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Second Problem: The Advent of the Prophets

If we admit the existence of the prophetic mission, by putting the idea of possibility, which is in fact ignorance, in place of certainty, and make miracles a proof of the truth of man who claims to be a prophet it becomes necessary that they should not be used by a person, who says that they can be performed by others than prophets, as the Mutakallimun do. They think that the miracles can be performed by the magicians and saints. The condition which they attach with them is that miracles prove a man to be a prophet, when he at the same time claims to be so, for the true prophet can perform them as opposed to the false ones. This is an argument without any proof, for it can be understood either by hearing or reason That is, it is said that one whose claims to prophecy are wrong, cannot perform miracles, but as we have already said, when they cannot be performed by a liar, then they can only be done by the good people, whom God has meant for this purpose. These people, if they speak a lie, are not good, and hence cannot perform the miracles. But this does not satisfy the people who think miracles to be possible from the magicians, for they certainly are not good men. It is here that the weakness of the argument lies. Hence some people have thought that the best thing is to believe that they cannot be performed but by the prophets.

It is clear to you from the life of the prophet, peace be upon him, that he never invited any man or community to believe in his prophecy, and that which he has brought with him from God, by means of the performance of any miracles in support of his claim, such as changing one element into another. Whatever miracles did appear from him were only performed in the natural course of things, without on his part any intention of contention or competition. The following words of the Qur’an will make this clear “And they say: We will by no means believe in you, until you cause a spring of water to gush forth for us out of the earth, and you have a garden of palm-trees and vines, and you cause rivers to spring forth from the midst thereof in abundance; or you cause the heaven to fall down in pieces upon us, as you have given out, or you bring down God and the angels to vouch for you; or you have a house of gold, or you ascend by a ladder to heaven; neither will we believe your ascending there alone, until you cause a book to descend unto us, bearing witness of you which we may read. Answer: My Lord be praised, Am I other than a man sent as an apostle?” [Qur’an 17.92-95]. Then again, “Nothing hindered us from sending you with miracles, except that the former nations have charged them with imposture” [Qur’an 17.61].

The thing by which we invited the people to believe in him, and with which he vied with them is the Qur’an. For, says God, “Say, verily, if men and jinn were purposely assembled, that they might produce a book like this Qur’an, they could not produce one like unto it, although the one of them assigned the other” [Qur’an 17.90]. Then further, he says, “will they say, He hath forged the Qur’an? Answer, bring therefore ten chapters like unto it forged by yourself” [Qur’an 11.16]. This being the case the miracle of the Prophet with which he vied with the people and which he advanced as an argument for the truth of his claim to the prophetic mission, was the Qur’an. If it be said that this is quite clear, but how does it appear that the Qur’an is a mirage, and that it proves his prophecy, while just now we have proved the weakness of the proof of prophecy by means of miracles without any exceptions in the case of any prophet. Besides, the people have differed in taking the Qur’an to be a miracle at all. For in their opinion one of the conditions of a miracle is that it should be quite different from any act which may have become habitual. But the Qur’an is of this sort, because it is only words, though it excels all created words. So it becomes a miracle by its superiority only, that is, the impossibility for people bringing anything like it, on account of its being highly eloquent. This being the case, it differs from the habitual, not in genus but in details only, and that which differs in this way is of the same genus.

Some people say that it is a miracle by itself, and not by its superiority. They do not lay it down as a condition for miracles that they should be quite different from the habitual, but think that it should be such a habitual act, as men may fall short of accomplishing. We would reply that it is as the objectors say, but the thing about it is not as they have thought. That the Qur’an is an evidence of his prophecy, is based, we believe, upon two principles, which are found in the Book itself. The first being that the existence of the class of men called prophets and apostles is well-known. They are the men who lay down laws for the people by divine revelation, and not by human education. Their existence can be denied only by the people who deny repeated action, as the existence of all things which we have not seen — the lives of the famous thinkers and so forth. All the philosophers, and other men are agreed, except those who pay no regard to their words, (and they are the Materialists), that there are men to whom have been revealed many commandments for the people, to perform certain good actions, by which their beatitude may be perfected; and to make them give up certain wrong beliefs and vicious actions. This is the business of divine apostles.

The second principle is, that everyone who does this work, that is, lays down laws by revelation, is a prophet. This principle is also quite in accordance with human nature. For as it is known that the business of medicine is to cure a disease, and one who can cure is a physician, so it is also known that the business of the prophets is to give law to the people by divine revelation, and one who does so is a prophet. The Book mentions the first principle in the following: “Verily We have revealed Our will unto you, as We have revealed it unto Noah, and the prophets who succeeded him, and We have revealed it unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob, and the tribes, and unto Jesus, and Job, and Jonas, and Aaron and Solomon; and we have given you the Qur’an as We gave the Psalms unto David; some apostles have We sent, whom We have mentioned unto you, and God spoke unto Moses discoursing with him” [Qur’an 4.161-162], and again: “Say, I am not alone among the apostles” [Qur’an 46.8].

The second principle is that Mohammed, peace be upon him, has done the work of a prophet, that is, has given Law to the people by divine revelation. This also can be known from the Qur’an, where God mentions it. He says, “O men, now is an evident proof come unto you from your Lord, and We have sent down unto you manifest light” [Qur’an 4.173]. By manifest light is meant the Qur’an. Again He says, “O men, now is the apostle come unto you from your Lord; believe, therefore, it will be better for you” [Qur’an 4.168], and again, “But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and faithful, who believe in that which has been sent down unto you, and that which has been sent down unto the prophets before you” [Qur’an 4.160]; and again “God is the witness of the revelation which He has sent down unto you; He sent it down with his special knowledge; the angels are also witness thereof; but God is a sufficient witness” [Qur’an 4.164].

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