Can it be said that the Qur'an is a divine scripture simply on the ground of it being a work of great literary merit?

It is not possible to say that any book is divine simply because it is of a high literary standard. Even as it is not possible to recognize as prophets all those who change into serpent a stick by dropping it to the ground, so is it that there exists a fundamental difference between divine signs and human trickery.  the fact is that divine signs challenge all the  capabilities of man. Indeed, no amount of human trickery can seek to stand above it, no matter how meaningful they can be. Even as the serpent of Moses swallowed up all the snakes of the other magicians, so, too, will divine signs ever remain as a challenge to all, and every, trickery of man. That, for one thing, is a certainity.

The Qur'an does maintain a high literary standard and is capable of influencing the mind of man. Along with that, it puts forth an unparalleled challenge to mankind. This challenge is but to produce a writing that is similar to its own.

Against this challenge, however, all the other works of literature stand as helpless as the illusory snakes of the magicians before the serpent of Moses.

The Qur'an had first issued forth the challenge to bring a book like its own. The Qur'an said: 'Say: 'If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.'' (17:88)

All the Arab men of letters had bowed down before the challenge of the Qur'an to bring a book that was similar to it. Despite this, the Qur'an further challenged those who alleged that it was but forgery and witchcraft: 'or do they say that he has forged it? Then bring forth ten verses like thereunto. And call forth your partners besides Allah to help you thereof. If ye, indeed, speak the truth.' (10:18)

None amongst its contemporaries were able to meet the challenge of the Qur'an to bring forth ten verses like its own and to prove that it was man-made as was made out by the allegations against it. But the disbelievers never ended the propaganda that Muhammad (pbuh) had written the Qur'an. To this, the Qur'an further said: 'Or do they say, 'He forged it'? Say: 'Bring then a Sura like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, besides Allah, if it be ye speak the truth!'' (10:38)

It was not possible for any of the men of literature who lived in those times, to meet any one of those challenges. Many among them, in fact, tried, failed and withdrew. The Qur'an is to be a lasting sign for all mankind up to the Last Day. As such, it repeated once more that challenge: 'And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant then produce a Sura like thereunto; and call your witness or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah, if ye are truthful. But if ye cannot - and of a surety ye cannot- then fear the Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones, which is prepared for those who reject Faith.' (2:23,24)

The challenge made here is that excepting for God Himself, if all in the world were to gather together for the sole purpose of composing a work that would equal even the smallest chapter of the Qur'an, they would not succeed in their endeavour. The veterans of Arabic literature could not meet this challenge. That challenge remains very much open to the world of today also. Indeed, the challenge of the Qur'an continues to ever resound within the ears of humanity. Unlike the language of the other religious scriptures the language of the Qur'an is never a lifeless one. On the contrary, it has remained very much a language that is at the same time living, vibrant and spoken today. There are quite a large number of non Muslims who speak the Arabic language. There are also the Arabic speaking men of letters who are, in themselves, the hardest opponents of Islam. But none of them has been able to give a convincing reply to the challenge posed by the Qur'an. Nor will they be able to do so in  future either.

If the Qur'an was merely a human work of literature, it would not have been possible for it to throw open such a challenge.

How, indeed, will any sane person dare to proclaim that even if all of mankind were to join together for the purpose, they would never be able to bring forth a single chapter to compare with even the smallest of his own work?

Indeed, it is in this challenge that the superhuman nature of the Qur'an finds its most lasting and clearest expression. By implication then, had it not been for this challenge a superhuman status could never be attributed solely to the Qur'anic literature even as is the case with any other literary work.