In the book The Kuzari, written in Arabic in the 12th century, a rabbi (a Jewish religious leader) 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?


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 a 19th-century Christian scholar named R. Bosworth Smith who is quoted as saying the following, in his lectures on Mohammed and Mohammedanism, 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 Qur'an, 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, 2014 at 21:08
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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, 2014 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, 2014 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, 2014 at 7:34
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    @Raphael Can you cite three reasons for him to desire a rule book?
    – Hakim
    Aug 7, 2014 at 18:24

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.

  • 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, 2014 at 7:10
  • You are correct. I never meant to imply otherwise, but I see how my words could be interpreted in that way.
    – Daniel
    Jun 3, 2014 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, 2014 at 21:54
  • The last issue with the argument (and perhaps most important) is why does it even matter? If that revelation happened, as long as it doesn't contradict Islam, Islam's claim of truthfulness is not affected in any way.
    – Farhad A.
    Jun 3, 2014 at 21:56
  • @FarhadA. The point is that the chains never did get cut off and lost. They are still passed down today (according to the rabbi and contemporary Jewish scholars). The fact that there was a national revelation does not contradict Islam; however, since the Prophet Mohammad claimed to have a new revelation, such a revelation could be considered to be less reliable since it was not witnessed by an entire nation.
    – Daniel
    Jun 5, 2014 at 19:05

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 / https://www.youtube.com

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

  • 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, 2014 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, 2014 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, 2014 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.

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.

  • 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, 2014 at 7:15

Every religion has rhetorical arguments for various purposes and National Revelation at best is rhetoric. If taken as a logical argument, it melts down pretty easily

1) IF there was a national revelation, what proof do you have that it was God's? "Cacodaemony," is an interesting essay by Steven M. Cohn, wherein he demonstrates logically how an omnimalevolent, omnipotent Demon could create goodness in the world. Can it be logically proven that the revelation on Mount Sinai was NOT a powerful Cacodemon at work? What defense do you have against an allegation that it was a Jinn, a demon, or Azazel himself who deceived an entire nation?

2) It was magic! Which is by far the most common retort hurled toward Messengers of God, including Muhammad (pbuh). We know Moses (pbuh) could convert a wooden staff into a mighty serpent - that's powerful. Surely must be trivial to fake God's voice?

3) IF there was a national revelation, it was the only such event in history, and exactly how many divinely inspired books of the Tanakh were written by later Prophets? How many men claimed to have revelations, visions, inspirations of Divine origin AND ** were accepted as people of Book? ** What made those revelations reliable? The Rabbi's argument can be fitted to every Prophet after Moses (pbuh).

4) The NR-argument held against Christianity and Islam is a fallacy, it does not follow logically that a single man can NEVER have a true revelation.

My last point is my answer to your question "why take the Prophet Mohammad at his word?": Because even a single person can speak the Truth!

"How is it known that he is not making it up?"

Based on inherited or acquired faith and personal conviction, which works differently for different people! Such is the nature of faith, no one else can cook it for you. After all, from a philosophical point of view, the argument that we might be living in a Cacodaemony retorts all "known" faiths.


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 channeled 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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