There is much evidence to support the claim that the Qur’an did not come from the Prophet’s own words, but rather from divine revelation. There are various scientific, historical, and logical arguments to support this claim.
The Qur’an mentions a number of scientific observations that, while not understood during the time of the Prophet (s), are known to be verified facts today. This suggests that the Prophet (s) could not have come up with them himself. One example is when the Qur’an describes astrophysical phenomena, such as that the heavens and Earth were joined together before being separated (21:30), and that planets and/or stars initially existed in the form of a smoky substance (41:11). These observations were only recognized more recently when scientists discovered that all physical matter began as a singularity (the “Big Bang”), and that stars were formed from bits of gas and dust that clumped together densely. The discovery of these phenomena was not obvious, and required extensive experimentation to prove. Another scientific anecdote in the Qur’an that is described in detail is the formation of an embryo. The Qur’an very visually describes how an embryo “clings” to the womb and how it develops bone upon flesh (23:14, 96:2, 22:5), which are details that were not well-understood until later in the nineteenth century (Bhanji, 2014).
The Qur’an also contains a number of verses with non-trivial predictions, many of which ended up coming true. None of the preictions have been false either, though some are still yet to come to fruition. One example was the prediction of the comeback of Rome against Persia. In 615 AD, the Persians attacked the Roman empire and had an important victory, but a chapter in the Qur’an was revealed addressing this victory with the prediction that the Romans would actually triumph over the Persians in a few years. In less than 10 years, this prophecy was fulfilled (Bhanji, 2014). Another example was the prediction in Surah Lahab (#111) of the Qur’an, that one of the Prophet’s uncles, Abu Lahab, would continue to reject Islam until the day of his death. Interestingly, all it would take to falsify the Qur’an was for Abu Lahab to accept Islam, yet he did not do so. All historians agree that he died as an obstinate disbeliever (Bhanji, 2014). The fact that there are predictions in the Qur’an that have not been falsified is another piece of evidence supporting the claim of Qur’anic divinity.
The Prophet also could not control when he would receive a revelation. In fact, there are multiple scenarios where people expected a revelation from the Prophet, and the Prophet could not produce it for them even though it made him look very discredited that he was unable to do so. In the example of the revelation of Surah Kahf (#18), the Prophet was asked by a group of Jewish rabbis to answer three difficult questions, and the Prophet promised that he would provide answers the following day. However, multiple days went by without any revelation in response, casting doubt on the Prophet’s authenticity amongst the people. He finally received the revelation of Surah Kahf, which answered the rabbis’ questions, fifteen days later (Mainiyo, 2015). A similar account, surrounding the revelation of Surah Duha (#93), tells us that there were segments of time where the Prophet received no revelation at all, causing people to mock and jeer at his prophethood claims (Al-Islam.org, 2020). After a period of time, Surah Duha was revealed as a comfort to the Prophet, assuring him that God had not forsaken him by leaving him in silence (93:3-8). This proves that the Prophet (s) did not make up verses whenever he wanted to.
The Prophet was known not to have read or written anything before the Quran. Yet the Qur’an contains detailed historical records, which suggest that the writer must have been well-read. It is reported that once, two Jewish scholars approached the Prophet and asked him to answer the question of how the family of Yaqub ended up in Egypt from Syria, as a test of his prophetic knowledge. In response, the chapter of ‘Yusuf’ was revealed, which contained a detailed account of Prophet Yusuf’s life and how his family migrated.
The eloquence of the Qur’an stands out starkly from all other literature, spoken or written, during the time of the Prophet. The Qur’an is also known for its deeply eloquent poetry, which could not be replicated by even the best of poets. During the Prophet’s time, poetry was prominent amongst the Arabs and played a significant role in their lives. There are numerous examples of Arab poets who converted to Islam just based on hearing the beauty of the Qur’an’s recitation (Lings, 2006). The Qur’an itself also argues that it was not conceived by any human, when it challenges:
“Or do they say [about the Prophet], “He invented it?” Say, “Then bring forth a surah like it and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah, if you should be truthful” (10:38).
This was an open challenge that remains open to this day. The Qur’an is often referred to as untranslatable – the levels of meaning cannot be rendered into another language, even Persian or other Islamic languages that were influenced by Qur’anic Arabic. This is expressed by translators of the Qur’an, such as A.J. Arberry, who said:
“The rhetoric and rhythm of the Arabic of the Koran are so characteristic, so powerful, so highly emotive, that any version whatsoever is bound in the nature of things be but a poor copy of the glittering splendour of the original” (Nasr et al., 2015, xxiii).
If despite all these proofs, if someone still believes the Prophet (s) made up the verses then an important question to ask is why would he do that? What motivated him to fabricate verses and attribute them to a higher Being? If it was for wealth and power, the Quraysh of Makka offered him both and he rejected them. On the contrary he and his followers suffered poverty and hardship. If it was for leadership, the Prophet (s) remained a simple man content with the basic necessities till the end of his life. It was only after his death that Islam spread far and wide.
The scientific, historical, and logical arguments presented support that the Prophet could not have written the Qur’an by himself, nor with the help of anyone else, during his time.
Al-Islam.org. (2020). The Contents of Surah Duha. Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. https://www.al-islam.org/enlightening-commentary-light-holy-Qur’an-vol-20/surah-duha-chapter-93
Bhanji, M. (2014). Authenticity of the Qur’an. Tabligh Centre of KSI Jamat. https://www.al-islam.org/authenticity-Qur’an-shaykh-muslim-bhanji
Lings, M. (2006). Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. Inner Traditions.
Mainiyo, A. S. (2015, February 7). Relevance of Surah Al-Kahf in the Search of Knowledge. Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Science, 3(1), 42-49. http://www.questjournals.org/jrhss/papers/vol3-issue1/F314249.pdf
Nasr, S. H., Dagli, C. K., Dakake, M. M., Lumbard, J. E. B., & Rustom, M. (2015). The Study Qur’an: A New Translation and Commentary. Harper One.
The Qur’an is “Hakeem” (Surah Yasin) – Nouman Ali Khan – Part 1. YouTube, uploaded by Qur’an Weekly, 19 June 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-vDB94Axwg