Q / A
41. Criteria for True Prophethood
Some people compare Joseph Smith (the reported prophet of Mormonism) with Muhammad (peace be upon him) the prophet of Islam. Both have stories saying that they received revelations from an angel. How do we respond, when making da`wah, to the question of: why Muslims can believe that Muhammad received revelations from an angel, and not that a man named Joseph Smith received revelations from one?
Joseph Smith is only one of scores of figures along history, who alleged to receive revelations or visions from a heavenly source (God, some imaginary gods, or from humans given the status of gods … etc). Each claimed to be the sole genuine prophet or messenger to his people or race, or to all peoples. Yet, there are as well a long string of true prophets, who were sent with the same true guidance from the same True One God (Arabic: Allah). How can we differentiate between true and false prophets? Only by solid tangible consistent evidence can we accept a claim for receiving a revelation, or for carrying a genuinely divine message. The posed question invites a comparison between two personalities in sharp contrast, not only in character and history but most importantly in the validity, strength and permanence of their evidence.
No evidence is there for the alleged revelation to JS (Joseph Smith) through a "Moroni" angel, nor to the visitation made to him by the so-called "god-father" and "god-son"; as well as Moses, Abraham, Christian apostle …etc; except for the self-conflicting testimonies of the claimant J S himself! According to story, his "Book of Mormons" is a translation of a sacred text engraved on gold plates, written in some claimed "Egyptian language", by ancient Hebrews who allegedly sailed and found their way to America around the time of Babylonian captivity. The "English translation" was done by JS with the help of a dubious "Urim and Thumim" instrument!, together with his gazing through the plates using a hunting "seer stone"! The sole witness of this amazing story was JS, who later claimed that eleven people have "had a look at the plates". The mystery plates have since disappeared, and the claimed "witnesses" have never been examined by anybody. The claimed-to-be revealed "word of God" has been repeatedly and radically changed by JS and by the following "Mormon prophets". The different "versions" are full of mistakes, both in language and in subject content. Much of the stories and doctrines in that book, plus the other Mormon sacred book, "Doctrine and Covenants" are in conflict with facts of history, geography, science and common sense. Most prophecies therein have never been fulfilled. Samples of the Mormon beliefs are: that God was once a man like us!, has a tangible body of flesh and bones!, and lives on a planet near the imaginary star "Kolob"!; that there are many gods, ruling over their own worlds!; that Jesus and Satan ("Lucifer") are brothers!, and "God" ("Jehovah") in the Old Testament is the same being named "Jesus" in the New Testament; and that a dark skin is a curse from God, the result of our sins, or the sins of our ancestors! If sufficiently righteous, a dark-skinned person would turn light-skinned!
In full contrast, the text of the Qur'an, revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) through the Angel Gabriel, out as a sweeping and everlasting proof to its self-truth, and to the truth of its revelation from the Creator (SWT). The proof is two-fold, i.e. regarding the relation between the Prophet and the Qur'anic text on the one hand, amd regarding the unique structure, style and subject content of the Qur'an on the other hand.
A- Prophet and the Qur'an: Events from the biography of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) prove that his role did not exceed the limits of receiving, comprehending, and memorizing the Qur’anic text; which he then conveyed, clarified, interpreted and applied; for the following few reasons:
- The manner of addressing the Prophet: The Holy Qur’an repeatedly directed and drew the Prophet's attention to his obligations towards Allah, the revelation, the believers, and the unbelievers. The Prophet was also repeatedly exhorted and warned against yielding to temptations and pressures surrounding him. In addition, the Holy Qur’an included admonitions directed to him in some situations, or revealed matters that he would have preferred to keep secret in the depths of his pure soul. It is difficult for a sound mind to imagine that a false claimant to prophecy would "address himself" with the aim of guidance, exhortation, warning, and admonishment; or that he would disclose his personal secret thoughts. Nor could one believe that the he would then also include and finally keep all this in the Qur'an, to remain there forever.
- The Prophet’s Stance towards Revelation: On several occasions, the revelation was delayed while he was in desperate need for guidance, clarification or a conclusive answer to an issue or a situation; or to refute the arguments of his opponents. Both the Qur'an and the Prophet repeatedly declared and emphasized that he did not possess knowledge of the unseen, except that which was revealed to him. On several occasions, when the Prophet used his own discretion to interpret some verses or to take a certain decision, the revelation was sent down contradicting or abrogating his opinion.
- Any alternative source?: The impossibility of the Prophet having received the revelation from any human source; neither from the pagans and the illiterate Arabs of his time, nor from Biblical sources. No Arab version of the Bible was ever available before the 10th century CE. In addition, the genuinely revealed Qur’an did actually correct the Jeudo-Christian misconceptions, and did criticize and highlight the deviations of those their invented human scriptures from the original Torah and Injeel (Gospel) revealed to Moses and Jesus, respectively.
B- Nature of the Qur'an:
- Inimitability of the Arabic Holy Qur'an: The inability of anyone, throughout history, to bring a similitude to that superb text, or even to one of its Surahs (Chapters) is an established fact. This is a standing challenge to the Day of Judgment.Its splendid composition is different from the ordinary language of the Arabs, whether poetry or prose. Its style even distinctly differs from that of its conveyer, Muhammad (SAWS).
- The integrity Holy Qur'an: It was revealed during 23 years in independent portions (one or more verses, or a complete Surah) according to events and necessity. So, narratives that had different significances were revealed at separate times and in various circumstances. Yet, when these portions later took their place in different chapters, each did form one flowing narration of a style unique to that chapter. A human source, authoring such a lengthy and diverse text (in terms of subject and timing), could definitely fall into disconnection, contradiction, and differences; as he had to decide beforehand the appropriate prospective place of every part. The perpetual and accurate accordance of coming events with the rhetorical unity of the revealed Surahs (Chapters) is a clear proof that revealing the Holy Qur’an and causing all coming events emanate from one single source; and also that the One who revealed the Holy Qur’an with His Knowledge is the same One who created such creatures with His Will.
- The nature of the Qur’anic address: There is a great diversity in the manners of address (even within a single verse), in a way that accords with narration, such as to accurately fit the situation and the status of the speaker and addressee (Allah, the Prophet, people in general or certain groups, a third person pronoun for things, individuals, or groups). One cannot fail to grasp that the address of the Qur'an – from cover to cover – is directed from a source, external to the Prophet. Also, one cannot fail to realize the Majesty and Glory of the Speaker, Allah. It is psychologically impossible for a human being to pretend or to precisely imitate such a style and manner of address, throughout the whole of the Qur’anic text.
- Accordance with facts of science and history: Certain verses of the Qur'an that have stated or pointed to some modern scientific facts and concepts, as well as fulfilled prophecies, in unequivocally precise terms. Such facts and concepts were beyond the reach of human knowledge at the time of revelation and for centuries thereafter. This establishes beyond doubt that the source of Qur'an is : Superior to mankind, Absolutely Knowledgeable, and Most Truthful. Such perfection can only be possessed by the Creator of this infinite universe the One God Allah, Glorified and Exalted is He.
In this brief analysis, we focused on non-personal aspects of comparisons between the cases of JS and the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS). You can read more on the contrast between the two personalities in the suggested links.