There are two main Islamic sources: the Holy Quran and the Hadith. Before dealing with these two sources, I ought to mention that they are peculiar to themselves: they are of a systematic character, and have an authority far superior to that of the sources of any other religion. Their authenticity and historicity is now admitted universally. "With the appearance of Muhammad," says Professor Nicholson, "the almost impenetrable veil thrown over the preceding age is suddenly lifted and we find ourselves on the solid ground of historical tradition" (Nicholson, A Literary History of the Arabs, 141). Bosworth-Smith says:
"In Mohammedanism everything is different; here, instead of the shadowy and the mysterious we have history. We know as much of Mohammed as we do even of Luther and Milton. The mythical, the legendary, the supernatural is almost wanting in the original Arab authorities..... Nobody here is the dupe of himself or of others; there is the full light of day upon all that that light can ever reach at all.... We know everything of the external history of Mohammed ... while for his internal history, after his mission had been proclaimed we have a book absolutely unique in its origin, in its preservation .... on the substantial authenticity of which no one has ever been able to cast a serious doubt" (Bosworth-Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, 14-15).
And yet it must be pointed out that these two sources are not works of history in so far as they do not relate events chronologically or in their entirety. They mention only certain singular events in the life of various Prophets of God with the purpose of presenting them in their true light and in their natural order; and thus affirm or contradict, or sometime modify, prevailing ideas about these Prophets and thereby clear their character against gross calumnies heaped against them. For instance, if we read the Gospels and the Talmuds together we gather that Jesus:
1. was born of immaculate conception, or of an illegal union;
Islamic sources deal with all these questions and, exposing the falsity of these calumnies, clear the character of Jesus and his mother, Mary, of all these charges; but they do not deal with their lives in entirety or give all the facts in their minutest detail.
These two sources deal repeatedly with various aspects of the life and actions of the Prophets merely to enable us to understand the basic truth they preached, to appreciate the purity of their characters and to differentiate the genuine portions from the spurious of the Books revealed to them.
Again, these two sources are not story books. They do not relate past events merely for the pleasure of those who read or hear them. They describe the condition of the people to whom the various Prophets were sent; how these people conducted, or rather misconducted, themselves; how after having received guidance they went astray and rejected the Prophets, maltreating and persecuting them. These narratives are meant to serve as a solemn warning to us, and for this purpose the language used adapts itself to the exigencies of everyday life, with a view to bringing it, in its private and public bearings, in harmony with the fundamental principles of Islam. They usually end with certain prophetic utterances, most of which were fulfilled during the life-time of the Holy Prophet.
The Holy Quran claims, and the Muslims believe, that it consists exclusively of Divine Revelation which the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) received direct from Almighty God piecemeal during his prophetic career of three-and-twenty years; so that the last portion was not revealed till near the time of his death. It consists of 114 Suras (Chapters) out of which 86 are Makki, i.e., revealed at Makka and 28 are Madani, i.e., revealed at Madina. It contains 6,237 Ayas (signs : verses), to which if the 113 Bismillas are added the number becomes 6,350. For purposes of recitation it has been divided into 7 Manzils (portions or stages), 30 equal Juzs (also called Paras or parts) sub-divided into four equal parts; and 558 Rukus (Sections). These divisions, with the exception of the Suras, have nothing to do with the subject-matter of the Holy Quran. It contains 86,430 words, 349,470 letters, (Alif 48,876 ; Ba, 11,442, Ta, 10,199 ; Sa, 1,276 ; Jeem, 3,273 ; Ha, 3,973 ; Kha, 2,446 ; Dal, 5,642 ; Zal, 4,677 ; Ra, 11,793 ; Za, 1,590 ; Seen, 5,891 ; Sheen, 2,253 ; Suad, 2,013 ; Zuad 1,607 ; Tue, 1,277 ; Zue, 842 ; Ain, 9,220 ; Ghain, 2,208, Fa, 8,499 ; Kaf, 6,813 ; Qaf, 9,502; Lam, 33,432; Meem, 26,560 ; Noon, 45,190; Wao, 25,536; He, 19,070 ; La, 4,720 ; Ya, 45,919) out of which 124,331 are letter-vowels and the rest are consonants; it also contains 52,243 Fathas (sound vowel a), 39,582 Kasras (sound vowel e or i) and 8,804 Zammas (sound vowel o or u). It has 105,684 Nuqqat (dots), 1,771 Maddat (prolonged pronunciation), 1,250 Tashdeeds (indications of double sound) and 240 Alif mamdudas (silent alif).
The Book names itself as Quran (The Holy Quran, 2 : 185; 10: 37, 61 ; 17 : 106 ; etc.) - that which is or should be read. It is the most widely read book in the world. It is read daily in mosques and Muslim houses throughout the world. It is repeated in daily prayers. During the month of Ramadan it is recited from the beginning to the end in Tarawih prayers and is also read and explained in its entirety during these days. On the night between the 26th and 27th of this month it is recited completely by various Imams in almost every mosque and this reading is styled as Shabina, i.e. in one night. Similarly, on diverse occasions, various persons, not less than ten, read or recite from memory the whole of the Book, each reading or reciting separately certain parts, in an hour or so. This is called Khatam-i-Quran.
In the Holy Quran, the Book is mentioned by various other names. They describe its character, its significance, its peculiar features and its aims and objects. I will mention but a few of them: Al-Kitab (the Complete Book) (The Holy Quran, 2 : 2); (The Distinction between truth and falsehood) (Ibid., 25:1); Al-Tanzil (The Revelation) (Ibid., 26: 192); Al-Hukm (the Judgement) (Ibid., 13 : 37); Habl-Ullah (The Covenant of Allah) (Ibid., 3 : 103); Ar-Rahman (The Mercy) (Ibid., 17 : 82); Ar-Ruh (The Spirit) (Ibid., 42: 52); Al-Bayan (The Explanation) (Ibid., 3 : 138); An-Nur (The Light) (Ibid., 7 : 157); Al-Haqq (Ibid., 17 : 81) (The Truth); Al-Burhan (Ibid., 4 : 174) (The Argument); Al-Maw'iza (Ibid., 10 : 57) (The Admonition); Al-Hikma (The Wisdom) (Ibid., 17 :39).
Besides these, the Holy Quran is also mentioned by several other names, and there are also various qualifying words applied to it, for instance: it is called Majid (The Glorious) (Ibid., 85 : 21); Mubeen (One making things manifest) (Ibid., 12: 1); Fasl (Decision) (Ibid., 86: 13); Mutahhara (Purified) (Ibid., 80: 14); Mutashabih (Ibid., 39: 23) (Conformable in all its various parts).
The Book gives the name of its Author in the very first verse of the second sura, which is really the beginning of the Book-for the first sura (Al-Fatihah - the opening chapter) is really a short introduction to it-in these words: Alif Lam, Meem (Ibid., 2 : 1) standing for Ana Allah A'lam (I am Allah: the Best Knower). The first three verses of the next chapter throw further light on the matter. They read:
"I am Allah, the Best Knower: Allah, there is no god but He, the Ever-living, the Self-Subsisting, by Whom all subsist. He has revealed to you the book with truth, verifying that which is before it, and He revealed the Torah and the Evangel aforetime, a guidance for the people, and He sent this distinction. Surely they who disbelieve in the Communications of Allah -they shall have a severe chastisement, and Allah is Mighty, the Lord of retribution" (Ibid., 3 : 1 - 4).
The Book was revealed to Muhammad, who "believed in what has been revealed" to him (Ibid., 47 : 2). It was revealed in Arabic so that the Holy Prophet should be the first to understand it perfectly (Ibid., 42: 7). It was revealed in portions.
"And it is a Quran, which We have made distinct so that you may read it to the people by slow degrees: and We have revealed it, revealing in portions" (Ibid., 17 :106; 76 : 23).
The Holy Quran is a compendium of Divine messages brought by the Holy Spirit (Gabriel) and delivered in words to the Holy Prophet to be proclaimed to mankind. It was not the Holy Prophet who spoke under the influence of the Holy Spirit: he merely repeated the words conveyed to him. Says the Holy Quran:
"The Spirit has brought it down from your Lord with the truth" (The Holy Quran, 16: 102).
"And most surely this is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. The Faithful Spirit has come down with it upon your heart, that you may be of the warners in plain Arabic language" (Ibid., 26: 195).
Purity of Text:
The Holy Quran was revealed to the Holy Prophet under the most trying circumstances. From a solitary recluse in the cave of Hira, after passing through a variety of circumstances, he became the sole monarch and legislator of the whole of Arabia. The life of no other individual human being affords so much variation. Yet throughout the entire revelation the Holy Quran keeps one and the same strain. The spirit of revelation to the solitary, persecuted and tormented preacher of Makka does not differ in any particular from the spirit of the revelation to the sole temporal and spiritual overlord of Arabia. There are no discrepancies even in the details of the narrative, and this is specially true of the numerous prophecies uttered at a time when he was an absolutely helpless man. Had the Book not proceeded from the Omniscient Being, it would certainly not have been free from numerous discrepancies.
Muslims believe the Holy Quran, every dot, every vowel, every syllable, every word, every sentence, every chapter-in short, the entire Book-to be of Divine creation. The Holy Prophet was an Ummi, unlettered, and could neither read nor write; he had to be so in keeping with the Divine dispensation: for the tablet of his heart, like a camera, had to be absolutely free of all worldly light to get a perfect impression of the Revelation.
The Holy Quran was revealed in the Arabic language (Ibid., 43 : 3), in the dialect of the Quraish. The absolute perfection of the language of the Book is one of its outstanding features. I do not make this assertion simply because it is an impregnable belief with Muslims. Greyer and Noldeke point out that even the idolatrous poets of Arabia, who were known for their literary skill, could not compete with it. To these idolaters, and through them to the whole world, a challenge had been thrown out:
"And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it, and call on your helpers besides Allah if you are truthful. But if you do (it) not; and never shall you do (it)-then be on your guard against the fire, of which men and stones are the fuel, it is prepared for the unbelievers" (Ibid., 2 : 23-24).
"Or do they say: He has forged it, Say: Then bring ten forged chapters like this and call upon whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful" (Ibid., 11:13).
"Say: If men and jinn should combine together to bring the like of this Quran, they cannot bring the like of it, though some of them be aiders of the others" (Holy Qur'an, 17 : 88).
The Holy Quran, as the word of God, needs no champion, no advocate and certainly not an apologist. It speaks for itself. It puts forward its claims, gives reasons and arguments in support of them and throws a challenge for all times-a challenge which till to-day has remained unaccepted. On the contrary, even European scholars have been forced to admit its claims. I will quote but a few of them and will begin with the most bigoted Christian translator of the Holy Quran, George Sale, who was out to expose the Holy Quran as a "manifest forgery." In his Preliminary Discourse he says:
"The style of the Koran is generally beautiful and fluent ... and in many places, especially where the majesty and attributes of God are described, sublime and magnificent" (Sale, Preliminary Discourse, 48).
Palmer, another translator of the Holy Quran, says:
"The best of Arab writers have never succeeded in producing anything equal in merit to the Quran itself" (Palmer, Introduction, 55).
Goethe has said:
"The Koran is a work with whose dullness the reader is at first disgusted, afterward attracted and astounded by its charms, and finally irresistibly ravished by its many beauties .... In the end it enforces our reverence. Its style, in accordance with its contents and aims, is stern, grand and terrible-ever and anon truly sublime .... This book will go on exercising through all ages most potent influence."
John Davenport says:
"From a literary point of view, the Koran is the most poetical work of the East .... It is universally allowed to be written with the utmost purity and elegance of language in the dialect of the tribe of Koreish, the most noble and polite of all the Arabs .... It is confessedly the standard of the Arabian language, and abounds with splendid imagery and the boldest metaphor ... is generally vigorous and sublime.
"We may well say the Quran is one of the grandest books ever written .... sublime and chaste, where the supreme truth of God's Unity is to be proclaimed . ... its merits as a literary production should, perhaps, not be measured by some preconsidered maxims of subjective and aesthetic taste, but by the effects which it produced on Muhammad's contemporaries and fellow-countrymen. If it spoke so powerfully and convincingly to the hearts of his hearers as to weld hitherto centrifugal and antagonistic elements into one compact and well -organised body, animated by ideas far beyond those which had until now ruled the Arabian mind, then its eloquence was perfect, simply because it created a civilised nation out of savage tribes, and shot a fresh woof into the old warp of history .... But Muhammad made a still greater and more decisive step towards creating a literature for his people. In those Suras in which he regulated the private and public life of the Muslims, he originated a prose which has remained the standard of classical purity ever since" (Translation: Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, 527-530).
Dr. Hartwig Hirschfield says:
"The Quran is unapproachable as regards convincing power, eloquence, and even composition .... and to it was also indirectly due the marvelous development of all branches of science in the Moslem world" (Hirschfield, New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qur`an, 8-9).
I will quote but one other Christian scholar, Bosworth-Smith, who when writing about the Book says:
"Illiterate himself, scarcely able to read or write, he was yet the author of a book which is a poem, a code of law, a Book of Common Prayer and a Bible in one .... It was the one miracle claimed by Muhammad-his "standing miracle" he called it; and a miracle indeed it is" (Bosworth-Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, 290). (Italics are mine.)
Thus, the Holy Quran is unique, marvellous and unprecedented in the whole history of the written world. It transformed a dialect spoken in a very limited area of a forgotten corner of the world-steeped in spiritual torpor, sunk in superstition, cruelty and vice, whose people lay lifeless in a debased state and dreaded of things unseen-into a language and tongue of vast countries and mighty empires. The Book thus re-established the claims of the Arabic language to be the Mother of Languages (Al-Haj Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din, Umm-ul-alsina (The Mother of Languages), 23).
The Holy Prophet claimed the Holy Quran to be a sign, a miracle of God. A miracle indeed it was, is and shall ever be. It is unique in every respect. Its outstanding distinction, however, is that it has maintained its pristine purity for the last fourteen hundred years. While discussing this question, Muir says:
"There is probably in the world no other work which has remained twelve centuries with so pure a text" (Muir, Life of Mohammad).
No other religious book in the world has made or can make such a claim. If all copies of the Vedas, the Zenda-Vesta, the Buddhist Pitakas, the Bible and other Scriptures were to be burnt, they can never be re-written from cover to cover. Any such undertaking would be a hopeless task. But if the Holy Quran were to suffer the same fate, not once but a million times, it would be re-written without the least change of a single dot, vowel or sentence. For there are hundreds of thousands of Muslims who know the Holy Quran by heart from one end to the other. In the Holy Quran we read:
"Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its guardian" (The Holy Qur-`an, 15 : 9).
Thus God had proclaimed in the Holy Quran that it should always remain free from corruption and that God would protect it and be its Guardian. These verses, and there are many others like these in the Holy Quran, contain a most wonderful prophecy, whose fulfilment is, and shall always continue to be, a standing testimony to the Divine origin of the Holy Quran and to the truth of the mission of the Holy Prophet.
It has often been alleged by Christian apologists that the Holy Quran was a product of the creative mind of the Holy Prophet. I will deal with this aspect at the close of this discussion; as I must first describe the manner in which and when the Book was written and collected, the arrangement of its chapters and verses, the so-called theory of abrogation and the rules of Quranic interpretation.
The Holy Quran was written and committed to memory in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet:
There is both internal and external evidence that the Holy Quran was meant, from the very beginning, to be reduced to writing. The very first revelation opening with the word Read (The Holy Quran, 96: 1) indicated that the revelation was to be read by Muslims from written pages. Similarly its name, Quran, that which is read, points to the same significance. The Book calls itself repeatedly Al-Kitab (Ibid., 2 : 2) - the Book which is complete in itself. This name was applied to the Holy Quran in some of the earliest Makkan revelations. To read from a book without any writing would be an impossibility.
The Holy Quran is styled as the written pages (Ibid., 80: 12-16) and also as the pure pages" (Ibid., 98: 2).
In one of the earliest Makkan revelations we read:
"Most surely it is an honoured Quran, in a Book that is protected. None shall touch it save the purified ones" (Ibid., 56: 77-79)
The italicised words prove that the Holy Quran had been reduced to writing, otherwise the question of touching it could not have arisen. Rodwell, while commenting on this verse, says:
"This passage implies the existence of copies of portions at least of the Koran in common use."
This verse of the Holy Quran was quoted by the sister of Hazrat Umar when he saw her reading the twentieth chapter (Ta Ha) of the Holy Quran and wanted to get hold of it. He was made to wash himself, before he was allowed to read it. He, after reading it, at once became a Muslim. This conversion took place in the fifth year of the mission of the Holy Prophet. It is obvious, therefore, that even at that very early period at least twenty chapters were written.
Again we read in a Makkan revelation:
"Or do they say: He has forged it. Say: Then bring ten forged chapters like it and call upon whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful" (Ibid., 11 : 13).
And in a chapter revealed at Madina:
"And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it, and call on your helpers beside Allah, if you are truthful" (Ibid., 2 : 23).
The mention of chapters in these two verses presupposes the existence of the Holy Quran in writing in chapters.
Hazrat Usman, the third Caliph, one of the earliest converts to Islam, explaining the practice of the Holy Prophet as to the writing of the revelations, reports:
"It was customary with the Messenger of God (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) that when portions of different chapters were revealed to him, and when any verse was revealed, he called one of those persons who used to write the Holy Quran and said to him: Write these verses in the chapter where such and such verse occurs" (Bukhari, 33:15). See also Abu Daud 2:123.
"When the verse la yastawi-l-qa `iduna ... was revealed, the Messenger of God (may peace and blessings of God be upon him) said: Bring Zaid to me, and let him bring the tablet and the inkstand. Then he said to him (Zaid): Write la yastawi . . ." (Bukhari, 66: 4).
The direction of the Holy Prophet to his Companions not to write anything from him except the Holy Quran (Fath al Bari, 9 : 10) establishes that the Holy Quran was being written and the Holy Prophet wished to avoid confusion between his Sayings and the Word of God. Bukhari records the following report of the Companions of the Holy Prophet:
"We were forbidden to travel to the enemy land with the Quran" (Bukhari, 29: 113).
This report shows that the written copies of the whole Quran existed in such large numbers that it was found necessary to issue an injunction against their being carried to enemy country.
It has wrongly been assumed that the Holy Quran was written on palm-leaves, skins or shoulder blades of sheep at the instance of the Holy Prophet. The copies dictated by the Holy Prophet to his amanuensis were on writing material. Some of the Companions used to take down their copies on palm-leaves etc. Speaking of these copies Muir says:
"There is good reason for believing that many fragmentary copies embracing amongst them the whole Koran, or nearly the whole, were during his lifetime made by the Prophet's followers" (Muir, Life of Mohammad 19).
There are two incidents connected with the death of the Holy Prophet which conclusively prove that the Holy Quran was a compact whole at that time. The first is the following Saying of the Holy Prophet reported by Malik bin Anas:
"Verily I leave with you two things, if you hold fast by them, ye will never be misguided. The Book of Allah and my sunna" ( Bukhari, 61 :170).
To the same effect was the address he made during his last visit to the mosque. I will quote only the relevant portion. He said:
"I have not made lawful aught except that which God hath made lawful; nor have I prohibited aught but that which God in His Book hath prohibited" (Bukhari, 61 :170).
The second incident also refers to the death of the Holy Prophet. When the news of his death spread over Madina, Hazrat Umar would not believe the mournful truth. "The Messenger of God is not dead," he declared in a loud and passionate voice. Just then Hazrat Abu Bakr appeared and after reciting the relevant verses of the Holy Quran said:
"Let him then know whosoever worships Muhammad, that Muhammad is dead: but whosoever worships Allah, let him know that the Lord lives and dies not" (Durr-i-Mansur, 4 : 318).
I have mentioned this incident so as to make Hazrat Umar's address to the people of Madina on the following day intelligible. He said:
"O ye people that which I spoke to you yesterday was not correct. Verily I find that it is not borne out by the Book which the Lord hath revealed .... And truly the Word, the same Word which directed your Prophet, is with us still. Take it, therefore, for your guide and ye shall never go astray" (Durr-i-Mansur, 4 : 318).
It is thus abundantly clear that the whole of the Holy Quran had been reduced to writing during the life-time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
But apart from reducing the revelation to writing, the Holy Prophet knew himself the whole of the Book by heart. It was revealed in portions (The Holy Quran, 76: 23), so that it might be easy to remember (Ibid., 54: 32) and to make its learning perfect it had to be listened to in silence (Ibid., 7 : 204). It was made to "enter upon the hearts" (Ibid., 26: 194, 200) of those who heard it and was revealed to the heart of the Holy Prophet (Ibid., 2 : 97 ; 26: 193-194). The recital of a portion of it formed an essential part of the daily prayer, public and private. It was also recited in the midnight prayers (Ibid., 73 : 20). The Holy Quran was accordingly committed to memory more or less by every Companion of the Holy Prophet and the extent to which it could be recited was one of the chief distinctions among early Muslims.
The Holy Prophet is reported to have said that "the best man among you is he who has learned the Quran and teaches it" (Bukhari, 56: 159). Accordingly any one who could recite the Holy Quran better than others had the right of becoming the Imam, leader of prayer (Ibid., Tirmizi, 3 : 61). Thus we hear of Amr ibn Salma, a boy of thirteen, leading congregational prayers for his tribe (Mishkat-al-Masabih, 4 : 26). The Arabs had long been used to committing tribal events and long poems to memory. This faculty was applied, with all the ardour of an awakened spirit, to the Holy Quran. Even Muir has to admit that: "several of his followers could, during the Prophet's life-time, repeat with scrupulous accuracy the whole of the Quran."
Collection of the Holy Quran:
It is true that when the Holy Prophet died the Holy Quran had not been made into one compact volume. The possibility of a fresh revelation could not be excluded, and, therefore, the making of a complete volume was an impossibility. But this could be done immediately after his death. As a result of the expedition against the impostor Musailama a battle was fought at Yamamah in which many of the best reciters of the Holy Quran were killed. Hazrat Umar approached the Caliph Hazrat Abu Bakr and, expressing his apprehensions, asked him to give immediate orders for the collection of the Holy Quran. "How can I do a thing" replied Hazrat Abu Bakr, "which the Messenger of God (may peace and the blessings of God be upon him) has not done?" (Bukhuri, 65 : 9 : 20).
After some discussion Hazrat Abu Bakr was convinced and he sent for Zaid, the scribe of the Holy Prophet, and commissioned him to act accordingly. Zaid compiled into one volume all the manuscripts written under the directions of the Holy Prophet himself and the arrangement followed was the same, as that of the oral recitation, as was followed in the time of the Holy Prophet. This standard written copy was entrusted to the care of Hazrat Hafsa, wife of the Holy Prophet and daughter of Hazrat Umar.
By the time Hazrat Usman became Caliph, Islam had spread far beyond the limits of Arabia and non-Arabs began to recite the Holy Quran differently. Bukhari records:
"Anas son of Malik relates that Huzaifa came to Usman. He had been fighting with the people of Syria in the conquest of Armenia and with the people of Iraq in Azarbaijan, and was alarmed at their variation in the modes of reading (the Holy Quran). He said to Usman: "O Commander of the Faithful! stop the people before they differ in the Holy Book as the Jews and the Christians differ in their scriptures." So Usman sent word to Hafsa, asking her to send him the (copy of the) Quran in her possession, so that he might make other copies of it and then send the original back to her. Thereupon, Hafsa sent the copy to Usman and he ordered Zaid ibn Sabit and Abdullah ibn Zubair and Said ibn al-'As and Abdul Rahman ibn Haris ibn Hisham, and they made copies from the original copy. Usman also said to the three men who belonged to the Quraish: "When you differ with Zaid in anything concerning the Quran, then write it in the language of the Quraish, for it is in their language that it was revealed." They obeyed their instructions and when they had made the required number of copies from the original copy, Usman returned the original to Hafsa, and sent to every quarter one of the copies thus made and ordered all other copies or leaves on which the Quran was written to be burned" (Bukhuri, 66: 3).
The real question is: Did the copy of Hazrat Usman differ in any way from that of Zaid prepared during the Caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakr, and in its turn did it differ from the Book as left by the Holy Prophet? I will quote a Muslim authority as well as two Christian writers. Maulvi Muhammad Ali answers this question in the negative and says:
"Usman, then, made no alteration in the Quran as it was collected by Abu Bakr immediately after the death of the Holy Prophet. He employed the same scribe who was employed before him by Abu Bakr and in his life-time by the Holy Prophet himself .... The bitterest foes of Usman, those who cut off his head while he was reading the Quran and who had the whole power in their hand, never charged him with having tampered with the Quran" (M. Muhammad Ali, Preface to the Translation of the Holy Quran, 64).
Sir William Muir answers the same question in the following terms:
"It is sufficient for us to know that in Othman's revision recourse was had to the original exemplar of the first compilation, and that there is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess the text which Muhammad himself gave forth and used" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 27).
At the end of his discussion Muir quotes and agrees with the verdict of Von Hammer:
"That we hold the Koran to be surely the word of Mohamet, as the Mohametans hold it to be the word of God."
Bosworth-Smith expresses the same view in the following words:
"In the Koran we have, beyond all reasonable doubt, the exact words of Mohammad without subtraction and without addition" (Bosworth-Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, 18).
Arrangement of Chapters and Verses:
The Holy Quran as it was left by the Holy Prophet, and as it is to-day, was not arranged in chronological order. Christian critics of Islam have always been at pains to allege that the chapters of the Holy Quran were put together without any regard to their subject-matter, and that the entire text is in a confused state. Sale in his Preliminary Discourse gives a peculiar reason:
"After the revealed passages had been from the Prophet's mouth taken down in writing by his scribes, they were published to his followers, several of whom took copies for their private use, but the far greater number got them by heart. The originals when returned were put promiscuously into a chest, observing no order" (Sale, The Preliminary Discourse to the Koran, 51).
But says Muir:
"The statement made by Sale, that the fragmentary revelations were cast promiscuously into a chest, is not borne out by any good authority that l have met with" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 15, 16 - footnote).
This chest of Sale is, therefore, a creation of his own imagination. A cheat and a hypocrite always leaves traces which expose him; and a liar, it is said, has no memory. Sale contradicts himself, on the same page, when he admits that "Mohammed left the chapters complete as we now have them."
A discussion of the arrangement of the verses and chapters of the Holy Quran is a subject by itself, and is really beyond the scope of this book. I cannot do better than to refer the reader to the Preface to the Translation of the Holy Quran by Maulvi Muhammad Ali, which is a most elaborate and scholarly exposition on the arrangement and collection of the Holy Quran. In it Maulvi Muhammad Ali explains how the chapters and verses were arranged under the directions of the Holy Prophet, and proves conclusively that the arrangement is based on the subject-matter. In his introductory notes to each chapter, in the abstract of every section of each chapter and in the copious footnotes, he has made it clear that the chapters like the verses, have a connection with each other on the basis of the subject-matter.
It is true that the Holy Quran was revealed in portions; yet it would be a mistake to suppose that it remained in that fragmentary form for any length of time. There is both internal and external evidence to show that the present arrangement of the chapters and verses of the Holy Quran was effected by the Holy Prophet himself under the guidance of Divine revelation. The outstanding challenge of the Holy Prophet to his opponents to produce ten chapters (The Holy Quran, 11 : 13), or even one chapter (Ibid., 2 : 23; 10 : 38, etc.), like those in the Holy Quran presupposes that chapters were available in some order for the purpose of comparison. Again we read in the Holy Quran:
"Surely, on Us (devolves)) the collection of it, and the reciting of it. Therefore, when We have recited it, follow its recitation" (Ibid., 75: 17-18).
"And those who disbelieve say: Why has not the Quran been revealed to him all at once: Thus, that We may establish your heart by it, and We have arranged it well in arranging (it)" (Ibid., 25 : 32).
The arrangement of the Holy Quran was thus a part of the Divine scheme. I have already quoted a passage from Hazrat Usman, the Third Caliph, to show how this was done by the Holy Prophet himself, who used to indicate the place where a chapter or a verse had to be inserted.
The following hadith establishes beyond any doubt that the Book was properly arranged during the life-time of the Holy Prophet. He once said:
"Whoever reads the last two verses of Sura Baqarah on any night, they are sufficient for him" (Tirmizi, Vol. II, 112). See also Bukhari, 64: 12.
Again, on another occasion the Holy Prophet told his followers to recite "the first ten verses" of the chapter called Al-Kahf (The Cave) at the appearance of the Antichrist (Abu Daud 36: 13). Further, we have it on the authority of Bukhari that Ibn Mas'ud, a Companion of the Holy Prophet, recited in a certain prayer forty verses of the chapter Al-Anfal ending with such and such words. These words in fact occur at the end of the fortieth verse of that chapter. We are also told that the Holy Prophet used to recite the last ten verses of the chapter Al-i-`Imran in his tahajjud (midnight) prayers (Fath al-Bari, Vol. 9 : 39).
In many other reports we find reference to verses by numbers and chapters by names. Such references would have been meaningless if no arrangement had existed during the life-time of the Holy Prophet. Incidentally, this hadith also shows that the present arrangement is the same because the verses and chapters referred to appear exactly in the same place and order.
The Holy Prophet gave directions that the Book should not be recited in less than seven days (Fath al-Bari, 9 : 83), that is one manzil should only be read in a day. Anas reports:
"I was in the Saqif embassy at the time of conversion to Islam of Bani Saqif. . . . . The Holy Prophet said to us: "My manzil (portion) of the Holy Quran has come to me unexpectedly, so I do not intend to go out until I finish it." Thereupon we questioned the Companions of the Holy Prophet (may peace and the blessings of Allah be upon him) as to how they divided the Quran into manzils. They said: "We observe the following manzils; three chapters, and five chapters, and seven chapters, and nine chapters, and eleven chapters, and thirteen chapters, and all the remaining chapters beginning with Qaf, which are termed the Mufassal" (Bukhari, 66: 3 :19).
This report establishes not only the existence of chapters but their division into seven manzils, which is observed to this day throughout the Muslim world. The first six manzils comprise forty-eight chapters and the last manzil sixty-six small chapters beginning with Sura Qaf. I should mention that Sura Qaf is really the fiftieth chapter. Anas did not include the first chapter, the Fatiha, the opening seven verses. This report clearly establishes that the chapters, like the verses, were arranged by the Holy Prophet himself during his life-time and they did not differ from the present arrangement.
The Holy Quran was recited during the time of the Holy Prophet both in public prayers and otherwise. This would have been an impossibility had there been no arrangement of the Book. We know that in the life-time of the Holy Prophet, as indeed is the practice even to-day, the slightest mistake, made by the Imam leading the prayers, in the recitation of the Holy Quran, used to be corrected by those who followed him in prayers. Had there been no order or arrangement of the chapters and verses, this practice could never have come into existence.
The objection that the Holy Quran was not completed till the death of the Holy Prophet is disposed of by a reference to the report of Anas already quoted. He spoke of the conversion of Bani Saqif, which did not take place till the ninth year of Hijra, in which year the chapter called the Immunity, admittedly the last in chronological order, was revealed. Hence at that time almost the entire Quran had been revealed and the division of manzils and chapters on the authority of the Holy Prophet supports the view that the present arrangement did exist at that time.
Muir, a bigoted critic of Islam, after mentioning the fact that Ibn Masud had learned seventy Suras, from the Prophet's own lips, and that the Holy Prophet on his death-bed had recited seventy Suras, among which were the seven long ones (Muir, The Life of Mohammad 18), had to admit:
"Still the fact remains, that the fragments themselves were strictly and exclusively Mohammad's own composition and were learned or recorded under his instructions; and this fact stamps the Koran, not merely as formed out of the Prophet's own words and sentences, but to a large extent, as his in relation to the context also" (Ibid., 19). (Italics are mine.)
Theory of Abrogation:
There are two verses in the Holy Quran which are generally deemed by Christian critics to be the basis of this theory. The first of these two verses is:
"And when We change one communication for (another) communication, and Allah knows best what He reveals, they say you are only a forger" (The Holy Quran, 16: 101).
Now the theory of abrogation has been applied only to such verses as lay down the Islamic Law, which were revealed exclusively at Madina. But the chapter containing this verse was revealed at Makka. It stands to reason, therefore, that the Law which had yet to be introduced could not be abrogated by a previous revelation; nor could a verse earlier in time refer to any such future abrogation.
If we consider the context, it becomes apparent that this verse is dealing with the Holy Quran in its entirety and with the allegation of the opponents of the Holy Prophet: that he had forged the Holy Quran himself. The Book refutes it by asserting that because the communications received by earlier Prophets were, in fact, abrogated and another (the Holy Quran) was substituted in their place, non-believers alleged it to be a forgery. The next four verses make the position abundantly clear. The Holy Prophet is made to say:
"The Holy Spirit has revealed it from your Lord with the truth, that it may establish those who believe, and as a guidance and good news for those who submit" (Ibid., 16: 102).
The opponents of Islam did not style the Holy Prophet as a forger because certain verses had been abrogated, but because they alleged that someone else was teaching him (Ibid., 16: 103) and, in spite of this, he was representing it to be from God-a work of his own creation was being put forward as a Divine revelation. The Holy Quran controverts these allegations and points out that it is they who are liars, because God has abrogated the older communications, the Mosaic Law.
The second verse which is alleged to support this theory makes the matter still more clear. It reads:
"Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it. Do you not know that Allah has power over all things" (Ibid., 2 : 106).
Here again, we must read the verse in the light of the context (the previous two sections: specially verses 90-91) and in particular the preceding verse:
"Those who disbelieve from among the followers of the Book do not like, nor do the polytheists, that any good should be sent down (revealed) to you from your Lord, and Allah chooses especially whom He pleases for His mercy and Allah is the Lord of Mighty Grace" (Ibid., 2 : 105).
The Holy Quran is dealing here with the contention of the Jews that they could not accept the Holy Prophet or the Holy Quran because it had not been revealed to an Israelite and that they could not accept a new code which would replace their Law. In verse 105 they are told that Allah chooses whom He pleases-an Israelite or a nonIsraelite; and in the verse in question they are informed that Allah has abrogated the Mosaic Law and replaced it with a better communication. The succeeding verse (Ibid., 2 : 107) then, by way of illustration, explains that in accordance with the laws of Nature the old order must give way to the new: thereby implying that the Mosaic Law which was given to a particular people for a particular object and for a particular time has been abrogated and replaced by a new and universal law. The old law, having been partly lost and forgotten, was being replaced by "one better than it or like it" and whatever portion of it remained was now abrogated. To construe the verse as abrogating the Quranic law is to do violence to its plain language. The words "or cause to be forgotten" cannot possibly refer to the Holy Quran at all because, as I have already mentioned, every verse as soon as it was revealed was reduced to writing and, therefore, could not be forgotten. Further, why should a verse be abrogated if one like it had to be revealed again? Besides, the Holy Quran itself asserts that it shall not be forgotten (Ibid., 87 : 6). On the other hand, it is a notorious fact that a good deal of the Torah and the Gospels had been completely lost and forgotten. These were replaced by better verses or verses like them; and such portions as were in existence were abrogated and replaced by the Holy Quran.
It is worth noting that the only person who could really say that a particular verse of the Holy Quran had been abrogated was the Holy Prophet himself. He never said that any verse or any portion of the Holy Quran had become abrogated. On the other hand he, along with his Companions, continued to recite in prayers the whole of the Holy Quran as it exists today. It is clear, therefore, that he did not consider any verse of the Holy Quran as ever having been abrogated.
The theory of abrogation of certain verses of the Holy Quran is so exploded that I will not carry the matter any further. (For a further study of the subject, the reader is referred to Maulvi Muhammad Ali's Religion of Islam, 35-44.)
Rules of Quranic interpretation:
A "Statute," says Maxwell in his well-known book on The Interpretation of Statutes, "is the will of the Legislature, and the fundamental rule of interpretation, to which all others are subordinate, is that a statute is to be expounded according to the intent of the Legislature. If the words of the statute are in themselves precise and unambiguous no more is necessary then to expound these words in their natural and ordinary sense." If we consider the case-law of the British and American Courts, we can deduce inter alia the following further rules of interpretation:
1. The words of a statute, when there is a doubt about their meaning, are to be understood in the sense in which they best harmonise with the subject of the enactment.
"These legal presumptions," said Lord Bacon in his Advancement of Learning, "are beacons to be avoided-rather than as authorities to be followed." Sir William Blackstone, in his Laws of England, laid down that a statute contrary to natural laws, equity or reason, or repugnant or impossible to perform, must be deemed to be void; and there is no legal sanction for the supposition that every unjust and absurd consequence was within the contemplation of the law.
These rules of interpretation, based as they are on principles of common sense, equity and justice, must be deemed to be of universal application. We do not find any inconsistency in the laws of nature. God made them according to a measure (The Holy Quran, 55 : 7). The Holy Quran drawing specific attention to the regularity and uniformity of the laws working in nature, says:
"... You see no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent God, then look again, can you see any disorder? Then turn back the eye again and again; your sight shall come back to you confused while it will get fatigued .... Does He not know Who created? And He is the Knower of the subtleties, the Aware" (Ibid., 67 : 3, 4, 14).
These verses point to the existence of the Supreme Being as witnessed in the regularity and uniformity of the laws of nature, or in other words the absence of any inconsistency in them, and the succeeding verse calls special attention to the spiritual laws contained in the Book, which also work with uniformity.
The laws of nature, nay creation itself, it has been said, are the acts of God: and divinely revealed books are the words of God. There cannot, therefore, be any inconsistency between the two, or in either of them, and if any interpretation produces such a result it must be rejected.
I will presently deal with the rules of Quranic interpretation which have been laid down by Muslim divines; but the claims of the Holy Quran and the special rules of interpretation which it gives itself must be considered first.
The Holy Quran claims to be a collection of the best teachings (Ibid., 39: 27) and a complete guide (Ibid., 10 : 37) from God, a Book which verifies the previous true revelation (Ibid., 2 : 89, 101, etc.) and replaces them (Ibid., 16: 101). It explains everything (Ibid., 16: 89) and is right directing (Ibid., 18 : 2). It settles all differences (Ibid., 16: 64) and was revealed so that all disputes might be judged and settled according to the directions contained in it (Ibid., 5 : 49). It further claims that, being a Divine revelation, it contains rules of guidance for humanity. It supports them with intelligent arguments (Ibid., 2 : 185) and needs no champion for its cause, for it meets all objections raised against it with clear proof and convincing arguments (Ibid., 25 : 33). The Book says:
"Again, on Us (devolves) the explaining of it" (Ibid., 75 : 19).
It is a distinguishing feature of the Holy Quran that it explains the wisdom of its teachings by means of arguments. It does not only state the basic doctrines and articles of faith, but it also demonstrates their truth by reasons. "This is a book," says the Holy Quran, "whose verses are established with wisdom and set forth with clearness." The Holy Quran also claims that its verses are conformable to others in its various parts (The Holy Quran, 39: 23), and that there is no inconsistency or discrepancy to be found in it (Ibid., 4 : 82). These claims, unique as they are - and no religious Book has ever put forward similar claims-establish more than anything else the Divine origin of the Book.
The Holy Quran further says that it contains, inter alia, verses which are decisive (Ibid., 3 :7), and goes on to give its rule of interpretation in the following terms:
"He it is Who has revealed the Book to you; some of its verses are decisive, they are the basis of the Book, and others are allegorical; then as for those in whose heart there is perversity, they follow the part of it which is allegorical seeking to mislead, and seeking to give it their own interpretation; but none knows its interpretation except Allah; and those who are firmly rooted in knowledge say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord; and none do mind except those having understanding" (Ibid., 3 :7).
It is significant that this verse occurs at the beginning of the third chapter of the Holy Quran, which deals with the birth and death of Jesus. It is due to an intentional and dishonest misinterpretation of the allegorical verses that Christian missionaries try to find support from the Holy Quran for their dogmatic beliefs. But the Holy Quran, some fourteen hundred years ago, pointed out that they only follow the allegorical part of it simply to mislead others. To believe and follow them regardless of the decisive verses, according to the Holy Quran, is a perversity which Muslims should avoid.
The Holy Quran lays down certain fundamental principles of Islam and they are contained in the decisive verses. They form the basis of the Book. These principles are unchangeable and are stated in unambiguous terms. The allegorical verses must be interpreted in the light of the decisive verses, and no attempt should be made on the strength of these allegorical verses to set up a principle in conflict with the decisive verses. As the Book decides all matters, the explanation of the words and verses of the Holy Quran should therefore be sought from the Holy Quran itself. Thus the particular should follow the general, and the interpretation of the allegorical verses should be strictly in consonance with the decisive verses. These rules of interpretation are indicated by the words: it is all from Allah and none knows the interpretation except Allah. In other words, that interpretation would be the correct one, and should alone be accepted which renders the allegorical verses conformable to the other parts of the Holy Quran. Keeping these principles in mind Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad has explained the following rules of Quranic interpretation (in Barakat-ud-Du'a, 15-17):
1. A verse should be so interpreted as to be conformable with the other parts of the Book. Inconsistency, repugnancy, unreasonableness and unnaturalness should be avoided; and particularly all allegorical verses should be so interpreted as to become conformable with, and subject to, the decisive verses.
Divine Origin of the Holy Quran:
It is one of the favourite charges brought against Islam by Christian writers that it is less interesting than other religions because its very basis, the Holy Quran, is less original than the Scriptures of other religions. They try to account for various passages in the Book as originating from the Bible and other sources: in other words, they say that the Holy Quran was not a Divinely revealed Book, but was filled up with fabulous matters current among the Jews and Christians of the Seventh Century and thus the wild legends and garbled stories of earlier Scriptures were put forth as portions of Divine revelation. The Christian apologists try to explain everything; but the only elements they leave out or do not account for in their analysis of Islam are the Will of God and the character of the Holy Prophet. In their rather conjectural works they not only cut out the All-Pervading and All-Knowing Guide, but they also omit the very animating and inspiring soul whose personal character is a guarantee for the truth of his mission.
If all religions of the past originated with God, they must have contained, in the first instance, nothing but the truth. Again, if in course of time their Scriptures lost most of their originality, as the Old and New Testaments, for example, admittedly have, they must nevertheless have retained some particles of truth in them. Is a religion, therefore, less true because it recognises itself in other garbs? Is the Book of that religion less original because it refers to or mentions all those particles of truth in the older Scriptures, which it claims to expand or supplant? Jesus himself asserted that he had come to fulfil, and not destroy, the Law of Moses. Would the Christian apologists admit that, on this ground, the religion he introduced into the world was false? It is strange, to say the least, that the avowed affinity of Christianity to Judaism has not protected Islam from the particular assault of Christian apologists. Do not the present-day Old and New Testaments contain in them an iota of Divine Truth? If Jews and Christians are willing to answer this in the negative, they are entitled to challenge the Divine origin of the Holy Quran, otherwise not.
The Holy Quran claims that it verifies what has been revealed in the past (The Holy Quran, 46 : 12, 30); but, being the last revealed Book, it has distinguished the genuine from the spurious portions of the older Scriptures (Ibid., 2 : 185). The Holy Quran speaks of itself as the "pure pages wherein are all the right Books" (Ibid., 98 : 2-3); and as bringing out what was concealed by Jews and Christians in their books (Ibid., 5 : 48); and finally, as the last Book, it replaced them (Ibid., 16 : 101) because of the innumerable interpolations in them. Likewise, the Holy Prophet never claimed to be the only Prophet of God. Indeed, we are told that every nation of the world had prophets sent to them (10: 47; 16: 36 ; 35 : 24). Says the Holy Quran:
"Surely We have revealed to you as We revealed to Noah, and the prophets after him, and We revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and We gave David a scripture. And (We sent) apostles We have mentioned to you before and apostles We have not mentioned to you; and to Moses Allah addressed His word, speaking (to him). We sent apostles as the givers of good news and as warners, so that people should not have a plea against Allah after the coming of apostles, and Allah is Mighty, Wise" (Ibid., 4 : 163-165).
The charge of want of Divine origin or originality has been levelled against the Holy Quran, simply because the Bible does not lay any claims to be of Divine Inspiration and Christians have to admit human element in every part of it. The immense variety of its readings, the discrepant versions, the dishonest translations, the absurd dogmas and the conflicting doctrines-all these tax the faith of a Christian when he is faced with the claims of the Holy Quran, its uniformity, its universality and toleration; and he is left with no alternative but to attack the character of the Holy Prophet as "an impostor" and the Holy Quran as the creation of this "master mind" and thus "a forgery."
But the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet present a unique aspect: we can trace both of them historically; step by step and day by day. This peculiarity, which constitutes their strength, furnishes a complete answer to the charge of Christians. We know the conduct of the Holy Prophet from his childhood to his death from facts in history, and we can proceed to judgement whether such a man could possible be "an impostor" and whether he could falsely represent "a creation of his mind" as the Book of God. I will first deal with certain aspects of his life, which conclusively prove the contrary and then support it with a discussion of the internal evidence from the Holy Quran.
The life of the Holy Prophet before the Call bears testimony to his character. He possessed a modesty of deportment and purity of manners rare among the people of his time. Endowed with a refined mind and delicate taste, reserved and meditative, he lived a quiet pious life. The vulgar sports of the young never attracted him and his fair character, honourable bearing and honesty of purpose, won for him the approbation of his fellow citizens, and he received, by common consent, at the age of twenty, the title of Al-Amin, the Trustworthy. It is because of his stainless and noble character that it could be said:
"Say: Indeed, I have lived a life-time among you before it: do you not then understand?" (The Holy Quran, 10 : 16).
When the Holy Prophet received the Divine revelation to preach openly (Ibid., 5 : 67 ; 74: 2), and in particular to his relations (The Holy Quran, 26: 214), he appealed to the same facts. Climbing one day, on Mt. Safa, he summoned every tribe of Quraish by name till all the tribes had assembled there. "Have you", asked the Holy Prophet, "ever heard me tell a lie?" They replied with one voice in the negative and pointed out that he was Al-Amin. "Would you believe me," then enquired the Holy Prophet, "if I tell you that a great enemy lies in the yonder valley, behind the mountains, in wait to attack you?" The reply was: "Yes, certainly; for we have never found you telling a lie." "Then," said the Holy Prophet, "know that I am a wamer unto you of an appalling doom, unless you amend your ways." At this, as was to be expected, they first mocked at him, then became furious and left him (Sirat Ibn Hisham, 148-9). See Bukhari, 65: 36: 2).
The life of the Holy Prophet, from the moment of his Call to the time of his death, bears testimony to his sincerity of purpose. I will only mention a few incidents of his life. Let me begin with his first Call. It was his custom to withdraw into the desert every year during the month of Ramadan, for meditation and prayer. In the mount of Hira (see illustration, page 90) he often remained whole nights, plunged in the profoundest thought, deep in communion with the Unseen yet All-Pervading Power. In the still hours of the night, in the depth of his solitude, he heard the Call: Read. He simply and truthfully replied: "I cannot read." Then came the first revelation:
"Read in the name of thy Lord, who created" (The Holy Quran, 96: 1).
What were his feelings on this occasion? Not those of a man who wished to be a prophet, not those of an impostor, certainly! He had not as yet realised his mission. A severe conflict wrung his heart. Trembling, with the words which had been spoken to him engraved on his heart, he went home to his wife Hazrat Khadijah and cried: "Cover me with cloth! Cover me with cloth!" and he told her what had happened and said: "I am afraid for my life." She covered him as directed and replied:
"God is my protection, O Abul Qasim, He will surely not let such a thing befall thee, for thou speakest the truth, keepest faith and leadest a good life. Thou art kind to thy relations and friends, and dost not return evil for evil. What hath happened to thee? Hast thou seen anything?" (Bukhari, 1:3; Muslim, 2 : 88).
Hazrat Khadijah urged him to be glad instead of sorrowful, for she at once believed with all her heart that he had been chosen to be the Prophet of her people.
During a period of some six months, called Fatrah, the Holy Prophet did not receive any revelation. This period pressed heavily on his mind for he longed for the heavenly voice to speak again. At last it came and burdened him with a responsibility the extent and consequence of which he did not then know. He was commanded:
"O you who are wrapped up! Arise and warn" (The Holy Quran, 74: 1-2).
The Holy Prophet then became alive to the mission entrusted to him, and answered the Call. He lost all thoughts of himself, and his life henceforth was devoted entirely to the cause of humanity.
During the first three years of his mission he opened his mind only to those who were somewhat attached to him. Then he gathered his tribe and delivered the message. He met with scant success, but the denunciation of their idols lashed them into fury. At first they boycotted him. Then they insulted and outraged him-they even, to mention only one incident, heaped dirt on his head. His daughter, Hazrat Fatimah, wiped it off and, as she did so, wept. The Holy Prophet seeing it comforted her and said: "My daughter, weep not: for verily the Lord will be thy father's helper."
The Holy Prophet continued to preach with an unswerving purpose and a small band of followers gathered round him. Amidst frightful persecutions he held to the path of reproof and reform. The Quraish, at last realising to some extent the hopelessness of their task, held a council. They called in a body on the Holy Prophet and Utba, their leader, addressed him thus:
"O son of my brother! Thou art distinguished by thy qualities and thy descent. Now thou hast sown division among our people and cast dissension in our families; thou denouncest our gods and goddesses; thou dost tax our ancestors with impiety. We have a proposition to make thee. If thou wishest to acquire riches by this affair, we will collect a fortune larger than is possessed by any of us; if thou desirest honour and dignity, we shall make thee our chief and shall not do a thing without thee. If thou desirest dominion and power, we shall make thee king and thou shalt rule over us. If thou desirest a woman, name her and we will bring her to thee; point to her and she shall be in thine arms" (Sirat Ibn Hisham, 92).
What a wonderful opportunity for a hypocrite or an impostor! He could have been the overlord of Arabia; and after establishing himself, he could have forced his views on them. But the Holy Prophet was neither a hypocrite nor an impostor. He stuck to the straight path; and in reply he recited the first eight verses of the forty-first chapter of the Holy Quran which run thus:
"The Praised, the Blessed God. This is a revelation from the Beneficent and Most Merciful God. A book the verses whereof are distinctly explained, an Arabic Quran, for a people who understand; a herald of good news and a warner, but most of them turn aside and so they hear not. And they say: Our hearts are veiled from that to what you call us, and there is a deafness in our ears and a veil hangs between us and thee; so act thou as thou shalt think best; we shall act according to our own opinions. Say: Verily I am only a man like unto you. It is revealed to me that your God is One God; therefore follow the right way to Him and ask pardon of Him for what is past, and woe to those who worship many gods (and to those), who give not alms, and believe not in the life to come. (But as for those) who believe and work righteousness, they shall receive an everlasting reward" (The Holy Quran, 41 :1-8).
The Quraish expelled the Holy Prophet from the Ka'ba, and went in a body to his uncle, Abu Talib, and addressed him thus:
"We respect thine age and thy rank but our respect for thee has bounds; and verily, we can have no further patience with they nephew's abuse of our gods; therefore, do thou either prevent him from so doing, or thyself take part with him, so that we may settle he matter by fight, until one of the two parties is exterminated" (Ibid., 96).
Abu Talib sent for the Holy Prophet and appealed to him to renounce the task he had undertaken. Imagine the feelings of Muhammad. On the one hand were the Makkans his most cruel persecutors ever ready to kill him if they could. There is his uncle, old and weary, unable to protect him any longer, appealing to him to give up his work; and there is the Almighty God commanding him to preach His Word fearlessly. A very hard moment of trial, indeed. Finally, the Holy Prophet replied:
"O my uncle! if they place the sun on my right hand, and the moon on my left to force me to renounce my work, verily I will not desist an iota therefrom till Allah make manifest His cause, or I perish in the attempt" (Ibid., 96).
Abu Talib died in 619 CE, and his death became the signal for the Quraish to redouble their persecution. Reduced to the last extremities for want of provisions and water the Holy Prophet had to leave Makka. Accompanied by Zaid, his freedman, he proceeded to Taif and invited the people of that city to follow him. They hooted him through the streets, and pelted him with stones, and at last compelled him to leave the city pursued by a relentless rabble. Blood flowed from both of his legs; and Zaid, endeavouring to shield him, was wounded in the head. The mob did not desist until they had chased him for some miles. Wounded and bleeding, footsore and weary, he betook himself to prayer. Raising his hands towards heaven, and with tears streaming from his eyes, he uttered the following touching supplication:
"O Lord! Guide my people on the right path. They do not know me; make them understand, and do not forsake them. Perchance some of them will see the light and pay heed to Thy Word ... O Thou Most Merciful God! I seek refuge in the light of Thy countenance, by which all darkness is dispersed and peace cometh here and hereafter. Solve my difficulties as it pleaseth Thee; for there is no power, no help, but in Thee" (Sirat Ibn Hisham, 147).
Dealing with this incident of Taif, Sir William Muir says:
"There is something lofty and heroic in this journey of Mohammad to At-Taif, a solitary man, despised and rejected by his own people, going boldly forth in the name of God ... and summoning an idolatrous city to repent and support his mission. It sheds a strong light on the intensity of his belief in the divine origin of his calling" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad 112, 113). (Italics are mine.)
The Holy Prophet returned to Makka, but as time rolled on, life there became impossible for him and his followers. He advised his Companions to go to Abyssinia, and they did; but he himself with a few of the followers remained at his post. Later on, he and his followers were invited by two tribes of Madina, the Khazraj and the Aus, to go to their city. In similar circumstances any other man would have made any sacrifice to get their shelter, would have agreed to any terms to procure their protection. But not so with the Holy Prophet. Before accepting their offer he took from them a pledge-called the Pledge of the Akaba - in the following terms:
"We will not worship any but the One God. We will not steal, neither will we commit adultery, nor kill our children; we will not slander in anywise, nor will we disobey the Prophet in anything that is right" (Sirat Ibn Hisham, 151).
It is noteworthy that the members of these two tribes were not asked by the Holy Prophet to defend or protect him or his followers.
The study of Muhammad in history is a subject in itself and it is really beyond the scope of this book. I can here only discuss the question of his sincerity. The Christian critics of Islam have debated at great length regarding this question. They are compelled to admit indisputable facts relating to his life. But to question his sincerity in face of these admissions is really paradoxical. Could anyone have done what the Holy Prophet did without the most profound faith in the reality of goodness of his cause? There is not a single trait in his character which Christian calumny can couple with imposture: on the other hand there is overwhelming evidence to prove that the Holy Prophet himself believed in what he preached to be the Truth. Even Muir has to admit that:
"The first conception by Mohammad of a revelation from heaven ... leaves on the mind no doubt of his sincerity and earnest searching after truth at this period of his life" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 53)
Gibbon, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, says that no prophet ever passed through so severe an ordeal as did Muhammad, since he first presented himself as the Prophet of God to those who were conversant with him-those who knew him best: his wife, his freed slaves, his cousins and his earliest friends.
Muir, while agreeing with Sprenger that "the faith of Abu Bakr is the greatest guarantee of the sincerity of Mohammad in the beginning of his career, and indeed throughout his life," goes on to say:
"It is strongly corroborative of Mohammad's sincerity that the earliest converts to Islam were not only of upright character, but his own bosom friends and people of his own household; who, intimately connected with his life, could not fail otherwise to have detected those discrepancies which ever more or less exist between the professions of the hypocritical deceiver abroad and his actions at home" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 55).
George Elliot has said:
"No man, whether prophet, statesman or popular preacher, ever yet kept a prolonged hold without being in some measure degraded thereby. His teaching or his life must be accommodated to the average wants of his hearer, and not to his own insight. But, after all, we should regard the life of every great man as a drama, in which there must be important inward modifications accompanying the outward changes" (Elliot, Romola, Vol. 2, 5 : 5).
I agree to differ, to some extent, with this dictum of George Elliot, inasmuch as I consider that it cannot be applicable to the Prophets of God. In their teachings and in their lives there must be a rigid consistency. I would rather agree with Bosworth-Smith when he asserts that we have a right to demand in a great man-a Prophet of God certainly-that the intensity of the central truth he has to deliver should become not less but more intense; that the flame of his zeal should burn so clear as to throw into the shade other object which shine with a less brilliant light, that the essence should continue to be pure.
To honest Christian students of the life of the Holy Prophet, it has always remained an object of wonder that, under different circumstances, he did not differ at all with himself. I quote here, with only such slight alterations as adapt them to my subject, the words of Bosworth-Smith: In the shepherd of the desert, in the Syrian trader, in the solitary of Mount Hira, in the reformer, in the minority of one, in the acknowledged conqueror of Makka, in the virtual overlord of Arabia, in the superior of the Persian Chosroes and the Greek Herachus, we can trace the same substantial unity, the same noble personality. History knows of no other man whose external conditions changed so much, and who himself did not change to meet them, in whose life the accidents changed so rapidly but the essence remained unalloyed.
Power, it is said, puts a man to his test. It brings new temptations and also entails new failures. But no man stood this test so successfully as did the Holy Prophet. When he unexpectedly entered Makka in triumph the three hundred and sixty idols vanished before him. He was now a victorious overlord of Arabia. There was now nothing left in Arabia to thwart his pleasures. If ever he had worn a mask at all, he would now at all events have torn it off. If lower aims had gradually sapped his higher ideals, or if his moderation had been directed, as Muir alleges by his selfish interests, he would now have exposed his real self. Now was the time to gratify his ambition, to satiate his lust, to glut his revenge. Was there anything of the kind? No. The Holy Prophet in his treatment of the unbelieving city remained marvellously true to his programme. He was neither pitiless nor tyrannical, nor cruel through excess of zeal. He forgave the inhabitants of Makka, he forgave his most cruel persecutors, he even forgave Hinda, the wife of Abu Sufian, who had devoured the raw flesh of his uncle, Hazrat Hamza, on the field of Uhud. He forgave them all except Abdullah ibn Abi Sarh, because he had tried to falsify and tamper with a portion of the Holy Quran.
The Holy Prophet had become the head of the state as well as of the religion he had introduced into the world; but he never assumed the pretensions nor the legions of a ruler. He did not have a standing army, nor a palace. He never made himself a potentate. He despised the pomp of royalty. He was enjoined never to stretch his eyes towards the classes who had worldly splendour (The Holy Quran, 15 : 88 ; 20: 131), and he consequently never desired for wealth. His wives were ordained not to cherish any desire for worldly things (Ibid., 33 : 28-35), and he, along with them, avoided the path of ambition and avarice. He, with them, submitted himself to the menial offices of the family. He swept the floor, kindled the fire, milked the ewes, mended with his own hands his garments and even clouted his shoes. Often no fire could be lighted in his house for scantiness of means. The simplicity of his private life was in keeping with his public life.
He was the overlord of Arabia. Was it not possible for him to gratify his every wish, to surround himself with pomp and luxury, to heap up riches? The people were prepared to worship him. On the day his little son Ibrahim died there happened to be an eclipse of the sun. What an opportunity, I repeat, for a hypocrite or an impostor! The people were saying: "It is because of the death of Ibrahim that the sun is in mourning." The Holy Prophet rebuked them for their foolishness and said:
"The sun and the moon are two signs of the signs of God. They are not eclipsed on account of life or death of anyone" (Abu Duud 2:116).
He reminded his followers that he was merely a messenger and servant of God, bent only on obedience to his Master's commands. He repeated:
"Verily I am only a man like unto you. Praise God Who guided me and raised me in His service" (The Holy Quran, 41:6).
Hagiology is not history; but the contemporaries of the Holy Prophet, his enemies who rejected his mission and persecuted him, and unbiased and honest modern writers of Islam, with one voice extol his piety, his justice, his veracity, his clemency and his humility. Even a bigoted Christian critic of Islam, whom I have quoted more than once, had to admit that "Mohammad ... practised all these moral virtues."
The Holy Prophet never claimed to be anything more than a deputy of God on earth. He denied all knowledge of the future, except such as God had revealed to him (The Holy Quran, 72: 25-27). He did not pretend to be super-human (Ibid., 7 :187-188). Indeed, he could not even save those he loved (Ibid., 28: 56). To his daughter and to his aunt he said:
"O Fatima, my daughter, and thou Safiya, my aunt: Work ye out that which shall gain acceptance with the Lord; for verily I have no power with Him to save you in any manner."
Hazrat Aisha, his wife, once asked him: "O Messenger of God! do none enter Paradise but through God's mercy?" "None, none, none," he replied, "neither shall I enter Paradise unless God covers me with His mercy" (Mishkat-ul-Musubih, I, Book 4: 280). He was made to proclaim, time and again, that he was himself bound by and followed the law for the introduction of which he was instrumental:
"And this is a book We have revealed, blessed; therefore follow it and guard (against evil) that mercy may be shown to you" (The Holy Quran, 6 : 155).
"Say: Surely my prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are (all) for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. No associate has He, and this I am commanded, and I am the first of those who submit" (Ibid., 6 : 162-163).
"I follow naught, but what is revealed to me" (Ibid., 10 : 15).
And what a change had the few years of the ministry of the Holy Prophet witnessed? I will let Muir answer this question:
"A band of several hundred persons had rejected idolatry, adopted the worship of God, and surrendered themselves implicitly to the guidance of what they believed a revelation from Him; praying to the Almighty with frequency and fervour, looking for pardon through His mercy and striving to follow after good works, almsgiving, purity and justice. They now lived under a sense of the omnipotent power of God, and of His providential care over the minutest of their concerns. In all the gifts of nature, in every relation of life, at each turn of their affairs, individual or public, they saw His hand. And, above all, the new existence in which they exulted was regarded as the mark of His special grace: while the unbelief of their blinded fellow citizens was the hardening stamp of reprobation. Mohammad was the minister of life to them, the source under God of their new-born hopes and to him they yielded an implicit submission" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 162).
Through his character and self-surrender the Holy Prophet had succeeded in transforming a moral desert into a garden. Harmony and love were breathed into the hearts of those who had before been engrossed in the most inhuman practices of semi-barbarism. The mission of the Holy Prophet was accomplished in his life-time. Well did he, in his farewell pilgrimage, say:
"O ye people! Listen to my words, for I know not whether another year will be vouchsafed to me after this year to find myself amongst you. Your lives and properties are sacred and inviolable, amongst one another till ye appear before the Lord, as this day and month is sacred for all, and remember ye shall have to appear before your Lord, Who shall demand from you an account of your actions .... O Lord! I have delivered my message, and have accomplished my work" (Muslim, 15: 391-395).
I had set out to narrate only a few events from the life of the Holy Prophet. I have, I think, said more than is sufficient to establish that the Holy Prophet, from the moment of his Call to the time of his death, believed in his mission to be Divine. No other man in the whole history of the world, however mighty his enthusiasm for a cause, has ever served that cause more single-heartedly than did the Holy Prophet. In his hours of triumph, as in those of adversity, he did his duty without a taint of personal motive. To question his sincerity is to deny his work-God's work, I should say-which endures until the present moment.
I will now proceed to examine the very basis of this false accusation. Sir William Muir, while discussing the question whether the Holy Quran was a creation of the mind of the Holy Prophet, grounded his charge on certain conjectural statements. Referring to the journeys of the Holy Prophet to Syria, he says:
"Though the direct route from Mecca to Basra would run a great way east of the Mediterranean, it seems possible that either now or in former journeys, Muhammad may have seen the Mediterranean Sea. Perhaps, the caravan visited Gaza, the favourite entreport of the Mecca merchants. His references in the Koran to ships gliding majestically on the waters, like "mountain" points to a larger class of vessels than he was likely to see on the Red Sea. The vivid picture of sea storms are among the finest sketches in the Koran, and evidently drawn from nature: the waves and tempest may have been witnessed from the Arabian shore, but the "mountain ships" more likely from the Syrian" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 22, footnote). (Italics are mine.)
This passage needs no comment. The italicised words show the flimsy ground on which Muir bases his conjectures. When every detail of the life of the Holy Prophet is known why should he, or anyone else, surmise at all as to facts? His object obviously was to mislead his readers.
There is another aspect. The Holy Quran makes reference to Moses in the following terms:
"And a witness from among the Children of Israel has borne witness of one like him" (The Holy Quran, 46: 10).
Of course, the reference is to Moses because the Lord had promised him and thus foretold through him that:
"I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren like unto thee" (Deut., 18: 18).
But to support his theory Muir says:
"Whether this "Witness," and the other Jewish supporters of Muhammad, were among his professed followers, slaves perhaps, at Mecca .... we can but conjecture. Whoever his Jewish friends may have been, it is evident that he had a knowledge .... of the outlines of Jewish history and tradition. These, distorted by rabbinical fables and embellished or travestied by the Prophet's fancy, supplied the material for the Scriptural stories which at this period form a chief portion of the Koran" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 99).
To begin with, Muir puts a deliberately wrong and false interpretation of the word witness and then he, admittedly relying on conjecture only, comes to an erroneous conclusion, and palms it off as a fact in history. Further on he says:
"To acquire so minute a knowledge of a considerable portion of Jewish scriptures and legend, to assimilate these to his former materials, and to work them up into elaborate and rhythmical Suras, was a work that no doubt required much time and patience .... For this end many a midnight hour must have been stolen from sleep. Such employment is probably referred to in passages like the following" (Ibid., 102):
Muir then quotes the first eight verses of the 73rd chapter. He deceitfully omits the words to pray from the text and dishonestly construes the text to suit his purpose. The verses are:
"O you who have wrapped up yourself! Rise to pray in the night except a little, half of it or lessen it a little, or add to it. And recite the Quran well-arranged. Surely We will make to light upon you a weighty word. Surely the rising by night is the firmest way to devotion and the best corrective of speech. Surely, you have in the day-time a long occupation. And remember the name of your Lord and devote yourself to Him with (exclusive) devotion" (The Holy Quran, 73 :1-8).
The seventy-third chapter is called Al-Muzzammil, and the Holy Prophet is addressed in the same terms. It means one who is wrapped up or one who has prepared himself for prayer (Ibid., 73 : 1). The revelation of this chapter belongs to the early Makkan period and commentators generally consider it to be one of the very early revelations. It is beyond comprehension how these verses could ever honestly form the basis for the conjectures of Muir, or could mean that the Holy Prophet spent many mid-nights for the composition of the Holy Quran.
It is obvious that Muir was alive to the fact that he was dishonestly accusing the Holy Prophet of "the high blasphemy of forging the name of God." Well may he confess:
"The confidence in his inspiration is sometimes expressed with imprecations which one cannot read without a shudder" (Muir, The Life of Mohummad, 127).
In fact, the verses quoted by Muir and which precede these remarks must have sent a cold shiver down his spine, for therein a challenge is thrown out to unbelievers in the following terms:
"Say unto the unbelievers; Work ye in your place. Wait in expectation. We too in expectancy are waiting" (The Holy Quran, 11 : 122).
"Say: Each of us awaiteth the issue; wait therefore. Hereafter ye shall surely know who they are that have chosen the straight path; and who hath been guided aright" (Ibid., 20: 135).
Christian critics of Islam rely upon the following verses of the Holy Quran as evidence of the fact that the Holy Prophet borrowed his teachings from some followers of other faiths:
"Those who disbelieve say: This is nothing but clear enchantment" (Ibid., 11 :7).
All these verses are of Makkan origin, and convey that the Makkan idolaters, like modern Christian critics, were puzzled as to what they could liken the Holy Quran. They first of all called it a Sihr, a skilful eloquence and therefore an enchantment, because notwithstanding their opposition to it, it had an attraction for them. But then it also contained prophetic utterances which could not be explained away by mere eloquence; so they describe it as medley of dreams. When, however, they came across descriptions of things unseen, they attributed them to the imagination of the Holy Prophet and out of spite described him as a madman (Ibid., 68 : 2. See also 23 : 70) or alternately as a poet (Ibid., 36: 69). Soon they discovered that there was a set purpose behind it all inasmuch as it proclaimed the ultimate triumph of the Holy Prophet and his followers and the annihilation of their opponents; they then styled it an intentional forgery and asked for a proof in support of it. To support their charge, they alleged that someone else was teaching him. The Holy Prophet used to proclaim his mission openly. They knew him intimately and watched his movements closely; and yet they could not advance their case beyond vague platitudes and mere conjectures. They, like the Christian critics of Islam, found it "impossible to penetrate the mystery in which this subject is involved:" And why? Rodwell gives an explanation, if an explanation it be, that it was in "secrecy" that the Holy Prophet "received his instructions." To admit that there were "no secrets about his life," and to allege, in the same breath, that it was done in "secrecy" is to confess that there is no evidence in support of the allegation.
These verses, however, form the basis of the charge, and I must, therefore, examine them more carefully. The mere mention of these allegations in these verses, has been taken as establishing their truth. But this proves nothing, because the Holy Quran, as the context shows, refutes these allegations. If we analyse these verses, we find that the Makkan idolaters did not know who the man was, but they knew that he was not one of them, neither an idolater nor an Arab. The denunciation of their idols by the Holy Prophet could not but lead them to this conclusion. The reference to "the stories of the ancients: indicates that they took this man to be a Jew or a Christian of non-Arab origin. That is why they styled his tongue as "barbarous." The word used is Ajami which signifies a non-Arab in general and a Persian in particular. Again, as already stated, all these verses are of Makkan origin, and it is, therefore, reasonable to suppose that such a man should have been associated with the Holy Prophet both at Makka and at Madina, or in other words, throughout his prophetic career. The issue is thus narrowed down; and we have to scrutinise in this light, and in keeping with the historical facts, the various names suggested by various writers on Islam; and this I propose to do now.
Waraqa was a resident of Makka. He was an Arab, and was acquainted with the Jewish scriptures. He had forsaken idolatry, but was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He had never come in contact with the Holy Prophet; but when he learnt, through his cousin Hazrat Khadijah, of the Call at the Cave of Hira, he at once declared his faith in the Holy Prophet as the Prophet of God. He, however, died soon after. Speaking of Waraqa, Muir says:
"To the family group (of converts to Islam) it is hardly necessary to add Waraga, the aged cousin of Khadijah, because he had already died before Muhammad had entered upon his public career" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 56).
Mary the Copt, it is alleged, supplied to the Holy Prophet the details, as given in the Holy Quran, about Jesus and Mary. She, it is asserted, knew of the Christian dogmas from the Apocryphal Books then known in Egypt and subsequently narrated them to the Holy Prophet. To begin with, there is no foundation for the belief that Mary the Copt was well-versed, or even acquainted, with this branch of religious literature. But even if this be conceded, the question of the Holy Prophet being tutored by her is too ludicrous to be considered seriously. Those who contend otherwise merely exhibit their utter ignorance of Islamic history. The chapter of the Holy Quran called Maryam (Mary) contains the first revelation about Jesus, his mother and the Christian dogmas. This chapter was revealed in the fifth year of the Mission. It is on record that Ja'far, the leader of the first batch of Muslim emigrants to Abyssinia, recited the relevant portion of this chapter before Negus (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 92), the Christian King of Abyssinia, when a deputation of the Quraish urged him to expel the Muslim refugees from his country. It is evident, therefore, that these portions were revealed seven years before the Hijra (Ibid., 371); and Mary the Copt was sent by Maqauqus of Egypt to the Holy Prophet at Madina in the seventh year of the Hijra, i.e., fourteen years after the revelation of this chapter. The allegation is, therefore, either based on gross ignorance of Islamic history or due to a wilful perversion of truth.
Suhaib, son of Sinan, is suggested by Muir as the person from whom "it is probable that Mohammad gained some acquaintance with Christianity." (Ibid., 66). (Italics are mine.) I quote Muir himself to depict the character of Suhaib:
"His home was at Mosul or some neighbouring village in Mesopotamia. A Grecian band having made a raid into Mesopotamia, carried him off while yet a boy to Syria, perhaps to Constantinople. Bought afterwards by a parry of Bedawin he was sold at Mecca to the Chief, Ibn Jud'an, who gave him freedom and protection .... By traffic he acquired considerable wealth at Mecca, but having embraced Islam, being left by the death of his former master without a patron; he suffered much at the hands of the unbelieving Koraish .... At the general emigration to Medina the people of Mecca endeavoured to prevent Soheib's departure; but he bargained to relinquish his whole property that they might let him go" (Ibid., 66-67) .
And for what did Suhaib suffer persecutions and part with his property? Not that he might continue to be the sponsor of a forgery. Is it conceivable that a man who willingly suffers and forgoes his all to follow a homeless refugee would blaspheme the name of God and be a party to a fraud on humanity? The character of Suhaib and his eventful life are in themselves guarantees against his being guilty of any such charge.
Salman, the Persian, is suggested by Dean Prideaux (Prideaux, Life of Mohammad 31) and he bases his conjectures on the word Ajami. But both Muir and Sale differ with him. Salman was of a good family of Ispahan; and, in his younger years, left the religion of his country. He went to Syria, where he was advised by a monk of Amuria to go to Arabia, where a Prophet was expected to appear at that time, who would re-establish the Religion of Abraham. Salman performed the journey and met the Holy Prophet at Koba, a suburb little more than two miles to the south of Madina, where the Holy Prophet had halted for a few days in his flight to Madina. The first real mention of Salman in Islamic history occurs in connection with the entrenchment of Madina (Sirat Ibn Hisham, 136). Thus it is obvious that he was never with the Holy Prophet at Makka before the Flight and could not, therefore, have been the person referred to in the Holy Quran.
Qais or Kos, the Bishop of Najran, to whom the Holy Prophet is supposed to have talked while on his first journey to Syria, is also mentioned. This journey was undertaken by the Holy Prophet at the age of twelve. It is sheer nonsense to suggest that a boy at this age could learn anything about religion and recollect and repeat at the age of forty what was narrated to him about thirty years before.
Sergius or Boheira, a Nestorian monk, is generally supposed by most of Christian writers on Islam to have been the man with whom the Holy Prophet, at his tender age, had held a conference at Bosra, a city of Syria Damascena (Prideaux, Life of Mohammad, 35). (See also Marraci, de Alcor 37.) How much any monk could have taught in a few days to one still so young who could not talk any language but his own, is a question which Christians have failed to consider and much less answer. Sale rejects the suggestion and says:
"I find not the least intimation, that he (Sergius) ever quitted his monastery to go into Arabia (as is supposed by the Christians) and his acquaintance with Mohammad was too early to favour the surmise of his assisting him in the Koran, which was composed long after" (Sale, Translation of the Koran, 204).
Thomas Carlyle found it impossible to support this Christian charge (Carlyle, Hero and Hero-Worship, 71). Muir rejects it as puerile (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 21). Davenport believes the allegations qua Salman and Sergius as being based on utterly baseless conjectures and says:
"The statement that Muhammad composed the Koran by the aid of a Christian Monk and Abdul Salman, a Persian Jew, refutes itself, for it is not to be credited that the excellence of the Arabian language should be derived from two foreigners of whom the one was a Syrian and the other a Persian" (Davenport, Mohammad and the Koran, 50).
The names of Yasir, Jabar, Khobeib, Habib, Aish or Ya'ish, `Addas and Zaid have also been suggested. All these were slaves who had been freed. They were among the early converts of Islam and as such the brunt of the wrath of the Quraish had fallen upon them, because they were weak and poor and had no patron or protector. They, however, in spite of the most cruel persecutions and the most trying torments did not recant. They could have apostatised and thus avoided torment, but they preferred to face death rather than renounce their faith, even in words. They died in the cause because they believed in the Holy Quran as the word of God, which said:
"And think not (of) those who are killed in Allah's way as dead, nay! they are alive (and) are provided sustenance from their Lord" (The Holy Quran, 2:154).
The spirit these slave-converts displayed is unique in history. Yasir was put to death along with his wife and son in a most inhuman manner. Jabar was also killed at Makka in similar circumstances (Sirat Ibn Hishum, p. 260). In the same way Khobeib, who had been perfidiously sold to the Quraish, had been put to death by them by mutilation and cutting off his flesh piecemeal. He was asked, in the middle of his tortures, whether he would not wish Muhammad to be in his place and he sitting in security at home. He replied:
"I would not wish deliverance and to be with my family and children on condition that the Messenger of God suffer the pain even of a thorn" (Ibid., 648).
Take the case of Zaid. He was still a child when, travelling with his family, he was waylaid by a band of Arab marauders, and carried away and sold into slavery. For years his father searched for him. At last a party of his tribe recognised him at Makka. By then Zaid had become a convert to Islam. His father came to Makka and wanted to take him back. The choice was left with Zaid, for he was by then a freedman. He refused to go and preferred to remain with his brethren-in-faith and to suffer their fate.
Is it conceivable, I ask once again, that these men who were the least gainers from a worldly point of view, would have willingly suffered for a cause which, if they had been assisting the Holy Prophet in the preparation of the Holy Quran, they must have known to be false, or for a Book which to their knowledge was a forgery? The sincerity, the firmness and the resolution of these convert slaves, their readiness to suffer any loss, their willingness to undergo any hardship, are everlasting monuments of their living faith in the Word of God and the Divine Mission of the Holy Prophet. It is preposterous to suggest that they had individually or collectively taught, or even indicated to, the Holy Prophet what he should have put in the Book. They could never have remained loyal to the faith, particularly when the Holy Quran was proclaiming:
"This is (of) the announcements relating to the Unseen (which) We reveal to you" (The Holy Quran, 12: 102).
Here was a direct challenge. Could not those who had tutored the Holy Prophet say so or accept this challenge? If the Holy Prophet had in fact received secret instructions from some one he could not have so boldly and so repeatedly made these declarations, or proclaim that every verse of the Holy Quran was a direct revelation from God and that he had no human instructors. No, the truth is that he had none, and his followers, one and all, believed the Holy Quran to be the Word of God. Sir William Muir, speaking of the faith of the early Muslims and of the Mosque at Madina, says:
"Here the Prophet and his Companions spent most of their time, here the daily service, with its oft-recurring prayers, was first publicly established: and here the great congregation assembled listening with reverence and awe to messages from heaven" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 177).
Speaking of the return journey from Hudaibiyya, Muir goes on to say:
"At the close of the first March, the pilgrims might be seen hurrying across the plains, urging their camels from all directions, and crowding round the Prophet. "Inspiration had descended on him," passed from mouth to mouth throughout the camp. Standing upright upon his camel Muhammad recited the Sura entitled: The Victory" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad 360).
The Truce of Hudaibiyya, some of the Companions of the Holy Prophet had thought, was not honourable for the Muslims. The conditions agreed upon were decidedly disadvantageous to them. Even Hazrat Umar had some misgivings about them, and said so openly. But this chapter declared:
"Surely, We have given to you a clear victory" (The Holy Quran, 48 : 1).
No sooner was the chapter recited by the Holy Prophet than the whole camp with one voice thanked God for His Mercy: their doubts were at once dispelled for the Word of God made the position clear. Such was the faith of the Companions of the Holy Prophet. And subsequently history testifies to the truth of this Divine announcement.
Before dealing with the internal evidence I should like to mention that although most of the references to Jewish and Christian Scriptures appear in the Makkan verses, yet it is an indisputable fact that there were neither any Jews nor any converts to the Jewish religion at Makka. The only ground on which it has been alleged that the Holy Prophet, while at Makka, must have found some means of communication with Jews or Christians, or at least with some person acquainted with Jewish lore and Christian fables, is that between the fifth and the tenth year of the Mission the Quranic revelation began "to abound with narratives taken, often at great length, from their scriptures and legends" (Muir, The Life of Mohummad 96). But this is begging the whole question. In fact it is an indirect admission that there is no evidence at all and that the allegation is based merely on conjectures and wild speculations. It has further been alleged that at Madina the Holy Prophet came a good deal in contact with Christian heretics and borrowed freely from the Gnostics. But, for the Holy Prophet to have confused Christianity with Gnosticism, the latter must have prevailed in Arabia far more universally than we have reason to believe from history. In fact there is no justification for believing that the doctrines of this sect were taught or professed in Arabia. It is certain, on the other hand, that Basilideans, Valentinians and other Gnostic sects had completely died out by the end of the fifth century of the Christian era. Even Muir had to admit:
"Gnosticism had disappeared from Egypt before the sixth century, and there is no reason for supposing that it had at any time gained a footing in Arabia. Besides, there is no affinity between the supernaturalism of the Gnostics and Docetae and the rationalism of the Koran" (Ibid., 154).
Muir, therefore, himself demolishes the very foundation on which the charge is based. Some Christian writers on Islam have tried to trace the various references in the Holy Quran to the Christian dogmas to be found in the Apocryphal Gospels. They allege that these Gospels were within easy reach of the Holy Prophet. Others imagine that he had acquired his knowledge from Christian traditions then prevalent in Arabia. I again quote Sir William Muir. He says:
"But though some few of its (the Holy Quran's) details do coincide with these spurious (Apocryphal) writings, its statements in no wise correspond . . . . There is no ground for believing that either at Mecca or Medina there existed anything of the kind from which could have been framed a narrative agreeing with the Gospels both genuine and apocryphal" (Muir, The Life of Mohummad, 155).
But in spite of their conjectures, Christian writers on Islam have hopelessly failed to explain away or account for a very patent and outstanding feature of the Holy Quran. The Gospels portray Jesus to be the son of God, who died on the Cross. The Holy Quran declares him to be a mere man, a Prophet of God, but still an ordinary man. The Holy Quran discredits the Jewish and Christian versions by asserting that Jesus did not suffer the death of an accursed one-he did not die on the Cross. Could the Jews and Christians of his, or any other age, have ever dreamt of these teachings or instructed the Holy Prophet in these matters? No doubt the Holy Quran repeats some incidents of Jewish history and also refers to certain Christian dogmas; but it always, at the crucial places, differs with the narratives as contained in the Old and New Testaments.
I now proceed to consider the internal evidence. If we study the Holy Quran with a view to finding its Author the conclusion of its Divine origin is irresistibly forced on us. It opens with the formula: In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful; and its Author is mentioned at the very outset as: I am Allah, the Best Knower (2:1). Again, the Qul (Say) verses, with which the Holy Quran abounds, clearly point out that the Book is proceeding direct from the Almighty. These verses also indicate that the Holy Prophet was made to realise, what Moses and Isaiah also believed, that he was the mere mouthpiece of God.
I have already referred to the perfection of the language of the Book, and have also mentioned the challenge it contains to non-Muslims, to wit, that they cannot, even if they all unite, produce even a single chapter like it (The Holy Quran, 2 : 23-24 ; 10: 38; 11 : 13). There is one significant fact which proves that the language used in the Book was not that of the Holy Prophet himself. The language of his most inspired sayings appear to be flat when compared with the language of the Holy Quran; the human element is apparent in the one, while the Divine Majesty and grandeur is obvious in the other; the inherent light of the former is eclipsed by the brilliance of the latter. They both disclose their authors: the servant and the Master, the helpless mortal and the All-Powerful Ever-Living Creator. Let me compare the prayer of the Holy Prophet at Taif with the Quranic verses revealed at the same time:
Oh my Lord! to Thee do I complain of the
feebleness of my strength, of my lack of
resourcefulness and of my insignificance in the
eyes of the people. Thou art Most Merciful of all
the merciful. Thou art the Lord of the weak. To
whom art Thou entrusting me? To an unsympathetic
enemy, who would sullenly frown at me; or to a
friend, whom Thou hast given control over my
affairs? I do not care for anything except that I
may have Thy protection. I seek for refuge in the
light of Thy countenance. It is Thine to chase away
the darkness, and to give peace both for this world
and the next; let not Thy wrath light upon me, nor
Thine anger. There is no strength, no power, except
in Thee (Sirat Ibn Hisham,
1 : 147.). And when the servant of Allah (Muhammad) stood
up in prayer to Him, they crowded on him almost
stifling (him). Say: I pray unto Allah only, and
ascribe unto Him no partner. Say: I control not
hurt nor benefit for you. Say: Verily, none can
protect me from Allah, nor can I find any refuge
besides Him. (Mine is) but the conveyance of the
truth from Allah, and the message; and whoso
disobeyeth Allah and His message, verily his is
fire of hell, wherein such dwell forever, till (the
day) they shall behold that which they are
promised; (they may) doubt but then they will know
(for certain) who is weaker in allies and less in
multitude. Say: I know not whether that which you
are promised is nigh, or if my Lord hath set a
distant time for it. He is the Knower of the
Unseen, and He revealeth unto none of His secrets,
save unto every messenger whom He hath chosen, and
then He maketh a guard to go before him and a guard
behind him, that He may know that they have indeed
conveyed the message of the Lord. He surrounds all
their doings and keepeth count of all thing
(The Holy Quran, 72: 19-28
(Translation by Muhammad Marmaduke
Oh my Lord! to Thee do I complain of the feebleness of my strength, of my lack of resourcefulness and of my insignificance in the eyes of the people. Thou art Most Merciful of all the merciful. Thou art the Lord of the weak. To whom art Thou entrusting me? To an unsympathetic enemy, who would sullenly frown at me; or to a friend, whom Thou hast given control over my affairs? I do not care for anything except that I may have Thy protection. I seek for refuge in the light of Thy countenance. It is Thine to chase away the darkness, and to give peace both for this world and the next; let not Thy wrath light upon me, nor Thine anger. There is no strength, no power, except in Thee (Sirat Ibn Hisham, 1 : 147.).
And when the servant of Allah (Muhammad) stood up in prayer to Him, they crowded on him almost stifling (him). Say: I pray unto Allah only, and ascribe unto Him no partner. Say: I control not hurt nor benefit for you. Say: Verily, none can protect me from Allah, nor can I find any refuge besides Him. (Mine is) but the conveyance of the truth from Allah, and the message; and whoso disobeyeth Allah and His message, verily his is fire of hell, wherein such dwell forever, till (the day) they shall behold that which they are promised; (they may) doubt but then they will know (for certain) who is weaker in allies and less in multitude. Say: I know not whether that which you are promised is nigh, or if my Lord hath set a distant time for it. He is the Knower of the Unseen, and He revealeth unto none of His secrets, save unto every messenger whom He hath chosen, and then He maketh a guard to go before him and a guard behind him, that He may know that they have indeed conveyed the message of the Lord. He surrounds all their doings and keepeth count of all thing (The Holy Quran, 72: 19-28 (Translation by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthal).).
Could a man give vent to these feelings of utter hopelessness and weakness and also simultaneously express the most unbounded confidence in his ultimate triumph and predict so forcibly the destruction of his opponents? A solitary man, left to himself without a friend, without a helper, rejected at home, goes for shelter to a neighbouring place. He is cruelly treated and turned out. Could he have dreamt of such events? Could these words proceed from one but the All-Powerful, All-Pervading Divine Source? The message must be delivered, the non-believers shall be punished and their number shall be reduced, for Allah encompasses all. These two passages clearly show that two different voices, one human and the other Divine, were speaking at one and the same time.
The Bible lays down a criterion whereby we can judge the Divine origin of a message delivered by a Prophet. It says:
"But the Prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that Prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a Prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken but the Prophet hath spoken it presumptuously, thou shalt not be afraid of him" (Deut., 18 : 20-22).
Thus even if a prophet has delivered innumerable true revelations, but if he falsely ascribes to God a single word which He has not spoken, such a prophet shall be destroyed, and his work shall perish. Similar words occur in another place in the Bible:
"Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in My name, and I sent them not, yet they say, sword and famine shall not be in this land: By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed" (Jer., 14: 15).
The Bible also tells us that the Lord is against those to whom He has not spoken and yet they prophesy falsely in His name. Such prophets and their people, says the Lord, shall never profit nor prosper (Jer., 23 : 30-32). By way of illustration the Prophet Jeremiah cites the fate of Hananiah, his contemporary, who was killed within one year of his having tried to mislead people by attributing to God prophecies which He had never commanded him to make (Jer., 28 : 15-17). The same fate, we are told, befell Theudas and his followers (Acts, 5 : 36). Jesus also compared a false prophet to a corrupt tree which is hewn down (Matt., 7 : 15-19),b and he also reminded his people:
"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt., 7 : 20. 4).
Let us test the Holy Quran, the Holy Prophet and his work by these Biblical criteria, for the Holy Prophet claimed that every word of the Book was revealed to him direct from God. Was the Holy Prophet killed? Did his work perish? Was he or the companions consumed by sword and famine? And lastly, was the Holy Quran destroyed or forgotten? For about a quarter of a century the Holy Prophet kept on proclaiming the Holy Quran to be a revelation of God, and his Companions believed it to be such, and yet far from being destroyed, he and they prospered. Every day brought him new converts, every month brought him new success, every year brought him new glory. And he did not die until he was able to say:
"O Lord! I have delivered my message, and have accomplished my work" (Muslim, 15 : 394 - 5).
The Holy Prophet and his Companions were successful to a degree which is unique in the annals of history. Surely, the God of Moses and Jeremiah was the same God as that of Muhammad. He had not changed, nor had He become helpless or powerless. Nor could He have forgotten His promises and assurances to Moses and Jeremiah. Indeed, He had not, for He did lead His true Prophet Muhammad to victory and did destroy those who opposed him. Had the Holy Prophet been a false prophet, he would not have been spared. He would have suffered a worse fate than that of Hananiah; for says the Holy Quran:
"And if he (Muhammad) had fabricated against Us some of his sayings, We should certainly have seized him by the right arm, then We would certainly have cut the artery of his neck. And not one of you could have withheld Us from him" (The Holy Quran, 69: 44-47).
And this did not come to pass because, as stated in the immediately preceding verse, the Holy Quran was:
"The Revelation from the Lord of the worlds" (Ibid., 69: 43).
It is obvious, therefore, that whereas God is against false prophets and punishes them, He showers His blessings on His true prophets and destroys those who oppose them. This is the criterion put forth by the Lord God of Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus and Muhammad, by which the falsehood of an impostor is exposed and the truth of His righteous and true prophets is established. The Holy Quran repeatedly draws attention to this testimony. I quote but a few verses:
"Say: Call on your associates, then make struggle (to prevail) against me and give me no respite. Surely, my guardian is Allah, Who revealed the Book, and He befriends the good (only)" (Ibid., 7 :195-196).
Allah has written down: I will most certainly prevail, I and My apostles; surely,
"Allah is Strong, Mighty" (The Holy Quran, 58 : 21).
The Holy Quran teems with verses, of Makkan origin, in which assurances were repeatedly given to the Holy Prophet of his ultimate triumph and of the glorious eminence to which in fact he was raised.
The Biblical verses already referred to give another criterion: whatever a true prophet shall say, in the name of the Lord, must happen (Deut., 18 : 20-22). I will apply this test also to the Holy Quran. There are innumerable prophecies in the Book. They were all literally fulfilled. I will mention only four of them.
The Holy Quran claimed that Allah will Himself guard and protect the Book against corruption and interpolation (The Holy Quran, 15 : 9 ; 56 : 77-78 ; 85 : 21-22 ; etc); and that "there is none who can change or alter His word" (Ibid., 6 : 115; 18: 27). It further claims that its verses shall never be forgotten (Ibid., 87: 6). I have already dealt with these unique prophecies (Supra, pp. 24-29), and explained how they have been fulfilled. The Holy Quran has retained its pristine purity and is today the same as the Holy Prophet left it.
The second prophecy I wish to discuss reads:
"And those who disbelieved said to their apostles: We will most certainly drive you forth from our land, or else you shall come back to our religion. So their Lord revealed to them: Most surely We will destroy the unjust. And most surely We will settle you in the land after them" (The Holy Quran, 14: 13-14).
In another place we are told:
"Most surely He Who has made the Quran binding on you will bring you back to the destination" ( Ibid., 28: 85).
These verses are of Makkan origin and prophesy the final triumph of the Holy Prophet and the utter defeat and overthrow of his enemies who had threatened to, in fact did, drive him out of Makka. These verses refer to these events and foretell his ultimate victorious return, as the ruler of the land, after his opponents' power had been crushed. Thus the migration of the Holy Prophet from Makka and his re-entry into the city as a conqueror and ruler was prophesied in the clearest possible terms, and this prophecy was also literally fulfilled.
The third prophecy is:
"I am Allah, the Best Knower. The Romans are defeated in a near land; and they after being vanquished shall overcome within ten years. Allah's is the command before and after, and on that day the believers shall rejoice with the help of Allah! He helps whom He pleases, and He is Mighty and Merciful" (The Holy Quran, 30: 1-5).
These verses contain a double prophecy: the victory of the Romans, after their defeat, at a time when the Muslims themselves would be rejoicing.
The people of the Roman Empire called themselves Romans, and to them the term Greek, which was synonymous with heathen, was a term of reproach (Butler, Arab Conquest of Egypt, 144f) Therefore, the term Romans has been used instead of Greek.
The struggle between the Persians and the Roman Empire began in 602 CE, when Chosroes II of Persia waged war against Rome to avenge the death of Maurice, murdered by Phocas. The Persians ravaged Syria, and overran and plundered Asia Minor. In 608 CE they advanced to Chalcedon. In 614 CE, Jerusalem and Damascus were sacked by General Shahbaraz, and the Holy Cross was carried away in triumph to Persia. Soon after Egypt was conquered. The Romans could offer but little resistance, as they were torn by internal dissensions and were also pressed by Avars and Slavs. The Persians advanced upon the Bosphorus and pitched their camp within sight of Constantinople. When the news of their conquest reached Makka, the Quraish idolaters were jubilant, as their sympathies were with the fire-worshipping Persians. It was then, in 615 CE, that these verses were revealed and proclaimed the ultimate victory of the Romans within ten years. In 621 CE. Herachus was roused from his slumber and, after three years of arduous conflict, rolled back the invaders and totally discomfited the Persians. In 624 CE he advanced into northern Media, where he destroyed the great temple of Goudzak (Ency. Britannica, Art. Chosroes 11).
In the same year, 624 CE, a small band of Muslims, three hundred and thirteen in number, routed a force of about one thousand Quraish warriors at Badr. The Muslims were rejoicing at this victory when the news of the victory of the Romans reached them. Both Muslims and Romans continued to meet with success; and the final triumph of both over their respective enemies again coincided. The Quraish were crushed by the conquest of Makka in 630 C.E. and in the same year the Persian Empire, from the apparent greatness to which it had reached some years earlier, sank into hopeless anarchy. And thus this prophecy was fully justified by subsequent events.
The fourth prophecy deals with the finality of the mission of the Holy Prophet. He proclaimed: "There will be no prophet after me," and this was in keeping with the Quranic announcement:
"Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets" (The Holy Quran, 33 : 40).
The Holy Quran alone claims to be a guide for the whole of humanity (The Holy Qur`an, 7 :157). Whereas every other prophet was sent to one people, for the reformation and unification of one nation, the Holy Prophet came to unite all nations and to destroy limitations of colour and creed. Again, there would have been no necessity for the revelation of the Holy Quran if the previous scriptures had been intact; and had this Book suffered the same fate, there would of necessity have come to this earth another prophet with a new code of law. The finality of revelation saw its perfection too, and through the Seal, the Last, of the prophets the Beneficent God perfected the religion and completed His favours:
"This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favour on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion" (Ibid., 5 : 3).
And history bears witness that no prophet has come after the Holy Prophet.
There is another piece of internal evidence which satisfactorily proves the Divine origin of the Holy Quran. One would expect, if the Book were a forgery, to find the author justifying such of his acts as his contemporaries may have called in question. On the contrary, we find in the Holy Quran incidents referred to, which, had it not been a revealed Book, would never have been inserted by the author. I will mention but a few of them:
On one occasion the Holy Prophet was engaged in deep conversation with the chief Al-Walid. Just then Abdullah Ibn um Maktum, a blind man, chanced to pass. He asked the Holy Prophet to teach him a portion of the Holy Quran. The Holy Prophet, displeased at this interruption, frowned and turned away from him. Then the chapter entitled: He Frowned, was revealed in the following terms:
"He frowned and turned his back, because there came to him a blind man. And what would make you know that he would purify himself, or become reminded so that the reminder shall profit him? As for him who considers himself free from need (of you), to him do you address yourself. And no blame is on you if he would not purify himself. And as to him who comes to you striving hard, and he fears. From him will you divert yourself" (Ibid., 80: 1-10).
Is it conceivable that a forger would blaspheme the name of God, and at the same time perpetuate an incident which would expose him for ever to the crushing retort of his enemies?
I give another instance. `Abd Allah ibn Ubayy was the chief of the Madina hypocrites. On his death-bed he had asked the Holy Prophet to send him his shirt, so that he might be buried in it, and to conduct his funeral prayers. The Holy Prophet complied with both these requests. Then came the Divine revelation:
"And never offer prayer for any one of them who dies, and do not stand by his grave, surely they disbelieve in Allah and His Apostle and they shall die in transgression" (Ibid., 9 : 84).
The Divine revelation thus pointed out that this action of the Holy Prophet, though magnanimous in itself, was wrong. It directed that unbelievers should not be treated as Muslims.
We read in the Holy Quran:
"Say: I do not say to you I have with me the treasures of Allah, nor do I know the unseen, nor do I say to you that I am an angel: I do not follow aught save that which is revealed to me. Say: Are the blind and the seeing one alike? Do you not then reflect?" (The Holy Quran, 6 : 50)
In another place, it is said:
"I am only a mortal like unto you" (Ibid., 41 : 6).
"Say: I do not control any benefit or harm for my own soul except as Allah pleases; and had I known the unseen I would have had much of good and no evil would have touched me. I am nothing but a warner and the giver of good news to a people who believe" (Ibid., 7 :188).
"Men ask you about the Hour! Say: The knowledge of it is only with Allah" (Ibid., 33 : 63).
Would any forger or impostor who aspired to be a leader or guide of his people ever have put such admissions in a book of his own creation? There is no affectation, no personal consideration. The Book represents him to be but a man, devoid of supernatural powers without worldly wealth, without knowledge of the future; nothing more than a mortal, neither a wonder-worker nor a fortune-teller. For all the good he did, for all the prophecies he uttered, he claimed no credit for himself. It was all from the Almighty Allah, Who selected him to be His messenger, a plain warner.
Had Muhammad been the author of the Book he could never have had the implicit faith he had in its Divine origin. The Holy Prophet and his Companions were commanded:
"Continue then in the right way as you are commanded, as also he who has turned (to Allah) with you, and be not inordinate (O men!), surely He sees what you do" (Ibid., 11 : 112).
This verse appears in the chapter called Hud. This and some other sister chapters (Ibid., Chapters 56 and 101) are sometimes called the "Terrific Suras". It is recorded that, while Hazrat Abu Bakr and Hazrat Umar sat in the Mosque at Madina, the Holy Prophet entered the Mosque and was looking at his beard. Hazrat Abu Bakr observing some grey hair said: "O Messenger of God, for thee I would sacrifice my father and mother, white hair are hastening upon thee." "Yes", replied the Holy Prophet, "Hud and its Sisters have hastened my white hair." And why? Apart from the command to follow the Holy Quran himself, the Holy Prophet had also been directed to see that his followers did the same. The Holy Prophet knew that when Moses' followers did not follow him, that great law-giver had to confess:
"My Lord! surely I have no control (upon any) but my own self and my brother; therefore make a separation between us and the nation of transgressors" (The Holy Quran, 5 : 25).
Jesus had asked his followers to watch with him for a short time while he prayed (Matt., 26: 38), and they had gone to sleep (Matt., 26 : 40), and forsaken him (Matt., 26 : 56).
The Holy Prophet was conscious of these events of the past and this injunction taxed his mind. He believed that this injunction was Divine and feared lest his followers be found wanting and become inordinate.
Can anyone, in the light of these facts, honestly assert that the Holy Prophet did not himself believe in the Holy Quran as the Word of God, and knew the Book to be of his own creation?
I will now close this rather lengthy discussion and summarise the points which establish the Divine origin of the Holy Quran:
1. Its text has maintained its pristine purity and has remained free from all human interpolations.
"I follow naught but what is revealed to me" (The Holy Quran, 10: 15).
True to this revelation, he translated every one of its precepts into practice. His character was so true a mirror of the Holy Quran that his Companions (Ashab) used to interpret the Holy Quran in the light of his actions. Hazrat Ayisha was, on more occasions than one, questioned as to how the Messenger of God acted under certain circumstances. In reply she always used to read the relevant verses of the Holy Quran and say that his action was no other than in keeping with the Holy Quran itself.
These actions or practices of the Holy Prophet are called Sunna, mode of life, or way of acting, and they are held in great reverence, next to the Holy Quran, throughout the Muslim world. The Sunna are described along with the Hadith (plural Ahadith) the doings or sayings of the Holy Prophet. The Hadith also contain his answers to the questions put to him by his Companions and opponents. They also record his approval or disapproval of incidents which took place in his life-time. All these are collectively called the Hadith, which form the second Islamic Source.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad is a historical character. He passed through various vicissitudes of life. Orphaned in childhood, he became the head of the State at Madina. His private and public life is known in the minutest detail. All his Sayings and practices have been recorded, and nothing escaped the careful and vigilant notice of his Companions. It has been asserted that it is impossible to know everything of any man, however great, but it is not so with the Holy Prophet. There were various reasons for this, but I will mention only two:
The Holy Prophet was sent as a "mercy to all Nations" (The Holy Quran, 21 : 107), and was, therefore, a guide to mankind as a whole. He was the best model of virtue for humanity. In the words of the Holy Quran:
"Certainly you have in the Apostle of Allah, an excellent exemplar " (Ibid., 33: 21).
The Holy Prophet did not give sentimental and impracticable precepts, but rather laid down practical rules of guidance for men and illustrated them by his own example. By his example as a kind, loving and affectionate husband and father, he guided men in their every-day duties; by making laws for the guidance of his followers, he demonstrated how legislators should act; by deciding disputes, he became a model for judges; by fighting personally in battles, he taught soldiers to lay down their lives in the cause of truth, justice and freedom; by leading armies, he served as a guide for a General leading his armies in the field of battle; by being the head of a state he set an example for kings to rule benevolently; by punishing tyrants for wrong inflicted on innocent and weak persons, by facing patiently the worst persecutions for years and then fighting and overcoming them, by forgiving the vanquished, his persecutors and enemies in particular, by overlooking the faults of those attached to him, he proved himself to be an excellent exemplar. Indeed, it is the distinguishing feature of his life that he not only taught rules of guidance in every walk of life, but also gave, by his own example, a practical illustration of all those rules. The Holy Quran, therefore, enjoins Muslims to obey Allah and His Apostle (Ibid., 3 : 32, 132; 4 : 13, 59, 69, 80; 5 : 92 ;8 : 1, 20 ; 64 :12) and to keep back from what he forbids (Ibid., 59: 7) and to follow his example as the Holy Prophet did never deviate from the right path (Ibid., 53: 2)
The Holy Quran says that "Muhammad is .... the Apostle of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets (Ibid., 33 : 40); and the Holy Prophet said: "There will be no prophet after me." The Holy Prophet is the Seal, the last of the Prophets, because the object of prophethood, the manifestation of the Divine Will for the guidance of humanity, was finally accomplished in the Holy Quran. That is why we find in the Holy Quran:
"This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favour on you and chosen for you Islam as your religion" (Ibid., 5 : 3).
This verse was the last to be revealed to the Holy Prophet, and nothing came after it, he having died eighty-one days after its revelation. It was necessary, therefore, that the living example of the Holy Prophet, in the light of the Holy Quran should have been recorded for all time to come.
The second reason was the love his Companions had for the Holy Prophet. History does not know of any man who had companions like those of the Holy Prophet from the beginning of his career to his death. The conduct of his Companions is a parallel of its own. They sacrificed their property, homes, lives, everything for him. They took "the Pledge of the Tree," whereby they solemnly took oath to defend him even to the death. Can any reformer or Prophet claim among his disciples men like the four Caliphs, men like Bilal, the celebrated Muazzin, and Yasir and his wife Samiya and Ammar their son? Yasir was captured by the idolaters of Makka. His legs and arms were tied to four different camels, who were made to run in four different directions. Yet he stood loyal to his God and His Apostle. Bilal was made to lie, for days together, on the burning and blistering sands of the desert, but in spite of these tortures, he kept on shouting: "There is one God, There is one God." Hazrat Ali, the fourth Caliph, risked his life for the safety of the Holy Prophet and actually occupied the bed of the Holy Prophet to receive the blows with which the enemies intended to kill the Holy Prophet. Hazrat Abu Bakr, the Truthful, the first Caliph, carried the Holy Prophet in a bundle on his head, and left a house which was actually surrounded at that time by the idolaters of Makka, who had conspired and come to murder the Holy Prophet; and when challenged, he told them that he was carrying Muhammad. They laughed at his assertion but he carried his beloved Prophet out of danger. Hazrat Talha received, in the battle of Uhud, no less than twenty-one wounds in order to prevent injury being inflicted on the person of the Messenger of God. Such love and devotion can never be found in history. In their love for the Holy Prophet, they followed him like a shadow. In assemblies they would rush to get a place near him. They attached great importance to even his most insignificant acts. The Holy Prophet, for example, used a particular ring, they did the same; he discarded it, so did they. The Holy Prophet once said his prayers without discarding his shoes, his Companions also followed his example. Is it any wonder that they followed his Sunna so rigidly and preserved his Hadith so carefully?
A Prophet, it has been said, and repeated by Jesus, is not without honour save in his own country and among his own relations. Voltaire said: "No man is a hero to his valet." It only shows that small minds cannot understand or appreciate a great mind. The ordinary lot of a great man, or even a Prophet, was, in the case of the Holy Prophet, reversed; he was not without honour save among those who did not know him. We find that his Divine Mission was accepted not only by his countrymen but also by his own family. In fact, his wife Hazrat Khadija was the first to believe and honour him. Regarding his private life we have the Hadith recorded on the authority of his wives, Hazrat Ayesha in particular, and his daughter Hazrat Fatima, and his servant Anas, who served him for many years. They, one and all, not only accepted him as the Messenger of God, but also preserved his Hadith accurately for the generations to come. Thus, when in public, his Companions; when in his house, his relatives; when alone, his servant-all bear authentic testimony to what he said or did, and nothing was left which was not reported, repeated and recorded in minutest detail. Can history tell us of any Prophet, or any other man, how he ate, drank, slept and prayed; how he laughed and whether his teeth were then visible; what features he had; how many grey hair he had; how he combed his hair; how he dressed and what he wore; how he sat and walked; what he liked and what he disliked; and what his countenance was on different occasions?
It is true that during the life-time of the Holy Prophet the Hadith were not written collectively in any book, but there is unimpeachable evidence that they were being committed to memory by most of the Companions, and reduced to writing by some of them. Even Muir admits this fact (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 34). I may mention that Hazrat Ali kept record of some Sayings. Anas Ibn Malik reports that Hazrat Abu Bakr wrote down for him the laws regarding Zakat. Abdullah bin Umar and Abdullah bin Abbas were two other Companions who were especially engaged in the preservation and transmitting of the Hadith, so was Abdullah bin Amr. He reports:
"I used to write everything that I heard from the Messenger of God intending to commit to memory. I spoke about it to the Holy Prophet, who said: Write down for I only speak the truth."
It is also true that most of the Companions did not write down the Hadith because the Holy Prophet had on one occasion taken exception to this being done.
Thus Abu Huraira reports:
"The Messenger of God came to us while we were writing the Hadith, and asked: What is this that you are writing? We said: Hadith, what we hear of thee. He said: What! a book other than the Book of Allah?"
This disapproval was meant really to avoid confusion between the Divine Revelation and his Sayings. The Holy Prophet never forbade the writing of the Hadith. On the contrary, he always gave directions that his Sunna should be followed and widely proclaimed.
Malik bin Anas reports that the Holy Prophet during his Farewell address said:
"I leave with you two things. If you hold fast by them, you will never be misguided-the Book of Allah and my Sunna."
Tirmizi records two Sayings:
"May Allah grant freshness to the man who hears my Sayings, keeps and preserves them in memory and acts according to them" (Muslim, 15: 396).
Bukhari records that "let him who is present, deliver it to him who is absent" were the concluding words of many of the utterances of the Holy Prophet (Bukhari, 6 :39). He further records that when a deputation of the tribe of Abdul Qais appeared before the Holy Prophet he explained to them the injunctions regarding Prayers, Fasting, Zakah, etc., and enjoined them to explain the same to the other members of their tribe who were not present. Whenever a tribe embraced Islam, the Holy Prophet always sent one or more of his Companions to teach them the Holy Quran and to make them aware of his Sunna. We are told that on such occasions "they carried written instructions with them." Very often the Holy Prophet himself had facts recorded. The pardon granted to Suraqa bin Malak was in writing, the Truce of Hudaibiyya was written by Hazrat Ali; and letters were sent by the Holy Prophet to the Chosroes of Persia, to Heraclius of Constantinople, to the Negus of Abyssinia, to Maqauqus of Egypt, and to other Kings and Rulers of adjoining countries, inviting them to accept Islam.
Bukhari records that in the year of the conquest of Makka, the Holy Prophet delivered a Friday Sermon. A Yamanite prayed that a copy of the Khutba be given to him. The Holy Prophet ordered accordingly, and this was done. This incident shows that the Companions had wonderful memories and, secondly, that the Sayings were being recorded.
I have already mentioned that the Holy Quran contains some "allegorical" verses. The Holy Prophet used to explain them, and time and again he directed that his Sayings should be repeated and reported to those who were not present. Many a time he used to repeat his Sayings till everyone understood him perfectly. Bukhari records that if Hazrat Ayesha could not follow any Saying of the Holy Prophet, she used to request him to repeat it again and again.
As a safeguard against wrong or false reports of the Hadith, the Holy Prophet said:
"Be careful of (narrating) my Traditions, except what you know. Whoso imputes falsehood to me intentionally, let him know that his abode is Fire" (Ibn-i-Majah, 1: 4).
"Whoso narrates from me a Hadith, knowing that it is false, he is then of the liars" (Ibid., 1: 4).
From these two Sayings it has been inferred by some Christian writers that false traditions were being attributed to the Holy Prophet during his life-time. This assertion has no foundation and, in spite of repeated challenges by Muslims, no one has yet been able to produce or prove a single Hadith which may even be alleged to have been falsely reported, repeated or recorded in the life-time of the Holy Prophet. No, the object of these Sayings was to restrain Muslims from following the wrong ways of Christians and Jews who had attributed sayings to Jesus and other Prophets which he or they had never said. These two Sayings of the Holy Prophet should be read in the light of the following Saying:
There will be narrators reporting Hadith from me, so judge by the Quran, if a report agrees with the Quran, accept it; otherwise reject it.
I have already stated that during the life-time of the Holy Prophet the Hadith, apart from stray records, were not recorded collectively in any book. For diverse reasons: for example, the death of the Holy Prophet and most of his Companions, and the spread of Islam to other countries, a necessity was felt that all Hadith should be reduced to writing. There was yet another reason. After the death of the Holy Prophet, disputes which came for decision before the Caliphs had to be decided in the light of the Holy Quran and the Hadith. This served a double purpose: firstly, trustworthiness of a Tradition was tested and established, and secondly its knowledge was transmitted to many others. It was for these reasons that Caliph Umar Bin Abdul-Aziz, who flourished in the end of the first century of the Hijra, directed Abu Bakr bin Hazm, the Governor of Madina, and the Governors of other provinces, to have the Sunna and Hadith collected and reduced to writing, and to teach them in gatherings. This was the time when the Tabi'in, Successors to the Companions of the Holy Prophet, were still alive. But the real reason which necessitated the issue of this order was that it was considered imperative that the knowledge of the Hadith should be preserved and spread; and, to quote this Caliph himself: "I fear the loss of the knowledge and the death of them that possess it;" and not, as some Christians allege, that false traditions were being introduced. Up to this time no such question had arisen.
In these circumstances, and before the close of the first century of the Hijra, Muslim scholars had devoted their lives to the collection of the Hadith. They travelled from city to city, from village to village, from tribe to tribe, over the whole Muslim world, and sought out by personal enquiry from among the few surviving Companions and their Successors, every Tradition and reduced it to writing. The task thus begun continued to be vigorously prosecuted and saw its perfection before the middle of the third century.
The first three compilations of the Hadith were prepared by Imam Abdul Maak ibn Abdul Aziz bin Juraij, Rabi ibn Suhaib and Said ibn Abi Aruba, all of whom died about the middle of the second century.Then came Imam Malik ibn Anas who wrote his famous Mu'atta. These and other books were written at different places - in Makka, Madina, Cairo, Yaman, Kufa, Basra, Wasil, Khorasan, etc. But in all of them the Traditions preached and preserved in those places only were mostly recorded. Then followed the Musnad of Imam Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Hanbal (164 A.H.-241 A.H.).
I now take up the question of perverted or forged traditions. In the course of political strife and rivalry between the Alids and the Abbasids on the one hand and the Umayyads on the other, some forged traditions were introduced with a view to win over neutral Muslims to the rival parties. Thus sayings were attributed to the Holy Prophet which were meant to disgrace the names of the forefathers of the Umayyads or exalt the progenitors of the Alids or Abbasids and vice versa. The Abbasids were installed or, rather, they supplanted the Alids in the Caliphate in the 132nd year of the Hijra, and with the subsequent growth of their political power certain unscrupulous Abbasid Caliphs had traditions forged to suit their needs of the day. This brought about a general upheaval among the traditionists who, therefore, made extensive researches and prepared compilations of all authentic Traditions. Thus Imam Muhammad bin Ismail, otherwise known as Bukhari (194 A.H. to 256 A.H.), his disciple Muslim (204 A.H. 261 A.H.), Abu Daud (203 A.H. 275 A.H.), Ibn Majah (209 A.H.-275 A.H.), Tirmizi (209 A.H.-279 A.H.), and Al Nisai (214 A.H.-303 A.H.) made separately the compilations bearing their respective names. Collectively they are known as the Sihah Sitta, the Six Sound Books. The first two are the most authentic, for Bukhari and Muslim travelled all over Muslim countries collecting, checking and verifying the various Traditions. These two traditionists, in particular, were known for their piety and independence of character; and they did not spare even the Caliphs, the Governors, or other high officials. They were persecuted and had to leave their homes for their independence of views. In spite of these persecutions, they would not and did not give up their labour of love. They made every effort to collect only the authentic Traditions. Speaking of Sahih Bukhari the Encyclopaedia of Islam says:
"Bukhari undertook a research into the then Hadith with the painstaking accuracy of a modern writer" (Ency. of Islam: Art, Hadis, 191).
I have already explained how some traditions were forged by or under the order of some of the Abbasid Caliphs. This happened about the middle of the second century. It was really to counteract these mischievous but stupid acts that Bukhari and others had to prepare their compilations.
These compilations are accepted by Muslims, and are recognised invariably by all European writers as authentic. Sprenger while discussing the Traditions says that "although the nearest view of the Prophet which can be obtained is at a distance of one hundred years, and although this long vista is formed of a medium exclusively Mohammedan, yet it can be shown to have been achromatic." Even a bigoted Christian like Sir William Muir had to admit:
"There is no reason to doubt that the collectors were sincere in doing that which they professed to do. It may well be admitted that they sought out in good faith from all the traditions actually correct, inquired carefully into the authorities on which they rested, and recorded them with scrupulous accuracy .... There is no reason to suppose that they at all tampered with the Traditions themselves" (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 43-44).
The precautions adopted by these collectors were unique and extraordinary. Among the rules followed by them in collecting the Traditions were:
1. A Tradition opposed to known facts was rejected.
Thus by following these rules they established three categories: (1) Sahih (sound), those which were absolutely faultless and authentic and in whose isnad (chain of narrators) there was no illa (flaw); (2) Hasan (good or approved) were those which were not absolutely faultless or in which the isnad were not complete; and (3) Za'if, which were weak in authenticity. In Bukhari and Muslim only Sahih Traditions were recorded. The number of Traditions from which selection was made, or even those selected, was large. But it must be remembered that the same Traditions had been reported by different sets of narrators and that numerous Traditions were recorded under four or five or more different heads according to their contents. The precautions taken by the Holy Prophet, his Companions and Successors and finally by the Compilers of the Sihah Sitta are, in themselves, a guarantee of the correctness of their texts and origin. But if any proof is necessary it can be found in the letters of the Holy Prophet which he had sent to the various Kings of adjoining countries and to which I have already referred. These letters were written after the Truce of Hudaibiyya in the 6th year of the Hijra, and they have been quoted verbatim in Bukhari and other books of Hadith. These Traditions state that Hatib Ibn Abi Balta'ah took and presented this letter to Maqauqus of Egypt and also personally explained to him the mission of the Holy Prophet. The Maqauqus took the letter and after some discussion, which need not be repeated here, placed it in a casket which was sealed and made over to the State Treasurer for safe custody. In 1858 some French travellers unearthed the original letter from a tomb attached to a convent in Upper Egypt. Its authenticity and genuineness have been admitted by Dr. Badger and many other famous archaeologists. It was subsequently removed to Ottoman custody to Constantinople. Its facsimile was published in The Islamic Review (The Islamic Review, Vol. 5, No. 1). On comparison it was found to be word for word the same as recorded in the Hadith. One thing more, there are five different Hadith on record which state that a special seal of the Holy Prophet was made for sealing these letters, and that it read: Muhammad Rasul Allah, Muhammad, the Messenger of God-inscribed in three lines thus (To be read upwards):
And the seal on the recovered letter is exactly the same. If we bear in mind that the discovery was not made till 1858 and that the Traditions were recorded at the latest in the beginning of the third century of Hijra, a difference of over 800 years, the authenticity of the Traditions becomes established without a shadow of doubt. Similarly, the letter written to Munzar, the ruler of Yaman, has also been preserved. It is in the possession of the head of the Ayyubi family, the family of Sultan Salah-ud-Din Ayyubi, the Great Saladin, of the Crusades' fame. The late Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din went specially to Damascus in September 1924 to compare this letter with the facsimile of the letter addressed to Magauqus (The Islamic Review, Vol. 5, 52). He found the two letters to be in the same handwriting and their contents, with the exception of the name of the addressee and the details of his subjects, to be the same. The letter to Herachus is also, apart from the Hadith, known to history, but unfortunately, it was lost during the Crusades. Sir William Muir while referring to these letters and the replies received, as mentioned in the Traditions, styled them as apocryphal (Muir, The Life of Mohammad, 396). But he published his Life of Mohammad in 1861 and he must have been ignorant of the discovery of 1858. This clearly shows that he was out to condemn everything Islamic without justification.
In this connection, I may also refer to two other Sayings of the Holy Prophet. He is reported to have said that Muslims would be defeated at the hands of Turks and would be turned out bag and baggage, and that Constantinople would be reconquered by Muslims. These Traditions, I would like to point out again, were written at the latest in the beginning of the third century of the Hijra. At that time the Turks were nowhere in prominence; and Constantinople was in the possession of a Christian King. Yet, Chengez Khan did defeat the Muslims; and, in 1453 CE, i.e., about five hundred years after the Traditions had been recorded, Muslims did reconquer Constantinople. These prophetic utterances, had they not been from the lips of a Divinely inspired Prophet, could never have been made and much less so literally fulfilled.
In conclusion, I must mention that, unlike the Gospels, the Holy Quran is till today in its pristine purity and the Hadith are a correct record of the Sayings and Sunna of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him!) I have discussed the Islamic Sources to show that, unlike the Christian Sources, we can accept their authenticity without hesitation. These Sources deal with the life and death of Jesus and can serve as a guide in coming to a proper conclusion.