8.3 The Three Questions
In their war of propaganda against Mohamed Quraysh sought the aid of the Jews of Khaybar. They were people of the Book and had knowledge from ancient books and writings that were available to no one else. The Jews of Khaybar responded readily for Quraysh had great influence in the Arabian Peninsula. They advised them to ask Mohamed three questions for, according to their ancient books, no one but a prophet would be able to answer these three questions correctly.
Quraysh were delighted. They thought they were giving Mohamed a test beyond his powers. They asked him these three questions. Who was the man to whom Allah gave power and enabled him to journey around the world in ancient times? Who were the young men who had deserted their people because their people worshipped other than Allah, and what happened to them? What was the spirit?
The Jews' ancient books gave them information about the first two, but said that no prophet would pretend to know what the spirit was, since knowledge about it belonged to Allah alone.
Mohamed waited, confident that Gabriel would soon come and give him all the information he needed concerning these three matters. But Gabriel did not appear. He waited and waited, and Quraysh jeered at him in derision; he had nothing to tell them. At last when his patience was wearing thin and he had begun to despair, Gabriel appeared. Mystified, Mohamed asked him what had kept him away for so long. He answered that angels did not descend unless it was the will of Allah - He alone regulated all their movements and knew all their actions. Then he added a gentle reproof and reminder to Mohamed, saying,
"And your Lord is never forgetful."
The verses Gabriel brought are in Surat Al-Kahf and they give clear and accurate information about the first two matters, but about the spirit the holy verses point out that such knowledge was not granted to man:
"They ask you about the spirit. Say, Knowledge of the spirit belongs to my Lord, and of knowledge you have not been given except a little. "(17:85)
Allah has given man knowledge that suffices his physical, mental, and spiritual needs but what is beyond his capacity, or perhaps not for his good, has been withheld. The realm of the supernatural is one of the realms where he was not granted knowledge.
Years later, when Mohamed emigrated to Medina with the Muslims, the Jews of Medina used to sit and study what he taught to the Muslims. The above verses puzzled them. They asked,
"Messenger of Allah, do these verses refer to us or to your people?"
"These verses refer to you both," replied Mohamed;
The Jews argued that they had been given the Torah which contained much knowledge, and Mohamed answered that it contained sufficient knowledge for their needs if they adhered to it but that, in comparison with the knowledge of Allah, this was very little.