The nature of signs of revelation
The nature of signs that demonstrate a source of revelation from God to humanity have changed over time, but have all been to convince people in accordance to the science of their day. In the time of Moses the science of the day was the trickery of sorcery. To know how to impress people with such things was the highest form of knowledge. Moses was given many miracles but among them were that his staff turned into a snake and that his hand shone bright white. In the time of Jesus the miracles he brought were similarly in tune with the best science of the day - he healed people in miraculous ways. These things were all convincing to the people in the sciences of their day. If you had been healed by Jesus or seen the staff turned into a snake you would have had no reasonable excuse to reject the revelation brought by these people. Another thing has always been critical in sciences thought out history, and that is the prediction of the future which is the basis of the usefulness of all science, indeed this is the common meaning of the word prophet in English.
So where is the evidence of revelation today? What would be the nature of such evidence today, which would be convincing to the sciences around now? For that matter what would be convincing to future scientists?
The nature of the evidence is that of the scripture itself - its meanings its style, its knowledge. It claims to be a text that cannot be explained away: - for many reasons the evidence points to the convincing conclusion that it was not composed by any one person or by any group of people. This is known as the ijaz of the Qur'an.
The Qur'an had a huge impact on the world. It transformed the Arabs from a bunch of warring tribes into leaders of the most powerful empire that had ever existed. It was the reason why the classical Arabic language has been preserved to an extent incomparable to any other classical language. It was a completely new style of literature that had no precedent and has had no text approach its unique poetic prose with powerful meanings. Although it is sometimes hard to put the meanings into English I will attempt to bring some of this across in a discussion on the opening surah of the Qur'an which is a mere seven verses but which is packed with profound meaning. I will also introduce a couple of examples of remarkable subtlety.
To directly appreciate the signs of the Qur'an it is necessary to know Arabic, because only then can you really see the full range of meanings of the words employed. You can then apply your knowledge of reality to those meanings and appreciate more fully the accuracy and eloquence of the text. To the Arabs of the time its power as a text was profound and a few verses were able to transform the lives of people. This occasionally was partly the result of the context and timing of the revelation which gave a clear meaning to the verses sometimes giving accurate predictions of otherwise unexpected events, but often the listener recognised the text as speaking directly to them and from a position of knowing them intimately as only God could have.
It is sometimes said that you cannot simply read the Qur'an, rather you have to answer it - it challenges you directly from a position of completely unquestionable authority. You must answer. Many people who would like to consider themselves balanced and fair minded are unnerved by the text. They simply don't like to be challenged. It is hard to really read it and earnestly seek to understand the meanings without reflecting on what it means for you.
These things await the earnest seeker of truth when they read the Qur'an, however for now, I would like to consider the evidence which I can easily relate to someone who doesn't speak Arabic. This must inevitably depend on my knowledge of Arabic, which is somewhat limited. I have, however, studied some Arabic in the key areas, which I cover in the following pages. The principal evidence of the Qur'an which I aim to present is of remarkably accurate descriptions of phenomena found in the Qur'an which have been discovered only recently many centuries after the Qur'an was written as well as the beginnings of some discoveries in the numerical structures in the Qur'an which have become available since the complete concordance of the Qur'an was first compiled in the middle of this century.
These are part of the perfection of the Quran is evidence of the perfection of its author. My knowledge is imperfect and any errors I may make in this are mine alone. The Qur'an makes the powerful and important challenge that if the Qur'an were by other than Allah then there would be much error in it. Indeed if you look at any text contemporary with the Qur'an you will find in it many things which when looking back with hindsight we recognise as errors. It is indeed remarkable that none of these have found their way into the Qur'an. To prove there is no error in the Qur'an would require me to go through the whole Qur'an explaining every verse - even then this doesn't prove it against future discoveries. All I attempt to do here is highlight the remarkably accurate statements and impressive structure in the Qur'an and refute some things that could be mistaken for errors. I leave the rest to you.
When I first thought seriously about becoming a Muslim I made a point of reading the whole Qur'an to see if there was anything which I would find intellectually unacceptable. I found nothing of the sort. On the contrary, I found several things that strongly confirmed my tentative newly forming belief.
The sin of disbelief as far as revelation is concerned is closely related to that of disbelief in God. However, there is an important distinction: Disbelief in God is the equivalent of bad thinking. Belief in God is essential for good thinking: it provides the ultimate rationalisation which makes the believers perspective on reality a 'rational' one and the ultimate goal to what makes thinking really good. Disbelief in revelation, on the other hand is the consequence of bad thinking when encountering revelation. It is possible to believe in God and not accept the Qur'an as genuine revelation. If someone disbelieves in the revelation of the Qur'an then it is not necessarily a sin. It will depend on how good their thinking is, given the knowledge that has reached them. Good thinking implies that the search made was a reasonable one. It is no excuse not to gain knowledge that may be vital for you when it is at your fingertips or even if you need to put some significant effort in. A reasonable search will of course correspond to your estimations of success in the search. For example there is no reason to expect to find banana trees growing at the North Pole. If your expectations are genuinely very low of finding something important, and your perception of the risks of not finding something is not high then you are not guilty for not putting much effort into the search. Your estimations are based on your knowledge. Allah knows what you know to be a reasonable effort. You will only be judged as sinful in your not accepting some particular piece of revelation if your thinking was bad; if you had some lack of sincerity in seeking the truth as to the claims of the Qur'an.
"Ad-din an-nasiha" - the religion (Islam) is sincerity
Saying of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him)