Islam claims to be a divine religion. In fact, Islam claims to be the only divine religion which exists in its original shape. It claims to be the religion prescribed by God for man since man's inception. It claims to entail the original unadulterated teachings of God, which were given to all His prophets except only a few laws which were specific to them.
In the opinion of this writer, Islam substantiates its claim of being divine on the following bases:
1. Its basic resource book – the Qur'an – which was presented through Mohammed – a human being – over a period of twenty-three years, is absolutely clear of all inconsistencies that all human works, without any exception, have;
2. Its fulfilled prediction of the manifestation God's of Justice upon its direct addressees within the life time of its presenter; and
3. All its basic teachings are of the nature of a reminder.
Although each one of these topics requires extensive details to be fully understood, yet, for an introduction a brief explanation of each of the given points follows:
a) The Qur'an is Clear of all Deficiencies Inherent in Human Works
The first among the arguments, on the basis of which, the Qur'an has substantiated its claim of being revealed by God is that this book is clear of all such inconsistencies, which is a permanent feature of all human works1. In fact, I am not aware of any other book claiming to be revealed by God, which, like the Qur'an, gives us an objective criterion to judge whether it is truly revealed by God or not. Even the books of the Bible are not an exception. The Qur'an has clearly mentioned:
Had it been from anyone other than God, they would have found a number of inconsistencies. (4:82)
To fully understand the significance of this criterion as well as to be able to apply this criterion on the Qur'an, one should first be aware of some of the common features of all human beings which translate into inconsistencies and discrepancies in their works. A human being, in his individual capacity, as well as the human society, in its collective capacity, do not represent a stagnant phenomena. Both the individual as well as the collectivity, of which the individual is a member, is in a continuous process of development and evolution. Every person, without any exception, goes through a process of evolution and development in his ability and level of understanding in his information, in his understanding, analysis and interpretation of phenomena as well as in the formation and presentation of his ideas. All humans go through this process of development and evolution. This process, if you would closely observe, has a tremendous bearing on the life long works of the individual. You need not go far to fully appreciate this point. You can take any writer (whether in the field of literature, philosophy, science, history or any other discipline) and study his development over a period of time. You shall see that every writer, without even a single exception, is prone to evolution and development in:
The information available to him;
The style of analyzing the available information;
The formation of ideas and opinions;
The presentation of his ideas and opinions;
As a person progresses through the various stages in his life and encounters these various kinds of, internal and external, evolutions and developments, the style of his writing, the formation and presentation of his ideas and the references that he uses in his writings go through a process of development as well. This, in other words, introduces a kind of inconsistency and, sometimes, grave discrepancies in his writings and presentations over period of time.
In addition to these points of evolution and development, which affect the opinions and ideas propounded by an individual, another important factor, which affects the validity of the ideas proposed by the individual overtime is the discovery of new scientific and historical facts, which were unknown or inadequately known to the individual and due to which the findings, opinions and ideas proposed by the individual are rendered redundant.
The life and works of the greatest and most influential human minds provides adequate evidence to this fact. Whether it be the great minds of science – including Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein – or of literature and philosophy every one of them was subjected to the same individual and collective developments and evolution. There is not a single exception to this rule in human history. Every individual has to undergo these, internal and external, developments in life.
The Qur'an, however, claims to be an exception. It has declared itself to be an exception, not because Mohammed (sws) – the person, who presented the Qur'an – did not go through any, internal or external, developments in his life, but because the real source of the Qur'an – The All-Knowing, All-Encompassing God – is beyond any, internal or external, developments, evolutions or inadequacies.
Thus, the Qur'an declares itself to be absolutely clear of any:
a. Inconsistencies in its literary style,
b. Evolution and developments in the proposed ideas and thoughts, and
c. Drawing support for its claims from such available information, which was later proved to be incorrect2.
The referred verse of the Qur'an has stressed that if a mortal had written the Qur'an, then it would have contained all such inconsistencies which all human works contain.
While analyzing the Qur'an, it should be remembered that Mohammad (sws) was not an educated person. Throughout his whole life, his literary presentation consists only of the Qur'an. He neither presented any book before the Qur'an, nor one after it. He was never seen practicing poetry or oratory, even by the closest of his acquaintances. He was known to be a quiet person with high moral standards. After living the first forty years of his life in a small town – where every individual personally knew every other individual – he started presenting a book of a literary standard which astonished the Arabs -- Arabs who were proud of their literary legacy and silenced the eloquence of their revered and venerated poets and orators. This book did not only influence the contemporary literati of the Arabic language but, even after fourteen centuries, it is still considered the standard of excellence of the Arabic language. Continually being revealed in varying circumstances: ranging from debate, persecution, migration, peace, war, victory, loss, conquest and stability, no variation can be found in either the quality of its language or the focus of its message. This book laid the foundations of one of the largest creeds in history and is still believed to be in its unaltered, original form and language – which is in keeping with God's promise of saving it from all alterations till the end of time. All the revolutionary discoveries and developments in man's information about scientific and historical facts during the past fourteen centuries which have rendered the works of even some of the most profound human intellects redundant has remained unable to even seriously challenge the presentation of an unlettered Arab fourteen hundred years ago.
b) Fulfillment of the Prediction Regarding the Manifestation of God's Justice
Since the beginning of his ministry, Mohammad (sws) presented himself not only as a Prophet (Nabi), but also a Messenger (Rasul)of God3. The Qur'an declares that Mohammad (sws) is not merely a deliverer of God's message, but is also a sign of God's Justice. It says that that Mohammad (sws) is in continuation of the chain of Messengers of God which include well known names like Noah (sws), Abraham (sws), Lot (sws), Moses (sws), Jonah (sws) and Jesus (sws) and which has now ended at Mohammad (sws). Thus, like the previous nations in which God sent His Messengers, the rejecters among the direct addressees of Mohammad (sws) shall also be subdued and disgraced in the life of this world. The polytheists among these rejecters shall be completely annihilated and shall not be allowed to live.
Thus, at the very beginning of his ministry, with hardly any followers, the Prophet (sws), on the authority of God, unequivocally predicted that his rejecters, if they persist in their rejection, shall have to face the wrath of God, not only in the Hereafter but also during the life of this world. He declared at a time when even his survival seemed quite unlikely that God shall bestow His blessings upon the believers and shall grant them rule in the land.
A close look at the sequence of events during the life of the Prophet (sws) shows that each subsequent day of his life brought him closer and closer to the fulfillment of this prediction. Finally, after the conquest of the capital town of Makkah and with the ultimatum of the punishment of death to the polytheists and that of subjugation to the rejecters from among the monotheists, this prediction was finally fulfilled.
However, in view of some of the fulfilled prophesies and accurate predictions of people who are not believed to receive divine revelation4, one may ask: Why should this fulfilled prophesy be considered as evidence of the fact that the prophet in question is divinely guided? The answer is quite simple. It is not merely a case of a fulfilled prophesy, but the fulfillment of a prophecy made in the name and on the authority of God. A person who makes a false prophesy in the name of God is not just an ordinary liar, but one who ascribes lies to God. It is because of this reason that the Bible had declared, many years before the advent of Mohammed (sws):
But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And you may say in your heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing, which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18: 20 – 22)
Besides this, the Qur'an also makes a few other predictions, all in the name and on the authority of God; it was only a matter of time before all these predictions came true.
Thus, it is believed, on the basis of the fulfilled predictions of the Qur'an which it made in the name and on the authority of God, that the person presenting the Qur'an received God's revelation.
c) The Nature of the Basic Teachings of the Qur'an
The Bible says:
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them'. You shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 13:1–3)
As is evident from the cited verses of the Bible, the nature of a person's teachings also plays an important role in whether his claim to Prophethood should be considered with any gravity or not.
The Qur'an has termed its basic teachings, a 'reminder' for man. A reminder about things and concepts, which deep inside, he is already aware of, yet, due to the influence of the external world – his society and surroundings – he tends to forget.
The basic belief that Islam wants its followers to ascribe to and all the basic moral values on which Islam lays the foundation of its laws and teachings are part of man's nature as well as that of the teachings of all the prophets of God. It is primarily due to this reason that Islam considers man to be aware of these teachings, even though he may, at first, not seem to have knowledge of this awareness. Islam declares its teachings to be in accordance with the nature on which God has created man.
The basic belief of Islam is the belief in one God only. A merciful, just, wise, knowledgeable and powerful God. This belief, according to Islam, is not only part of man's nature and his sapiential sense, but is also evident from the physical creation of God, which one can easily observe around oneself. The belief in Prophethood and the belief in a day of judgment are both corollaries of the belief in the one God, Who possesses the stipulated attributes. All inborn sense of morality and 'good' is also a manifestation of these basic attributes of the Creator in man. All moral teachings of Islam are based on and an application of the universally acknowledged moral values of justice, truthfulness, honesty, helping the weak, freedom in one's personal matters, modesty etc.
Islam, on the foundation of these basic beliefs and values, guides man to the path which would develop and maintain his relationship with his Creator, on the one hand, and with his fellow human beings, on the other.
Thus, Islam – a system of beliefs – based on the natural inclinations of man has presented itself as the only true religion based on divine revelation on the aforementioned three bases.
What Should be the Criteria of Evaluating Islam?
Islam does not give a separate set of criteria for its own evaluation. Islam considers man's faculty of understanding to be his most outstanding quality. It greatly advocates the use of one's faculty of reasoning, evaluating, analyzing and understanding in finding the truth. It wants its addressees to use these faculties in analyzing and evaluating its own contents as well. Thus, Islam, its contents and its claims should be analyzed and evaluated on the bases of common sense and understanding.
This process of evaluating any religion that claims to be based on divine revelation, in my opinion, should entail:
1. Evaluating the relevance as well as the correctness of the arguments, on the basis of which, that religion claims to be revealed by God5;
2. Evaluating the particular religion's introduction to God6and its bases;
3. Evaluating the concept of that religion regarding the purpose of the creation of man in the light of the basic attributes of God;
4. Evaluating the relevance as well as the purpose of God's revelations with special reference to the purpose of creation, in the light of the basic attributes of God;
5. Evaluating the arguments given for adherence to the basic articles of faith, and the relevance of these articles of faith with the basic attributes of God;
6. Evaluating the ethical and moral values promoted by that religion and the basis of these values;
7. Evaluating any interpersonal and personal laws propounded by that religion in the light of:
a. The basic attributes of God;
b. The basic purpose of creation;
c. The basic target of divine revelation; and
d. The basic ethical and moral values promoted by that religion.
8. Evaluating the overall coherence of the complete structure of that religion and to see whether any of its teachings are in contradiction with any others. It may be added that this, in my opinion, should be a sequential process. It should start from the first point and sequentially move forward. In this way, any problems in the structure of the religion under consideration, will be more easily and objectively determinable.
Courtesy:Understanding Islam (http://www.understanding-islam.com)