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The Prophets and Proof of Revelation and Prophecy

Many modern scholars who have investigated the problem of revelation and prophecy have tried to explain revelation, prophecy and questions connected with them by using the principles of social psychology. They say that the prophets of God were men of a pure nature and strong will who had great love for humanity. In order to enable mankind to advance spiritually and materially and in order to reform decadent societies, they devised laws and regulations and invited mankind to accept them. Since people in those days would not accept the logic of human reason, in order to make them obey their teachings the prophets, according to such modern scholars, claimed that they and their thoughts came from the transcendent world. Each prophet called his own pure soul the Holy Spirit; the teachings which he claimed came from the transcendent world were called "revelation and prophecy"; the duties which resulted from the teachings were called "revealed Shari'ah"; and the written record of these teachings and duties were called a "revealed book."

Anyone who views with depth and impartiality the revealed books and especially the Holy Qur'an, and also the lives of the prophets, will have no doubt that this view is not correct. The prophets of God were not political men. Rather, they were "men of God," full of truthfulness and purity. What they perceived they proclaimed without addition or diminution. And what they uttered they acted upon. What they claimed to possess was a mysterious consciousness which the invisible world had bestowed upon them. In this way, they came to know from God Himself what the welfare of men was in this world and the next, and propagated this knowledge among mankind.

It is quite clear that in order to confirm and ascertain the call of prophecy there is need of proof and demonstration. The sole fact that the Shari' ah brought by a prophet conforms to reason is not sufficient in determining the truthfulness of the prophetic call. A man who claims to be a prophet, in addition to the claim of the truth of his Shari ah, claims a connection through revelation and prophecy with the transcendent world, and therefore claims that he has been given by God the mission to propagate the faith. This claim in itself is in need of proof. That is why (as the Holy Qur'an informs us) the common people with their simple mentality always sought miracles from the prophets of God in order that the truthfulness of their call might be confirmed.

The meaning of this simple and correct logic is that the revelation, which the prophet claims is his cannot be found among others who are human beings like him. It is of necessity an invisible power which God miraculously bestows upon His prophets, through which they hear His word and are given the mission to convey this word to mankind. If this be true, then the prophet should ask God for another miracle so that people would believe the truth of his prophetic call.

It is thus clear that the request for miracles from prophets is according to correct logic and it is incumbent upon the prophet of God to provide a miracle at the beginning of his call, or according to the demand of the people, in order to prove his prophecy. The Holy Qur'an has affirmed this logic, relating miracles about many prophets at the beginning of their mission or after their followers requested them.

Of course many modern investigators and scientists have denied miracles, but their opinions are not based upon any satisfactory reasons. There is no reason to believe that the causes which until now have been discovered for events through in vestigation and experiment are permanent and unchanging, or that no event ever occurs for reasons other than those which usually bring it about. The miracles related about the prophets of God are not impossible or against reason (as is, for example, the claim that the number three is even). Rather they are a "break in what is habitual" (kharq al- ?dah) 1 an occurrence which, incidentally, has often been observed in a lower degree among people following ascetic practices.

1 Editor's note: Miracle in Persian as in Arabic is in fact called khariq al-'Adah that is, that which breaks the habitual relation between causes and effects in this world which because of its recurrence and persistence appears to us as a closed and unbreakable net of causality. The miracle represents the intrusion into this habitual world of a cause from another world or state of being with naturally different effects from what we have been accustomed to in our everyday experience. It is therefore the "break of habit" or of what has been habitual.

Adapted from: "Shi'ah" by: "Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i"

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