Joined: 01 Feb 2007
|Posted: Thu Mar 08, 2007 7:38 pm Post subject: Historical fact
|A friend wrote to me as follows:
I need your help.
I've been asking about where to find the history about Hagar in Islam as this friend of mine couldn't find it in Qur'an.
This question also led me into question: from where actually we (Muslims) could learn/read about the other prophets' life? I mean was it from Seerah or Hadith? Or Bible itself? Back then, before the Qur'an's revelation, how people learned about the story of Hagar and Ishmael? The story of David? Solomon? Jacob?
You know, as a kid, I learned about the prophets' life before our Prophet Muhammad SAW only from our Ustadz/Ustadzah. There were no books back then. Now, I'm questioning myself: what is the source from all those stories?
I hope you could enlighten me.
Hope someone could also enlighten me on this issue. Thank you
|Arnold Yasin Mol
|Posted: Fri Mar 09, 2007 7:17 am Post subject:
The History of the Prophets that we can trust is found in the Quran. All other information outside of it, has gone through human hands, and have been edited and changed through those hands.
The Quran is the only reliable source on the Prophets:
12:111 Indeed in the history of these men, there is a lesson for people of understanding. As for this Revelation, it could not possibly be a hadith, fabricated. It confirms the Divine Origin of the previous Scriptures, and gives
a detailed explanation of everything. And it is a Beacon and Mercy for all those who accept it.
In the time of Muhammed you had stories of Prophets and other famous people. These were derived from legends of other people. For example, history on Isreali Prophets as Moses had their origin in Jewish tales, stories on Greek and Christian legends came down trough Christian tales. For example, Luqman, was a famous Greek legend known as Aesop.
The Prophet himself only knew stories of the Prophets through these legends, and later on through the Quran. As he had not received any information outside the Quran, which can be clearly seen from verse 12:111 and many more verses.
All other scriptures as the Bible or Zend-Avesta were distorted over time, true Revelation and history were distorted or replaced by man-made stories. This is why it is hard to distuingish truth from falsehood.
The Hadith were written by Persians. The origins of the Hadith were all sorts, stories on Jesus came from the Christians, on the Jewish Prophets from the Jews, Arab Prophets from local Arab legends and so on. These stories have no Divine origin and are based on conjecture. They were ascribed to the Prophet to make them genuine. Saying the Prophet had told them these stories was like putting a copyright on the stories.
This is why we see so much similarities between Hadith and Christain-Judeo literature. So what to do now? Well we have the Quran, the Furqan or Criterion between truth and falsehood. Everything that contradicts the Quranic Message must be discarded, and the stories that remain must still be looked upon with great sceptism.
In the book 'A study of the Quran', Malek explains it in a beautiful way:
[The Quran translation used by Malek is mostly Muhammed Asad's and is thus respected and accepted for this rendition]
7. THE PROPHETS AND THEIR REVELATIONS
The following paragraph is a brief extract of a translation from Urdu of Tazkirah (Man's Destiny) by Allama Mashriqi. Tazkirah is a higher commentary on the Qur'an, which the author describes as the 'last message of God to Man', and an exhaustive exposition of the Divine Law or what he calls the 'Religion of Nature'. Most of the material in this section is taken from the chapter of the 'Unity of Divine Message' in Tazkirah. The rest of this section deals with some of the well-known prophets in Qur'an. It demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt that the fundamental message preached by all the prophets was the same in spite of variations in customs and rituals throughout the different world communities. I quote Mashriqi:
The last of the Revealed books (the Holy Qur'an) gave a straight verdict on humanity's present disintegrated form, in fact, on the reality of Religion, by declaring that customs and rituals are one thing but the FUNDAMENTAL REALITY another. 'O ye human beings! We have appointed for each people an outward semblance of its worship of God and obedience to His Law, which it is following, but the Fundamental Law is the same for everybody (and it is unity). Thus, the people should not dispute with you on the Fundamental Law. You assemble the entire mankind on one point by inviting them to One God, and through this Tauheed unite the whole world. Verily, in establishing this unity between world communities you are on the Right Course'. (22:67). This shows that creation of conflict over God's Law by disputing over rituals means abdicating the straight path and Religion.1
Thus, the basic message of all the prophets from Allah was to further the unity of mankind, along with guidance on how human beings should live in this world in order to bring peace and security, and hence ensure our survival and stability. This was the substance of the great news which the prophets received from the Almighty, and this is the essence of true prophethood. This, too, is the supreme knowledge and information, the greatest of revelations and disclosures.
The Prophets taught Man the proper way to live on the earth; they showed him the path to collective survival and stated the principles determining the rise and fall of nations. They demonstrated the Divine Administration's complete sense of justice, and evaluated punishment in this world and recompense in the Hereafter. They explained what the individual's conduct should be; they put their people on the right path and ensured their stability and survival for centuries to come, and they demonstrated how non-believers would meet their end. This was the Deen they brought, and it was the Deen (course of action) which God wanted mankind to adopt.
Thus, it is Man's correct course of conduct in the world which, in fact, is his 'religion', and it is his bounden duty to comprehend the Immutable Law which governs the rise and fall of nations. The knowledge of this alone constitutes the science of religions and it is this course which is everybody's most urgent need.
No prophet carved out a contrary course, a new Faith or a different religion. Each came with essentially one message. That message was the Divine Law. Humanity's failure to follow that Law resulted in their periodic destruction. Subsequent generations mistook the exteriors and procedures which were only devices – or method – for following the Divine Law, as the fundamentals of the Deen; they accepted subsidiaries as the fundamental code and ignored the basic reality, becoming entirely concerned with the superficial and the conventional. People unduly exaggerated in the display of personal devotion and deference to their leaders, attaching increasing importance to the commandments of their own liking. They considered it a slant against their traditions and honour to give up the rituals of one prophet and enter the fold of a new one. Then, instead of following, through the prophets, the Divine Law and taking this Law as the true source of knowledge, they lined up on sectarian grounds behind the various prophets, thus becoming partisan. Instead of believing and submitting to the will of God and thereby becoming true Muslims they became Mosesites, Buddhists, Christians and Mohammedans. They considered it part-and-parcel of the Deen merely to heap praises on the prophets and idolise them in their activities. In this way, Religion came to denote only a few useless rituals and baseless customs; its significance completely disappeared.2
The first man created by God - according to the Scriptures - is Adam. God also created a wife for Adam, and the whole of humanity is supposed to have descended from them. Adam is also regarded as the first prophet as he received guidance in the form of revelation from God after he and his wife were evicted from Paradise for disobedience to His command. This traditional interpretation, that humanity, as we see today, descended from Adam and his wife, is untenable for biological and other reasons. Therefore, we have to look for an allegorical interpretation. The one used by Parwez 3 appears to fit very well with the story described in the Qur'an in verses 2:30-39. In this story, Adam stands for Man and his wife for Woman, the angels (Malaika) for the forces of nature, Iblees or Shaitan (Devil) for baser human desires.
Man was given autonomy and free will, unlike the forces of nature which do not have any independent will and, therefore, have to be subservient to Allah. Although nothing in 'nature' obeys Man, he can obviously learn to channel its workings to his advantage. When Man was made to settle on earth at first his needs were very limited and the means of subsistence plentiful. However, the baser instincts of Man eventually got the better of him. Driven by selfishness, human beings began to live according to their own self-made systems. As a result, they lost their blissful life. Humanity was split into different races, tribes and nations, with enmity amongst them. When man lost his blissful life, he was told:
(7:35) O children of Adam! If messengers of your own come unto you, who narrate unto you My revelations, then whosoever refraineth from evil and amendeth - there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.
(20:124) But he who turneth away from remembrance of Me, his will be a narrow life, and I shall bring him blind to the assembly on the Day of Resurrection.
7.3 Prophets named in the Qur'an
The Qur'an mentions the following prophets (messengers) by name: Adam (Adam), Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Ishmael (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Lut (Lot), Yakub (Jacob), Yusuf (Joseph), Musa (Moses), Harun (Arron), Dawud (David), Sulaiman (Soloman), Illyas (Elijah), Alyasa (Elisha), Yunus (Johana), Ayyub (Job), Zakariya (Zackaray), Yahya (John), Isa (Jesus), Idris (Enoch), Hud, Dhul Kifl (Ezekiel), Shuaib, Salih, Luqman and Muhammad (Muhammad).
The Qur'an also states that apart from the prophets mentioned above, Allah sent many other prophets whose names are not mentioned in the Qur'an.
(40: 78) Verily we sent messengers before thee, among them those of whom We have told thee, and some of them We have not told thee; and it was not given to any messenger that he should bring a portent save by Allah's leave, but when Allah's commandment cometh (the cause) is judged aright, and the followers of vanity will then be lost.
Noah follows Adam in the line of the prophets mentioned in the Qur'an. The most important event that took place during the time of Noah is the Flood. The following comments on 'the Flood' are from Dr. Maurice Bucaille's book, The Bible The Qur'an and Science.
The Qur'an gives a general version which is different from that contained in the Bible and does not give rise to any criticisms from a historical point of view […] It does not provide a continuous narration of the Flood. Numerous Suras talk of the punishment inflicted upon Noah's people. The most complete account of this is in Sura 11, verses 25 to 49. Sura 71 which bears Noah's name, describes above all Noah's preaching, as do verses 105 to 115, Sura 26. Before going into the actual course taken by the events, we must consider the Flood as described in the Qur'an by relating it to the general context of punishment God inflicted on communities guilty of gravely infringing His commandments. […] Whereas the Bible describes a universal Flood intended to punish ungodly humanity as a whole, the Qur'an, in contrast, mentions several punishments inflicted on certain specifically defined communities.4
The Qur'an contains a large number of verses on Abraham, and I start with a few:
(2:124) And (remember) when his Sustainer tried Abraham with (His) commands, and he fulfilled them, He said: Lo! I have appointed thee a leader for mankind. (Abraham said): And of my offspring (will there be leaders)? He said: My covenant includeth not wrong-doers.
(37:100-110) O my Sustainer! Vouchsafe me of the righteous. So We gave him tidings of a gentle son. And when (his son) was old enough to walk with him, (Abraham said) O my dear son, I have seen a dream that I must sacrifice thee. So look, what thinkest thou? He said: O my father! Do that which thou art commanded. Allah willing, thou shalt find me of the steadfast. Then when they had both surrendered (to Allah), and he had put his forehead down, We called unto him: O Abraham! Thou hast already fulfilled the vision. Lo! thus do We reward the good. Lo! that verily was a clear test. Then We redeemed him with a tremendous (azim) sacrifice, and left him thus to be remembered among later generations. Peace be unto Abraham. Thus do we reward the good.
The word 'azim' means 'tremendous' or 'mighty'. Thus, it is highly improbable that this sacrifice refers to the ram which Abraham found and slaughtered in place of Isaac (Ishaq) (see Genesis 22:13; also chapter 18 below). The following two verses state clearly the duty or the responsibility which both Abraham and Ishmael were to undertake, in view of their total submission to the Will of Allah. The tremendous sacrifice asked for by Allah is that both should work for the cause of Allah. Unfortunately, Muslims believe the Biblical story, involving a ram, and think that they will be able to redeem themselves by sacrificing millions of animals at the end of Hajj (pilgrimage). By ignoring the Qur'an, they fail to realise that the real sacrifice required by Allah from the believers is to work for the cause of Allah, steadfastly.
(2:125) And when We made the House (at Mecca) a resort for mankind and a sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood (to pray). And We imposed a duty upon Abraham and Ishmael, (saying): Purify My House for those who go round and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship).
(2:127,128) And Abraham and Ishmael were raising the foundations of the House, (Abraham prayed): Our Sustainer! Accept from us (this duty). Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Hearer, the Knower. Our Sustainer! make us submissive unto Thee and our seed a nation submissive unto Thee, and show us our ways of worship, and relent towards us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Relenting, the Merciful.
(22:27) And proclaim unto mankind the Pilgrimage. They will come unto thee on foot and on every lean camel; they will come from every deep ravine.
(19:54) And make mention of Ishmael in this Scripture. Lo! he was a keeper of his promise, and he was a messenger (of Allah), a Prophet.
To fulfil his obligations Abraham settled some of his family near the Kaba.
(14:37) O our Sustainer! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by the Sacred House in order, O our Sustainer, that they may establish regular prayer: So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feed them with fruits in order that they may be thankful.
Abraham was further blessed by another son in his old age as shown in the following verse.
(37:112,113) And We gave him tidings of the birth of Isaac, a prophet of the righteous. And We blessed him and Isaac. And of their seed are some who do good, and some who plainly wrong themselves.
We also see from the Qur'an that with Abraham some important landmarks of 'Islam' took place. He was instructed to build the House of Allah (Kaba) with his son Ishmael, and to introduce the religious practices such as Prayer (Salat), Fasting, Pilgrimage (Hajj), and Zakat. In fact all our main religious practices originated with Abraham. The belief in Allah alone, Who has no partner, remained the primary condition of Faith, and the code of life ('religion' in the comprehensive sense) to be practised by mankind was given the name Islam.
The meaning of the word Islam is 'submission' and 'peace' - 'submission' in the positive sense of committing oneself 'to live in peace' by bringing one's likes and dislikes and behaviour in harmony with the Divine Will. A Muslim is one who surrenders himself to Allah. Thus, the terms Islam and Muslim both originate from the very first contact of God with Man, and pre-date Muhammad by many centuries.
(3:19) With Allah the Deen is Al-Islam[...]
(3:67) Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian; but he was an upright man who had surrendered (to Allah), and he was not of the idolaters.
(2:130,131) And who forsaketh the religion of Abraham save him who befooleth himself? Verily, We chose him in the world and lo! in the Hereafter he is among the righteous. When his Sustainer said unto him: Surrender! he said I have surrendered to the Sustainer of the Worlds.
(22:78) And strive for Allah with the endeavour which is His right. He hath chosen you and hath not laid upon you in religion [this code of life] any hardship; the faith of your father Abraham (is yours). He hath named you Muslims (those who have surrendered) of old time and in this (Scripture), that the messenger may be a witness against you, and that ye may be a witness against Mankind. So establish worship, and invest in Zakat, and hold fast to Allah. He is your Protecting Friend. A blessed Patron and a blessed Helper!
It should be borne in mind that the traditional use of the terms 'Islam' and 'Muslim' for the followers of the Prophet Muhammad is a contradiction with the Qur'an. Both these terms are universal in connotation and are meant for the whole of Mankind through all the ages of the history. Thus according to the Qur'an, Allah's reward is not reserved for any particular group or 'denomination' but is open to anyone who consciously accepts the oneness of Allah, surrenders himself to his Will, and by living righteously gives practical effect to this attitude.
(2:62) Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee Muhammad) and those who are Jews, and Christians and Sabians -- whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous deeds - their reward is with their Sustainer, and there shall no fear come upon them and neither shall they grieve
The Sabians are a monotheistic religious group which to this day can be found in Iraq.
(2:111,112) And they say: None entereth Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian. These are their own desires. Say: bring your proof (of what you state) if ye are truthful. Nay, but whosoever surrendereth his purpose to Allah while doing good, his reward is with his Sustainer; and there shall no fear come upon them, neither shall they grieve.
Islam, therefore, is a continuation of original code of life (deen) as established by the first prophet. All succeeding prophets preached the same code of life (deen). From Abraham came a long line of prophets through his two sons, Ishmael (Ishmael) and Isaac (Ishaq). Ishmael was the progenitor of the Arab peoples and Muhammad was among his descendants. From Isaac came a number of prophets, including his son Jacob (Yakub), his grandson Joseph (Yusuf), Moses (Musa), David (Dawud), Solomon (Sulaiman), John the Baptist (Yahya) and Jesus (Isa).
(2:132-134) The same did Abraham enjoin upon his sons and also Jacob, (saying): O my sons! Lo! Allah hath chosen for you the (true) religion [this code of life]; therefore die not save as men who have surrendered (unto Him). Or were ye present when death came to Jacob, when he said to his sons: What will ye worship after me? They said: We will worship thy God, the God of thy fathers Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, One God, and unto Him we have surrendered. Those are a people who have passed away. Theirs is that which they earned, and yours is that which ye earn. And ye will not be asked of what they used to do.
(2:136) Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Sustainer. We make no distinction between them, and unto Him we have surrendered.
The Qur'an not only goes into great details about the life story of Moses but also about the history of the Jewish people. However, the historical content is not so much stating history chronologically as emphasising again and again to mankind that Allah favours only those who do not deviate from the guidance given by Allah, through His prophets. There is no such thing as a favoured nation, as the Israelis think of themselves even to this day. To gain Allah's favour it is absolutely essential to follow His guidance and live accordingly.
The real history of the Jewish people starts with Isaac, but it is from the time of arrival of Joseph and his family in Egypt that we begin to see things more clearly. The Qur'an is characteristically not concerned with dates but rather with the moral side of the story of Joseph (Yusuf) which is beautifully illustrated and occupies the whole of Sura 12.
At the time of Moses the Jewish people were obviously well established in Egypt, and were certainly being persecuted, but the Qur'an does not elaborate on the period that elapses between the time of Joseph and the arrival of Moses. Instead, it goes into great detail about the sort of persecution the Jewish people were undergoing and how Allah - through the Prophet Moses - saved the Jewish people by taking them out of Egypt, destroying Pharaoh and his people at the same time. The story of Moses is a beautiful example of the way the Almighty carries out His plan in the face of overwhelming odds. This story has great similarity with the Biblical story of Exodus with one fundamental difference: that the body of the drowning Pharaoh was saved by the Will of Allah from destruction to become a sign for humanity. As stated clearly in the Qur'an:
(10:90, 91) And we brought the Children of Israel across the sea, and Pharaoh with his hosts pursued them in rebellion and transgression till, when the (fate of) drowning overtook him, he exclaimed: I believe that there is no God save Him in Whom the Children of Israel believe, and I am of those who surrender (unto Him). What! Now! When hitherto thou hast rebelled and been of the wrong-doers? But this day We save thee in thy body that thou mayest be a sign for those after thee. Lo! most mankind are heedless of Our signs.
I quote further from Dr. Maurice Bucaille: 'It is always desirable for man to apply himself to the preservation of relics of his history, but here we have something which goes beyond that: it is the material presence of the mummified body (discovered in 1898) of the man who knew Moses, resisted his pleas, pursued him as he took flight, and lost his life in the process. His earthly remains were saved by the Will of God from destruction to become a sign for man, as it is written in the Qur'an. Those who seek among modern data for the proof of the veracity of the Holy Scriptures will find a magnificent illustration of verses of the Qur'an dealing with the Pharaoh's body by visiting the Royal Mummies Room of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo!'5
According to the Qur'an Moses received the Message from Allah directly. The major part of Sura 20 is an exchange between him and Allah. The Qur'an also mentions that the Jews were originally the chosen people of Allah, but they broke their Covenant with Allah several times and were eventually cursed. A good example of this is when Moses was called to the mountains for 40 days to receive the Tablets inscribed with commandments from Allah. While Moses was away his people became bored, making a golden calf by melting their jewellery, which they then began to worship. They did this while ignoring all pleas from Aron (Harun), the brother of Moses. When Moses returned and found that his people had resorted to idolatry he became very angry. He chastised them for their lapse, but eventually asked for forgiveness from Allah on their behalf. This time, as well as on many other occasions, Allah forgave them.
(7:148-150) And of the folk of Moses, after (he had left them), chose a calf (for worship), (made) out of their ornaments, of saffron hue, which gave a lowing sound. Saw they not that it spake not unto them nor guided them to any way? They chose it, and became wrong-doers. And when they feared the consequences thereof and saw that they had gone astray, they said: Unless our Sustainer have mercy on us, we verily are the lost. And when Moses returned unto his people, angry and grieved, he said: Evil is that (course) which ye took after I had left you. Would ye hasten on the judgement of your Sustainer? And he cast down the tablets, and seized his brother by the head, dragging him toward him. He said: Son of my mother! the folk did judge me weak and almost killed me. Oh, make not mine enemies to triumph over me and place not me among the evil doers!
(7:152-156) Lo, those who chose the calf (for worship), terror and humiliation from their Sustainer will come upon them in the life of the world. Thus do we requite those who invent a lie. But those who do ill deeds and afterward repent and believe -- lo! for them, afterward, Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Then, when the anger of Moses abated, he took up the tablets, and in their inscription there was guidance and mercy for all those who fear their Sustainer. And Moses chose of his people seventy men for Our appointed meeting place and, when the trembling came on them, he said: O my Sustainer! If You had willed, You could have destroyed them long before, and me with them. Will You destroy us for that which the ignorant among us did? It is but Your trial (of us). You send astray whom You will and guide whom You will. You are our Protecting Friend, therefore, forgive us and have mercy on us, You are the Best of all who show forgiveness. And ordain for us in this world that which is good, and in the Hereafter (that which is good). We have repented to you. Allah said: My retribution befalls whomsoever I will and, and My mercy embraces all things, therefore I shall ordain it for those who ward off (evil) and invest in Zakat, and those who believe in Our revelations.
Eventually Allah withdrew all favours from the Israelis because of the constant breaking of their Covenant with Allah. The following verses which are typical of the many similar verses, give the reasons for withdrawal of Allah's favour from the Jewish people.
(5:12,13) Allah made a Covenant of old with the Children of Israel and We raised among them twelve chieftains, and Allah said: Lo! I am with you. If ye establish worship and invest in Zakat, and believe in My messengers and support them, and lend unto Allah a goodly loan, surely I shall remit your sins, and surely I shall bring you into gardens underneath which rivers flow. Whoso among you disbelieveth after this will go astray from a plain road. And because of their breaking their covenant, We have cursed them and made hard their hearts, they change words from their context and forget a part of that whereof they were admonished. Thou wilt not cease to discover treachery from all save a few of them. But bear with them and pardon them. Lo! Allah loveth the kindly.
(4:161) And of their taking usury when they were forbidden it, and of their devouring people's wealth by false pretences. We have prepared for those of them who disbelieve a painful doom.
(5:66) If they had observed the Torah and the Gospel (Injil) and that which was revealed unto them from their Sustainer, they would surely have been nourished from above them and from beneath their feet. Among them are people who are moderate, but many of them are of evil conduct.
It was during the time of Solomon that the Jewish people attained their greatest prosperity after which they disintegrated, and to this day they would have remained so but for the creation of Israel with the tacit backing of the UK and the USA. The present conflict in Palestine is unlikely to be resolved unless there is some compromise from the Israeli side. This is unlikely to happen if one looks at some of the Mosaic laws (see section 18.5 iii). By taking advantage of its strong position (see also chapter 12, section 12.2.i , 4th paragraph), Israel, with U.S. backing, is driving the Palestinians into virtual slavery. In the long run this will bring the Israelis down, for simply going against the laws of Allah.
Jesus was sent not only to reform the Jewish people from their deviation from the path of Allah but also to bring back the universal message of the unity of mankind and this particular feature of his preaching made the Jewish people antagonistic to Jesus. It was their firm belief that they were the favoured people of Allah and that their Scripture, the Torah, confirmed it.
Allah sent the Gospel (Injil) through Jesus to put mankind back on the true path. The writings we have which appeared from 70 (C.E. Christian Era) onwards were based on oral traditions and were written by several people at different periods of time. Enevitably, given their distance in time from the real Jesus, the personal bias of each writer came into their writings. Many works with many countless contradictions between them were in circulation. Eventually, four works from this number were arbitrarily canonised, which today are known as the Gospels. These four works are certainly not the same Gospel (Injil) of Jesus as mentioned in the Qur'an.
Modern biblical scholars are also of the opinion that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are not the authors of the four Gospels but rather titles attributed to compilations of diverse materials already collected by others. Obviously, the possibility clearly exists that in the process of compiling these doubtful works, ideas directly repugnant to the preaching of Jesus entered the text (see chapter 18). The so-called Gospels contain many contradictions, one prime example being the purported ascension of Jesus. Neither 'Matthew' nor 'John' speak of Jesus' ascension. 'Luke' mentions the ascension with reference to time, whereas 'Mark' does not give any clue as to when this occurrence was supposed to have happened.
Considered literally, the birth of Jesus without his mother Mary having had any physical relationship with a man appears to be a miracle. However, to explain further we need to consider the circumstances in which Mary grew up. From her very childhood she was living in a sanctuary under the guardianship of Zacharias (3:37). Below, I quote from The Holy Qur'an by Maulana Muhammad Ali, who in his commentary on his translation, says the following:
'Verse 3:45 clearly gives her news of the birth of a child and therefore the particular incident referred to in 3:44 is the incident of her marriage. The casting of lots and the contention as to who would have her in his charge could not mean anything but her charge as a wife. Lots were evidently cast because as a child she had been dedicated to the sanctuary (temple), and it is now by a lot only that she could be given away in marriage.6
'Thus in verse (3:45) quoted below, when she was given the good news of a son being born to her, she was perhaps not informed that her marriage had been decided. Hence, she says that man had not touched her yet. And she was told in reply, 'Even so'; i.e., the child will be born by Allah bringing about the circumstances which result in the birth of a child. The words do not show that she would conceive out of the ordinary course of nature. Nor do the words that follow prove anything beyond the simple fact that Mary must give birth to a son in accordance with the prophecy. The whole of creation is brought about, we are told again and again, by the divine word Kun (Be), yet no one supposes that creation is not brought about according to the laws of nature.7
(3:45-47) (And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous. She said: O my Sustainer! How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? (The angel) answered: Thus it is: Allah creates what He wills: when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, 'Be' -- and it is.
'It is remarkable that the Qur'an makes no mention at all of Mary's husband, and in this respect, these circumstances bear a strong resemblance to those connected with Moses' birth, for there, too, no mention at all is made of Moses' father. The mere fact, therefore, that there is no mention of Jesus' father is not sufficient to show that Jesus had no father.'8
Note: 'Speak unto mankind from cradle' could be an allegorical way of saying that Jesus would preach from an early age (see also 19:29-34). As far as his birth is concerned, the verses remain allegorical as with our present state of knowledge we cannot fully explain them. The following verses fall into the same category:
(3:48, 49) And He will teach him the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel (Injil). And will make him a messenger unto the children of Israel, (saying) Lo! I come unto you with a sign from your Sustainer. Lo! I fashion for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, and I breathe into it and it is a bird, by Allah's leave. I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I raise the dead, by Allah's leave. And I announce unto you what ye eat and what ye store up in your houses. Lo! herein verily is a portent for you, if ye are to be believers.
Muhammad Asad in his translation of the Qur'an gives some explanation of these from which I quote his footnote 38.
It is probable that the 'raising of the dead' by Jesus is a metaphorical description of his giving new life to people who were spiritually dead; cf. (6:122) - 'Is then he who is dead [in spirit], and whom We thereupon gave life, and for whom We set up a light whereby he can see his way among men - [is he then] like unto one [who is lost] in darkness deep, out of which he cannot emerge?' If this interpretation is -- as I believe -- correct, then the 'healing of the blind and the leper' has a similar significance: namely, an inner regeneration of people who were spiritually diseased and blind to the truth.9
The Qur'an contains many verses on the prophethood of Jesus.
(3:50,51) And (I come) confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Sustainer, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me. Lo! Allah is my Sustainer and your Sustainer, so worship Him. That is a straight path.
(61:14) O ye who believe! Be Allah's helpers, even as Jesus, son of Mary, said unto the disciples: Who are my helpers for Allah? They said: We are Allah's helpers. And a party of the Children of Israel believed, while a party disbelieved. Then We strengthened those who believed against their foe, and they became the uppermost.
(3:52) But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We will be Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah, and bear thou witness that we have surrendered (unto Him).
(3:54,55) And they (the disbelievers) schemed and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of the schemers. Lo! Allah said: O Jesus! Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shall exalt thee unto Me, and cleanse thee of (the presence of) those who are bent on denying the truth, and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. In the end, unto Me you all must return, and I shall judge between you with regard to all on which you were wont to differ.
'The disbelievers schemed' -- here referring to those among the Jews who refused to acknowledge Jesus as a prophet and secretly plotted to crucify him. Allah on the other hand, devised the means to protect him. He assured Jesus that he would fulfil his mission and die a natural death. His followers were weak, but eventually they were to overcome their enemies and become victorious. In fact, verse 61:14 above confirms that Jesus completed his mission. In other words he established the Deen and his followers were Muslims. But with time, the message again became corrupted due to human interference, and the followers not only deviated from the true path but became divided into sects.
(5:46) And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him in the Torah, and We bestowed on him the Gospel (Injil) wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah - a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil).
(4:171) O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not 'Three' - Cease! (it is) better for you! -- Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.
(5:72) They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary. The Messiah (himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Sustainer and your Sustainer. Lo! whoso ascribeth partners unto Allah, for him Allah hath forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. For evil-doers there will be no helpers.
(5:75) The Messiah, son of Mary, was none other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And they both used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away!
(5:116) And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy Mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of Things Hidden.
(61:6) And when Jesus, son of Mary, said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name shall be Ahmad (the Praised One). Yet when he hath come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic.
In the above verse the name Ahmad refers to the coming of Prophet Muhammad. I quote: 'This prediction is supported by several references in the Gospel of St. John to the Parakletos (usually rendered as 'Comforter') who was to come after Jesus. This designation is almost certainly a corruption of Periklytos (the much Praised, an exact Greek translation of the Aramaic term or name Mawhamana [...]'10
Jesus' ministry lasted about three years. The end of his life on earth is as much a mystery as his birth. The Qur'an (in verse 4: 157 given below) says categorically that Jesus was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, in spite of certain apparent circumstances which produced that illusion. The Christian Churches make it a cardinal point of their doctrine that Jesus died on the Cross and was buried, but on the third day he rose in the body with his wounds intact, and walked about and conversed, and ate with his disciples, and was afterwards taken up bodily to heaven. Also, in the course of time a legend grew up that Jesus had died on the cross in order to atone for the 'Original Sin' with which mankind is allegedly burdened. The Qur'an does not agree with any of these points.
(4:157) And because of their (i.e. Jews') saying: We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it (i.e. Christians) are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge save pursuit of conjecture; they (i.e. Jews) slew him not for certain.
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) 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.
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