Objection: “Why do Muslims take Arabic to be the benchmark against which all eloquence is to be judged?”

Some people ask that why do Muslims take Arabic to be the benchmark against which all eloquence is to be judged? They say that if something would be composed in another language with full eloquence and every high rhetorical characteristic, should we not consider it as a true parallel to the Qur’an?

Answered by Sharif Randhawa (Researcher at Bayyinah Institute, owner of Qur’anic Musings blog), with slight modifications

I think I answered this sufficiently already in the previous response.  If it is possible to judge the Qur’an’s merit by the works of another language, culture, and time, then by all means this method can be used.  However, whether this is the case is doubtful.  People can go ahead and try, but I think the practical obstacles to this will become evident.

At the very least, I think it is clear that the object of comparison must be an oral composition (meant to be read and enjoyed aloud) rather than a written one, because the Qur’an clearly is primarily an oral work intended to be appreciated at least partly in terms of sound, rhyme, rhythm, and assonance, whereas these qualities do not play a large role in written literature (e.g. novels, plays, prose narratives, essays).

However the Qur’an also uses a lot of grammatical and literary techniques that are exclusive to classical Arabic, so it seems very unclear how its usage of these techniques could be compared to something outside of Arabic.

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