It is generally well-known that a person who claims prophethood is either someone of the best or the worst of mankind, and these two extremes can never be confused. This is true indeed, due to the fact that he is either a truthful Prophet of God, thus it is accepted that he should be one of the best and most perfect person, an example par excellence. Or, if he is a liar against God — and this is the most terrible of lies — there he is one of the worst and most wicked person to ever walk the earth. This big difference is too great to be missed by any lay person, let alone smart and intelligent individuals. It is truly a very huge difference, indeed !
How could someone confuse a prophet who has reached the highest level of truthfulness, honesty and morality — as opposed to a liar against God who has reached the lowest level of wickedness and immorality ? How could someone not be able to distinguish between these two extremes ?
The behavior and mannerisms of a person tells someone whether he is a truthful person or a habitual liar. This can be known from his habitual life and daily manners especially with long companionship and experiencing interaction with the individual in question. If someone is truthful all the time, this is clearly recognized. And if he sometimes tells lies, this is also quickly recognized. This is something we frequently experience in our daily life ; if anyone lived amongst a certain society for a long time, the members of this society can easily tell whether this one is truthful or not. People who are close to a certain person for a long time are able to tell whether this person habitually lies or not, especially in major issues.
Those who were close to Prophet Muhammad(P) had a solid belief that he is a truthful person that had never lied in his entire life. Even those who disbelieved in his Prophethood did not deny this fact. This is evident in the following report in Sahih Muslim :
It is reported on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas that when this verse was revealed:” And warn thy nearest kindred” (and thy group of selected people among them) the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) set off till he climbed Safa’ and called loudly : Be on your guard ! They said : Who is it calling aloud ? They said : Muhammad. They gathered round him, and he said : O sons of so and so, O sons of so and so, O sons of ‘Abd Manaf, O sons of ‘Abd al-Muttalib, and they gathered around him. He (the Apostle) said : If I were to inform you that there were horsemen emerging out of the foot of this mountain, would you believe me ? They said : We have not experienced any lie from you. He said : Well, I am a warner to you before a severe torment. He (the narrator) said that Abu Lahab then said : Destruction to you ! Is it for this you have gathered us ? He (the Holy Prophet) then stood up, and this verse was revealed:” Perish the hands of Abu Lahab, and he indeed perished” (cxi. 1). A’mash recited this to the end of the Sura.1
Our witness in this report is the statement by the Prophet’s own kin : “We have not experienced any lie from you”, this means that his truthfulness was something very apparent and well known to them. Also, it does demonstrate that his truthfulness was agreed upon amongst them, for no one objected to this statement despite the fact that it was said in the open where all people were present. In fact, they refused his call and disbelieved in his Prophethood, but they did not belie his truthfulness, preferring instead to abuse him.
In their response to his call, they actually preferred abusing him to belying him !
One should put in consideration that Muhammad(P) was born, grew up, lived and married before the Message in the midst of his people, so they should be the best judge on his manners especially truthfulness. Despite the fact that many of them did not follow him — and rather, opposed him — they have all agreed that they never heard a single lie from him.
Another proof of this fact is given in the long report of Abu Sufyan and Heraclius when the latter asked the former : “Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a prophet)?” Abu Sufyan answered : “No.“2 This event took place before Abu Sufyan embraced Islam. The comment of Heraclius regarding Abu Sufyan’s reply is interesting, he further said : “I further asked whether he was ever accused of telling lies before he said what he said, and your reply was in the negative. So I wonder how a person who never told a lie about others could ever tell a lie about Allah?“3
This brings us to a discussion on Argument of Priority.
Argument of Priority is one form of logical arguments formulated by Muslim scholars. An example of this type of argument is that if Sam is able to carry five kilograms of any material, then it is assumed that prior to that he is able to carry only one kilogram of the same material. Yes, it is not mentioned in the first statement that Sam can carry one kilogram — it is only stated that he could carry five — but this logical argument leads us to conclude that as long as he could carry five kilograms, then he is able to carry one kilogram as well.
This logical argument was employed by Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taimiyyah in his argument that if man has the attributes of seeing, hearing and speaking, then it is prior of God who created man to attain these attributes.4
In fact, this logical argument is derived from the Noble Qur’an ; the Qur’an employs it to answer those who deny the belief in Resurrection and the Hereafter, it answers them that it is God who was able to create man from nothing is thus also able to revive man again in the Last Day, for if God is able to create man from nothing, it is of course logical to accept that prior to that He would be able to revive him again from death.5
More of such examples are available in the Qur’an, but we will not be referring to those examples in this article.
Back to our discussion on the truthfulness of Prophet Muhammad(P), we find that Heraclius employed the Argument of Priority as proof of Muhammad’s prophethood ; he said : “how could a person who never told a lie about others ever tell a lie about Allah?”
This is a true argument indeed ; for if someone refrains from telling lies to others in worldly matters, it is of course acceptable to admit that prior to that he would not to tell lies against God. If telling lies was never one of his attributes — in fact, to the contrary, people had never heard of any lie coming from him — and he abstains from lying to people, then his abstaining from telling lies against God is prior. In fact, when one examines the biography of Prophet Muhammad(P), he will find that his contemporaries had never accused him of being a liar in his claim to be a Prophet of God. Yes, they had accused him of being a sorcerer, a poet, a madman or someone possessed, but they had never accused him of lying. The Qur’an also tells that they do not really belie him, they rather deny and reject Signs of Allah.6
This contradictory attitude of the disbelievers was the reason why they deserved God’s punishment in the end ; they knew that Muhammad(P) was a truthful person and that he never told a lie. However, they disbelieved in him and vigorously rejected his Message. On the contrary, the Believers sincerely believed in him because they knew that he was not a liar — especially those who were intimate with his life, people in the likes of his wife Khadijah (P) and his Companions Abu Bakr (R), Uthman (R) and Umar (R).
Which position will you choose for yourself ? Will you choose the position of that of the believers or the position of the disbelievers, who were destroyed in the end ?
And glory be to Allah and His Apostle, and to the Believers.
- Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Chapter 87, Number 406
- Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 1, Number 6
- Refer to Ibn Taimiyyah, Ar-Rad ‘Ala Al-Mantiqyeen, pp. 130 – 131
- Qur’an, Sura Ya-Sin : 78 – 79 and Sura Ar-Rum : 27
- Refer to Qur’an, Sura Al-An’am : 33