loose
the vote if you would give a Qur'an to everybody and then the ballot to
I think the Qur'an is the most beautiful piece of literature I have ever 
come across.  OR
I do not think the above is true. )

If only Muslims are allowed to vote, don't you think that vote might be
a bit biased and far from objective and certainly fail to impress the
rest of the world? Especially as it seems to be a bit hazardous to your
physical health if you voice in an Islamic country that some other poems
are much more beautiful than the Qur'an. Reminds me of the recent ballot
in Iraq, where people had to vote for or against Saddam Hussein and Hussein
got 99.8 (?) % of the vote. Very impressive, isn't it? Until you find out
that everybodies ballot paper had the name and address of the voting person
on it and it didn't seem to be a healty choice to vote against Hussein.

Okay now. What are the RULES according to which to decide the beauty
contest, and WHO is the JUDGE in the competition? And you have to provide
an unbiased judge who could without fear for his life give the first price
to the contestant instead of the Qur'an. (seems to be pretty impossible,
considering the death threats against Rushdie, who didn't even contest
the whole of the Qur'an, but only had something about a view 'satanic 
verses' who would dare to rule against the qur'an in total? And we currently
see on this very newsgroup that there are several people who seem to be 
willing to kill Rushdie themselves, if only they could get their hands on

If there are no rules and no judge, then you don't have a valid contest. 
It's that easy. 

  Finally, and the check mate for Mr Smith arguments: If he is
  forwarding and following the opinion that the Quran was written by a
  group of people in the ninth or tenth century, then what was done by a
  group of humans could be easily imitated and even bettered by millions
  later. Therefore, let him get all of his scholars, arabs and
  non-Arabs, Muslims or non-Muslims and all his orientalists and take on
  the challange, all what we Muslims ask is just for three simple
  sentences like the Quran. Is that too much to be asked from someone
  who claims that it was done by humans????
If there are no rules, how can anybody even try to enter the contest?

And finally the check mate on this contest ;) 
There are several people who have pointed out grammatical errors in the
Qur'an. (I can give you a few references if you don't believe me, but
I don't have them with me here at the computer).

What is the response of some Muslims? They say, the Qur'an is the final
judge of what is correct Arabic. And if the grammar books don't conform 
to the Qur'an, then the grammar books have to be changed. ???
What kind of a response is that? 

That might go for a computer language. If you are the inventer and 
implementer of a new computer language then YOU decide what is right
and wrong and what the 'right' rules are in this new language. 

But it is not so, that the Arabic was invented by the Qur'an. 
You expressively stated that the Arabs at Muhammad's time were masters
of eloquence and poetry. In what language? In ARABIC. So Arabic existed
before the Qur'an and it had its grammar rules before the Qur'an came
into visible/audible existence and the Qur'an is subject to the grammar
rules of this pre-existing Arabic if you want to say that Qur'an indeed 
is in Arabic. 

Now, coming afterwards and saying, the Qur'an is the very definition of
what good Arabic is, is about the most biased and subjective way you can
approach the issue.

Who says, that that isn't what Muslims effectively do with this beauty
contest? If somebody should come forward with a piece of literature and
insists it is more beautiful and even has a lot of people of the same 
opinion, what are (many) Muslims probably doing? They as with the grammar
might just say: The Qur'an says nobody can even come near to the beauty
of the Qur'an, and the Qur'an is the Word of God (assume what you want 
to prove, the proof will be so much easier in the end) hence this other 
thing can not possibly be as beautiful as the Qur'an, hence the competitor 
failed and thus it is even more sure now, that the Qur'an is the Word of 
God, since this competitor couldn't stand up to the Qur'an.

Sounds pretty much like circular reasoning to me. And put in writing so 
plainly it should be obvious to every thinking person. I would like to ask 
you and other Muslims to give me clear rules for the contest and show me 
that this circular reasoning is NOT how it works and in what circumstances
any Muslim would have to admit that something is more beautiful than the
Qur'an. Give me the criteria to win the contest. That should be easy
shouldn't it? I don't say you have to be able to fulfill these criteria
yourself. But you have to be able to state them clearly and objectively.

If the current world record in short distance running is, let's say, 100 m
in 9.8 seconds, then you will be the new world record holder if and only
if you run the distance in a time below that number. That is objective.
And you are going to measure it with reliable high tech.

And if somebody comes along and says, "I ran it in 8 seconds yesterday
morning!", you won't believe him without objective evidence and a ruling
by an unbiased judge. For example, if the runner's personal coach says: 
"I have the feeling he broke the world record, but I didn't actually time 
him." This would certainly not count as unbiased and reliable. Even if he 
says that he timed him with his personal stop watch, that doesn't count. 
How do you know he pressed the button at the right time?

So, in order to have a real official new world record, he has to be able
to run this new time in an official setting, with unbiased judges. 

I am repeating myself by now. ...

Please state the objective criteria, that everybody can accept as 
objective. And give me the place where the competiton could happen and 
who YOU would accept as an UNBIASED judge to rule who won the competition.
I think the challenge to the Muslims still stands. Please make the
challenge of the Qur'an intelligible. 

Yes, where indeed is the evidence for that which they believe?

Is the Qur'an miraculous?
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