How can the Muslims trust in the Koran as being the true word of God when the author of the Koran, Mohammed questioned the source of his prophetic word by saying himself that he thought he was being possessed by demon spirits at the time he was inspired to write?
Note: After the convincing of his wife and sister-in-law, Mohammed accepted the once thought demon inspired words to be “prophetic words” as coming from God!
Explain that please! Sounds like the Koran is fallible.
ref: Baker Encyc. of Christian Aplogetics by Norman L. Geisler, 1999
To fully appreciate the Muslim stance regarding the above objection, it is important to keep the socio-cultural and the religious background of the people of the Arabian Peninsula in mind.
The Arabs, especially the descendents of the prophet Ishmael (pbuh), had remained practically unaware (as well as inexperienced) of any revelation from God. However, they generally believed that the most eloquent of their poets and orators had control over demons, evil spirits and other super-natural sources that inspired eloquent words to them.
Muhammad (pbuh) had remained a part of such a socio-cultural and religious environment for forty years, when the doors of divine revelation were opened upon him. Muhammad (pbuh) had neither aspired nor expected to receive messages from any super-natural source. It was in this background that when the archangel Gabriel visited Muhammad (pbuh) for the first time, the experience was highly confusing and frightening for the Prophet (pbuh).
Sahih Bukhari, Kitaab al-Wahiy,1 has reported the incident thus:
In the beginning, revelations to the Prophet (pbuh) took the shape of clear meaningful dreams [i.e. dreams with a clear message] and visions, while in sleep. Then he [i.e. the Prophet] became fond of seclusion. He started going away from the people to the cave of Hiraa. He would collect the necessary provisions from his wife Khadijah and stay worshipping in the cave for a number of nights in a row, before returning only to replenish the supply of provisions. This went on, until one day, the truth was revealed upon him in the cave. The angel [Gabriel] visited him and directed him: ‘Read’. [He would say:] I replied: ‘I cannot read’. The angel grabbed me and squeezed me so hard that I could bear it no more. Then he let me free and said: ‘Read’. I replied: ‘I cannot read’. Once again the angel grabbed me and squeezed me till I could bear it no more. Then he let me free and repeated the third time: ‘Read’. I replied again: ‘I cannot read’. He grabbed me a third time and said: ‘Read, in the name of thy Lord…’. The Prophet (pbuh) returned home, extremely frightened and shaken. He asked Khadijah (ra) to cover him with cloth. Some time later, when his fear reduced, he told Khadijah (ra) of his experience and expressed his concern that some wrong might befall him. Khadijah (ra) said: God shall never let any wrong befall you. You have always been kind in your relations, you have always shared the burdens of the weak, you have always earned for the incapacitated, you have always been hospitable with your visitors and have always been willing to suffer for the right cause. [How, then, can God let any evil befall you?]…
The narrative further tells us that Khadijah (ra) later took Muhammad (pbuh) to one of his cousins Waraqah ibn Nawfil, who could write the Hebrew language and used to write pieces of the Gospel in it. Waraqah told Muhammad (pbuh) that God has been revealing His message to man. His message was revealed to Moses (pbuh) and many others. If what Mohammad (pbuh) had experienced was a continuation of God’s revelation to man, then Mohammad (pbuh) shall soon be turned out of his land and his own nation shall become his worst enemy, as there had rarely been a people who accepted the revelations of God or believed in His prophets.
This is a brief account of the incident of the first revelation as well as the background in which this incident took place. It may be noted that Muhammad (pbuh) – as he did not expect or aspire for any divine revelation – was initially shocked and confused by the incident, as any normal human being, under the circumstances, would be. Moreover, it may also be noted that according to the cited source neither Khadijah (ra) nor her cousin Waraqah (ra) convinced Muhammad (pbuh) of anything concerning the incident. Waraqah (ra) only told Muhammad (pbuh) that God had previously revealed his message to man and also mentioned the consequences that could be expected if what Muhammad had experienced was a continuation of God’s previous revelations.
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, let us now turn to your specific questions. You ask:
‘How can the Muslims trust in the Koran as being the true word of God when the author of the Koran, Mohammed questioned the source of his prophetic word by saying himself that he thought he was being possessed by demon spirits at the time he was inspired to write?’
Muhammad (pbuh) did not question the source of the revelation, however, he was indeed shocked and frightened by the unexpected incident. Muhammad (pbuh)’s initial fear and confusion seems to be quite comparable to what was initially felt by Moses (pbuh). Acts 7: 30 – 32 says:
After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to look more closely, he heard the Lord’s voice: `I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
At a comparatively later stage, when Moses (pbuh) expressed his concern over being rejected by his people, God gave him the sign of the staff. Even then the initial response from Moses (pbuh) was that of fear. Exodus 4: 1 – 3 says:
Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, `The Lord did not appear to you’?” Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it.
In both these instances, Moses (pbuh) was initially frightened, primarily because he did not expect such incidents to happen. The initial response of fear under such circumstances, I am sure you would agree, is only instinctive. It does not seem very prudent to make such responses a criterion of passing a judgment regarding the reliability or otherwise of the message that is subsequently delivered by the prophet in question.
You further write:
After the convincing of his wife and sister-in-law, Mohammed accepted the once thought demon inspired words to be “prophetic words” as coming from God! Explain that please! Sounds like the Koran is fallible.
The Prophet (pbuh) was not convinced by his wife or his sister-in-law about the divinity of the message. Such a claim is not supported by any reliable and primary source of the life, times and teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) [although it may be found in a number of Christian Apologetics’ Encyclopedias]. On the contrary, it was the content of the message, which was clear evidence against any element of demonic adulteration in it. After all, how could a demonic or an evil inspired message be against all evil? In the words of Jesus Christ (pbuh):
Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? (Matthew 12: 25 – 26)
An evil inspired message should have promoted the message of evil and polytheism. If demons were to deliver messages like the Qur’an, it would only have ruined their own kingdom. Demons may be evil – but I am sure, they are not as stupid.
I hope this helps.
22nd March 2000
- One of the primary sources of the life, times and teachings of the Prophet (pbuh). [↩]