The Source of The Qur’an Divine Text, Divine Meaning

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It is universally known, beyond any shred of doubt, that this sublime book, the Qur’an, was delivered to mankind through Muhammad ibn ᶜAbdullāh ibn ᶜAbd al-Muṭṭalib (peace be on him), an unlettered Arab man born in Makkah in the sixth century.

This much is not subject to disagreement between believers and non-believers. No other book or event in history is so universally accepted as such.

Now the question arises: was Muhammad ibn ᶜAbdullāh (peace be upon him) its author, expressing his own thoughts?
was it given to him by a tutor? If so, who might that tutor have been?

We read in this very book that it is not the composition of the man who brought it to us.
It is described as:

“The word of a noble and mighty Messenger, who enjoys a secure position with the Lord of the Throne. He is obeyed in heaven, faithful to his trust.”

(81: 19-21)

This Messenger is Gabriel, the angel, who received it from God, the Wise, the All-Knowing. He then brought it down in a clear and lucid Arabic style and conveyed it to Muhammad. Muhammad (peace be upon him) received it from him as a student receives a text from his teacher. What he did with it after he received it was:

  • 1 - to learn and memorise it;
  • 2 - to report and convey it;
  • 3 - to explain it; and
  • 4 - to implement it in practical life.

He had nothing to do with the creation of its meanings or the setting of its purpose. It is all an inspiration which was revealed to him.

There are numerous references to this fact in the Qur’an itself, such as:

“When you [O Prophet] do not produce any miracle for them, they will say, ‘Why do you not seek to have one?’ Say: ‘I only follow whatever is being revealed to me by my Lord.’”

(7: 203.)

“Say: It is not for me to alter it [i.e. the Qur’an] of my own volition; I only follow what is revealed to me.”

(10: 15.)

There are many other texts that refer to the revelation of the meanings of the Qur’an. We also have references to its being revealed by word as well:

“We have sent it down from on high as a discourse in the Arabic tongue.”

(12: 2.)

“We shall teach you to read, and you shall not forget.”

(87: 6.)

“Do not move your tongue in haste [repeating the words of the revelations], for it is for Us to gather it and to cause it to be read. Thus when We recite it, follow you its recitation. Then it is for Us to make its meaning clear.”

(75: 1619.)

The Prophet is given instructions such as ‘read, convey, recite,’ all in connection with the Qur’an and its verses. All these, as well as ‘moving his tongue’ and the text being in Arabic apply to the wording and the text, not to its meanings.

The Qur’an states very clearly and unequivocally that neither Muhammad (peace be upon him) nor any other creature had anything to do with the composition of the Qur’an. It was revealed by God, in word and meaning.

It is very peculiar that some people still require evidence to prove the first part of this question, which is that Muhammad did not write it himself.

Had this been a case looked into by any judge whose sole aim is to establish the truth, the judge would have done no more than to accept this testimony by Muhammad himself.

He would not have required any further evidence, material or logical.There is no claim being made here to require irrefutable evidence.

It is an admission that is binding on the one who makes it. Neither friend nor foe would hesitate to accept it from him. No rational person who makes a claim to leadership and supports his claim with miraculous events would attribute his finer goods to someone else, disowning them totally and completely.

In fact, the opposite is true: his position would be enhanced if he were to claim such goods for himself. Moreover, he would meet no objection to his claim from any person on earth.

What we know is that many writers resort to plagiarism in order to claim for themselves what other people have written. Or they plagiarise what gives their writings some finer qualities when they feel that their action is unlikely to be detected.

In fact, some of them resort to grave digging, in order to claim for themselves stuff written by authors that have been long dead. No one in history has ever attributed to someone else the finest pieces of his own thought, or his most superb writings, or the most precious jewel in his crown. This is unheard of.

If we were to suppose that this could happen, we cannot find any reasonable or even semi-reasonable justification for it.

A naïve person may suggest, however, that such an aspirant to leadership might have thought that by attributing the Qur’an to Divine revelation he may find it easier to win people’s obedience for his orders.

Such a claim, it might be thought, would give his orders a special sanctity which could not otherwise belong to them had he declared that he himself had issued them all. But this is false, both in essence and in nature.

It is essentially false because the man who brought the Qur’an to us made statements that he attributes to himself, and others that he attributes to God Almighty. What he claims to be his own is no less binding on us than what he attributes to God.

Nor is obedience of the latter more imperative. In fact, he claims the same degree of obedience for both types without distinction. Their sanctity is the same. To obey him is to obey God, and to disobey him is to disobey the Almighty. If it is a question of obedience that is behind the claim of Divine authorship, then why has he not claimed it for everything he himself said?

This is also false in nature because it relies on an unfounded assumption that such a leader is one who wishes to establish reforms, but who does not mind giving his reforms a foundation of lies and falsehood.

Historical truth disproves this. Anyone who monitors his conduct in all that he says and does, explicit or implicit, in situations of pleasure or anger, in private and in public, can only conclude that no one could be further from cunning or deviousness. In fact, he was always very truthful and accurate, in small and serious matters, 14 whether alone or with others. This was the most pronounced and clearest of his characteristics, both before and after prophethood.

In fact, both his friends and enemies testified to this, in his own lifetime and up to our present day.

“Say: Had God so willed, I would not have conveyed this [Qur’an] to you, nor would He have brought it to your knowledge. Indeed, a whole lifetime have I dwelt among you before this [revelation came to me]. Will you, then, not use your reason?”

(10: 16.)

It may be useful to give here some very clear examples from the Prophet’s own conduct which testify to his truthfulness in stating that the Qur’an is God’s revelation and that he could not have produced any part of it on his own initiative.

Sometimes he went through hard times which required some statement to be made. In fact, the need was so urgent that had the matter been left to him, he would have found the words to say and the occasion to make such a pronouncement. But days and nights went by and he would not find any Qur’anic statement to recite to people concerning the emergency he was facing.

The hypocrites in Madinah fabricated their false accusations of adultery concerning his wife, ᶜĀ’ishah. Nothing was revealed to him concerning this for a while.

Time passed and people continued to talk, and those affected were in utter distress.

He, himself, had to be so reserved in what he said about his wife: “I have seen nothing evil from her.” He did his best to investigate the matter and consulted his trusted companions. A whole month passed by, and everyone said that they knew her to be of good and honest character.

At last he could say to her nothing more than this: “ᶜĀ’ishah, I have heard this and that being said about you. If you are innocent, then God will make your innocence clear. If you have done something wrong, then seek God’s forgiveness.”

These are his own words as he could view the matter. We realise that this is the statement of a human being who has no knowledge beyond what his faculties of perception give him, and one who would not make a conclusion without firm evidence, and would not say what he does not know to be true. But he hardly uttered these words when the opening part of Surah 24, ‘Light’, was revealed to him declaring her complete innocence, and giving a clear verdict of her purity and faithfulness. [The relevant hadith is related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim and others.]

Had the matter been up to him, what would have prevented him from producing such a verdict earlier to protect his own honour and his own wife.

He could have attributed that verdict to Divine revelation in order to silence those who continued to spread such rumours. However, Muhammad, a man who had never lied to other mortals, would not lie to God: “Had he dared to attribute [falsely] some sayings to Us, We would indeed have seized him by his right hand, and would indeed have cut his life-vein, and none of you could have saved him.”

(69: 44-47.)

There were times when the revelation he received ran contrary to what he preferred. It might declare his view to be wrong, or permit him something to which he was disinclined.

Had he delayed acting on it for a short while, he would have been strongly reproached and criticised, even though it might have been a matter of little consequence. Several examples may be quoted here:

  • “Prophet, why do you impose on yourself a prohibition of something that God has made lawful to you, only to please your wives?” (66: 1.)
  • “You would hide within yourself something that God was sure to bring to light, fearing [what] people [may think], whereas it is God alone whom you should fear.” (33: 37.)
  • “May God pardon you, [Prophet]! Why have you granted them permission [to stay at home] before you come to realise who was speaking the truth and before you come to know the liars.” (9: 43.)
  • “It does not behove the Prophet and the believers to pray for the forgiveness of those who associated partners with God, even though they happened to be their near of kin, after it has been made clear to them that they are destined for hell.” (9: 113.)
  • “But to the one who considered himself self-sufficient you were all attention. Yet the fault would not be yours if he remained uncleansed. As to him who comes to you with zeal and with a feeling of fear in his heart - him you ignore and busy yourself with trifles.” (80: 5-10.)

Let us reflect on these verses and the reproach they contain. Had they been the expression of Muhammad’s remorse and feelings of guilt and sorrow, when he realised his mistakes, would he have spoken about himself in such a strongly reproachful manner?

Would he not have preferred to keep quiet in order to maintain respect for his own views and orders? Indeed, had the Qur’an been the product of his own conscience, he would have suppressed some parts of it when the need arose. And had he wished to suppress any part of it, then such verses would be the first to be so suppressed. But the Qur’an is God’s own revelation, and Muhammad could not suppress any part of it:

“He does not begrudge others the secrets of what is unseen.”

(81: 24.)

Consider very carefully the following verses from Surah 8, ‘The Spoils of War’, and you will find something very peculiar about the case to which they refer:

“It does not behove a prophet to take captives unless he has battled strenuously and shed blood on earth. You may desire the fleeting gains of this world, but God desires [for you] the life to come. God is Almighty, Wise. Had it not been for a decree from God that had already gone forth, there would indeed have befallen you a tremendous punishment on account of what you have taken. Enjoy, then, what you have gained as lawful and good, and remain conscious of God. God is indeed much-forgiving, merciful.”

(8: 67-69.)

These verses were revealed only after the captives in the Battle of Badr were released and ransom was accepted from them. They start with a denunciation of this action as wrong, and conclude with approving it and consoling the Prophet and his companions.

Indeed this precedent, which earned reproach, became the rule to be applied in similar cases. Had this 16 statement been made by Muhammad himself, is it conceivable that the psychological condition which produced its beginning could produce its conclusion, without any period of time to intervene between the initial rebuke and remonstration, and the ultimate approval?

Certainly not. If we were to imagine that these two thoughts followed each other within any one person’s soul, the latter would have cancelled the former altogether. The final thought would have approved what was actually done.

What would be the reason, then, for describing the thought that was cancelled and erased and recording it in such a way that implied public rebuke?

Why would the gain that was described as lawful and good be shown first to be at least undesirable? What psychologists understand from this text is that there are two entirely separate beings, one of them a Master saying to His servant, “You have done badly, but I pardon you and permit you to benefit by what you have done.” If you examine these errors for which the Prophet is reproached, you are bound to conclude that they share a common denominator.

When the Prophet had to choose between two options, and found that neither involved anything prohibited, he would always choose what was more compassionate, more likely to win over his people to accept God’s guidance, or to soften the hostility of his opponents. He would always choose the option that was less harsh and unlikely to raise doubts about Divine faith. At no time with regard to these incidents did he have a clear text which he wilfully disobeyed or forgetfully breached. All that he did was to consider and reflect. When he felt that he had a choice, he chose the option closer to his kind heart.

All that can be said in such cases is that he exercised his discretion and made a choice. Let us suppose that his choice was mistaken; would he not, in this case, be justified, worthy of reward? The option he chose was the best that anyone endowed with human wisdom would have chosen. The Qur’an only draws his attention to what is better according to Divine wisdom. Do we find in this any reasonable error that requires rebuke and reproach? Is it not a question of God speaking to His beloved servant, and taking him up the road of finer education?

ᶜAbdullāh ibn Ubay, the leader of the hypocrites, died and the Prophet gave his family his own robe to wrap him in for burial. He also wanted to perform the janāzah prayer1 for him and to pray for his forgiveness

ᶜUmar objected to this saying to the Prophet, “Are you to pray for him when your Lord has forbidden you that?” The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “He has not forbidden me, but has given me a choice, saying, ‘Pray that God may forgive them, or do not pray for their forgiveness. If you were to pray seventy times that they be forgiven, God will not forgive them.’

(9: 80.)

I will pray for him more than seventy times.” And so he did. But God later revealed to him: “Never shall you pray over any of them that has died, and never shall you stand by his grave.”

(9: 84.)

The Prophet then stopped praying for any of the hypocrites.

Read this story, which is highly authentic as it is related in the two Ṣaḥīḥ, or authentic hadith anthologies, of al-Bukhari and Muslim, and reflect on it. What does it reveal to you, other than a picture of a servant of God who has taken the Qur’an as a course of action, studying its text to decide what steps to take? It also shows you a very kind-hearted person who feels that the first verse gives him a choice between two options, and he immediately chooses the one that is full of kindness and grace.

He does not resort to the other course of action until he receives a clear order. Whenever you study the Prophet’s attitude in such cases or in others, you will find the two elements combined: complete submission to God and exceptional kindness that knows no limit.

By contrast, the Qur’an gives the attitude that shows strength untampered by motives and purposes. It provides a clear verdict, one which distinguishes between truth and falsehood, whether people like it or not. It is the strength that remains unaffected by people’s attitudes, whether they believe or not. It is neither increased by people’s obedience, nor weakened by their disobedience. We can, thus, realise what gap lies between the two. It is certainly a great gulf that separates master and servant, worshipped and worshipper.

Sometimes he, the Prophet, received a statement expressed in general terms, or an order that sounded highly problematic. Neither he nor his companions could find a clear interpretation of it until an explanation was given to him at a later time. Should we not ask here: what rational human being inspires himself with words that he himself does not understand, or gives himself an order without recognising its purpose? Do we not find in this clear evidence that he is not the initiator, but simply the bearer, of a message, and that he does not issue orders, but receives them?

A verse was revealed stating:

“Whether you bring into the open what is in your minds or conceal it, God will call you to account for it.”

(2: 284.)

The Prophet’s companions were very disturbed by this, and felt it to constitute a very heavy burden, i.e. they thought that they would be called upon to account for every fleeting thought. They said to the Prophet: “Messenger of God, this verse has been revealed and we feel it to be too hard to bear.”

He said: “Do you want to say like the people of former Scriptures said, ‘We hear and we disobey’? Say instead, ‘We hear and we obey. Our Lord, grant us Your forgiveness.’” They continued to say this supplication until God gave them its explanation in a subsequent verse that states: “God does not charge a soul with more than it can bear. It shall be rewarded for whatever good it does and shall be responsible for whatever evil it does.

Our Lord, do not take us to task if we forget or err. Our Lord, do not lay upon us a burden such as You laid on those before us. Our Lord, do not burden us with what we do not have the strength to bear.

Pardon us and forgive us our sins, and bestow Your mercy on us. You are our Lord Supreme: grant us victory against the unbelievers.” (2: 286.)

When this verse was revealed, they realised that they are held to account only for what they can bear of thoughts and feelings. This means that people are accountable only for what they resolve to do and take steps to fulfil, not for fleeting thoughts and hopes that are entertained without any choice.

The hadith that relates all this is authentic as it is given in full by Muslim and others, while Al-Bukhari refers to it in brief. The point here is that the Prophet did not know the interpretation of the verse to start with.

Had he known it, he would have explained it to his companions when they raised their questions. He would not have suppressed such needed information, leaving his companions in a state of real anxiety, especially when he was well known for his care, kindness and compassion. He was in the same position as they, waiting for its interpretation to be revealed to him.

God in His wisdom chose to delay that interpretation for a while. Similarly, He, in His wisdom, included the particle ‘then’, which indicates delay in His statement: “When We recite it [i.e. the Qur’an], follow you its 18 recitation [with all your mind]. Then it will be for Us to make its meaning clear.” (75: 1819.)

Read, if you will, the account of the dispute at al-Hudaibiyah in al-Bukhari’s Ṣaḥīḥ and in other authentic collections of hadith. For here you will find some hard evidence further substantiating our argument.

God had given permission to the believers to fight anyone who initiated any aggression against them wherever they might be, provided that they fought in the Haram only someone who attacked them there in person. He says in the Qur’an: “Fight for the cause of God those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression. God does not love aggressors.

Slay them wherever you may come upon them, and drive them away from wherever they drove you away; for oppression is even worse than killing. But do not fight them near the Sacred House of Worship unless they fight you there first. Should they fight you, then kill them. Thus shall the unbelievers be rewarded. But if they desist, then God is muchforgiving, merciful.” (2: 190-192.)

Therefore, when the Prophet’s companions decided to visit the Sacred House that year, i.e. year 6 A.H., they took their arms with them as a precaution against attack. They only did this so as to defend themselves against possible aggression. When they were near the Haram area, they heard that the Quraysh, the major Arabian tribe which lived in Makkah and fiercely opposed Islam, had resolved to prevent them, mobilising its forces nearby. They, however, were not alarmed, because they were ready to fight in self-defence. In fact, they were more determined to complete their journey to the Mosque. Should they be prevented by force, they would meet force with force.

The Quraysh was not in fighting shape after having suffered several setbacks.

This meant that all motives to fight a decisive battle against a weakened enemy were there. The truth of Islam was certain to triumph and the falsehood of paganism would be wiped out.

When the Muslims were at Al-Hudaibiyah, the Prophet’s she-camel, which was known by the name al-Qaṣwā’, sat down, refusing to continue the journey. His companions tried hard to make her stand up and proceed, but she would not respond.

They said, “She has become mulish.” The Prophet said, “She has not become mulish, for mulishness is not in her character.She has been prevented by the same cause which prevented the elephant from continuing its march.”

What he meant was that God, who caused the Abyssinian army aiming to destroy the Kaᶜbah and the elephant marching at its head to halt, now held the Prophet’s she-camel back thus stopping the Muslim army from entering Makkah by force.

He, thus, realised that God had not sanctioned their forceful entry into Makkah that year, be they the ones to start the use of force, or the ones to repel it when it was used against them by the Makkans.

He, therefore, poked the she-camel and she moved to another position. He then encamped at the far end of al-Hudaibiyah. He stopped his march in response to this sign from God. Yet he was unaware of the wisdom behind His actions.

The Prophet then tried to enter Makkah by making peace with the Quraysh. He said: “By Him who holds my soul in his hand, I will grant them any proposal they make, provided it honours what God has sanctified.” But the Quraysh refused him entry by peace or war.

They went even further, imposing very hard conditions, requiring him to go back that year, and to return anyone from Makkah who would try to convert to Islam, while the Quraysh would not return to him anyone from Madinah who reverted to pagan beliefs. These were conditions that could never have been imposed by the Quraysh in its state of weakness against the much stronger Muslims. Nonetheless, the Prophet ordered his companions to release themselves from consecration, without completing their umrah, and to return to Madinah.

We need not ask about the dismay this peace agreement caused in the ranks of the Prophet’s companions. When they shaved each other’s heads, some of them, in their sad state almost accidentally cut their brethren’s necks with their blades. Some of them were terribly shaken. They questioned one another, and some talked to the Prophet personally, asking him, “Why should we accept humiliation on account of our faith?” Thus, the army was close to a mutinous mood, and control could have been lost.

Suppose that the commander of that army was the one who made the plan, or participated in its making, or even realised its wisdom. Would it not have been his natural attitude to explain to his lieutenants the objectives he reckoned would be achieved as a result, instead of letting matters remain on the boil? But what was the Prophet’s reply when ᶜUmar questioned him about the wisdom of the agreement? He simply said to him: “I am God’s servant and Messenger. I shall not disobey Him and He will never abandon me.” In other words, he stated that he was only a servant of God, carrying out His orders. But he was at the same time confident of victory, whether it came straightaway or took a while.

As they marched on their return journey to Madinah, the Prophet’s companions were still unaware of the wisdom of the settlement the Prophet had accepted. Then Surah 48 of the Qur’an, entitled Victory, was revealed to explain it all, telling them what profound wisdom dictated such agreement, and what God had in store for them. With this clarification, they realised that what they initially thought to be a sell-out was indeed a great victory. Little do human beings appreciate God’s wisdom and His planning. The surah tells the Muslims:

He it is who, in the valley of Makkah, stayed their hands from you and your hands from them, after He had enabled you to vanquish them; and God saw what you were doing. It was they who disbelieved and who debarred you from the Inviolable House of Worship and prevented your offering from reaching its destination. And had it not been for the believing men and women [in Makkah], whom you might have unwittingly trampled underfoot, and on whose account you might have become guilty, without knowing it, of a grievous wrong. In time God might admit to His grace whomever He wills. Had they been clearly discernible [to you], We would indeed have imposed grievous suffering on such of them as were disbelievers.

Whereas the disbelievers harboured a stubborn disdain in their hearts - the stubborn disdain born of ignorance - God bestowed from on high His gift of inner peace upon His Messenger and the believers, and bound them to the spirit of God-consciousness: for they were most worthy of this [Divine gift], and deserved it well. And God has full knowledge of all things. Indeed, God has shown the truth in His Messenger’s true vision: most 20 certainly shall you enter the Inviolable House of Worship, if God so wills, in full security, with your heads shaved or your hair cut short, without any fear. He has always known what you yourselves could not know. And He has ordained [for you] besides this a victory soon to come.”

(48: 25 - 27.)

Al-Zuhri, an early Muslim scholar of the generation that followed the Prophet’s companions, says: “No preceding victory in the history of Islam was greater than alHudaibiyah. Those were victories achieved after fighting. When the truce was made and peace was achieved, people feared nothing from one another. They met and made contacts and talked with one another.

No one with any degree of sound reason who was approached about accepting Islam could reject it. Indeed, in the two years following the peace of alHudaibiyah, the Muslims more than doubled in number.” Another scholar comments: “As a result of the peace and security that prevailed after the agreement, people of the two sides were able to mix freely, without being subjected to reproach. Many of those who believed in Islam in secret were able to publicise the fact. Muslims were keen to recite the Qur’an to unbelievers and argued with them in peace. Prior to that, unbelievers could only talk to Muslims in secret. The whole affair was one of disappointment to the unbelievers, the while they thought it would bring them a moral victory.”

Nor was it a characteristic of the Arabs. They only prepared their speech mentally. Had the Qur’an been a product of his own making, he would have followed the same pattern he and his people used in preparing their speeches. He would have thought about it more deeply and carefully, in silent concentration. This would have been more conducive to the production of sound opinion and well thought-out ideas. But he did not do this because he found himself suddenly being taught something that was given to him without preparation. Neither reflection nor deep thinking would have brought it to him, even had he sought it. Nor could he manage to facilitate a reminder, should he forget any of it. Nevertheless he was required to recite it accurately, word for word. In the face of this new requirement, which he was not used to, he felt he needed to follow the process of revelation very carefully.

He continued to do so until God guaranteed him that he would memorise it and convey it accurately. “Do not move your tongue in haste, [repeating the words of the revelation], for it is for Us to gather it and to cause it to be read. Thus when We recite it, follow its recitation. Then it is for Us to make its meaning clear.”

(75: 16 19.)

“Do not approach the Qur’an in haste, before it has been revealed to you in full, but always say: ‘My Lord, cause me to grow in knowledge.’”

(20: 114.)

These are some glimpses of the Prophet’s attitude towards the Qur’an.

They all confirm his assertion that the Qur’an did not emanate from himself, but was rather given to him. It was not his thinking that produced it, it was bestowed from on high.

When we consider his action and behaviour, we are bound to admire his refined manners and the great values to which he constantly adhered. We find in him a man of unblemished 21 purity and complete seriousness. His tongue would not utter a word without knowledge, and his eyes would not attempt to conceal anything different from what he declared. Moreover, he would not listen to those who were wont on exaggeration as they sang his praises. He was great in his humility, with frankness and honesty that are very rare among leaders and with meticulousness that is exceptional even among scholars. How can such a person indulge in deception or fraud? How can he allow arrogance to creep into his character? Far be it from him to do so. A few further examples may be useful here.

A few maids were playing the tambourine in the morning after the wedding oalAr-Rubayyiᶜ bint Muᶜawwidh of the Anṣār. They commemorated their fathers who were martyrs in the Battle of Badr.

One of them sang: “And among us is a Prophet who knows what will take place tomorrow.” The Prophet said to her: “Do not say that, but go back to what you were saying earlier.” [Related by al-Bukhari.] This is confirmation of what God says in the Qur’an: “Say: I do not say to you that God’s treasures are with me, nor do I say that I know what lies beyond the reach of human perception.”

(6: 50.)

to bring benefit to, or avert harm from, myself, except as God may please. And if I knew that which lies beyond the reach of human perception, I would have attained good fortune in abundance.”

(7: 188.)

On the day when Makkah fell to Islam, ᶜAbdullāh ibn Abi al-Sarḥ was among a few people whom the Prophet stipulated were to be barred from any pardon, because of their unwavering hostility towards Islam and their harsh enmity towards the Muslims. When this man came to the Prophet with ᶜUthmān who pleaded his case, the Prophet was slow to accept his declared repentance. He delayed any acceptance of it until the man had repeated it three times.

When he had left, the Prophet said to his companions who attended him:

“Could not a wise one among you have killed the man when you saw me holding my hand from accepting his pledge?” They said: “How could we have known what you wished? You might have given us a signal with your eye.” The Prophet said: “It does not behove a Prophet to have a treacherous eye.” [Related by Abu Dāwūd and al-Nasā’i]. A young boy of the Anṣār died and his body was brought to the mosque for prayer. ᶜĀ’ishah said: “Blessed is the abode of this one. He did not do anything sinful.” The Prophet said to her: “You should not say this, ᶜĀ’ishah. God has created heaven and created those who deserve it, and created it for them, even before they were conceived. He has also created hell for those who deserve it, even before they were conceived.” [Related by Muslim and others.] Scholars say that what is stated here took place long before the Prophet came to know that Muslims who die in childhood go to heaven.

When ᶜUthmān ibn Maẓᶜūn died, a woman from the Anṣār called Umm al-ᶜAlā’ said: “May God bestow His mercy on you, Abu al-Sā’ib. I bear witness that God has given you an honourable position.” The Prophet said: “How do you know that God has given him a position of honour?” She said: “To whom would God give a position of honour, then?” He said: “As for him, he has seen the truth, and I sincerely hope that he is well treated. By God, even in my position as God’s Messenger, I do not know what will be done with me.” She said: “By God, I will never again praise anyone.” [Related by al-Bukhari and alNasā’i]. This is confirmed by the verse: “Say: I am not the first of God’s Messengers; and 22 I do not know what will be done with me or with you, for I am nothing but a plain warner”.

(45: 9.)

Scholars explain that this was before the revelation of the opening verses of Surah 48, Victory, in which God tells him: “God will grant you His forgiveness of all your faults, past as well as future.”

If anyone thinks that he steered away from telling lies as a wise precaution, so that nothing happened in the future to show him to have resorted to saying an untruth, what could have prevented him from saying whatever he wished about what happens after death? He would have feared no objection or opposition from anyone.

Nor would there be any future judgement on what he said. What prevented him, however, was his great character which understood his accountability to a Judge who is far superior than history and historians:

“We shall most certainly call to account all those to whom a Divine message was sent, and We shall most certainly call to account the messengers themselves, and thereupon We shall most certainly reveal to them Our knowledge [of their doings]: for never have We been absent from them.”

(7: 6-7.)

Try, if you will, to remove any sense of certainty from your mind, allow yourself a maximum degree of doubt, and admit even the worst suspicions in any single event of the Prophet’s noble life.

Once you have examined a reasonable number of events you will inevitably find yourself unable to resist certainty unless you suspect your own mind and conscience.

Critics study the life of a poet through his poetry, forming a complete picture of his beliefs, habits, manners, line of thinking and lifestyle. The fine images he includes in his poetry will not stop them from discerning the reality behind all the imagery. The truth has an overpowering force, one which shines through screens and curtains to reveal itself between the lines. Hard as he may try to conceal his real personality, a human being will inevitably allow a slip or an oversight in what he says or does, which shows his natural reaction when he finds himself under pressure, or in an embarrassing situation, or in a position of need, or when he is too confident. It is as the Arab poet says:

“Whichever characteristic a person has will certainly come out, even though he may think himself able to conceal it.”

Taking this into account, what can we say about the Prophet’s life that gives us in every event and episode a clear picture of his pure self. It shows us complete harmony between inner feelings and outward appearances, as well as absolute honesty and sincerity in every word he says and every action he does.

Indeed, a discerning person would see his great moral standards and refined manners in his face, even before he said or did anything. Hence, many of those who were inclined to accept Islam, as the Prophet called on them to do, did not ask him for evidence to support what he said. Some of them were close friends or relatives who knew him well, while others were complete strangers who recognised his honesty as they looked into his face. ᶜAbdullāh ibn Sallām reports:

“When God’s Messenger arrived in Madinah, people gathered to see him, and everyone was saying, ‘God’s Messenger has arrived!’ I also came to look at him. When I looked attentively at the face of God’s Messenger, (peace be upon him), I realised that his face was certainly not the face of a liar.”

Now that we have related these examples, we restate our purpose which is to show that a person of such fine character, and with such humility regarding the Qur’an, could never have been suspected of telling an untruth when he declared that he was not the author of that Book, and that his position in relation to it was that of a student who wanted to learn.

In fact, this admission should be taken as another evidence of his humility and candid character.

chapter III

The Prophecies of the Qur’an

The question of the Prophet having nothing to do with the writing of the Qur’an is too self evident to need any verbal admission from him or a study of his morality.