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The Prophet Muhamad's Mihrab

Fourteen Hundred Years Later, Time for a New Message?

Mohamed was sent 1400 years ago. Why doesn’t God send a new message in my own language and during my own time so that it makes more sense and is more applicable to my life?

I often wonder what it would have been like to live at the time of Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Then I think how strange — how frustrating! — it would be to come in the generation just after, that is, those people who met the Prophet’s Companions but not the man himself. How would it be to hear such amazing things from direct witnesses, while not being able to experience it all first hand? So close, yet so far.

It is narrated that Prophet Muhammad once said, “How I long for my brothers.” His Companions wondered, “Are we not your brothers?” He explained that while they were his Companions, his brothers — and of course sisters — are those who would come in the future and believe in him without seeing him, and would thus receive a greater reward for their faith.

The fact is, we do not choose when we are born in the long timeline of history. Almighty God chose the time to bring this world into being, when humans would arrive on its surface, and the ebb and tide of every nation. Every soul has its appointed time of arrival, and duration of stay.

The revelation of the Quran, which Muslims believe is the word of God, upon God’s final messenger, was a crucial event in history, but it did not represent a change in the original religion of submission to God, which we call Islam. Rather, it was the culmination of the same truth preached by all the prophets: Worship God alone, and use this short life to do good.

The special quality of this last phase was the universality of the mission of Muhammad: it is a message for all people, for all time. Whereas the contents of previous revelations were allowed, according to divine wisdom, to be partly lost or obscured at the hands of each faith community, the Quran states that God himself has guaranteed the preservation of its teachings until He decrees the end of this world.

{We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).} (Al-Hijr 15:9)

Now, coming to your question, I should say first of all that it is a fair question, but more the sort that one might put to God directly. Since the true answer would have to wait until the Hereafter, all I can do is draw your attention to a few things that I hope will put your question in perspective.

You have mentioned three aspects: the need for a new message; the language of this message; and its relevance to your life. Let me address each in turn.

The need for a new message would arise if the Quran and its explanation in the practice of Muhammad (peace be upon him) were actually out of date. I ‘m sure that many observers who do not know the religion deeply believe precisely that. However, the reality is that Islam’s teachings regarding belief, worship, and ethics are as relevant today as ever, and even the legal aspects have a built-in flexibility that guarantees that they keep up to date with modern realities.

As for the language, this is an important point, and scholars have drawn attention to the various wisdoms behind God’s choice of Arabic for His final revealed book. Many of these are to do with qualities inherent to the language, and its utility in conveying breadth and depths of meaning. Whatever the reason, so it was, and for those who speak other languages, we have the benefit of translations of the meanings if we don’t have the opportunity to learn Arabic itself.

As for your suggestion that this new revelation be more relevant to your own life, again I would say that the existing revelation is relevant, even without speaking about your country, or the latest features of daily life. The Quran addresses general principles in a way that don’t go out of date, unlike some things we used to consider advanced technology when we were younger!

Grasping this relevance I am talking about may not always be easy, but it makes a big difference to benefit from modern books, websites, and living people who can make clear what the message of the Quran means in the modern world and in your own country.

An Aside

Although I know that your question is perfectly sincere, I feel it is relevant to draw attention to a few verses in the Quran which address the attitude of those who feel that the revelation, or the religion in general, should conform to their personal standards rather than the ultimate wisdom of God.

Sometimes in my discussions with people who don’t believe in God, they say something like: “If God really exists, then let’s see Him strike me down right now.” This is like trying to test God, demanding that He reveal Himself in a specific way to satisfy their skepticism.

Thus did numerous communities of disbelievers say to their prophets:

{“So bring us (the punishment) you promise us, if you are truthful.”} (Al-A`raf 7:70)

Or more generally, they would ask for a clear sign, or miracle:

{[Those who do not know say, “Why does God not speak to us, or why does a sign not come to us?” Thus spoke those before them with like words: their hearts resemble each other. We have indeed made clear the signs for people who have certainty.} (Al-Baqarah 2:118)

Look at the following verses to see the extent to which their list of demands could reach, as in this address of the pagans to the Prophet Muhammad:

{And they say, “We will not believe in you until you break open for us from the ground a spring, or until you have a garden of palm trees and grapes and make rivers gush forth within them in abundance, or you make the heaven fall upon us in fragments as you have claimed, or you bring God and the angels before us, or you have a house of gold, or you ascend into the sky. And we will not believe in your ascension until you bring down to us a book we may read.” Say (O Muhammad): “Exalted is my Lord! Was I ever but a human messenger?”} (Al-Israa’ 17:90-93)

Even if the Prophet flew off into the sky, they would demand hard proof in the form of a written scripture. And in another verse, we realize that even that would never be enough:

{And even if We had sent down to you a scripture written on a page and they touched it with their hands, those who disbelieve would say: “This is just obvious magic.”} (Al-An`am 6:7)

What is my point in discussing this attitude? The lesson is that, rather than seeking to test God or demand that the revelation accord to our personal expectations, we should look to what has been sent already and decide whether we believe in it or not.

The problem with expecting something more recent, or in our language, or otherwise in line with our preferences, is that we would overlook the reality that we are being tested about.

Let us turn to examine the Quran in more detail, along with the traditions and teachings of Muhammad (peace be upon him), to ascertain whether their origin really is as they claim: revelation from God Most High.

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