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Fulfilled Prophecy of Surat Ar-Rum

Fulfilled Prophecy of Surat Ar-Rum
Surat Ar-Rum

Islamophobes go to great lengths to discredit the signs present in the Noble Quran, and the first few verses of Surat Ar-Rum present one of their greatest challenges.

Not only do the verses contain a prophecy that was proven true, this prophecy was one that deemed close to impossible at the time of its revelation.

The following is an English translation of the first five verses of this chapter of the Quran – Chapter 30 – together with the transliteration of the original Arabic text.

God says: {Alif, Lam, Meem(1) The Romans have been defeated (ghulibat-ir-Rum)(2). In the nearest/lowest land (fi adna al-ard). But they, after their defeat, will overcome (be victorious) (wa hom men ba’ad ghalabehem sayaghleboon)(3). Within three to nine years (fi bed’e seneen). To Allah belongs the command before and after. And that day the believers will rejoice (yawma-edhin yarfraho al-mo’menoon)(4). In the victory of Allah (bi-nasri-Allah). He gives victory to whom He wills, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful(5).} Surat Ar-Rum (30).

The verses refer to the defeat of the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire by the Persian Sassanid Empire in 614-615 A.D, and state that this defeat occurred in the nearest or lowest land. The verses claim that within a period of three to nine years, the Romans will be victorious, and that at this time, Muslims will rejoice with the victory of Allah.

According to Muslim scholars, the verses were revealed at the time of the Roman defeat, and hence contain a promise of a future event. Because the promise proved true, Islamophobes concentrate their refutations in arguing that a) the verses are not read in the way stated, and b) they were revealed after the Roman victory, and are therefore simply stating events that have already taken place.

Byzantine-Sassanid War

The final set of Byzantine-Sassanid wars was fought between 602 A.D and 628 A.D. When the Byzantine emperor Maurice was overthrown by his army officer Phocus, Sassanid King Chosroes II declared war on Byzantium. After capturing Damascus in 613 A.D., the Persians took over Jerusalem in 614-615 A.D., where they massacred many Christians, captured the true cross, and destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulcher [1].

In 622 A.D, Byzantine emperor Herclius began a counter-attack and started winning several victories over Persians.

In 624 A.D, he headed through to the center of the Persian land, where he marched to Azerbaijan and Armenia, burned the King’s palace at Ganzak, and left a trail of burning cities behind him [2]. The final defeat for the Persian army was in the battle of Nineveh in 627, where Romans were able to regain most of their territories back, as well as bring the true cross back to Jerusalem [3].

Three to Nine Years

Byzantine East Roman Empire

The final set of Byzantine-Sassanid wars were fought between 602 A.D and 628 A.D.

As stated in history books, the Byzantines lost Jerusalem around 615 A.D., and began their rebound in 622 A.D. Thus, Romans began their victory within seven years of their loss.

According to Islamic history books, Muslims received the news of the Roman victory during the Battle of Badr in 624 A.D. – which marks the date of a strategic and major Roman victory, making the elapsed period between the Roman defeat and their victory nine years.

Refuters argue that the full victory of the Romans was in the battle of Nineveh in 627 A.D., 12 years after their defeat. The argument is simple: while this battle does mark the final Roman victory, the verses were referring to earlier strategic wins.

Whether the verses refer to the start of the victories in 622 A.D or the major victory in 624 A.D, both references lie within the stated time frame.

Two Recitations?

In Arabic language, words with similar letters and similar character arrangement can still have different meanings according to diacritics and vowel points attached to its letters. Refuters claim that a second valid recitation exists with a different vowelization that is read ghalabat-ir-Rum, which translates to ‘the Romans have been victorious’. They argue that because the verse has two recitations with contradicting meanings, a prophecy cannot exist. Some spend major time trying to falsify the prophecy by analyzing the verses according to the second recitation. However, this effort is in vain since this second recitation is itself invalid. Examining the ten possible Quranic readings shows that not one acknowledges this second reading [4].

Refuters support their argument which is stated in the Quranic commentaries of Imam Al-Qurtubi and Imam Al-Tabari, where the second recitation was read by some of the companions of Prophet Muhammad PBUH. However, they select not to mention that in the same pages, both Imams agree that the only correct reading is the ghulibat-ir-Rum, because of the consensus of all Muslim scholars about its validity, and because of the weakness of sayings that support the other recitation.

Furthermore, Al-Tabari explains that reading the second verse with the second recitation entails reading the third verse to mean that Romans will then be defeated, such that it reads sayoghlaboon instead of sayaghleboon. However, all Quran scholars agree that the word was only read as sayaghleboon. Accordingly, if we consider the second recitation, the verses would be stating that the Romans were victorious, and then after their victory, they will be victorious – which is not linguistically sound [5, 6].

Time of Revelation

Refuters claim that the verses were revealed on the day of Badr in 624 A.D, and are therefore simply stating events that have already taken place. They support their argument with this hadith narrated by Imam Al-Trimidhi:  

{… Abu Saeed reported that during the Battle of Badr, (it was learnt that) the Romans defeated the Persians. The believers liked that and the verse was revealed: ‘Alif laam meem ghulibat-irr-rum’ to ‘yafraho al-mo’menoon’, the believers being happy at the Roman success over the Persians [7].}

Islamophobes who come across this hadith rejoice at believing they have discovered that the prophecy does not exist. The science of hadith, however, is not that simple. The books of expert scholars of hadith are written with a methodology that can only be fully appreciated and analyzed by scholars and researchers of this science.

In the science of Hadith, there is a notation that indicates the degree of a hadith’ssoundness or validity. Al-Tirmidhi described this hadith to be ‘hasan ghareeb’, or ‘fine and strange’. Exploring Al-Tirmidhi’s methodologies shows that when judged this way, the sanad of the hadith, or the group of men who narrated it, contained something unusual, and that this can be a reason to disregard it altogether [8].

One of the narrators of this hadith is Attia Al-Oufy, who is considered weak and undependable by all Islamic scholars [9]. Hence, this hadith should not be used to support any argument. Moreover, this hadith contradicts the undisputable classification of Suart Ar-Rum as Makkan, meaning that it was revealed prior to Prophet Muhammad’s migration to Madinah in 622 A.D.[5].

In his book Asbab Al Nozool, Imam Al-Nisabori states that the verses were revealed when the Persian forces overtook the Roman empire, a news that saddened the Prophet PBUH and his followers. The Prophet hated that Pagan Persians would overtake Christian Romans. Makkah’s pagans gloated over the Roman defeat, and badgered Muslims by saying they will defeat them like Persians defeated the Romans [10].

Abu-Bakr’s Bet

Imam Al-Tirmidhi narrated anotherhadith detailing the bet that took place between Abu Bakr and the idolaters of Quraish after the Roman defeat;

{The idolaters loved that the Persians should gain victory over Rome because they and the Persians were idolaters. The Muslims loved that the Romans should become victorious over the Persians because they were People of the Book.

They mentioned it to Abu Bakr who mentioned it to Allah’s Messenger. He said ‘They will soon be victorious.”

Abu Bakr mentioned this to the idolaters and they said, “Cause between us and them a term. If we win during that time then for us is this-and-that and if you gain victory then for you is this-and that.” Then he fixed the times as five years; but it did not transpire, so he mentioned that to the Prophet. He said, ‘Why did you not fix a longer period”?

The narrator supposed that he put it at ten years. And Sa’eed said thatbed’e is a number less than ten. Then Rome emerged victorious over Persia.  This is why Allah said; “Alif Laam Mim….”. Sufyan said, “I heard that the Romans emerged victorious on the day of Badr” [7].}

This hadith is described by Al-Tirmidhi as ‘hasan sahih ghareeb’, translating to ‘fine, correct, and strange’. According to Al-Tirmidhi’s methodologies, this annotation means that this hadith is considered an accurate one [8]. Because of the contradictions in both hadiths, the one with higher validity overrides. This further breaks down the saying that the verses were revealed at the Battle of Badr.

Linguistic Issues

Byzantine-Roman Wars

Battle between Heraclius’ Byzantine army and Persians under Khosrau II. Fresco by the Italian painter Piero della Francesca, c. 1452.

The manners in which verb tenses are used in the verses indicate a clear reference to an event that is yet to take place. Verse 3 states that Romans, after their defeat, will overcome – ‘sayaghleboon’. Verse 4 states that ‘yawma-edhin yarfraho al-mo’menoon‘, which translates to ‘and that day the believers will rejoice’. In all its placements in the Noble Quran, the word ”yawma-edhin‘ is used to point to a future happening [11]. With all the linguistic beauty of the Quran, if the verses were referring to past events, they would have been stated differently.

Lowest Land or Nearest Land?

The third verse states that the Romans were defeated in ‘adna al-ard‘. The wordadna is homonymous, and so the verse can mean that the defeat occurred in either the nearest or the lowest land [12]. Scholarly books translate adna to nearest, because the defeat of the Romans took place in the nearest area of the Roman land to the Arab region [13]. Islamic scholars believe that adna could also mean lowestbecause recent studies show that the area of the Dead Sea basin, in addition to being the nearest Roman occupied land to the Arabian Peninsula, is also the lowest point of dry land on earth, reaching almost 418 meters below sea level [1] [14].

Although history does not pinpoint the exact locations of all battles, the proximity of Damascus and Jerusalem to this area presents a strong support for this interpretation.

Seeing the possibility of such a major scientific sign, refuters first argue that adnadoes not mean lowest, although this meaning is available in Arabic dictionaries and is used as such in several verses of the Noble Quran. They then argue that most Quranic commentary books translate adna as nearest, not lowest. The reason is that this geographical discovery was only made recently. Here is where the beauty of the Quran lies; continuously revealing new meanings that coincide with modern science.

Recognizing the weakness of their arguments, refuters then argue that this is a false claim, and that the Bentley Subglacial Trench in Antarctica is the lowest part on earth. Indeed, they are correct. However, they need to realize that the Quran explicitly referred to the lowest dry land, and not ice.

Some Guidelines…

With the spread of refutations of the Quran over the different media, it is important for Muslim scholars to present proper rebuttals. Most debates are done between non-scholars who support their claims using information from scholarly books that they do not fully comprehend. If one wants to use a hadith to support an argument, he should first educate himself with the science of hadith, understand the methodologies of the different Imams of hadith, and learn how other scholars understood and evaluated them.

While Islam encourages us to read and enquire, Allah SWT also tell us to “ask the people of the message if you do not know” (21:7). When in doubt, we should admit our ignorance and consult specialized Islamic scholars. Our effort here is to simply break down the refutations, while admittedly, the issues discussed can take volumes of further explanation.


[1] Zaide, Gregorio F. World History. Philippines: Rex Bookstore, 1965 (p 149).

[2] Norwich, John Julius. A Short History of Byzantium. New York: Vintage Books, 1999 (p 91).

[3] Inlow, E.Burke. Shahanshah The Study Of Monarachy Of Iran. India: Indological Publishers and Booksellers, 1976 (p 106).

[4] Ib Al-Jazari, An-nashr fil qira’at al-‘ashar. Retrieved July 21 2013 from http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?idfrom=259&idto=259&bk_no=70&ID=210

[5] [Al-Qurtubi, Muhamed Ibn Ahmed Al-Ansari]. [Tafsir Al-Qurtubi]. Retrieved July 21 from http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?idfrom=2667&idto=2667&bk_no=48&ID=2111

[6] [Al-Tabari, Mohammed ibn Jareer]. [Tafsir Al-Tabari]. Retrieved July 22 from http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?idfrom=3879&idto=3879&bk_no=50&ID=3910

[7] [Al-Timidhi, Muhammed ibn Easa ibn Surah]. [Sunan Al-Tirmidhi]. [Dar al Kotob al ilmiyah]. Retrieved July 22 from http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?idfrom=2874&idto=3291&lang=&bk_no=2&ID=1832

[8] [Turayfi, Abd al-Aziz ibn Marzuq]. [Sharh hadith Jabir al-tawil fi sifat hijjat al-Nabi]. [Maktabat al-Rushd], 2005. Retrieved July 21 from http://www.altarefe.com/cnt/books/248

[9] [Mubarakfuri, Muhammad Abd Al-Rahman ibn Abdel Al-Rahim]. [Tuhfat Al-Ahwadhi bi sharh Jami al-Tirmidhi]. [Dar al Kotob al ilmiyah]. Retrieved July 21 from http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?flag=1&bk_no=56&ID=5650

[10] [Al-Wahidi, Abul-Hasan Ali ibn Ahmed Ibn Mohamed Ibn Ali]. [Asbab al-Nuzul]. [Dar al Kotob al ilmiyah]. Retrieved July 22 from http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?idfrom=343&idto=343&bk_no=63&ID=367

[11] [Al-Ba’a, Mohammed Ramadan] (2012).  [Two Arabic Words “ith” and “yauma’ith” in the HolyQuran]. 20 (1). 231-260.

[12] [Mas’ood, Jubran]. [Al-Ra’ed Dictionary]. [Dar al-Ilm lil-Malayin], 1992. Retrieved July 22 from http://ia700405.us.archive.org/18/items/moramora/mora.pdf

[13] [Ibn Ashour, Muhammad al-Tahir]. [Tafsir Al-Tahrir wa-al-Tanwir]. دار سحنون [Dar Sahnoon]. Retrieved July 22 from http://library.islamweb.net/newlibrary/display_book.php?idfrom=2685&idto=2685&bk_no=61&ID=2716

[14] [El-Naggar, Zaghlool]. [Alif-Lam-Meem. Ghulibat-ir-rum. Fee Adna Al-Ard…] (2004). Retrieved July 24 from http://ar.islamway.net/article/589

[15] http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA01916

This article was first published in 2013 and is currently republished for its importance.

About Deena El Shamy

​Deena El Shamy is an E-learning specialist/trainer. She holds a Masters degree in Digital Technologies, Communication, and Education from the University of Manchester, UK.

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