The Quran distinguishes between ayat (signs), kitab (scripture), and wahi (inspiration). Below is a summary of these differences:
Ayat are signs that come from God, and are perfect, but are not limited to text or something that can be written. God calls the nine miracles He gave to Moses ayat (17:101). God tells Zachariah that his inability to speak for three days concerning the birth of John was an ayat (3:41). God also calls the verses of the Quran ayat (11:1).
[11:1] A.L.R. This is a scripture whose verses (ayat) have been perfected, then elucidated. It comes from a Most Wise, Most Cognizant.
Kitab are specific form of ayat that can be written down as scripture. Kitab, like ayat, are also perfect, but while ayat can apply to signs beyond information that can be written, kitab is limited to specific words that God gives only to prophets. Nowhere in the Quran will we see kitab given to messengers. Kitab are 100% intact from when the prophet receives it to when they disseminate it to mankind. The prophets have no choice or ability to change the information given to them in the form of kitab. They must deliver it exactly as it was given to them.
[19:30] (The infant spoke and) said, "I am a servant of GOD. He has given me the scripture (kitab), and has appointed me a prophet.
Wahi is inspiration given from God. Wahi is given to both prophets and messengers. Wahi can be any information that is inspired to a prophet or messenger. Wahi that is not kitab or ayat is for the prophet or messenger who received the wahi to decide for themselves how best to pass this knowledge to the people. If the words that the messenger speak are to be dictated by God, then the wahi would be ayat or kitab.
Take for example Noah, God inspired Noah to build the ship under His watchful eye with His inspiration (wahi).
[11:36] Noah was inspired (wahi): "No more of your people are going to believe, beyond those who already believe. Do not be saddened by their actions. [11:37] "Build the ark under our watchful eyes, and with our inspiration (wahi), and do not implore Me on behalf of those who have transgressed; they are destined to drown."
Does this mean that the ark was infallible? That the logs and ropes (54:13) were perfect in every way? While the basic structure was perfect for the purpose it was meant to serve, this does not mean that all the details were without flaw. This is the difference between wahi that is kitab or ayat and wahi that is not. We see a similar example with God inspiring the bee.
[16:68] And your Lord inspired (wa-awḥā) the bee: build homes in mountains and trees, and in (the hives) they build for you.
Again, this does not mean that every honeycomb and hive that a bee builds is perfect, but the overall design is perfect per the function that God intended.
The only entity that is infallible is God. The Quran is full of examples of mistakes that the prophets and messengers made, but their delivery of the message is always perfect.
We learn from the Quran that the sole duty of a messenger is the clear delivery of the message.
[16:82] If they still turn away, then your sole mission is the clear delivery (of the message).
[5:92] You shall obey GOD, and you shall obey the messenger, and beware. If you turn away, then know that the sole duty of our messenger is to deliver the message efficiently.
[5:99] The sole duty of the messenger is to deliver the message, and GOD knows everything you declare and everything you conceal.
[24:54] Say, "Obey GOD, and obey the messenger." If they refuse, then he is responsible for his obligations, and you are responsible for your obligations. If you obey him, you will be guided. The sole duty of the messenger is to deliver (the message).
God informs us until a messenger delivers what was revealed to them they have not delivered the message. Therefore, until something is complete it cannot be fully critiqued.
[5:67] O you messenger, deliver what is revealed to you from your Lord - until you do, you have not delivered His message - and GOD will protect you from the people. GOD does not guide the disbelieving people.
God warns us if they deviate from the revelations given to them they would have been severely punished and would have had the revelations stopped being sent to them.
[69:44] Had he uttered any other teachings. [69:45] We would have punished him. [69:46] We would have stopped the revelations to him. [69:47] None of you could have helped him. [69:48] This is a reminder for the righteous.
[17:73] They almost diverted you from the revelations we have given you. They wanted you to fabricate something else, in order to consider you a friend. [17:74] If it were not that we strengthened you, you almost leaned towards them just a little bit. [17:75] Had you done that, we would have doubled the retribution for you in this life, and after death, and you would have found no one to help you against us. [17:76] They almost banished you from the land to get rid of you, so they could revert as soon as you left. [17:77] This has been consistently the case with all the messengers that we sent before you, and you will find that our system never changes.
Therefore, did the prophets and messengers make mistakes? Absolutely, but the mistakes were never in regards to the delivery of the message, the perfection of the scripture, or the revelation of ayat. The mistakes were always in their own shortcomings, but if their shortcomings ever contradicted the message of God, God always pointed this out for us to learn from.
[38:24] He said, "He is being unfair to you by asking to combine your sheep with his. Most people who combine their properties treat each other unfairly, except those who believe and work righteousness, and these are so few." Afterwards, David wondered if he made the right judgment. He thought that we were testing him. He then implored his Lord for forgiveness, bowed down, and repented. [38:25] We forgave him in this matter. We have granted him a position of honor with us, and a beautiful abode. [38:26] O David, we have made you a ruler on earth. Therefore, you shall judge among the people equitably, and do not follow your personal opinion, lest it diverts you from the way of GOD. Surely, those who stray off the way of GOD incur severe retribution for forgetting the Day of Reckoning.
[9:43] GOD has pardoned you (Muhammad): why did you give them permission (to stay behind), before you could distinguish those who are truthful from the liars?
[80:1] He (Muhammad) frowned and turned away. [80:2] When the blind man came to him. [80:3] How do you know? He may purify himself. [80:4] Or he may take heed, and benefit from the message. [80:5] As for the rich man. [80:6] You gave him your attention. [80:7] Even though you could not guarantee his salvation. [80:8] The one who came to you eagerly. [80:9] And is really reverent. [80:10] You ignored him.
[33:37] Recall that you said to the one who was blessed by GOD, and blessed by you, "Keep your wife and reverence GOD," and you hid inside yourself what GOD wished to proclaim. Thus, you feared the people, when you were supposed to fear only GOD. When Zeid was completely through with his wife, we had you marry her, in order to establish the precedent that a man can marry the divorced wife of his adopted son. GOD's commands shall be done.
[60:4] A good example has been set for you by Abraham and those with him. They said to their people, "We disown you and the idols that you worship besides GOD. We denounce you, and you will see nothing from us except animosity and hatred until you believe in GOD ALONE." However, a mistake was committed by Abraham when he said to his father, "I will pray for your forgiveness, but I possess no power to protect you from GOD." "Our Lord, we trust in You, and submit to You; to You is the final destiny.
Now regarding specifically Rashad Khalifa, if we accept that he was a rasool (messenger) of God, then this means that he did not receive a kitab, and that he did receive ayat and wahi. Since Rashad was a messenger, he did not receive kitab, but he did receive ayat (signs/proofs/miracles) and wahi (inspiration/instructions). Because of this the ayat he received are perfect e.g. the mathematical miracle of the Quran, and his wahi that were not ayat are to be accepted to serve the overall function, but are not infallible like that of ayat or kitab are.
From this we can conclude the following:
- Any ayat he received must have been perfect
- The overall message regarding any wahi that he was commissioned to deliver to the people must have been correct per God’s system
- If he did anything during his delivery that could have been reflected in contrast to the message, God would have corrected and pointed this out for us
The example of Noah and his ark serves as a model for this. Was Noah’s ark perfect? Some people might have been able to critique the integrity of his ropes and logs, but the overall structure and function of the log were perfect in delivering the believers.
So when we are dealing with wahi that is not ayat or kitab we cannot treat it as infallible and scrutinize it as if every detail is perfect, but we are to accept that the overall structure as sound and trust in God’s system that it will provide us the salvation we need to make it to Paradise in the Hereafter.
Therefore when Rashad conveyed what God commissioned to deliver through His inspiration to him, we would be wrong to disregard the core of what he was commissioned to teach us about the Quran, and we would also be wrong if we treat each of his words as gospel.
[17:77] This has been consistently the case with all the messengers that we sent before you, and you will find that our system never changes.