Infallibility of Muhammad in Conveying the Revelation

some biographers claimed that the unbelievers who brought about the revocation of the boycott pact went to muhammad and asked him to make some gesture of reconciliation toward the quraysh in order to strengthen them in their attempts and to put a stop to further harm. they asked him to agree to give their gods a place, at least to grant them occasional recognition with the fingers of his hand as the makkans were accustomed to do. the same biographers claim that muhammad inclined toward doing some of this in gratitude for the good deeds just done to him. they even allege that he said to himself: "what blame is there if i do such a thing? god knows that i am innocent!" other biographers report that the same men who helped revoke the pact of boycott went one evening to muhammad, talked to him all night, and praised him so much and endeared themselves to him, calling him "our master, our master," until he was moved to answer some of their demands. the first version was reported by said ibn jubayr; and the second by qatadah. in both versions, it is reported that god protected muhammad against their subversion and revealed to him the following verse: "they have almost succeeded in inducing you, under promise of their friendship, to attribute to us, against our command, that which we did not reveal to you. had we not confirmed you in your faith, you might have been tempted and hence fallen under the inescapable punishment."[qur'an, 17:73-75]

it should be remembered that these verses were claimed to have been revealed in connection with the forged story of the goddesses which we have investigated earlier; the present reporters attribute it to the story of the revocation of the boycott pact. the same verses have also been claimed by ibn `abbas, as reported by 'ata', to have been revealed in connection with another story. that is the story of the delegation of thaqif who came to muhammad to ask him to declare their valley holy just as makkah had declared her trees and birds and animals holy. it is claimed that the prophet-may god's peace be upon him hesitated until these verses were revealed. whatever the historical circumstances which occasioned the revelation of these verses, the verses themselves bespeak the greatness of muhammad as well as his candidness. the same aspects of muhammad's personality are equally in evidence in the verses we have reported from surah 80. indeed, they are supported by the history of muhammad's life as a whole. muhammad had repeatedly told the people that he was only a man, that as a man god had revealed to him certain messages for their guidance, and that without god's special protection in this regard he was as fallible as anyone. muhammad did in fact err when he frowned in the face of ibn umm maktum and sent him away. he almost erred as reported above in the verses from the surah "al isra' " as well as in the foregoing verses which tell of his inclination away from that which had been revealed to him and of the people's invitation to muhammad to invent a revelation. but revelation did, in fact, come to muhammad and condemned what he did in connection with the blind beggar, his near succumbing to quraysh's temptation. muhammad, however, reported all these revelations to the quraysh people with equal truthfulness and candidness. neither self-esteem nor pride nor any other human feeling prevented him from conveying the revelation, whether it was for or against him. the truth and the truth alone was the essence of his message. he declared the truth even if it were against himself. we are accustomed to expect the great man to bear resolutely and patiently whatever harm he might be exposed to on account of his conviction, but we hardly ever expect the great man to acknowledge that he almost succumbed to his temptations. such temptations are usually not talked about, and most great men are contented to reckon with themselves strongly only in secret. he was therefore greater than the great, for his soul enabled him to rise to the height where it would acknowledge the truth even regarding its own struggle and proclaim it to the public. such greatness that is greater than the great belongs exclusively to the prophets. it demands of the prophet the very utmost in truthfulness and candidness in the conveyance of the message of truth that comes from god alone.

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