[Ex-Christian Proves Quran - Part 2]
MESSAGE OF THE PROPHETS
Indeed the message of all the prophets is one and the same:
"Verily, We have sent to every nation a messenger saying: 'Worship Allah and avoid false objects of worship'".[Noble Quran 16:36]
and indeed this is the very purpose for which Allah created mankind:
"I did not create the jinn and mankind except for My worship". [Noble Quran 51:56]
So "as-shirk" (i.e. ascribing partners to Allah) is in contradiction to that reason for which Allah has created us, and the purpose for which we exist, which is to choose to single out Allah for worship, avoiding all false deities, and to worship Him completely, with sacrifice, supplication, submission, subjugation, obedience and compliance, and with love, fear, hope, trust and reliance upon Him, seeking only His pleasure and not the admiration of His creatures, and to do all of that according to that which was revealed to His last and final Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him), and not according to whims and desires and mere conjecture.
Furthermore, and of immediate relevance to the discussion, are those qualities, unique to Allah, that single Him out, such as "al-Hakim", the Judge; "al-Hakim", the Wise; "al-'Alim", the All Knowing and "as-Shariy", the Legislator. Not only is Allah the Creator and Controller and Sustainer, but also the sole possessor of the wisdom and knowledge to legislate for mankind and to determine what is good and what is evil, what is right and what is wrong, what is lawful and what is prohibited, and thus what laws we should judge by, what social, economic and political system we should utilize...
"Indeed, the ruling is Allah's" [Noble Quran 12:40]
Allah admonished the Jews and Christians, and called them disbelievers, for
"... taking their priests and rabbis as lords besides Allah" [Noble Quran 9:31]
The Prophet (peace be upon him) went on to explain that the priest and rabbis "made lawful that which Allah had made unlawful, and made unlawful that which Allah had made lawful and the people accepted it...So that was their (i.e. the people's) worship of them." Thus to ascribe legislative power to people is a clear and obvious form of disbelief, and "shirk", or setting up rivals to Allah, and is the unforgivable sin, and a contradiction of the purpose of creation. If Allah blamed the people from the Jews and Christians for accepting from those among them who were learned in the Scripture and Divine legislation changes and alterations, and the making the forbidden allowed and visa versa, as we see them doing until this day, then how about those who accept such actions from every Tom, Dick and Harry, who have no scripture, and no wisdom and only pure speculation, whims and desires, as is the case of Democracy?!?
So the The Economist magazine's survey admits that Islam makes no distinction between outward and inner, private and public life, yet goes on to suggest Muslims should abandon this, and adopt the ways of the worst error: disobedience to and rebellion against Allah, and commit the unforgivable sin of ascribing partners to Him. Truly Allah speaks the truth when He says:
"Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion" [Noble Quran 2:120]
and we seek refuge with Allah from that, for surely we would be of the losers.
To Clash or Not To Clash?
Will there be a confrontation between Islam and the West? Mr. Huntington's clash of civilizations claims "yes", but the survey is "not convinced". It is true that the world of Islam and the West have more in common with each other than they do with the Confucian and Hindu ones, but in reality both Mr. Huntington's and Mr. Beedham's comparisons are unhelpful in understanding the reality of the matter. What Mr. Beedham's admits are important differences (Westerners not believing that God dictated the Quran and Muslim's not believing the Jesus is the son of God) are in fact irreconcilable differences, at least from the Muslim stand point...
"And they say the Compassionate (i.e. Allah) has taken to Himself a son. Certainly you utter a disastrous thing, whereby the heavens are almost torn asunder, and the earth split open and the mountains crumbles to ruin, that you ascribe to the Compassionate a son! When it is not befitting the majesty of the Compassionate that He should choose a son. There is none in the heavens or the earth but comes to the Compassionate as a slave" [Noble Quran 19:88-93]
Islam does not regard Christians who claim that Jesus is God, or the Son of God, as "monotheists" any more than Hindus who claim that Krishna is a "manifestation of God" or Buddhists who claim that Buddha is God. All of this is disbelief and polytheism. It is this that is the basis of conflict. It is a conflict not only sanctioned, but ordered in the Quran:
"Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor the last day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth among the people of the Book , until they pay the jizya (i.e. protection tax) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued" [Noble Quran 9:29]
This is not a confrontation of civilizations, nor is it a clash of cultures. Islam does not oppose the West, or anyone else, because of revenge over past hostilities, out of a desire to restore injured pride or because of the desire to amass their wealth and lands. The fight is for one purpose only and that is to establish the religion of Islam in its totality, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) explained when a man came to him and asked: "One of us fights for booty, another for his tribe and another to be known as brave, which one is fighting jihad?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: "None of them. Only the one who fights to make Allah's Word the highest is fighting jihad."
It is clear to any believer acquainted with Allah's Book (i.e. the Quran) and His Prophet's Sunnah that jihad (i.e. struggling to the utmost of ones ability) is an intrinsic part of faith, and a duty among the duties in Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, as reported by Tariq bin Shihab: "He who amongst you sees something evil should change it with his hand; and if he is unable he should change it with his tongue; and if he is unable to do that he should at least hate it in his heart, and that is the weakest form of faith" (Reported in Sahih Muslim, No. 79).
Jihad has three characteristics. The first form is jihad of the heart, or jihad of the self. This is the internal struggle to acquire the correct creed, and to remove from one's self all doubts and misconceptions concerning this creed, and also the commands and prohibitions enjoined on the believer. It further more encompasses the purifying of the soul from base desires and acquiring noble qualities. The second level is the jihad of the tongue. This is the struggle against evil, and wrong beliefs and actions through preaching and writing books and the like. This form of jihad is characterized by its use against the deviants from among the Muslims, but also extends to the unbelievers.
The final form of jihad is that of the hand, or sword, where one expends life and property. It is characterized by its use against unbelievers, but can also be used against deviant groups under the authority of the Muslim ruler. This jihad of the hand, often termed "Holy War", is further compartmentalized into three stages. The first is that of it being forbidden, as it was in the early days of Muhammad's prophethood. If the Muslims are weak, and fighting is liable to cause only harm and no benefit, then they should desist. Such is the case of those dwelling in non-Muslim lands. The second stage is that of self-defense, or restricting the fight to
"those who fight you" [Noble Quran 2:190]
and releasing the lands of the Muslims from the control of their enemies. This is the condition of the Muslims today. The final stage is that of fighting in order to open the path for establishing Allah's rule in the lands of the unbelievers, as was done by the Prophet's companions and the Muslim rulers after them.
"And why should you not fight in the cause of Allah when there are weak and oppressed, old men, women and children whose cry is 'Oh Lord save us from those who oppress, and send to one who will aid and send to us one who will help!'" [Noble Quran 4:75]
Thus one the Prophet's companions, Rab'ia ibn Amer, went to meet Rostrum, the famous Persian general, at his request and the general offered camels, and women and asked them to return to the desert. Rab'ia refused, and Rostrum asked him why then were they fighting. Rab'ia replied: "We have come to take mankind from the darkness to the light and from the worship of the false gods to the worship of Allah, from the narrowness of this world the wide expanse of this world and the next, and from the injustices of man made religions to the justice of Islam."
So this Jihad is the peak of the matter and fulfilling it is part of fulfilling the covenant with Allah, and abandoning it is the cause of humiliation and defeat for the Muslims. As Allah said:
"If you march not forth, He will punish you with a painful torment and will replace you by another people and you cannot harm Him at all, and Allah is able to do all things" [Noble Quran 9:39]
..And the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him):
"When you deal in "al-ainiya" (i.e. become complacent and satisfied with a domestic life) and hang on to the cows tails, and abandon jihad, then Allah will permit your humiliation at the hands of your enemies and will not lift it from you until you return to your religion."
So today we find Muslims leading a life as if they had no prophet, nor belief in any Divine Message or Divine Revelation, nor expectation of any reckoning, nor is fear of the hereafter. They resemble the pre-Islamic nations, against whom they used to fight in the past.
So they have turned on their heels as apostates from Islam and have imitated the ignorant nations in their civilization, in their social affairs, in their political systems, in their character and in the pleasures of their lives.
So Allah hated them and forsook them, as He promised He would. He had warned them of this clearly in His Book, and on the tongue of His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him): "Soon the nations will gather to take from you the same way you invite others to share from a feast!" A person asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): "Is that because we are small in our numbers?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) answered: "No! You will be many, like the foam on the sea, but you will be rubbish, like the rubbish carried down by the flood water. And certainly Allah will remove from the breasts of your enemies the fear of you and into your breasts He will cast enervation (Ar. 'wahn')."
A person asked: "What is enervation (Ar. 'wahn')?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied: "It is love of life and fear of death."
This has come true exactly, as the Prophet (peace be upon him) predicted, and if there is a "Revival of Islam", then that is because anyone with ears and eyes can see how the Muslims are humiliated - their lands a feast for their enemies, ruled by laws and ways nothing to do with that which Allah has revealed. The solution to these problems has been given by the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself one thousand four hundred years ago: "Return to your religion", enjoin what Allah has enjoined and forbid what He has forbidden, prefer the next life to this, and for the Muslims to once again struggle with their lives and properties to bring themselves and others out of the oppression of man made ways of life to the justice of that which has been revealed by the All-knowing Creator!
So the matter of conflict between Islam and the West is not at all as the survey suggests, i.e. factors such as geography, past enmities, culture clash and so on; nor is the Islamic Revival some search for identity, coupled with some sort of inferiority complex. To the believer the conflict is one of truth against falsehood, justice against oppression, the way to Paradise against the way to Hellfire, the perfection of Allah's revealed way against the misguidance of human ignorance. Furthermore, all of this should make it clear that there is indeed an "insuperable reason why Muslims and Westerners cannot live peaceably with each other" (p.5 c. 2). Mr. Beedham's survey, for all its optimism, has made an oft-repeated mistake. He has judged the Muslims by his own standards, believing they want, as do the West, to reach some sort of compromise.
The truth is that Islam teaches its followers to seek death on the battle field, that dying whilst fighting jihad is one of the surest ways to paradise and Allah's good pleasure. It is as Khalid bin Walid, whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) called the 'Sword of Allah' and hero of every good Muslim child, said in response to a Roman letter inviting him to surrender: "We have with us people who love death as you love wine." It was Ronald Reagan who quite rightly pointed out that: "How do you expect to defeat a people who believe that when you kill them they go to a paradise filled with beautiful virgins and rivers of wine?" Whether the believer sees the result in his or her life time is irrelevant, for their duty is to carry on the jihad, and so be saved from Allah's wrath in this life and the next.
The conflict will be there as long as there are those who stubbornly resist submission to their Lord and Creator. If all of this seems intransigent and fundamentalist that's because IT IS. With Islam you are dealing with absolutes. This conflict, however, may not necessarily be a violent one, in the sense of war, causing loss of life, limb and property. Islam does not necessarily demand a change through violence if the end can be effectively achieved through other means. So perhaps there is cause for the surveys optimism, but the solution can only lie in a very different direction from what it suggests! Allah has promised in His Book that if the Muslims fail to keep their covenant, and fight against the foolish disbelief, then He will destroy them and
"replace them with a people who will love Him, and He will love them, and they will be hard against the forces of disbelief and kind to the believers, and unafraid of those who find fault" [Noble Quran 5:54]
And Allah speaks the truth, and His promise comes true, and this has proven so in the past, as when the Muslims left their religion, fought amongst each other, and reveled in the delights of worldly life... then the calamity of the Tartars fell upon them, destroying utterly the Muslim lands, and its capital Baghdad. Yet from these same conquerors, Allah made them the defenders and upholders of Islam, and from them to the Turks, who in their turn lapsed, and so Allah destroyed them at the hands of the Europeans. Thus is situation in which Muslims find themselves today. It is quite possible that history will repeat itself, and that Islam will be given its strength again through those who had formally tried to destroy it.
The whole issue of whether the West will accept Islam or not has been a topic of debate amongst Muslim scholars and thinkers. It seems unlikely that there will be any sort of military conquest of the Western world, at least in the foreseeable future, but conquest is not always through arms. Indonesia and Malaysia never saw invading Muslims armies. Islam "conquered" these lands with a different weapon altogether . The weapon was Islam itself.
The real threat from the growth of "fundamentalism" to those in the Western, and other, parts of the world who would like to see Islam far removed from influencing the way they run their countries, is not of invading hoards of Muslim militants, but rather the effect of a practical example of Islam in operation in the form of a true Islamic state. Also the probability of these same "fundamentalist" states utilizing their resources to inform the world of the reality of what Islam is, as opposed to the lies and distortions it has been fed until now! How likely, then, is it for this true Islamic state to materialize, and how do people following a religion one thousand four hundred years old possibly expect it to work in the twentieth century?
The Strange Case of the Fundamentalists
The Muslim world is at present a patchwork of competing nation sates, ruled by political, social and judicial systems that can by no means be termed "Islamic". Indeed in many of these countries there are laws in direct opposition to what has been revealed by Allah to His Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him). It seems the only Islamic quality about some of these nations is that they happen to have Muslims in them.
A large portion of the Muslim World has, for the last two hundred years, been under the occupation, or "protectorate", of one or another of the European powers, who gradually dispensed with the Shari'ah (Islamic Law) and supplemented it with various Western systems. After gaining so called "independence" these alien political and judicial systems remained, or were replaced by other Western influenced hybrids.
The "Nationalism" of Attaturk in Turkey, the "Ba'athism" of Iraq and Syria, the "Pan-Arab Nationalistic Socialism" of Egypt's Jamal Abdel-Nasr, and its various offshoots such as Qaddafi's "Islamic Socialism". All of these movements freely used "Islamic" slogans when, and if, it suited their aims. The simple multitudes were caught up in the fervor of the new found "freedom", and in order to maintain it they were told they must "modernize". To the so-called "intellectual elite" this meant abandoning everything from the past, and taking on board everything that was new.
Thus the "Modernist" movement arose, lead by the likes of Muhammad Abdu, that explained away every miracle of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and even many of the basic acts of worship. For the first time riba (dealing usury/interest) was legalized and the adoption of Western dress and lifestyles was encouraged. They tried to make all of this acceptable by bypassing the traditional methods of Islamic scholarship for personal itjihad (i.e. juristic reasoning) and interpretation of the texts.
For others, Islam itself was merely an enemy to progress, especially in the Soviet Union where veils were burnt, mosques demolished and scholars exiled to Siberia - or executed. Street walls were painted with the words: "There is no God and Lenin is His Prophet". In many places throughout the Muslim World mosques, became empty, and women walked in mini-skirts on the street. Then things started to change. In the face of Western and Communist power, medicine and technological wizardry, of men on the moon and aircraft that could circle the globe in days, of weapons of mass destruction that combined were able to destroy the world seventeen times over, the computer chip and nations that seemed to have reached unrivaled material prosperity and personal freedom, there was a gradual, yet unavoidably noticeable return to Islam. Not, mind you, only by the uneducated, impoverished peasants, but the educated, prosperous, middle classes.
Furthermore, this was not merely a return to the mosque five times a day, and the veil for the woman, but a call for Islam in its TOTALITY - to be re-implemented once again. For indeed the reality that Islam makes no distinction between the private and public, between the religious and political, had been apparent to Muslim scholars long before the The Economist's survey deemed to point it out. Indeed it was obvious that the situation within the Muslim countries, with their hybrid socio-judicial-political systems, was in contradiction to the very essence of Islam itself!
So various movements started to seek to bring the Muslims back to the correct state of affairs. This of course met with some considerable opposition from the various governments supporting such systems. This opposition was, and still is, often brutal in the extreme. These governments received either direct, or tacit approval from their Western and Communist overseers, who in reality were more aware of the potential threat of such a Muslim revival to the status quo, and their own virtual world economic and political domination which they had striven so hard to achieve. The last thing they wanted to see were the Muslims back on their feet. Yet the revival continues...
Perhaps the reason why the rise in Islamic fundamentalism has been so phenomenal is because the point the fundamentalists are making is so, well, FUNDAMENTAL! After all, once a Muslim has become aware that believing in the validity of laws and ways other than those ordained by Allah is to commit the unforgivable sin of "shirk", then, as the Quran states:
"It is not for a believing man or woman, once Allah and His Messenger have decided on a matter to have any choice therein" [Noble Quran 33:36]
"and their response is none else than we hear and we obey" [Noble Quran 24:51]
Indeed, that is exactly what makes a Muslim what he or she is: someone who submits him or herself to Will of Almighty God. Of course the incompetence, corruption and brutality of the governments, the inevitable failure of their ideologies, and their frequent national and international humiliation has made the task of the fundamentalist easier. Yet it is naive to presume that this alone has given impetus to the rise in fundamentalism. Surely, if anything, the poor and desperate condition of the Muslim masses should drive them more earnestly to "modernization", "Westernization" and "Democracy", of which their countries have hardly been shinning examples! Indeed, even the most common peasant sees daily a barrage of images on the television screen (that has become as essential as a bed in even the most humble households) portraying the materialistic success of the Western World!
The true reasons for this persistent rise in Islamic awareness are not at all those to which Western analysts constantly refer. The reason for their inability to understand this phenomenon is part due to their submergence in the purely material. Science and the "Theory of Evolution" has given them, so they believe, proof that man is at most no more that an advanced animal, a progressive monkey, and man's basic needs are little different, fundamentally, to those of our supposed ancestors: food, drink, sleep, safety from predators and sex. Satisfy these, and man should be content.
The Muslim World still has, by and large, kept more in touch with the reality of the human condition: that happiness is not at all merely a material thing, but in fact something more profound, and that understanding this is as important, perhaps more important, to the well being of the human condition, than mere material gratification. The evil results of this materialistic attitude are all too apparent in the rotting social conditions of Western society. Its effects have also become apparent in the Muslim lands themselves.
The second reason that the Islamic revival has proved so popular is that it is obvious to many of the Muslims, especially the more literate and educated, that the West itself does not really believe in "democracy", or indeed any of those ideals, such as "Freedom of Speech", "Human Rights" and so on, which it claims to cherish so dearly - except when it suits their self-interest. Both of these points of view are not confined to the Muslim fundamentalists. Indeed a growing number of Westerners are beginning to voice similar sentiments.
In fact, past defeats, the need to prove oneself, incompetent and corrupt governments is hardly an explanation for the phenomenal rise of Islam among Westerners. Recent estimates have, on average, put the numbers at three converts to Islam every day in England alone. The rise is even higher in the U.S., and all this in spite of the incessant distortions and fabrications against Islam by politicians and the media. Indeed in those very countries were Islam is growing most visibly (Egypt and Algeria), the government, radio, T.V. and press are all firmly controlled by the Secularists.
In spite of all of this, millions and millions are dying (sometimes literally) to go back to a book fourteen hundred years old. How can this be? Surely "science" and "reason" has dealt a death blow to the Quran and Islam, the same way it has the Bible and Christianity? It seems not, and there are good reasons why!
This brings us on to the third reason, and in fact the most important of all, why there is a phenomenal growth in fundamentalism, and that is Islam itself. As the The Economist article said: "... there is good reason why the culture of the Muslim world is regarded by many people as the West's only real ideological competitor at the end of the twentieth century. Unlike the Confucians-and even more unlike Latin Americans, Slavs and Japanese - Islam claims to be based upon a transcendental certainty. The certainty is the Word of God, revealed syllable by syllable to Muhammad"... "As a means of binding a civilization together, there is no substitute for such a certainty. More-over, and this is not happening anywhere else - new recruits are flocking to join this claim to certainty" (p. 4, c. 2).
Why is it then that the survey does not, before its call for Muslims to practically abandon their religion and commit the unforgivable sin of "Shirk" - by replacing the laws of Allah with the laws of men - simply illustrate the Quran is not the Word of God, or at least some good parts of it, so that a few adjustments hear and there would only be in tune with what has happened before. After all, this has already been thoroughly accomplished with the Bible. Recently some of world's top Biblical scholars delegated a good seventy percent of the words of Jesus as never having been said by him, and priests with impunity state that sections of the Bible, such as God's destruction of homosexuals in Sodom and Gomorrah, are not from God. Indeed science and modern Biblical scholarship has cast so much doubt upon the authenticity of the Biblical text as a whole that a derogatory term was coined for those who persisted in the untenable position that it was the "Word of God": Fundamentalists! Indeed the Christian fundamentalists claim about the Bible what the Muslims claim concerning the Quran.
Why could the Christian claim not prove an equally powerful force, and a similar ideological competitor? The reason is that merely making a claim is no basis for anything. The claim needs to be proven, and the weight of evidence gives the claim force. It is very hard for the Christian to maintain the claim that the Bible is the Word of God, because the evidence belies it. The illusion of "Gospel" truth was maintained in the Middle Ages because it was only available to very few, and they were priests! Others were forbidden by Papal Decree from reading it, sometimes on pain of death. With the spread of literacy and the dawn of the "Age of Enlightenment", the Bible reached the hands of the people. Its internal contradictions and scientific discrepancies became apparent and thus it gradually became discredited.
The Modern World's claim to certainty is "science" which, it claims, has been the cause for advancement in medicine and technology. Its results are proof of its worth, and the results have been achieved under the wing of "democracy". Thus the two are intertwined. One of the other arguments in favor of "democracy" is the lack of major conflict between those democratic nations for the past fifty years, and another is the material prosperity it seems to have provided. Indeed, it was in the The Economist where I recall reading that "the Western nations have, more than any other civilization, succeeded in satisfying the material needs of man". All powerful arguments.
Thus there is a claim, and evidence provided to support it. ( We shall, insha'Allah, examine the validity of these claims later.) However things do not stop there. From the claim and subsequent supporting evidence, the ideology should then be implemented, otherwise the author of the survey would not be so audacious as to suggest that anyone (let alone the World of Islam) should adopt his ideas, merely because of his say so! He believes the weight of evidence in support of the "Modern Way of Life" is sufficient to give his suggestions force.
Part of what makes "democracy" what it is, is the spirit of compromise and pragmatics: quite rational in the light of human ignorance and fallibility. The problem is that the The Economist survey somehow expects Islam to operate within a similar frame work. Islam, however, is built upon the certainty that it is revealed by Almighty God. This has consequences, the most important being that Allah is not ignorant and fallible like the human being, rather He is All-Knowing and completely perfect, and therefore when it comes to His Word there can be no question of compromise, nor a philosophy of pragmatism except were specifically allowed.
The survey tries to get round this obstacle by putting it all down to a matter of interpretation, but in fact Allah had already pre-empted this supposed loop hole when He revealed Islam fourteen hundred years previously by appointing someone to explain the verses of the Book:
"We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) the Reminder (i.e. the Quran) and we have made you the one to explain it". [Noble Quran 16:44]
So the explanation of the Quranic text is given exclusively to Muhammad (peace be upon him) and things were not left there. The Quran also explains: "Whoever contends with the Messenger and chooses a path other than the path of the believers, then Allah will leave them in the path they have chosen and land them in Hell what an evil refuge!" What is this path of the believers? The Prophet (peace be upon him) explained: "That to which I and my companions are upon".
The Prophet (peace be upon him) furthermore told the Muslims to cling to his way and the way of the rightly-guided successors. These successors have transmitted the knowledge and the way from generation-to-generation until this day, just as the Prophet (peace be upon him) said they would: "There will always be a group among this Ummah (nation of believers), firm upon the truth, unharmed in their faith by those that oppose them". It is exactly this type of comprehensiveness that makes Islam so frustrating to its critics and so convincing to its adherents, and this comprehensiveness extends through all the various aspects of Islam and its disciplines. The claim of Islam to be based on the certainty that it is from the All-Knowing Creator is no mere claim, but it is rather a claim backed by powerful evidence. Powerful enough for its adherents to prefer it over that offered by the Modern Word!
No Doubt About It!
So what is this evidence that Islam claims to present that is so convincing? The first issue is authenticity. Purity of text is quite vital to the whole spirit of "fund". This is because once a text has shown to have been corrupted and altered in order to make it comply with doctrinal or political expediencies, and if there is no reliable means to distinguish the corrupt from the pure, then there is not one passage of that text that cannot be called into question. This is not so easy with a pure and preserved text. This is well understood by the Christian fundamentalists. If it is not the "Word of God", then what real value does it posses as guidance, except as a collection of wisdom?
Few serious scholars, even from Islam's opponents, have tried to dispute the Quran's historical authenticity. Indeed it would be a pointless exercise, since anyone who cares to take a trip to Tashkent (in the former Soviet Union) will find there a complete copy of the Quran written by one of the Prophet's scribes, Zayed ibn Thabit, upon the order of the first Caliph Abu Bakr within two years of the Prophet's death. The manuscript in Tashkent is a copy of that first manuscript, also written by the hand of the same Zayed, but some twelve years later under the order of 'Uthman bin Affan, the third Caliph, with the consensus of over fifty companions of the Prophet who also had written portions of the Quran, and also others who had memorized it in toto. This "Uthmanic" Quran, as it later came to known, was accepted without exception by the surviving companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as being one and the same that was revealed by Allah to his Final Messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him).
One can take any copy of any Quran, from any mosque anywhere in the word and compare it with the mushaf of Zayed, and find it exactly the same - word for word. It is even recited in the same accent in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) recited it. Furthermore Arabic, the language of the Quran, is a living language, and the Book has always been in the hands of the people - not merely the domain of a few priests.
Thus anyone reading the Quran can be certain beyond reasonable doubt that they are reading the same words revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him) over one thousand four hundred years ago.
"Verily! It is We Who have sent down the Quran and surely, We will guard it". [Noble Quran 15:9]
The reality of the fruition of this statement is a clear sign to mankind, and one of the manifest miracles of the Quran. Moreover this preservation is not limited to only the Quran, but also its explanation, the Sunnah, i.e. the actions, sayings and tacit approvals of the Prophet (peace be upon him). These were meticulously memorized and written down by his wives and companions, and passed down until they were collected in the more famous books of hadith some two to three hundred years after the Hijrah.
The body of hadith literature has not enjoyed, quite unjustly, the same general acceptance of authenticity as the Quran. This is simply because the means by which the hadith became preserved was a longer and more complicated affair than that of the Quran, and therefore became a relatively easier target of attack by Islam's enemies.
Some Orientalists have even claimed that Hadith authenticity rates the same as the Biblical texts. This is, however a very superficial comparison, even if there are some apparent similarities. For example the major books of hadith such Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and the Sunan of Abu Dawud, did not appear until just over two hundred years the Hijrah. Those who compiled the books were not themselves eye-witnesses. Many hadith within the entire body of hadith literature are clearly fabricated and of dubious authenticity, and, as a whole, contain contradictions.
These statements are true in general, but a more detailed study of the history of the preservation of the hadith makes it immediately clear that the reality is quite different. Firstly, as we mentioned concerning the Quran, the language of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is preserved. Secondly the major hadith books we mentioned were not so much new works as compilations of earlier, smaller ones.
There was also a good deal of oral transmission, but the collectors of Prophetic sayings were extremely weary of ensuring that any given narration attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) could be effectively proven as such. The method by which this was accomplished was through the 'isnad', or chain of narrators. From the earliest days of Islam after the death of the Prophet (peace be upon him), various groups arose deviating from the teachings of Islam that had been given to the Prophet's Companions. These sects began to invent sayings which they attributed to the Prophet (peace be upon him).
So in response the Companions of the Prophet began to demand that anyone transmitting a narration must name which companion they had received it from, and thus the truth of narrator ascertained.
The students of the Companions continued this policy, and further safe guards were added as not only the Companions name was needed, but also the next narrator in the chain of transmission. Conditions were laid down for these narrators to be accepted. The scholars differed over some of the conditions, some being stricter than others, but three basic requirements were agreed by all. First the transmitter must be a pious Muslim, secondly they must be known not to forget, thirdly they must not be liars.
The next generation of hadith transmitters began to write the names of all those who attended their lectures. No one was allowed to narrate a hadith on that lecturer's authority unless he attended the lecture in which that hadith was narrated and its meaning explained. From this developed the books of "Rijal" in which was listed the character, quality of memory, place of habitation, travels, teachers and students, and opinion of other scholars, concerning all the narrators of the hadith.
Thus every available method was used to ensure that when the scholars of the sciences of hadith declared a narration of the Prophet (peace be upon him) as being authentic it was, beyond any reasonable doubt said by him. This methodology is not only used for the Prophetic traditions, but also the sayings of the Companions and the early scholars. Indeed any true scholar must be able to produce the isnad of his teachers back to the Prophet himself!
Along with this textual and contextual authenticity, the Quran itself lays down claims to prove its veracity as God's revealed Words. Of course, "proof" is a big word, especially when it comes to God or religion, especially for the "Western mind", programmed by two thousand years of Christianity, which seems to think that religion is supposed to be "mysterious" and "incomprehensible".
The idea that God and revelation are not only compatible with reason, but also can be proven, is often met with incredulity. After all, what's the point? If you can prove it where does faith come in? This is because the Christian world has been taught that "faith" means believing the unbelievable without any proof. This is manifest in that nonsense called the Trinity, and all the theological contortions surrounding it. Christians are expected to believe that black is white and yet still black, or in their terms, that the Invisible, Self-Sufficient, Un-Changing, Omnipotent and Omniscient Creator became a visible, needy, mortal, fallible creature who was killed on a cross, and this man was still the Invisible, Self-Sufficient, Un-Changing, Omnipotent and Omniscient Creator - completely God and completely man. Of course anyone with a mind will understand that one by necessity precludes the other.
Something completely God cannot possibly be, or contain the qualities of, a man, for this would immediately exclude such a being from being truly God. Furthermore, any man that had the qualities of God would no longer be a man. In an attempt to "explain the unexplainable" the Doctrine of the Trinity was invented: One God made of three entities, each one completely God, (and therefore completely the same, yet somehow different) not making three Gods but only One! Moreover the Christian has been asked to believe that mankind's salvation lies in believing God killed Himself (or His son, or an innocent man, or all three at the same time) as a ransom for a burden of sin - that He placed on all human beings for the sin of Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden tree! The inevitable refuge of the Christian when assaulted with a barrage questions over this muddle is that its all "a mystery", and if you want to be saved from Hell you should stop asking so many questions and accept it as an act of faith. Yet it seems rather absurd that the Just Creator would punish anyone for refusing to believe things which are unacceptable and incomprehensible to the very faculties of reason and common sense that He has provided for the human to make their decisions, without providing some strong proof that they should do so!
The Quran, however, chastises mankind for not using their common sense and reasoning powers, and states that their failure to do so is itself a cause of their destruction:
"And for those who disbelieve in their Lord is the torment of Hell, and worst indeed is that destination. When they are cast therein, they will hear the terrible drawing in of its breath as it blazes forth. It almost bursts with fury. Every time a group is cast therein, its keeper will ask: 'Did no warner come to you?' They will say: 'Yes indeed; a warner did come to us, but we belied him and said: 'Allah never sent down anything, you are only in great error.' And they will say: 'Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not have been among the dwellers of the Fire!'" [Noble Quran 67:6-10]
Indeed there is nothing in the theology of Islam that cannot be understood by sound reasoning. In fact it is possible for anyone, anywhere to reach an understanding of the essence of Islam without ever having heard of Muhammad or the Quran. This is because the Creator's existence can be readily understood by anyone observing the patterns and intricate mechanisms of the world and universe around us, and that ultimate power and control rests with this Being, and thus is alone truly worthy of worship, and that to worship this Creator one can only rely on Divine guidance.
To attempt to do this is "Islam", which means "sincerity and submission to Allah".
This very universality and simplicity is one of the strong arguments in favor of Islam's Divine origin. For the Muslim, faith is not a blind leap in the dark against proof and reason, but rather a step taken as a consequence of contemplation, experience, instinct and evidence.
Ultimately it does mean a complete acceptance of a single truth, but this is no more blind than the faith of a scientist in a particular theory, or a doctor in form of treatment that has proven itself valid clinically and operationally. It might be compared to the situation in a court, with a jury. Ideally what is supposed to happen is that the jury is presented with a series of evidences concerning a case.
When the weight of evidence is so conclusive the jury makes its decision. It is not sufficient for it to say: "Well, we found the evidence really convincing!" In the end it must make a decision, "Guilty!" or "Not guilty!", based on the facts. Similarly in Islam, the Creator presents the human being with a series of conclusive evidences, upon the basis of which the human should declare their faith, and act accordingly.
The Weight of Evidence
Allah laid down a challenge in the Quran to mankind in general and to the Arabs in particular:
"And if you are in doubt concerning that which we have sent down to our slave (Muhammad) then produce a chapter like it, and call your supporters and helpers besides Allah, if you are truthful!" [Noble Quran 2:23]
The Arabs in the time of Muhammad (peace be upon him) had no civilization to speak of - no magnificent roads or public buildings, nor scientific or medical institutions. In fact, they lived a most primitive and barbarous existence.
There was one thing in which they excelled - that was their language. They were extremely found of poetry, and prided themselves in their poetic abilities. They praised each other, admonished - and even argued - in poetry. There was even an annual market in Uhaz just for poetry - the finest of which was hung on the door of the Ka'abah.
The age of Muhammad was a time when the Arabs were at the peak of their linguistic abilities. Indeed, one of the finest poems ever written in Arabic was that of Labaid ibn Rabiyah, whose poem, when recited at Uhaz, caused the Arabs to prostrate before him in admiration. When this same Labaid began to hear the verses of Quran, he embraced Islam, and gave up poetry altogether. When he was once asked to recite some poetry he said: "What! After the Quran?"
Indeed, many of the Arabs entered into Islam just from hearing the Quran, because for them it was a conclusive proof of its Divine origin. They knew that no man could produce such eloquence. The challenge of the Quran for man to produce its like is not, as some suppose, merely like the uniqueness of Shakespeare, Shelly, Keats or Homer.
The Quran differentiated itself in its very structure. Poetry in Arabic falls into sixteen different "Bihar" (rhythmic forms), and other than that they have the speech of soothsayers, rhyming prose, and normal speech. The Quran's form did not fit into any of these categories. It was this that made the Quran inimitable, and left the pagan Arabs at a loss as to how they might combat it.
Alqama bin Abdulmanaf confirmed this when he addressed their leaders, the Quraish: "Oh Quraish, a new calamity has befallen you. When Muhammad was a young man, he was the most liked among you, the most truthful in speech and the most trustworthy, until, when you saw grey hairs on his temple, he brought you his message. You said that he was a sorcerer, but he is not, for we have seen such people and their spitting and their knots. You said that he was a diviner, but we have seen such people and their behavior, and we have heard their rhymes You said a soothsayer, but he is not a soothsayer, for we have heard their rhymes; and you said a poet, but he is not a poet, for we have heard all kinds of poetry. You said he was possessed, but he is not for we have seen the possessed, and he shows no signs of their gasping and whispering and delirium. Oh men of Quraysh, look to your affairs, for by Allah a serious thing has befallen you."
The Quraish decided that the only convincing propaganda they could make against the Prophet (peace be upon him) was that the magic of his speech turned a man away from his father, wife, brother and family. So Abu Lahab would wait on the road ways into Mecca in the Hajj season, and warn the people from listening to Muhammad's speech.
Tufail ibn Amr, chief of the Daws tribe and a distinguished poet, was one such man accosted by the Meccans, as he himself mentioned: "I approached Mecca. As soon as the Quraish leaders saw me, they came up to me and gave me a most hearty welcome and accommodated me in a grand house. Their leaders and notables then gathered and said: 'O Tufayl, you have come to our town. this man who claims that he is a Prophet has ruined our authority and shattered our community. We are afraid that he would succeed in undermining you and your authority among your people just as he has done with us. Don't speak to the man. On no account listen to anything he has to say. He has the speech of a wizard, causing division between father and son, between brother and brother and between husband and wife.' They went on telling me the most fantastic stories and scared me by recounting tales of his incredible deeds. I made up my mind then not to approach this man, or speak to him or listen to anything he had to say.
The following morning I went to the place of worship to make tawaf around the Ka'abah as an act of worship to the idols that we made pilgrimage to and glorified. I inserted cotton in my ears out of fear that something of the speech of Muhammad would reach my hearing. As soon as I entered the place of worship, I saw him standing near the Ka'abah. He was praying in a fashion which was different from our prayer. His whole manner of worship was different. The scene captivated me. His worship made me tremble and I felt drawn to him, despite myself, until I was quite close to him.
Notwithstanding the precaution I had taken, God willed that some of what he was saying should reach my hearing and I said to myself: 'What are you doing, Tufayl? You are a perceptive poet. You can distinguish between the good and the bad in the poetry. What prevents you from listening from what the man is saying? If what comes from him is good, accept it, and if it is bad, reject it.'
I remained there until the Prophet left for his home. I followed him as he entered his house, and I entered also and said: 'O Muhammed, your people have said certain things to me about you. By God, they kept on frightening me away from your message so that I even blocked my ears to keep out your words. Despite this, God caused me to hear something of it and I found it good. So tell me more about your mission.' The Prophet (peace be upon him) did and recited to me Surah al-Falaq.
I swear by God, I had never heard such beautiful words before. Neither was a more noble or just mission ever described to me. Thereupon, I stretched out my hand to him in allegiance and testified that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammed is the Messenger of Allah. This is how I entered Islam. Even the leaders of Quraish were unable to resist hearing the Quran."
The Sirah (i.e. Prophetic biography) by Ibn Ishaq reports one incident when Abu Sufyan, Abu Jahl and Al-Akhnas snuck out of their houses at night to listen to the Prophet reciting the Quran - hiding in their places until dawn. On the way home, they met and reproached one another, saying: "Don't do it again, for if one of the weak minded fools see you, you will arouse suspicion in their minds."
This happened three nights in a row, until they took from each other a solemn oath not to do it again. Utba bin Rabi'a, a chief of Quraish, during one of their meetings in which they discussed possible means to stop Muhammed's preaching, suggested to make some proposals to Muhammed and "give him whatever he wants, so he will leave us in peace." Their leaders agreed, so Utba went and sat by the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: "Oh my nephew, you are one of us as you know, of the noblest of the tribe and hold a worthy position in ancestry. You have come to your people with an important matter, dividing their community thereby and ridiculing their customs, and you have insulted their gods and their religion, and declared that their forefathers were unbelievers, so listen to me and I will make some suggestions, and perhaps you will be able to accept one of them."
The Prophet agreed, and he went on: "If what you want is money, we will make you our chief so that no one can decide anything apart from you; if you want sovereignty, we will make you king, and if this ghost which comes to you, which you see, is such that you cannot get rid of him, we will find a physician for you, and exhaust our means in getting you cured, for often a familiar spirit gets possession of a man until he can be cured of it."
The Prophet (peace be upon him) listened patiently, and then said: "Now listen to me".
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then recited from the beginning of Surah Fussilat (41) until the verse of prostration, were the Prophet prostrated, and all the while Utba listened attentively, sitting on his hands, and leaning on them.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) then said: "You have heard what you have heard, Abu'l Walid; the rest remains with you.'
When Utba returned to his companions they noticed that his expression completely altered, and they asked him what had happened. He said that he had heard words that he had never heard before, which were neither poetry, nor witchcraft.
"Take my advice and do as I do, leave this man entirely alone for, by God, the words which I have heard will be blazed abroad. If the other Arabs kill him, others will have rid you of him; if he gets the better of the Arabs, his sovereignty will be your sovereignty, his power your power, and you will be prosperous through him.'
They said: 'He has bewitched you with his tongue". To which he answered: "You have my opinion, you must do what you think fit'.
Such was the power of the Quran that Umar ibn Al-Khattab, who was on his way to kill the Prophet, discovered his sister and her husband reciting the Quran. Upon reading twenty verses, instead went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and embraced Islam.
So how is it possible for an un-lettered and un-learned man, not versed in poetry, to be able to produce a work of unrivalled eloquence and perfect rhetoric, so that even the assembled experts and masters of all the forms poetry and the Arabic language were unable to produce the like of its smallest chapter? Indeed they chose rather to fight the Prophet (peace be upon him). Thus the flower of their nobility were killed, and their trade and reputation destroyed. How could they choose this rather than counter the verses of Quran?
It is as at-Tabari wrote in the introduction to his Tafsir (commentary on the Quran): "There can be no doubt that the highest and most resplendent degree of eloquence is that which expresses its self with the greatest clarity, making the intention of the speaker evident and facilitating the hearer's understanding. But when it rises beyond this level of eloquence, and transcends what man is capable of, so that none of the servants of God is able to match it, it becomes a proof and a sign for the Messengers of the One, the All-powerful. It is then the counterpart of raising the dead and curing of lepers and the blind, themselves proofs and signs for the Messengers because they transcend the realm of the highest attainment of man's medicine and therapy...".
Continuing on, at-Tabari says: "...it is obvious that there is no discourse more eloquent, no wisdom more profound, no speech more sublime, no form of expression more noble, than this clear discourse and speech with which a single man challenged a people at a time when they were acknowledged masters of the art of oratory and rhetoric, poetry and prose, rhymed prose and soothsaying. He reduced their fancy to folly and demonstrated the inadequacy of their logic. He dissociated himself from their religion and summoned all of them to follow him, accept his mission, testify to its truth, and affirm that he was the Messenger sent to them by their Lord. He let them know that the demonstration of the truth of what he said, the proof of the genuineness of his prophethood, was the bayan (the clear discourse), the hikma (the wisdom), the furqan (the criterion between truth and falsehood), which he conveyed to them in a language like their language, in a speech whose meanings conformed to the meanings of their speech. Then he told them that they were incapable of bringing anything comparable to even a part of what he brought, and that they lacked the power to do this. They all confessed their inability, voluntarily acknowledging the truth of what he had brought, and bore witness to their own insufficiency... ".
If we examine analytically the claim of anyone to Prophethood then there are three possibilities concerning such a claim. The first possibility is that the individual is a liar. The second possibility is that the individual sincerely believes he or she is receiving revelation, but is only suffering some form of delusion, and the third is that the individual really is receiving revelation, and is speaking the truth. It is interesting to mention some of the arguments raised by the Christian and secularist Orientalists against Muhammad (peace be upon him) because taken as a whole they offer a conclusive proof in his favor. One school of thought has suggested, in essence, that Muhammad was a liar and a fabricator; that he learnt from various rabbis and Christian priests, and during his various retreats to the Mountain of Light, composed the Quran. Some have tried to soften these accusations by claiming that he was motivated by a sincere desire to reform his people, and so invented Islam to achieve this. Others accuse him of more worldly interests and cite the large number of wives as a proof of this. This approach has been rejected altogether by the second school, who upon observing the evidence of Muhammad's character which places him far above lying and deceit, and the reality of his life style which was a paragon of simplicity and even poverty. Having found no substantiating proof that he had any rabbi's or priests as teachers, and the complete acceptance of his claim by his close family and wives, to whom any duplicity would inevitably have been exposed, have claimed that he was totally sincere in his claim to prophethood, and that he truly believed that he was a prophet receiving revelation. They, also unable to accept the possibility that Muhammad truly was a Prophet, attempt various psycho-analytical explanations, such as the Quran being a voice of the subconscious, or the revelation being bought on by trances induced by epileptic fits. The basic claim being that Muhammad was deluded. We will not attempt to refute these accusations in detail here. The cursory examination of the opposing positions will suffice. What makes this a conclusive proof in Muhammad's favor is that he could not be a calculating liar and be deluded at the same time. A man who sincerely believes that he is a Prophet, does not sit down thinking and planning what he will say the next day, because he believes that God is going to reveal it to him! Yet the opponents of Islam need both to explain the phenomena of Muhammad. He needs to be a cunning and calculating deceiver in order to explain the information and linguistic inimitability of the Quran, yet he needs to be deluded in order to explain his obvious sincerity. If one takes these two bodies of information together the only way to reconcile them is the third possibility, that he was indeed what he claimed to be - the Messenger of Allah.
Indeed, the Quraish found it very hard to produce a convincing argument against Muhammad (peace be upon him). They knew that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was unable to produce the likes of the Quran, either in its eloquence, or in the knowledge it contained. They were also familiar with his character and personality, and admitted that he had been the best, most trusted and well liked amongst them. Even Abu Lahb, the Prophet's persistent enemy, said: "We don't call you a liar, Muhammad, we just don't believe in what you have brought." In reality, Abu Lahab's motivation for refusing to accept Muhammad was tribal rivalry. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) first received revelation to call his people openly to Islam, he went to the top of Mount Safa' and called all the tribes of Mecca, until they had all gathered or sent a representative. He said to them: "Oh my people, if I was to tell you there was a band of horsemen about to attack from behind this hill, would you believe me?" They all replied: "Yes! Why should we not believe you, we never heard anything but truth from you!" So the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: "I have come to warn you of a terrible chastisement from your Lord." So Muhammad's people testified to his truthfulness, and that they had never heard lies from him. And as Heraculus, the Byzantine Roman Emperor, said, when questioning Abu Sufyan about the Prophet (peace be upon him): "If he does not lie about men, then he would not lie about Allah!"
To be continued, insha'Allah...
Click for "NEXT" (part 3)