From Merchant to Messenger

The Prophet Muhammad's struggle for legitimacy as revealed in the Koran

A Prophet on His Own

From Merchant to Messenger85:21 Yet, it is a glorious Qur’an,

85:22 In a Well-Preserved Tablet.

As revealed in Muhammad vs. Moses, it need not have been tablets for the Meccans to believe that their tribesman had been chosen to speak on God’s behalf.

2:118 Those who do not know say: “If only Allah would speak to us (tell us that you are His Messenger), or a sign come to us.” Thus said those who came before them (to their Prophets). Their hearts are all alike. Indeed, We have made clear the signs for people who firmly believe.

Rather than publicly affirm that Muhammad was speaking on His behalf or provide the type of signs He had allowed lesser mouthpieces (“the like of what Allah’s Messengers have been given”) to produce as proof of their credentials, God, where His ultimate spokesman is concerned, preferred excuses such as claiming it was all part of the plot. 

6:124 And if a sign comes to them, they say: “We will not believe, until we are given the like of what Allah’s Messengers have been given.” Allah knows best where to place His Message. Those who commit sins will suffer humiliation and severe punishment from Allah on account of their plotting.

Why would a god allow a lesser messenger such as Jesus, for example, to perform miracles as evidence of his being an intimate, but not His ultimate spokesperson? Muhammad claimed that it was because he had been given the “Divine Inspiration,” which previous emissaries would also have been given, but perhaps to a lesser extent.

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "Every Prophet was given miracles because of which people believed, but what I have been given is Divine Inspiration which Allah has revealed to me. So I hope that my followers will outnumber the followers of the other Prophets on the Day of Resurrection."

Bukhari 61.504

When He is not insinuating that requests to allow Muhammad to perform a spectacular feat of legerdemain (to prove he is the real deal) are part of a plot to discredit both of them, God justifies His lack of support with the familiar argument that it would not make any difference.


54 Al-Qamar

In the Name of Allah,

the Compassionate, the Merciful

54:1 The Hour is drawing near and the moon is split asunder.[22]

54:2 If they see a sign, they turn away and say: “Continued sorcery.”

54:3 They denounced and followed their fancies, while every matter had been settled.

54:4 And they have received such news as would deter,

54:5 An outstanding wisdom; so what good are warnings?

Allah said that Paradise was "Gardens beneath which rivers flow" (see The Islamic Hereafter: "Paradise," Boreal Books). How about asking Him to make a river gush in the middle of a garden on Earth?

17:90 And they say: “We will not believe you until you cause a spring to gush out from the ground for us.

17:91 “Or have a garden of palms and vines; then cause the rivers therein to gush out abundantly.

Allah revealed that Paradise is a solid piece of real estate held up by invisible pillars above a flat Earth (see The Islamic Hereafter: "Paradise – The Nuts and Bolts," Boreal Books). How about having God send down a fragment of heaven, or better still, come down Himself along with His angels?

17:92 “Or cause heaven to fall upon us in fragments as you claim; or bring Allah and his angels down, so that we can see them face to face.

What about a book they could actually read? Allah responds to this sensible request for an actual hardcopy, or a paperback for that matter, of the Book with a trademark non-sequitur.

17:93 “Or possess a house of gold, or ascend to heaven. Yet, we will not believe in your ascension, until you send down to us a book we can read.” Say: “[O Muhammad] Glory be to my Lord; Am I anything other than a human Messenger?”

You, Muhammad, reciting from a never-seen book should be sign enough!

29:50 They said: “If only signs from his Lord were sent down on him (Muhammad).” Say: “Signs are only with Allah, and I am only a manifest warner.”

29:51 Does it not suffice them that We have sent down on you the Book which is recited to them? There is, indeed, in that a mercy and a reminder to a believing people.

29:52 Say: “Allah suffices as a witness between you and me. He knows what is in the heavens and on the earth; and those who have believed in falsehood and disbelieved in Allah – those are the losers.”

A variation on the non-sequitur:

13:27 And the unbelievers say: “If only a sign were sent down to him by His Lord!” Say: “Allah leads astray whomever He pleases and guides to himself those who repent,

Allah may not have cared to send down a copy of the actual book but that doesn’t mean its purported existence could not be used, as He tells Muhammad ad nauseam, to hammer home the Message it contains.

25:51 Had We wished, We would have sent forth to every city a warner.

25:52 So, do not obey the unbelievers and strive against them with it (the Qur’an) mightily.

It must have been tempting for Muhammad, when everything was going well for those who worshipped other gods, and bad for him, to ask these other gods for help.

28:87 And let them not divert you from the Revelations of Allah after they have been sent down to you. Call upon your Lord, and do not be one of the idolaters.

28:88 Do not call, besides Allah, upon any other god. There is no god but He. Everything will perish save His Face. His is the Judgement, and unto Him you shall all be returned.

It was not only Muhammad’s Meccan kin who questioned his legitimacy.

2:120 Neither the Jews nor the Christians will be pleased with you until you follow their religion. Say: “Allah’s Guidance is the [only] Guidance.” And were you to follow their desires after the Knowledge that came down to you, you will have no guardian or helper [to save you] from Allah.

In the end, apart from words of encouragement and promises of a horrible punishment for those who made fun of him, Muhammad was very much on his own, which makes what he accomplished that much more extraordinary.


[22] In a controversial hadith, the splitting of the moon was done by Muhammad at the request of his audience to warn them of an imminent Judgement Day.

Narrated Anas:

That the Meccan people requested Allah's Apostle to show them a miracle, and so he showed them the splitting of the moon.

Bukhari 56.831