By Ustadh Hamza Andreas Tzortzis
The Quran teaches that we must believe in all the prophets and messengers and that they were all chosen to help guide humanity to the ultimate truth of God’s oneness and our servitude to Him. The Quran mentions the stories of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, David, John, Zacharias, Elias, Jacob and Joseph, may God’s peace be upon them all.
The role of these messengers and prophets is to be a manifestation of what has been revealed to them. For instance, they will be role-models and examples of God-consciousness, piety and compassion. Since messengers have been given God’s revealed word, their role also includes teaching the correct interpretation and understanding of what God has revealed. Additionally, messengers and prophets act as a practical and spiritual example as they embody the meaning, message and values conveyed by the Divine text. From this perspective, the Divine revelation tells us what to do and the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life shows us how to do it.
The Quran mentions the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) name five times and confirms that the book was revealed unto him via the angel Gabriel. The Quran affirms that Muhammad (peace be upon him)is God’s final messenger. From this perspective, intellectually affirming this status of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)is quite simple. Once the Quran has been established as a Divine book, it necessarily follows that whatever it says will be the truth. Since it mentions Muhammad (peace be upon him) as God’s messenger, and what comes from truth is true, then the fact that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a recipient of Divine revelation is also true. Despite this undeniable conclusion, the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final messenger of God can also be deduced from his experiences, teachings, character and the impact he has on the world.
The Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) life experiences are one of the strongest arguments in support of his claim—and by extension the Quran’s claim—that he was God’s final messenger. Once an analysis of his life is performed, to conclude that he was lying or deluded would be tantamount to concluding that no one has ever spoken the truth. To be brutally honest, it would be the epistemic equivalent of denying that the person you call your mother gave birth to you. The teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) cover a wide range of topics including spirituality, society, economy and psychology. Studying his statements, and taking a holistic approach to his teachings, will force any rational mind to conclude that there was something very unique and special about this man. Significantly, scrutinising his character in the context of a myriad of difficult situations and circumstances will facilitate the conclusion that he had unparalleled levels of tolerance, forbearance and humility—key signs of a prophetic character. Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) life and teachings, however, not only influenced the Arab world, but they also had a tremendous impact on the whole of humanity. Simply put, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was responsible for unprecedented tolerance, progress and justice.
Denying Muhammad (peace be upon him), Denying your Mother
The only real source of knowledge we have to confirm that the lady we call our mother gave birth to us is testimonial knowledge. Even if we claim to have a birth certificate, hospital records, or a DNA test certificate, these still are all examples of testimonial knowledge. You have to believe in the say-so of others. In this case, the one who filled in the birth certificate, the one responsible for the hospital records, and the person who completed the DNA test certificate. Fundamentally, it is just based on a testimonial transmission; there is not a shred of physical evidence that you can empirically verify the claim that your mother gave birth to you. Even if you can do the DNA test yourself (which is highly unlikely), your conviction now that she gave birth to you is not based on the fact that you can potentially acquire the results. The irony is that the only reason that you believe that you can use a DNA test to verify your mother gave birth to you is based on the testimonial transmission of some authority telling you because you haven’t done it yourself yet. So, from an epistemic perspective, the basis for your belief that your mother gave birth to you is based on a few instances of testimonial transmission. Since we have far more authentic testimonial evidence to conclude that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the final prophet of God, then to deny Muhammad (peace be upon him) would be equivalent to denying your own mother.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) claimed prophethood over 1,400 years ago with the following simple, yet profound message: There is none worthy of worship but God, and the Prophet Muhammad is the final messenger of God.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) became a prophet at the age of 40, after spending some time meditating and reflecting in a cave outside Mecca. The dawn of prophethood began with the revelation of the first verses of the Quran. Its message was simple: our ultimate purpose in life is to worship God. Worship is a comprehensive term in the Islamic spiritual tradition; it means to love, know, obey, and dedicate all acts of worship to God alone.
To test whether his claim to prophethood and his message was true, we must rationally investigate the historical narratives and testimonies concerning the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Once we do this, we will be in a position to come to a balanced conclusion in this regard.
The Quran provides a rational approach to testing the claim of the Prophet (peace be upon him). It argues that the Prophet (peace be upon him)is not a liar, mad, astray, or deluded, and denies that he speaks from his own desire. The Quran affirms that he is indeed the messenger of God; therefore he is speaking the truth:
“Your companion has not strayed; he is not deluded; he does not speak from his own desire.” The Quran, Chapter 53, Verses 2 to 3
We can summarise the argument in the following way:
– The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was either a liar, or deluded, or speaking the truth;
– The Prophet (peace be upon him)could not have been a liar or deluded;
– Therefore the Prophet (peace be upon him)was speaking the truth.
Was he a Liar?
Early historical sources on the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him)life illustrate the integrity of his character. He was not a liar and to assert as much is indefensible. The reasons for this abound—for instance, he was known even by the enemies to his message as the “Trustworthy”.
He was persecuted for his beliefs, boycotted and exiled from his beloved city—Mecca. He was starved of food and stoned by children to the point where blood drenched his legs. His wife passed away and his beloved companions were tortured and persecuted. Further proof of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) reliability and credibility is substantiated by the fact that a liar usually lies for some worldly gain. Muhammad (peace be upon him) suffered tremendously for his message and rejected outright the riches and power he was offered to stop promulgating his message. He was uncompromising in his call to God’s oneness.
Montgomery Watt, the late Emeritus Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, explores this in Muhammad at Mecca and argues that calling the Prophet (peace be upon him) an impostor is irrational: “His readiness to undergo persecution for his beliefs, the high moral character of the men who believed in him and looked up to him as a leader, and the greatness of his ultimate achievement—all argue his fundamental integrity. To suppose Muhammad an impostor raises more problems than it solves.”
Was he Deluded?
To claim that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)was deluded is to argue that he was misled to believe that he was the messenger of God. If someone is deluded, they have a strong conviction in a belief despite any evidence to the contrary. Another way of looking at the issue of delusion is that when someone is deluded, they speak falsehood whilst believing it to be true. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had many experiences during his career that, if he were deluded, he would have used them as evidence to support his delusion.
One example is the passing away of his son, Ibrahim. The boy died at an early age and the day he died there was a solar eclipse. Many Arabs thought that God made the eclipse happen because His prophet’s son passed away. If the Prophet (peace be upon him) were deluded, he would have used such an opportunity to reinforce his claim. However, he did not and rejected the people’s assertions. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied to them in the following way: “The sun and the moon do not eclipse because of the death of someone from the people but they are two signs amongst the signs of God. When you see them, stand up and pray.”
The Prophet (peace be upon him)also foretold many things that would occur to his community after his death. These events occurred exactly as Muhammad (peace be upon him) foretold, and this is not consistent with a deluded individual. For example:
The Mongol Invasion
Six hundred years or so after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Mongols invaded the Muslim lands and massacred millions of people. A significant milestone in the invasion was the ransacking of Baghdad. At that time, it was known as a city of learning and culture. The Mongols arrived in Baghdad in 1258 and spent a whole week spilling blood. They were hell-bent on demolishing the city. Thousands of books were destroyed and up to one million people were killed. This was a major event in Islamic history.
The Mongols were non-Arabs who had flat noses, small eyes, and their boots were made of hair; the Mongols had fur covers over their boots called degtii. This was foretold by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) hundreds of years before the Mongol invasion: “The Hour will not be established till you fight with the Khudh and the Kirman from among the non-Arabs. They will be of red faces, flat noses and small eyes; their faces will look like flat shields, and their shoes will be of hair.”
Competing in Constructing Tall Buildings
“Now, tell me of the Last Hour,” said the man. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “The one asked knows no more of it than the one asking.” “Then tell me about its signs,” said the man. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “That you see barefoot, unclothed bedouins competing in the construction of tall buildings.” Notice the detail in the prophecy: a specific people (the Arab Bedouins of the region) were identified. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) could have easily played it safe by using more general language such as “That you see competition in the construction of tall buildings….”, which of course would be flexible enough to be applied to anyone in the world. Today we find in the Arabian Peninsula that the Arabs who used to be impoverished herders of camels and sheep are competing in building the tallest tower blocks. Today the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the world’s tallest man-made structure at 828 metres. A short time after it was completed, a rival family in Saudi Arabia announced that they would build a taller one (1,000 metres) the Kingdom Tower. Thus they are literally competing with each other over who can build the tallest building.
Now, what is remarkable is that until only 50 or 60 years ago, the people of the region hardly had any houses at all. In fact, most of them were still Bedouins, living in tents. The discovery of oil in the 20th century led to the transformation of the region. If not for oil, chances are the region would still be the barren desert that it was at the time of the revelation of the Quran. If this were mere guesswork on his part, the discovery of oil would represent a massive stroke of luck. Moreover, if Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were merely guessing, wouldn’t it have made more sense to relate this prophecy to the superpowers of his time—Rome and Persia—who (unlike the Arabs) already had a tendency to construct extravagant buildings and palaces?
He Was Speaking the Truth
Considering what has been discussed so far, the most reasonable conclusion is that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was speaking the truth. This conclusion is echoed by the historian Dr William Draper: “Four years after the death of Justinian, A.D. 569, was born in Mecca, in Arabia, the man who, of all men, has exercised the greatest influence upon the human race… To be the religious head of many empires, to guide the daily life of one-third of the human race, may perhaps justify the title of a messenger of God.”
The Teachings, Character and Impact of the Prophet (peace be upon him)
The teachings of Muhammad (peace be upon him) are also not that of someone who is deluded or a liar. Amongst many of his teachings, he taught humanity about compassion and mercy, humility and peace, love and how to benefit and serve others. The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) character was one of perfection. He reached the summit of virtues; he was compassionate, humble, tolerant, just, and showed great humanity, forbearance and piety. His guidance also had an unprecedented impact on the world. The Prophet’s (peace be upon him) profound leadership and sublime teachings on tolerance, justice, progress and freedom of belief and many other areas of life strongly indicate that he was not deluded; rather he was a man of truth. Below are some of the sayings of the prophet Muhammad.
Mercy and Compassion
“The Merciful One shows mercy to those who are themselves merciful [to others]. So show mercy to whatever is on Earth, then He who is in heaven will show mercy to you.”
“God is compassionate and loves compassion.”
“He is not of us who has no compassion for our little ones and does not honour our old ones.”
“May God have mercy on a man who is kind when he buys, when he sells, and when he makes a demand.”
Contentment and Spirituality
“Richness is not having many possessions. Rather, true richness is the richness of the soul.”
“Indeed, God does not look towards your bodies nor towards your appearances. But, He looks towards your hearts and your deeds.”
“Do not talk too much without remembrance of God. Indeed excessive talking without remembrance of God hardens the heart. And indeed the furthest of people from God are the harsh-hearted.”
“The servant of God does not reach the reality of faith until he loves for the people what he loves for himself of goodness.”
“Love for the people what you love for yourself and you will be a believer. Behave well with your neighbours and you will be a Muslim.”
“The best deed after belief in God is benevolent love towards people.”
Community and Peace
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)was asked: “What sort of deeds or traits of Islam are good?” He replied: “To feed others, and to greet those whom you know and those whom you do not know.”
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over a white, except by piety and good action.”
“The believer is not he who eats his fill while his neighbor is hungry.”
Charity and Humanitarianism
“Visit the sick, feed the hungry and free the captives.”
“Make things easy, and do not make them difficult, and give good tidings and do not make people run away.”
“Every act of goodness is charity.”
Character and Manners
“The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character, and the best of you
are those who are best to their wives.”
“[God] has revealed to me that you should adopt humility so that no one oppresses another.”
“He who truly believes in God and the last Day should speak good or keep silent.”
“The best among you is he who has the best manners.”
Environment and Animals
“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.”
“Removing harmful things from the road is an act of charity.”
“Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, God will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.”
Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) Impact on the World
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was truly a mercy to mankind. This assertion is not only justified by his message and his teachings, but it also includes his unprecedented impact on our world. There are two key reasons why his teachings on a social level were so transformative: the justice and compassion of Islam.
Compassion and justice are its central values, expressed through a sincere belief in the existence and worship of one God. By singling Him out for worship and being conscious of one’s accountability, a Muslim is encouraged to act compassionately, fairly and justly. The Qu’ran clearly states in this regard:
“O you who believe, be steadfast in your devotion to God and bear witness impartially: do not let the hatred of others lead you away from justice, but adhere to justice, for that is closer to being God-conscious. Be mindful of God: God is well-acquainted with all that you do.”
“O you who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives. Whether the person is rich or poor, God can best take care of both. Refrain from following your own desire, so that you can act justly—if you distort or neglect justice, God is fully aware of what you do.”
“What will explain to you what the steep path is? It is to free a slave, to feed at a time of hunger an orphaned relative or a poor person in distress, and to be one of those who believe and urge one another to steadfastness and compassion.”
The key reason the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was able to directly influence such tolerant and compassionate societies was because affirming the Oneness of God, pleasing and worshipping Him, was the spiritual and moral basis of his life and the lives of those who loved and followed him. The Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) trustworthiness, high moral character and the impact he has had on the world establishes a strong case for his being the final messenger of God. Studying his life and understanding his teachings in a holistic and nuanced way will lead to only one conclusion: he was a mercy to the world and the one chosen by God to lead the world into Divine guidance and light.