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In the book The Kuzari, written in Arabic in the 12th century, a rabbi argues that Judaism is the true religion and that Islam and Christianity (as well as secular philosophy) are all incorrect. One of his main arguments against Islam and Christianity is that they rely on the entire nation believing the words of one prophet rather than a national revelation (like at Sinai) where everybody heard the words directly from God.

According to the rabbi, such a story would be impossible to fake because the entire nation witnessed it. On the other hand, he says that Jesus and Mohammad could have just pretended that God spoke to them.

So why take the Prophet Mohammad at his word? How is it known that he is not making it up?

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@DavidWallace I registered just to say this: please don't pretend logic has anything to do with this. There are many other possible authors besides God. This is about belief, pure and simple. –  Raphael Jun 2 at 22:18
    
@DavidWallace: I interpreted your comment as "He could not have been the author, so it has to have been God"; apparently you wanted to answer "you should not believe him" to Daniel. –  Raphael Jun 2 at 23:12
    
@DavidWallace: Yeah, that's exactly the point, David. But note that Prophet Muhammad could actually read and write. But he steadily refused to write anything throughout almost all of his life and had never actually studied any book or scripture. He was as such an 'ummi', uneducated. –  infatuated Jun 3 at 3:50
    
@DavidWallace The Kuzari actually addresses the concept of the beauty of the Arabic language and argues that Hebrew is a more beautiful language. Perhaps I will ask a follow-up question about that. –  Daniel Jun 3 at 7:04
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Comments are not intended for lengthy discussions, please move this discussion to our main Islam Chat room. –  Mujahid مجاهد Jun 3 at 19:33

6 Answers 6

That's a very good question. In fact, no wise person should take people, especially when making extraordinary assertions, "at their words". But as for Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and all Divine messengers), here are some compelling reasons that strongly suggest his truthfulness:

  1. He had no personal gain in the first place to declare himself a Prophet. In fact after he publicized his Divine mission, most of his relatives turned against him and denied, slandered and ridiculed him; and, soon they put him under intense persecution. He, therefore, completely lost his social status as a member of the dominant caste, Quraish.

  2. Prophet Muhammad was known to be an honest, benevolent man for years before becoming a Prophet. He was actually reputed among Quraish as "Muhammad, the trustworthy"!

  3. The fact that the Holy Prophet stayed true, steadfast, and consistent to his beliefs, despite all persecutions varying from personal attacks to social isolation and even socioeconomic siege and imposed wars, all can be seen indications of his staunch devotion to his beliefs.

  4. Muhammad can appear as pretty much an extraordinary "superhero" to an impartial researcher." His courage and endurance, his strong leadership , his enchanting charisma and immense popularity, his vast compassion, his magnanimity towards his most vicious enemies, and above all the far-reaching sociocultural transformation that he brought to Arabia and the Middle East, and the epoch-making religion he established -- that remained an enduring source of inspiration for one of the richest civilizations in history of mankind -- all offer testimonies to what his scripture describes him as: A Divinely empowered and enlightened messenger, a prophet and a mercy upon mankind.

    • An instance of a non-muslim researcher identifying the Prophet with such qualities is the Christian Bishop, R. Bosworth Smith who is quoted as saying the following, in his lectures on Mohammed and Mohemmadanism, about the Prophet of Islam:

      He was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope's pretensions, Caesar without the legions of Caesar: without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without a fixed revenue; if ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Mohammed, for he had all the power without its instruments and without its supports. p.235

  5. Moreover, if it was not for the psychological impossibility of it -- that is, of a person making up a myth and so selflessly and vigorously promoting it and at the same time demonstrating a saint-like benevolence and moral integrity -- he was pretty much incapable of fabricating a scripture, because he was actually an "Ummi", uneducated. That is, he had actually never written nor read any scripture or book throughout his life. Also it is documented that he did not author a single verse of the Holy Quran, himself. But he appointed some of his trusted followers to write down verses of revelation and he would only supervise the compilation.

Finally, please note that in the discussion above, I was not trying to demonstrate the validity of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad but was trying to make a strong case that he could've not been possibly fabricating false beliefs. But as for proving the fact that he was indeed right, one should seek whether or not his teachings are logically verifiable. For example, if the existence of God, Angels, Kingdom of heavens and the Earth, Paradise and Hell can be logically proven, then his righteousness and correctness will subsequently follow as well. And obviously this applies to the verification of teachings of any other messenger or prophet. However, this would also demand extensive studies and research in the fields of theology and metaphysics by the questioner.

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Have apologists ever seen an actual logical argument and understood what it is that makes it valid? What you said is just literary discussion, it is not proof of anything. Not only is it not proof, it is not even evidence, since it is just reiterating what can be found in the very text that you are trying to validate. –  Paul Manta Jun 2 at 21:08
    
A good rule of thumb for determining if an argument is flawed: if it can be used to "prove" something that you know to be false, then it is not a good argument. –  Paul Manta Jun 2 at 21:14
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@PaulManta, what I wrote can be seen as a proof that prophet Muhammad could've not been possibly fabricating false beliefs. I was not trying to demonstrate the validity of his teachings in particular. That would be a different topic. I actually edited my post to better highlight the answer purpose and rationale. –  infatuated Jun 3 at 3:43
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How do you disprove the alternative hypothesis, "Mohammad did not create the Quran at all"? For all we (read: I) know, he could have it ghost-written. There were quite worldly reasons for him to desire a "rulebook" everybody would (want to) follow. –  Raphael Jun 3 at 6:27
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I hope it's ok that I summarized your answer (with a link to here) in an answer on Judaism.SE. Here is the link. –  Daniel Jun 3 at 7:34

That argument fails for anyone other than the people who actually witnessed the supposed revelation, as whether it was revealed to one person or many, anyone who didn't directly witness the revelation would have to rely on the words of the people who carried that information to him, and those "carriers" are more reliable in Islam's case than Judaism, where many of them are completely unknown.

In other words, there is a "bottleneck" in the passing of the revelation in all three cases, where later generations have to trust that one or a few people were reliable enough that what they passed down is true to the original revelation. If anything, this could be an argument for Islam, as our Prophet was more reliable than the unknown scribes and others who are our only insight to the original revelations to the Jewish people, and the Quran was better preserved after him than any of the other revelations were. Even if someone doesn't believe Prophet Muhammad (Salla Allah Alayhi wa Salam), at least we know who he was and make a judgement based on that.

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That's very relevant indeed. Islam is the best authentically documented religion of the world. –  infatuated Jun 3 at 3:55
    
The point of the rabbi in the Kuzari is that after there was a national revelation and the information was passed down from generation to generation and even after the Jews were scattered around the world the story remained the same. According to the rabbi, the idea that a large number of families would all make up the exact same story about how their ancestor witnessed the revelation is unlikely. –  Daniel Jun 3 at 7:10
    
@Daniel: as to the Sinai revelation, I suppose the counter-argument is that we only have one written account of it. If that account was faked (say) a generation later then it's likely many people would say, "my father was there and that's not how he described it, this is lies". But I suspect the rabbi is in some way relying on a claim that necessarily someone would have said that, and that saying it would have prevented the account entering canon, and therefore it's impossible (or at least highly implausible) for the account to be incorrect. That's "argumentative theology" for you... –  Steve Jessop Jun 3 at 11:41
    
You are correct. I never meant to imply otherwise, but I see how my words could be interpreted in that way. –  Daniel Jun 3 at 11:48
    
If they all witnessed the revelation and that information was passed down through many separate chains of narration, then sure it could be considered reliable, but at some point those chains died off and were lost, and further generations can't rely on them any longer. That's not considering the fact that we don't even know most of the people carrying the story from generation to generation, so who knows if there were ever really generations of people who had all heard the story of the revelation and corroborated it. –  Farhad A. Jun 3 at 21:54

this is an excellent question and should be asked more often.

Like Wallace said, the Prophet SAW was completely illiterate but came up with the oral tradition of the Quran over a 23 year period, which many consider to be miraculous. Mind you, he was not a prodigy. Revelation started when he was 40 years old. A good question would be, what is so special about the Quran anyway?

Feel free to watch these two videos that do an excellent job giving us some appreciation of the Quran way better than I can do here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQXRaqIVstE https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTOUFe9KbGQ

Lastly, if you study Abrahamic religions, you would appreciate that all Prophets (AS) were provided with Miracles, things that could give people confidence that this cannot be from God. We have Moses (AS) parting the Nile, Jesus (AS) healing the sick, Abraham (AS) surviving a fire etc. The thing about these miracles is that they are all Visual miracles. They would have an impact for the people who were actual physical witnesses to the event ... and there onwards it is a tradition passed down. It does not have the impact it had on people who saw the Nile part with their own eyes.

Quran is a Miracle. It is timeless, because the oral tradition itself is miraculous and is available in a book form to be read. The miracles can still be experienced.

Hope this helps answer your question and pike your curiosity.

Cheers, may Peace and Guidance be with you

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This is a grave misconception, and unfortunately a popular one, that Prophet was completely illiterate! This is not just true! Prophet was only uneducated and never read books! He also refused to write for much of his life. –  infatuated Jun 3 at 10:34
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@infatuated Nevertheless, the distinction between a permanent miracle rather than physical miracles is a good one. –  Daniel Jun 3 at 10:54
    
@Daniel, no question about that! He pointed out a very relevant point. Quran is widely known as the miracle of the uneducated Prophet. –  infatuated Jun 3 at 11:00

I think this is an excellent question. I believe all belief is subjective. You can't prove divine inspiration the way you would prove 1+1=2. It depends on how compelling you find the evidence available to you, which really varies from person to person. For those people who lived with Muhammad, several were made to believe in him due to his personality. Some believed in him almost immediately, after only a brief encounter. By all accounts - even by his most vehement critics - Muhammad was really an extraordinary man. But for the rest of us who have never met him, and only know about his life through second person accounts, why do we believe?

I think the most compelling case in support of Muhammad's claim to divine inspiration is the Qur'an - that was his miracle. Perhaps, there's no other book that has affected the development of a language to the extent the Qur'an had on Arabic. This fact is even more extraordinary considering that the Prophet had never been a poet or known to have studied or written any book prior to his claim of being divinely inspired:

Qur'an 29:48 "And you did not recite before it any book, nor did you transcribe one with your right hand, for then could those who say untrue things have doubted."

About the Qur'an, Muhammad himself said,

"Every Prophet was given miracles because of which people believed, but what I have been given, is Divine Inspiration which Allah has revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will outnumber the followers of the other Prophets on the Day of Resurrection."

All this doesn't prove anything of course. It's for the individual to decide if Muhammad's quite extraordinary life (even by secular accounts) and the unlikeliness that he authored the Qur'an (given his non-literate background), is enough for him to accept Muhammad as truly divinely inspired.

PS
Although the Rabbi seemed to hold a Moses was right, Jesus and Muhammad were both wrong point of view, Muslims believe Moses, Jesus and Muhammad to be all divinely inspired, although they received their inspirations differently. So with Muslims, it's not Muhammad was right, Jesus and Moses were both wrong. This wasn't your question, but I thought it was important to point this out.

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You are correct. The rabbi in The Kuzari does hold Jesus and Muhammad to be wrong, as all Jews do. That is why he brings this argument to attempt to discredit Islam and Christianity. –  Daniel Jun 3 at 7:15

Have you ever read Al Quran? The science alone wasn't known by anyone in the seventh century. Most of the scientific information we know today ( as we advance in technology) is catching up with the knowledge sent to an unlettered man of such upstanding character, humility, and skill. Who else inspired him except for HE who designed us in the first place? Why believe my beloved Prophet (SAW)? I believe him today as if I sat with the Sahaba in front of him fourteen hundred years ago.

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The simple impossibility of a man (SAWS) who couldn't read or write a single word being able to produce some of the most beautiful language that's ever been written is evidence enough that Muhammad (SAWS) did not write the Qur'an himself. The rest follows logically.

If you had had my experience with channelled material, then you would know that unusual linguistic beauty is one of the primary indicators of a spiritual source.

There is evidence (at least in terms of the markers of such that are present within other religions) to support the idea that Islam is (at least partially) genuinely spiritually legitimate.

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