No Doubt About It!
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 Islam's opponents, have tried to dispute the Quran's
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 Prophet's scribes,
Zayed ibn Thabit, upon the order of the first Caliph Abu Bakr within two years
of the Prophet's 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 memorized 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
[Noble Quran 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 memorized and written down by his wives and companions,
and passed down until they were collected in the more famous books of hadith
some two to three hundred years after the Hijrah.. The body of hadith literature
has not enjoyed, quite unjustly, the same general acceptance of authenticity
as the Quran. This is simply because the means by which the hadith became
preserved was a longer and more complicated affair than that of the Quran,
and therefore became a relatively easier target of attack by Islam's 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 hadith
such Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim and the Sunan of Abu Dawud, did not
appear until just over two hundred years the Hijrah. Those who compiled the
books were not themselves eye-witnesses. Many hadith within the entire body
of hadith 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 hadith 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 hadith
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 Prophet's 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 hadith transmitters began to write the
names of all those who attended their lectures. No one was allowed to narrate
a hadith on that lecturer's authority unless he attended the lecture in which
that hadith 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 hadith. Thus every available method was
used to ensure that when the scholars of the sciences of hadith 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 God's 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, what's 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 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 therefore completely the
same, yet somehow different) not making three Gods but only One! Moreover
the Christian has been asked to believe that mankind's 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
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!'"
[Noble Quran 67:6-10]
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 Creator's 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 favor of Islam's 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.