And (we believe) that Muhammad is His chosen slave, the selected Prophet and an approved Messenger.
The three terms: ‘chosen’, ‘elected’ and ‘approved,’ are more or less synonyms. The point of note here is that a man’s perfection lies in how true a slave he is to Allah the Most High. The more true slave a man is, the more perfect and the higher in rank he is. Anyone who believes that the creation can get out of the bond of slavery to Allah, howsoever he may achieve that, and attains higher status with Him, is the most ignorant of His creations. Allah said:
“And they say, ‘The Merciful has taken a son.’ Glory is to Him. Rather, they are slaves, honored.” (Al-Anbiya’, 26)
Further, Allah spoke of the Prophet, Muhammad, as a slave in all those places He wished to honor him. He said:
“Glorified is He who took His slave in a journey by night.” (A l-Isra’, 1)
(As against the above) most theologians and polemicists have argued in favor of the greatness of the Prophets and Messengers on the strength of their miracles. No doubt, miracles are strong evidences. But, evidences are not restricted to miracles. For, the most truthful, as well as the greatest liars, claim to be Prophets. But, so far as the discerning minds are considered, this does not cast any doubt on the affair. Rather, the surrounding details speak for themselves. We know that there are several ways by which people can distinguish between a true claimant and a false one even In ordinary affairs. So, what about claims to Prophethood? Hassan b. Thabit well said:
Even if clear signs had not been with him
The evidences would have reached you by report.
Never did a false prophet rise but his ignorance, lies, corrupt ways, and the devil’s hold of him, have been so apparent to anyone endowed with some common sense that he had no difficulty in discovering his falsity. That is because there is no recourse to a Prophet but to order some things and forbid some others. Thus, It is in the scheme of things that he should do things that render his truthfulness manifest. On the other hand, an imposter too cannot escape but do some things and inform (about the Unseen) exposing himself in so doing, in ways more than one. An authentic Prophet is just the opposite of him. To be sure, if there were to be two claimants to Prophethood, one an imposter and the other a true one, then, the matter will definitely end with one’s falsehood being exposed and the other’s authenticity becoming clear: even if it takes some time. Truthfulness and virtuosity go hand in hand. Similarly, falsehood and perversion go hand in hand. The Prophet, peace be upon him, said in a report preserved in the Sahihayn (Bukhari and Muslim): “Adhere to the truth. For truth leads to piety, and piety leads to Paradise. A man keeps on uttering and pursuing the truth until he is recorded as ‘a truthful’ with Allah. And, beware of lies. For lies lead to impiety and impieties lead to the Fire. A man keeps on lying, and pursuing lies until he is written ‘a liar’ with Allah.”
Now, when know that a simple thing as the truthfulness of a man, or his falsehood, is apparent from his behavior, then how can a false prophet avoid being detected? No one can fail to distinguish the true prophet from a false one.
We know that Khadijah, Allah be pleased with her, knew the truthfulness of the Prophet from personal experience. Consequently, at the time of his first revelation when he expressed his apprehension in words: “I fear for my life,” she responded, “Never. By Allah, He will never let you down. For you join the kin, speak truth, carry (the load of) the feeble, honor the guest, work for the destitute, and lend support to just causes.”
Najashi asked for recitation of what the Prophet claimed to be receiving. He too, when he heard a portion of the revelation, remarked: “By God, this and what Moses had brought have the same lamp as their source.”
Warqah b. Nawfal said something close to it when he was told about what the Prophet had experienced. Warqah was no ordinary person. He had converted to Christianity and was learned enough to be able to write the Gospels in Arabic. When Khadijah, Allah be pleased with her, told him about what the Prophet had received, Warqah said: ‘This is the same Message that Moses received.”
Further, Allah the Most High has left to survive some of the signs of how He helped His Messengers and how He destroyed those nations that cried lies to them, such as the signs of the Flood, the drowning of Fir’awn and his armies, etc. When Allah narrated the stories of prophets after prophets in the chapter tided Al-Shu’ara’, such as those of Musa, Ibrahim, Nuh and others. He followed up every episode with the words:
“In that was a sign. Most of them were not believers. And, surety, your Lord is All-powerful, All-Merciful.” (Al-Shu ‘ara’, 8-9)
As for us, we know from reliable traditions of the past detailing the lives of the prophets, of the pious men, as also of their adversaries, to feel assured that they were true. This can be realized in ways more than one:
Firstly, they had forewarned their people of the humiliating chastisement that would descend upon them if they remained obdurate rejecters.
Secondly, what followed as a consequence when it became apparent that the people were not going to believe, such as, drowning of Fir’awn and the people of Nuh, etc.
Thirdly, anyone who studied the life and works of the Prophets will be convinced that they bore a high character so that the question of their speaking an untruth was out of question.
As for our Prophet, his case is so obvious that denying his message is tantamount to denying Allah the Most High Himself and alleging tyranny on his part – high above that Allah is.
To explain: If someone thought that Muhammad, on whom be peace, was not a Prophet, rather a tyrant ruler, then, it implies that he ascribed a lie to God, brought before the people something not revealed by Him, then, continued to declare the lawful as unlawful and the unlawful as lawful, declared the old Scriptural Laws null and void, slew the people, and destroyed the true followers of earlier Prophets. Yet, he is led to victories after victories. He claimed that all that was by Allah’s command sent down to him. And the Lord God Himself watched him do all that in His Name, annihilating the followers of truth and continuing to lie for no less than twenty-three years. Indeed, Allah seem to have helped him achieve all that, let him overcome everyone, prepared the grounds in supernatural circumstances to lead him to victories. Moreover. He even answered his prayers, destroyed those opposed to him and raised his name over all others. Now, for Allah to let someone commit all that, in His Name, and, instead of uprooting him, help him in his plans, is only possible if Allah Himself is a tyrant, an oppressive Being, and a transgressor. Inevitably, that would lead the people to the belief that this world has no Creator nor a Lord above all. Had there been one, he would have stopped this person from doing all that. Indeed, He would have punished him with an exemplary punishment for the satisfaction of the rest of the world. The ‘no action’ response does not befit even an ordinary king of this world. How then does it fit the King of kings and the Ruler of all rulers?
We do not deny that many liars have been successful in their own days, and attained glory. But, firstly, they did not succeed wholly, and secondly, the new situation they helped to create did not last long. In time, Allah’s Messengers and their followers did away with all that they had established. This has been the Sunnah of Allah with the nations of the past. Indeed, even the unbelievers knew that. Allah said:
“They say, ‘A poet for whom we await the Fate’s uncertainty.’ Say, ‘Wait. For lam with you one of those waiting.'” (Al-Tur, 30-31)
(That is, even the pagans were pretty sure that if the Prophet was phony he would be destroyed and, therefore, the best recourse was to wait for the Divine intervention).
Imam Ali Ibn Abi al `Izz al-Hanafi