Is Muhammad a Prophet of God? Muslims Give Three Positive Arguments
Muhammad’s status as a prophetic messenger of God is the key identifying declaration and central pillar of Islam. It is announced multiple times a day before prayers and recited in the heart of every Muslim.
But is Muhammad a prophet of God?
Growing up, Muhammad’s prophethood was a given for former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi. But when he was challenged to investigate the evidence for Islam and Christianity, he explains in his new book No God but One what he discovered:
The three reasons most commonly given by Muslims to accept Muhammad as a prophet—his character, prophecies in the Bible, and miraculous scientific insights—are all very problematic. As a result, we are left with no reason to believe that Muhammad was sent by God. This reasoning is incredibly straightforward. (258)
These three positive arguments for Muhammad’s prophethood are briefly outlined below, as well as what Qureshi discovered which lead him to realize he could no longer declare Muhammad a prophet of God.
1) Muhammad’s Life and Character
When Qureshi portrayed Muhammad’s life and character he would offer, “In addition to being a champion for women and orphans, he was a resilient proclaimer of monotheism, a great leader, and a merciful conqueror. His life and character are proof that he is a prophet of God.” (245) But when he evaluated the counterevidence he discovered at least two reasons why his character was less than that of a God-ordained prophet.
First, Muslims claim Muhammad’s spiritual aptitude and authority are proof of his sound, prophetic character. Yet not only had Muhammad become suicidal when he first received his revelation, he also said “he had been a victim of black magic; he had delusional thoughts of doing things he had not done; and he confused demonic inspiration with divine inspiration…” (252) Muhammad's teachings about women are also concerning, for he allowed prostitution through temporary marriage; consummated his marriage with his nine-year-old bride Aisha at fifty-two; and allowed his men to rape female captives and slaves.
Qureshi concludes, “Though Muhammad may have taught many good things and been a man of mercy at times, given the extensive counterevidence, we cannot conclude that his character is excellent enough to prove he is a prophet of God.” (252)
2) Muhammad in the Bible
Interestingly, Muslims offer two passages from Judeo-Christian texts to prove Muhammad was a prophet of God: Deuteronomy 18:18–19 and John 16:12–14.
Regarding the first passage, “Muslims commonly argue that, even though Christians believe this passage refers to Jesus, it speaks of Muhammad,” because “the prophecy speaks of a prophet like Moses from the lineage of Ishmael (‘among the brethren,’ Israel).” (245, 246) Qureshi argues, however, the text itself defines brethren differently: “A brother from among the Hebrews is a Hebrew. He cannot be a foreigner, and the Ishmaelites were foreigners. This text cannot be about Muhammad.” (253)
The second passage speaks of a prophet who would complete Jesus’ message, the Spirit of truth. Muslims claim the Greek word for Spirit, parakletos, is similar to periklutos, meaning “the praised one”—Muhammad means “the praised one” in Arabic, the only prophet of a major religion after Jesus. Thus, they claim “Jesus used the Greek word for Muhammad when prophesying the coming Spirit of truth.” (247) Qureshi counters that these two words are distinct; Jesus did not use an equivalent Greek word for Muhammad. Further, “In 14:26, the text tells us the parakletos is the Holy Spirit. There is no room for conjecture; the prophecy was about the Holy Spirit living in Christians.” (253)
3) Miraculous Scientific Knowledge
This final argument is often used to both defend the Quran and Muhammad’s prophet status. Muslims contend since he had scientific insight he couldn’t have known about as a seventh-century man, “This could mean only that God was giving Muhammad supernatural wisdom, and therefore that he was a prophet of God.” (247)
One prime offering is Quran 23.12–14, which supposedly describes the developmental stages of an embryo. “Describing zygotic development from fertilization to differentiation, the Quran shows familiarity with a scientific field that was unknown in Muhammad’s day.” (247) Except as Qureshi explains, “Both Aristotle and (the Greek scientist) Galen had very carefully defined terms and concepts, positing in great detail the process of embryologic development.” (254) Furthermore, the Quran's assertion that bones develop first and then are clothed with flesh is false; modern science shows the mesoderm differentiates into bones and flesh at the same time.
When Qureshi investigated the scientific claims of the Quran he discovered "that each and every one succumbed to at least one of three criteria: First, the verses were being made to say things they did not assert…second, the science was actually well-known before Muhammad’s day…or third the science was false.” (256)
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