Misconceptions levelled at the very essence of Islam.
Class One Misconceptions about God’s existence and the purpose of His actions
The first part includes misconceptions about God’s existence. We shall discuss four such misconceptions, beginning with the question: Who created God?
Very often, atheists respond to the evidence proving God’s existence by throwing in the question: Who created God? This question is essentially false and cannot be accepted. It is akin to equally false questions, such as: Does man’s pregnancy last nine months as a woman’s pregnancy? What is the weight of a certain temperature? This question about the Creator is delivered in terms that cannot be, and which mean that He should be a created being. The Creator cannot be created so as to ask about who created Him.
Another problem with the question is that it is based on equating the Creator with His creation, and equating the rule, ‘Whatever occurs must have something or someone to cause its occurrence’, with the statement, ‘Whatever exists must have someone that brings it into existence’. Both equations are false.
This question is also false because it leads to the conclusion that the universe does not exist. The question, ‘Who created the Creator?’, has no more validity than either, ‘Who created the Creator’s creator?’, or ‘Who created the Creator’s creator’s creator?’, and so on.
To follow this sequence means that the universe does not exist, because if the existence of the Creator of the universe depends on the existence of the creator before him, and the existence of this one depends on the existence of the one before, and so on, this means that the creator who created the universe did not exist. This sequence means that there is no ‘first’ creator where the sequence stops and who starts the process of creation. The sequence is infinite, and the universe would not occur unless there is a first source without a beginning.
We can then appreciate the uniqueness of the Qur’an and the grace God has bestowed on us as He sent us His final Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him). One of the fine names of God mentioned in the Qur’an is ‘the First’, and it occurs in the third verse of Surah 57, Iron. A hadith related by Muslim mentions that the Prophet used to say in his supplication:
‘My Lord, You are the First and there was nothing before You’. This shows the wisdom of the Prophet as he dealt with this misconception. An authentic hadith quotes the Prophet: ‘Satan may come to any of you and say: “Who created this? Who created that?” until he says: “Who created your Lord?” If one reaches this point, one should seek God’s refuge and desist’. Related by al-Bukhari,
This hadith makes clear that the very question is wrong and thinking about it will not lead to a positive result. The only proper way is to go back to what Islam states about God’s attributes.
Ibn Taymiyyah said: ‘If a man reaches the ultimate end, he must stop. If he is to seek something else, he must desist. The Prophet orders us to stop and seek God’s refuge from the obsession of sequence, just like everyone who attains the final purpose and reaches the absolute end must stop’. Ibn Taymiyyah, Dar’ Ta‘arud al-Aql wal-Naql’,
The rule that says: ‘Whatever exists must have someone who brings it into existence’ is wrong. The correct approach is ‘Whatever occurs must have someone or something to cause its occurrence’. This universe has occurred and, therefore, someone must have caused it to occur.
The second misconception is the claim that natural laws are enough as an answer
Some atheists repeat a claim that has no supporting evidence. In fact, all evidence contradicts it. They say that the accurate laws that operate in nature make it unnecessary to assume that it was created. The universe originated itself according to these laws of nature.
This claim is deceptive and overlooks a very important truth, which is that the laws of nature describe and explain but do not create or originate anything. Take for example business transactions.
They have accounting rules. Does anyone suggest that these rules can create a shop or a store? By the same token: can the laws of mechanics
manufacture a car? Is it not true that the manufacture of a car requires workers who implement these laws?
Does a law like the law of gravity originate something, or explain a fact? That a law explains a particular phenomenon does not remove the fact that there is a cause which originates that phenomenon.
Our knowledge of the laws by which an aeroplane can fly and land does not mean that no one makes the aeroplane.
Moreover, this claim by atheists ignores an essential and reasonable question, namely: Who set these laws? Who made the universe operate according to them?
Three: Darwin’s theory of evolution
I do not propose to discuss in this brief setting a theory that has occupied the leading position in the continuing religion-versus-science debate and remains one of the most important explanations atheists provide for the great variety of living species,
while denying the existence of the Creator. This is stated by Antony Flew, the world famous atheist of the twentieth century who converted to belief in God, the Creator, towards the end of his life.
Some people adopt this theory as an infallible belief, and consider it the only proper explanation of the emergence of living organisms, as opposed to belief in a superior creator. Scientific circles, which prefer materialist explanations, continue to endorse this theory and give it greater importance.
The conflict between the main figures of physical science and the church in the last few centuries became polarised and each side stuck determinedly to its own view, giving their widely different explanations of existence. Physical scientists dismissed the views of the church as scientifically unacceptable. This attitude makes the claim that physical science circles are neutral rather questionable.
Evolutionary theory has not attained the status of a scientific fact. Moreover, its evidence varies in strength according to the type of evolution under discussion. The evidence of evolution within the same species is stronger than evolution between different species.
Criticism of the theory of evolution is not limited to religious circles. A number of scientists pointed out some serious flaws in the theory and highlighted a number of problems facing it. One of these is Michael J. Behe, a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. His book, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, received much praise. The author started with Darwin’s own admission in The Origin of Species that the possibility of proving the existence of a complex organ which has not come about through multiple, small and successive adaptations will totally undermine my theory. Behe explains in his book the great complexity of the single cell, confirming what Darwin said.
Other Western scientists criticise the theory of evolution from a scientific perspective. Dr Jonathan Wells, an American biologist, is well known for his book Icons of Evolution. The Arabic translation of this book, prepared by the Baraheen Centre, says in its Introduction: ‘The main message of the Icons of Evolution is to highlight two ideas. The first is that experts of physical science can use science in an ideological, oppressive and exclusive way whenever they feel the need to do so. The other idea is that physical science itself can become, through its theories and supporters, a set of legends with icons, tales and special symbols’.
There are other books by scientists who take a critical attitude to the evolutionary approach and they try to give a different scientific explanation of the origin of man. One very important book in this area is The Design of Life by William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells.
In their refutation of the atheist approach, some Muslim scholars try to reconcile the evolutionary theory with Islam. They think that the evolution of species has been scientifically proven beyond doubt. However, they reject the principle of natural selection which the atheist Darwinists uphold.
These Muslim scholars say that evolution is designed, which means that God, the Creator of everything, devised the law of evolution. Some of them ask: who can stop the Creator from creating whatever He creates by way of evolution?
This approach appears in conflict with Islam most clearly in respect of Adam’s creation. The Qur’an is clear in stating that God created Adam outright, without parents.
This means that Adam was not the result of the evolution of a previous species that was similar to man. God says: ‘The case of Jesus in the sight of God is the same as the case of Adam. He created him of dust and then said to him: “Be”, and he was’.(3:59)
Four: The multiverse assumption
The following is a part of a discussion between Richard Dawkins, the most prominent advocate of atheism in our time, and Steven Weinberg, an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics who is also atheistic. Dawkins was hoping to hear something that confirmed the theory of multiverse.
Dawkins: Having accepted the word of physicists that there is an element of fine tuning, I think there are three possible explanations. One would be God, which I said is not an explanation at all. One would be the multiverse and then, anthropically, with hindsight, we have to be sitting in one. The third which I attributed to you.
Weinberg: Oh, no!
Dawkins: Possibly wrongly. The third is what I call the macho physicist who says: we just don’t understand why these things are the way they are; one day we will, if and when we have a theory to explain everything. But it sounds that I have misrepresented you.
Weinberg: I don’t think that one should underestimate the fix we are in; that in the end we will not be able to explain the world; that we will have some sets of laws of nature that we will not be able to derive on the grounds of simple mathematical consistency because we can already think of mathematical inconsistent laws that cannot explain the world as we know it. And we will always be worked with the question: why the laws of nature are what they are rather than some other laws. I don’t see any way out of that.
The fact is that the cosmos of nature are suitable for life, which is clearly true. We observe that.
Dawkins: The final idea which I think that most physicists at least have some time for is the multiverse theory.
Weinberg: No one has constructed a theory in which that is true. It is not a speculation. The theory would be speculative, but we don’t have a speculation in which that theory is mathematically realised, but it is a possibility.
Dawkins: And the fact that the cancellation is so precise means that the number of the universes in the multiverse we need to postulate in order to anthropically be comfortable with will be very large.
Weinberg: It must be at least 1056, or if you think you have some idea of the fluctuations of even shorter distances, I think you would say 10120. In fact, this is a little disturbing.
The multiverse theory is tenaciously held by some atheists as a way that allows them to explain the existence of this great universe, without acknowledging God, the Creator. I have included the above discussion between Dawkins and Weinberg to show that this theory remains scientifically unstable. Indeed, a number of atheist physicists do not subscribe to it, like Steven Weinberg.
It is clear that an atheist is prepared to attribute the existence of the universe to anything other than admit that it is the work of God, the Creator of all. Weinberg need not have entertained his disturbing calculation.
The second part: Misconceptions about the purpose of God’s actions
Numerous questions are asked about this subject, but the most important of these are the following four questions:
- Why have we been created and why are we commanded to worship God?
- Why does evil exist in our world?
- Why is there delay in answering prayers, and why do some prayers remain unanswered?
- How is divine justice reconciled with God’s will and the prior writing of people’s actions?
We said earlier, when we discussed the purpose of God’s actions, that this cannot be understood without prior belief in a number of things which I outlined. These should be born in mind, because the answer to these questions is based on them.
The first question: Why has God created us? Why does He want us to worship Him when He is in no need of us?
Before answering this question, it is important to revisit the preliminary principles we mentioned in discussing the purpose of God’s actions. Every question about the purpose of God’s action cannot be separated from those preliminaries. We may add the following answer in brief:
One: The creation of the universe and what it contains is most amazing. It fills us all with wonder. Man cannot produce anything comparable to God’s creation, even in the smallest living beings that have a spirit. Flies are the simplest such beings, and that they are in existence makes the universe more complete. Everything in the universe testifies to the perfection of the One who has produced it, perfect as it is.
Two: When we look at the perfect order that operates in the universe and the precision noticed in all its aspects, we conclude that it is all for a clear purpose, determined by divine wisdom. It cannot be the result of a random occurrence.
Three: It is a logical conclusion that the purpose behind such creation should be consistent with the perfection of the Creator of these great things that testify for the majesty, wisdom and perfection of their Creator.
Four: The perfection of the Creator of the universe and the completeness of the purpose of bringing His creation into existence require that He makes Himself known to His creation, planting into their nature what points to Him and revealing to them, in whatever way He chooses, details that inform the created beings of their Creator.
Five: The only relationship that can exist between these small and weak beings that have been perfectly created and their great and majestic Creator is one of submission, gratitude, praise and glorification. This is what God requires of His creation.
A question is raised here: Is it not true to say that God does not need us or our worship? The answer is that it is certainly true, but we are always in need of Him. A follow-up question is: What is the connection between the two. The answer is: God has created us and He gives us what we need for our lives. He controls our lives, and this means that He is in no need of us. We need Him, and worship is the practical translation and manifestation of this natural relationship. If we do not worship Him, we meet His kindness with ingratitude and arrogance.
God does not order us to give Him something He needs, but He orders us to do what the nature of the relationship between Him and us necessitates. This is the meaning of telling us that He is in no need of anything in all the worlds, and telling us at the same time that He is not pleased with disbelief by His servants.
The first statement, that God is in no need of all the worlds, tells us that He is perfect while we are imperfect. The second statement lays down what this entails. The point is that our existence is made complete by His existence. Anyone who insists on being complete and self-fulfilling contradicts both logic and practical necessity. Such contradiction, which is grossly impudent, incurs a suitable punishment. To leave it unpunished is to permit the worst travesty of the greatest truth in the universe. As such, it would condone the worst type of injustice.
True justice does not permit this. At this point we need to reflect on the meanings of the following three verses of the Qur’an: ‘Had the truth been in accord with their desires, the heavens and the earth, together with all that lives in them, would surely have been in utter corruption’.(23: 71)
“Does any of your
partners [whom you associate with
God] guide to the truth?”
Say: “God alone guides to the truth. Who is more worthy to be followed: He that guides to the truth, or he who cannot find the right way unless he is guided? What is then amiss with you? How do you judge?”’(10: 35)
‘We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them otherwise than in accordance with the truth’.(46: 2)
In conclusion, it is useful to reflect on the following verses and understand their message: ‘We have not created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in mere idle play. Had We willed to indulge in a pastime, We would indeed have found one near at hand; if ever We were to do so! Nay, but We hurl the truth against falsehood, and it crushes the latter, and behold, it withers away.
But woe to you for all your false claims. To Him belong all those who are in the heavens and the earth. Those that are with Him are never too proud to worship Him and never grow weary of that. They extol His limitless glory by night and day, tirelessly. Or have they taken for worship some earthly deities who can restore the dead to life? Had there been in heaven or on earth any deities other than God, both would surely have fallen into ruin! But limitless in His glory is God, Lord of the Throne, and exalted is He above all that they attribute to Him! He cannot be questioned about whatever He does, whereas they shall be questioned’. (21: 16-23)
The second question: Why does evil exist in the human world?
Those who raise this question find it difficult to reconcile the existence of evil with God’s attribute of mercy. In this context, the only attribute of God they mention is mercy. They overlook his other attributes of infinite wisdom, might and greatness.
Over time, this question has frequently been discussed, both from the philosophical and religious points of view. Extensive research has also been conducted on this issue. I will mention a few brief rules which will enable us to understand the question of evil. Before that, however, we need to put some questions to atheists: Has your denial of God put an end to evil in the world? Have massacres stopped? Have floods subsided and have we seen an end to earthquakes and the eruption of volcanoes? Besides, tell us about tyrants who killed thousands or millions of people: will they be punished after they die? Will those who suffered injustice at their hands be given justice?
The real problem with regard to the question about evil is faced by atheists and unbelievers who do not believe in life after death. Conversely, a believer who is certain that people’s actions will be reckoned and there will be reward and punishment in an afterlife is not so faced. In his view of the question of evil, a believer stands on solid ground and has a clear and coherent perspective. His attitude is not based on emotions and feelings that are unsupported by evidence. We may describe its outline as follows:
One: God has given man free will which enables him to choose good or evil. To be held to account for the use of his will is a requirement of justice. When man chooses, by his own will, to kill, this is his own evil action, not God’s.
Two: We cannot understand the wisdom behind the presence of evil in this life unless we believe that this life is incomplete and represents a test. It is not the place where mankind receive their dues for what they do. Whatever evil or disasters take place in it is part of this general condition that God wanted this life to be. Yet some people continue to look for reward and punishment in this world, and when they do not find them they protest against God. These people do not understand God’s purpose of making this life the way it is.
Three: One of the constant laws God has established for this present life is subjecting people to tests. This is His way that will never change. It is consistent with His attribute of wisdom. A test is often the way a believer purges himself of what is unbecoming. After the test, he is as pure as pure gold that has been subjected to very high temperature. Tests often make people turn back to God, purge them of sin and spare them all punishment in hell.
Four: Some aspects of wisdom are implied in what we may consider to be evil, and these may not be readily apparent at first sight. For example, Moses accompanied al-Khadir on his travels and saw him doing outrageous deeds. They were on a ship and al-Khadir made a hole in it. Moses could not understand why he did this. He said to him: ‘Do you want the people on board to drown?’(18: 71)
Later, al-Khadir told him the reason for his action. The ship belonged to some poor people who went to sea to earn their living. They were subject to a tyrant ruler who confiscated all seaworthy ships. Al-Khadir decided to slightly damage it, to ensure that the tyrant ruler would not confiscate it. It would remain with those poor people.
The same applies in our own lives. We may aspire to something, feeling that we will be very happy to have it, but when we actually have possession of it we discover that it is not as we thought. Indeed, we wish that we did not have it at all. How often do a couple try hard to have a child, and when a child is born to them, the child becomes the source of all their troubles and misery? They wish that they had never had a child. This shows that our own ideas of what is good or evil are not necessarily true.
God does not create anything that is totally evil. We may initially judge something to be evil, but when we examine it more carefully, we find that it has some good aspects. What good it has may not appear in this present life, and it may be delayed to the life to come, where it may produce something far better.
The third question: Why does not God answer some of people’s prayers?
One: God tests His servants, but no one tests God. A person who appeals to God to find out whether He will answer his prayer is in disobedience of His orders. How can he expect his prayers to be answered?
Two: God answers the prayers of many people, and this is something we see within our own lives and everywhere around us. The proper question to ask is: Why has the answer of my prayers been delayed? This requires us to review our situation and find out where we err and mend our ways. We should also exert more effort in drawing closer to God, feeling assured that what He gives us is better than what we wish for ourselves.
Three: We have clear and logical evidence confirming beyond doubt that God exists and that His knowledge and wisdom are perfect and complete. When some people put this problem of unanswered prayers against that clear and compelling evidence,
the logical necessity requires any rational person to give more weight to the stronger evidence, and to endeavour to understand the problematic in the light of the clear and straightforward. This is taken for granted.
Four: We need to try to understand the purpose of delaying answering our prayers. The fact that man’s knowledge is limited means that man’s scope and wishes are also limited. Everyone realises that the fact that some of their prayers were not answered was the better alternative for them.
Five: Imam ibn al-Qayyim said: ‘Supplication and seeking refuge are like a weapon. The effectiveness of a weapon does not depend only on its sharp edge, but on the person using it. When the weapon is perfect and free of defect, held in a strong arm and there is nothing to prevent its use, the weapon will be effective against the enemy. If any of these three elements is missing, the effect is reduced’Ibn al-Qayyim, Al-Da’ wal-Dawa’,
held in a strong arm and there is nothing to prevent its use, the weapon will be effective against the enemy. If any of these three elements is missing, the effect is reduced’.
Six: All texts that are relevant to an issue must be considered. To have a partial look is wrong. It is God who says: ‘Pray to Me, and I will answer you’. Yet, He Himself said: ‘We shall test you’. Anyone who thinks that supplication may put an end to testing people simply applies one text and ignores another.
An authentic hadith says: ‘The supplication of any of you is answered, so long as you do not hasten it’. This hadith explains an important thing about the conditions of answering prayers, which is not to hasten it.Atheists deny God’s existence on the basis that prayers remain unanswered. We may, for argument’s sake, say that He may not answer prayers, but this does not necessarily mean that He does not exist.
The fourth question: How to reconcile God’s will with punishing unbelievers
The question of God’s will is one of those questions that can be explained by religion itself. The mind adds its own contribution through what it realises of man’s will and the decisions one takes in one’s different affairs. Confusion in this area occurs when the concept of divine will is related to compulsion. This is wrong. God makes clear that every human being has a will and is able to choose its actions. This is the crux of accountability. Had man’s will not been real, there would have been no purpose of sending messengers or revealing messages. God sent His messengers to remind people. Those who respond to the reminder are rewarded and those who reject it are punished. If mankind were devoid of a will that is addressed by all these reminders, promised reward and warned against punishment, the whole thing would have been absurd, and God is far above all that.
The human will belongs to the ‘causes’ God has made operative in this world. God is the Creator of these causes who determines their operation. It is He who made marriage the cause of child birth, fire the cause of burning, and water the cause of quenching thirst. Likewise, He made will the cause of action, and made man’s actions the cause of admittance into heaven or suffering punishment in hell. All these causes are not independent of God’s will. Indeed, they operate within His will. He can stop any of them at any time He chooses, as He did when He stopped the fire from burning Abraham when his people tried to harm him.
Divine will is closely related to divine wisdom, which we cannot appreciate in full. Ali said: ‘Divine will is one of God’s secrets’. Therefore, the proper attitude to divine will is to accept what God has told us about His will and the choice He has given to man, as well as the fact that man has his own will. This acceptance is based on prior belief in God. Since belief in God is based on definitive logical evidence, then acceptance in this area is based on original logical evidence, but God knows best.
Class Two Misconceptions about the Qur’an
These misconceptions are of two kinds. The first aims to raise doubts about its being God’s word. Since the proofs of the Qur’an are closely related to the proofs of prophethood, I will discuss both together under Class Three.
The other kind: the allegation that it contains errors, and these alleged errors are of three types: linguistic, scientific and contradictory.
The first type: linguistic or grammatical errors. I will mention four replies to all the linguistic errors alleged to occur in the Qur’an.
Firstly: The ultimate objective of those who raise these doubts is to say that the Qur’an was Muhammad’s own invention and composition, and that it is not revealed by God. Had it been revealed by God, it would have been free of error. We say in reply: even if the Qur’an was as you say – and this is certainly untrue – it would be free of any grammatical error, because the Quraysh’s spoken dialect at the time set the correct pattern of Arabic. This applied whether the speaker was Muhammad, Utbah ibn Rabi‘ah or al-Walid ibn al-Mughirah. If we have a text correctly attributed to Abu Jahl, it cannot contain a grammatical error.
Secondly: The rules of grammar were set after the revelation of the Qur’an. They were formulated on the basis of the Arabic address used at the time and earlier. This means that the rules of grammar were based on the Qur’an, Arabic poetry prior to Islam and in the early Islamic period, as well as any texts that date back to that period. Grammarians cite the Qur’an and poetry to confirm grammatical rules, not the reverse.
Thirdly: Different Arabian tribes spoke different dialects and these had some grammatical differences. Linguists called these dialects ‘languages’. They did not deal with these as errors, but considered them variants in Arabic. For example: some Arabian tribes dropped the case markers in dual names and adjectives, giving them all the same form, although attaching the case markers is the standard rule in Arabic. Muhammad Abd al-Hamid said that dropping the case markers of the dual form is according to ‘the language of Kinanah, the tribes of al-Harith ibn Kaab, al-Anbar, Hujaym and certain branches of Rabi‘ah’.
according to ‘the language of Kinanah, the tribes of al-Harith ibn Kaab, al-Anbar, Hujaym and certain branches of Rabi‘ah’.
Fourthly: The grammatical mistakes alleged to be in the Qur’an relate to some of the simplest rules of grammar. In fact these rules are taught in primary schools. Is it possible that the Qur’an, which is acclaimed as a text of surpassing literary excellence could include such mistakes? Such an allegation is absolutely unreasonable.
For example, they claim that there is an error in verse 69 of Surah 5, where the case marker of the word ‘Sabeans’ is wrong. The same statement occurs in two other verses, 2: 62 and 22: 17, and in both cases there is no problem with the case marker attached to this word. So the alleged error is not due to any lack of knowledge. The matter here is one of meaning and it is well explained by commentators on the Qur’an, who show that the usage here is perfectly in line with the rules of Arabic grammar.
The second type: scientific errors
One misconceived allegation raised against the Qur’an is that it contains statements that are contrary to scientific discoveries. This shows that it is not the word of God. Had it been the word of God, it would have included no such error. They give the example of what the Qur’an says about Dhul-Qarnayn:
‘when he came
to the setting of the sun,it
appeared to him that it was setting in dark, turbid waters’.(18: 86)
They say: How is it possible that the sun could set in dark, turbid waters on earth, when natural science tells us that the sun is much larger than the earth and it is far away from it. Indeed, its orbit does not overlap with that of the earth, let alone allow it to enter the earth. Absurd as it is, this misconception has troubled some young people. Moreover, some Arab atheists and Christians continue to harp on it. It is answered in more than one way:
Firstly, God has not told us that the sun sets in turbid waters, but He describes how Dhul-Qarnayn saw it: ‘it appeared to him that it was setting…’. This is how he saw it. It is as we say: ‘The moon rose from behind the mountain’. In reality, the moon is far away from the earth, but the way we see it rising or setting appears to us to happen behind the mountain.
Secondly, many commentators of past generations, before the age of satellites and magnifiers, explained that the verse speaks of what appears to the onlooker, and does not describe the reality. Ibn Kathir (died 774 AH, 1373 CE) commented on this verse: ‘He saw the sun setting into the open sea. This is how it is seen by everyone who is by the sea shore. It appears to be dipping into it, while in fact it does not move away from its orbit’.
In his commentary on the Qur’an, al-Qurtubi (died 671 AH, 1273 CE) quotes other scholars: ‘This does not mean that he reached the sun at its setting and rising points, so as to physically touch it. It is far above the earth and does not converge with it. It is too big to set into some water spring on earth. Indeed, it is many times bigger than the earth. What is meant is that Dhul-Qarnayn reached the end of inhabited land to the West and then to the East and it appeared to his eyes as though it was setting in turbid waters, as when we are on level land, we see it sinking into the ground’.
Commenting on the same verse, al-Baydawi (died 685 AH, 1287 CE) said: ‘He might have reached the sea shore and saw it as such, as in his line of vision there was nothing except the water. Therefore, the verse says, “it appeared to him”, and did not say, “it was setting in dark, turbid waters”.’ In al-Jalalayn’s commentary: ‘That it was setting in turbid waters is how it appeared to the eye. The fact is that the sun is greater in size than the earth’.
As we see, this was very clear over the centuries.
Another example of a Qur’anic statement they claim to be contrary to modern science is: ‘It is He who has spread out the earth’. (13: 3)
They allege that it this is contrary to the recent discovery that the earth is circular in shape. This betrays great ignorance. That the earth is circular has been known for a very long time. Muslim scholars stated that it has been accepted as a fact by all scholars. Ibn Hazm (384-456 AH, 994-1064 CE) said: ‘No Muslim scholar who deserves to be considered an imam ever denied that the earth is circular. None has ever said a word contrary to this. Indeed, proofs of this are plentiful in the Qur’an and the sunnah’. Ibn Hazm, Al-Fisal,
As for the claim that it contradicts the Qur’anic verse, it was answered many centuries ago. In his commentary on the Qur’an, al-Razi (543-606 AH, 1149-1210 CE) said: ‘If they claim that the statement, “It is He who spread out the earth”, is contrary to the earth being circular, we reject this, because the earth is huge and every stretch of a circle of great magnitude is seen as if it is flat’.Al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb,
The third type: contradictory verses
Atheists and those who raise doubts about Islam sometimes allege that the Qur’an contains verses that are mutually contradictory. Since contradiction is a flaw, the Qur’an could not be the word of a perfect deity.
This argument is based on a false premise, which is the presence of mutually contradictory verses in the Qur’an. This is untrue, and all the examples they quote have clear and simple answers. In fact, the claim of contradiction is obviously due to ignorance of the meanings of Arabic vocabulary, particularly when they are used in a general or particular sense. The claim of contradiction also betrays ignorance of the different texts that relate to the same subject, as some texts explain others.
Commentators on the Qur’an have paid particular attention to the clarification of the verses that may appear to be contradictory. Whatever you hear about contradiction in the Qur’an is clearly answered in books of commentary. Indeed, some scholars devoted complete books to this question. One of the best works that tackle it is daf‘ Iham al-Idtirab an Ayat al-Kitab by Imam Muhammad al-Amin al-Shanqiti.
An example of alleged contradiction in the Qur’an is stated by an Egyptian young man who openly states that he is an atheist, propagating his atheism in the media. I was filled with sadness because these examples, which have been extensively discussed and well explained, are taken as an excuse for people’s apostasy. What can we say? If God wants to put anyone to test, we shall not be able to avail him anything against God.
The example cites the following verses and claims contradiction between them: ‘When a good thing happens to them, some [people] say, “This is from God”, whereas when evil befalls them, they say, “This is from you!” Say,
“All is from God.” What is amiss with these people that they are in no wise near to grasping the truth of what they are told? (78) Whatever good happens to you is from God; and whatever evil befalls you is from yourself. (4: 78-9)
The question such people ask is: how one verse says that both good and evil things are from God in one verse while the next verse says that the evil stems from ourselves?
Those people allege that this is clear contradiction. Had there been any contradiction in
this clear and superior book,
it would not have occurred in two consecutive verses. To make such a claim is to betray
naivety. Praised is God who says
in the same surah, only two verses later:
‘Will they not, then, try to understand the
Quran? Had it issued from any but
God, they would surely have found in it many an inner contradiction!’(4: 82)
It is as though this verse is meant to say to anyone who imagines that these two verses are contradictory that there is absolutely no contradiction in the Qur’an.
To understand these verses we say that the first verse refers to the fact that the unbelievers used to blame the Prophet for any misfortune that befell them. If they were without rain and this caused their meadows to dry up, which is the evil referred to in the first verse, they would blame the Prophet for it, saying that his bad omen brought it upon them. God says to them that both situations of fertile and unfertile produce come from God. The second verse tells people that whatever good befalls them is by God’s generosity and kindness, while any evil that happens to them is due to their own deeds. All of it though is by God’s will. Commentators say that this verse is addressed to all Muslims, not only to the Prophet.
Thus, the second verse gives the same meaning as the one that says:
befalls you is the outcome of
what your own hands have done; but God forgives much’. (42:
Thus, there is no contradiction between the two verses. Whatever happens is from God in as far as it is determined. At the same time, our evil actions are among the causes of the misfortunes that happen in the world.
Class Three Misconceptions about the Prophet
These misconceptions may be divided into two groups: the first is to raise doubts about his prophethood and the other is to criticise particular issues in his life and the way he behaved on some occasions. Among the best known of these are his marriages to Aishah and Safiyyah, his several marriages, the fate of the Qurayzah Jews and the case of the Urani men.
Answer to the first group should prove his prophethood with logical and textual evidence. Scholars have addressed this issue, but many of them tended to lean towards material miracles, preferring these to other evidence. In fact, using both types of proof, i.e. the logical and the textual, gives a stronger argument. The Qur’an mentions logical evidence confirming and proving the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Several scholars stressed that the evidence confirming his prophethood is varied and not limited to material miracles. These include al-Ghazali in al-Munqidh min al-Dalal and Ibn Taymiyyah in Sharḥ al-Asbahaniyyah and al-Nubuwwat.
It is important to remember that people’s response to such evidence varies, enabling some to achieve certainty with one type while others need to have evidence of both types. All fair people agree that together, the various types of evidence available are sufficient to give any person complete certainty that Muhammad was a prophet. Here are some such proofs.
One: His truthfulness and morality
‘It is well known that a person who claims to be God’s messenger is either one of the best people who abides by a high standard of morality or one of the worst people of loose morality. How can the best be confused with the worst? Every liar who made a false claim of being a prophet was seen by all around to combine ignorance with falsehood, sinful behaviour and a following of Satan. By contrast, every truthful person who said that he was a prophet demonstrated knowledge, truthfulness,
goodness and fine behaviour that was obvious to all’.Ibn Taymiyyah, Sharh al-Aqeedah al-Asbahaniyyah,
Another scholar said: ‘Prophethood is claimed by a person who is either the most truthful or the worst liar of people. The two cannot be confused even by the most simple of people, because their behaviour will tell and make their reality known. A truthful person is distinguished from a liar in many ways, even when the discourse is of ordinary matters.This applies even more clearly when the issue is a claim to prophethood’.Ibn Abi Al-Izz, Sharh al-Tahawiyyah,
These quotations give us a valid logical argument. When a person says that he is a prophet, he is making a claim which may be true or false. It is not difficult to distinguish whether a claim is true or false when it is a very serious one. It is not possible for deception to be carried on for a long time in such matters.
When we consider the personality of Muhammad and his actions and behaviour, we conclude that he could not have made a false claim to prophethood. Friends and foes testified to his great morality, fine manners, honesty in addition to his renowned truthfulness known since he was an adolescent.
When we go through the books authored by enemies of Islam who raise doubts about the Prophet, we find that they criticise certain attitudes and base their false accusations on these. They do not choose events that relate to his truthfulness. This implies acknowledgement that he spoke the truth.
Before prophethood, Muhammad lived for many years among his people in Makkah and they nicknamed him ‘al-sadiq al-amin’, which means ‘the truthful, the honest’. When he was commanded to declare his message, he stood on al-Safa, a small hill close to the Kaabah and said to his people: ‘Were I to tell you that a force is about to attack from behind this mountain, would you believe me?’ They said: ‘We never knew you to tell a lie’. He said: ‘I am here to warn you about an impending grave suffering’.Related by al-Bukhari,
At one stage, false rumours circulated accusing his wife, Aishah, of adultery. He was much troubled by these rumours and felt their considerable impact. What did he do in this case? Had the Qur’an been his own work, would it not have been easy for him to coin some verses declaring her innocence? People would have believed him. Why did he consult his companions,
seeking their advice? Why did he address the people stating that the one who was the prime culprit, Ibn Ubay, had insulted his family? Yet he did not attribute any of this to God, until revelation was given him some time later declaring Aishah’s innocence.The full story is related by al-Bukhari
Abu Sufyan was the chief of the Quraysh and led its battles against the Prophet. One day he was in southern Syria when he was summoned to meet Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, who was eager to learn some first-hand information about Muhammad.
Heraclius asked Abu Sufyan several questions about Muhammad. One of these was: ‘Did you normally accuse him of lying?’ Abu Sufyan said: ‘No’. Heraclius wisely said: ‘I asked you if you accused him of lying before he started his claims and you said that you did not. I know that he would not consistently refrain from lying to people then start to fabricate false things about God’.Related by al-Bukhari
On the day Ibraheem, the Prophet’s son, died, there was a solar eclipse. People said that it was a sign of grief for the death of the Prophet’s son. What was the Prophet’s reaction to their assertions?
Did he accept or endorse them? Or did he remain silent? He did neither; instead, he addressed them to correct this false belief, saying: ‘The sun and the moon are two of God’s signs. They are not eclipsed because of the death or the life of anyone whomsoever’. He added his guidance to offer a special prayer and seek God’s forgiveness and to give charitable donations.
Another thing that testifies to the Prophet’s truthfulness is the fact that he delivered the Qur’an in full, although it contains verses of remonstration addressed to him personally.
Here are some examples of
‘He frowned and turned away when the blind man came to
him. How could you tell? He
might have sought to purify himself’.(80: 1-3)
‘May God forgive you [Prophet]! Why did you grant them permission [to stay behind] before you had come to know who were speaking the truth and who were the liars’. (9: 43)
‘Prophet, why do you prohibit yourself something that God has made lawful to you in
desire to please your wives?’(66: 1)
‘You stood in awe of people, whereas it was God alone of whom you should have stood in awe’.(33: 37)
Would Muhammad have delivered these verses if he was not truly a messenger of God? What would have compelled him to say such words which people will continue to recite for as long as human life continues?
The Qur’an, which the Prophet recited to people, is the best and most important proof of the Prophet’s true status. Muhammad was an unlettered person, who could not read or write, and he never composed a line of poetry. Yet he delivered the Qur’an to people, presenting a challenge to all mankind, saying that they could show him as false if they produced a book similar to the Qur’an, or ten surahs like it, or even one surah like it. They preferred to raise armies to fight him rather than try to produce a single surah like the Qur’an. They had all the right incentives to accept the challenge, including a bitter hostility towards the Prophet and a keenness not to appear in a powerless position. Moreover, they had all the means that enabled them to match any type of human speech, because they were very eloquent and appreciated fine expression. Despite all this, they were unable to meet the challenge. The Prophet went to them in their own meeting places to recite to them what God says: ‘If all mankind and the jinn were to gather together for the purpose of producing the like of this Qur’an, they would not produce anything like it, even though they pooled their resources together for the purpose’.(17: 88)
He also said to them:
‘If you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to Our servant,
then produce one surah comparable
to it and call upon all your witnesses, other than God, if what you say is true. But
you fail, as you will certainly
do, then guard yourselves against the fire, fuelled by men and stones, prepared for
He does not only challenge them. He tells them that they will not be able to meet the challenge and that it is better for them to spare themselves the punishment of hell, because it is true. Their inability to meet the challenge proves the truth that the Qur’an is God’s revelation, not the word of any human being.
The Qur’an states news of the future, and its statements are clear, specific and without
hesitation. No false claimant
could risk fabricating such statements because failure to happen would show him to be a
liar and would induce his
followers to abandon him and his cause. Besides, the Prophet did not need to say such
things to his followers after they
had accepted his message and believed in him. If he needed to make any such prediction,
he would have made them in an
indefinite style, suggesting a probability rather than a certainty. This applies if
Muhammad was the author of the
Qur’an. But the Qur’an is God’s Book. Hence, it is no wonder that it makes the following
promise, clearly and
categorically, confirming it beyond doubt:
‘If anyone thinks that God will not give him
victory in this world and in the
life to come, let him stretch out a rope to the sky and then cut himself off; and
let him see whether his scheme
will remove that which has enraged him’. (22: 15)
The verse makes a clear promise that victory will be granted to God’s Messenger in this present life as well as in the Hereafter.
Another example is the Qur’anic statement:
‘It is We Ourselves who have bestowed this
reminder from on high, and it is
We who shall preserve it intact’.(15: 9)
The ‘reminder’ in this context refers to the Qur’an, and the verse uses several ways of asserting its import, making clear that the Qur’an will definitely remain immune to any alteration or distortion. This information is given about the future. This promise has been fulfilled despite the successive waves of attack against Islam and Muslims ever since the time of the Prophet until the present time.
Another piece of information about future events given in the Qur’an is the following:
‘Defeated have been the
Byzantines in the lands close-by; yet despite this their defeat, they will gain
within a few years. All power of
decision belongs to God before and after. And on that day the believers will rejoice
God’s support. He grants support
to whomever He wills. He is the Almighty, the Ever Merciful’.(30: 2-5)
Questions that could have been raised include: What if no such war broke out? What if there was to be a war but the outcome would be another defeat for the Byzantines? What if the Byzantines achieved their victory earlier or later than the time stated in the Qur’an? [What actually happened was that the Byzantines achieved victory and regained territories the Persians had occupied in the earlier battle after less than ten years, as the Qur’anic expression clearly implied. On the same day the Muslims achieved victory in their first major battle against the unbelievers, the Battle of Badr. This is what the above-quoted Qur’anic verses refer to of the believers’ rejoice.]
The Qur’anic proof of prophethood includes the stories of earlier communities. This is strong evidence, because at the time of the Prophet, the Arabs had no knowledge of the stories of earlier prophets and their peoples. Followers of earlier divine religions had some accounts of those prophets. The Qur’anic accounts of the histories of those prophets agree in part with what the earlier scriptures provide.
This agreement is a point that confirms the prophethood. The Qur’an gives some details that are not found in the books of earlier religions, and at times, it corrects their errors. How could an unlettered person who lived all his life in Makkah give all these accounts, in beautiful style, free of ambiguity and drawing clear lessons? A man who might have studied all that had been told about these histories could not have given such clear accounts, let alone an unlettered man who never read a written sheet.
Indeed, God highlights this situation in connection with the Qur’anic historical accounts. At the end of Moses’ story, He says to the Prophet: ‘You certainly were not present on the western side of the mountain when We issued the commandments to Moses, nor were you one of those who witnessed [those events]. But We raised up many generations, and long was their span of life. Nor did you dwell among the people of Madyan, reciting Our revelations to them. Rather, it is We who send messengers. Nor indeed were you present on the slopes of Mount Sinai when We called out [to Moses].
Rather, it is an act of your Lord’s mercy so that you may warn people to whom no warner has come before you, so that they may perchance reflect’. (28: 44-6)
As He concludes the account of Noah and his people, God says to the Prophet: ‘These accounts of things that have passed We now reveal to you. Neither you nor your people knew them before this. Be, then, patient in adversity; for the future belongs to those who are God-fearing’. (11:49)
There are other aspects of the Qur’anic evidence confirming Muhammad’s prophethood, but I will leave these for now, due to space limitations.
Three: The legislation, beliefs and values as proof
Scholars of Fiqh, Hadith and history as well as commentators on the Qur’an and the hadith have not exhausted the treasures of the Qur’an and the sunnah, despite having been engaged in this task for over fourteen centuries. Large libraries are unable to even accommodate all that scholars have written about just one area of Islamic religious study, namely Fiqh rulings. You may find hundreds, if not thousands, of books dealing with one area of the faith, all relying on the texts of the Qur’an and the sunnah delivered to us by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
It is not the quantity that is important in this respect; the quality, validity, perfection and comprehensiveness of the texts and what is written about them are far more important. The value of all this appears much greater when we remember that the message of the Prophet was delivered in just 23 years, during which he shouldered the very heavy responsibilities of advocating his message among his people, addressing the pilgrims from different tribes, trying to redress the difficulties encountered by the weaker elements among his followers in Makkah, arranging their migration to Abyssinia, then moving out to Madinah where he assumed the responsibilities of the ruler, judge, imam and army commander, in addition to looking after his nine wives and their homes. He led around twenty military expeditions which claimed the lives of many of his companions, including one of his uncles and one cousin, as well as his loved mawla. How could he devise such a complete legislative system, unless it had been revealed to him by God? Reflect, if you will, on the texts of the Qur’an and the sunnah that speak of God’s attributes and glorify Him.
These alone are sufficient to tell us that the one who delivered these texts was a Prophet and a Messenger of God. Human thought may spend much time reflecting on God and His attributes, but it cannot achieve the greatness that is embodied in the Qur’an and the sunnah about God. This tells us that both come from God, because no one knows God better than He knows Himself.
Reflect on the first surah in the Qur’an, The Opening, the verse known as the Verse of the Chair, which is verse 255 of Surah 2, The Cow, as well as Surah 112, Purity of Faith. Consider, how could any human mind describe God in the same way as these few verses? Here is a translation of these verses:
In the Name of God, the Lord of Grace, the Ever-Merciful. Praise be to God, the Lord of
all the worlds, The Lord of
Grace, the Ever-Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgement. You alone do we worship and to
You alone do we turn for help.
Guide us on the straight path, The path of those on whom You have bestowed Your favours, not those who have incurred Your wrath, nor those who have gone astray.(1: 1-7)
God: there is no deity but Him, the Ever-Living, the Eternal Master of all. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that can intercede with Him, except by His permission? He knows all that lies open before them and all that lies hidden from them; whereas they cannot attain to anything of His knowledge save as He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Most High, the Most Great.(2: 255)
Say: He is God, the One and only God the Eternal, the Absolute. He begets none, nor is He begotten, and there is nothing that could be compared to Him.(112: 1-4)
In the field of manners and morality and the perfect set of values given in the Qur’an and the sunnah, no one may fail to realise the beauty, completeness and suitability of the Islamic system. It ensures improvement of the individual and society. I refer to some aspects of this in the first volume of my book Kamil al-Surah. The late scholar Muhammad Abdullah Draz wrote a large book on the Qur’anic Moral Code. Hadith anthologies devote large chapters to social and moral behaviour. Indeed, this is an area addressed in separate books by scholars of Hadith. One invaluable book in this field is al-Adab al-Mufrad by Imam al-Bukhari which is an anthology of 1,329 hadiths
Four: Miracles as proof
A large number of reports confirm that a number of natural laws were overruled at the hand of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). These reports have been stated by persons known for their integrity and accuracy and transmitted through continuous chains of reporters of similar category, going up to the Prophet’s time. Scholars have devoted complete books to these reports and they called them Dala’il al-Nubuwwah, or Proofs of Prophethood. Such reports include that people in the Prophet’s mosque heard a sorrowful sound coming out of a tree branch which the Prophet used to lean on when he addressed the people on Fridays. The branch delivered this sound when the Prophet no longer leaned on it, because he had had a platform made for himself to stand upon when he addressed the people.
Another report mentions that trees moved to screen him when he needed to relieve himself. Other reports mention that a small quantity of food was greatly increased when he needed to feed a large number of his companions, and water sprang through his hand to provide his companions with what they and their mounts needed to drink. Many other cases have been reported, and reference may be made to al-Bayhaqi’s Dala’il al-Nubuwwah and the chapters devoted to this subject in hadith anthologies.
Such multiple reporting of events cannot be denied unless we reject a true report as a source of information. Scholars in all types of religious, social and scientific specialities speak of historical facts relating to their area of speciality which they have learnt through true reporting.
The question is: if a true report is an acceptable source of information in these areas, is it not similarly acceptable when it tells us of miraculous occurrences taking place through the Prophet? Indeed, the reports of such miracles conform to the requirements of acceptance more than other reports that are widely accepted, such as the superiority of certain people in particular fields, as, for example, Aristotle being excellent in logic, Hatim al-Ta’i being exceedingly generous and Avicenna being a master of philosophy.
When we add the evidence of miracles to the earlier proofs, the matter becomes even clearer, and doubt smaller and smaller.
Five: Announcements by earlier prophets
God has told us that both Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them) gave the news that Muhammad would be a messenger sent by God. He says: ‘Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet whom they shall find described in the Torah and the Gospel that are with them’.(7: 157)
God also mentions that Jesus said: ‘Children of Israel! I am God’s messenger to you, [sent] to confirm the Torah revealed before me, and to give news of a messenger that will come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad’.(61: 6)
God has also told us that the people of earlier religions altered their sacred books, but the distortion did not affect all that God had revealed to them. Parts of the truth remain with them.
What is amazing is that the distortion was not confined to the time before Prophet Muhammad, but continued after that and it is seen in the Arabic translations of the Bible.
Despite all this alteration, Muslim researchers and scholars have highlighted some texts in the Bible that speak of a messenger who would come after Jesus, and other texts that describe the community or the city of this messenger.
They cite other texts in which the Prophet is mentioned, but that have been distorted in translation. Take the following example:
I did not say these things to you from the beginning because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you…
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own,
but will speak whatever he hears; and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you.The Gospel, John,
Jesus gives here a description of the one who comes after him, stating that he does not speak of his own accord, but will transmit what he hears and will tell of future events.
This description reminds us of what God says in the Qur’an about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): ‘He does not speak out of his own fancy. That [which he delivers to you] is nothing less than a revelation sent down to him’. (53: 3-4) God also instructs Prophet Muhammad: ‘When We recite it [i.e. the Qur’an], follow its recitation’.(75: 18)
A number of researchers including Dr Munqidh al-Saqqar, who specialises in this area, say that the word ‘Advocate’ in the above quotation is not a proper translation of the original which more accurately means ‘the one deserving much praise’, which suggests that here the Prophet’s name is given as Ahmad or Muhammad, both of which mean ‘worthy of praise’.
Makkah is mentioned in the Bible in the same pronunciation used in the Qur’an, which is Bakkah. Psalm 84 includes:
Happy are those who live in your house,
Ever singing your praise Selah
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
In whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca
They make it a place of springs
The early rain also covers it with pools,
They go from strength to strength…
This last line is given in the Arabic translation of the Bible as ‘they go from mountain to mountain’. Some researchers suggest that this refers to the hajj ritual of walking between the two hills of al-Safa and al-Marwah, which are close to the Kaabah, but God knows best.
Elsewhere in the Bible it is stated that light will come out of the Paran Mountains, which are the Makkah mountains. It says:
This is the blessing with which Moses, the man of God, blessed the Israelites before his death. He said:
The Lord came from Sinai, and dawned from Seir upon us, He shone forth from Mount Paran.
With him were myriads of holy ones; at his right, a host of his own.
Indeed, O favourite among peoples; all his holy ones were in your charge;
They marched at your heels, accepted directions from you.Deuteronomy; 33:1-3.
And yet another reference says:
O Lord, I have heard your renown, And I stand in awe, O Lord, of your work.
In our own time revive it; In our own time make it known; In wrath may you remember mercy.
God came from Teman, The Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, And the earth was full of his praise.Habakkuk; 3:2-3.
Dr Munqidh al-Saqqar said:
‘The places that mention Paran in the Bible indicate that
Paran is in the south of the
Palestine desert, but the Torah also mentions that Ishmael ‘lived in the wilderness
It is well-known in history that he lived in Makkah in Hijaz. Muslims consider the text to be a prophesy that Jesus will rise in Seir in Palestine, then Muhammad will rise at Mount Paran, when he would come with thousands of his pure followers, supported by God. All this applies to Prophet Muhammad for the following reasons:
- Mount Paran, or Faran in Arabic, is Mount Makkah where Ishmael lived. The Torah says of Ishmael: ‘God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt’.Genesis, 21:20-1.
That there is an area called Paran in southern Sinai does not exclude the
possibility of another area being called by
the same name. That was the area where Ismael lived. It is reported that an area
the land of Adom, which is in
present day Jordan, is called Seir. This name refers to this area in several
in the Bible. Yet this did not stop
the same name from being used in reference to a mountain in the middle of
to the west of Jerusalem.Joshua, 15:10.
We may ask those who insist that Paran refers to the one in Sinai: What is that blessed light that appeared from that mountain which is totally unrelated to any important event in history?
- 3.The objection that the text uses the past tense is unacceptable. The past tense is frequently used in the Bible to refer to future events.
- 4.Why is Mount Paran mentioned in particular if it is a mere reference to the glory of God being spread all over the universe, as suggested by some Jewish writers? Certainly God’s glory does not stop at Mount Paran or Mount Seir.
- .That the reference here is to the prophesy of thousands of saints, who are called
some translations as ‘pure angels’,
meaning pure followers as the word ‘angels’ is used in the sense of ‘followers’, as
we see in the Book of Revelation:
‘Michael and his angels fought against the dragon…’Revelation, 12:7.
When did Paran see 5.thousands of pure ones other than at the advent of Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions?
- The claims of the Muslims are supported by what is mentioned in the Book of Habakkuk: ‘God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. The brightness was like the sun: rays came forth from his hand, where his power lay hidden. Before him went pestilence, and plague followed close behind. He stopped and shook the earth; he looked and made the nations tremble’.Habakkuk, 3:3-6.
‘The text makes clear that a powerful prophethood will shine like a bright light and that the adhan, or call to prayer which this prophet teaches will fill the horizon with God’s glorification. As editors of the Bible mention, Teman is a Hebrew word which means ‘the south’. Hence, the Catholic text of the Torah says: “God comes from the south and the holy one comes from Mount Paran”. Since the addressees were in Palestine, the promised revelation was thus to come from the south, meaning Arabia. The holy one will then be sent to Mount Paran. All this confirms that the holy one who will shine at Mount Paran is the Prophet of Islam. All the descriptions of the prophet of Paran apply to him and do not apply to any other prophet’.
The Second Group: Misconceptions about Certain Events in the Prophet’s Life
The most prominent of these misconceptions are the Prophet’s marriage to Aishah, the execution of the Qurayzah Jews and his marriage to Safiyyah. As regards his marriage to Aishah, people object because she was so young at the time of her marriage. The answer to this is as follows:
Firstly, the happiest person in this marriage was Aishah. In fact, the reports of the love and companionship between her and the Prophet provide the best example to emulate between married couples. Therefore, what is feared when there is a large age gap between a couple, especially in relation to harmful psychological and physical effects on the young wife, never occurred in this blessed marriage.
Secondly, the acceptability or otherwise of marriage at this age is a matter of social tradition. Had there been any defiance of norms in this marriage, the first to denounce it would have been the Quraysh unbelievers, the Jews and the hypocrites. These groups would never have missed a chance to criticise the Prophet. As we have seen, they were quick to do so when they circulated the false story that accused Aishah of adultery. Many verses in the Qur’an mention the abuse levelled by the unbelievers and the hypocrites at the Prophet.
They accused him of being a sorcerer, a poet, a soothsayer, and that he was helped by other people and that he was being taught by a human being, etc. God also mentions that they questioned the facts that he ate food and walked in the market places, and that he listened to all people, etc. Yet, God mentions nothing about any criticism or abuse of the Prophet, by his enemies, concerning this marriage. The sunnah and historical reports do not mention any criticism of this marriage although they mention much of what they used to say about the Prophet.
Thirdly, a woman may attain puberty at the age of nine, which means that she can get pregnant and give birth. Had the matter been the mere marriage to a young girl, the Prophet could have completed the marriage shortly after the contract was made, when she was six. He delayed the marriage for three years, until she was ready. Until recently, the Western world approved the marriage of young girls at an age which they now consider illegal and unacceptable.
t is somewhat ironical that illegitimate sexual relations below the age of consent are not as strongly criticised in the West as marriage at a young age. Yet in many countries, it is acceptable at an early age, norms varying from one place to another. Some people, however, are not reassured until they learn that some Western countries used to allow marriage at the age of eleven, twelve and thirteen. Their reassurance is due to Western pressure, because some of us feel that the West sets the standards of acceptability or otherwise. In fact, we do not need all this, but having various arguments is useful because people’s criteria differ.
Finally, some try to defend God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) by rejecting the authentic hadith that mentions Aishah’s age at the time of her marriage. They cite some reports which suggest that she was eighteen or around that when she became married. I have discussed some of the questions relating to this issue in an article which responds to Adnan Ibraheem’s view of her age. A better and more comprehensive discussion than this article is Fahd al-Ghufayli’s book, al-Sana al-Wahhaj fi Sinn Aishah ind al-Zawaj.
The Qurayzah Jews: Non-Muslims and atheists who try to call the Prophet’s character into question often repeat the allegation that he killed the children of the Qurayzah Jewish tribe, and so they accuse him of brutality. This story is answered as follows:
One: It is necessary to explain the reason for the fate of the Qurayzah tribe. It came about as a result of their treacherous alliance with the enemy during one of the hardest periods and most serious threats faced by the Muslim community. Their treason occurred at the time the Confederate tribes laid siege to Madinah. The Qurayzah were bound by a peace treaty with the Prophet and the Muslims, but they violated that same treaty and which is described most vividly and accurately by God Himself:
‘They came upon you from above and from below you. Your eyes rolled [with fear] and your hearts leapt up to your throats, and confused thoughts about God passed through your minds. That was a situation when the believers were sorely tested and severely shaken’.(33: 10-1) They even threatened Muslim women and children in Madinah. They deserved no lesser punishment than the death penalty.
Two: The Prophet did not kill the Qurayzah children. He forbade killing women and children, and so the sentence applied to men only. As quoted in the hadith related by al-Bukhari and Muslim, the sentence passed by Saad ibn Muadh, whom they accepted to be the judge in their case, ordered ‘the killing of their fighters’.Related by al-Bukhari
Three: The violation of the treaty was by the entire tribe: some directly and the rest by tacit acceptance. Therefore, the punishment applied to all.
The Prophet’s marriage to Safiyyah: Those who circulate this misconception allege that
the Prophet consummated his
marriage to Safiyyah on the day her husband was killed, without waiting for her to
observe the mandatory waiting period.
This is all false and contrary to what al-Bukhari and Muslim relate, and yet it is
frequently circulated by those who
raise misconceptions about Islam. Many people are influenced by their allegations, due
to the lack of serious
examination of reports. As mentioned in al-Bukhari’s Sahih anthology:
took her with him, and when we
reached al-Rawha’, she became lawful to him and he consummated his marriage to
her’.Related by al-Bukhari
As related by Muslim, the hadith clearly states the end of her waiting period.
Besides, all that is reported from Safiyyah is her being happy with this marriage and her delight at being the Prophet’s wife. She related information about him and his hadiths. She would even visit the Prophet during his stay in the mosque during Ramadan and sit with him talking about different matters.Related by al-Bukhari, 1,930.
It may be said that had she had any objection, would it not be reported? An alternative answer might also be given in a recounting of a marriage proposal made by the Prophet but which was declined by the lady in question. Al-Bukhari relates in his Sahih on al-Awza‘i’s authority: ‘I asked al-Zuhri about the woman who sought refuge from him. He said that Urwah informed him, from Aishah that ‘When al-Jawn’s daughter was brought to God’s Messenger (peace be upon him) and he drew close to her, she said: “I seek refuge with God from you”. He said: “You have sought refuge with One who is great. Return to your family”.’Related by al-Bukhari,
Class Four Misconceptions about Islamic Law
We continue our discussion of misconceptions of the first type, which are aimed at the essence of Islam. We mentioned earlier that they are divided into four classes, and now we will be discussing the fourth class which includes misconceptions about Islamic law and legislation. The main problems raised in this connection focus on three main areas: 1) the allegation that Islam is unfair to women; 2) the allegation that Islam encourages bloodshed and terrorism, because of it calls for jihad; and 3) the allegation that Islam is brutal in the punishments it legislates.
Firstly: Treatment of women
Those who raise this kind of misconception cite a number of Islamic laws which they claim to show that Islam is unfair to women. The fact is that they do not understand Islamic legislation and its purpose, and they cite some wrong habits or traditions which are practised by some Muslims but attribute these to Islam as a whole, either mistakenly or on purpose.
Muslim scholars have discussed all misconceptions about women and the way Islam treats them. They answered all these questions in articles, research papers, books, seminars and lectures. Scores of written, audio and video material are available in this area.
One problem that continues to be raised despite its being fully discussed and answered is the question of women’s inheritance. I discussed this question myself fully in the second volume of my (Note: this? Instead of my) work, Kamil al-Surah. Although I do not like to repeat myself, I am outlining this question and its answers here because it is often highlighted in Western discourse. They always say that it is unfair that a woman is given half the share of a man. This is answered in several ways:
One: Inheritance takes place in different situations. In some situations, a woman is given more than a man, and in some she takes an equal share. In certain cases, a woman inherits but a man in the same situation does not. In other cases, her share is less than a man’s share.
Take the case of a woman whose heirs are her only daughter and her husband. In this case, the daughter takes a bigger share than that of the husband. If a man dies, leaving behind his parents and children, his parents inherit equal shares, as God says: ‘As for the parents [of the deceased], each of them shall have one sixth of what he leaves behind, in the event of his having a child’.(4: 11)
This is so, although the same verse mentions the rule that a woman’s share is half that of a man, as God says: ‘The male shall have a share equal to that of two females’. (4: 11)
overlook this, either unwittingly or on purpose. Another case where a woman
equal share to that of her
brother is stated as follows:
‘If a man or a woman has no heir in the direct line, but
has a brother or a sister, then
each of them shall inherit one-sixth; but if there be more, then they shall
one-third’. (4: 12)
This last Qur’anic statement discusses the case of siblings through the mother, not full brothers and sisters.
Two: In other cases, a man inherits a share which is double that of a woman. However, Islam requires every Muslim man to pay a dowry to his wife when he marries her. It is also his duty to support his wife throughout his life, even though she may be rich. Does he not deserve to have a larger share of inheritance so that he is able to fulfil his duties?
Three: The whole criticism in this area is that it is different from what they have established and advocated of absolute equality between males and females. This total equality is in conflict with the nature of both, and as such it is unfair. Islam, on the other hand, makes equality the basis of its legislation in all areas, except where such equality would be contrary to the woman’s nature or to what is more suitable for her.
For example, Islam forbids men to wear gold, while women are allowed to have gold jewellery because by nature a woman loves to wear jewellery. The Qur’an and the sunnah emphatically urge people to join the jihad, when it is a duty, but all this applies to men, not to women. Imam al-Bukhari relates a hadith narrated by Aishah: ‘I requested the Prophet’s permission to go on jihad, but he said:
“Your [i.e. women’s] jihad is the hajj”.’ Ibn Battal says: ‘This hadith narrated by Aishah confirms that jihad is not a duty for women.
However, the Prophet’s words, “Your jihad is the hajj”, does not mean that they may not volunteer to join a jihad campaign. It simply says that it is not a duty incumbent on women’.
When we look at the conditions of those who advocate absolute equality between men and women, we find that the reality does not confirm their claims in all areas. The number of women who assume the position of ‘head of state’ is insignificant compared with the number of men.
Is this because they know that men are better at this type of work? Or is it because principles are totally overlooked when high position is at stake? Or is it because the whole claim of total equality is bogus?
From another point of view, when we cast a total and a critical look at what those people say who claim that Islam is unfair to women we find big holes in their address and we conclude that they engage in a major deception. This tactic has several facets to it, including:
- They confuse Islamic rulings with the practices or traditions of some Muslims who are unfair to women. For example, a woman’s father or guardian may force her to marry someone she dislikes. They blame Islam for this because that person is a Muslim. The fact is that Islam prohibits such action. An authentic hadith quotes the Prophet as saying: ‘A previously married woman may not be given in marriage unless her consent has been given, and a virgin is not given in marriage until she grants permission’. People asked: ‘Messenger of God, how does she give permission?’ He said: ‘She remains silent’.
They ignore all aspects of respect and honour Islam gives women which they are not given under any other system or anywhere else in the world. This is best seen in the honour due to mothers. A person who recites the Qur’an realises that the rights Islam lays down for mothers are second only to the rights of God and His Messenger. God’s commandment to be dutiful to one’s parents is joined to the commandment to believe in God’s oneness: ‘Your Lord has ordained that you shall worship none but Him, and that you must be kind to your parents’. (17: 23)
As we are urged to show gratitude to God, we are also urged to be grateful to our mothers: ‘Be grateful to Me and to your parents’. (31: 14)
Imam al-Bukhari relates in his Sahih the following hadith: ‘A man asked the Prophet: “Messenger of God, who is most entitled to my good companionship?” The Prophet said: “Your mother”. The questioner asked: “Who comes next?” The Prophet said: “Your mother”. The man asked again: “And who next?” The Prophet said: “Your mother”. The man said: “Who next?” The Prophet said: “Your father”.
- 3.They do not mention the special rulings applicable to women, in order to make
things easier for her, while they remain
stricter for men, allowing for the difference between the two sexes. For example, a
woman may wear gold and silk, but a
man is prohibited from doing so. The man must look after his wife, paying for her
living expenses for life, even though
she may be rich, while a rich woman is not required to look after her husband
financially. According to scholars, a man
is duty bound to attend the congregational prayers in the mosque, while women are
not similarly required.
The jizyah [i.e. tribute] is taken from non-Muslim men living under the protection of the Muslim state, but no such tribute is payable by non-Muslim women. Ibn al-Qayyim says in his book devoted to this subject: ‘Tribute is not payable by a child, a woman or a mad person. This is the view agreed by the founders of the four schools of Fiqh and their followers’. Ibn al-Mundhir said: ‘I do not know that any other scholar disagrees with them’. In his book, al-Mughni, Abu Muhammad ibn Qudamah says: ‘We are unaware of any scholarly disagreement on this question’. Ibn al-Qayyim, Ahkam Ahl al-Dhimmah
- 4.They ignore the different negative effects that result from the non-implementation of God’s legislation concerning women. An example of these is the fact that millions of pregnancies are aborted every year because of the illegitimate relations causing such pregnancies. Do they not have the right to life? On what basis are they killed?
Secondly: Misconceptions about jihad and fighting
This is one of the most sensitive and frequently discussed areas for non-Muslims. We cannot discuss all its aspects in this short presentation, but we may highlight some methodological points that refer to errors or deception by those who raise doubts about Islam, using the subject of jihad.
One: Their conception of jihad and its status in Islam on their knowledge of today’s so-called ‘jihadist’ or armed groups that claim to be Islamic. Such a conception is neither methodological nor scholarly. The right approach is that such groups are judged according to Islam, not the reverse. Islam may not be judged on the basis of the action of any individual or group. What we mean by judging according to Islam is that their actions are examined and evaluated on the basis of the texts of the Qur’an and the Prophet’s statements, directives and guidance applicable to fighting. Whatever is consistent with these texts and guidance is acceptable, and what is at variance with them should be attributed to their perpetrators, not to Islam.
The question that we, for our part, want to put to those who raise doubts is: Do they judge atheism as a criminal and terrorist creed, in the light of the actions of atheist communists who committed ghastly crimes in recent times? Or, does the judgement criteria differ when judgement is to be passed on non-Muslims?
Two: They do not appreciate, or they ignore all aspects of mercy and compassion that are incorporated in the rulings applicable to jihad in Islam. For example, Islamic law, which is based on the texts of the Qur’an and the sunnah, includes instructions on the following points:
- A clear text prohibiting intentional killing of women and children; Al-Bukhari, Sahih
- A clear text ordering the cessation of fighting if opponents retract their disbelief;
- A clear text permitting unbelievers or followers of earlier divine religions to continue to practise their religions if they pay the tribute; The Qur’an, 9: 29; Al-Bukhari, Sahih, 3,159
- iv.A clear text forbidding treacherous action against anyone;
- v.A text praising Muslims for giving food to captives of war ahead of Muslim soldiers;
- A very clear text strictly forbidding the disfigurement of the bodies of dead enemy soldiers; Al-Bukhari, Sahih,
- A text ensuring the security of unbelievers who seek Muslim protection, allowing them to listen to the Qur’an and ensuring their safe conduct until they reach their place of safety. The Qur’an, 9: 6
All these are important and high values that must be observed by Muslims in war, while we do not find any similar values observed by non-Muslims.
Three: They forget the millions of people killed by non-Muslims in recent and past history. Were they to apply the standards by which they judge Muslims to the faiths, states and creeds to which those armies belonged, they would be silenced by their embarrassment before uttering a word of criticism against Muslims.
I may add a word saying that there is a world of difference between the objectives of war in Islam and those of other parties. It is unfair to equate fighting for a religion God has revealed and ordered its followers to defend and fighting for a distorted faith or a false man-made creed.
Islam does not fight to exterminate unbelievers or to subject them to a tyrannical rule. It fights to ensure freedom for the divine faith, save people from hell and giving people completely free choice of faith. In order to ensure this, it must remove those tyrants and oppressive regimes that deny people their freedom of choice. The fact that some situations in history went beyond this clear principle does not make it invalid. It simply shows that those who transgressed went wrong and deserved God’s censure.
We thus conclude our discussion of the main misconceptions that are raised to criticise the essence of Islam, all of which have been discussed within the framework of the first type of the misconceptions. (Note: this last para I’m afraid reads like yet another over-labouring.)