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How Do We Know That the Prophet Muhammad Is a True Prophet?

Answered by Ustadh Tabraze Azam
Question: Assalaamu alaikum,
How Do we know that the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) is a real prophet sent by Allah?

Answer: Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
I pray that you are in the best of health and faith, insha’Allah.
The short answer is that we know the truthfulness of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) by virtue of his numerous, incapacitating miracles which reached us by way of mass transmission (tawatur), giving us certain knowledge (`ilm) of their occurrence, and thus the truth of his prophethood and message.
The greatest of those miracles is the Qur’an— the Word of Allah which is inimitable in every way. Allah Most High says, “Say, ‘Even if all mankind and jinn came together to produce something like this Qur’an, they could not produce anything like it, however much they helped each other.’” [17.88]
For detailed discussions, please read: The Truth of Islam, the Qur’an, & the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him) and: How Do We Know That the Qur’an Is Inimitable and Thus From Allah?
I’d also recommend reading: (a) Proofs of Prophethood by Abdel Haleem Mahmood and (b) Prophethood and the Prophets by Muhammad Ali al-Sabuni.
And consider taking the following classes on Islamic Beliefs: Excellence in Faith & Action (from Ghazali’s 40 Foundations of Religion) and: Islamic Beliefs for Seekers: Dardir’s Kharidah Explained
And Allah alone gives success.
wassalam,
Tabraze Azam
Checked & Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

What is the Difference Between Black Magic and a Miracle?

Answered by Shaykh Gibril Haddad

Question: I was discussing with a the issue of karamat and black magic. He was saying that its hard to distinguish the two and that there are many instances where people are cured from diseases (like kidney failure etc) through black magic.

My question is two fold:
1) can black magic cure illnesses
2) how can one differentiate between black magic and karamat.

Answer: The efficiency of black magic is part of Divine beguilement/entrapment (istidraj), as black magic can effect a temporary benefit but its consequences are worse and cancel it sooner or later, since its being “black” entails kufr, which will manifest its evil here and hereafter. Istidraj is the diametrical opposite of tawfiq and ta’yid which are the qualities of mu`jiza and karama.

Shaykh Yusuf al-Nabhani (Allah have mercy on him) said at the conclusion of his section on karamat and mu`jizat in the introduction of his 900-page book Hujjat Allah `ala Alamin bi-Mu`jizat Sayyid al-Mursalin (p. 12-14):

<<The erudite Emir mentioned supernatural acts in his notes on `Abd al-Salam [al-Laqani] saying:

“Know that supernatural acts are of seven types:

(i) the stunning miracle accompanied by a challenge;

(ii) the ‘groundwork’ (irhas) before Prophethood which is its foundation as we say ‘to do the groundwork for a wall’;

(iii) the miraculous gift for a Saint;

(iv) spontaneous aid (al-ma`una) befalling a common person and saving him from catastrophe;

(v) beguilement/entrapment (istidraj) for a brazen transgressor in proportion to his claim. …;

(vi) humiliation for the brazen transgressor in flat contradiction of his claim; and

(vii) witchraft and quackery, although it was said that those are not among the supernatural acts as they are quite customary with respect to their practice.”[1]

The teacher of our teachers, the erudite Shaykh Ibrahim al-Bajuri (d. 1276) said in his marginalia on Jawharat al-Tawhid in commentary of the author’s [al-Laqani’s] statement, [verse 68]

“With stunning miracles they were granted support out of Divine munificence (bil-mu`jizati uyyidu takarruman)”:

“Know that the [Arabic] word for the stunning miracle (mu`jiza) is derived lexically from the word ‘inability’ (`ajz) – the opposite of power – and denotes, by convention, a supernatural act accompanied by a challenge consisting in the claim of Messengership or Prophethood together with the lack of effective opposition. Al-Sa`d [al-Taftazani] (712-792) said: ‘It is something extraordinary that appears at the hands of the claimant to Prophethood at a time of challenge to the naysayers, which the latter can produce nothing that compares to it.”[2]

The verifying authorities consider it has eight integral aspects:

(i) It must consist in a discourse or deed or something that fails to take place; for example, respectively: the Qur’an, the gushing of water from between his fingers, and the failure of the fire to burn our Master Ibrahim. The attributes of the non-created are excluded from this aspect as in the case he might say, “The sign that I am truthful is that the Deity is described as the Creator.”

(ii) That it be truly supernatural, i.e. a breach of what people are naturally accustomed to over a period of time. Ordinary events are therefore excluded, for example the statement, “The sign that I am truthful is that the sun shall rise where it usually rises and set where it usually sets.”

(iii) It must take place at the hands of the claimant to Prophethood. This excludes the miraculous gift (karama) which takes place at the hands of an evidently righteous and pious servant. This aspect also excludes spontaneous aid which takes place at the hands of common people, saving them from catastrophe; it excludes beguilement/entrapment, which is whatever occurrence takes place at the hands of a corrupt person as [repayment for his] deceit and scheming; and it excludes debasement, which is what takes place at his hands to belie him, as happened with Musaylima the arch-liar when he spat into the blind eye of a one-eyed man to heal it but the good eye went out instead.

(iv) It must be paired with the assertion of Prophethood or Messengership literally haqiqatan) or else in effect (hukman), if it comes a little later. This excludes the groundwork, namely, whatever miracles take place before Prophethood or Messengership as a preliminary or foundation, such as the shading of the cloud for him &#61541; before his mission <or the light that shone in the forehead of his father `Abd Allah>.[3]

(v) The miracle must take place in accordance with the claim being made as opposed to any discordant phenomenon, for example if one were to say: “The sign that I am truthful is that the sea shall part in two” then the mountain parts in two.

(vi) The miracle must not be tantamount to a disavowal of what is being claimed. For example, if one were to say: “The sign that I am truthful is that this object shall speak,” then the object speaks and declares that he is a liar. This is other than if he were to revive a dead person who then declared him a liar, because the object has no will and its disavowal is therefore considered a Divine order, while a human being has free choice and his disavowal is not conclusive since he might choose to disbelieve in a true claim.

(vii) It must be impossible to counter it. This condition excludes witchcraft and charlatanry (sha`badha), which is a sleight of hand suggesting that something is taking place in reality when in fact it is not, as in the case of the snakes [of the magicians]. Some of the Ulema added that

(viii) it must not take place at a time when natural customs are abolished, for example when the sun rises from the place where it usually sets. This excludes the phenomena that take place at the hands of the Anti-Christ as when he orders the sky to rain then it rains, and he orders the earth to sprout and it sprouts.

Then he [al-Bajuri] said, concerning the author’s [al-Laqani] statement, [verse 73]

“And his stunning miracles are many and resplendent”
(wa mu`jizatuhu kathiratun ghurar):

“Know that whatever miracles of his are definitely known and mass-transmitted such as the Qur’an, there is no doubt that whoever denies them commits disbelief. As for evidence below that level, if it is well-known – such as the gushing of water from his fingers &#61541; – then the one who denies it commits a grave sin (fisq). If the evidence is not well-known or is not firmly established through a sound or fair chain of transmission then the one who denies it is reprimanded only.”[4]

I also saw a similar explanation in Hidayat al-Murid Sharh Jawharat al-Tawhid by its original author, the erudite scholar Ibrahim al-Laqani.>>

NOTES

[1] Muhammad b. Muhammad b. Ahmad b. `Abd al-Qadir al-Sinbawi, Hashiyat Ibn al-Amir `ala Ithaf al-Murid Sharh Jawharat al-Tawhid lil-Shaykh `Abd al-Salam b. Ibrahim al-Laqani (ed. Ahmad Farid al-Mazyadi, p. 227-228).

[2] Al-Taftazani, Sharh al-`Aqa’id al-Nasafiyya (Darwish 1411/1990 ed. p. 207-208) under wa-ayyadahum bil-mu`jizat al-naqidat lil-`adat.

[3] Bracketed passage in al-Bajuri only (p. 299-300) but omitted by al-Nabhani. Narrated by Ibn Sa`d in his Tabaqat (1:58), al-Suhayli in al-Rawd al-Unuf (1:102), al-Nuwayri in Nihayat al-Arab (16:58-61, 16:77), al-Tabari in his Tarikh (2:174, 2:243), al-Bayhaqi in Dala’il al-Nubuwwa (1:87), and Ibn al-Athir in his Tarikh (2:4). Ibn al-Jawzi cites it in al-Wafa (p. 82-83, ch. 16 of Abw&#257;b Bidayati Nabiyyina) and Ibn Hisham narrates it in his Sira.

[4] Al-Bajuri, Sharh Jawharat al-Tawhid (p. 297-300, 312).

And Allah knows best.

The Truth of Islam, the Qur’an, & the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Him)

Answered by Shaykh Faraz Khan

Question: I was born in a Muslim but currently I’m a ethical monotheist. I believe in the the necessity of revelation and see Muhammad (PBUH) as an exemplary man but I want to know if there is any rational or logical reason to believe he is a prophet and the Qur’an is God’s word. I heard from a lot of Muslims that the Qur’an contains a lot of scientific truths and prophecies that have been fulfilled but other religions say the same thing about there holy books what makes the Qur’an any different

 

Answer: Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah,

I pray this finds you in the best of health and states. May God guide us all to the truth and grant us pristine clarity.

There is much rationale behind accepting the Qur’an as God’s word and the Prophet Muhammad as a true prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). This has been discussed in great detail by Muslim theologians, and it would take an entire course or more to provide an adequate response. Nevertheless, please read the following excerpt from a text on Maturidi theology by Imam Nur al-Din Sabuni (d. 580AH), in which he addresses your question as follows:

The Significance of Miracles

The prophetic miracle (muʿjiza) is that which manifests the incapacity (ʿajz) of creation to bring its like… Its formal definition according to theologians is “the appearance of a matter that breaks the customary norm, at the hand of one claiming prophecy, upon being challenged by those in denial, in a manner that incapacitates them to bring its like.”

The way a miracle indicates the truthfulness of a prophet is that we realize it is purely an act of God Most High, the servant having no share in it at all, such as turning a staff into a snake or bringing the dead to life. When God Most High produces it immediately after the prophet’s statement, “If I am truthful in my claim to being Your messenger, then do such and such,” it serves as a confirmation for him by action. It is akin to God’s saying, “You are truthful.”…

Proofs That Muhammad was a True Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)

Having understood the above, we will now establish proofs of the truthfulness of our Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace and greetings), as that is the basis of this whole discussion. According to us, then, that of the rest of the prophets (upon whom be peace) is affirmed by his informing us.

This evidence has two main components:

I. The Qur’an

The first is the Qur’an, which challenged all the eloquent speakers of the Arabs and non-Arabs to bring the like of it. They proved incapable of doing so, as God Most High states:

–“And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then bring the like of one of its chapters,” (2:23) and He Most High also says,

–“Say: verily if all humans and jinn gathered to bring the like of this Qur’an, they would not bring the like of it, even if some of them supported others,” (17:88) and other Qur’anic verses.

So all proved incapable of bringing the like of it, since if they were able to do so they certainly would have, due to their zeal for disproving his claim and overcoming his proof. Had they done so, it would surely have been well-known and transmitted to us, just as the false claims and senseless jabber of Musaylima the Liar were transmitted.

Challenges and Responses

(a) If it is said: Perhaps being preoccupied with combat and careers prevented them from that.

We respond: The Qur’anic challenge was before any warfare, and supporting the religion and defending its sanctuary was more important to them than careers. The premise, therefore, is clearly incorrect.

(b) If it is said: Perhaps they did oppose it and bring the like of it, yet the believers ignored it and spread fame of the Qur’an alone.

We respond: The challengers in that time were of greater number than the believers. So had they found any successful opposition of the Qur’an, their obstinacy, denial, and animosity toward the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have incited them to relate it and make it famous, just as the believers’ affirmation and love of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) inspired them to relate the Qur’an and spread its message.

Despite that, however, no such opposition has been transmitted to us. Hence, it is clear that they proved incapable of doing so. And if the most eloquent Arabs and their rhetoricians proved incapable of opposing the Qur’an, then those who came after them, who were non-Arab, would be even more incapable.

II. His Numerous Miracles

The second component of this evidence is what has been related from him (peace and blessings be upon him) of prophetic miracles, both of the physical realm and of the unseen realm, some with himself and others not pertaining to his own self.

II-a) What Pertains to Himself (peace and blessings be upon him)

As for what pertains to himself (peace and blessings be upon him), they include: the light that appeared upon the forehead of his forefathers and foremothers, whose loins and wombs he was in; that which is mentioned in ancient books of his characteristics and traits, the time of his coming, and the description of his followers and supporters; and what has been narrated after him of his personal description, the beauty of his form, the nobility of his virtues, and his kind acts, like the hadiths of ʿAli ibn Abu Talib, Hind ibn Abi Hala and Umm Maʿbad (may God be pleased with them).

All of this serves as evidence, for those who possess keen discernment (firasa), that the likes of such qualities have never been collectively present in any one person before him or after him, thereby indicating the nobility of his essence and the loftiness of his person, such that no one matches him therein.

It is related that every time Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (may God be pleased with him) looked at him (peace and blessings be upon him) in his youth and reflected on his traits, he would say, “This one has surely been created for a great affair.” So when he (peace and blessings be upon him) called Abu Bakr to Islam, the latter said, “This is what I used to hope for regarding you.”

And when ʿAbdullah ibn Salam (may God be pleased with him)  met him (peace and blessings be upon him) for the first time, he said, “This is not the face of a liar.”

And ʿAbdullah ibn Rawaha (may God be pleased with him) said:

Had there not been clear signs with him,
His very nature would have proven his message.

He (peace and blessings be upon him) then remained with these traits for his entire life, not changing whatsoever in private or public, neither when angry nor when content, to the extent that his enemies, despite their extreme animosity and zeal to slander his character, found no fault in him at all.

This, then, is the strongest proof of the truthfulness of his message, for it is inconceivable that God, the All-Wise (may His remembrance be exalted), gather all of these virtues for one whom He knows will invent lies against Him, give him respite for 23 years, give victory to his religion over all other faiths and aid him in conquering his enemies, and finally give life to his teachings after his demise until the Day of Resurrection.

II-b) What Pertains to Other than Himself (peace and blessings be upon him)

As for miracles not dealing with his own self, they include splitting the moon; drawing the tree near; the speaking of stones; the yearning of the palm-trunk; the complaining of the she-camel; the testimony of the roasted sheep of its being poisoned; and the shading of the clouds over him (peace and blessings be upon him).

They also include his informing of past and future events.

Past events include the stories of prophets (upon whom be peace), and the conditions of bygone nations in various lands, in different statements, related in the presence of scholars of the People of the Book, none of whom proved capable of denying or slandering him. This occurred despite his having never read ancient books nor interacted with People of the Book, indicating that he (peace and blessings be upon him) related news by revelation from God Most High, as a messenger.

Future events include his informing on the Day of Badr of what person would be killed, and in what place, which occurred as he said. He also told of fighting Banu Hanifa and Persia; the downfall of Chosroes’ kingdom; the victory of his religion [Islam] over all other faiths and its reaching the farthest limits of the East and West; and other events as mentioned in narrations, which occurred as he foretold.

Moreover, his demeanor (peace and blessings be upon him) did not resemble that of fortunetellers, magicians or astrologers, all of whom, according to what is related, engaged in poetry and rhyming; concealing vile traits; seeking the aid of devils; looking into astrolabes; or numerology. Rather, his personality (peace and blessings be upon him) was one of uprightness, tranquility, honor, shunning worldly aims, and constant immersion in the remembrance of God Most High.

These miracles, even if most of them are related through single-chain reports (ahad), together indicate one common phenomenon, namely, manifestation of the extraordinary by his hands. This phenomenon, then, is effectively related through multiple-chain transmission (tawatur), resulting in unequivocal, definitive knowledge (ʿilm qatʿi).

This is similar to narratives that individually are related through single-chain reports regarding [for example] the generosity of Hatim, the justice of Abu Shirwan, the courage of ʿAli (may God ennoble his face), and the knowledge of Abu Hanifa (may God have mercy on him). Since each category in its totality indicates one particular theme— namely, generosity, justice, courage, and knowledge—then the result is unequivocal, definitive knowledge of these themes. Indeed, the same applies here.

[Sabuni, Al-Bidaya fi Usul al-Din, trans. Faraz A. Khan]

Please also see this related answer, by the esteemed scholar Shaykh Akram Abdul Wahhab: How Do We Know That the Qur’an is Inimitable and Thus From Allah

And Allah knows best.
wassalam
Faraz

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

The Ark of Nuh (Allah bless him): Understanding Miracles & The Divine Punishment

Answered by Ustadh Faraz A. Khan

Question: Regarding the ark of Prophet Nuh, there are so many thousands of species of animals in the world that the ark would have to have been impossibly large to accommodate them. How were these species stored in the ark? Also, I do not understand how Allah, who is Most Merciful, would kill all of his Creation simply because mankind had failed. Why would he kill millions of creatures because of man’s mistakes?

Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

I pray this reaches you in the best of health and faith.

Your question is a very interesting one; perhaps the answer lies in understanding the nature of prophetic miracles.

Miracles

The Arabic word for a prophetic miracle is mu`jiza, which literally means “that which incapacitates” or “that which renders others incapable of producing the like thereof.” The basic idea is that the miracle breaks the standard norm in a way that cannot be replicated, so as to prove without a doubt that the prophet at whose hands it occurs is in fact a true prophet sent from Allah and not an impostor. The miracle, therefore, is akin to Allah Himself saying, “My servant is truthful in what he conveys from Me.” [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid]

If we reflect on prophetic miracles, then, we can appreciate that their very basis is to break what we know to be the laws of nature, such that we are rendered incapable of not only producing the like, but even of understanding their modality, that is, “how” they occur. The principles of natural science that govern our day-to-day lives, as humans and as societies, will often prove useless in explaining the miracle. For example, how can a staff striking a sea cause the huge body of water to literally split in two parts, seemingly as if walls of water are erected on each side of the newly-formed pathway? Or how can a staff actually transform into a serpent? How can water spring forth from human fingers?

The answer, then, is simply as the Qur’an states, “This is the creation of Allah” (31:11). The only explanation our minds can access is that Allah creates certain miracles as such, and we affirm all that has been transmitted of them in the Qur’an and the Prophetic Sunna.

Understanding Sweeping Punishment

With regards to the second part of your question, our Mother Aisha (Allah be well pleased with her) asked our Beloved Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) a very similar question when he once informed her of an event that would occur in the future. He told her that an army would one day set out for Mecca, yet on the way the earth would swallow the entire army up, from their first to last. She asked, “How will the entire group be swallowed, when among them were merchants and others who were not fighting? [i.e., non-combatants with no intent on attacking Mecca]” Our Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) responded, “The entire group, from their first to last, will be swallowed; however, they will be resurrected based on their intentions.” [Bukhari, Muslim]

The Sunna of Allah, i.e., the way He deals with creation, was that with respect to disobedient peoples of past prophets, He would send sweeping punishments that would destroy the entire populace, which would often include innocent people and believers in the prophets. However, we know that life does not end in this world, but rather there is an everlasting afterlife in which intentions, hearts and actions will be taken to account. We cannot understand the wisdom of Allah’s punishment in this world, but we know wholeheartedly that He does nothing in vain, and that everything will be set aright on the Day of Resurrection.

The Qur’an specifically acknowledges this Divine sunna when it warns us to “Fear a punishment that will not afflict solely the oppressors among you” (8:25). As some exegetes mention, one of the lessons believers can take from this verse is that they must be ever-vigilant in opposing oppression, as slackness therein could result in a sweeping punishment that does not single out the oppressors. [Tafsir Abu Su`ud]

Difference of Opinion

On a final note, it is worth mentioning that there is difference of opinion among scholars with respect to both issues you bring up regarding the flood. Imam Alusi, the eminent Iraqi exegete of the 19th century, inclined towards the opinion that the flood was localized and restricted to just the people of Nuh [peace and blessings be upon him] rather than worldwide. He was also of the opinion that not all animals were taken on the ark, yet only those creatures that would be needed by the believers upon being saved from the flood. He does acknowledge, nevertheless, that if the flood was worldwide, then it is not beyond Allah’s limitless power to allow for all types of animals on board the ark, or to create again the like of those animals that drowned after the flood. [Alusi, Ruh al-Ma`ani]
We ask Allah Most High for complete well-being and safety in both this life and the next, and that He make us among those who strive against all forms of oppression, beginning with our own selves. Amin.

And Allah alone gives success.

wassalam
Faraz A. Khan

Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani

Faraz A. Khan has lived in Amman, Jordan, for several years studying and teaching traditional Islamic sciences, with a focus on Hanafi jurisprudence, hadith studies, theology, logic, and Arabic grammar. He translated and annotated the classical Hanafi primer “Ascent to Felicity” (Maraqi ‘l-Sa`adat) by Imam Shurunbulali, recently published by White Thread Press.