Noah Webster's original 1828 dictionary defines a prophet as:
- One that fortells future events; a predicter; a foreteller
- In Scripture, a person illuminated, inspired or instructed by God to announce future events
- One who pretends to foretell; an imposter; as a false prophet
Muslims claim Muhammad was the last and final prophet, the final messenger of God declaring the same message to mankind as all the previous prophets. This bold claim contains assumptions that must be answered if we are going to accept as true the claim at face value.
- How do we know Muhammad was a prophet outside his own claim to be so? By what criteria is a prophet measured, and does Muhammad measure up?
- How do we know Muhammad brought the same message as the prior prophets? How can an accurate assessment of this claim be made?
Criteria of a Prophet
True prophets must provide evidence of such to back up the claim; otherwise anyone can claim to be a prophet and how are we to know?
Fulfilled prophecies or miraculous attestation
Biblical prophets always demonstrated their prophetic calling in one of two ways: either their prophecies came true within a short time and thus their foreknowledge of events proved divine inspiration, or they were given the ability to perform miracles as proof of their prophetic calling.
Muhammad never made a specific, predictive prophecy, and so fails the first test.
The Arabs of Muhammad's time thus demanded a miracle or a sign to confirm Muhammad as a prophet, Yet the Quran itself speaks of Muhammad as nothing more than someone sent to sound a warning.
"Do they not reflect that their companion has not unsoundness in mind; he is only a plain warner." (Sura 7:184)
"Say: I do not control any benefit or harm for my own soul except as Allah please; and had I known the unseen I would have had much of good and no evil would have touched me; I am nothing but a warner and the giver of good news to a people who believe." (Sura 7:188)
"Then, it may be that you will give up part of what is revealed to you and your breast will become straitened by it because they say: Why has not a treasure been sent down upon him or an angel come with him? You are only a warner; and Allah is custodian over all things." (Sura 11:12)
"And those who disbelieve say: Why has not a sign been sent down upon him from his Lord? You are only a warner and (there is) a guide for every people." (Sura 13:7)
"And they say: Why are not signs sent down upon him from his Lord? Say: The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a plain warner." (Sura 29:50)
Muhammad denied the ability to perform miracles, as requested by the Jews, as proof of his prophetic calling. His response: "I am sent only as a warner." Translation: "I cannot provide you with the miracle you ask for." Muhammad thus fails the second test.
Does Muhammad's message conform to prior prophets?
No, it does not. That's the short answer. I could provide multiple examples; one alone will suffice.
The Qur'an, the revelation received as divine by Muhammad, denies the crucifixion of Jesus. Sura 4:157 reads:
They [the Jews] say, "We have killed the Messiah, Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam, the Rasool of Allah." Whereas in fact, neither did they kill him nor did they crucify him but they thought they did because the matter was made dubious for them. Those who differ therein are in doubt. They have no real knowledge, they follow nothing but merely a conjecture, certainly, they did not kill him (Jesus). [English translation by Muhammad Farooq-i-Azam Malik, Institute of Islamic Knowledge]
Since Jesus is also regarded as a prophet in Islam, let's take a look at what he had to say about his own crucifixion.
For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. - Matthew 12:40
From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. - Matthew 16:21
While going up to Jerusalem, Jesus took the 12 disciples aside privately and said to them on the way; "Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and He will be resurrected on the third day." - Matthew 20:17-19
The words of Jesus here are not ambiguous. Jesus clearly predicted his own crucifixion, not the crucifixion of an imposter as the Qur'an implies. But did the crucifixion actually take place? Absolutely.
We need not look at the Biblical evedence to establish the fact that the crucifixion actually occurred, thought the evidence from the Bible is overwhelming. The crucifixion is one of the best established facts in history.
Thallos (55 A.D.): An ancient historian who wrote a three-volume history. In volume 3, Thallos mentions the darkness that occurred at the death of Jesus, just as recorded in Matthew 27:45, Mark 15:33, and Luke 23:44. Thallos certainly was no friend of Christians; he attempted to attribute the darkness to a solar eclipse, a natural phenomenon, rather than a miracle as scripture and tradition proclaimed. Julius Africanus rebuffed Thallos' argument years later by noting that Jesus was crucified during Passover, which occurs during a full moon. A solar eclipse cannot occur during a full moon but rather occurs during the opposite phase of the moon, or a new moon.
Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 A.D.): This respected Roman historian had a disdain for Christians, calling them believers "in a most mischievous superstition." Nevertheless, Tacitus confirms that this "sect" was formed from followers of "Christus," [a Roman rendering of the Greek 'Christ'] who "suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberias at the hands of Pontius Pilate." The term "extreme penalty" refers to crucifixion, the most extreme form of punishment used during the Roman Empire.
Lucian of Samosata (115-200 A.D.): A well-known satirist and lecturer, Lucian refers to Christians as "poor wretches" and "foolish people" who "accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence." He also calls them ones "who worship the man in Palestine who was crucified because he brought this new form of initiation into the world." Lucian further mocks Christians for believing "that they are all brothers the moment they transgress and deny the Greek gods and begin worshipping that crucified sophist and living by his laws."
Thus, on this account alone, Muhammad's revelation as stated in the Qur'an does not conform to prior revelation, and in fact denies a well established historical fact. Muhammad again fails the test of a true prophet.
Every attempt to establish Muhammad's prophetic career as divinely inspired has failed miserably: he cannot predict the future, he cannot provide a sign or miracle to substantiate his claim as a prophet, and his revelation contradicts previous revelation. But what else can be said about Muhammad's claim?
Muhammad: A False Prophet?
Prior to Islam, Mecca was home to a variety of gods. Meccans were polytheistic and worshipped 360 gods in the Kaabah, the large black cube which is the focus of Islamic prayer and worship today. As Muhammad began preaching his new monotheistic religion and declared all gods but Allah to be false, he and his followers began to suffer persecution at the hands of the polytheistic Meccans. In an attempt to placate the Meccans and buy some relief from persecution, Muhammad conveniently received a revelation acknowledging three Meccan female deities. These verses were originally recorded in Sura 53:19-22 as
Have you thought of al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other; these are the exalted Gharaniq [cranes which fly at high altitude] whose intercession is approved.
Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad's earliest biographer, records; "When the Quraysh [Meccans] heard that, they were delighted and greatly pleased at the way i which he spoke of their gods, and they listened to him." Acknowledging the three Meccan deities accomplished what Muhammad had hoped for.
However, the angel Gabriel later revealed that Allah had not put those words in the mouth of Muhammad, but Satan had. Muhammad had spoken words given to him by Satan, which acknowledged other gods beside Allah. These verses have come to be know as the Satanic Verses.
This presents a huge problem for Muhammad.
Muslims love to claim corruption of the Bible, and state that where the Qur'an and Bible agree, those portions of the Bible have not undergone corruption but rather remain reliable.
One such portion of scripture Muslims use, and thus consider uncorrupted, is Deuteronomy chapter 18. In particular, Musilms claim Deuteronomy 18:18 is a specific prophecy of Muhammad in the Old Testament (I will cover this argument in another article). If Muslims want to acknowledge verse 18 as reliable and uncorrupt, they must likewise accept verse 20, a mere two verses later and contained within the same paragraph. Deuteronomy 18:20 states:
But the prophet who dares to speak in My name a message I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods -- that prophet must die.
Here we have two criteria by which to identify a false prophet: one who attributes words to God that were not given by God, and one who speaks in the name of other gods.
Muhammad spoke in the name of other gods. He acknowledged al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat as three valid deities who deserved worhip and whose intercession could be sought.
Muhammad attributed words to God that God did not command him to speak. By his own admission, we find Muhammad stating, "I have fabricated things against God and have imputed to Him words which He has not spoken." (History of al-Tabari, vol. 6 p. 111, Albany, NY, SUNY Press)
Muslim apologists will point out that Muhammad received another revelation absolving him of this minor indiscretion:
Never have We sent a Rasool or a Prophet before you, O Muhammad, in whose reciting of the Revelations shaitan [Satan] did not threw in some falsehood; but Allah abolishes that which shaitan throws in and confirms His own Revelations, for Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.
In other words, don’t worry Muhammad; all other prophets before you occasionally said things attributed to Satan and thought they were likewise from God, but God always corrected them. Of course, this is a groundless claim without merit, and in fact contrary to Deuteronomy 18:20.
According to Deuteronomy 18:20, Muhammad is a false prophet and must die. Of course, he is already dead, but the fact remains that over one billion people today still consider Muhammad to be a legitimate prophet. This is a tragedy.
Muslims must reject the Qur'an as the word of God because it was revealed by a false prophet who lacked the ability to discern revelation from God and revelation from Satan. Come back to the true word of God, the Bible, which has withstood the test of time and the attempts of critics to disprove it's claims. God's revelation to mankind is available to you, and in it you will find the way to eternal life in paradise.