When the Prophet Muhammad claimed that the Qur'an was a divine book revealed to him by God for the guidance of man, there were many who did not believe him. The scriptures to them were a human rather than a divine composition. The Qur'an then gave a challenge to these skeptics, asking them to produce "a scripture similar to it," if what they said were true. (52:34).
It declared, moreover, in no uncertain terms that, even if all the human beings and the jinns made collective and concerted efforts to produce a book like the Qur'an, they would all fail miserably in their attempt. (17:88).
The Qur'an, being an eternal book, poses a perennial challenge, addressed to every human being under the sun until Doomsday.
Now the question arises as to the characteristics this sacred book possesses which render it inimitable. Several aspects of its uniqueness are mentioned in the Qur'an, one of which is its consistency:
"Do they not ponder over the Qur'an? If it had not come from God, they would have found in it many contradictions (ikhtilaf)" (4:82).
(Professor Arberry has translated the Arabic word ikhtilaf as 'inconsistency'. Other renderings of the word include contradiction, disparity and difference.)
Total consistency is an extremely rare quality, one which is an exclusive attribute of God. It is, therefore, beyond any human being to compose a work in which there are no disparities. For a work to be quite flawless, the composer has to have a command of such knowledge as encompasses the past and the future, and extends also to all objects of creation. There must be no shadow of doubt in his perception of the essential nature of things. Furthermore, his knowledge must be based on direct acquaintance, not on information indirectly received from others. And there is another unique quality he must possess: he must be able to see things, not in a prejudiced light, but as they actually are.
God and God alone can possess all these extraordinary qualities. For this reason, only His Word will remain perennially free from all inconsistency. The work of man, on the other hand, is always marred by imperfection, for man himself is imperfect; it does not lie within his power to compose a work free of contradiction.
Let us understand how the Quran is the book of God by going through the following sections: