The Unique Position of Quran in Islam (Part 2)

Part 2  – Was the messenger inspired at all times.

Traditionalists maintain that Nabi Muhammad was inspired at all times. This means that Allah was continuously guiding him in his daily life. Therefore his choices including his legal judgements were infallible. This then creates a need for Hadith literature which records minute details of his life. The traditionalist reasoning is based on Quran Ch 53 Vs 3-4 which states:

وَمَا يَنْطِقُ عَنْ الْهَوَى (النجم: 3).

إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ وَحْيٌ يُوحَى (النجم: 4)

He does not speak upon desire
It is nothing but an inspiration inspired to him

The Quranist Response:

A. This argument is typical of the Traditionalist scheme of argumentation in which they simply lift one or two verses out of context in order to press home a point. However, a wider contextual reading shows a different understanding. Let us read the entire passage:

وَالنَّجْمِ إِذَا هَوَى (النجم: 1).
مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمْ وَمَا غَوَى (النجم: 2).
وَمَا يَنْطِقُ عَنْ الْهَوَى (النجم: 3).
إِنْ هُوَ إِلاَّ وَحْيٌ يُوحَى (النجم: 4).
عَلَّمَهُ شَدِيدُ الْقُوَى (النجم: 5).
ذُو مِرَّةٍ فَاسْتَوَى (النجم: 6).
وَهُوَ بِالأُفُقِ الأَعْلَى (النجم: 7).
ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّى (النجم: 8).
فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوْسَيْنِ أَوْ أَدْنَى (النجم: 9).
فَأَوْحَى إِلَى عَبْدِهِ مَا أَوْحَى (النجم: 10).

Vs 1: By the star when it goes down
Vs 2: Your companion is not astray nor misguided
Vs 3: He does not speak upon desire
Vs 4: It is not but an inspiration inspired
Vs 5: He was taught by one mighty in power
Vs 6: Posessing of power, so He equilibriated
Vs 7: While He with the highest horizon
Vs 8: Then He came down so came closer
Vs 9: So He was at two bow’s length or closer
Vs 10: So He inspired towards His Servant what He inspired

From the passage above itself (and even further if you wish to read it), we can see at that is an extraordinary event. The star going descending, the infallibility of the companion, God being upon the highest horizon then descending till He was two bow’s length are clearly not everyday events. Hence, this infallibility cannot be a constant state of being either. But when does this occur? When inspiration reaches ‘your companion’.

B. What does ‘your companion follow’?

Vs 4 above states: it is not but an inspiration sent to him (your companion). If inspiration is said to do nothing but something, then we need to find what that something is. Let’s have a look at 10/15:

وَإِذَا تُتْلَى عَلَيْهِمْ آيَاتُنَا بَيِّنَاتٍ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَرْجُونَ لِقَاءَنَا ائْتِ بِقُرْآنٍ غَيْرِ هَذَا أَوْ بَدِّلْهُ قُلْ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أُبَدِّلَهُ مِنْ تِلْقَاءِ نَفْسِي إِنْ أَتَّبِعُ إِلاَّ مَا يُوحَى إِلَيَّ إِنِّي أَخَافُ إِنْ عَصَيْتُ رَبِّي عَذَابَ يَوْمٍ عَظِيمٍ (يونس: 15)

And when it is recited unto them our clarifying signs. Those who do not incline to meeting is with Us say, bring us a Quran other than this or change it. Say: it is not meet for me to change it according to my own soul. I follow nothing but what is inspired to me. Verily I fear if I rebel against my lord, the punishment of a grave day.

In the above verse, three key terms are used, namely ‘our clarifying signs’, ‘quran’ and ‘inspiration’. When the messenger was told to bring something other than Quran or change it, he was told to say that he could not of his own volition but rather he follows what is inspired to him. If Hadith or Sunnah were part of his teachings, his statement above would be untrue.

Therefore, Chapter 53 Verse 4 (It is not but an inspiration inspired) cannot be referring to anything other than Quran.

C. Quran itself records him making mistakes.

A. The blind man incident

Chapter 80
Vs 1: He frowned and turned away
Vs 2: Because there came to him the blind man
Vs 3: But what could tell you but that he might grow
Vs 4: Or that he might receive admonition, and the teaching might profit him
Vs 5: As to one who regards Himself as self-sufficient
Vs 6: To him you attend
Vs 7:  Though it is no blame on you if he grow not
Vs 8:  But as to him who came to you striving earnestly
Vs 9:  And with fear
Vs 10:  Of him were you unmindful

According to Sunni Tradition, the above verses relate to Nabi Muhammad frowning and turning away from Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum, a blind man who came to him to ask something. Clearly this was a mistake on Muhammad’s part. If indeed Muhammad was infallible, he could not have possibly done this. It is also worth noting that the Shi’a Muslims do not consider these verses to be about Muhammad.

B. Making something which has been allowed to be forbidden

Chapter 66

Vs 1: O Prophet! Why do you make to be forbidden that which Allah has made lawful to you? You seek to please your wives. But Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful
Vs 2: Allah has already ordained for you, the dissolution of your oaths: and Allah is your Protector, and He is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom
Vs 3: When the Prophet disclosed a matter in confidence to one of his wives and she then divulged it , and Allah made it known to him, he confirmed part thereof and repudiated a part. Then when he told her thereof, she said, “Who told you this? “He said, “He told me Who knows and is well-acquainted”

According to Sunni Tradition, the above relates to Nabi Muhammad forbidding himself. Based on a Hadith from Sahih Muslim, we are told that two of Muhammad’s wives were jealous that he was spending time with a third. They then concocted a story that they were offended by honey which Muhammad’s third wife used to serve. Muhammad then forbade himself honey, seeking to please his wives.

Although we do not accept this story, the fact remains that Muhammad forbade something which Allah made law for the sake of the approval of his spouses. This again shows that he could not have been inspired at all times! If he was, then that would imply that Allah inspired him to make that mistake, then rebuked him for that very mistake.

C. Fearing the people more than fearing Allah

Ch 33

Vs 37:….. You feared the people, but Allah has more right that you should fear Him….

This verse, according to Traditionalists, records the incident whereby Nabi Muhammad was told to marry the wife of his adopted son, Zayd ibn Harithah. This was disapproved by the customs of the time and Muhammad feared disapproval from his people. This is the fear recorded in the above verse, according to Traditionalists.

We do not accept this narrative but be that as it may, it is very clear Muhammad feared the people would in some way rather than fearing Allah that he should disobey His command. Once again, this shows a human failing so it is abundantly clear that Muhammad

What if the above is proof that all his mistakes were corrected?

Traditionalists often assert that the above examples show that Allah corrects all of Muhammad’s mistakes. To this assertion, we say, there is no proof of this from Quran at all. Nothing in the text tells us that, as a general principle, Allah corrects Muhammad’s mistakes. On the contrary, we have the following verse:

Say: “I am but a man like yourselves, (but) the inspiration has come to me, that your Allah is one Allah: whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner (18/110)

So Muhammad received inspiration (which has been demonstrated above as The Quran) but apart from that, he is an ordinary human being like us. A human being makes mistakes.

Next: Part 3 – The messenger’s judgement.

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