Coming from a Christian perspective, I was anxious to see what kind of prophecies were related to the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him. I was taught that if a prophet’s prophecies do not come to pass, he could not be a true prophet of God.
There are a number of such prophecies in the Quran but I will highlight only one of them—actually I have already made mention of one, the fact that the Quran would be preserved. (Similarly, God promised, although the Prophet had many adversaries who wanted to see him dead, that He would protect the Prophet Muhammad until his mission was concluded. Indeed, the Prophet did not die until after God had revealed the verse, “This day I have completed your religion for you…”)
I am highlighting this one prophecy because it had to do with events that were completely out of the control of the Prophet or the Arabs.
There is a passage in the Quran that reads:
“The Roman Empire has been defeated in a land close by: but they, (even) after (this) defeat of theirs, will soon be victorious, within three to nine years. With God is the Decision, in the past and in the future. On that Day shall the Believers rejoice, with the help of God. He helps whom He will, and He is Exalted in Might, Most Merciful.”
This revelation came to the Prophet at a time when the Muslims were being heavily persecuted in Medina. In fact, it was around the same time as the first migration of Muslims from Mecca to Abyssinia—a migration that took place due to that persecution. This was in the year 615 C.E. At the same time, the Byzantine Empire was being completely overpowered by the Persians. The idol-worshippers of Mecca identified themselves with the Persians, who were Zoroastrians and worshipped a god of light and a god of darkness while the Muslims identified with Christian Byzantine as they believed in revelation from God, prophets and the like. In fact, the war between the Byzantine Empire and the Persians has been described as something of a crusade as many of the Christian holy sites were destroyed. Hence, the disbelievers of Mecca were very happy with what was occurring. It was in this context that this revelation came from God.
Actually, even after this revelation came, the Byzantines continued to lose ground to the Persians. The situation got so bad that the Byzantine emperor was forced to move his capital from Constantinople to Tunis in North Africa. However, God had stated that they would be victorious within three to nine years.
In short, as the British historian Gibbon wrote, “Even seven to eight years after this prediction of the Koran, the conditions were such that no one could even imagine that the Byzantine Empire would ever gain an upper hand over Iran. Not to speak of gaining domination, no one could hope that the Empire, under the circumstances, would even survive.”
However, Heraclius started his counter attack in 623 C.E. from Armenia and by 624 C.E. he ravaged the principal fire-temple of Iran and defeated the Persians. This was the same year in which the Battle of Badrtook place. After the Muslims were forced to flee to Medina and after the Prophet himself migrated and set up an Islamic state there, the disbelievers of Mecca continued to pursue the Muslims and attempted to bring an end to Islam. The first military conflict between the two sides took place at the Battle of Badr. Badly out-armed and out-numbered, the small band of Muslims was able to achieve a stunning victory over the polytheists of Mecca. Maudoodi writes, “Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Sa'id Khudri, Sufyan Thauri, Suddi and others have stated that the Romans’ victory against the Iranians and the Muslims’ victory at Badr against the polytheists took place almost at the same time. The Muslims, therefore, were doubly pleased. The same is supported by the histories of Byzantium and Iran. 624 A.D. is the year in which the Battle of Badr was fought and the same is the year in which the Byzantine Emperor destroyed the birth-place of Zoroaster and ravaged the principal fire-temple of Iran.”
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (New York: Modern Library), Vol. II, p. 788. Quoted from S. Abul A’la Maudodl, The Meaning of the Quran (Lahore, Pakistan: Islamic Publications Ltd., 1981), vol. IX, p. 184.
Ibid., vol. IX, p. 191.