Ways of Recognizing the Prophets
Hawzah News Agency - Primordial human nature compels man not to accept any claims without conclusive evidence; so whoever accepts as truthful one who makes claims without such evidence is acting contrary to his own innate nature. Making a claim to prophecy is the most awesome of all possible claims that a human being can make; and naturally, such a claim can only be substantiated by presenting definitive and well-founded evidence. This evidence can come from one of the following three sources:
1. The previous Prophet—who, having conclusively proved his own prophethood, clearly stipulates the identity of the Prophet to come after him. Thus, the Prophet Jesus explicitly refers to the Seal of the Prophets [i.e. Muhammad], giving good tidings of his advent.
2. Portents and signs, in different ways, bear testimony to the truth of the claim to be a Prophet. These proofs can come from the way of life of the Prophet, the content of the religious call he makes, the character of those who follow him, and the manner in which he issues his call. Today, in law-courts around the world, the same procedure is followed in order to distinguish the true from the false, the innocent from the guilty. At the time of the establishment of Islam, this very procedure was used in order to ascertain the truth of the claims made by the Holy
3. The performance of miracles. Accompanying his claim to prophethood, the Prophet performs extraordinary, miraculous feats, which convince others to accept his call, these miracles being in harmony with his claim.
The first two of the above ways are not universally applicable, whereas the third is, and throughout the course of the history of prophethood, people have made use of this way of recognizing true Prophets, and for their part, the Prophets have also substantiated their claims by the performance of miracles.
Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, london • new york 2003