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Socrates, Prophet or Philosopher?

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever Merciful.

The claim that Socrates was a Prophet was made by Mirza Tahir Sahib, as shown in the quote below:

“IN MATTERS OF REVELATION AND RATIONALITY, it is difficult to find many Greek philosophers fitting into the genuine description of a prophet who combines in him a perfect balance of the two. Socrates is an exception. … Socrates, (470–399 BC) being a class unto himself, occupies a unique position in the history of Greek philosophy which fails to mention anyone other than him to belong to that class. There must have been prophets before and after him but of them we can only infer from some oblique references by Socrates himself. For instance, he is known to have said that he is not the only one from God who has been the recipient of revelation …”

Ref: https://www.alislam.org/library/books/revelation/part_1_section_5.html

I had a debate with some Ahmadis about this issue on an online forum around 2002. From recollection, my arguments against his prophethood were:

(a) The stupidity of sacrificing a rooster before idols, which Socrates had requested before drinking poison, and Plato had actually carried out, according to what the Promised Messiah a.s. had written in his book 'Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, viz:

“… no Muslim philosopher offered the sacrifice of a rooster to an idol as was done by Plato. Plato was misled as he was deprived of the light of revelation and despite being a great philosopher he perpetrated such a stupid and hateful act. The following of our lord and master the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, safeguarded the Muslim philosophers against such stupid and unholy practices.” ['Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam’, p. 166]

The Promised Messiah a.s. is also reported to have stated (though this is a reference I did not come across in 2002):

"... even a philosopher the likes of Aristotle said in the last moments of his life that he was afraid. He asked for a rooster to be sacrificed for a certain idol. What greater example can there be? The philosophy of Aristotle, and his intelligence and wisdom, could not afford him the peace and tranquility that believers enjoy. Bear well in mind that revelation is extremely essential in attaining heartfelt peace and steadfastness. ..." [Malfuzat Vol. 1, p. 63, 2018, First English translation]

However, Mirza Tahir Sahib had stated:

"This chapter is largely devoted to Socrates and what he stood for, because he manifests a perfect balance of revelation and rationality; but it is impossible not to mention Plato and Aristotle when one talks of Greek philosophy. It is indeed they who pioneered a new mode which has become almost eternal, but they certainly owed their greatness to their revered master."

Ref: https://www.alislam.org/library/books/revelation/part_1_section_5.html

In contrast, the Promised Messiah a.s. had referred to these idolatrous philosophers, despite their wisdom and intelligence, as being deprived of the light of revelation.

(b) an act of suicide by a supposed Prophet would not only incline some vulnerable people towards taking their own life, but might also radicalise and encourage some already predisposed people to perpetrate the horrible atrocity of suicide bombing as done by some terrorists. I came across the following excerpt:

“...Socrates could easily have fled from Athens after the trial, but he chose to remain. He said he did not fear dying because it would bring either annihilation or a welcome opportunity to fellowship with those already dead. At the appointed time Socrates calmly drank the poisonous hemlock. According to the Phaedo, his last words were: "I owe a cock to Asclepius [the greek god of healing]; do not forget to pay it.”

The above quote confirms the idolatry of Socrates.

(c) The Promised Messiah a.s. states in Chashma-e-Maarifat p. 400-401 that Socrates, Plato and Aristotle can never be called Prophets or Messengers, nor can their writings be referred to as constituting divine revelation on the basis of their fine points of wisdom, viz:

"It should be remembered that the presence of Divine power within a revealed book is highly essential. The mere presence of truth and knowledge, sublime insights and wisdom and philosophy within a book does not make it a revealed one, because all these matters fall within the scope and capacity of human powers.

"Whatever human intellect has learnt to this day, and whatever science has applied and implemented of latent secrets and natural laws in practice, and has invented such formulae and industries that amaze us, and whatever fine truths and sublime knowledge that Aristotle and Plato and Socrates etc. have written, on their own accord, discussing the human soul to it’s utmost extent in their minds, can we on this basis, award them the title of prophet or messenger, or refer to their books as revealed ones, and the Word of God? Never!" [Chashma-i-Ma’arifat, Ruhani Khazain Vol 23, p. 400-401]

Chashma-i-Ma’arifat was one of the last books of the Promised Messiah a.s., so it would be reasonable to conclude that he died whilst not believing Socrates was a prophet.

(d) In addition, Prophets inculcate the worship of the One God, pray to Him, and to give charity, as evident from [98:5]:

"And they were not commanded but to worship Allah, being sincere to Him in obedience, and being upright, and to observe Prayer, and pay the Zakat. And that is the religion of the people of the right path."

However, the Greek philosophers are not known to have taught any of this, and there are no places of worship dedicated to (the One) God established by them. The Holy Qur’an also states:

i.e. And We did raise among every people a Messenger, preaching: ‘Worship Allah and shun the Evil One.’ Then among them were some whom Allah guided and among them were some who became deserving of ruin. So travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who treated the Prophets as liars! [16:37]

(e) Prophet are appointed directly by means of divine revelation, and make their own claim, not on the basis of his own, or other peoples' reasoning or speculation that he may be so. So, it is highly irresponsible to corrupt faith and practice by promoting idolatry and suicide, which has the potential of encouraging terrorism, by accepting Socrates as a Prophet on the basis of personal speculation.

Whilst I don't have a big problem with someone claiming that the Promised Messiah a.s. erred on something, as it would constitute shirrk to shut the door of that possibility entirely, and he himself stated:

“In the Barahin-e-Ahmadiyyah I had mistakenly interpreted tawaffa as meaning ‘full reward’, which some of the maulavis cite as a criticism against me. They are not justified in this as I confess that I was mistaken in this. But there is no mistake in the revelation. I am a human being and am subject to human frailties such as mistake and forgetfulness like other human beings, though I know that God does not leave me under the influence of a mistake. I do not, however, claim that I cannot be mistaken in an interpretation. Divine revelation is free from mistake but man’s words are not free from the possibility of mistake, because forgetfulness and mistake are essential human characteristics.” [Tadhkirah 2009 edition, p. 118-119, Ayyamus-Sulah, p. 41, Ruhani Khaza’in, vol. 14, pp. 271–272]

I would however require such a person to provide sufficient proof for arriving at such a conclusion. Mirza Tahir Sahib's arguments for his difference of opinion with the Promised Messiah a.s. were poor, with his ideas serving to corrupt the Islamic faith, as well as posing a risk to the safety and security of vulnerable human beings around the globe.

(This article is being developed)

[19:76] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance. [20:47] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.

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