The “Whack-a-Scam” Series: The Alleged “False Prophecy” in Surah Al-Rum

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

The “Whack-a-Scam” Series: Refuting Sam Shamoun on False Prophecies in the Quran – The Alleged “False Prophecy” in Surah Ar-Rum

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“Nor does he speak from [his own] inclination.”

– The Quran, Surah An-Najm, 53:3

            This article is the first part of a series of refutations of Sam “The Scam” Shamoun’s false claim that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made “false” prophecies. Shamoun must be confusing his Bible with the Quran and Sunnah, because it is the former that has false prophecies, and plenty of them.[1] I have already written on the subject of prophecies in the Quran and Sunnah previously and demonstrated the amazing accuracy of Muhammad’s prophecies. So, let us get going with yet another fun round of “Whack-a-Scam”. We will begin with the alleged “false” prophecy in Surah Al-Rum, 30:2-4.

“The Roman Conquest of Persia”

            Not surprisingly, Shamoun began his diatribe by appealing to Deuteronomy 18:20-22, which states that if a “prophet” proclaims something that does not come true, then it is something that God has not spoken, and therefore, people should not be “afraid” of that “prophet”. But this is precisely why no one should take the Bible seriously, as it has numerous “prophecies” that simply did not come true. Even the Jesus of the Bible made false prophecies.

            Predictably, Shamoun began with the Quranic prophecy of the Byzantine (i.e., “Roman”) victory against the Persians in Surah Al-Rum, 30:2-4. It has been established by most authorities that the meaning of the word بِضْعِ in verse 4 is “three to nine years”. The verses were revealed in Mecca around 615 CE,[2] and the prophecy was fulfilled by the year of the battle of Badr in 624 CE (the battle of Badr occurred in March 624),[3] when the Byzantine emperor Heraclius had begun to turn the tide of the war in his favor (minor victories had occurred as early as 622 CE). Thus, it was within the maximum 9-year period.[4]

            But the scam-artist Shamoun appealed to the “renowned historian and Muslim commentator” al-Tabari to argue that the verse was referring to the Byzantine “victory” over the Persians in the year of Hudaybiya (628 CE), which would be 13 years after the revelation of the verse. This is a laughable attempt by Shamoun, at best. Let us see why.

            First, Shamoun only appealed to al-Tabari’s “History” (Tarikh al-Tabari) and completely ignored his tafsir (which we will see later). Second, it is well-known that Heraclius scored a series of victories against the Persians, beginning much earlier than 628. According to the chronology provided by Walter Kaegi, Heraclius won “morale-building victories” against the Persians in April 622, and in 624, he began his invasion of Armenia, scoring victories at Dvin and Takht-i-Suleiman.[5] By the end of the year, Heraclius had defeated the Persian general Shahrbaraz near Arcesh. Thus, the prophecy was fulfilled!

            Second, Shamoun only quoted one part of the Tarikh al-Tabari (Volume 8; trans. Michael Fishbein), whereas an objective researcher would have been more diligent. Shamoun either ignored or was unaware of al-Tabari’s discussion of the verses in Volume 5 (trans. C.E. Bosworth), so let us fill in the gaps of Shamoun’s pathetic research. Al-Tabari stated:

“[i]t has been said that God’s words,”Alif, lam, mim. The Romans have been defeated in the nearer part of the land’ but after their defeat they will be victorious within a few years. The affair belongs to God, before and after, and on that day the believers will rejoice in God’s succor; He succors whom He pleases, and He is the Mighty, the Compassionate One. The promise of God! God does not fall short in His promise, but most of the people do not know.”, were only revealed regarding the affairs of Abarwiz, king of Persia, and Hiraql, king of the Byzantines, and what happened between them, which I have recounted in these stories.”[6]

In a footnote, the translator C.E. Bosworth stated that:

“[t]he text is usually read with the passive verb ghulibat al-Rum and then the active one sa-yaghlibuna and is taken to refer to some battle during the Persian invasion of the Levant 613-14 (see 746 above).”[7]

Note the reference to an earlier footnote (#746), which states that:

“[a]fter appearing in Syria, the Persian army had occupied Damascus in 613 and had appeared in Palestine in spring 614 after defeating the Byzantine forces in the Hawran between al-Dara’ah and Bosra (possibly the battle referred to in Surat al-Rum, Qur’an, XXX, 2-3…”[8]

This footnote was in regard to al-Tabari’s statement:

“Kisra sent him [Rumiyuzan] to Syria, which he then subdued and penetrated as far as Palestine.”[9]

Thus, we can see that even the Tarikh al-Tabari identified the Persian victories in Syria as the context of Surah al-Rum. Al-Tabari confirmed this in his tafsir as well. He stated (emphasis mine):

“[t]his being so, the ta’wil of the wording is: The Persians defeated the Rum…from the land of al-Sham to that of Persia, and (after their vanquishing) the Rūm (shall be victors) over the Persians subsequent to their earlier defeat (in a few years, for it is God’s will) before their victory and after, on either occasion…(and on that day the believers shall rejoice) and on the day the Rūm defeat the Persians, the believers will rejoice for God’s victory over the polytheists and the for the victory of the Rum over the Persians…(God helps whomsoever He will) this is the victory of the believers over the polytheists at Badr.”[10]

            Third, Shamoun, in his deceitful and baseless attempt at disproving the prophecy, tried to argue that Heraclius could only “regard himself as victorious” around March 628. In other words, Heraclius’ “victory” over the Persians was only complete by 628, and the war was finally over, but the Sassanid Empire remained intact. To prove his non-sequitur in typical Shamounian fashion, Shamoun looked for key words like “victor” and “victorious” in the Tarikh al-Tabari. This is hilariously incompetent, but it is a tactic he has used before.[11] If we follow that route, then Heraclius was “victorious” much earlier. Let us see what Kaegi says about Heraclius’ “victories” beginning in 622 (emphasis mine):

“After some waiting and maneuvering, the Byzantines decisively DEFEATED the Persians, probably in late autumn 622.”[12]

“A threat from the west, probably from the Avars’ growing menace in the Balkans, compelled Heraclius to return to Constantinople late that summer (622). The Byzantine army went into winter quarters. These VICTORIES were in face limited ones, but they helped to rebuild shattered morale among Heraclius’ soldiers, civilians, and elites. They did not change the fundamentals of the strategic situation, but they provided a valuable boost to morale.”[13]

“Heraclius returned as VICTOR, to the greetings of a joyous citizenry at Constantinople, and was able to enjoy the fame of having triumphed over the Persians.  That was an unusual experience for the populace, given so many Byzantine defeats.”[14]

This is perfectly in line with the prophecy since the Quran clearly stated that the Byzantines would “overcome” the Persians within three to nine years. Also, in the context of the verse, there is no reason to expect a “total” victory at all, or as Shamoun put it, the “Roman conquest of Persia” (emphasis mine). Verses 2-3 state that after their “defeat” in the “nearest land”, the Byzantines would “overcome”:

“The Byzantines have been defeated (غُلِبَتِ الرُّومُ)

In the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome (فِي أَدْنَى الْأَرْضِ وَهُم مِّن بَعْدِ غَلَبِهِمْ سَيَغْلِبُونَ).”

The “defeat” in the “nearest land” refers to the loss of Syria, and more importantly, Jerusalem in 614 (see al-Tabari’s commentary above). Though the losses suffered were catastrophic, they did not result in the total conquest of the Byzantine Empire by the Sassanid Empire. The capital Constantinople never fell, despite a joint Avar-Persian siege even as late as 626. As the Tafsir as-Sa’di explains:

“The Persians prevailed over the Romans and defeated them, but did not take over their lands except the areas closest to their borders. And the polytheists of Makkah rejoiced at that, whilst the Muslims were saddened by it. But Allah told them and promised them that the Romans would defeat the Persians.”[15]

In the same way, in the Quran, verse 3 simply states that the Byzantine defeat in Syria would be followed-up within a “few years” with a victory. This is exactly what happened. It was not until 622 that Heraclius began his string of victories and turned the tide against the Persians. By 624, he had begun his invasion of Persian territory.

            Next, Shamoun resorted to another poorly researched argument. Following the lead of C.G. Pfander, Shamoun appealed to a variant reading of Surah Al-Rum, verses 2-3. Instead of “ghulibat” (غُلِبَتِ) in verse 2 and “sa-yaghlibuna” (سَيَغْلِبُونَ) in verse 3 in the traditional reading, the variant reads “ghalabat” (غَلَبَتِ) and “sa-yughlabuna” (سَيُغْلَبُونَ), respectively. In other words, the variant reading states that the Byzantines have been “victorious” but will be “defeated” in a “few years”. Obviously, this reading, if authentic, could not have been revealed around 615 CE. Thus, perhaps considering himself clever, Shamoun deluded himself into thinking that he had refuted the prophecy because Muslims cannot determine which reading is authentic. Well…sorry be the bearer of bad news Shamoun, but you not only exposed what a shoddy researcher you are…once again, you also shot yourself in the foot…because even if we accept the variant reading, it still came true! Now let us see Shamoun’s argument crumble under the weight of Islamic scholarship, insha’Allah.

            First, Shamoun claimed that:

“…a Muslim cannot confidently tell us what the true reading of the text is and hence cannot insure [sic] us that this verse originally predicted the Byzantine victory over the Persians.”

Well, we can. The variant reading is simply not the authentic reading and has been rejected by scholars as an “anomalous” (shadhdh) recitation. As Ahmad Ali Al-Imam states (emphasis mine):

“[a]ccording to Ibn al-Salah, and later Abu Shamah and Ibn al-Jazari, anomalous (shadhdh) refers to a recitation that has been narrated as Qur’an without a successive transmission or at least a well-known (mashhur) transmission accepted by the people. […] Makki and Ibn al-Jazari define it as a recitation that contradicts the orthography of the copies of the Uthmanic writ or of Arabic, although its chain might be authentic. Alternatively, its chain is inauthentic even though the recitation corresponds with the orthography and fluent Arabic. Another alternative is that it corresponds with the three conditions but is not well-known and is rejected by the people.”[16]

As it turns out, the variant reading of Surah Al-Rum is “shadhdh”, i.e., “anomalous”. As Al-Imam explains, this reading (emphasis mine):

“…is only attributed to some Companions (e.g., Ali, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri, Ibn Abbas, and Ibn Umar) and Successors (e.g., Mu’awiyah ibn Qurrah and al-Hasan). However, it is considered anomalous because the scholars reject it. The only authentic recitation accepted by the people and regarded as successive is the second one [ghulibat and sa-yaghlibuna]”.[17]

So, the variant reading has been rejected by scholars because it is not based on a “successive” transmission (i.e., it is not mutawatir). This is also confirmed by C.E. Bosworth in a footnote in his translation of Tarikh al-Tabari. Bosworth notes (emphasis mine):

“[t]he text is usually read with the passive verb ghulibat al-Rum and then the active one sa-yaghlibuna and is taken to refer to some battle during the Persian invasion of the Levant 613-14 (see n. 746 above). But a less authoritative, single reading has ghalabat al-Rum,”. . . have been victorious,” and sa-yughlabuna,”[but] … they will be defeated,” dubiously taken to refer to the initial Byzantine success against the Arab raid on Mu’tah in 8/630 and the eventual triumph of Muslim arms in Palestine and Syria.”[18]

            This was also the view of al-Tabari himself, as stated in his tafsir, which Shamoun completely ignored during his sloppy research. In his commentary, al-Tabari stated that (emphasis mine):

“[t]he only correct reading for us is ghulibat al-Rum and no other reading is acceptable, for it enjoys the authoritative consensus of the qurra.”[19]

So, there is consensus that the correct and authoritative reading is the traditional one that Muslims always recite.

            Nevertheless, let us humiliate Shamoun further by assuming that the variant reading is the correct one. If that is the case, then it obviously could not have been revealed around 615 CE, as previously mentioned.[20] The historical context does not allow it. Therefore, it must have been revealed much later, perhaps around the time of the Treaty of Hudaybiyah (628 CE).[21] In that case, the recitation “ghalabat” in verse 2 would apply to the Byzantine victory over the Persians in 628 whereas the recitation “sa-yughlabuna” would be a prophecy about their defeat sometime later. Did this actually happen? Yes, it did! While modern non-Muslim scholars consider the battle of Mu’tah in 630 CE to have been a defeat for the Muslims (though Muslims regard it as a tactical victory, since a vastly outnumbered Muslim army was able to avoid mass casualties and was able to retreat), there is NO debate that the Muslims were decisively VICTORIOUS as early as the years 634-635, with Khalid ibn Al-Walid capturing Damascus in 635 (see Table 1 in the Appendix below for a chronology of key events that prove the truth of the Quran).[22] Thus, if the variant reading was authentic and was revealed around the time Heraclius was victorious over the Sassanids, then the prophecy was still fulfilled as the Byzantines suffered a catastrophic loss against the Muslims only 8 years later! Allahu Akbar!

            Alternatively, if the verses were revealed in the context of the battle of Mu’tah, which as mentioned, did not result in a decisive Muslim victory (most non-Muslim scholars would regard it as a defeat), even then it was fulfilled for the same reasons stated above. In 635, Damascus was captured by the Muslim army. Thus, no matter which reading we take, the prophecy was STILL fulfilled! Allahu Akbar!

            Finally, Shamoun tried to further discount the prophecy by using a double standard that he would NEVER use against his Bible. He stated:

“It amazes us that a prophecy from God would not specify the exact time of the victory, seeing that God is all-knowing and all-wise, declaring the end from the beginning. When God specifies a time frame as an important part of a prophecy we would expect that it be precise, not a mere guess. For God to guess that the Byzantines would win at some time within “a few years” as opposed to specifying the exact year, is inconsistent with the belief in an Omniscient, Omnipotent Being. Hence, it is unlikely that the true God would actually make such a prophecy.”

This laughable argument is ironic given the imprecise and inaccurate “prophecies” that are found in the Bible (see below). Before we get to that, it should be clarified that the Quran clearly states that the “command” for when the Byzantines would be victorious belongs to Allah alone:

“To Allah belongs the command before and after.”

What Shamoun does not seem to get is that the prophecy came true. It does not matter if it did not come true according to his standards. At the time of the revelation of this verse, the Persians were in full control, with the Byzantines seemingly on the edge of total defeat. It would have been a remarkable claim to make that the Byzantines would still be victorious. 

            If we apply Shamoun’s pathetic double standard to his Bible, then he should be more “amazed” that his god is so imprecise! Let us look at Revelation 22:20 as an example (emphasis mine):

“He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.””

This same warning is repeated throughout the book of Revelation (2:16, 3:11, 11:14, 22:7, and 22:12). The Greek word usually translated as “soon” or “quickly” is “tachy” (ταχύ) and is defined by the authoritative lexicons as literally “without delay”:[23]

            It also can mean “by surprise”, and indeed, some apologists have appealed to this definition to avoid the embarrassment of admitting that the prophecy failed. Even then, they seem not too sure of themselves. For example, in his commentary on Revelation, G.K. Beale claims (emphasis mine):

“…a possibly simple and legitimate solution to this problem is that ταχύ in 22:12, as well as in 22:20 and possibly 22:7, suggests the suddenness of Christ’s last appearing whenever it occurs, not definite imminence. This is supported by 16:15 (“I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake”), as well as the similar 2:16; 3:3, 11, though not all of these verses have ταχύ (see the fuller discussion on the nature of the “coming” at 2:5, 16; 3:3, 11). The Ethiopic version of 22:7 has “I come quickly as a thief,” which shows a possibly early identification of this passage with the thief metaphor of 16:15.”[24]

No reasonable person would consider an arrival nearly 2,000 years later (and counting) as “by surprise”, especially since in Revelation 3:11, the word ταχύ is used in an “eschatological” way to reassure the church in Philadelphia to “hold on” for Jesus’ return. As Robert Mounce notes in his commentary on the book of Revelation (emphasis mine):

“[t]he ‘coming’ to Philadelphia, however, is eschatological. It will end their time of trial and establish them as permanent citizens of the eternal kingdom. Verse 11 presupposes the continuance of the church until the second advent. The promise is not that Christ’s coming will take place quickly whenever it happens, but that it will take place without delay. It is to be taken in the sense of 1:1, ‘what must soon take place’ (cf. 2:16, 22:7, 12, 20). Since the end is not far off, they are to hold on to what they have (faith in Christ and obedience to his word; cf. v. 8) so that no one will take their crown. The crown was the wreath awarded to the winner of an athletic contest (cf. 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Tim 4:8). The metaphor would be especially appropriate in this letter in that Philadelphia was known for its games and festivals.”[25]

Thus, despite the subjective and biased protests of the apologists, we can reasonably conclude that the meaning of the prophecy in Revelation 22:20 is clear: Jesus was supposed to return within a very short amount of time, within the lifetimes of the author of Revelation and his readers, not thousands of years later (and counting).[26] Indeed, if Shamoun’s god had intended to come much later, he should have used the Greek word βραδύς which, according to the Analytical Lexicon of the Green New Testament, “literally” means “slow” and is the “opposite” of “ταχύς (quick, prompt)”.[27]          

Conclusion

            In this article, we have seen Shamoun’s embarrassing incompetence and sloppy research. We have seen his desperate attempts to deny the amazing prophecy in the Quran, using deception and double standards, which when consistently applied to his New Testament, proves conclusively that Shamoun’s god did not know that coming “soon” meant “without delay” and not thousands of years later. Shamoun indulged in shoddy and incomplete research with regard to the Quran and applied a high level of skepticism that he would never be applied to the New Testament. Even then, we have seen that the Quran did indeed correctly prophesy the Byzantine reversal of fortune in the epic struggle between the two superpowers of the time. Thus, the Quran is vindicated yet again, though stubborn unbelievers like Shamoun may hate it. And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!

Appendix

            The following chronology of key events involving the Byzantines, Sassanids, and Muslims in the early to mid-7th century CE is adapted from Walter Kaegi’s timeline, with additions from other sources as indicated.

Table 1 – Key Events in the Byzantine-Persian War and Byzantine-Muslim War

Spring 613 Persian VICTORIES at Edessa and Damascus
May 614 Persians VICTORY at Jerusalem
619 Persian VICTORY at Alexandria and full occupation of Egypt
622 Heraclius begins “testing techniques of offensive warfare”
April 622 Heraclius leaves Constantinople and “wins morale-building VICTORIES against Persians” by late autumn
624–628 Heraclius launches “large-scale offensive expeditionary warfare”
March 624 (according to Abu Khalil)[28] Battle of Badr (“Badr I”)
March 624 Heraclius begins invasion of Armenia
624 Heraclius destroys Dvin and Takht-i-Suleiman (VICTORIES)
End of 624 Heraclius DEFEATS Persian general Shahrbaraz near Arcesh
January 626 (according to al-Mubarakpuri)[29] Second Badr expedition (“Badr II”)
626 Avar-Persian siege and blockade of Constantinople
February 628 Khusrau II overthrown and executed
March-April 628 Persians ask for peace
July 629 Heraclius and Shahrbaraz “reach understanding”
632 “Forcible baptism of Jews in Africa…”
623–633 Heraclius tries to “shift troops from African to defend Egypt” against Arab tribes
634 Muslim raiding “intensifies in southern Palestine and east of the Dead Sea”
634-635 Muslim victories in Syria and Palestine (Kohn)[30]
635 Fall of Damascus to Muslims (Kohn)
August 636 Muslim VICTORY against Byzantines at Jabiya-Yarmuk
636 Fall of Jerusalem to Muslims (Kohn)
Late 636 Heraclius evacuates Syria (i.e., Muslim VICTORY)
639 Mesopotamia under Muslim control (Kohn)
Late 639 Muslim invasion of Egypt begins
February 641 Heraclius dies
November 641 (642 according to Kohn) Fall of Alexandria; Byzantines surrender Egypt to Muslims

[1] For some false prophecies in the Tanakh, see here: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/prophecies-in-the-holy-scriptures-word-of-god-or-folly-of-man-part-i/

For false prophecies in the New Testament, see here: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/prophecies-in-the-holy-scriptures-word-of-god-or-folly-of-man-part-ii/

[2] This is the view of most commentators. Ibn Kathir stated that:

“[t]hese Ayat were revealed about the victory of Sabur, the king of Persia, over Ash-Sham (Greater Syria), the adjoining partisan states of the Arabian Peninsula, and the outlying regions of the land of the Romans” (http://m.qtafsir.com/Surah-Ar-Room/Foretelling-the-Victory-of-the—).

Similarly, Maududi explained in his commentary:

“The period of the revelation of this Surah is determined absolutely by the historical event that has been mentioned at the outset. It says: “The Romans have been vanquished in the neighboring land.”  In those days the Byzantine occupied territories adjacent to Arabia were Jordan, Syria and Palestine, and in these territories the Romans were completely overpowered by the Iranians in 615 A. D. Therefore, it can be said with absolute certainty that this Surah was sent down in the same year, and this was the year in which the migration to Habash took place” (http://www.englishtafsir.com/Quran/30/index.html).

[3] Shauqi Abu Khalil, Atlas of the Qur’an: Places. Nations. Landmarks, First Edition (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2003), p. 245.

[4] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/prophecies-in-the-holy-scriptures-word-of-god-or-folly-of-man-part-iii/

However, some scholars were of the view that the verses were revealed later. Al-Suyuti believed they were revealed after the Night Journey (Al-Sira) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), around 621 CE (Khalid El-Awaisi, “The Quranic Prophecy of the Defeat and Victory of the Byzantines”, Journal of IslamicJerusalem Studies, 15 [Summer 2015]: p. 25, https://dergipark.org.tr/en/download/article-file/341691).

[5] Walter E. Kaegi, Heraclius: Emperor of Byzantium (Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 2003), p. 325.

[6] The History of al-Tabari, Volume V: The Sasanids the Byzantines, the Lakhmids, and Yemen, trans. C.E. Bosworth (Albany, New York: State University of New York Press, 1999), p. 324.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., p. 318.

[9] Ibid.

[10] As cited by Nadia M. El Cheikh, “Surat al-Rum: A Study of the Exegetical Literature”, Journal of the American Oriental Society, 118, no. 3 (1998): p. 359, https://www.academia.edu/8143197/Surat_al-Rum_A_Study_of_the_Exegetical_Literature.

[11] See my “Al-Isra and the “Temple” series of refutations on Shamoun’s desperate appeals to words like “mosque” and misquotes of scholars such as Uri Rubin, and especially Part III-C: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/15/al-isra-and-the-temple-in-the-islamic-sources-a-response-to-sam-shamoun-part-iii-c/

[12] Ibid., p. 115.

[13] Ibid., p. 116.

[14] Ibid., p. 118.

[15] Abdur -Rahman Nasir as-Sa’di, Tafsir as-Sa’di, Volume 7: Juz’ 19-21, trans. Nasiruddin al-Khattab (Riyadh: International Islamic Publishing House, 2018), p. 291.

[16] Ahmad Ali Al-Imam, Variant Readings of the Qur’an: A Critical Study of Their Historical and Linguistic Origins (London: The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2006), p. 86.

[17] Ibid., p. 103.

[18] The History of al-Tabari, op. cit., fn. 761, p. 324.

[19] As cited by El Cheikh, op. cit., p. 359.

El Cheikh also noted that earlier commentators such as Mujahid (d. 104/722) and Muqatil b. Sulayman (d. 150/767) explained the verses according to the accepted reading, whereas other “relatively early exegetical texts” (but later than Mujahid and Muqatil b. Sulayman) also provided the “variant reading”. These include Abu Zakariyya al-Farra (d. 207/822), who also rejected the variant reading, and Sa’id b. Mas’ada al-Akhfash al-Awsat (d. 215/830) (Ibid., pp. 357-358). But El Cheikh also noted that:

“[i]t is true, however, that the variant reading never stands on its own, but is always juxtaposed side by side with the traditional one. Working as they were within a tradition, the commentators reiterated the traditional reading and interpretation” (Ibid., p. 363).

[20] Indeed, according to a hadith in Jami al-Tirmidhi from an “Abu Saeed” (not Abu Saeed al-Khudri; see below), the variant reading (“ghalabat”) was revealed on the “day of Badr” (hadith #3192, https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/47).

Interestingly, another narration from the same Abu Saeed states that the traditional reading (“ghulibat”) was also revealed on the “day of Badr” (#2935, https://sunnah.com/tirmidhi/46). Commenting on this hadith, Imam Tirmidhi stated that:

“[t]his Hadith is Hasan Gharib from this route. It is recited: ‘Ghalabat’ and ‘Ghulibat’ and it is said: ‘They were defeated then victorious.’ This is how Nasr bin Ali recited it: ‘Ghalabat’” (Imam Hafiz Abu Eisa Mohammad Ibn Eisa At-Tirmidhi, English Translation of Jami At-Tirmidhi, Volume 5, trans. Abu Khaliyl [Riyadh: Darussalam, 2007], p. 262).

He stated the same for hadith #3192. But a comment on hadith #2935 by the translator clarifies that Surah al-Rum “was revealed in Makkah before Hijrah…” (Ibid.). Furthermore, Imam Tirmidhi also related some ahadith which clearly placed the revelation of the verses in Makkah (see #3193 and #3194), as mentioned in other sources. According to Imam Tirmidhi, these ahadith were “hasan sahih gharib” (Ibid., pp. 504-505). Similar ahadith were mentioned by Imam Ahmad and An-Nasa’i, as noted in Ibn Kathir’s commentary (http://m.qtafsir.com/Surah-Ar-Room/Foretelling-the-Victory-of-the—). These ahadith are higher in grade than the ones related by Abu Saeed.

It should be noted that a “hasan” or “fair” hadith is not on the same level as a “sahih” hadith. As Ibrahim Madani explains:

“[i]f the narrator is lacking in some character, which calls for a weakening of the hadith and it is not corroborated by other ahadith, it is called a fair narration [hasan].

If the criteria that makes a hadith authentic or fair is not found in one or more than one narrators [sic], then the hadith is weak” (Ibrahim Madani, The Preservation of Hadith: A Brief Introduction to the Science of Hadith [New York: Madania Publications, 2010], p. 27).

Also, a “gharib” or “solitary” hadith:

“…is a hadith in which only one person narrated [the] hadith throughout the transmission” (Ibid., p. 28).

Thus, all of the ahadith related by Imam Tirmidhi regarding the revelation of Surah al-Rum are based on solitary narrations.

Imam Tirmidhi also explained that when he categorized a hadith as “hasan”, he meant “that its chain is Hasan according to us” and that it “does not have in its chain someone who is accused of lying, nor is the Hadith Shadh, and it has been related through other routes similar to that…” (Imam Hafiz Abu Eisa Mohammad Ibn Eisa At-Tirmidhi, English Translation of Jami At-Tirmidhi, Volume 1, trans. Abu Khaliyl [Riyadh: Darussalam, 2007], p. 28). As for a “ghareeb” hadith, Imam Tirmidhi explained that it could be due to various reasons, such as “it is not related except through one route…” or “due to an addition that is in the Hadith, and it will only be correct when the addition is from one who is depended upon for his memory” or “due to a condition of the chain” (Ibid., pp. 28-29).

Furthermore, both ahadith from “Abu Saeed” include Atiyyah al-Awfi, who has been graded by hadith scholars as unreliable. Even more egregious is the fact that “Abu Saeed” was a “nickname” that Atiyyah had given to Muhammad ibn Saeed (Kalbi). According to the scholar al-Khateeb, Atiyyah did this “to delude people, that the person (he narrates from) is Abu Sa’eed Khudri [the famous companion of Prophet Muhammad]” (https://youpuncturedtheark.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/2-sunni-answers-to-shiapens-article-on-fadak-and-inheritance-of-prophetsaw-chapter-two/). The list of scholars who rejected Atiyyah as “weak” includes Ahmed, Nasa’i, Bukhari, Abu Dawud, Sufyan al-Thawri, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Taymiyyah, and Ibn Hajar (Ibid.; see also: http://www.sjiieten-ontmaskerd.nl/AhlelBayt.com/www.ahlelbayt.com/articles/rebuttals/thaqalayn.html). The 20th-century scholar Al-Albani also graded him as “mudallis” and “weak” (https://youpuncturedtheark.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/2-sunni-answers-to-shiapens-article-on-fadak-and-inheritance-of-prophetsaw-chapter-two/). A “mu’dal” hadith is one which “has two or more than two narrators missing from one area of the chain” (Madani, op. cit., p. 26). The narrator who is categorized as a “mudallis” is thus accused of “conceal[ing] the truth about the isnad” (https://www.islamic-awareness.org/hadith/ulum/asb4.html).

So, while Atiyyah al-Awfi was not directly accused of lying, the scholars generally considered him to be “unreliable”. Abu Dawud firmly stated that “he cannot be trusted” (http://www.sjiieten-ontmaskerd.nl/AhlelBayt.com/www.ahlelbayt.com/articles/rebuttals/thaqalayn.html). The fact that the evidence for the revelation of the variant reading of Surah al-Rum comes from such an unreliable source fully explains why the variant is rejected by scholars.

Interestingly, even though we have seen that the variant reading is rightly rejected, some commentators proposed the view that Surah al-Rum was revealed on two occasions, with each reading (including the variant) being revealed separately. These commentators include Al-Razi and Al-Alusi (El-Awaisi, op. cit., p. 6). In addition, it has been suggested that the narration from “Abu Sa’id” about the verses being revealed at Badr was actually referring to “Badr II” (626 CE) and not the more famous “Badr I” (624 CE). As El-Awaisi explains (emphasis mine):

“…it is stated that the victory of the Romans took place at the time of the Battle of Badr 624CE, and that Abu-Baker collected the money from Ubayy’s inheritors. It should be noted that Ubayy only died after the battle of Uhud 625CE, where he was injured by the prophet and later died. There are two battles in the early period of Islam, Badr I, and Badr II 626. Therefore, what is meant here is not the first battle but the second that happened after the battle of Uhud, since there was a battle around that time in which Heraclius was victorious” (Ibid., p. 24).

For more on the death of Ubayy bin Khalaf and the lesser-known “Badr II”, see Safi-ur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar: Biography of the Noble Prophet, Revised Edition (Riyadh: Darussalam, 2002), pp. 327 and 359-360, respectively.

If this proposal is correct, then the variant reading would not only be authentic, it would also be vindicated yet again as a true prophecy, since within 10 years of Badr II, the Muslims were victorious over the Byzantines in Syria and Palestine. But, as we have seen, there is no reason to even accept the narration in the first place, due to the unreliable status of one of the narrators, Atiyyah al-Awfi.              

[21] The variant, if authentic, could also have been revealed as early as 626 CE (see note #20).

[22] George C. Kohn, Dictionary of Wars (Revised Edition) (London: Routledge, 2013), p. 85.

[23] https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G5035&t=NIV

[24] G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, Michigan: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), p. 1135.

[25] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation: Revised Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), p. 104.

[26] The historical context of the book of Revelation also makes this undeniable, no matter how much pathetic apologists such as Shamoun want to protest. I have discussed the context of Revelation in a previous article and video: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/the-book-of-revelation/.

Similar to the author of the book of Revelation, Paul also believed that the end of the world was coming soon, except he said that “the time [was] short”. In 1 Corinthians 7:29, 31, Paul wrote:

“What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. […] For this world in its present form is passing away.”

[27] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000) p. 93.

[28] Abu Khalil, op. cit., p. 245.

[29] Al-Mubarakpuri, op. cit., p. 359.

[30] Kohn, op. cit., p. 85.

 

3 thoughts on “The “Whack-a-Scam” Series: The Alleged “False Prophecy” in Surah Al-Rum

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