Translation from Ibn Al-Jawzi’s Sayd Al-Khatir (Quarry of the Mind) | Prophets—True and False

TRUTH IS NEVER confused with falsehood. It is only that falsehood plays a trick on the minds of those who have no understanding. The same applies to those who claim prophethood or miracles.

As for prophethood, the fact is, many lay claim to it. Then their true colors show, and they are humiliated. Sometimes this humiliation stems from their lack of fortitude. For others, it follows from their constant seeking out of pleasures, or from their incoherence, or from the contradictions in their words and actions.

Feigned

Al-Aswad Al-¢Ansî was one such pretender to prophethood. He announced his claim and titled himself Dhu’l-Himâza, or He of Himâza, because he claimed Himâza was an angel that would come to him with revelation. Prior to his ‘ascension’ to prophethood, he was a known soothsayer who used to practice wizardry and magic.

Another, of course, was Musaylama Al-Kadhdhâb, Musaylama the Great Liar. He claimed prophethood and named himself Ra^mân Al-Yamâma. Ra^mân of Yamâma, because he said “the one who comes to me [with revelation] is Ra^mân.” He bore witness to the truth of the Messenger of Allah œ as a prophet but claimed that he was sent as a partner and messenger to him. What a mockery to bear witness to a messenger and belie him in the same breath!

Musaylama came forth with a fabricated Divine Recitation, a ‘quran’ of his own, which became the laughingstock of the people. Behold one of its utterances:

O Frog! Daughter of two Frogs!

Your upper part is in the water

and your lower part is in the mud.

For a miracle, he brought forth a black sheep that would give white milk! Thus were his folly and stupidity exposed. Once, he wiped the head of a child with his hand and the child lost all of its hair. He also spit into a well and it went dry.

He also married a woman named Sajâ^. She also claimed to be a prophetess. Her family said to Musaylama: “She must have a dowry!” So Musayalma replied: “Her dowry is that you [her family] do not have to pray the Dawn Prayer (Fajr) and the Night Prayer (¢Ishâ’).”

Sajâ^ claimed prophethood after the death of the Messenger of Allah œ and a group of people supported her.

So she said to her followers: “Prepare the mounts and get ready to usurp. Then cross the hills and let there be no barriers between us and them [the people of Yemen] and fight them!” She headed for Al-Yamâma. Musaylama who was in Al-Yamâma became frightened in dread of this approaching army. So he sent to her messages of peace and gifts.

So she came to him and said: “Recite to me what Gabriel brings to you.”

He said:

O Fellowship of Women! You were created in throngs and made to be wives for us, and we penetrate you with a mighty penetration.”

She answered: You have spoken the truth. You are a prophet.

Musaylama said to her:

Go forth to the bed, for, indeed, the bed has been prepared for you. And if you wish, then it shall be as you are lying down. And if you wish, it shall be while you are on all fours. And if you wish, then with two-thirds of it. Or if you wish then with all of it.

She said: “Rather all, for that is a stronger bond.

Thus was she humiliated before her companions, those of them who had minds to think. One of them named ͑¢Ûtârid Ibn ±âjib said: “Our prophetess has become an objectified female and our prophet nothing more than a beast! May the Curse of Allah, Lord of all People, be upon Sajâ^ and whoever else has deceived us like Musaylama, the Great Liar.”

Khuwaylid ibn >ulay^a was another of these [false claimants]. He emerged after Musaylama claimed prophethood. This he stated:

Indeed, Allah does not need you to dirty your faces [in an allusion to tayammum, ritual wiping of one’s face with cleansed earth-dust in the absence of water]. Nor does he need you to raise your rear ends [in a mocking of the posture of sujûd, bowing one’s face down to the ground in worship of Allah]. So remember Allah while standing with dignity.

Of his fabricated recitation (his “quran”) was this:

By the Pigeon and Al-Yamâm!

Indeed, our kingdom will surely

reach Iraq and Ash-Shâm (Syria).

¢Uyayna ibn ±u|ayn was a follower of his. Khâlid ibn Walîd fought ¢Uyayna, and the latter came to >ulay^a and said:

“Woe to you! Has the angel of Revelation come to you?” He said: “No. So go back and fight.”

So he fought and again returned and said: “Has he come yet?”

He said: “No.”

So he went back and fought, and he returned a third time and said: “Has he come?

At last, >ulay^a told him: “The Angel of Revelation said: ‘You have an army that shall never be forgotten.”

At this evasion, ¢Uyayna shouted out to the army [exposing] >ulay^a: “This man, by Allah, is a vehement liar!” Thus the army dispersed in defeat and >ulay^a fled to Syria, where he accepted Islam and corrected his ways. He was later killed in Nahawând.

Al-Wâqidî mentioned that a man from the people of Banî Yarbu¢ called Jundub ibn Kulthûm who was titled Kirdânah claimed prophethood during the life of the Prophet œ. He declared that the evidence of his prophethood was that he could set fire to clay and iron, which he did by soaking the clay and iron in oil so that it would appear to catch fire.

Another man called Kuhmush Al-Killânî declared his prophethood and claimed that Allah had revealed to him:

O you who are hungry!

Drink milk,

and you will be full.

His false miracle was that he would be thrown among savage beasts and they would not eat him, which he achieved by covering his body with liquids of such bad odor that it would repel the beasts.

Unfeigned

As for our Prophet Muhammad œ, the truth of his prophethood is clearer than the sun. For, indeed, he emerged as a prophet while poor, and the world was against him. He promised his Community that they would rule over many lands, and they did. He prophesied what was to come, and it did. Moreover, Allah kept the Prophet œ clean, pure, and free of fault; and He fortified him against feeble fortitude, untruthfulness, and arrogance.

His claim was supported by his trustworthiness, honesty, purity, and chastity. Moreover, his miracles were clear to the near and the far. Moreover, the Noble Book, which even the minds of the most eloquent could not produce the like of, was sent down upon him. Nor could any bring forth something comparable to even a single one of its verses, let alone an entire sûrah.

All who tried to contrive something like the Quran were put to shame. Indeed, the Quran boldly declared that no one would ever be able to create a word so complete, even as Allah, the Exalted and Most High, has stated:

And if you are in doubt about [the divine origin of] what We have sent down to Our servant [Muhammad in the Quran], then bring forth a [single] sûrah of its like. Moreover, call all your witnesses, apart from Allah [to prove your claim] if you are truthful. (Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:23)

Then Allah said:

Yet if you cannot do so—and never shall you do so—then fear the Fire [of Hell] whose fuel is people and stones—[a Fire] prepared for the disbelievers. (Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:24)

Similar to [this challenge] is the word of Allah:

Say [to the Children of Israel]: If the abode of the Hereafter with Allah is, indeed, purely for you, to the exclusion of all other people, then wish for death, if, indeed, you are truthful.  (Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:94)

For, indeed, none of those who are challenged by this verse wished for death. For if anyone of them had said: “I have wished for death,” the claim of this verse would have been invalidated.

Another miracle of the Prophet œ was that on the eve of the Battle of Badr, the Prophet œ went out to the battlefield and said:

This is where so-and-so will meet his fate.

and so on, until every named man met their death at that exact spot.

Moreover, the Prophet œ said:

When the Kisra [Caesar of Persia] dies, no Kisra will succeed him. And when Caesar of Rome dies, there shall be no Caesar after him.

And so it was.

One of the greatest proofs of his truthfulness was that he desired not the world, such that he would spend nights hungry. And if he had food, he would put the needs of others ahead of his own. Moreover, he wore wool and stood in the vigil of ßalâh at length during the night.

The reason people falsely claim revelation, by which is meant prophethood, for themselves, is that they wish to draw to themselves what is desirable of this world. The Prophet œ did not want worldly things. It is this that shows he was a true guide to the Afterlife.

And Allah knows best.

Written By

Omar Abdl-Haleem is a fourth generation Muslim in America. He has a BA from Al-Azhar University in Usul Al-Din, specializing in Hadith, and was about to finish his Master’s Degree from Al-Azhar in Hadith, when he had to leave Egypt for safety reasons in the fall of 2013. He has translated most of Ibn Al-Jawzi’s book: Sayd Al-Khatir into English, which he intends to complete (some episodes of Omar’s translation of this book have appeared in Aljumuah Website). He is also working on a Hadith book for English speakers that explains and teaches Mustalah Al-Hadith (Hadith Terminology) in common terms. His Arabic is native, having studied in Egypt since he was 14, and then full time after completion of High School in the US. He is invaluable for AlJumuah in accessing scholarly texts. He intends to complete his graduate studies in Hadith.

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