Authenticity of the Quran and Proofs that it is a Revelation from Allah
By Abdur-Raheem Green
The Muslim world is at present a patchwork of competing nation sates, ruled by political, social and judicial systems that can by no means be termed "Islamic". Indeed in many of these countries there are laws in direct opposition to what has been revealed by Allah to His Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him,. It seems the only Islamic quality about some of these nations is that they happen to have Muslims in them. A large portion of the Muslim World has, for the last two hundred years, been under the occupation, or protectorate, of one or another of the European powers, who gradually dispensed with the Shareeah (Islamic Law) and supplemented it with various Western systems. After gaining so called independence these alien political and judicial systems remained, or were replaced by other Western influenced hybrids. The Nationalism of Attaturk in Turkey, the Baathism of Iraq and Syria, the Pan-Arab Nationalistic Socialism of Egypts Jamal Abdel-Nasr, and its various offshoots such as Qaddafis "Islamic Socialism". All of these movements freely used Islamic slogans when, and if, it suited their aims. The simple multitudes were caught up in the fervor of the new found "freedom", and in order to maintain it they were told they must "modernise". To the so-called intellectual elite this meant abandoning everything from the past, and taking on board everything that was new. Thus the Modernist movement arose, lead by the likes of Muhammad Abdu, that explained away every miracle of the Prophet, peace be upon him, and even many of the basic acts of worship. For the first time riba (dealing usury/interest) was legalised and the adoption of Western dress and lifestyles was encouraged. They tried to make all of this acceptable by bypassing the traditional methods of Islamic scholarship for personal itjihad (i.e. juristic reasoning) and interpretation of the texts.
For others, Islam itself was merely an enemy to progress, especially in the Soviet Union where veils were burnt, mosques demolished and scholars exiled to Siberia - or executed. Street walls were painted with the words: "There is no God and Lenin is His Prophet". In many places throughout the Muslim World mosques, became empty, and women walked in mini-skirts on the street. Then things started to change. In the face of Western and Communist power, medicine and technological wizardry, of men on the moon and aircraft that could circle the globe in days, of weapons of mass destruction that combined were able to destroy the world seventeen times over, the computer chip and nations that seemed to have reached unrivaled material prosperity and personal freedom, there was a gradual, yet unavoidably noticeable return to Islam. Not, mind you, only by the uneducated, impoverished peasants, but the educated, prosperous, middle classes. Furthermore, this was not merely a return to the mosque five times a day, and the veil for the woman, but a call for Islam in its TOTALITY - to be re-implemented once again. For indeed the reality that Islam makes no distinction between the private and public, between the religious and political, had been apparent to Muslim scholars long before the The Economists survey deemed to point it out. Indeed it was obvious that the situation within the Muslim countries, with their hybrid socio-judicial-political systems, was in contradiction to the very essence of Islam itself! So various movements started to seek to bring the Muslims back to the correct state of affairs. This of course met with some considerable opposition from the various governments supporting such systems. This opposition was, and still is, often brutal in the extreme. These governments received either direct, or tacit approval from their Western and Communist overseers, who in reality were more aware of the potential threat of such a Muslim revival to the status quo, and their own virtual world economic and political domination which they had striven so hard to achieve. The last thing they wanted to see were the Muslims back on their feet. Yet the revival continues . . .
Perhaps the reason why the rise in Islamic fundamentalism has been so phenomenal is because the point the fundamentalists are making is so, well, FUNDAMENTAL! After all, once a Muslim has become aware that believing in the validity of laws and ways other than those ordained by Allah is to commit the unforgivable sin of shirk, then, as the Quran states:
"It is not for a believing man or woman, once Allah and His Messenger have decided on a matter to have any choice therein" (Surah al-Azhab 33:36) . . .
". . .and their response is none else than we hear and we obey" (Surah an-Nur 24:51).
Indeed, that is exactly what makes a Muslim what he or she is: someone who submits him or herself to Will of Almighty God. Of course the incompetence, corruption and brutality of the governments, the inevitable failure of their ideologies, and their frequent national and international humiliation has made the task of the fundamentalist easier. Yet it is naive to presume that this alone has given impetus to the rise in fundamentalism. Surely, if anything, the poor and desperate condition of the Muslim masses should drive them more earnestly to "modernization", "Westernization" and "Democracy", of which their countries have hardly been shinning examples! Indeed, even the most common peasant sees daily a barrage of images on the television screen (that has become as essential as a bed in even the most humble households) portraying the materialistic success of the Western World!
The true reasons for this persistent rise in Islamic awareness are not at all those to which Western analysts constantly refer. The reason for their inability to understand this phenomena is part due to their submergence in the purely material. Science and the Theory of Evolution has given them, so they believe, proof that man is at most no more that an advanced animal, a progressive monkey, and mans basic needs are little different, fundamentally, to those of our supposed ancestors: food, drink, sleep, safety from predators and sex. Satisfy these, and man should be content. The Muslim World still has, by and large, kept more in touch with the reality of the human condition: that happiness is not at all merely a material thing, but in fact something more profound, and that understanding this is as important, perhaps more important, to the well being of the human condition, than mere material gratification. The evil results of this materialistic attitude is all too apparent in the rotting social conditions of Western society. Its effects have also become apparent in the Muslim lands themselves.
The second reason that the Islamic revival has proved so popular is that it is obvious to many of the Muslims, especially the more literate and educated, that the West itself does not really believe in democracy, or indeed any of those ideals, such as Freedom of Speech, Human Rights and so on, which it claims to cherish so dearly - except when it suits their self-interest. Both of these points of view are not confined to the Muslim fundamentalists. Indeed a growing number of Westerners are beginning to voice similar sentiments. In fact, past defeats, the need to prove oneself, incompetent and corrupt governments is hardly an explanation for the phenomenal rise of Islam among Westerners. Recent estimates have, on average, put the numbers at three converts to Islam every day in England alone. The rise is even higher in the U.S., and all this in spite of the incessant distortions and fabrications against Islam by politicians and the media. Indeed in those very countries were Islam is growing most visibly (Egypt and Algeria), the government, radio, T.V. and press are all firmly controlled by the Secularists. In spite of all of this, millions and millions are dying (sometimes literally) to go back to a book fourteen hundred years old. How can this be? Surely science and reason has dealt a death blow to the Quran and Islam, the same way it has the Bible and Christianity? It seems not, and there are good reasons why!
This brings us on to the third reason, and in fact the most important of all, why there is a phenomenal growth in fundamentalism, and that is Islam itself. As the The Economist article said: " . . . there is good reason why the culture of the Muslim world is regarded by many people as the Wests only real ideological competitor at the end of the twentieth century. Unlike the Confucians-and even more unlike Latin Americans, Slavs and Japanese - Islam claims to be based upon a transcendental certainty. The certainty is the Word of God, revealed syllable by syllable to Muhammad" . . . "As a means of binding a civilization together, there is no substitute for such a certainty. More-over, and this is not happening anywhere else - new recruits are flocking to join this claim to certainty" (p. 4, c. 2).
Why is it then that the survey does not, before its call for Muslims to practically abandon their religion and commit the unforgivable sin of Shirk - by replacing the laws of Allah with the laws of men - simply illustrate the Quran is not the Word of God, or at least some good parts of it, so that a few adjustments hear and there would only be in tune with what has happened before. After all, this has already been thoroughly accomplished with the Bible. Recently some of worlds top Biblical scholars delegated a good seventy percent of the words of Jesus as never having been said by him, and priests with impunity state that sections of the Bible, such as Gods destruction of homosexuals in Sodom and Gomorrah, are not from God. Indeed science and modern Biblical scholarship has cast so much doubt upon the authenticity of the Biblical text as a whole that a derogatory term was coined for those who persisted in the untenable position that it was the "Word of God": Fundamentalists! Indeed the Christian fundamentalists claim about the Bible what the Muslims claim concerning the Quran. Why could the Christian claim not prove an equally powerful force, and a similar ideological competitor? The reason is that merely making a claim is no basis for anything. The claim needs to be proven, and the weight of evidence gives the claim force. It is very hard for the Christian to maintain the claim that the Bible is the Word of God, because the evidence belies it. The illusion of "Gospel" truth was maintained in the Middle Ages because it was only available to very few, and they were priests! Others were forbidden by Papal Decree from reading it, sometimes on pain of death. With the spread of literacy and the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment, the Bible reached the hands of the people. Its internal contradictions and scientific discrepancies became apparent and thus it gradually became discredited.
The Modern Worlds claim to certainty is science which, it claims, has been the cause for advancement in medicine and technology. Its results are proof of its worth, and the results have been achieved under the wing of democracy. Thus the two are intertwined. One of the other arguments in favour of democracy is the lack of major conflict between those democratic nations for the past fifty years, and another is the material prosperity it seems to have provided. Indeed, it was in the The Economist where I recall reading that "the Western nations have, more than any other civilization, succeeded in satisfying the material needs of man". All powerful arguments. Thus there is a claim, and evidence provided to support it. ( We shall, inshallah, examine the validity of these claims later.) However things do not stop there. From the claim and subsequent supporting evidence, the ideology should then be implemented, otherwise the author of the survey would not be so audacious as to suggest that anyone (let alone the World of Islam) should adopt his ideas, merely because of his say so! He believes the weight of evidence in support of the Modern Way of Life is sufficient to give his suggestions force. Part of what makes democracy what it is, is the spirit of compromise and pragmatics: quite rational in the light of human ignorance and fallibility. The problem is that the The Economist survey somehow expects Islam to operate within a similar frame work. Islam, however, is built upon the certainty that it is revealed by Almighty God. This has consequences, the most important being that Allah is not ignorant and fallible like the human being, rather He is All-Knowing and completely perfect, and therefore when it comes to His Word there can be no question of compromise, nor a philosophy of pragmatism except were specifically allowed.
The survey tries to get round this obstacle by putting it all down to a matter of interpretation, but in fact Allah had already pre-empted this supposed loop hole when He revealed Islam fourteen hundred years previously by appointing someone to explain the verses of the Book:
"We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) the Reminder (i.e. the Quran) and we have made you the one to explain it" (Surah an-Nahl 16:44).
So the explanation of the Quranic text is given exclusively to Muhammad, peace be upon him, and things were not left there. The Quran also explains:
"Whoever contends with the Messenger and chooses a path other than the path of the believers, then Allah will leave them in the path they have chosen and land them in Hell what an evil refuge!"
What is this path of the believers? The Prophet, peace be upon him, explained: "That to which I and my companions are upon". The Prophet, peace be upon him, furthermore told the Muslims to cling to his way and the way of the rightly-guided successors. These successors have transmitted the knowledge and the way from generation-to-generation until this day, just as the Prophet, peace be upon him, said they would: "There will always be a group among this Ummah (nation of believers), firm upon the truth, unharmed in their faith by those that oppose them". It is exactly this type of comprehensiveness that makes Islam so frustrating to its critics and so convincing to its adherents, and this comprehensiveness extends through all the various aspects of Islam and its disciplines. The claim of Islam to be based on the certainty that it is from the All-Knowing Creator is no mere claim, but it is rather a claim backed by powerful evidence. Powerful enough for its adherents to prefer it over that offered by the Modern Word!
So what is this evidence that Islam claims to present that is so convincing? The first issue is authenticity. Purity of text is quite vital to the whole spirit of fund. This is because once a text has shown to have been corrupted and altered in order to make it comply with doctrinal or political expediencies, and if there is no reliable means to distinguish the corrupt from the pure, then there is not one passage of that text that cannot be called into question. This is not so easy with a pure and preserved text. This is well understood by the Christian fundamentalists. If it is not the Word of God, then what real value does it posses as guidance, except as a collection of wisdom? Few serious scholars, even from Islams opponents, have tried to dispute the Qurans historical authenticity . Indeed it would be a pointless exercise, since anyone who cares to take a trip to Tashkent (in the former Soviet Union) will find there a complete copy of the Quran written by one of the Prophets scribes, Zayed ibn Thabit, upon the order of the first Caliph Abu Bakr within two years of the Prophets death. The manuscript in Tashkent is a copy of that first manuscript, also written by the hand of the same Zayed, but some twelve years later under the order of Uthman bin Affan, the third Caliph, with the consensus of over fifty companions of the Prophet who also had written portions of the Quran, and also others who had memorised it in toto. This "Uthmanic" Quran, as it later came to known, was accepted without exception by the surviving companions of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as being one and the same that was revealed by Allah to his Final Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him,. One can take any copy of any Quran, from any mosque anywhere in the word and compare it with the mushaf of Zayed, and find it exactly the same - word for word. It is even recited in the same accent in which the Prophet, peace be upon him, recited it. Furthermore Arabic, the language of the Quran, is a living language, and the Book has always been in the hands of the people - not merely the domain of a few priests.
Thus anyone reading the Quran can be certain beyond reasonable doubt that they are reading the same words revealed to Muhammad, peace be upon him, over one thousand four hundred years ago.
"Verily! It is We Who have sent down the Quran and surely, We will guard it" (Surah al-Hijr 15:9).
The reality of the fruition of this statement is a clear sign to mankind, and one of the manifest miracles of the Quran. Moreover this preservation is not limited to only the Quran, but also its explanation, the Sunnah, i.e. the actions, sayings and tacit approvals of the Prophet, peace be upon him,. These were meticulously memorised and written down by his wives and companions, and passed down until they were collected in the more famous books of hadeeth some two to three hundred years after the Hijra.. The body of hadeeth literature has not enjoyed, quite unjustly, the same general acceptance of authenticity as the Quran. This is simply because the means by which the hadeeth became preserved was a longer and more complicated affair than that of the Quran, and therefore became a relatively easier target of attack by Islams enemies. Some Orientalists have even claimed that Hadith authenticity rates the same as the Biblical texts . This is, however a very superficial comparison, even if there are some apparent similarities. For example the major books of hadeeth such Saheeh al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim and the Sunan of Abu Dawood, did not appear until just over two hundred years the Hijra. Those who compiled the books were not themselves eye witnesses. Many hadeeth within the entire body of hadeeth literature are clearly fabricated and of dubious authenticity, and ,as a whole, contain contradictions.
These statements are true in general, but a more detailed study of the history of the preservation of the hadeeth makes it immediately clear that the reality is quite different. Firstly, as we mentioned concerning the Quran, the language of the Prophet, peace be upon him, is preserved. Secondly the major hadeeth books we mentioned were not so much new works as compilations of earlier, smaller ones. There was also a good deal of oral transmission, but the collectors of Prophetic sayings were extremely weary of ensuring that any given narration attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him, could be effectively proven as such. The method by which this was accomplished was through the isnad, or chain of narrators. From the earliest days of Islam after the death of the Prophet, peace be upon him,, various groups arose deviating from the teachings of Islam that had been given to the Prophets Companions. These sects began to invent sayings which they attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him,. So in response the Companions of the Prophet began to demand that anyone transmitting a narration must name which companion they had received it from, and thus the truth of narrator ascertained. The students of the Companions continued this policy, and further safe guards were added as not only the Companions name was needed, but also the next narrator in the chain of transmission . Conditions were laid down for these narrators to be accepted. The scholars differed over some of the conditions, some being stricter than others, but three basic requirements were agreed by all. First the transmitter must be a pious Muslim, secondly they must be known not to forget, thirdly they must not be liars. The next generation of hadeeth transmitters began to write the names of all those who attended their lectures. No one was allowed to narrate a hadeeth on that lecturers authority unless he attended the lecture in which that hadeeth was narrated and its meaning explained. From this developed the books of "Rijal" in which was listed the character, quality of memory, place of habitation, travels, teachers and students, and opinion of other scholars, concerning all the narrators of the hadeeth. Thus every available method was used to ensure that when the scholars of the sciences of hadeeth declared a narration of the Prophet, peace be upon him, as being authentic it was, beyond any reasonable doubt said by him. This methodology is not only used for the Prophetic traditions, but also the sayings of the Companions and the early scholars. Indeed any true scholar must be able to produce the isnad of his teachers back to the Prophet himself!
Along with this textual and contextual authenticity, the Quran itself lays down claims to prove its veracity as Gods revealed Words. Of course, "proof" is a big word, especially when it comes to God or religion, especially for the Western mind, programmed by two thousand years of Christianity, which seems to think that religion is supposed to be mysterious and incomprehensible. The idea that God and revelation are not only compatible with reason, but also can be proven, is often met with incredulity. After all, whats the point? If you can prove it where does faith come in? This is because the Christian world has been taught that "faith" means believing the unbelievable without any proof. This is manifest in the that nonsense called the Trinity, and all the theological contortions surrounding it. Christians are expected to believe that black is white and yet still black, or in their terms, that the Invisible, Self-Sufficient, Un-Changing, Omnipotent and Omniscient Creator became a visible, needy, mortal, fallible creature who was killed on a cross, and this man was still the Invisible, Self-Sufficient, Un-Changing, Omnipotent and Omniscient Creator - completely God and completely man. Of course anyone with a mind will understand that one by necessity precludes the other. Something completely God cannot possibly be, or contain the qualities of, a man, for this would immediately exclude such a being from being truly God. Furthermore, any man that had the qualities of God would no longer be a man. In an attempt to explain the unexplainable the Doctrine of the Trinity was invented: One God made of three entities, each one completely God, (and therefor completely the same, yet somehow different) not making three Gods but only One! Moreover the Christian has been asked to believe that mankinds salvation lies in believing God killed Himself (or His son, or an innocent man, or all three at the same time) as a ransom for a burden of sin - that He placed on all human beings for the sin of Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden tree! The inevitable refuge of the Christian when assaulted with a barrage questions over this muddle is that its all a mystery, and if you want to be saved from Hell you should stop asking so many questions and accept it as an act of faith. Yet it seems rather absurd that the Just Creator would punish anyone for refusing to believe things which are unacceptable and incomprehensible to the very faculties of reason and common sense that He has provided for the human to make their decisions, without providing some strong proof that they should do so!
The Quran, however, chastises mankind for not using their common sense and reasoning powers, and states that their failure to do so is itself a cause of their destruction:
"And for those who disbelieve in their Lord is the torment of Hell, and worst indeed is that destination. When they are cast therein, they will hear the terrible drawing in of its breath as it blazes forth. It almost bursts with fury. Every time a group is cast therein, its keeper will ask: Did no warner come to you? They will say: Yes indeed; a warner did come to us, but we belied him and said: Allah never sent down anything, you are only in great error. And they will say: Had we but listened or used our intelligence, we would not have been among the dwellers of the Fire!" (Surah al-Mulk 67:6-9)
Indeed there is nothing in the theology of Islam that cannot be understood by sound reasoning. In fact it is possible for anyone, anywhere to reach an understanding of the essence of Islam without ever having heard of Muhammad or the Quran. This is because the Creators existence can be readily understood by anyone observing the patterns and intricate mechanisms of the world and universe around us, and that ultimate power and control rests with this Being, and thus is alone truly worthy of worship, and that to worship this Creator one can only rely on Divine guidance. To attempt to do this is Islam, which means sincerity and submission to Allah. This very universality and simplicity is one of the strong arguments in favour of Islams Divine origin. For the Muslim, faith is not a blind leap in the dark against proof and reason, but rather a step taken as a consequence of contemplation, experience, instinct and evidence. Ultimately it does mean a complete acceptance of a single truth, but this is no more blind than the faith of a scientist in a particular theory, or a doctor in form of treatment that has proven itself valid clinically and operationally. It might be compared to the situation in a court, with a jury. Ideally what is supposed to happen is that the jury is presented with a series of evidences concerning a case. When the weight of evidence is so conclusive the jury makes its decision. It is not sufficient for it to say: "Well, we found the evidence really convincing!" In the end it must make a decision, "Guilty!" or "Not guilty!", based on the facts. Similarly in Islam, the Creator presents the human being with a series of conclusive evidences, upon the basis of which the human should declare their faith, and act accordingly.