Many in Muhammad’s time did not believe what he was saying.

“He’s just a normal human being like you and me.” (21:3)

“He is charming you with wise-sounding words.  Don’t be blind.” (21:3)

“His dreams don’t even make sense.” (21:5)

“These supposed revelations are all made up.” (21:5)

“I am going to need to see some signs to believe all these words.  That’s what past prophets did.” (21:5)

“He’s a laughing-stock!” (21:36; all my own paraphrases)

Essentially they were saying, “Why should we believe you?”  Or maybe they were going one worse and saying, “We don’t believe you!”

A main point in this new Meccan surah will be that this is the way it has always been with prophets of God.  You are not alone.  Don’t be discouraged.  Press on. 

Of course, if you are not a Muslim, “why should we believe?” is still the question we ask when we read the Qur’an.  Are these words anything more than the wild imaginations of a Meccan merchant?  Why should I believe these are words from God?  Why should I leave the religion I am already committed to in favor of the teachings of Muhammad? 

Really, every religion has to answer these questions.  Every religion is subject to investigation and defense.  Yes, faith will be involved in the answer — or we are not talking about religion — but it can’t just be blind, unsupported faith without any inkling of evidence.  Of course, faith cannot be proven; that is why it is “faith” not “fact” (though there is actually a lot of faith undergirding many things we describe as fact).  But what makes one faith more credible than another — as the Qur’an claims it is?  Some degree of support has got to be part of the answer.  This surah even says exactly that to the idol worshipers who claim their gods are children of the One True God: “Bring your proof” (21:24).   

I am having a hard time understanding Islamic apologetics, especially the reasons put forward by the Qur’an itself for faith.  Most of the time I don’t feel like the Qur’an does give reasons to believe; it simply admonishes the reader to believe.  In today’s section I see the following rationale given for belief:

  1. The Events of History — look at the destruction that came to whole communities of people in the past who chose to ignore God (21:6, 11)
    • But many of these communities cited are people from the Bible, and of course this is up for interpretation: good people suffer too and bad people some times get off scott-free 
  2. The Qur’an Itself — consider the internal merit of the Qur’an itself; you can tell something about the beauty and truth of a piece of art from the piece itself (21:10)
    • But this is not the strongest argument as it devolves into circular reasoning pretty quickly (i.e., the Qur’an is true because the Qur’an says it is true)
  3. The Reasonableness of This Argument— “Will you not use your reason?” (21:10); think about it and you will see the logic of belief.  Where does this section appeal to logic?
    • Resurrection: “Have they chosen any gods from the earth who can give life to the dead?” (21:21)
      • But where is the evidence that Muhammad’s God can resurrect?
    • God’s Incomparable Superiority: “If there had been in the heavens or earth any gods but Him, both heavens and earth would be in ruins” [because of the fight there would have been]. (21:22)
      •  But this is only a claim; where is the support?
    • Nature: Look at the earth and sky, living creatures, firm mountains, and constellations. (21:30-34) 
      • But most worldviews appeal to nature, and can nature take you from the existence of a higher, creative power to the personal identity and nature of Allah? 
  4. The Lack of Reason in Other Arguments — You say you want an immortal prophet, but when has that ever happened (21:34) [Well, I can think of one!]
    • But this only diminishes other claims rather than bolsters the truth of your own
  5. The Future — there are “signs” coming that will convince (21:37)
    • But how can I believe and be persuaded by something that has not yet happened?   

I am going to keep reading with my attention on why one should believe the authenticity of the Qur’an.  On that note, I especially like this vivid phrase from today’s reading:

We [Allah] hurl the truth against falsehood, and truth obliterates it — see how falsehood vanishes away! (21:18)