Taḥaddī (Arabic: تَحَدّی) or the Challenge of the Qur'an is a term in Qura'nic sciences and Islamic theology referring to a challenge made by the Qur'an (or in its broader meaning, by every prophet who had a miracle) in order to prove the prophet's relation with the unseen world and the failure of opponents to bring the same divine miracle. In the Qur'an, God asked opponents to bring something similar to the Qur'an if they reject the prophethood.
Etymology and Meaning
The word, "tahaddi", is from the Arabic root, "ḥ-d-y" (ح-د-ی), which means to challenge someone to combat you or compete with you in order to show that they will fail. Terminologically, it refers to God's challenge for some opponents of the Prophet Muhammad (s) to bring something similar to what he brought if they are right that Muhammad was not a prophet. The term, "tahaddi", came to be commonly used in works of theology in the 3rd/9th century for the first time.
Tahaddi is based on the assumption that if the Qur'an were not from God, then other people would be able to bring something similar to it, and if they cannot do so, then the Qur'an will prove to be from God.
Sarfa (Divine Deterrence)
Some early scholars of theology, such as al-Sayyid al-Murtada, believed that if a person intends to oppose the Qur'an (and bring something similar to it), then God will weaken their will to do so, thereby preventing them from challenging the Qur'an. This is known as the theory of "sarfa" (divine prevention or deterrence). Given attempts at challenging the Qur'an, this claim is not true.
There are several verses of the Qur'an regarding tahaddi:
- The challenge of the whole Qur'an, Qur'an 17:88.
- The challenge of ten chapters of the Qur'an, Qur'an 11:13.
- The challenge of one chapter of the Qur'an, Qur'an 10:38.
The Qur'an has not challenged its opponents to bring one verse, since a verse might include a word, such as "مُدْهَامَّتَانِ" (dark green) without communicating a full concept.
An important point regarding tahaddi is that it is not a challenge to bring sentences apparently similar to those of the Qur'an, since this is just an imitation of Qur'anic phrases and would count as plagiarism. Thus it is a challenge to create words that have features like those of Qur'anic words.
- Qur'anic challenge to knowledge, that is, if people doubt the divine origins of the Qur'an, then they can all cooperate to bring a book that is similar to the Qur'an with respect to knowledge involved in it.
- The Qur'anic challenge to find contradictions within the Qur'an, Qur'an 4:82.
- The Qur'anic challenge to disclose knowledge of the hidden, Qur'an 11:49.
The Scope of Tahaddi
The Qur'anic challenge is addressed to all creatures, including all jins and humans throughout the history, since the Prophet Muhammad (s) was the seal of the prophets and his mission was global and eternal, and thus the Qur'an was addressed to all rational creatures, including humans and jins.
The Subject-Matter of Tahaddi
Appealing to Qur'anic self-descriptions that are directed at its contents, rather than its formal structures, and to the Qur'an 28:49, some scholars take tahaddi to be concerned with the contents of the Qur'an, rather than its words. However, verses of tahaddi are unqualified in this respect, which is why many scholars take tahaddi to include both contents and words.
Some exegetes of the Qur'an appealed to verses of tahaddi to relate it to knowledge and guidance of the Qur'an, its issuance from an illiterate prophet, its knowledge of the hidden, there being no contradiction in it, its eloquence, its forms, and its contents.
Sayyid Qutb and 'Allama Tabataba'i generalize the Qur'anic challenge to all the above respects; otherwise it would be qualified in one way or another. Other respects of tahaddi have also been mentioned, such as eloquence, its rhythm, truth, there being no false statement in it, its rulings and legislations, and its transcendent meanings. They also refer to the above respects. However, the Qur'an is addressed to all human beings, and its challenge is thus all-inclusive.
When the Qur'an proposed the tahaddi, eloquent Arabs would not bother to launch battles against the Prophet (s) had they been able to bring a book similar to the Qur'an. As time went by, the notion of tahaddi came to have close connections with the miraculous nature of the Qur'an. Tahaddi is suggested as the distinguishing mark of the Qur'an from the work of genius people, since God might give someone the ability to do super-human actions without that person claiming the prophethood.
Nadr b. Harith, a tough enemy of the Prophet (s), was the first person who attempted to take up the Qur'anic challenge by narrating the stories of Rostam and Esfandiyar. According to some hadiths, the Qur'anic verse, Qur'an 8:31, is about Nadr b. Harith.
Musaylima al-Kadhdhab also made up offensive sentences to take up the Qur'anic challenge.
Aswad al-'Anasi also claimed to take up the challenge.
'Abd Allah b. Muqaffa' is also said to have attempted to challenge the Qur'an, but he withdrew it after a while and destroyed all he had written. According to Abu Bakr al-Baqilani and Ibn Qayyim, when Ibn Muqaffa' wanted to create something similar to the verse number 44 of Qur'an 11, he admitted that humans cannot take up the Qur'anic challenge.
There have also been attempts to take up the challenge in recent years and they all failed. For example, a Christian priest created two chapters similar to Qur'an 1 and Qur'an 108. Ayatollah Khu'i and Rashid Rida examined the attempt and revealed its failure.
The best-known attempt recently made to take up the Qur'anic challenge was the book, al-Furqan al-haqq, published by two American publishers with a great deal of propaganda. It was published in 366 pages and 77 chapters similar to the Qur'an, using its words and verses and mixing it with Jewish and Christian doctrines. It was published with the Qur'anic orthography.
For example, in a chapter of this book under, Thaluth, verse 18, it reads:
- The parable of those who reject the true Gospel is that their works are as ashes, on which the wind blows furiously on a tempestuous day: No power have they over what they have earned; that is the serious error.
It is obvious that the verse is a slight modification of the Qur'an 14:18.
Chapters of this fake book include "al-Injil" (Gospel), "al-Janna" (the Heaven), "al-Mahabba" (the love), and in some cases even the names of its chapters are the same as Qur'anic chapters, such as "al-Anbia'" (the prophets), "al-Fatiha", and "al-Munafiqun". Instead of "Bim Allah al-Rahman al-Rahim", the chapters begin with "Bism al-Ab al-Kalimat al-Ruh al-Ilah al-Wahid al-Awhad" (in the name of the Father, the Word, the Spirit, the Lord, the One, and the Only).
The book was examined and scrutinized by some Muslim scholars, such as Salih al-Khalidi in his book, al-Intisar li l-Qur'an.
- The material for this article was mainly taken from تحدی in Farsi WikiShia.