|The Prophets and Proof of Revelation and Prophecy|
Many modern scholars who have investigated the problem of revelation and prophecy have tried to explain revelation, prophecy and questions connected with them by using the principles of social psychology. They say that the prophets of God were men of a pure nature and strong will who had great love for humanity. In order to enable mankind to advance spiritually and materially and in order to reform decadent societies, they devised laws and regulations and invited mankind to accept them. Since people in those days would not accept the logic of human reason, in order to make them obey their teachings the prophets, according to such modern scholars, claimed that they and their thoughts came from the transcendent world.
Each prophet called his own pure soul the Holy Spirit ; the teachings which he claimed came from the transcendent world were called "revelation and prophecy" ; the duties which resulted from the teachings were called "revealed Shari'ah" ; and the written record of these teachings and duties were called a "revealed book."
Anyone who views with depth and impartiality the revealed books and especially the Holy Quran, and also the lives of the prophets, will have no doubt that this view is not correct.
The prophets of God were not political men. Rather they were "men of God," full of truthfulness and purity. What they perceived they proclaimed without addition or diminution. And what they uttered they acted upon. What they claimed to possess was a mysterious consciousness which the invisible world had bestowed upon them. In this way they came to know from God Himself what welfare of men was in this world and the next, and propagated this knowledge among mankind.
It is quite clear that in order to confirm and ascertain the call of prophecy there is need of proof and demonstration. The sole fact that the Shari'ah brought by a prophet conforms to reason is not sufficient in determining the truthfulness of the prophetic call. A man who claims to be a prophet, in addition to the claim of the truth of his Shari'ah, claims a connection through revelation and prophecy with the transcendent world, and therefore claims he has been given by God the mission to propagate the faith.
This claim in itself is in need of proof. That is why (as the Holy Quran informs us) the common people with their simple mentality always sought miracles from the prophets of God in order that the truthfulness of their call might be confirmed.
The meaning of this simple and correct logic is that the revelation which the prophet claims is his cannot be found among others who are human beings like him. It is of necessity an invisible power which God miraculously bestows upon His prophets, through which they hear His word and are given the mission to convey this word to mankind. If this be true, then the prophet should ask God for another miracle so that people would believe the truth of his prophetic call.
It is thus clear that the request for miracles from prophets is according to correct logic and it is incumbent upon the prophet of God to provide miracle at the beginning of his call, or according to the demand of the people, in order to prove his prophecy. The Holy Quran has affirmed this logic, relating miracles about many prophets at the beginning of their mission or after their followers requested them.
Of course many modern investigators and scientists have denied miracles, but their opinions are not based upon any satisfactory reasons. There is no reason to believe that the causes which until now have been discovered for events through investigation and experiment are permanent and unchanging, or that no event ever occurs for reasons other than those which usually bring it about. The miracles related about the prophets of God are not impossible or against reason (as is, for example, the claim that the number three is even). Rather they are a "break in what is habitual" (kharq-i 'adat), an occurrence which, incidentally, has often been observed in a lower degree among people following ascetic practices.
The Number of the Prophets of God
It is known through tradition that in the past many prophets appeared, and the Holy Quran affirms their multitude. It has mentioned some of them by name or by their characteristics, but has not given their exact number. Through definitive traditions also it has not been possible to determine their number except in the well known saying which Abu Dharr Ghifari has recited from the Holy Prophet, according to which their number has been set at 124,000.
The Prophets Who are Bringers of Divine Law
From what can be deduced from the Quran, it can be concluded that all the prophets of God did not bring a Shari'ah. Rather, five of them - Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and the Prophet Muhammad - are "possessors of determination" (ulu'l-'azim), those who have brought a Shari'ah. Other prophets follow the Shari'ah of those who "possess determination." God has said in the Quran, "He hath ordained for you that religion which He commended unto Noah, and that which We inspire in thee (Muhammad), and that which We commended unto Abraham and Moses and Jesus" (Quran, XLII, 13). He has also said, "And when We exacted a covenant from the Prophets, and from thee (O Muhammad) and from Noah and Abraham and Moses and Jesus son of Mary, We took from them a solemn covenant" (Quran, XXXIII,7 ).
The Prophecy of Muhammad
The last prophet of God is Hadrat-i Muhammad - upon whom be blessings and peace - who possesses a book and a Shari'ah and in whom Muslims have placed their faith. The Prophet was born fifty three years before the beginning if the hegira calendar in Mecca in the Hijaz amidst the family of Bany Hashim of the Tribe of Quraysh, who were considered the most honored of the Arab families.
His father was called 'Abdallah and his mother, Aminah. He lost both parents at the beginning of childhood and was placed under the care of his paternal grandfather, 'Abd al-Muttalib, who also soon passed away. At this time the Prophet's uncle, Abu Talib, took charge of him and became his guardian, taking him into his own house. The Prophet grew up in his uncle's house and even before reaching the age of adolescence used to accompany his uncle on journeys by caravan.
The Prophet had not received any schooling and therefore did not know how to read and write. Yet, after reaching the age of maturity he became famous for his wisdom, courtesy, and trustworthiness. As a result of his sagacity and trustworthiness, one of the women of the tribe of Quraysh, well-known for her wealth, appointed him as the custodian of her possessions and left in his hands the task of conducting her commercial affairs. The Prophet once journeyed to Damascus with her merchandise and as a result of the ability he displayed was able to make an outstanding profit. Before long she asked to become his wife and the Prophet accepted her proposal.
After the marriage, which occurred when he was twenty-five years old, the Prophet began the life of a manager of his wife's fortunes, until the age of forty, gaining meanwhile a widespread reputation for wisdom and trustworthiness. He refused, however, to worship idols, as was the common religious practice of the Arabs of the Hijaz. And occasionally he would make spiritual retreats (khalwah) in which he prayed and discoursed secretly with God.
At the age of forty, in the cave of Hira', in the mountains of the Tihamah region near Mecca, when he was in spiritual retreat, he was chosen by God to become a prophet and was given the mission of propagating the new religion. At that moment the first chapter of the Quran ("The Blood-Clot" [Surah-i 'alaq] ) was revealed to him. That very day he returned to his house and on the way met his cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, who after hearing the account of what had occurred declared his acceptance of the faith. After the Prophet entered the house and told his wife of the revelation, she likewise accepted Islam.
The first time the Prophet invited people to accept his message he was faced with a distressing and painful reaction. Of necessity he was forced henceforth to propagate his message in secret for some time until he was ordered again by God to invite his very close relatives to accept his message.
But this call was also fruitless and no one heeded it except Ali ibn Abi Talib, who in any case had already accepted the faith. (But in accordance with documents transmitted from the Household of the Prophet and extant poems composed by Abu Talib, Shi'ites believe that Abu Talib had also embraced Islam ; however, because he was the sole protector of the Prophet, he hid his faith from the people in order to preserve the outward power he had with the Quraysh.)
After this period, according to Divine instruction, the Prophet began to propagate his mission openly. With the beginning of open propagation the people of Mecca reacted most severely and inflicted the most painful afflictions and tortures upon the Prophet and the people who had become newly converted to Islam.
The severe treatment dealt out by the Quraysh reached such a degree that a group of Muslims left their homes and belongings and migrated to Abyssinia. The Prophet and his uncle, Abu Talib, along with their relatives from the Banu Hashim, took refuge for three years in the "mountain pass of Abu Talib," a fort in one of the valleys of Mecca. No one had any dealings or transactions with them and they did not dare to leave their place of refuge.
The idol-worshippers of Mecca, although at the beginning they considered inflicting all kinds of pressures and tortures such as striking and beating, insult, ridicule and defamation on the Prophet, occasionally would also show kindness and courtesy toward him in order to have him turn away from his mission. They would promise him great sums of money or leadership and the rule of the tribe. But for the Prophet their promises and their threats only resulted in the intensification of his will and determination to carry out his mission.
Once, when they came to the Prophet promising him wealth and power, the Prophet told them, using metaphorical language, that if they were to put the sun in the palm of his right hand and the moon in the palm of his left hand he would not turn away from obeying the unique God or refrain from performing his mission.
About the tenth year of his prophecy, when the Prophet left the "mountain pass of Abu Talib," his uncle Abu Talib, who was also his sole protector, died as did also his devoted wife. Henceforth there was no protection for his life nor any place of refuge. Finally the idol-worshippers of Mecca devised a secret plan to kill him. At night they surrounded his house from all sides with the aim of forcing themselves in at the end of the night and cutting him to pieces while he was in bed. But God, the Exalted, informed him of the plan and commanded him to leave for Yathrib. The Prophet placed Ali in place of himself in his bed and at night left the house under the Divine protection, passing amidst his enemies, and taking refuge in a cave near Mecca. After three days when his enemies, having looked everywhere, gave up hope of capturing him and returned to Mecca, he left the cave and set out for Yathrib.
The people of Yathrib, whose leaders had already accepted the message of the Prophet and sworn allegiance to him, accepted him with open arms and placed their lives and property at his disposal. In Yathrib for the first time the Prophet formed a small Islamic community and signed treaties with the Jewish tribes in and around the city as well as with the powerful Arab tribes of the region. He undertook the task of propagating the Islamic message and Yathrib became famous as "Madinat al-rasul" (the city of the Prophet).
Islam began to grow and expand from day to day. The Muslims, who in Mecca were caught in the mesh of the injustice and inequity of the Quraysh, gradually left their homes and property and migrated to Medina, revolving around the Prophet like moths around a candle. This group became known as the "immigrants" (muhajirun) in the same way that those who aided the Prophet in Yathrib gained the name of "helpers" (ansar).
Islam was advancing rapidly but at the same time the idol-worshippers of Quraysh, as well as the Jewish tribes of the Hejaz, were unrestrained in their harassment of the Muslims. With the help of the "hypocrites" (munafiqun) of Medina who were amidst the community of Muslims and who were not known for their holding any particular positions, they created new misfortunes for the Muslims every day until finally the matter led to war. Many battles took place between the Muslims and the Arab polytheists and Jews, in most of which the Muslims were victorious.
There were altogether over eighty major and minor battles. In all the major conflicts such as the battles of Badr, Uhud, Khandaq, Khaybar, Hunayn, etc., the Prophet was personally present on the battle scene. Also in all the major battles and many minor ones, victory was gained especially through the efforts of Ali. He was the only person who never turned away from any of these battles. In all the wars that occurred during the ten years after the migration from Mecca to Medina less than two hundred Muslims and less than a thousand infidels were killed.
As a result of the activity of the Prophet and the selfless effort of the muhajirun and ansar during this ten-year period, Islam spread through the Arabian peninsula. There were also letters written to kings of other countries such as Persia, Byzantinum and Abyssinia inviting them to accept Islam.
During this time the Prophet lived in poverty and was proud of it. He never spent a moment of his time in vain. Rather, his time was divided into three parts: one spent for God, in worshipping and remembering Him ; a part of himself and his household and domestic needs ; and a part for the people. During this part of his time he was engaged in spreading and teaching Islam and its sciences, administrating to the needs of Islamic society and removing whatever evils existed, providing for the needs of the Muslims, strengthening domestic and foreign bonds, and similar matters. After ten years of stay in Medina the Prophet fell ill and died after a few days of illness. According to existing traditions the last words on his lips were advice concerning slaves and women.
The Prophet and the Quran
It was demanded of the Prophet, as it had been of other prophets, that he produce a miracle. The Prophet himself also confirmed the power of prophets to produce miracles as has been asserted clearly by the Quran. Many miracles by the Prophet have been recounted, the transmission of some of which is certain and can be accepted with confidence.
But the enduring miracle of the Prophet, which is still alive, is the sacred book of Islam, the Holy Quran. The Holy Quran is a sacred text consisting of six thousand and several hundred verses (ayah) divided into one hundred and fourteen large and small chapters (surah). The verses of the Holy Quran were revealed gradually during the twenty-three year period of prophecy and mission of the Prophet. From less than one verse to a whole and complete chapter were revealed under different circumstances, both at day and night, on journeys or at home, in war or peace, during days of hardship or moments of rest.
The Holy Quran in many of its verses introduces itself in unambiguous language as a miracle. It invited the Arabs of that day to rivalry and competition in composing writings of comparable truth and beauty. The Arabs, according to the testimony of history, had reached the highest stages of eloquence and elegance of language, and in the sweetness of language and flow of speech they ranked foremost among all people.
The Holy Quran claims that if it be thought of as human speech, created by the Prophet himself or learned through instruction from someone else, then the Arabs should be able to produce its like or ten chapters like it, or a single one of its verses, making use of whatever means were at their disposal to achieve this end. The celebrated Aram men of eloquence claimed that in answer to this request that the Quran was magic and it was thus impossible for them to produce its like.
Not only does the Quran challenge and invite people to compete with its eloquence and elegant language, but also it occasionally invites rivalry from the point of view of its meaning and thus challenges all the mental powers of men and jinn, for the Quran is a book containing the total program for human life. If we investigate the matter carefully we will discover that God has made this vast and extensive program which embraces every aspect of the countless beliefs, ethical forms and actions of mankind and takes into account all of their details and particularities to by the "Truth" (haqq) and to be called the religion of the truth (din-i haqq). Islam is a religion whose injunctions are based on the truth and the real welfare of mankind, not the desires and inclinations of the majority of men or the whims of a single, powerful ruler.
At the foundation of this vast program is placed the most cherished word of God which is belief in His Unity. All the principles of the sciences are deduced from the principle of Unity (tawhid). After that, the most praiseworthy human ethical and moral virtues are deduced from the principles of the religious sciences and included in the program.
Then, the countless principles and details of human action and individual and social conditions of man are investigated, and the duties pertaining to them which originate from the worship of the One are elaborated and organized. In Islam the relation and continuity between the principles (usul) and their applications (furu') are such that each particular application in whatever subject it may be, if it is brought back to its source, returns to the principle of Unity or tawhid, and Unity if applied and analyzed becomes the basis for the particular injunction and rule in question.
Of course, the final elaboration of such an extensive religion with such unity and interconnection, or even the preparation of an elementary index for it, is beyond the normal powers of the best authorities on law in the world. But here we speak of a man who in a short span of time was placed amidst a thousand difficulties concerning life and property, caught in bloody battles and faced with internal and external obstacles and furthermore placed alone before the whole world. Moreover, the Prophet had never received instruction nor learned how to read and write.
He had spent two-thirds of his life before becoming a prophet among a people who possessed no learning and had had no taste of civilization. He passed his life in a land without water or vegetation and with burning air, among a people who lived in the lowest social conditions and were dominated by neighboring political powers.
Besides the above, the Holy Quran challenges men in another way. This book was revealed gradually, during a period of twenty-three years, under totally different conditions in periods of difficulty or comfort, war or peace, power or weakness, and the like. If it had not come from God but had been composed and expounded by man, many contradictions and contrasts would be observed in it. Its ending would of necessity be more perfect than its beginning, as is necessary in the gradual perfection of the human individual.
Instead, the first Meccan verses are of the same quality as the Medinan verses and there is no difference between the beginning and the end of the Quran. The Quran is a book whose parts resemble each other and whose awe-inspiring power of expression is of the same style and quality throughout.