What evidence is there that the prophet Muhammad was a messenger of Allah?
Waleed Kadous, Thought a lot about science, belief, faith and religion
Updated Oct 7, 2012
There is extensive evidence. While many people adopt a "it's the same as any other prophet or claim about God", there are some significant differences historically that make it possible for there to be a falsifiability proof of Muhammad's claim.
So before we get to the evidences themselves, we first need to look at the differences of Islam's history compared to other faiths that leads people to over-generalize and assume is no different from other religions. These differences are:
Historical recency: Muhammad was born approximately 1400 years ago -- making it the youngest of the modern religions. By that time in history, means of writing and preservation had improved. This is distinct from, say, the time of Moses and Buddha.
Mission length and success: Muhammad's mission lasted 23 years and was successful during his lifetime (reconquering of Makkah, spread of Islam throughout the Arabian peninsula). This means that there were at least tens of thousands of people who witnessed and interacted with Muhammad, reducing the opportunity for distortion of his teachings. This distinguishes Islam from other Prophets, e.g. Jesus, who according to most reports had a mission of approximately 3 years, or about 1/8th the time of Muhammad.
Oral culture: Arabia in the 7th Century CE was a culture where poetry, words and eloquence were at their height. Poetry was valued and memorized. This enhanced preservation, but also provided a means for proof of authenticity:
Preservation of Islam's sources: Through understanding the distortion that had happened to other faiths, Islam went to some trouble to preserve its sources: the Qur'an (memorized and written down during Muhammad's life), the Hadith (written after, on balance not as well preserved as the Qur'an, but still better preserved than many other sources).
None of these is evidence for Muhammad's prophethood, they are just reasons why we should treat Muhammad's claim seriously and distinctly from other faiths.
So the core evidence is one of a process of elimination.
So you have a book that almost everybody believes came via Muhammad (though not everybody agrees how it came to Muhammad). The book contains:
Historical predictions that later came true;
Many scientific references, none of which have been falsified;
A system of laws and requirements that were the basis of an 800-year long civilization with little or no modification;
It is written in such language that at the time and to this day, no one could match its eloquence.
So where did the Qur'an come from? Let's consider the possibilities.
He was copying from someone else.
He was a brilliant, poet, historical analyst, legal theorist and scientist that knew things 1300 years before they were discovered.
He was inspired by "evil spirits", devils, etc.
He was divinely inspired.
Each of these (except the last) can be eliminated.
If he was copying from someone else, then that still leaves the question of who he copied from; also, we would see inconsistencies between the different sources he reports from. More fundamentally, that would mean that Muhammad was deceptive, claiming credit for other people's work. If he was going to be deceptive, why would he attribute to God, instead of attributing it to himself and aggrandizing himself? Evidences are that Muhammad was not particularly materially wealthy.
If he had some sort of worldly knowledge that he had obtained, why would he attribute it to God? Surely, he would have used it to further his own ends. Furthermore, how did this magically pop out of him when he was 40 years old? There are no signs of pre-Qur'anic writing or thought from Muhammad. I suppose it's possible that there was a massive conspiracy to delete such texts, but that kind of thing is hard to hide. Besides he was illiterate.
If he was inspired by evil spirits, devils, etc; why would his text begin with things like "I seek refuge from Satan the accursed?" Also, why would he encourage good: kindness to neighbors, charity to the poor, etc. Muslims and Islam have been responsible for a fair amount of good in the world.
We are left with only one possibility: Muhammad was divinely inspired.