TOUGH QUESTIONS AND EASY ANSWERS
Questions on the Prophet's married life
Was Prophet Muhammad literate?
What about Satanic Verses?
Contradictions in the Quran?
Is Qur'an the word of God?
The Prophet's Married Life
Q. A Christian missionary Dr. Anis Shorrosh says that the prophet's wives were virtually captives in the prophet's houses. This he says because they were not to be spoken to except from behind a curtain, and because they could not remarry after Muhammad's death (see Dr. Anis Shorrosh, Islam Revealed. US: Thomas Nelson, 1988. p. 64).
A. Dr. Shorrosh is mistaken. First, the wives of the prophet (pbuh) were allowed to go out for their needs as specifically stated in the authentic hadiths although it is true that they were also directed to stay at home except when such need arose.
Second, they were allowed to speak to other women face to face. The curtain applied only in speaking to men. This was not to keep the wives of the prophet captive but, as the Qur'an specifically said, so as to keep purity in their hearts and the hearts of the men who spoke to them. They were not captives but teachers. Men had to continually come to learn from them about the prophet's example. The curtain rule was only to make sure that the wrong type of attraction did not develop between teacher and student.
Third, the fact that the wives of the prophet could not remarry after his death has to be understood in its fuller context. The Qur'an declared them to be the mothers of the believers. It was more of an honour to those women to have billions of spiritual children than to have temporary husbands.
Fourth, while the prophet (pbuh) was alive he offered them to opt for a separation so that they can go their separate ways. They had shown some discontent over the prophet's self-imposed poverty. But when the offer was made they refused to leave the prophet and his poverty. What would they choose after his death?
Fifth, a mother in Islam is more honourable than a wife. After they are already promoted to the respectable position as mother of all the believers why would they want to demote themselves to become wives of their spiritual sons? Dr. Shorrosh needs to look at this broader context in order to properly understand the honourable position of the wives of the prophet (pbuh).
Q. Is it true that the prophet (pbuh) had fallen in love with Zainab due to her beauty?
A. If that were true it would not detract from the veracity of the prophet. Muslims admit that he was a human being. It is not unnatural for a man to fall in love. The fact that he is a prophet does not rob him of his natural human emotions. In fact it is true that he loved his wives.
However, it is not true that he fell in love with Zainab in the way that is claimed by some critics. They say that once the prophet visited Zaid, the husband of Zainab. Zaid was out at the time, and Zainab was combing her hair. The prophet was struck by her beauty and immediately left saying something to the effect that God changes the hearts of people.
When Zaid learnt about this incident he offered the prophet that he would divorce Zainab in order that the prophet may marry her. Accordingly, he divorced her and the prophet married her.
Several things point to the lack of truth in this story. First, it is unlikely that the prophet (pbuh) was suddenly struck by Zainab's beauty. Zainab was his cousin. He had known her since childhood. Why would she suddenly appear striking after she was already married to another?
Second, the prophet had arranged for her to get married to Zaid. If there was to be an attraction why did the prophet (pbuh) not encourage her to marry none but himself?
Third, the fact of the matter was that Zaid's marriage proved to be an unhappy one. Zaid was a former slave and as such was held in low esteem in the eyes of Zainab. He mentioned to the prophet that he intended to divorce his wife. But the prophet advised him to keep his wife and avoid divorce.
In the meantime, Zaid intended to divorce his wife, Allah intended to marry her to the prophet. Eventually Zaid could maintain his marriage no longer. He divorced Zainab and Allah declared in his Glorious Book that he has wedded her to the prophet after the proper waiting period was over.
This marriage served more than one purpose. First, the prophet was responsible for arranging Zainab's marriage to Zaid. In a sense, then, he was also indirectly responsible for the unhappiness she felt in her marriage. Her marriage to the prophet now provided her the honour she felt she deserved, and exonerated the prophet.
Second, Zaid had been adopted as the prophet's son. Eventually, however, the Qur'an prohibited the practice of changing the parental identity of adopted persons. Zaid, then, was to no longer be called "son of Muhammad" but rather "a close friend." The prophet's marriage to the divorced wife of Zaid was a practical demonstration that the adopted relationship was not equal to a real blood-relationship. A man cannot marry the divorced wife of his real son but he can marry the divorced wife of his adopted son.
The abolishment of the age-old practice was a positive improvement for the adopted persons. People outside of Islam still continue this practice for their own benefit. They adopt children and rob them of their real identify, making them believe they are real children of the household in which they grow up. When such children realize the truth they suffer much disappointment and grief. The adoptive process continues for the selfish gain of the adoptive parents.
But is it not true that children sometimes need adoptive parents? Yes. But they also need to preserve their real identify. This is what Islam ensures. It is the responsibility of the entire community to help children in need. They should be taken in and nurtured but not confused with one's own children.
The prophet's marriage to Zainab was a bold measure to forever engrave in the minds of his followers that as much as people would resist change, some changes are worth the effort. Adoptive children should no longer be robbed of their real identities.
Was Muhammad (pbuh) literate?
Q. Muslims only claim that Muhammad was illiterate because they do not wish to admit that he wrote the Qur'an. They want to substantiate the miraculous nature of the Qur'an by claiming that Muhammad could not write.
A. The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was indeed illiterate. This fact of history will not change even if Muslims or non-Muslims wish it were otherwise. The Qur'an is a source contemporary with the Prophet. This book acknowledges that the prophet could neither read nor write. Even Dr. Anis Shorrosh, admits that biological references in the Qur'an are invaluable because they are contemporary with Muhammad (Islam Revealed, p. 47).
Here are some Qur'anic references to the illiteracy of the prophet: 7:157; 29:46; 62:2
If Muhammad were indeed literate Muslims would not need to hide it. The fact that God revealed the Qur'an would not change even if Muhammad were literate. When his contemporaries heard the Qur'an many remarked: "This is no less than divine speech." Those who believed saw it not as the speech of a literate man but as the speech of no man whether literate or illiterate.
Incidents proving the literacy of the prophet?
Q. When the peace treaty of Hudaybiyah was to be signed, the nonbelievers objected because the treaty said "Muhammad the Messenger of Allah." They wanted the words "Messenger of Allah" struck out. Muhammad struck out the words and instead wrote "son of Abdullah."
A. Because of the variations in the reports which describe this incident one cannot be sure that the prophet himself wrote "son of Abdullah." But if for the sake of discussion we grant that he did, this does not detract from the fact that he was illiterate.
Seldom do we find a person who is so illiterate that he could not write his own name. Yet, if there is no evidence that a person wrote more than his name we do not have sufficient evidence to describe such a person as literate.
The title "son of Abdullah" would function as an identifying element in the prophet's name. Hence this would be roughly equivalent to someone writing Mark, son of John, or usually Mark Johnson. Writing this much not proof enough of a person's literacy. A man's ability to write his full name does not prove that he could write a book.
Q. When Muhammad was on his death bed he called for writing instruments so that he could write some final instructions. If he could not write, why did he ask for such materials?
A. Most officials write through secretaries. When such an official calls for writing instruments he intends for his secretaries to write. When he says, "I will write to you" he means, "I will dictate a letter to you; my secretaries will write it, or type it." The fact that the prophet called for writing instruments does not prove that he was literate.
Q. The prophet was a successful trader. Surely he knew how to read and write.
A. Being a successful trader is not proof enough that a person is literate. Many merchants are unable to compose a paragraph. As an example, my mother was a successful merchant. In all her trading years she affixed her thumbprint for a signature because she could not write her own name. In her retirement years she learnt how to write her name and a few simple words. But then she was known to be a registered student in a formal study program. This fact could not be hidden from her friends and relatives. How did Muhammad (pbuh) compose the most remarkable book of all time and yet his schooling remains a mystery?
Q. Dr. Anis Shorrosh says he saw a copy of a letter signed by Muhammad. Does this not prove that he could write?
A. If the letter is genuine it can only prove that the prophet could sign his own name. It does not prove that he could write a letter, much less a book. Notice that even Dr. Shorrosh does not claim that the prophet wrote the letter-only that he signed it.
Q. The prophet lived among eloquent bedouins. Surely he picked up beautiful 7th century Arabic from them.
A. Those people admitted that their beautiful 7th century Arabic was no match for the beauty and eloquence of the Qur'an and the excellence of its teachings. They had to confess that the Qur'an is no less than divine speech.
Q. Dr. Shorrosh says that when Gabriel commanded Muhammad to read, this implies that he could also write.
A. The logic in that statement is fuzzy. Just because a person can read is not proof enough that he can write. Many readers have never handled a pen.
Q. Dr. Shorrosh (p. 53) says that the Qur'an refers to Muhammad as "one who taught by the pen" in surah 96:1-5.
A. On the contrary, the surah refers to Muhammad's Lord as the one who taught by the pen.
Q. Why did Muhammad consider suicide when he was troubled about the revelation?
A. He had no idea what to make of the experience. He grew up in a tradition in which angels did not visit people. A common interpretation in his culture would have been that he was seeing visions as a result of being jinn-possessed. This indeed is the accusation his people eventually levelled against him. Fearing that this interpretation was true, the prophet preferred to die rather than mislead his people. But before he could do anything, the angel Gabriel called out to him and assured him that he was indeed the messenger of God.
Q. Dr. Shorrosh (p. 54) concludes that at the moment of inspiration the prophet fell to the ground according to a tradition.
A. Notice that he did not say which tradition because there is no such tradition.
What about the Satanic Verses?
Q. Why were Muslims so angry with Salman Rushdie?
A. His book "The Satanic Verses" is a mockery of everything that Muslims hold sacred. It is a parody of the prophet Muhammad, his noble family, the book of God, and the prophets of God. The book is a work of fiction in which the characters are made to represent the most noble characters of Islam. Yet the characters in the novel are made to indulge in sexual promiscuity. This to Muslims is more distasteful than if their own mothers were depicted in those scenes.
Q. Are people other than Muslims also upset over that publication?
A. Yes. Many non-Muslims thinkers and writers have also condemned the publication as being insensitive and knowingly provocative. On the other hand, many others argue in the name of freedom of speech that anyone should be free to express his ideas. But even those people must agree that freedom has its limits. One person should not be so free as to harm others and get away with it.
Some persons do not see why Muslims should be so upset over religion. Most people today think that religion is not important enough to get excited about. This may be their own conclusions about their own religions. But where they extend their conclusion to apply to Islam they are quite wrong. Muslims are still convinced that Islam is the truth to live for and die for. All the rational evidence is in favour of the Muslim position.
Q. Why does the book use the name "Satanic Verses"?
A. The title refers to a passage which was said to once form part of the Qur'an and was later obliterated from the sacred scripture. The claim goes that when the Qur'an was being handed down to the prophet a piece at a time, a piece came down to recognise the Gods of the prophet's opponents. The claim continues to assert that after a while the prophet declared these verses to be of satanic origin and that they are to be replaced by other verses of divine origin.
If this claim is true it does not affect the truth of Islam or the veracity of the Qur'an. In sum, the claim is that the devil threw something into the Qur'anic revelation but God blotted out what the devil threw and God established his own pure revelation. This is perhaps why some early Muslim sources did not shy away from recording this claim.
However, a full analysis of the story would prove the claim to be at best doubtful and at worst fictitious. It is most unlikely that the Qur'an ever contained anything to honour or affirm the validity of any but the one true God Allah. If this was ever done it is difficult to see how anyone would not be utterly confused by such a passage.
The call of Islam has always been known from the beginning to admit of only one God who has no partners, relatives, or intercessors. The choice of the name "The Satanic Verses," therefore, was highly inappropriate-unless one was trying to be deliberately provocative. It would have been a different matter if someone had presented the idea of the claim about satanic verses for the sake of academic discussion. This indeed is often done in many writings. Muslims do not raise a cry against such writings because their claims are made in a style which can be responded to in likewise academic format. When, however, a claim is made within the framework of fiction, one is unable to respond. If one attempts, he is told, "C'mon, man, can't you take a joke? It's only fiction. The author didn't mean it."
What About Claimed Contradictions in the Qur'an?
Q. How many days did it take God to create the heavens and the earth? Some surahs say six. One surah says eight. Which is right?
A. Six is right. No surah says eight. Critics who are eager to find a contradiction in the Qur'an try to make surah 42 say eight days. But they cannot prove their case. Actually, surah 42 agrees with the six day span mentioned in surahs 7:54; 10:3; 11:7; and 25:59.
The critics go about their business in a strange fashion. They notice in surah 42 verses 9-12 that Allah created the earth in two days and measured out its sustenance in four days. This comes to obviously six days altogether. But then the Qur'an makes a further reference to the first two days. Critics want to add these two days to the already established total of six. But how can they? Do the critics wish to double-count? Or are they so over-zealous to find a contradiction that they would use any unreasonable means?
The bottom line is that this is not a contradiction in the Qur'an. Despite the efforts of the critics building on the work of previous generations of critics not a single contradiction has been proven in the Qur'an.
[see answers to 'errors' in the Quran for more details]
Is the Qur'an the Word of God?
Yes. The Qur'an speaks about the past, revealing details that were unknown to Muhammad and his countrymen. Yet independent research confirms the truth of what the Qur'an revealed. The Qur'an cannot be shown to have a single historical error. The Qur'an also speaks about the future. And the future unfolds exactly as the Qur'an said it will. Not a single Qur'anic prediction has ever failed.
The Qur'an also reveals details about the natural sciences which were not discovered by scientists until a few decades ago. These facts were unknown to man, but revealed in the Qur'an. Who revealed those facts if not God alone?
Now most people would trace back in history to the point when Muhammad was the first man to make the Qur'an public. Then they would want to conclude that Muhammad must have written the book. But wait. Many facts indicate that Muhammad did not write the book. First, Muhammad could not write except his own name. And even that is doubtful.
Second, Muhammad claimed over a period of 23 years that the Qur'an was from God alone and that he himself was only a conduit though whom the book was made public. God revealed it, he said. Could he have been lying? No. Even his enemies knew him to be an honest and trustworthy individual. How could he tell such a big lie involving God? And how could he maintain that lie for such a long time?
Were there opportunities for him to modify his claim? Yes. Did he? No. His opponents offered to buy him off with money, power, and women. He refused. What then could be his motive for maintaining his position? It could not have been money, power, or women. His opponents offered to accept a modified version of the Qur'an. This was an easy way out for him. Or was it? He said he dares not change a single thing in the Qur'an lest Allah strikes him with a severe punishment.
Instead, Muhammad bore all kinds of persecution from his enemies just because he will not stop preaching. He watched his close friends and followers being beaten, tortured, and killed. He himself was insulted, beaten, spat upon, choked, stoned, and almost killed. Did he give up?
No. Why? This demonstrates his sincerity. When he said that the Qur'an was from Allah he really believed it.
Could he have been deluded? No. The Qur'an speaks to Muhammad, commands him, corrects him, and instructs him. If Muhammad wrote this book he would have been a madman. But then if he was a madman he could not have written such a book.
The Qur'an is such a complete and comprehensive constitution for life that it could not have been written by a madman. The book itself challenges its opponents to come up with one better. The intelligentsia of the world could not write a better book. Then why do they insist that a madman wrote it? Is it because they do not want to accept it as a revelation from their God and creator?
Moreover, we have already seen that the Qur'an contains information about the past and the future. How could such information come from the brain of any man? More so, how could it come from the brain of a deluded man? It couldn't.
The Qur'an contains a further challenge to the world. It claims itself to be an inimitable masterpiece the like of which could never be produced by man. Not to speak of the whole book, the like of any one surah could not be man-made. Now all critics have to do is produce a surah of literary beauty and eloquence similar to the Qur'an. Many have tried, all have failed. It simply cannot be done. Why? Allah said it and none will ever be able to contradict Allah.
The non- Arabic speaker may wonder whether he is disadvantaged to meet this challenge. Is there any way for such persons to appreciate the significance of this challenge? Yes. In every field of knowledge we rely on experts to share with us their findings. The experts in the field of Arabic linguistics have nothing but admiration and appreciation for the wisdom and beauty of the Qur'an and the eloquence of its expressions. The non-Arabic speaker should ask such experts why they are unable to meet the Qur'anic challenges. Then they can make up their own minds about what to believe.
There is one more exercise to recommend for the skeptic. The Qur'an claims to be free from error. Which other book claims this? None! No, not even the Bible. Why only the Qur'an? Because all other books are authored in whole or in part by fallible humans. Only the Qur'an is revealed entirely from the infallible Wise Allah. Can the skeptic disprove this claim by finding a single error in the Qur'an? Again, many skeptics have tried. All have failed. No real error in the Qur'an has ever been established although many imaginary errors have been claimed. The Qur'an remains demonstrably true in its entirety.
[also see How to prove Qur'an is from Allah]
Q. What about the Surahs on the Internet?
A. Recently some Christian missionaries posted on the internet four surahs in answer to the Qur'anic challenge. However, none of the four surahs can be a match for the surahs of the Qur'an for the following reasons.
First, the missionary surahs are lacking in reason. They mimic some of the rhyme of the Qur'an, but nothing of the reasonableness of the Qur'anic teachings. The missionaries attempted to teach Christianity by means of their surahs. But Christianity is inherently self-contradictory. It makes no sense that Jesus is both man and God, that God is both one and three, or that an innocent man is crucified so that the guilty can go free. If such beliefs are expressed in eloquent language the expression will not match the Qur'an which is the right combination of rhyme, rhythm and reason.
To further explain this inadequacy of the missionary surahs, consider the case of an evil person having lovely appearance. One who can see past the outward beauty will find the core repugnant. Likewise patently false teachings cannot be improved by expressing them in eloquent writings. Of course one can always use such a gimmick to fool those who look only at the surface. But for those who look deeper it just will not work.
Second, to meet the challenge one has to invent something new, not copy something existing. By mimicking the Qur'an the missionaries fail in meeting the challenge. The Qur'an calls for an invention, not a plagiarization.
The point of the challenge is this. Skeptics claim that Muhammad invented the Qur'an on his own; that he did not get it from God. Allah's reply is that Muhammad could not have invented it. But those who think he did should likewise try to invent a surah like it. If they say Muhammad did it why can't they likewise do it? But notice what Muhammad did not do. He did not plagiarize. He did not mimic the existing styles of writing. What he recited to the people did not fit any of the existing styles. The recitations was completely new. Let the skeptics likewise produce something new. This the missionaries have failed to do.
Their failure in this respect is remarkably pronounced. They have borrowed so much from the Qur'an that whole phrases from the Qur'an (and even the hadith) appear in the missionary surahs. In one of their surahs they even reproduced the phrase "Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem" having plagiarized it wholesale from the Book of Allah. Sorry, guys, this is not what the Qur'an asked for. Please try again. Or, have you considered surrendering yourselves to your maker?
Q. Why does the Qur'an speak highly of the Torah and the Injeel if they are corrupt?
A. The Qur'an declares that Muslims must believe in the original Torah and Injeel, not the present day changed versions. When Torah or Injeel is mentioned in the Qur'an a reader must establish from the context which versions are referred to - the real or the corrupt. Careful readers will notice that whereas many Qur'anic passages praise the Torah and injeel, some other passages candidly chastise the scribes who made changes or writers who wrote without authority.
It is true that the Qur'an does not use the terms "real Torah" or "corrupt Torah." But usually this is quite clear from the context. The mere fat that the name Torah refers to both the real thing and its altered version should come as no surprise. There are many different Bibles. Yet each is called a Bible. But in a given context one can usually tell whether one is speaking of a Jewish Bible, a Catholic Bible or a Protestant Bible. When, for example, a Protestant uses the term he certainly does not mean the Catholic version unless he speaks of it in derision. Similarly, when the Qur'an praises the Bible it is referring to the Bible which is unchanged.
On the other hand, the Qur'an in 2:79, and 9:30 make it clear that not the entire Bible is from God.