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Summary of 10.4 "Source of the Quran III - Absence of Personal Motives"

Last time we examined whether there is any possibility that Prophet Muhammad might have claimed that the source of the Quran was divine for personal benefit.  This kind of assumption is totally unsubstantiated on a historical or logical grounds.  There is no basis for this because he could have obtained everything he wanted and accepted some of the offers without putting any effort or sacrifice on his part.

We also discussed the possibility that he may have attributed the Quran to Allah in order to use it as an authoritative way to reform his people.  Again we see the kind of flaws this has and how the Quran very strongly condemns falsification or claims which are not true about what God has revealed even if it is for a good purpose.  Finally we said that if we look into his life and character we will notice he was known as Al Ameen, the Honest, he never lied before or after he became a Prophet and in many instances even his own enemies admitted that he was truthful and would never change facts or fabricate anything.


10.5     Source of the Quran IV - Epilepsy: Unscientific Explanation

Host: What would you respond to those who claim that the revelation of the Quran is a psychic phenomena?

Jamal Badawi:

This is just another link in the chain of arguments which center mainly around the denial that the Quran is a divine revelation by trying to find someway or the other to impute it on Prophet Muhammad.  The main difference between the positions that we have discussed in the past few programs the deliberate fabrication and possible premeditated attempt to author the Quran and then say it came form God.  To say that it was psychic is basically the same.  It says that Muhammad was the author of the Quran but he did not deliberately falsified it but he might have psychologically thought it up.  Both of these focus on the issue of the authorship of the Quran and try to deny or reject its divine origin.  However nobody including a Muslim should be dogmatic about it.  There is nothing wrong with being open and discussing any possibility no matter how remote it might be.  People are welcome to raise questions that may help clarify questions that are already in the mind of viewers.


Host:  How do you respond to the claim that the Quran is the result of epileptic seizures which Prophet Muhammad used to have?

Jamal Badawi:

It appears that someone made a gross misdiagnosis.  In order to objectively decide whether this is a misdiagnosis or not we can refer to the state Prophet Muhammad was in at the time when he received the revelation.  Then we can perhaps go back to what the authorities say about what epilepsy is and what the types and symptoms are.  To start with the description of what he went through at the time of receiving revelation, we find an authentic saying in both Bukhari and Muslim in which the Prophet said that “The revelation sometimes comes to me as if it were the ringing of a bell.”  Some people describe it as an attention grabber in order for him to be receptive to the dictation given by Gabriel.  The prophet continues “after this ring and the revelation which is hardest on me, Gabriel leaves and I fully retain in memory what he dictated to me.”  It is not just an experience but is imprinted in his heart and the portion of the Quran which is revealed is fully memorized by the Prophet.  Second he said “He (Gabriel) sometimes came to me in the form of a human being-he would talk to me and then I comprehend, understand and memorize what he tells me.”  When he says that Gabriel came to him in the form of a human this doesn’t mean that everyone around him was able to see Gabriel.  It was more of an assurance to the Prophet that he saw Gabriel so that it would be a little easier on him.  That is why we find in Bukhari that the Prophet was telling Aisha “Here is angle Gabriel sending you greetings of peace.”  And she said “You see things that we can not see.”  In Bukhari and Muslim Aisha describes his state when he received revelation and said “when a revelation comes to him, even a very cold day after the revelation is finished we find that his brows are steamed with sweat.  There is some form of deep and intense concentration which results in this sweating.  In Muslim there is another description “When revelation came to him he became a bit perturbed and his face changed.”  In one narration it says that he sometimes nodded his head and when the revelation was over he raised his head up.

There are a couple of references in the Quran which describe the state of the Prophet at the time of revelation.  It was narrated that whenever the Prophet received revelation he was so eager and so careful not to miss any word, realizing that this was the word of God, that he used to repeat the words quickly after Gabriel so that he would not forget anything.  A passage in the Quran came down to assure him that he should not worry about forgetting the Quran in (75:16-17) “Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur'an) to make haste therewith.  It is for Us to collect it and to promulgate it.”  A similar reference was made in (20:114) “High above all is Allah, the King, the Truth! Be not in haste with the Qur'an before its revelation to thee is completed, but say, "O my Lord! advance me in knowledge.”  There were also historical narrations as we find in Zad Al Muath by Ibn Al Qime that when the Prophet received the revelation if he was ridding a camel his body would become so heavy that the camel would have to sit down.  If his body or leg was leaning on someone it would become so heavy that the person feels this heaviness without falling.  This was the phenomena that the people or animals around him felt.  This is basically what has been mentioned describing his state at the time of revelation.  It appears that some people might have looked into these descriptions and came to a hasty conclusion that since revelation is unexplainable in mathematical terms and if this was his state of affairs at the time of revelation then it must have been epilepsy.  This is a statement that is both bias and scientifically unsound.


Host:  Why is this a bias position for an individual to take?

Jamal Badawi:

It is bias because revelation did not start with Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  This is why we find in Encyclopedia Britannica in the last addition on page 454 “It is the inherent nature of God from all eternity that He speaks to men.”  This was not something that was totally new.  Because revelation was an extraordinary thing one can not really put it in a test tube or explain it in purely mathematical terms.  However there is one thing that is widely excepted by Jews, Muslims, Christians and followers of other religions who believe in some form of revelation believe that many Prophets prior to Prophet Muhammad received revelation.  For example when Moses saw the burning bush in Mount Sini and receiving revelation from God and Jesus receiving revelation, David and many other Prophets in the past.  However it is very strange that many writers never say that Abraham, Moses, Jesus or Paul were epileptic but when it comes to Prophet Muhammad there is an automatic conclusion without scientific verification or thought.  This is why it is bias.  Either the person is atheist and rejects all forms of revelation.  It doesn’t make sense to accept some forms of revelation and then when it comes to Prophet Muhammad it becomes epilepsy.  This is inconsistent and is an obvious bias.


Host:  How can you scientifically substantiate that Prophet Muhammad was not suffering from epilepsy?

Jamal Badawi:

We have to refer to authorities in psychologists and psychiatry and for the benefit of those who wish to explore that in a very simple way I would like to refer to the last edition of Encyclopedia Britannica under the title “Epilepsy.”  We have to find out what epilepsy is and what types of epilepsy are there, then we will compare this to the description we gave earlier of the Prophet’s state at the time of revelation.  On page 644 of the Britannica it says that epilepsy is “A sudden and recurrent disturbance in the mental function or the movement of the body or both.”  The general symptoms of epilepsy are described as “a partial or complete loss of consciousness accompanied by muscular spasms or compulsions or by more complex behavior.  It was found that about 70% of the patients suffering from epilepsy experience their first attack before the age of 20.  Then it says that it tends to disappear when the person grows into adult life.  There are four basic categories that epilepsy is divided into.  One, is called the big sickness, two is called little sickness, third is focal seizures and the fourth is psycho motor seizures.  It is interesting that when we analyze each of these and the kind of symptoms compared to the revelation we find that they simply don’t match.  None of the four types match what the Prophet experienced.


Host:  Can we examine the symptoms of these various types of epilepsy?  What are the symptoms of the first type?

Jamal Badawi:

The “big sickness” is known to psychologists as “grand mal” which is the French equivalent.  The big sickness is a state of generalized convulsions characterized by complete loss of consciousness and falling to the ground.  This falling to the ground is sometimes proceeded by a loud scream and after the body falls to the ground it stiffens and sometimes for a few seconds respiration stops which is followed by jerky movements in all four extremities (hands and legs).  Sometimes during these seizures the tongue gets bitten because there is an involuntary contraction of the muscles of the jaw.  As the person finishes going through the seizure he feels very disoriented, confused, sleepy and have a headache.  The most important part of the description of these seizures is that the person would have no recollection of what happened to him.  He would not remember what happened during the seizure nor would he remember what happened immediately after the seizure.  We have already spoken about the revelation given to the Prophet and it is obvious that these symptoms are not applicable at all as he never lost consciousness, never fell to the ground, didn’t convulse or bight his tongue.  We find here that the experience of revelation is quite different.  Furthermore the authorities say that the person forgets what happened during a seizure, the Prophet however remembered every single word of revelation that was dictated to him during his experience.


Host:  Can we move to the little sickness or “petit mal” what can you tell us about it?

Jamal Badawi:

Petit mal occurs among children and usually does not appear for the first time after the age of twenty.  It tends to disappear in the early adult life of the individual.  The basic symptoms are characterized by a very brief episode of unresponsiveness.  Usually it takes 15 seconds without interruption of consciousness and that is why they say it could happen many times within the same day.  There is no involuntary movement as we find in the grand mal.  Again if we compare that to the revelation of the Prophet we find that there is no relevance at all.  As we said earlier the Prophet started to receive revelation at the age of 40.  The revelation of the Quran didn’t just take fifteen seconds but many times it took several minutes and thirdly it was not something that could go unnoticed like patit mal that took place among children.  The revelation were an observed state of intense concentration.  Again this type has no relevance to the Prophet.


Host:  Could you briefly explain the two remaining types and make a similar comparison?

Jamal Badawi:

One of these two are called focal seizures which are defined as seizures which originate in a specific area of the brain and are usually related to the functional properties of that area.  This kind of epilepsy may appear in the form of sustained or jerking movements of some of the extremities or the face, a subtype called the focal motor attacks.  It may also appear in focal sensory attack which is usually characterized by numbness or tingling in the local parts of the body.  In all types of focal seizures we find that the discharges and spreads widely throughout the brain and as such it results in a generalized state of convulsions.

The last type of seizures, psycho motor seizures, is really interesting because it starts with some type of sensory or emotional ora.  This ora is an unpleasant oder, taste, illusion about size, distance or object around the person.  It might involve visual hallucination which is usually is associated with intense fear.  It says that after this ora the patient may become unresponsive and may start walking out or partaking in strange behaviors like picking at his clothes or something of that sort.  These seizures usually continue for one to three minutes.  But again the most important description which relates to our topic of revelation is that it says that during recovery the patient would have totally forgotten what happened.  There is no memory at all of the attack especially after the initial ora receding the attack.  Again it is obvious like in the case of the first two types of epilepsy that by looking into these symptoms it becomes obvious that they are not related at all to the description that has been mentioned about the state of the Prophet as he never forgot a word of the Quran and it was not unconsciousness because he used to recite and people around him would hear him repeating the words of the Quran after Angel Gabriel.  Again all four types and totally irrelevant.


Host:  What are the causes of epilepsy?  Was Prophet Muhammad known to have any of the causes?

Jamal Badawi:

It is very difficult in the case of epilepsy to pinpoint a specific cause because as the authorities say epilepsy is not really a specific disease but rather a syndrome made up of many symptoms.  In any case whatever the variety of epilepsy is we find that authorities mention a commonality between all types of epilepsy.  This is a discharge of neurons which are in a state of excessive excitability.  Millions of these nerve cells release excessive electrical energy in the brain in an abnormal way.  This discharge generally leads to a loss of consciousness and convulsive movements.  This is what is accepted by authorities as common in all epileptic cases.  With this in mind authorities also say that in about 50% of cases it is not too hard to determine a primary or contributing factor to this type of syndrome.  This includes injury at birth, congenital defects such cerebral palsy, it may involve infectious diseases which involve nerve tissue like meningitis, practice infections, brain tumors and strokes are all given as primary or secondary contributing reasons for epilepsy.  Sometimes these seizures may happen following withdrawal from alcohol but in many cases they can be precipitated by emotional stress and extreme fatigue.

None of these causes can be traceable to the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).  In fact he was known to be in perfect physical and mental health throughout his life.  We know that Prophet Muhammad went through many moments of extreme danger, stress and fatigue and he never once wavered, fainted or had any of those symptoms.  He was always in complete fortitude and steadfast.  The point is that if the Quran, which is available for anyone to investigate, is a product of an epileptic seizure like one Muslim psychiatrist put it “I would like to see more of these epileptic people.”

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