Some Doubts of Modernists Regarding Revelation, Miracles & Shari’ah Commands, By Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi

Translated By: Professor Muhammad Hasan Askari & Karrar Husain
Compiled By: Mufti Umar Anwar Badakhshani

Answer To Modernism

Intimation 3: Regarding Prophethood

Nowadays one finds people committing a number of fatal errors with regard to prophethood. 

(1) Error about revelation (Wahy)

The first of these errors concern the nature of Revelation (Wahy). Some of those who pretend to be an authority on interpreting religious matters on the basis of their individual opinion, have expressed themselves on the subject in some such manner: “There are men who temperamentally have a passionate love for their nation and an extraordinary zeal for its welfare. On account of this Passion, such a man is unremittingly dominated by thoughts of this nature. Since this domination amounts to an obsession, his imagination begins to provide him certain ideas. This obsession sometimes leads him to feel as if he is hearing a voice or seeing a shape, and some-times this shape appears to be talking to him. But, as a matter of fact, this voice or shape or speech has no objective and external existence, and all such things are no more than imaginary entities”.

The Reality of Revelation and Its Forms

But such an explanation of the nature of prophethood is directly opposed to the explicit and clear statements on the subject in the Holy Quran and the authentic traditions of the Holy Prophet ﷺ, where we are told without a shade of ambiguity that revelation is a special favor which comes down to a prophet from Allah through the medium of an angel. This angel sometimes brings an inspiration (as the Hadith puts it: “he inspired my heart”), sometimes his voice is heard and sometimes he appears and speaks in bodily form (as the Hadith states: “sometimes the angel comes to me having assumed a form”).

The reason for the denial of revelation in modern science

The followers of modern science reject such accounts because they deny the very existence of the angels and without any valid argument too. We shall, with the help of Allah, examine this opinion in a subsequent Intimation, while discussing the existence of the angels, which will demonstrate that the existence of angels is not rationally impossible, and when a sound report is there to prove the existence of what is rationally possible, it becomes rationally necessary to affirm its existence (according to Principle No. 2).

(2) Error about prophetic miracles

The second error is related to the miracles, which are meant for those events that occur without the intervention of physical causes. The followers of science refuse to accept the occurrence of such events too, and again without any valid argument. For this reason, they proceed to make far-fetched rationalizations (which, in truth, are perversions) of the miracles which have been reported in the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, so that the miracles could be made to look like habitual facts. Some of these events are so thoroughly rationalized that they altogether cease to be unusual or extraordinary -as in the case of the verse:

فاضرب بعصاک الحجر

“Strike the rock with your stick” (7:160)

An incident reported of the prophet Moses (A.S) who had drawn water out of a rock by striking it with his stick. And when it is not possible to explain away the element of wonder, they classify a miracle under procedures like mesmerism or hypnotism — as in the case of the stick of the prophet Moses (A.S) changing into a dragon.

The reason and the answer to modernist skepticism about miracles

The argument which forms the basis of such doubt has already been refuted under Intimation No 2, If one insists on seeking the physical causes of things, one will have to go on tracing one cause back to another, and the chain will continue as Infinitum, which is impossible. Therefore, one must concede that an Omnipotent Being has created the physical causes too themselves without the mediation of any physical cause. This being so, the effects of the physical causes too without the mediation of any physical cause. This being so, the same Omnipotent Being can, if He so wishes, create the effects of the physical causes too without the mediation of any physical cause. This being so, the same Omnipotent Being can. If He so wishes, create the effects of the physical causes too without the mediation of any physical cause. At the most, one can call such a thing improbable, but the improbable and the impossible are not identical. (See Principle No 3).

(3) Error: Do not accept miracles as proof of prophecy

The third error is that miracles are not adjudged to be a proof of prophethood, but the excellence of a prophet’s teaching and the excellence of his moral conduct are supposed to be the only valid arguments for establishing his prophethood. But not arguments can be advanced in support of this limitation except that if supernatural events are taken to be a proof of prophethood, then mesmerism and conjuring tricks too will have to be considered as essential for prophethood. But it is a very flimsy argument, because mesmerism and conjuring tricks are not, in fact, supernatural events, but can be referred back to hidden physical causes, which the experts of such arts can easily detect, and thus rightfully deny the impostor who has been laying a claim to prophethood on this basis, and can even challenge him in the art of showing such tricks. But one of those who stood up to deny the miracles of the prophets (A.S) did ever point out to any such physical cause, nor could anyone successfully challenge them. This clearly goes to show that the miracles of the prophets (A.S) are in actual fact supernatural.

Therefore miracles and conjuring tricks do not equally become necessary for prophethood–it is miracles alone which enjoy this title.

Why prophetic miracles are needed?

Of course, the excellence of teaching and the excellence of moral conduct too are proofs of prophethood. But Divine Wisdom has its own ways of disposing of things. The audience of the prophets was composed of two kinds of people. On the one hand, were the elite–people who had intelligence enough to recognize the highest excellence of teaching and moral conduct (which is in itself a miracle). On the other hand were the dull-witted ordinary people who, being unable to recognize the highest degree of excellence, could not derive the correct conclusion from the testimony of teaching and moral conduct, and were thus liable to the fatal error of accepting every just and good man as a prophet. So, DivineWisdom ordained a special mode of argument which should be proper to their level of understanding, and which should provide a compulsive recognition of the validity of the claim to prophethood without requiring any exertion of the will or Of the mind On their part. Moreover, they could not possibly confuse the prophets with conjurors, because they could see for themselves that experts in the arts of conjuring owned their helplessness to challenge them.

(4) Error: Understanding the rules of Qur’an and Sunnah only about the Hereafter

The fourth error is that the teachings and injunctions of a prophet are supposed to be exclusively concerned with the affairs of the other world, while in the affairs of this word one is supposed to be absolutely independent of such injunctions. The Holy Qur’an and the Hadith believe such a supposition in explicit terms. For example, take this verse:

وما كان لمؤمن ولا مؤمنة إذا قضى الله ورسوله أمرا أن يكون لهم الخيرة من أمرهم ومن يعص الله ورسوله فقد ضل ضلالا بعيدا

”When Allah and His prophet have pronounced a judgment, it is not permissible for a Muslim man or woman to exercise a personal choice in his or her affairs. And whosoever disobeys Allah and His prophet has manifestly strayed from the right path”. (33:36)

The occasion on which this verse was revealed was actually a matter of purely mundane nature. As for the tradition of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم usually called Hadith-ul-Ta’bir, which has caused doubts in some minds, it is to be noted that it applies to matters regarding which the Holy Prophet ﷺ expressed a mere opinion or advice, and not to matters regarding which he laid down a definite injunction. In order to make the point still more clear, we cite a rational instance. It is a matter of everyday experience that our worldly ruler, through the laws which they make, does interfere with our personal and private affairs too. Then, should the only true and real Ruler not have this right?

This Hadith relates how the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم asked the people of Madinah not to intragraft male and female palm trees, but when the product turned out to be scanty that year, he remarked:

أنتم أعلم بأمور دنياكم (مشكوة)۔

“You yourselves know better the affairs of your world”.

(5) Error: To consider the Shari’ah rules related to worldly affairs as changeable

A fifth error comes out of the fourth as a corollary. That is to say, it is supposed that the injunctions of the Shariah regarding worldly affairs may be modified in accordance with the requirements of every age. Had these injunctions not been laid down as ends in themselves (as is the substance of the fourth error), there would not have been any harm in holding such an opinion. But, since it is an established fact that they are ends in themselves (as we have shown while refuting the fourth error), there is no room at all for such contention. 

If the previous Shariahs have changed, then why not now?

Here one may put forth a rational objection to this effect: The needs and requirements of human life keep on changing with every age, and this has been the ground for the abrogation and supersession of every Shariah (divine legislation) prior to Islam. How can it, then, be possible that, on the one hand, during the mere six centuries that lie between Jesus Christ and the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم the needs and requirements of mankind underwent such a radical change that a new dispensation became necessary, but, on the other hand, during more than double the period which has passed since the days of the Holy Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم to our own day, those needs and requirements have not yet suffered the slightest change?

To this objection, we would reply that if the Legislator is perfect in His wisdom and is also omniscient, it is quite possible for Him to frame when He so wishes, a set of law which can fulfill the needs and requirements of all the successive ages extending up to the Day of Judgment.

Is it very difficult to follow the rules of Sharia in modern times?

Arguing from the conditions prevailing in the modern world, one may still raise a doubt, and say that one daily observes that if one tries to follow the Shariah, one has to race many obstructions in conducting the ordinary business of life, which only shows that its injunctions are not suitable for this age. We would reply that the complaint about life becoming difficult can be justifiable only if all the people follow the Shariah, and yet the business of life should get obstructed. And this nobody can prove. The difficulties which one has to experience these days are due to the fact that those who do not follow the Shariah far outnumber those who do, and when this minority has to deal with that majority, a tension is sure to follow. Thus, the real source of the difficulties in our present way of life, and not the injunctions of the Shariah. It is just like a physician instructing a patient to eat ten different things, and the patient not being able to get any of these in his village. The impediment, in this case, lies not in the science of medicine, but in the condition of the village market.

As a matter of fact, no real difficulty arises at all in following the Shariah. It is only my fear of some personal loss that conjures up a suspicion that the Shariah is very restrictive and difficult to be practiced. But is there any system of law in existence that does not entail and tolerate individual loss for the sake of public good?

(6) Error: Forming the aims and objectives of Shariah rules by oneself

The sixth error is again related to the injunctions of the Shariah. Some people invent certain raisons d’etre, for these injunctions on the basis of their personal opinion, and insist on making the validity of the injunctions depend solely on the presence or absence of this very raisons d’etre. In consequence of this, they start misinterpreting, distorting and even annulling the injunctions laid down by the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith. Thus, we have heard of some people who somehow convinced themselves that the raison d’etre of the ritual ablutions (wudu’) was no more than cleanliness, and, finding themselves clean enough, did not think it necessary to perform the ablutions at all before offering prayers. There have been others who imagined that the raison d’etre of the ritual prayers was moral perfection, and, taking the attainment of this merit to be the desired end, gave up the daily prayers altogether. The same kind of encroachments has been made in the case of other forms of worship like fasting, zakah (ritual alms-giving), and the pilgrimage to Mecca. In the same way, the prohibitions in the Shariah too, like interest and pictures of a living being, etc., have been subjected to similar distortions. In short, such people have abrogated the Shariah totally.

Apart from such a procedure being a patent heresy, the contentions put forth by such people are mere assertions unsupported by any rational argument. For, is it not rationally possible that a large number of these injunctions should be forms of worship and intended to develop devotion and piety in man, and that, inputting man under the obligation to obey these commandments, the real raison d’etre should be to test his fidelity and faith? Besides that, is there any argument to prove that the raisons d’etre which have been suggested by such people are the only possible ones? It is equally possible that the real raisons d’etre should be those effects that emanate from the generic form of a particular injunction, just as he efficacy of certain medicines (nay, of all medicines) emanates from their respective, specific virtues.

As far as the search for raisons d’etre in itself is concerned, itis quite possible that one man may hit upon one thing, and another upon a different thing. What would, then, be the rational criterion for preferring one opinion to another? According to the well-known rule that when two propositions contradict each other both of them are overthrown, we shall have to declare both of them to be invalid.

Through this process of elimination, finally, the injunctions of the Shariah themselves would be demolished and annulled. This being so, would any sensible Muslim, who intended to remain faithful to his religion, choose to countenance such a procedure?

A corollary of the same error is that some people, in defending Islam against its detractors, try to justify the secondary injunctions of the Shariah by advancing similar rationalization and raisons d’etre.

Now, there is a great danger in adopting such a procedure. The raisons d’etre thus suggested are purely conjectural. If any of them is found to be questionable, the related injunction itself thereby becomes dubious and defective. Thus, it amounts to providing the detractors of Islam with a permanent opportunity for disputing and negating the Islamic injunctions.

The truth of the matter is that these injunctions are laws, and no one does ever seek secret motives in legal rules and regulations, nor does one have the right to change, or alter or abrogate laws on the ground of the imagined secret motives. It is the legislator himself who alone possesses these powers.

No doubt, the authentic and great Mujtahidun (or, the masters of Islamic law who enjoy sufficient authority to deduce subsidiary regulations from explicit injunctions) have, in the early centuries of Islamic history, sometimes pointed out the raisons d’etre of certain injunctions. But this example should not mislead one to appropriate this privilege to oneself. Those great masters had, firstly, to fulfill an essential need. That is to say, there are certain things about which there are no explicit decisions either in the Holy Qur’an or in the Hadith, and hence it was necessary to deduce regulations for such things from the explicit injunctions with regard to things of a similar nature. Secondly, they had the requisite talent for making such deductions. But nowadays both factors are absent. In the case of our modernists, besides the paucity of knowledge, the pursuit of one’s desires is the thickest veil that conceals the truth from their eyes.

(7) Error: Convincing the salvation of the deniers of Muhammadan prophecy

The seventh error, and the most fatal of all, is that some people are prepared to allow the possibility of salvation even to those who deny prophethood. Their contention is that the prophets themselves came for the purpose of affirming the unity of God, therefore, in so far as a man has attained the intended object, it does him no harm to deny something which was not intended to be the ultimate object.

A summary and traditional refutation of this opinion are provided by those verses of the Holy Qur’an and those pronouncements in the Hadith which explicitly state that those who deny prophethood shall be placed in hell forever. And the rational refutation is that he who denies the prophet denies God, for, in doing so, he is denying God’s word–that is, verses of the Holy Qur’an like:

محمد رسول الله                                           

“Muhammad is the prophet of Allah”. (48:29)

And a precedent from the worldly life is this. If a man were to acknowledge George V as his king but were to keep defying the Viceroy of India, would his behavior be considered meritorious or even pardonable by the king?

To read the Fourth Intimation about law of nature, Click on the link below:


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