The Role of Contextual Evidence in Proving the Prophethood of the Messenger of Islam (ṣ)

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The Role of Contextual Evidence in Proving the Prophethood of the Messenger of Islam (ṣ)

Question: Is it possible to collect various pieces of contextual evidence towards proving the prophethood of the Messenger of Islam (ṣ)?
Concise answer:
Detailed answer: It is possible to collect all of the various pieces of evidence in regards to the life of the Prophet (ṣ), including his characteristics and his ethical actions, and when all of these pieces of evidence are summed up, they do amount to something which equals some of the most powerful miracles that we saw from the Prophet (ṣ) himself. In some cases, this evidence from the life of the Prophet (ṣ) can be more convincing of his prophethood than some of the actual miracles he performed.

Such a methodology was mentioned by previous scholars as a proof of the Messenger’s (ṣ) prophethood, but it was not really classified as a miracle in and of itself. Yet today, scholars from various different sciences commonly use this method to reach the conclusion that the Prophet of Islam (ṣ) was in fact a divine prophet. There are narrations showing the Prophet (ṣ) had knowledge in regards to various crimes that had taken place, knowledge in regards to different kinds of illnesses, in regards to the knowledge of past historical figures, in regards to the world of creation, the earth, the sky, plants, as well as animals.

This method is different than inductive reasoning (which is one of the ways of proving something) because in inductive reasoning for example, we research a large group of individuals and then reach an overall conclusion that pertains to all of them in general. For example, someone can take a number of people and count the number of ribs that they have and then reach the conclusion that each individual has x number of ribs; this would then be written down in as a general rule on the human body. Yet in this method of collecting all the evidence in regards to the life and personality of the Prophet (ṣ), we are researching the life of one specific individual, and by looking through all of the evidence, we are trying to reach one specific conclusion.

Let us consider the following example: whenever a crime takes place and someone is accused of it, he is taken to court. This individual then pleads not guilty and proclaims that he did not do the aforementioned crime. Almost always, there are circumstantial pieces of evidence that show whether a person could have committed the crime or not. These pieces of contextual evidence are studied in order to come to a conclusion in regards to the accused person. The evidence includes the following information:

1- The past history of the accused.

2- The relationship of the accused with the victim; was there any animosity or dispute present between them?

3- The time and place of the crime and whether the accused can account for his whereabouts during that time period.

4- The type of weapon or the bullets used in the crime and whether the accused was known to have possessed them in the past?

5- Is there any evidence of wounds on the bodies of the accused and the victim related to a struggle? If wounds are present, can the accused explain how he received such wounds?

6- How does the accused react when he sees the clothing of the victim with blood on it; does he maintain his composure or does he become agitated?

7- What is the psychological state of the accused during the present time in comparison with past times? Does he possess the same state or is he in a state of deep anxiety at the present time?

8- Does the accused contradict himself and become confused under questioning by the judge or the police investigators, or does he maintain a clear and accurate explanation of what happened?

 

These pieces of contextual evidence, if examined individually, cannot be enough to convict someone of a crime, but when they are gathered together, they can in fact sway a jury towards one verdict or another. It can also be said that confession as a whole is a doubtful way of establishing someone’s guilt because many times people have paid others a large amount of money to confess to their crime and they have promised that in the end, they will be saved through the use of various legal tricks. In addition, witnesses can also give false testimony or they can be mistaken and so this is also not a surefire way of gauging someone’s guilt in and of itself.

In various Islamic judgments, we can see examples of these methods where guilt was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by one piece of contextual evidence. For example, look at the case of two individuals who claimed that one man was their slave during the era of Amīr al-MuÞminīn (Ýa). When the slave was ordered to be whipped (the order was made in order to gauge the reaction of the two supposed masters), one man quickly backed down on his claim and so it was clear that the slave was in fact his slave (he knew him and so did not want to see him hurt). Another story is that of the dispute between two women in regards to a child that they both claimed was theirs. An order was made to cut the child in half (again, the order was not a real order and it was only made to gauge the reaction of the two women), when the real mother quickly said that the other woman could have the child. This showed who the real mother was, as no mother would allow her child to be cut in half….

In any case, the use of contextual evidence in order to reach a conclusion is not only used in judicial cases, but it is also used in different sciences and in various social and political issues. We can similarly use this method in proving the prophethood of the prophets (Ýa). In some cases, these pieces of contextual evidence can be shown as one of the most powerful proofs for the divine message of a certain prophet; sometimes it can even be more powerful than various miracles that the aforementioned prophet performed!

In the Holy Quran, we have various proofs that refer to this issue:

1- There are some verses in the Quran that refer to the Prophet (ṣ) as a witness, a bright light, a proof, and the sun. Take a look at the 45th and 46th verses of Surah Aḥzāb:

  (يا اَيُّهَا النَّبِىُّ اِنّا اَرْسَلْناكَ شاهِداً وَ مُبَشِّراً ونَذيراً ـ و داعياً اِلَى اللهِ بِاِذْنِه وَ سِراجاً مُنيراً)

“O Prophet! Indeed We have sent you as a witness, as a bearer of good news and as a warner

and as a summoner to Allah by His permission, and as a radiant lamp.”

In these two verses, the Prophet (ṣ) is first introduced as a witness, which according to some commentaries is in reference to his own truthfulness; his truthfulness is proven by his characteristics, ethics, and behavior both during those times,  as well as before the people knew him as a prophet. All of these personal attributes proved to the people beyond a shadow of a doubt that his message was a truthful message from God.[1] Then, the Prophet (ṣ) is introduced as a bright and well known light and it is clearly known that in such a verse, the meaning of light is a reference to the Prophet (ṣ) himself.

The 174th verse of Surah NisāÞ refers to the term Burhān (proof) in the following way:

 (يا اَيُّهَا النَّاسُ قَدْ جاءَكُمْ بُرْهانٌ مِنْ رَبِّكُمْ وَاَنْزَلْنا اِلَيْكُمْ نُوراً مُبين)

“O mankind! Certainly a proof has come to you from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a manifest light.”

This verse is another indication of the aforementioned discussion. The term Burhān comes from the term Barah, which means to become white; in essence, it is mentioning how the proof of the Quran clearly shows the truth as a manifest and bright light. Again, a group of the commentators have mentioned that the term Burhān is in reference to the person of the Prophet (ṣ) himself.[2] They have further said that the meaning of the term Nūr (light) is the Quran. In addition, the Prophet (ṣ) has been introduced as the Burhān because in addition to his miracles, there were numerous personal characteristics within him that showed the truthfulness of his message

Another interesting verse on this subject is the following: (وَالشَّمْسِ وَ ضُحيها): “By the sun and her forenoon splendor.”[3] The commentators of this verse have narrated numerous traditions mentioning how the term Shams (sun) is a reference to the Prophet (ṣ) himself and the term Qamar (moon) is a reference to his successor (Imam ÝAlī (Ýa)).[4] It is interesting to note that the sun doesn’t require any proof of its existence since from the time that it rises from the east, everyone becomes aware of its splendor and light.[5]



Peinevesht: [1] In another commentary on this verse, the Prophet (ṣ) is introduced as a witness upon all other previous prophets; another explanation is that he is a witness upon the actions of his community on the Day of Judgment.

[2] Amongst the people who accepted this meaning or who mentioned it in their commentary are the late Shaykh Ṭabarsī in his MajmaÝ al-Bayān, ÝAllāmah ṬabāṭabāÞī in his Tafsīr al-Mīzān, and Marāghī and Qurṭubī in their commentary of the first verse of Surah Shams in the Quran.

[3] Surah Shams, verse 1.

[4] In Tafsīr Burhān, vol. 4, p. 466 there are five traditions narrated on this issue.

[5] Payām Qurān, vol. 8, p. 329.
Published on: « 1393/02/21 »
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