After Jesus, there is a long gap before the arrival of Muhammad. He was sent as the last prophet to deliver the guidance from Allah. The guidance Muhammad brought for Mankind is given in the Qur’an. The Qur’an was written down and compiled as a book during the lifetime of the Prophet. It was also memorised by many during the lifetime of the Prophet. Thus it is the only Book of Revelation which has remained totally intact, whereas the Scriptures brought by the previous prophets were not written down during their lifetime and were manifestly corrupted by human interference. Moreover, the Qur’an was sent as a guidance for all mankind and not for one section of people. The Qur’an is the last Revelation of Allah to mankind, a Book which has remained intact, untainted by human interference, and the Prophet Muhammad was the last messenger to receive revelation from Allah. The Qur’an describes him as the ‘seal of the prophets’.
(33:40) Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is aware of all things.
The Hadith literature creates doubt about the authenticity of the Qur’an by stating that the Qur’an, as a book, was compiled during the time of Caliph Othman by collecting all the Qur’anic sheets which were with different people. Yet, when Allah constantly refers to the Qur’an as a book (Al-Kitab) which was set down in writing as it was revealed, it is impossible to believe that the Prophet did not manage to compile the Qur’an as a book, over the time period of 23 years it took for the Qur’an to be fully revealed. Such thinking is a reflection of the total inability of a large number of Muslims to think beyond what is written in the Hadith literature i.e. in this instance, that the Qur’an was compiled during the time of Othman.
Leaving aside the claims which the Qur’an itself makes of itself as a book we can turn to the purely historical perspective. We know for certain that at the time of Jesus the Mediterranean world already had great libraries, bookshops, and many professional writers (scribes). As Arabia was a trading route, and the Arabs were a trading nation, there is a compelling body of evidence to draw one to the view that the Arabs had literate members of their society just like other countries in the region, for good, sound economic reasons if nothing else, and that the Qur’an was written down and compiled as a book (kitab) during the life time of the Prophet just as it – the Qur’an – claims. This argument becomes unassailable when one recalls that this Messenger, sent as he was some 600 years after Jesus, was a man renowned for his fear of God and faithfulness to his duty. Is it feasible that he would have omitted to take basic measures for the preservation of the text! How much more plausible than the hearsay assertion (through many tellers) that it took Othman to collate the text out of a motley collection of pages from here and there, as the Hadith literature would have it!
Another misconception about the Prophet is that he was illiterate, that is, that he could neither read nor write. The Qur’an refutes this concept. Please see Appendix 6 (A6) for explanation.
To understand how the Qur’an was transmitted to Muhammad we need to look at the following verses:
(2: 97) Say (O Muhammad, to mankind): Who is an enemy to Gabriel! For he it is who hath revealed (this Scripture) to thy heart by Allah’s leave, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, and a guidance and glad tidings to believers;
(16: 2) He sendeth down the angels with the Spirit of His command unto whom He will of His bondsmen, (saying), Warn mankind that there is no God save Me, so keep your duty unto Me.
(16: 102) The Holy Spirit (i.e. Gabriel) hath revealed it from thy Sustainer with truth, that it may confirm (the faith of) those who believe, and as guidance and good tidings for those who have surrendered (to Allah).
(26:192-194) And lo! It is a revelation of the Sustainer of the Universe, which the True Spirit has brought down upon thy heart, that thou mayest be (one) of the warners.
(12:3) We narrate unto thee (Muhammad) the best of narratives in that We have inspired in thee this Qur’an, though before this you were totally unaware.
From verses 2:97; 16:2,102; 26:92-194; we are left in no doubt that the revelation of the Qur’an to Muhammad was brought through Gabriel (Jibreel).A1 Further, in verse 12:3 above and in verses 3:44; 4:163; 6:19,50,106; 7:203; 10:2,15,109; 11:49; 12:3,102; 13:30; 16:2,123; 17:39; 73,85; 18:110; 20:13; 21:45,108; 28:86; 29:45; 33:2; 35:31; 41: 6; 42:3,7,13,52; 43:43; 46:9,53:4; Allah states that the Qur’an was sent as an inspiration (Wahi) to Muhammad, and inspiration (Wahi) is the way in which Allah deals with mankind as shown by the following verses:
(4: 163)Â Lo! We inspire thee as We inspired Noah and the Prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We inspired unto David the Psalms.
(7: 117) And We inspired Moses (saying): “Throw thy staff!” And lo! It swallowed up their lying show.
(16: 68) And thy Sustainer inspired the bee, saying: choose thou habitations in the hills and in the trees and in that which they thatch.
Thus Allah sends His revelation to whomsoever He chooses, and the method used by Him is selective and instantaneous such as in verse 7:117 where Moses is inspired to throw the staff. The angels simply carry Allah’s message and obey His command but they have no power to think on their own. According to my understanding the angels or spirits appear similar to radio waves which carry the messages (Wahi or revelation) which is then received by the person or being to whom Allah sends His revelation. It is like the transmission of a message, we can send to any person via radio telephone, the Internet or email, provided we know the address of the recipient
As far as the revelations to Muhammad were concerned, he had no power to change any message. He was instructed to follow the Qur’an with the warning that he would be punished if he deviated from the guidance given in the Qur’an. The following verses are clear indication of this and, incidentally, constitute another point against the Hadith literature.
(10:15) And when Our clear revelations are recited unto them, they who look not for the meeting with Us say: Bring a Lecture other than this, or change it. Say (O Muhammad): It is not for me to change it on my own accord. I only follow that which is inspired in me. Lo! If I disobey my Sustainer I fear the retribution of an awful day.
(69:40-52) That is indeed the speech of an illustrious messenger. It is not poet’s speech – little is it that ye believe! Nor diviner’s speech – little is it that ye remember! It is a revelation from the Sustainer of the Universe. , and not onAnd if he had invented false sayings concerning Us, We assuredly had taken him by the right hand and then severed his life-artery of you could have held Us off from him. And lo! It is a warrant unto those who ward off (evil). And lo! We know that some among you will deny (it). And lo! It is indeed an anguish for the disbelievers. And lo! It is absolute truth. So glorify the name of thy Tremendous Sustainer.
(6: 50) Say (O Muhammad, to the disbelievers): I say not unto you (that) I possess the treasures of Allah, nor that I have knowledge of the Unseen. I say not unto you: Lo! I am an angel. I follow only that which is inspired in me. Say: Are the blind man and the seer equal? Will ye then not take thought?
All the verses I have quoted so far show clearly that the revelation that came to Muhammad was inspired in him by Allah, the Sustainer of the universe. The result of those inspirations is the Qur’an over which he had no power to change anything. Outside this (i.e. when not under Divine Inspiration) he was simply a human being, albeit a human being with excellent qualities and conduct.
A point is often raised that the Qur’an specifically says in a number of verses to ‘obey the Prophet’. Examples of such verses are as follows:
(3: 32) Say: obey Allah and the messenger. But if they turn away, lo! Allah loveth not the disbelievers (in His guidance).
(3:132) And obey Allah and the messenger, that ye may find mercy.
(4:13) These are the limits (imposed by) Allah. Whoso obeyeth Allah and His messenger, He will make him enter gardens underneath which rivers flow, where such will dwell forever. That will be the great success.
(4: 59) O ye who believe! Obey Allah and obey the messenger and those of you who are in authority; and if ye have a dispute concerning any matter, refer it to Allah and the messenger if ye are (in truth) believers in Allah and the Last Day. That is better and more seemly in the end.
Verses similar to above, which ask people to obey the Prophet are given in: 4:69; 5:92; 8:1, 20, 24, 46; 9:71; 24: 42, 47, 51,54, 56; 33:33; 47:33; 49:7,14; 58:13; 64:12.
One must note that all the above verses relate to the time when the Prophet was alive and therefore was not only Allah’s messenger but also the political leader of his people. In fact verse 4:59 asks us to obey other leaders as well. That being the case, it seems clear that ‘obedience to the Prophet’ must be understood in that context i.e. in the case where he is physically present and leading the community of believers. As far as we are concerned, the Prophet is dead, and therefore, he cannot function as a messenger now.
The only truthful way that we can obey or follow him is by obeying the guidance given in the Qur’an. This is explained clearly in sura 69 verses 40-52, as given above. In these verses Allah explains, that the Qur’an, the Word of Allah, is the utterance or the sayings of the Prophet. In this case, there is no difference between the Word of Allah and the sayings of the Prophet. They are one and the same thing. As the Qur’an is a complete code of guidance for mankind, by following it we automatically follow the Prophet, or practise what he taught during the 23 years of his prophetic life. Allah also warned the Prophet that if he said or practised anything which was against the teachings of the Qur’an he would be punished and that no one would be able to save him. We, therefore, know for sure that the only thing he taught and practised must be what is in the Qur’an.
One does not have to wait very long as a Muslim before one hears the expression ‘Sunnah of the Prophet’. It is vital in this connection to understand the actual meaning of the word sunnah in the context of the Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam (more details in section 10.1). The real meaning of the word Sunnah according to the Qur’an (48:23) is […]Law and Practice of Allah which is immutable or unchangeable’. In fact, in the whole of the Qur’an the word Sunnah has not been used even once in connection with the Prophet. Also, as already established, what the Prophet practised is in the Qur’an and so any Sunnat attributed to the Prophet must also emanate from the Qur’an.
Unfortunately, in a quest to obey the Prophet, people became interested in what the Prophet is reported to have said and practised. To this end a vast amount of literature known as the Hadiths were written, in the main, about 250 years after the death of the Prophet. These Hadiths are taken as the reported sayings and practices of the Prophet, collected in written form after a long existence in the oral tradition, being handed down by word of mouth from one generation to another. As shown in section 10.3 there are many Hadiths which contradict the Qur’an and, as such, could not have been uttered by the Prophet, (at least, not if one genuinely regards of the Qur’an as true) since he would have been punished (see verses 10:15 and 69:44-47). The simple answer to the phrase ‘Obey the Prophet’ is to obey what came out directly from the Prophet’s mouth. The only sure document which fits this description is the Qur’an. It simply cannot refer to the Hadiths. These were written nearly 250 years later, and both in spirit and in substance greatly contradict the Qur’an – a Book which claims to be sent and protected by Allah (15:9) and, as such, to have no internal contradiction or fault.
One can understand the weakness of people in idolising the Prophet, particularly as this has happened with the prophets who came before him.
The main function of all the prophets was to convey the Message of Allah but, in the Qur’an alone, has the original message remained unaltered. Here, Allah has made the Message clear for us in the form of verses which are applicable to our day-to-day lives. They are made absolutely clear so that there is no difficulty in following them. However, to lead a life according to the Qur’an requires honesty and sincerity since our natural selfishness hinders us from following the straight path it sets us. And yet, regrettably, we get busy with our rituals, often performing them mechanically, and without much conscious effort or sacrifice.
There is one verse in the Qur’an which is often used wrongly by many people. Through misinterpretation and ignorance this verse causes millions of Muslims to glorify the Prophet against his will, instead of glorifying Allah. A few translations of this verse together with comments are given below:
(33: 56) God and His Angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye who believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect. (Yusuf Ali)
Comment by Yusuf Ali: God and His angels honour and bless the holy Prophet as the greatest of men. We are asked to honour and bless him all the more because he took upon himself to suffer the sorrows and afflictions of this life in order to guide us to God’s Mercy and the highest inner life.
(33: 56) Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation. (M. Pickthall)
M. Pickthall has no comments on this verse.
(33: 56) Verily, God and His angels bless the Prophet: [hence] O you who have attained to faith, bless him and give yourselves up [to his guidance] in utter self-surrender! (M. Asad)
M.Asad has no comments on this verse.
However in the same sura, but 13 verses ahead of the above verse, we find that Allah and His angels send blessings to all the believers:
(33:41-43) O ye who believe! Celebrate the praises of Allah, and do this often; and glorify Him morning and evening. He it is Who sends blessings on you, as do His angels, that He may bring you out from the depths of Darkness into Light: And He is Full of Mercy to the believers.
Thus, Allah and his angels not only shower blessings on the Prophet but also on all the believers. Similarly we who believe, are therefore asked to shower blessings on the Prophet, and the Prophet, too, is asked to do the same on all the believers:
(9:103) […]and pray for them: behold, thy prayer will be (a source of comfort) to them – for Allah is All-Hearing All-Knowing.
Considering the above verses, we become even more aware that to solicit peace for all (Sallam) and to lead a life according to Allah’s guidance with a view to establishing peace, is one of the fundamental principles of Islam. For verse 33:56 any other explanation based on the Hadiths is not credible. Also, we cannot salute the Prophet now as he is dead. Without question, it was possible when he was alive. However, most Muslims ignore this simple fact and assume that the Prophet’s spirit appears during some ceremonial functions. They, therefore, stand up and sing “O Prophet we salute you…”. Their words also include sayings such as “Allah would not have created the world if Muhammad were not created” thereby implying all other Prophets are less significant. Similarly, we need to consider that whenever we mention the Prophet or utter his name we say “Sal-lallaahu-alayhe-wa-sal-lamm = The blessings of Allah and peace be upon him”, whereas in the case of other prophets we say “Alayhe-sal-lamm = Peace be upon him”. This means that we are discriminating against the other prophets in favour of Muhammad, a practice which is forbidden by the Qur’an. The Qur’an is very clear on this issue as shown in verses 2:136, 285; 3: 84; 4:150-152; of which the last three are quoted below. They emphasise the fact that if we make a distinction between the prophets then we become ‘disbelievers’ and we will be subjected to a ‘shameful doom’. Thus, Yusuf Ali’s comment on verse 33: 56 that the Prophet is the greatest of men is at variance with the Qur’an and is, therefore, unacceptable.
(4:150-152) Those who deny Allah and His messengers, and wish to separate Allah from His messengers, saying: ‘We believe in some but reject others and wish to choose a way in between’; Such are disbelievers in truth; and for disbelievers We have prepared a shameful doom. But those who believe in Allah and His Messengers and make no distinction between them, unto them Allah will give their wages; Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.
Yet, through the misinterpretation of verse (33:56) we constantly commemorate Muhammad, instead of commemorating Allah, as enjoined in the following verses:
(33: 41,42) O ye who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance, and glorify Him early and late.
The glorification of Muhammad has reached such a high level that most Muslims believe that Muhammad has been given the power of intercession (see section 10.3, selection no. 8). Despite the Qur’an’s assertion that the Prophet possesses no power to benefit anyone or harm anyone (7:188, 46:9), the Hadith literature succeeded in duping many people into believing in the concept of intercession. There, Bukhari and Muslim state categorically that the Prophet has been given the right of intercession (section 10.3, selection no. 8). Contrary to this spurious hearsay, the Qur’an informs us that, on the Last Day, instead of interceding on behalf of his followers before Allah, the Prophet will disown them for not taking the guidance of the Qur’an seriously.
(25:30) And the messenger saith: O my Sustainer! Lo! mine own people made this Qur’an of no account.
I hope the preceding discussion on Prophet Muhammad will clear up some of the misconceptions that Muslims hold about him generally. They forget that the Qur’an is Allah’s Book of guidance for the whole of mankind and that the Prophet’s role as a messenger was simply to pass on this message, just as the role of any other messenger before him was to pass on a message. The Qur’an is self-explanatory as far as the basic rules of guidance are concerned and does not require any other source or model in order to be understood. Muhammad was a man entrusted with the mission of transmitting the message of Allah to mankind and he fulfilled this mission admirably, never ascribing to himself any importance greater than this, that is, if one takes what the Qur’an has to say on the subject seriously:
(18:110) Say (O Muhammad): I am only a mortal like you. My Sustainer inspireth in me that your God is only One God. And whoever hopeth for the meeting with His Sustainer, let him do righteous work, and make none sharer of the worship due unto his Sustainer.
(41:9) Say (unto them O Muhammad): I am no new thing among the messengers (of Allah), nor know I what will be done with me or you. I do but follow that which is inspired in me, and I am but a plain warner.
(7:188) Say: for myself I have no power to benefit, nor power to hurt, save that which Allah willeth. Had I knowledge of the Unseen, I should have abundance of good fortune, and no harm would have afflicted me. I am but a warner, and bearer of good tidings unto folk who believe.
(41:6) Say (unto them O Muhammad): I am only a mortal like you. It is inspired in me that your God is One God, therefore take the straight path unto Him and seek forgiveness of Him. And woe unto the idolaters.
- Man’s Destiny (Tazkira), by Allama Inayat Ullah Khan Al- Mashriqi. Translated and edited from Urdu by Shabbir Hussain. Publisher: Mujahid Publications, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. p. 56, 57.
- God, Man and Universe, by Inayat Ullah Khan El-Mashriqi. Akhuwat Publications, Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Extract from Unity of Divine Message p. 26-35.
- Exposition of the Qur’an, by Gulam Ahmed Parwez. Tolu-E-Islam Trust (Regd) 25B Gulberg, Lahore-11, Pakistan. p. 11.
- The Bible The Qur’an and Science, by Dr. Maurice Bucaille. Publisher Seghers, 6 Place Saint-Sulpice 75006 Paris. p. 233.
- Ibid,. p. 256.
- The Holy Qur’an by Maulana Muhammad Ali. Published in USA by Specialty Promotions Co. Inc. Chicago, Illinois. p. 141, note 422.
- Ibid,. p. 143, note 427.
- Ibid,. p142-143, note 424.
- The Message of the Quran, by Muhammad Asad.
Published by Dar Al-Andalus, Gibralter. p. 74. Footnote 38
- Ibid,. p. 861. Footnote 6.