there are any] besides Allah (wa’d‘u shuhadā’akum min dūn Allāh),” it has three aspects:
The First: They say: “Just because we are incapable [of producing its like] it does not prove that all mankind is incapable.” So it dumbfounds them with the words: “and call your witnesses [and helpers if there are any] besides Allah;” that is, your elders and leaders.
The Second: They declare: “If we dispute [the Qur’an], who would support us and defend us?” So it silences them saying: “Whatever the outlook, it has its adherents. Were you to dispute it, supporters would emerge to defend you.”
The Third: It is as though the Qur’an is saying: “The Messenger (Upon whom be peace) calls on Allah the Most High as witness, and Allah testifies to his truthfulness by placing the stamp of miraculousness on his cause. So if your gods and witnesses are any use to you at all, call on them!” In this way, [the Qur’an] pours scorn on them.
The positioning and relationship of “But if you cannot (Fa-in lam taf‘alū)” is clear. For it implies the following phrases: “So attempt it, but look! [You can’t!] And if you can’t, it’s clear you’re incapable of doing it!”
The positioning of “and of a surety you cannot (wa lan taf‘alū):” it is as if when it says “and of a surety you cannot,” one of them says in reply: “Just because we haven’t been able to do it, it doesn’t mean mankind will be incapable of doing it in the future.” So it replies: “of a surety you cannot (lit. will not).” This signifies its miraculousness in three respects:
The First: Its foretelling the future, and as it predicted so it was. As you know, millions of Arabic books have attempted to imitate the style of revelation, as well as numerous obdurate [deniers], yet none of them has been successful, as you will see if you scrutinize them. It is as though it is the single one of its kind. So it is either inferior to all of them, and this is unanimously agreed to be impossible, or it is superior.
The Second Respect: Its silencing and snubbing them, and censuring them for not doing it, and provoking them, while [the Messenger] was in that precarious situation [furthering] his great cause. This is a sure sign that he was reliable, trustworthy, and confident in his message.
The Third Respect: It is as though the Qur’an is saying: “You’re the leaders in eloquent speech and the ones most needy [to produce the like of the Qur’an], yet you haven’t been able to, so no one else will!” Moreover, it infers that just as the past could not produce anything similar to Islam, the result of the Qur’an, so will the future will incapable of producing anything similar.