22. What is prophecy?

Prophecies are those words spoken by prophets fore-telling future events. Most prophets claim that their authority to speak the prophetic utterance comes from God. In most cases it is only the test of time that validates the words of prophecy uttered by a prophet. In the Old Testament of the Bible many prophets had to be willing to be part of the fulfilment of their prophetic utterances. Moses, Joshua and Elijah were all involved in the fulfilment of the words they prophesied. However, Daniel predicted things that have still to come to pass at the end of the world.

Most Muslims believe that it has long been recognised that a sure sign of the truth of a claim to Prophet- hood is the ability of that individual to accurately and consistently predict future events and to work miracles. This is especially true of Christians who often ask ‘what did Muhammad prophesy?’ ‘What miracles did he perform’? – See question 28 for a list of twelve miracles claimed by Sahih Al -Bukhari in his hadith. The Bible lays down this method to distinguish between a true and false prophet. Most people are able to predict a future event occasionally, and some are able to get it right a lot of the time. This is called prophecy but being able to give an occasional prophecy does not make a person a prophet. Only someone who is receiving inspiration from the One who has complete knowledge of the future can get it right every time. Christians believe that Jesus has not been proven wrong on any future event he predicted. Muslims believe that Muhammad’s prophethood is affirmed by his record of fulfilled prophecies and his miracles. According to Muslim scholars there are many predictions both in the Qur’an and the authenticated sayings of the Prophet Muhammad that have been fulfilled.

The Qur’an says: “Ye shall enter the Sacred Mosque, if Allâh wills, secure, heads shaved, hair cut short, and without fear” (48:28). This passage was revealed after the Prophet had been stopped by the Quraish from making ‘Umrah’ (the Minor Pilgrimage) and a treaty made between the Muslims and pagans at Hudaybia, six years after the Prophet’s emigration from Mecca. From this position of weakness, in merely two years the verse was fulfilled, Mecca was captured, and the Muslims performed the pilgrimage, shaving their heads, and some cutting their hair.

The Qur’an says: ‘Allâh has promised to those of you who believe and do good deeds, that He will surely grant them in the land inheritance of power as He granted it to those before them; that He will establish in authority their religion which He has chosen for them. And that He will change their state of fear to one of security and peace. They will worship Me alone and not associate aught with Me.’ (24:55) And also: ‘Say to those who deny faith, soon you will be vanquished.’ (3:12) and ‘When comes the help of Allâh and Victory, and you see the people enter Allâh’s religion in multitudes . . .’ (110:1- 2) The first verse was revealed at a time of the Muslims’ weakness, promising the righteous victory, and the second predicts the peoples entering into Islâm in crowds, and so it came to pass, after the capture of Mecca, and in the time of the Caliphs Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali, who were from the most pious companions of the Prophet, were established by Allâh in the land, defeating the Persian and Roman empires, so that Islâm was established from Spain to parts of China in a mere twenty years. This, in part, fulfils another prophecy of the Qur’an: ‘It is He who has sent the Messenger with guidance, and the religion of truth, to make it triumphant over all religions.’ (9:32)

The Qur’an says: ‘The Roman Empire has been defeated in a land close by; but they, even after this defeat, will gain victory in a few years. Allâh is the commander, in the past and in the future. On that day shall the believers rejoice, with the help of Allâh, He helps whom He wills. And He is the mighty and the most Merciful. It is the promise of Allâh. Allâh never departs from His promise: but most men understand not. They crave for the outer things of life, but of the hereafter they are heedless.’ (30:1-7) The Eastern Roman (i.e. Byzantine) Empire suffered a massive defeat at the hands of the Persians who captured Jerusalem in 614, and after that Egypt and Syria fell, and Constantinople was laid siege to – ‘a land close by’. The pagan Arabs delighted in this, as it seemed to signal to them the success of idolatry over the followers of the revelation. When this verse was revealed it seemed impossible that Rome would recover. The word, translated “a few”, is bid’a, which actually means from three to nine years. Ubayy, a pagan Arab, wagered Abu Bakr one hundred camels that this would never occur. By the year 623, Heraclius, the Byzantine Roman Emperor, took to the field and vanquished the Persians in a series of battles, culminating in the battle of Nineveh in 627. Ubayy had been killed, so his relatives paid the debt. At this same time the Muslims had been victorious over the pagan Quraish and were rejoicing, as the Qur’an foretold.

In part of a long narration found in the two authoritative books of Hadith, the Prophet was sitting in a garden. ‘Uthman ibn Afan walked in and the Prophet asked Abu Musa ‘Ashari (the narrator) to inform him of the good news of paradise, and also that the people would mutiny against him. The Prophecy was fulfilled in that ‘Uthman became the leader of the Muslims, and secondly some of the people rose against him and slew him.

‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Rightly Guided Caliph, had also been informed by the Prophet of his assassination in such detail that he knew the man who was going to kill him, and identified him and pointed him out to the people. They asked ‘Ali why he did not kill the man and he replied: ‘Then who will kill me?’ The night preceding his assassination ‘Ali had come out, and gazed at the sky and said: ‘By Allâh he never told a lie, nor was a lie ever told to him.’ The next day the same man killed ‘Ali, and his blood spilled down his beard, as the Prophet had described.

Whilst the Muslims were fighting the Jews in Khyber, after some days of attempting to besiege the fortress, the Prophet said that the next morning he would entrust the flag to a man to whom Allâh would give victory. He gave the flag to ‘Ali, and the same day the fortress was conquered under Ali’s command.

The Prophet of Islâm saw ‘Ali and Zubair one day laughing together, and he asked Ali if he loved Zubair. Ali replied: ‘How could I not love him since he is my nephew and coreligionist.’ The Prophet asked Zubair the same question, who gave a similar response. The Prophet of Islâm then told Zubair that he would fight ‘Ali, and that he would be the oppressor. So in the Battle of Jamal, when Ali and Zubair, in opposing camps, came face to face. ‘Ali reminded Zubair of the incident, and Zubair recalled, and said that he had forgotten, and he immediately left the battlefield. So the battle took place as the Prophet had predicted, and Zubair was the oppressor, since Ali was the Rightful Caliph, and to oppose him with violence was wrong. The Prophet of Islâm said: ‘The Caliphate will last for thirty years, then there will be a biting kingship.’ So it happened. The rule of the Rightly Guided Caliphs was exactly thirty years: Abu Bakr for two, ‘Umar for ten, ‘Uthman for twelve, ‘Ali for two and a half and Hassan three and a half. After that evil spread and kingship was established.

The Prophet of Islâm also predicted the capture of Egypt, and told his companions to treat the people well, and that they would seize the treasures of the Persian Choseros (Emperor), who lives in the white palace, all of which they accomplished, and that Suraqa bin Malik (one of the companions) would have the bracelets of Caesar put on his hands. So it happened that some such bracelets fell into the possession of ‘Umar and he called Suraqa, and placed the bracelets on him, reminding him of the Prophet’s words.

A narration in the most authoritative of the Hadith books, Sahih al-Bukhari, told Auf bin Malik to look for six incidents before the last day: ‘The first, my death; the second the conquest of Jerusalem; third, an epidemic among them; fourth, the abundance of wealth so that a man would not gladly accept one hundred dinars even if given it; fifth, a trouble that would involve all Arab families without exception; sixth, a treaty with the Christians, which the Christians would violate, etc.(the hadith describes this last event, not yet fulfilled). Jerusalem was captured, and after this in 16 A.H. an epidemic broke out in Umwas and seventy thousand died. Wealth became plentiful, especially during the Caliphate of Uthman, and after that in the time of Umar ibn Abdul Azziz, when the collectors of zakat found no one poor enough to receive it. Also the rebellious war arose in the time of Uthman and became worse after his murder.

The Prophet mentioned that the Muslims would conquer both Rome and Constantinople. He was asked which would fall first, and the Prophet said: “The city of Heraclius”, i.e. Constantinople. Constantinople was taken by the Muslims in the fifteenth century. Rome still remains to be conquered, as it will be. So the order is correct, and rest still to be fulfilled. What is noteworthy about these statements of the Prophet of Islâm is that they were made at a time when no one could imagine that a small city state, permanently under siege by the pagan Arabs, would reach such heights of power and strength.

The Prophet of Islâm mentioned that there would be signs forewarning the approach of the last day. Among those that have clearly come to pass are:

The barefooted Bedouins compete in building tall buildings. Today we find in the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabs who used to be impoverished herders of camels and sheep are competing in building the tallest tower blocks.

The Mosques would be like palaces. This seems to be the case, even though the Prophet of Islâm ordered simplicity in the houses of Allâh, the mosques became more and more elaborate, with golden domes, marbled floors, lavish carpets and chandeliers.

Disappearance of trustworthiness, so much so that one would only be able to say: ‘I know a trustworthy person in such-and-such town.’ The increase in killing, so that the one who kills does not know why he killed, and the one killed does not know why he was killed.

The increase in the use of riba (usury/interest) so that no one will able to escape its impact on their lives. This seems to describe the state of the world economy today.

The enemies of the Muslims will be dividing the Muslims’ wealth, and lands between them, as in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan.

The Muslims’ abandoning jihad, and concerning themselves only with the worldly matters.

The increase of literacy. The decrease of religious knowledge due to the disappearance of scholars.

The increase of musical instruments, and the Muslims making them lawful even though the Prophet of Islâm has forbidden them.

The increase of sexual promiscuity, and new diseases that people had not heard of before, spreading as a consequence of that. The arrival of AIDS, syphilis, herpes and other previously unheard of viruses.

Appearance of Dajjals (liars), each claiming to be a Messenger of Allâh, while Muhammad is the last messenger. There are numerous examples of this, starting with Musailima, who arose in the time of the Prophet, just before his death, to more modern liars such as Elija Muhammad, founder of the Black American racist movement ‘The Nation of Islâm’, and India’s pretender Gulam Ahmed of Radian the founder of the Ahmediyya movement.

Nakedness of women while still being dressed.

The drinking of wine becoming very common and the Muslims making it lawful by calling it another name.

Shouting in the mosques.

The worst and most ignorant will become leaders and they will be oppressors, Presidents Mubarak, Ghadaffi and Assad.

A man will obey his wife and disobey his mother, and treat his friends kindly and shun his father.

Men will wear silk and gold, and the making of it lawful by the Muslims even though the Prophet had forbidden it for the men of his ‘Ummah (nation).

People will abandon the religion for a small worldly gain, and keeping to the religion will be like holding two hot coals.

So these are just some of the numerous prophecies of Muhammad, that Muslims believe have come true, and some have been fulfilled in this age in which we live, all adding weight to the evidence in favour of his claim of prophethood. The Bible teaches that a prophet is one who not only speaks accurately about future events, but also does miraculous signs given by God to confirm their role as a prophet. The Prophet Isaiah is one of the most famous prophets in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 53 he prophesied accurately the events concerning the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. This passage is probably the most famous of the prophetic words about Jesus. The Old Testament contains 333 prophetic statements about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. All of them were perfectly fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. Samuel, Elijah and Elisha were prophets at the time of King Saul. Elijah performed many miracles and did not die. He was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Elisha asked for double the power to do miracles that his teacher Elijah had demonstrated. He received that power and parted the river Jordan, and prayed down fire from heaven on an altar of sacrifice that had been soaked in water. Samuel prophesied to the people of Israel what would happen if they asked God for a king. What he prophesied came to pass. Joshua parted the waters of the Jordan for the people to cross over on dry land as had Moses before him when he parted the Red Sea. Joshua predicted that the children of Israel could overcome the city of Jericho and they did. So the prophets recognised as such in the Bible have these two evidences that God was at work with them. Their predictions came to pass and they worked miracles from God.