This was a dangerous thing to attempt to do. Nadhir ibn Haritha, who had travelled in Persia, accepted the challenge to produce anything as good and either versified, or put into rhyme, the tales of the Persian Kings, which Firdausi, some four hundred years later, rendered immortal. These tales he read out at meetings, similar to those in which Muhammad published the Qur'an. Then in a late Meccan Sura this revelation came :—

A man there is who buyeth an idle tale, that in his lack of knowledge he may mislead others from the way of God and turn it to scorn. For such is prepared a shameful punishment. Sura Luqman (xxxi) 5.

Nadhir was taken prisoner at the battle of Badr. Ransom was refused and he was put to death.1

Muhammadans now assert that this challenge has never been taken up and that no Arab then nor since has produced anything equal to it; but the claim is overstated, for the challenge was not to produce something equal to the Qur'an in rhetoric or poetry, but with regard to the subject matter, the unity of God, future retribution, and so on.2 Now, from the nature of the case the Quraish could not do this. They could not produce a book, showing as the Qur'an did the unity of God, for as pagans they did not believe in such a dogma. Had

1 Baidawi, vol. ii, p. 112. Margoliouth, Mohammed, pp. 135, 266.
2 Maulavi Muhammad 'Ali says that its unequalled superiority consists in the effect it produced and that no other book has done, or could do the like, that every word of it gives expression to the Divine majesty and glory in a manner which is not approached by any other sacred book (Holy Qur'an, p. 19). This Qadiani commentator is so given to exaggerated statements, that they are of no critical value.

they tried to produce a book on these lines it would only have been a copy of his work, and copies fall short of the original; in fact, Muhammad had already occupied the ground. As no one could reproduce the individuality of Muhammad, stamped upon his book, he could safely challenge any one to produce its like. If the superiority claimed is in the form and expression, then Baron de Slane's remark seems to the point. He says that, if we now examine the Qur'an by the rules of rhetoric and criticism accepted in Muslim Colleges, no doubt the Qur'an is a perfect model, for the principles of rhetoric are drawn from it. Palmer says: ' That the best of Arab writers has never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Qur'an itself is not surprising. They have agreed beforehand that it is unapproachable, and they have adopted its style as the perfect standard: any deviation from it therefore must of necessity be a defect.1 The acknowledged claims of the Qur'an to be the direct utterance of the divinity have made it impossible for any Muslim to criticize the work, and it became, on the contrary, the standard by which other literary compositions had to be judged. Grammarians, lexicographers, and rhetoricians started with the presumption that the Qur'an could not be wrong, and other works, therefore, only approached

1 'That the adversaries should produce any sample whatever of poetry or rhetoric equal to the Qur'an is not at all what the Prophet demands. In that case he would have been put to shame, even in the eyes of many of his own followers, by the first poem that came to hand. Nevertheless it is on a false interpretation of the challenge that the dogma of the incomparable excellence of the style and diction of the Qur'an is based.' Nöldeke, Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. xxi, p. 601.