Accurate Predictions: A Sign of True Prophethood

Accurate Predictions: A Sign of True Prophethood


Mohamad Mostafa Nassar

Twitter:@NassarMohamadMR

Many people make the claim that they can predict the future. Astrologists, clairvoyants and numerous religious scriptures put forward prophecies about the future. Is there any way that we can distinguish true prophets from the many liars and frauds that are out there? We can do so by analysing the nature of their prophecies. The predictions of false prophets are often vague in nature.

This characteristic makes it easy for their followers to claim a fulfilment of prophecy when the inevitable happens – eventually something, somewhere, will occur which bears enough of a similarity to the prophecy that it will seem like the prophecy was an accurate prediction.

Only genuine prophets of God, those who receive information from God, the One who has complete knowledge of the future, can make numerous predictions and get it right every time. This is the key difference between a false prophet and a true one. With this in mind we are now going to analyse the predictions of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him:

1. Arab Bedouins Prophecy.

From millennium past there are two types of Arabs, city dwellers and Bedouins. The former make up the majority and live in ancient cities like Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad. Bedouins are nomads, they travel through the vast deserts and are constantly on the move.

Even during the Golden Age of Islam when the Arabs were the richest and most learned people on earth, Bedouins remained in virtually the same state they had been for thousands of years, poor, uneducated and cut off from rest of the world. As recently as the 1940’s the English explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger was travelling through these Bedouin areas and documented their condition:

As I listened I thought once again how precarious was the existence of the Bedu. Their way of life naturally made them fatalists; so much was beyond their control. It was impossible for them to provide for a morrow when everything depended on a chance fall of rain or when raiders, sickness, or any one of a hundred chance happenings might at any time leave them destitute, or end their lives. They did what they could, and no people were more self-reliant, but if things went wrong they accepted their fate without bitterness, and with dignity as the will of God. [1]

Yet Prophet Muhammad foretold that these Arab Bedouins of his region would one day compete in the construction of tall buildings:

“Now, tell me of the Last Hour,” asked the man.

The Prophet replied, “The one asked knows no more of it than the one asking.”

“Then tell me about its signs,” said the man.

The Prophet replied, “That you see barefoot, unclothed Bedouins competing in the construction of tall buildings.” [2]

When Prophet Muhammad was asked about the “Last Hour” (meaning the approach of the Day of Judgement), notice the detailed response he gives: a specific people, the poor Arab Bedouins of the region, were identified.

Prophet Muhammad could have easily played it safe by using more general language such as “you see competition in the construction of tall buildings…” which of course would be flexible enough to be applied to anyone in the world.

Today we find in the Arabian Peninsula that a particular group of Arabs, the Bedouins who used to be impoverished herders of camels and sheep until the mid-twentieth century, are now competing to build the tallest tower blocks. How did this change happen seemingly overnight?

How did one of the poorest people on earth who literally wore rags, become the wealthiest nations on earth?

One thing made this rapid change possible, something upon which the modern world would revolve around perhaps more than any other, the discovery of black gold, oil. The seemingly empty deserts of the Bedouins had it in abundance. The Bedouins went from camels to Cadillacs in a generation!

Today one of the highest concentrations of tall buildings in the world is in the Arabian peninsula, specifically the areas in which Bedouin Arabs lived. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, is the world’s tallest man-made structure at 828 metres.

A short time after it was completed, a rival family in Saudi Arabia announced that they would build a taller one (1,000 metres) the Kingdom Tower and are literally competing with each other over who can build the world’s tallest building:

Buildings

What would motivate Prophet Muhammad to even make such a prediction? If he was going to make up such a prophecy it would make more sense to relate this prophecy to the superpowers of his time: Rome, Persia or even China who (unlike the Arabs) already had a tendency to construct extravagant buildings and palaces.

For example, the Hagia Sophia cathedral was built by a Roman emperor in 537 CE, the century before Muhammad, and it remained the world’s largest building for nearly a thousand years. 

Furthermore, the immense detail that Prophet Muhammad provided in this prophecy is very revealing. Frauds, those who falsely claim to be able to predict the future, typically make their predictions general and ambiguous in nature so that they can be applied to multiple situations.

The more general and ambiguous the prophecy, the greater the chance that something, somewhere, will eventually occur that bears enough of a resemblance that it will seem like the prophecy was an accurate prediction.

Prophet Muhammad could have made a prediction such as “you will see the construction of tall buildings”. Such a prediction uses very general descriptions that are flexible enough to be applied to anyone in the world. By comparison, the prophecy that Prophet Muhammad did make is filled with lots of very specific details.

He gave a clear context for the building construction, that of competition. He also identified who the builders would be, the Arab Bedouins, by describing some unique distinguishing features such as their physical appearance (“barefoot and unclothed”) and their way of life (“Bedouins”).

We can see that such a prophecy contains multiple variables, each of which is very detailed and must be fulfilled in a very specific manner, which strictly limits how the event could happen.

The construction of tall buildings among the Arab Bedouins has even reached Mecca, Muhammad’s city of birth. The last few decades have seen a massive surge in building construction in Mecca. The famous Mecca Clock Tower is currently the third tallest building in the world:

Mecca clock tower

The Companions of Prophet Muhammad also understood his prophecy to be a reference to buildings of vast heights. “They said: So when you see in Mecca that channels have been dug and its buildings reach the tops of the mountains, then know that the hour has cast its shadow over you” [3]. In order for such construction to be possible, many of Mecca’s ancient mountains have been demolished in order to make room for the tall buildings that have sprung up.

Amazingly, this is also something that Prophet Muhammad foretold; he said that mountains will one day be moved from their places: “The Hour will not be established until mountains are moved from their places” [4]. 

This tremendous feat of demolishing entire mountains has only been possible in the twentieth century with the advent of technology such as explosives. Thanks to these modern technical advances, mountains can now be blasted into rubble in order to make room for massive city infrastructure such as buildings and highways.

Prophet Muhammad himself did not like Muslims to be involved in trying to unnecessarily increase in wealth. Indeed he often warned of its dangers and how it would corrupt his nation. He did not like or promote the construction of extravagant buildings. He was a simple man who lived in a simple house and wanted other Muslims to maintain that simplicity.

That is what he taught and how he lived. If he wanted to “will” this prophecy to become true, he would have encouraged the Arabs to build tall buildings and perhaps start off trying to do that himself! In fact the Qur’an itself discourages such behaviour: 

“Do you build on every height a monument? Vain is it that you do. And you make strong fortresses as if you were to live forever?” [26:128-129]

2. Byzantine comeback against Persia.

The Byzantine and Persian Empire were two leading super powers in the seventh century. In the year 602 CE, the world watched on as they went to all-out war. From the beginning, the Persian war machine overwhelmed the Byzantines who were facing internal rebellion and thus were at a disadvantage.

After a series of devastating losses, the Byzantines couldn’t stop the Persian onslaught. Then the unthinkable happened, the city of Jerusalem, which was the heart of Christianity, was captured and desecrated by the Persians. The True Cross, a relic which Christians believe was the actual cross that Jesus was crucified on, was stolen and taken back to Persia.

The Byzantines were Christian and the loss of Jerusalem was a major psychological blow for them. The war between the two empires was not just purely a political or economically motivated one, there was a religious element to it. The world was one in which Christianity and Zoroastrianism were opposed to one another.

This great loss of the Byzantine Christians to the Persians made the idol worshippers of Arabia happy and they used this incident to mock the Muslims. Muhammad’s close companion Ibn Abbas noted at the time:

“The idolaters wanted the Persians to prevail over the Byzantines, because they were idol worshippers, and the Muslims wanted the Byzantines to prevail over the Persians, because they were people of the Book (Christians)” [5]. In response to these losses, Muhammad received some new revelation. The Qur’an made the following bold prediction:

The Byzantines have been defeated in a nearby land. They will reverse their defeat with a victory, within three to nine years. The whole matter rests with God before and after victory. [30:2-4]

The Qur’an prophesied that within 9 years the whole situation would be completely reversed with a Byzantine victory over the Persians. This prophecy was revealed in the year 615 CE when the Persians had completed their conquest of Syria [6].

This prediction of a Byzantine victory is the exact opposite of what political commentators would have predicted at the time, because the Byzantine Empire was badly losing and on the verge collapse. The Historian Edward Gibbon highlights the unlikelihood of the prophecy coming true:

Placed on the verge of the two great empires of the East, Mahomet [Muhammad] observed with secret joy the progress of their mutual destruction; and in the midst of the Persian triumphs, he ventured to foretell, that before many years should elapse, victory should again return to the banners of the Romans.

At the time when this prediction is said to have been delivered, no prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment, since the first twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the empire. [7]

Even after Muhammad received revelation about a Byzantine victory, the situation for the Byzantines remained precarious. At one point, the Byzantine emperor Heraclius considered moving the Government that was based in the capital Constantinople to Carthage in Africa [8].

However, Persian conquests continued and they went on to defeat the Byzantines in Egypt and take over that province. As the Byzantines conceded territory they lost much needed tax revenues, and to add to their misery a plague broke out in 619 CE, which further damaged their tax revenues. After conquering Egypt, the Persian emperor Khosrow sent Heraclius the following letter:

Khosrow, greatest of Gods, and master of the earth, to Heraclius, his vile and insensate slave. Why do you still refuse to submit to our rule, and call yourself a king? Have I not destroyed the Greeks? You say that you trust in your God. Why has he not delivered out of my hand Caesarea, Jerusalem, and Alexandria? And shall I not also destroy Constantinople?

But I will pardon your faults if you submit to me, and come hither with your wife and children; and I will give you lands, vineyards, and olive groves, and look upon you with a kindly aspect. Do not deceive yourself with vain hope in that Christ, who was not able to save himself from the Jews, who killed him by nailing him to a cross. Even if you take refuge in the depths of the sea, I will stretch out my hand and take you, whether you will or no. [9]

The situation for the Byzantines got so bad that according to the seventh century Armenian historian Sebeos, when the Persians reached Chalcedon, a city close to Constantinople which was the very heart of the Byzantine Empire, Heraclius had agreed to stand down and was ready to become a client of the Persian emperor [10].

Even though the Byzantine Empire was very far from a victory, in the year 622 CE, just 7 years after the Qur’an made its bold prediction, they started a counter attack. The Persians had set up an ambush in Cappadocia in modern day Turkey. This backfired when it was pre-emptively discovered by Heraclius, so he lured the Persians into a trap and crushed them.

This unexpected turn of events caught the Persians off guard and thus began of a series of attacks by the Byzantines in which they recovered their prestige and their lands. In 624 CE, exactly 9 years after the Qur’an made its prophecy, the Byzantines had managed to avenge Jerusalem.

They invaded the Persian heartland, defeated their army and then destroyed the famous Persian fire temple of Takht-i-Suleiman.

Just as the desecration of Jerusalem and the theft of the True Cross was a psychological blow to the Christians, the destruction of the fire temple sent shock waves through Persia. Theophanes, a ninth century Byzantine historian, expressed his astonishment at this reversal of fortunes:

The Romans captured their (Persians’) camp and all their gear. They raised their hands on high and thanked God; they also eagerly prayed for the Emperor, who led them well. For before they had never thought to see Persian dust; now they had found and plundered their still pitch tents. Who could have expected the invincible Persian race ever to show its back to the Romans? [11]

The prophecy came true in exactly the time frame that the Qur’an stipulated. There are so many ways in which this prophecy could have gone wrong if Muhammad was guessing. For example, if the Byzantines started their counter attack in year 625 rather than 622 then the fulfilment of the prophecy would have been outside of the 3 to 9 year time frame.

If Muhammad was guessing then he would have said that the Persians will win as that was the trend at the time. Why would he risk the Qur’an’s reputation by claiming that a Byzantine battlefield victory would happen in such a short time?

3. The defeat of Rome and the conquest of Persia.

One of the greatest hardships to befall Prophet Muhammad was the Battle of the Trench. In the year 627 CE, a coalition army of pagan Arabs, numbering 10,000 men, attacked the only Muslim city in the world at the time, Medina.

This was a good opportunity for the enemies of Islam to wipe out Muslims from the face of the earth. The Muslims were outnumbered three to one, and for two whole weeks they were under siege. The Qur’an vividly describes the dire situation faced by the Muslims:

They massed against you from above and below; your eyes rolled [with fear], your hearts rose into your throats, and you thought [ill] thoughts of God. There the believers were sorely tested and deeply shaken. [33:10-11]

Shortly before the battle commenced, whilst the Muslims were digging a trench around the city of Medina in preparation for the impending attack, when they were facing impossible odds and were staring in the face of certain defeat, Prophet Muhammad made a bold prediction:

Al-Bara said: On the Day of Al-Khandaq (the trench) there stood out a rock too immune for our spades to break up. We therefore went to see God’s Messenger for advice. He took the spade, and said: “In the Name of God” Then he struck it saying: “God is Most Great, I have been given the keys of Ash-Sham (Greater Syria). By God, I can see its red palaces at the moment;” on the second strike he said: “God is Most Great, I have been given Persia. By God, I can now see the white palace of Madain;” and for the third time he struck the rock saying: “In the Name of God,” shattering the rest of the rock, and he said: “God is Most Great, I have been given the keys of Yemen. By God, I can see the gates of San’a while I am in my place.” [12]

Prophet Muhammad made the astonishing claim that the Muslims would not only take the lands of Yemen and Greater Syria, much of which was under the occupation of the Roman empire, but that they would also defeat the mighty Persian empire, one of world’s great superpowers. In another prediction, Muhammad even specified the exact Persian king who would be defeated, the king Kisra:

The Messenger of God said, “I swear by the Being who controls my life! God shall bring this [i.e. Islam] to such completion that a veiled woman shall leave from Heera [a place in modern Iraq] all alone and perform Tawaf of the Ka’abah without the need of having someone accompany her. Without doubt, the treasures of Kisra bin Hurmuz shall also be conquered.”

In astonishment, Adi bin Hatim said, “The treasures of Kisra bin Hurmuz?”

“Yes,” replied the Messenger of God, “The treasures of Kisra bin Hurmuz.” [13]

Notice the reaction of Adi bin Hatim, a companion of Prophet Muhammad. He reacted with absolute astonishment about the prediction of the conquest of Persia. This is because such statements by Prophet Muhammad were made at a time when no one could imagine that a small Muslim city state, under siege by the pagan Arabs, would reach such heights of power and strength. It’s important to appreciate just how large and powerful the empires of Rome and Persia were at the time. The Roman empire stretched from Europe to North Africa.

The Persian empire was also large, with its capital Ctesiphon one of the biggest cities in the world. By comparison, the Muslims were dwarfed both in terms of numbers and territory. They were much less experienced in war and lacked the advanced weaponry and tactics of their opponents.

Professor of Islamic History Carole Hillenbrand highlights the military superiority of the Persians over the Muslims:

Much ink has been spilt on the phenomenon of the Islamic conquest, but few firm conclusions can be drawn…It seems unlikely that the Arabs possessed military superiority over their opponents. Certainly, they had no secret weapon, no new techniques. Indeed, in some military spheres they were inexperienced; they allegedly learned siege warfare, for example, from the Persians. They were also unfamiliar with how to fight naval engagements. [14]

Yet within just a decade of Prophet Muhammad’s death, all these events came true. They were witnessed by the very companions of Prophet Muhammad who heard him make these prophecies. What is amazing is that after the death of Prophet Muhammad, Muslims attacked both of these militantly superior imperial empires simultaneously.

Even though the Romans and Persians were rivals and had been competing for territory for over a century before Prophet Muhammad, because of their losses to the Muslims they joined forces and fought side by side against the Muslim army in a decisive battle at Firaz in modern day Iran. 

One hundred thousand Persians, Romans, and Christian Arabs fought against a less experienced, less equipped force of 20,000 Muslims [15]. Muslims defeated this coalition and went on to conquer all of Syria, Persia, and Yemen, just as Prophet Muhammad foretold.

What are the odds that the Muslims, who were small in number and lacked economic, military and political strength, could topple these superpowers of the world in such a short span of time? This is so improbable that it is like someone in our day and age making the claim that a small country, with a population of only a few tens of thousands of people and minimal economic and military strength, will topple the super powers of today such as the United States and Russia. The astonishing way that the Muslims defeated the superpowers captured the world by surprise, as historian Barnaby Rogerson explains:

You have to remember, that the two great superpowers were the Byzantine empire [Eastern Roman empire] and Sassanid Persia, they were the dominant powers. If you’re putting it in a modern parlance it’s a bit like the Eskimos taking on the United States of America and Russia. [16]

No rational person would conceive of such a possibility, and if Muhammad were guessing then he would have been risking his reputation as a Prophet by gambling on such unlikely predictions coming true. This sentiment is echoed by historians who cannot explain how Islam became such a dominant force so quickly.

Professor of Byzantine studies Andrew Louth wrote: “The speed with which the eastern provinces of the Byzantine Empire succumbed to the Arabs remains to be explained by historians.” [17]

4. Spread of sexual immorality.

Prophet Muhammad revealed that the day would come when sexual immorality would become so normalised that it would be carried out in public: “The Hour will not be established until people fornicate with each other in the road just as donkeys fornicate.” [18] 

Today we live in a world where we are bombarded with explicit sexual imagery in TV, film, and advertising. With the advent of the internet, pornography is readily available at any time and any place.

In fact, people have been arrested for having sex in public places. What is amazing is that we’ve already seen that Prophet Muhammad foretold that Islam is going to spread far and wide, so this situation of public sexual immorality is the exact opposite of what one would expect because Islam as a religion places great emphasis on modesty.

For example, Islam teaches that both men and women should lower their gaze from strangers in order to safeguard from falling into temptation and sin. The reality of today, where Islam is widespread and public sexual immorality is rampant, is in fact paradoxical and therefore not an easy prediction to make if one is guessing.

We must also take into account that at the time of Prophet Muhammad, people were generally modest; this was the case with both Muslims and the non-Muslims including the Jews and Christians. With the conversion of the pagan Roman empire to Christianity in the fourth century, the subsequent spread of Christianity throughout Europe, and the Catholic Church enforcing strict standards of public morality and decency, much of the Western world had become conservative before Prophet Muhammad was born. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church regulated all matters relating to sex very carefully.

Many influential members of the Church even saw sex and other pleasurable experiences within the confines of marriage as evil and a source of sin, unless marital relations were undertaken expressly and consciously to conceive a child [19]. A big transformation also took place in seventh century Arabia.

In Pre-Islamic Arabia, public indecency was not uncommon, for example we know that the pagan Arabs used to perform religious pilgrimages while in a completely naked state. This all ended with the coming of Islam which forbade such practices.

With both the East and the West being largely conservative as a result of the spread of Abrahamic religions like Christianity and Islam, this prediction of widespread sexual immorality by Prophet Muhammad went completely against the tide of morality that was sweeping the world during him time.

The current situation in the world is unprecedented, never in the history of mankind has sexual immorality been on such a large scale. It is the now the norm, just as Prophet Muhammad predicted. An interesting side point is that Prophet Muhammad described the consequences of widespread sexual immorality: 

“Never does sexual perversion become widespread and publicly known in certain people without them being overtaken by disease that never happened to their ancestors who came before them” [20].

The increase of sexual immorality has seen the emergence of previously unheard of diseases such as AIDS, just as Prophet Muhammad warned.

5. A world steeped in interest.

Prophet Muhammad claimed that interest would one day become so dominant that even those who try to avoid it will not be able to avoid being impacted by it:

The Messenger of God said, “A time will come upon mankind when they will consume interest.” They said to him, “Is that all of the people?” The Prophet said, “Whoever does not take from it will be afflicted by its dust.” [21]

This clearly describes the state of the world economy today. As Prophet Muhammad predicted, in the modern world it is virtually impossible to avoid dealing with, or at the very least being impacted by, interest. Just think about how many people have interest-bearing bank accounts, buy things using credit cards and are only able to afford to purchase a home through an interest-based mortgage.

Even if one somehow manages to avoid dealing in interest directly, almost every aspect of our lives is impacted by it. Virtually every country in the world, even those considered to be wealthy, is drowning in interest-based debt. The United States, for example, is currently wrestling with a debt of trillions of dollars.

Central banks influence the purchasing power of our money, and the financial system even suffered a global collapse in 2008 because of the widespread practice of buying and selling interest-based financial debt. This was a disaster which has plunged the world into economic turmoil, the consequences of which will be felt for generations to come.

What makes Prophet Muhammad’s prediction amazing is that the financial state of the world over the last century is unique in history. At the time of Prophet Muhammad, finance was based on commodities with intrinsic value, such as gold and silver coins. Gold and silver have been used as the most common form of currency throughout history.

In many languages, such as Spanish and French, the word for silver is still directly related to the word for money. Even with the advent of paper money, there was still a dependence on gold and silver. Initially, paper money was backed by gold and silver. Every paper note that people possessed could be redeemed for gold at the bank on demand.

In 1933, the United States abandoned the world Gold Exchange Standard system, bringing to an end the existing world monetary system. The paper money that people held in their hands was no longer backed by physical gold. Under this new global monetary system, money only has value because governments say it does. Unlike gold and silver, modern paper money is intrinsically valueless.

Consequently, we now have a system where banks can print as much money as they wish as they no longer have the restriction of being tied to physical reserves of gold. Under the current system money is literally conjured out of thin air. Since banks can now print money on demand, it means that they can lend more money which in turn results in the creation of more interest-based debt.

We are living in a time that can only be considered monetary chaos, as our entire monetary system, as it now stands, is based on nothing but debt. Every physical coin and paper note has to be borrowed into existence. With the old system of gold and silver there is a natural order to money, as its value increases and decreases in accordance with the supply and demand of the precious metals.

Under the current system, banks can produce as much paper money as they like, and so the supply of this form of money is entirely elastic, it is entirely flexible. In summary, modern finance is a debt and interest based system that is unique in history.

The use of paper money with no intrinsic value, along with the massive debt and interest that it has resulted in, is a phenomenon of modern finance and not something that could have been easily guessed by Prophet Muhammad over 1,400 years ago.

Now this is not to say that the concept of interest did not exist at all in seventh century Arabia, we know that it did because the Qur’an strictly prohibits believers from practising it: 

“…they say, ‘Trade is [just] like interest.’ But God has permitted trade and has forbidden interest. So whoever has received an admonition from his Lord and desists may have what is past, and his affair rests with God. But whoever returns to [dealing in interest] – those are the companions of the Fire…” [2:275] 

Moreover, the practice of interest was also prohibited in the Christian world. The Roman Catholic Church had by the fourth century prohibited the taking of interest by the clergy; a rule which they extended in the fifth century to the laity. In the eighth century it was even declared a criminal offence [22].

So Prophet Muhammad’s prediction that it would come to dominate the world was in no way a forgone conclusion.

In fact, it must have seemed strange to his companions, since Prophet Muhammad had also predicted that Islam, which strictly forbids interest, would dominate over all religions and reach as far as the East and West. The fact that this prophecy was preserved by his companions shows the complete faith and trust that they had in what he said, and that it would come to pass, however unlikely it may have seemed to them.

6. Rulership of the Muslims through history.

In the following prediction, Prophet Muhammad foretold who would govern the Muslim lands after his death:

There will be Prophethood for as long as God wills it to be, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be a Caliphate on the Prophetic method and it will be for as long as God wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be biting Kingship for as long as God Wills, then He will remove it when He wills, then there will be oppressive kingship for as long as God wills, then he will remove it when He wills, and then there will be a Caliphate upon the Prophetic method [23]

This prophecy provides a detailed description of the different phases of leadership that the Muslim world would experience. He mentioned five phases of leadership:

1. His own Prophethood.

2. Rule by “a Caliphate on the Prophetic method”.

3. Rule by “biting kingship”.

4. Rule by “oppressive kingship”.

5. Return to rule by “a Caliphate upon the Prophetic method”.

History bears witness to the fact that Muslim lands around the world have experienced these different types of leadership in the exact same order that was laid out in the prophecy. Muhammad’s own prophethood represents the first phase which ended with his death in 632 CE.

The second phase, which he described as “a Caliphate on the Prophetic method”, indicates that the leaders and rulers would follow in his own footsteps. There were five leaders after the death of Prophet Muhammad, known as Caliphs, who all gained power by the consent of the people, just like Prophet Muhammad himself:

These leaders governed the Muslim lands for a combined period of approximately 30 years. By consensus of Muslims throughout the world, they are considered to be the best of believers who ever lived by virtue of them being the closest companions of Prophet Muhammad and those who most strictly followed his example and implemented his teachings. Their rule fulfilled the statement by Prophet Muhammad that after his death there would be “a Caliphate on the Prophetic method”.

The next phase of rule, described by Prophet Muhammad as “biting kingship”, informs us that there would be a new type of leadership, one that would be different to that of the Caliphs.

Kingships are mainly characterised by a succession of power in which the throne passes from one member of a royal family to another member of the same family.

The word ‘biting’ was also mentioned by Prophet Muhammad, which has a negative connotation. In 661 CE the fifth Caliph, Hasan ibn Ali, abdicated and gave power to an individual known as Muawiyah due to civil strife that was threatening to cause a lot of bloodshed. Muawiyah was the person who established the Umayyad Dynasty, the beginning of a new phase of hereditary rule by kings among the Muslims.

Historically this was a long-lasting period of rule that was passed down from father to son, rather than by consent as exemplified by the five Caliphs. Whereas the rule of the Caliphs lasted for mere decades, the rule of the kingships lasted for over a thousand years, coming to an end with the dismantlement of the Ottoman empire in 1924 CE.

This radical change from the short-lived Caliphs to long-lasting kings fulfilled Prophet Muhammad’s statement that there would be “biting kingship”. The next phase of rule, described by Prophet Muhammad as “oppressive kingships”, tells us that there would be a period of rule by oppression against the people.

This perfectly describes the state of the Muslim lands since the fall of the Ottoman empire. Over the last century the Muslim lands have been living under brutal dictatorships and regimes, and this continues to be the case today. The next and final stage was described by Prophet Muhammad as “a Caliphate upon the Prophetic method”, a return to the first phase of rule after his death.

This is yet to happen, but Muslims believe that it will one day be fulfilled by the emergence of a person known as the Mehdi, a momentous event which Prophet Muhammad foretold will take place near the end of the world. Prophet Muhammad taught that the Mehdi will unite the Muslims and be a just leader in accordance with Islam’s teachings.

Now you may be thinking that these are just “self-fulfilling” prophecies, they caused themselves to come true. Let’s look at an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Imagine that someone starts a rumour that a particular bank will go bust.

If this person is influential enough, then customers of that bank might take their statement seriously and, out of fear for their savings, withdraw all their money from the bank, in turn causing the bank to go bust. Can this be considered a genuine prophecy? It cannot, because the claim itself was the catalyst for the bank going bust; it caused itself to come true.

With Prophet Muhammad’s prophecy about the rulership of the Muslims, the contention then is that Muslims arranged their own rule through history in order to coincide with, and fulfil, the predictions of Prophet Muhammad in order to make it appear like he could predict the future.

But this is highly improbable given that the rule of Muslims, since the time of Prophet Muhammad up to the present day, has been tied to chaotic and unpredictable events throughout history. The political landscape of the Muslims has been shaped by world-changing events outside of their control, such as foreign invasions, crusades, colonialism, the First and Second World Wars, and so on.

7. Prevalence of writing and increase in ignorance.

Many of us take for granted the abundance of books that are available in the modern age. However, the majority of people in history have never even held a book in their hands. One reason is the lack of education as most people used to be illiterate so there was not a big demand for books. Another reason is scarcity; books were difficult and expensive to produce because each copy had to be written manually by hand. This has been the norm for most of human history, and seventh century Arabia was no different. Prophet Muhammad was born into a society in which very few people could read or write.

It is estimated that the number of people who were literate in his locality of Western Saudi Arabia did not exceed seventeen [24]. Prophet Muhammad himself could not read or write. There were even whole societies that didn’t have any books, they didn’t write anything down because they only had an oral language.

Against this backdrop, Prophet Muhammad made the prediction that writing will one day become prevalent among mankind:

Ahead of the Hour, people will only greet those whom they know; trade will become so widespread that a woman will help her husband in his trade; ties of kinship will be severed; people will bear false witness and conceal true testimony; and the pen will prevail. [25]

This prediction by Prophet Muhammad is in fact loaded with accurate prophecies. The statement “people will only greet those whom they know” has been fulfilled by the advent of densely populated cities of the modern age where it is common for people not to speak to their neighbours [26]. The statement “a woman will help her husband in his trade” has been fulfilled by women entering the workforce in large numbers, especially in Western societies [27].

The statement that “ties of kinship will be severed” has been fulfilled by the breakdown of traditional family values. Such values, which have long been the fabric of society, are now broken [28]. One symptom of this is the increasing number of old people who are put into care homes by their families.

It has also been fulfilled by the breakdown of community values; one symptom of which is the whole philosophy of liberalism that has swept the majority of the ‘modern’ world, a philosophy that is based on individualism and individual rights over the rights of a community.

For the sake of this section, we will focus in detail on the statement that “the pen will prevail”. The Arabic word used by Prophet Muhammad for pen is ‘qalam’ which also carries the wider meaning of writing, or anything that is written down in general [29]. 

This perfectly describes our world today in which it is the norm for people to read and write and there is an abundance of books, newspapers and magazines. This has only been made possible thanks to fifteenth century technological advances such as printing that took place over 800 years after Prophet Muhammad’s prophecy.

For the first time in history, written materials could be produced in vast quantities. The increased efficiency of book production brought with it a decrease in prices and a subsequent increase in book consumption as they were now affordable to the masses.

To put this into perspective, the fifteenth century saw about the same number of manuscripts printed in Europe as had been produced by hand during the entire preceding fourteen centuries [30]. With the advent of the internet, writing is spreading even more.

Anybody with a computer or smart phone now has access to millions of books with just the click of a finger. It’s quite powerful that Prophet Muhammad, who could neither read nor write, prophesied the spread of reading and writing.

It’s important to point out that book production, and knowledge in general, has not always been on the increase as time goes on. From the sixth century, the Catholic Church made a concerted effort to protect and bolster its position of dominance and power.

It closed institutes of philosophy, banned books and suppressed any scientific thought that threatened its own Biblical outlook of the world. The masses were forbidden from owning the Bible and authors were even burnt alive for writing books that opposed the Catholic Church’s religious doctrines.

The ancient Greek chronicler John Malalas recorded: “During the consulship of Decius [529 CE], the Emperor issued a decree and sent it to Athens ordering that no one should teach philosophy nor interpret the laws” [31]. As a result, Europe entered into a 1,000 year period of intellectual slumber.

Thus the “lights went out” on rational thinking and Europe entered the Dark Ages. Indeed, Europe’s creative energies and inventiveness are acknowledged much later, only from the dawn of the “scientific revolution” in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In addition to predicting that writing would become prevalent, Prophet Muhammad also foretold that another sign of the end of the world would be that “ignorance will become widespread and there will be much killing” [32]. Here Prophet Muhammad stated that there will be widespread ignorance and evil acts such as killing.

The twentieth century is without question the bloodiest century in history, far worse in terms of global devastation than any previous era. While fatality statistics vary, the First and Second World Wars alone have seen estimates of total deaths ranging from 50 million to more than 80 million.

We have also witnessed mass genocides that have sadly resulted in the deaths of tens of millions. As time goes on, mankind continues to develop weapons with greater potential for death and destruction. The twentieth century saw the development of atomic weapons as well as their use on civilian populations.

There are now nuclear weapons capable of destroying entire cities, with governments having stockpiled enough nukes to destroy the entire earth multiple times over. This is despite the fact that the masses can read and have access to more education and learning than at any other time in history.

We have a strange situation of knowledge being more readily available to mankind and yet killing being rampant. Both these predictions by Muhammad are, when taken together, quite paradoxical.

If Prophet Muhammad were guessing then he would have predicted an increase in writing and decrease in ignorance due to mankind’s enlightenment. But he actually predicted two opposites, this paradoxical situation of writing being prevalent and evil acts such as killing being widespread. The historian Niall Ferguson notes this paradox of our modern age:

Why? What made the twentieth century, and particularly the fifty years from 1904 until 1953, so bloody? That this era was exceptionally violent may seem paradoxical. After all, the hundred years after 1900 were a time of unparalleled progress. [33]

8. The greening of Arabia’s deserts.

Prophet Muhammad made a bold prediction about the state of the land of the Arabs:

The Hour will not begin until the land of the Arabs once again becomes meadows and rivers. [34]

This narration anticipated the greening of Arabia’s extensive dry desert environment. As recently as 1986, there was little to no agricultural activity in the region. However, over the last 30 years these deserts have been transformed to grow grains, fruits, and vegetables thanks to techniques such as centre pivot irrigation. This is a process that pumps water to the surface from deep underground reserves, some of which date back to the last ice age 20,000 years ago.

This fossil water is distributed via large feeds and results in circles of green irrigated vegetation. The diameters of these irrigated crop circles range from a few hundred metres to as wide as 3 kilometres (1.9 miles).

This series of photographs taken by astronauts on the International Space Station present an almost surreal view of abundant green fields of the Wadi As-Sirhan Basin in the midst of a barren desert in Northern Saudi Arabia:

Green deserts map

Now put yourself in the position of a person living in seventh century Saudi Arabia. This region hosts some of the most extensive sand and gravel deserts in the world with rainfall that averages just 10 to 20 centimetres per year. To put this into context, some parts of the United Kingdom average over four hundred centimetres per year.

Could anyone inhabiting such a harsh environment ever rationally conceive of the possibility that one day there would be a plentiful supply of water and abundant crops? Muhammad stood to gain nothing by making such an outrageous prediction, moreover it was no light matter, as it gave his enemies a reason to mock and undermine him as a Prophet.

But this was important information that had to be conveyed, for it is a sign of the closeness of the End Times and therefore of immense benefit to the generations who would follow after him. Prophet Muhammad did not fear the mockery of men, for he was not speaking from his whims; he had no doubt that the prophecy would transpire as this was inspiration from the heavens.

Today this prophecy is unfolding before our very eyes, and is only possible thanks to ancient reserves of water buried deep beneath the desert sands, as well as modern advancements in irrigation technology to mine that water. This is technology that could not have been imagined by Prophet Muhammad over 1,400 years ago.

This prophecy also makes a claim about the ancient past. Note the words of Prophet Muhammad:

“…the land of the Arabs once again becomes meadows and rivers”

By saying “once again” he is implying that at one stage in their history, the deserts were lush with vegetation and life and that they will be returning to this former state. Geologists now know that the Arabian Peninsula was indeed once filled with meadows and rivers in ancient times. Modern archaeological discoveries have uncovered a number of fossils which confirm this.

Michael Petraglia is Professor of Human Evolution and Prehistory, Senior Research Fellow and the Co-Director of the Centre for Asian Archaeology, Art & Culture, School of Archaeology, University of Oxford. He was asked: “What has the team unearthed about the ancient environment of Saudi Arabia?” He replied:

One of the first things that we did was remote sensing. We looked at satellite images for example, and found that there are literally thousands of ancient rivers that crisscrossed Saudi Arabia. We also now count 10,000 ancient lakes. The most amazing thing, to me, are the fossil finds. They say something about the kinds of animals that could migrate into Arabia. We have fossils of elephants; these were gigantic creatures, much larger than the African elephant.

Amazingly, we also have hippos. These finds tell you something of how wet it really was. Because hippos cannot survive in very arid and dry situations, so the environment had to be green for them to survive. So, there were surely lots of lakes and rivers all across Arabia, and there was plenty of grass with vegetation for these animals to consume. [35]

So not only did this prophecy correctly predict the greening of Arabia in the future, it also conforms to modern archaeological discoveries and conclusions about Arabia’s ancient, pre-Islamic past. There are so many ways that Prophet Muhammad could have been wrong, for example he could have claimed that “God will bless Arabia with greenery and rivers for the first time”.

Or, he could have made an easier claim that would have seemed more logical to people at the time such as “Arabia will always remain dry and barren”. His ancient prediction about the past and the future cannot be explained naturalistically as he did not have access to modern technology that helped discover the history and future of Arabia’s geology.

9. The rapid spread of Islam and the decline of the Muslims.

Prophet Muhammad foretold that the Islamic civilisation would reach every corner of the world: “God folded the earth for me, and I saw its east and west, and the dominion of my nation will reach as far as the earth was folded for me” [36]

In this prophecy, Prophet Muhammad made the claim that Islam would spread to the far reaches of the earth. It’s important to understand the context in which this prediction was made. Not only were the Arabs surrounded by their enemies, which as we’ve already seen included the super powers of the world, but they also had the additional internal challenge of disunity due to tribalism.

Prior to Islam, it was not uncommon for one Arab tribe to go to war with another over the smallest of disputes. Blood feuds were regular occurrences between tribes and often lasted generations.

History bears witness to the fact that Islam spread rapidly, both East and West, to reach as far as Spain and parts of China within a generation, just as Muhammad boldly foretold. At the time, this was a geographic expansion the likes of which the world had never witnessed. The Islamic empire was the largest the world had ever seen, a fulfilment of Prophet Muhammad’s prediction as well as the promise that God made to the Muslims in the Qur’an:

God has promised those who have believed among you and done righteous deeds that He will surely grant them succession [to authority] upon the earth just as He granted it to those before them and that He will surely establish for them [therein] their religion which He has preferred for them and that He will surely substitute for them, after their fear, security, [for] they worship Me, not associating anything with Me. [24:55]

To put this into perspective, let’s compare the other Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Christianity. During their early histories, both religions were mainly concentrated in Palestine and its surrounding areas. There were pockets of followers in other lands, but their early expansion was restrained by the pagan nations that surrounded them.

On multiple occasions, the entire Jewish people were taken into captivity by their enemies. Christianity was a small, persecuted religion for hundreds of years until the pagan Roman Empire adopted Christianity as a state religion in the fourth century after Jesus.

Now it’s not unusual for new civilisations to emerge, dominate for a period of time and then decline or even disappear entirely. It’s also not uncommon for divided and dispersed tribes to unite under a charismatic leader and then conquer vast lands.

The Mongols are a good example, their empire emerged after Islam, and at their peak in the thirteenth century they controlled the largest continuous land empire in human history. The difference however, is that unlike the Islamic empire, the Mongol empire collapsed within a century.

We have analysed accurate predictions that Muhammad made in regard to Islam’s toppling of superpowers and global expansion. Muhammad not only informed us about the spectacular rise of the Muslims, he also foretold their decline:

“The nations will call each other and set upon you, just as diners set upon food.” It was said: “Will it be because of our small number that day?” He said: “Rather, on that day you will be many, but you will be like foam, like the foam on the river. And God will remove the fear of you from the hearts of your enemies and will throw weakness into your hearts.” Someone said: “O Messenger of God! What is this weakness?” He said: “Love of the world and the hatred for death.” [37]

Here we can see that Prophet Muhammad prophesied the dire circumstances in which the Muslims would find themselves. He said the day would come when Muslims will be large in number but in such a state of weakness that other nations will invite one another to set upon them.

The analogy of Muslims being eaten as a meal was given, which emphasises just how helpless they will become. The cause of this weakness is said to be the love of the world and hatred for death.

This means that Muslims would one day come to love the material world to the point where they become complacent in their religion, neglecting their obligations and forgetting about the eternal hereafter.

This prediction accurately describes the radical turn of events that took place in the Muslim world in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Prior to this, the Muslim lands had grown to be some of the most powerful in the world.

From the time of the death of Muhammad until the nineteenth century, the Muslims had large empires which were economically, politically, militarily, technologically and educationally far ahead of most of the world.

In the nineteenth and twentieth century the unthinkable happened, nearly all of the Muslim world from Indonesia in the far east to Libya in the far west was occupied, colonised, and militarily defeated by non-Muslim nations.

Russia had annexed the Caucuses; France controlled Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia; Great Britain occupied Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, and Mughal India; the Dutch controlled Malaysia and Indonesia. Of the 50 Muslim countries that exist today, only a few survived occupation and the ones that did were still subject to colonial masters.

This is despite the large number of Muslims that existed at the time. In the early twentieth century, there were an estimated 200 million Muslims, representing 12.5% of the world’s population [38].

But their considerable numbers could do nothing to prevent the defeat, the non-Muslim nations came, divided, conquered, and invited each other to take the Muslim lands, just as Prophet Muhammad foretold.

If we reflect on this prediction, it is quite counter-intuitive. Recall the reaction of the companion who heard Prophet Muhammad make the prediction, this person remarked “Will it be because of our small number that day?”

The companion made the natural assumption that the weak state of the Muslims would be due to their small numbers, because large numbers are typically associated with strength. If this prediction was guesswork, then it would have made more sense to state that the Muslims would be diminished in number and that would be the cause of their weakness.

Yet Prophet Muhammad predicted the exact opposite, a paradoxical situation of the Muslims being vast in number but very weak, and it came true. Another interesting aspect of this prediction is the psychology behind it. During Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime, Islam was not yet a world superpower and had not yet toppled other superpowers like Persia.

So if Prophet Muhammad was a liar who was out to deceive people into thinking he was a Prophet, he would surely have only said very positive things about the Muslims of the future, such as “you will be invincible” or “your enemies will never defeat you”. Such a positive outlook of the future would make people want to join his religion and be his followers.

Indeed, it’s human nature to want to be successful. So for Muhammad to make such a frank statement about how bleak the future would become not only shows that he was a speaker of truth, but also that his companions transmitted everything he said, regardless of whether it was good or bad, encouraging or embarrassing.

In summary, we’ve seen how Muhammad accurately foretold not only the spectacular rise of the Islamic empire as a world superpower, but also the subsequent political and military decline of the Muslims despite their large numbers. Historically speaking, when religions lose their influence on the world stage in such a way, it is usually followed by a stagnation or decline in the number of their followers. This is to be expected, as it is human nature to want to be associated with success.

Yet Muhammad foretold the exact opposite with regards to the religion of Islam, he said that it will continue to grow in terms of the number of followers, to the extent that it will eventually enter every household: “This matter will certainly reach every place touched by the night and day. God will not leave a house or residence except that God will cause this religion to enter it” [39].

Today we are witnessing this very prophecy unfold before our eyes. Islam is currently the fastest growing religion in the world, with nearly one in four people on earth being a Muslim. It is forecast to be the world’s largest religion by the year 2070 [40]. This is despite Islam being constantly attacked by the media, the colonisation of Muslim lands, and many wars that have been waged in the Muslim world.

10. The name ‘Muhammad’.

Even the name ‘Muhammad’ has prophetic implications. It’s an Arabic word that means ‘the praised one’. The Qur’an states that Prophet Muhammad’s remembrance will be raised: “We elevated your mention for you” [94:4].

Since this verse was revealed over 1,400 years ago, the truth is that Muhammad has been, and continues to be, the most praised person in history. Not a second goes by without a minaret somewhere in the world publicly proclaiming the time for prayer and saying, “I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God”.

Every time his name is mentioned, Muslims say with great reverence and love “peace and blessings be upon him”. There is no other human being in history that has been praised in this way constantly, every second of every day and every night, without stoppage, for over 1,400 years.

Moreover, instead of his mentioning going down over time, which is what we find in most cases with people who become famous, it actually increases over time, as the Muslim population grows. The name ‘Muhammad’ is regularly the most popular baby’s name in the world [41].

This is despite the fact that Prophet Muhammad never encouraged Muslims to adopt his name, in fact he said that the best names are Abdullah and Abdur-Rahman (which mean “servant of God” and “servant of the Most Merciful” respectively) [42].

Prophet Muhammad is also the most followed person in the world. This is not a following that is superficial, as Muslims around the world eat, drink, sleep, wash, dress, walk, talk, pray, fast, and give charity exactly like he did.

CONCLUSION

Muhammad made numerous prophecies about the future which have either been fulfilled or are transpiring before our eyes today. Purely from probability, it is impossible to accurately guess such events, spanning multiple nations and different time periods, many of which were outside of the sphere of influence of Muslims, without making a single mistake. 

This should leave us in no doubt that he was inspired by something that is far more knowledgeable and powerful than human beings. The Qur’an affirms this when it reveals where Muhammad got his knowledge from: “Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say [anything] of [his own] desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him. He was taught by one mighty in Power.” [53:2-5] The Qur’an reveals that Muhammad was inspired by God Himself, who has knowledge of all things. The Qur’an further tells us that only God’s knowledge is perfect and free of error: 

“And if it were from any other than God, they would have found in it many a discrepancy” [4:82]. This is one reason why Muslims have no doubt about the existence of God, because only He could have inspired Muhammad with such flawless insight into the unseen.

Source: Many Prophets One message

References

1 – Sir Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands.

2 – Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith #63.

3 –Al-Musannaf, Hadith #124.

4 – Al-Tabarani, Mu‘jam al-Kabir, #6857.

5 – Tafsir ibn Kathi, abridged, volume 7, Daruslaam, p.518.

6 – Abul A’la Mawdudi, Towards Understanding the Quran, p. 65.

7 – Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 5, pp. 73-74.

8 – Walter Emil Kaegi, Heraclius: Emperor of Byzantium, p. 88.

9 – Norman Davies, Europe: a history, p. 245.

10 – Parvaneh Pourshariati, Decline and fall of the Sasanian empire: the Sasanian-Parthian confederacy and the Arab conquest of Iran, p. 141.

11 – Theophanes, p. 15.

12 – Sunan Al-Kubra, Hadith #8858.

13 – Musnad Aḥmad 4:257.

14 – Carole Hillenbrand, Muhammad and the rise of Islam, The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol 1, p. 340.

15 – R. G Grant, 1001 Battles That Changed the Course of History, p. 108.

16 – Al Jazeera documentary, “The Caliph”, Part 1. Accessed March 19th 2018: https://youtu.be/P3O9d7PsI48

17 – Andrew Louth, The Byzantine Empire in the seventh century, The New Cambridge Medieval History, vol 1, p. 298.

18 – Ibn Hibban, Hadith #6767.

19 – James Brundage, Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, p. 182.

20 – Ibn Majah, Hadith #4019.

21 – Musnad Ahmad, Hadith #10191.

22 – Scott Gustafson, Altar of Wall Street: The Rituals, Myths, Theologies, Sacraments, and Mission of the Religion Known as the Modern Global Economy, p. 136.

23 – Reported by Ahmad and Abu Dawud. Silsilah as-Saheehah of Imaam al-Albani (1/34 no. 5).

24 – Al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, p. 458.

25 – Musnad Ahmad, 1:407.

26 – See research “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” published in 2000 by professor Robert Putnam.

27 – Deborah Chambers, A Sociology of Family Life, pp. 55-56.

28 – See research “The family and community life of older people: social networks and social support in three urban areas” published in 2001 by professor Chris Phillipson.

29 – See entry for the Arabic word ‘qalam’ in the “Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic” by Hans Wehr.

30 – See Table 1 in Buringh and Van Zanden, Charting the “Rise of the West”: Manuscripts and Printed Books in Europe, A Long-Term Perspective from the Sixth through Eighteenth Centuries.

31 – John Malalas’s Chronicle 18.47.

32 – Sunan Ibn Majah Hadith #4050.

33 – Niall Ferguson, The War of the World: History’s Age of Hatred, see Introducion.

34 – Sahih Muslim 157.

35 – Accessed on 25th July 2018:

https://www.natureasia.com/en/nmiddleeast/article/10.1038/nmiddleeast.2018.44

36 – Sahih Muslim, Hadith #2889.

37 – Related by Abu Dawud (no. 4297), Ibn ‘Asakirin in Tarikh Dimashq (2/97/8) and others. It was authenticated by Al-Albani in As-Sahihah (no. 958).

38 – Stanley D. Brunn, The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics, p. 1774.

39 – Musnad Aḥmad, Hadith #16509.

40 – Accessed on 4th August 2018: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/06/why-muslims-are-the-worlds-fastest-growing-religious-group/

41 – The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, see entry ‘Muhammad, prophet of Islam’.

42 – Sahih Muslim, Hadith #2132.