A telling silence
Sometimes observing which things are omitted is as important as understanding correctly the things that are mentioned. I made the observation that there is a strange omission in the Qur'an.
... the men of faith, each one believes in Allah,
His angels, His books, and His Messengers.
"We make no distinction (they say) between one and another
of His Messengers." ... Sura 2:285
No prophet could (ever) act dishonestly ... Sura 3:161
The statement that "we believe in all the prophets" is very strong and often repeated in Islam. There is one concept though which is very frequent in the word of God, the Holy Scriptures of Jews and Christians, that seems to be completely missing in the Qur'an. It is the issue how to recognize a "false prophet".
The Bible contains several passages discussing the criteria for a true prophet and how to recognize a false prophet. God warns repeatedly that false prophets will come, that it is not easy to recognize them immediately, and the Bible reports of many different false prophets that have come during the history of Israel. [Some of these passages are Deuteronomy 13, 18:20-22, Jeremiah 5:31, 14:14ff, Jer. 23:9-40, Jer. 28, Ezekiel 13, Matthew 24:11, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 2 Timothy 4:3, 2 Peter 2:1, Revelation 2:20, 16:13 etc.]
Given that this warning is very common in the earlier revelations of God, and repeated again and again, especially in regard to the end times (which are still to come), it is very strange indeed that the Qur'an is completely silent on this issue. One could become suspicious that this issue is avoided deliberately so that the reader of the Qur'an doesn't get the dangerous idea to think about criteria for true and for false prophets or even starts looking at Muhammad in order to evaluate him in regard to these criteria.
Instead it is repeated over and over again that we have to believe in all messengers, and that Muhammad is a messenger, which - in an easy logical step - leads to the conclusion that we have to believe in Muhammad as the messenger of God.
But anybody who is familiar with the Bible, will know that we are admonished to be cautious and carefully evaluate any claim for prophethood because we are strongly warned that false prophets will come. And it is clearly a reality. Yet the Qur'an seemingly wants to make sure the reader will not even start to explore this concept.
Muslims will have to agree, there have been many people since Muhammad, who have claimed to be messengers from God. And they are rejected as imposters. But Muslims do not reject them because they have objective criteria for true and false prophets, but on the one and only basis that Muhammad is claimed to be the last prophet.
The rejection of others is based on the claim of Muhammad to be true and to be last without subjecting Muhammad himself to the test of a prophet.
Would a Muslim agree that prophets have to be tested? Would a Muslim see the necessity that Muhammad (just as any other prophet) would have to be tested according to the criteria that God has revealed in his word?
Do Muslims not find it strange that this issue of "how to test a prophet" is completely avoided in the Qur'an?
I find this to be a very telling silence.
Remark: There is one verse, Sura 6:93, asking the rethorical question:
This verse declares pretense to be evil, (and it is only one remark inside a general list of wicked deeds), but it does not give any criterion of discernment to the listener (reader) on the basis of which we could decide which claim for inspiration is right and which is wrong. As such, this verse does not change anything in regard to the above observation.
The most dangerous lie is that which most closely resembles the truth.
Deception only works because it looks like it is true. The Qur'an does call itself "al-Furqan", the "discerner", but it fails to give criteria for discernment in this most crucial area of testing the claims of prophethood.
And what about a test for the Qur'an itself? The Bible tells several times "Test me in this ...".
Copyright © 1997 Jochen Katz. All rights reserved.
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