One can safely say that for a seeker after the truth, there is no whole range of options. He has only one choice to make. And that is the choice of Islam: the only religion, which has a preserved book of God and whose prophet has true historical credibility. Let us understand this in detail.
1. Quran: The Preserved Word of God
The Quran is the Word of God. It has been preserved in its entirety for all time to come. It was revealed to the final prophet of God - Prophet Muhammad. It did not come to him in the form of a complete book, but in parts over a period of 23 years. The first part was revealed in 610 AD, when the Prophet Muhammad was in Makkah. Subsequently, different parts continued to be revealed regularly, the final part being revealed in 632, when the Prophet was in Madinah. There are 114 chapters in the Quran, both long and short. The verses number about 6600. To meet the needs of recitation, the Quran was divided into 30 parts. These parts were finally set in order under the guidance of the Angel Gabriel, through whom God had revealed the Quran.
The reason that the Quran was able to get preserved while the earlier books did not get preserved was that when the Quran was revealed in the first quarter of the 7th century, paper had already been invented and was in circulation. This paper, known as papyrus, was made by hand from the fibres of certain trees. Whenever any part of the Quran was revealed, it was written down on papyrus, or in Arabic, qirtas. (6:7). During this process, people committed the verses to memory, the Quran being the only Islamic literature which was recited in prayer, as well as being read out for the purposes of da‘wah. In this way, the Quran continued to be simultaneously memorized as well as written down.
This method of preservation continued during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. When the Prophet died in 632 A.D., he was succeeded by Abu Bakr, the first caliph of Islam, who took great pains to prepare a bound copy of the Quran. This copy was made on qirtas. Being square in form, it was called raba‘a — a square-shaped book. In this way, the Quran was preserved in bound form during the lifetime of the first caliph. The third caliph, ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan, had several copies prepared of this bound Quran. He sent these to different cities, where they were kept in the great mosques. People not only recited from these copies, but also prepared more copies from them.
The writing of the Quran by hand continued till the printing press was invented in the 19th century and paper began to be manufactured on a large scale, thanks to the industrial revolution. Then, the Quran began to be printed. Printing methods went on improving and so the printing of the Quran also improved. Now printed copies of the Quran have become so common that they can be found in every home, mosque, library and bookstore. Today anyone can find a beautiful copy of the Quran, wherever he might be, in any part of the globe.
Although written originally in Arabic, it has been made accessible, thanks to translations, to those who have no knowledge of Arabic. While no substitute for the original, translations serve the signal purpose of spreading the word of God far beyond the Arabic-speaking peoples to a far broader spectrum of humanity.
The Quran is apparently in the Arabic language, but in reality, it is in the language of nature, that is, the language in which God directly addressed all human beings at the time of Creation. This divine invocation of humanity is ever-present in the consciousness of all human beings, that is why the Quran is universally understandable — to some on a conscious plane, and to others at the subconscious level. This reality has been described in the Quran as “clear revelations in the hearts of those who have been given knowledge.” This verse goes on to say that “none deny Our revelations save the wrongdoers.” (20:49)
This means that the Divine Reality, explained by the Quran on a conscious plane, pre-exists in man at the level of the subconscious. The message of the Quran is not, therefore, something which is alien to man. It is in fact a verbal expression of that same Divine Reality which is in consonance with man’s own nature and with which he is already familiar. When one whose nature is alive — having saved himself from later conditioning — reads the Quran, those brain cells will be activated wherein God’s first address lies preserved. If we keep this in mind, it will not be difficult to appreciate that the translation of the Quran is a valid means of understanding it.
If one has little, or even no grasp of the Arabic language, and can read the scriptures only in translation, he should not anticipate that he will be frustrated in his understanding of the Quran, for the Quranic concept of man as the natural recipient of God’s word has become a reality in modern times. The science of the genetic code and the findings of anthropology both fully support this viewpoint.
2. Historical Credibility of Prophet Muhammad
What is meant by the historical credibility of Prophet Muhammad? To understand this let us take an example. According to Islamic belief, Abraham and Moses were Prophets of God. Abraham was born in Iraq and Moses in Egypt. Yet the annals of the respective countries are devoid of any mention of these great prophets. We find no reference in the ancient history of Iraq to Abraham. Similarly, Egyptian history makes no mention of Moses.
In a similar way, as testified to by the Qur’an, Jesus was a prophet. Even Gautam Buddha is considered a prophet by his followers. But neither Jesus Christ nor Gautam Buddha comes up to the strict standards of history. For example, there are long periods of Jesus’s life about which nothing is known, and the stories of the New Testament were not written until more than a century after his death. Three languages—Syriac, Greek and Hebrew—were prevalent during the time of Christ, yet we have no way of knowing, with certainty, about the language in which he communicated his message to his people.
In the times of Gautam Buddha, Pali and Sanskrit were in vogue. But there is no historical evidence as to which language he spoke. The actual words spoken by Gautam Buddha are not on record. There are some who claim to have proofs that Gautam Buddha spoke in Pali, but it has not been established by the scholars of Buddhism.
The reason is that, in ancient times, before the age of the press, the concept of historiography was very limited. At that period it was only a record of kings and generals, only events relating to victory and defeat that were considered worth recording. All other incidents remained unrepresented and since the prophets or the reformers were not associated with events of a political nature, the historians did not consider their lives worthy of being immortalized.
The case of the Prophet Muhammad was exceptional in that is was quite different from that of the other prophets. Circumstances were such that he became involved in all kinds of political events, and he and his companions were able to usher in a revolution bringing about sweeping changes in the political and the social order of the time. Naturally the events of his life came to be recorded in the contemporary history and thus he became an essential part of history. In this way, by historical standards, the Prophet Muhammad became a historical personality, in the full sense of the word.
Because of non-existent documentation, all the other religions and their founders have come to be considered lacking in credence. One who examines these religions objectively feels that he is studying beliefs rather than history, for the personalities associated with these religions, their religious scriptures and their teachings have been demonstrated to be scientifically and historically unreliable.
An Encyclopedia of the Hindu religion, published under the title Encyclopedia of Hinduism, drew the comment from a scholar that it would be more aptly titled Encyclopedia of Hindu Mythology. This is the case with all religions. All the faiths save Islam may be classified as mythologies rather than religions in the scientific and historical sense.
The subject matter of ancient alchemy and modern chemistry is one and the same. Yet we all know that there is a basic difference between the two. Alchemy was based on unproved speculations, while modern chemistry is based on facts proved by strictly scientific methods. This same difference is found between Islam and other religions, the latter being like ancient alchemy, whereas the former is like modern chemistry.
This difference is so evident that no one can fail to notice it. One who sincerely makes a comparative study of religions of both kinds will inevitably discover it.
We can therefore say that Islam is the only choice for those who seek a religion with a preserved book of God and with a credible historical base. This is the reason that prophethood was terminated as there was no need for a fresh message to be sent by God. Islam is, therefore, the end of the search for truth.