In the Name of Allah (God Almighty), Most Gracious, Most Merciful

PROPHETHOOD in ISLAM

 

Prophethood is not unknown to other religions, such as Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, however, it has a special status and significance. According to Islam, Allah (God Almighty) created us for a noble purpose: to worship Him and to lead a virtuous life based on His Guidance. The question arises, as to how one would know one's role and the purpose of one's existence, without receiving clear and practical instructions of what Allah (God Almighty) wants one to do? For this reason Allah (God Almighty) has created the office of Prophethood. Thus, Allah (God Almighty) had chosen from every nation one or more Prophets to convey His Message to the people.

One might ask: How were the Prophets chosen, and, who were entitled to this great honour? Prophethood is Allah's (God Almighty's) Blessing and Favour which He may bestow on whom He Wills. All the Prophets of Allah (God Almighty), throughout history, have had the following characteristics:

1. Every Prophet of Allah (God Almighty) is the best exemplar in his community, morally and intellectually. This is necessary because every Prophet's life serves as a model for his followers. His personality should attract people to accept the Message from Allah (God Almighty), instead of driving them away by an imperfect character. Therefore, all the Prophets of Allah (God Almighty) are infallible, i.e. they would not commit any sin.

2. Every Prophet of Allah (God Almighty) is supported by Allah (God Almighty) with miracles, in order to prove that he is not an imposter. These miracles are performed by the Power and Sanction of Allah (God Almighty), and, are usually demonstrated in the field in which the particular people of that time excel, and, are recognized as superiors.

This can be illustrated by referring to the major miracles of three Prophets of Allah (God Almighty), viz., Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).

The contemporaries of the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) excelled in magic. Therefore, his major miracles, with the Sanction of Allah (God Almighty), were to defeat the best magicians of Egypt of his day.

The contemporaries of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) excelled in medicine. Therefore, his major miracles, with the Sanction of Allah (God Almighty), were to raise the dead, and, to cure those born blind and the lepers.

The contemporary Arabs of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), were known for their eloquence and magnificent poetry. Therefore, the Prophet Muhammad's major miracle was the Holy Qur'an, which was revealed to him verbatim by Allah (God Almighty) via the Archangel Gabriel. The whole legion of the Arab poets and orators could not produce the equivalent of the Holy Qur'an, despite the repeated challenge from the Holy Qur'an itself.

The miracle of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has something special about it - all previous miracles were limited by time and place, i.e. they were witnessed by specific peoples at specific times only. The miracle of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), viz., the Holy Qur'an, is a universal and everlasting miracle. Previous generations witnessed it, the present generation are witnessing it, and, future generations will continue to witness the miraculous nature of its style, content and universal truths. These characteristics can still be tested to prove the Divine origin of the Holy Qur'an.

3. Every Prophet has stated clearly that the Revelation which he received was not of his own, but, from Allah (God Almighty), for the well-being of mankind. He also confirmed what was revealed before him, and, what may be revealed after him, until the coming of the Final Prophet of Allah (God Almighty), the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him. A Prophet does this to show that he is simply conveying the Message which is entrusted to him by the One True God - Allah, the One and Only God of all peoples in all ages. Therefore the Message of all the Prophets of Allah (God Almighty) is the same in essence, and, for the same purpose. Hence, the basic principles of the Message should not deviate from what was revealed before him or what might be revealed after him).

Prophets are necessary for conveying Allah's (God Almighty's) Instructions and Guidance to mankind. Without Divine Guidance, we have no way of knowing: Why we were created?; What will happen to us after death?; Whether or not we are accountable for our actions? - In other words, is there any reward or punishment for our deeds of this life?

These and so many other questions about Allah (God Almighty), angels, paradise, hell etc., cannot be answered without direct revelation from the Creator and Knower of the Unseen. Those answers must be authentic and must be brought by individuals whom we trust and respect. Therefore, all the Prophets of Allah (God Almighty) are the select of their societies in terms of moral conduct and intellectual abilities. All the Prophets are also miraculously supported by Allah (God Almighty), and, instructed by Him to affirm the continuity of the Message.

The content of all these Prophets' Message to mankind can be summarized as follows:-

  1. Clear concept about Allah (God Almighty), His attributes, His creatures, what should and should not be ascribed to Him;
  2. Clear idea about the Unseen World, the Angels, Jinn (spirits), Paradise and Hell;
  3. Why Allah (God Almighty) has created us. What He wants us to do, and, what are the rewards or punishment for obeying or disobeying Him;
  4. How to regulate our societies according to His Will - i.e., clear instructions and laws which, when applied correctly and honestly, will result in a happy and ideal society.

It is, therefore, clear that there has been no substitute for Prophethood. Even presently, with the advancement of science, the only authentic source of information about the supernatural world is Revelation. True, accurate and complete Guidance cannot be obtained either from science or from mystic experience. The former is too materialistic and too limited; the latter is too subjective and frequently too misleading.

The question arises, how many Prophets had Allah (God Almighty) sent to humanity? It is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an that Allah (God Almighty) has sent at least one Messenger to every tribe, nation or people in the world. It is one of Allah's (God Almighty's) principles that He will never make people accountable, unless, He has made it clear to them what to do and what not to do. The Holy Qur'an mentions the names of many Prophets and indicates that there have been others whose names are not mentioned in it, but, we are required to believe in all of them.

The Prophets, who are referred to by name, include, amongst others, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). These latter five Prophets are the foremost among Allah's (God Almighty's) Prophets. They are called 'the Resolute' Prophets.

An outstanding aspect of the Islamic belief concerning Prophethood is that Muslims believe in, and respect, all the Prophets of Allah (God Almighty) with no exceptions. Since all the Prophets came from the same One God Almighty, for the same purpose - to lead mankind to Allah (God Almighty) - belief in them all is essential and logical; accepting some and rejecting others have to be based on misconceptions of the Prophets' role or on prejudices.

The Muslims are the only people in the world who consider the belief in all the Prophets of Allah (God Almighty) as an Article of Faith. The Jews reject Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Similarly, the Christians reject the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Muslims accept them all as Allah's (God Almighty's) Prophets who received Divine Guidance, and, are enjoined by the Holy Qur'an as follows:

"Say ye: 'We believe in Allah (God Almighty), and the Revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord, Cherisher and Sustainer: We make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to God Almighty (in Islam).'"
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 2:136).

The Holy Qur'an continues in the following verses to instruct the Muslims that belief in all the Prophets of Allah (God Almighty) is the true and impartial belief:

"So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but, if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah (God Almighty) will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing. (Our religion is) the Baptism of Allah (God Almighty): and who can baptise better than Allah (God Almighty)? And it is He Whom we worship."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 2:137-138).

"From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We* (God Almighty) did take a Convenant, but, they forgot a good part of the Message that was sent to them"
(English Translation Holy Qur'an 5:15).

*["We": Allah (God Almighty) speaks of himself usually in the first person plural, "We". It is the plural of respect and honour, and is used in human language in Royal proclamations and decrees. But where a special personal relationship is expressed, the singular, "I" or "Me", is used; see Holy Qur'an 2:38; also of Holy Qur'an 31:10-11].

Two important points related to Prophethood need to be clarified. These points concern the roles of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as Prophets.

The Qur'anic account emphatically rejects the concept of the alleged 'Divinity' and the alleged 'Divine Sonship' of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), and, presents him as one of the great Prophets of Allah (God Almighty). The Holy Qur'an makes it clear that the birth of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) without a father does not make him, literally and physically, a son of Allah (God Almighty), and, mentions in this regard, Adam (peace be upon him), who was created by Allah (God Almighty), not only without a father, but, also without a mother:

"The similitude of Jesus before Allah (God Almighty) is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: 'Be', and he was"
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 3:59).

Like other Prophets, Jesus (peace be upon him) also performed miracles. For example, he raised the dead and cured the blind and the lepers; but, while performing these miracles, he always made it clear that these miracles could not be possible without the Power and Sanction of Allah (God Almighty), and, that he, Jesus (peace be upon him), could of his ownself do nothing.

Actually, the misconceptions about the personality and mission of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) found its way among Christians because the Divine Message that he preached was neither recorded by himself nor by anyone else during his presence on Earth nor did Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) instruct anybody to do so. But instead, it was recorded long after the departure of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) - after a lapse of generations - and that, too, in the common Greek (koine) language; this was not the language in which Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) conveyed the Revelation which he received from Allah (God Almighty) during his ministry, as it is attested beyond any shadow of doubt that he preached in his mother-tongue, viz., Aramaic.

According to the Holy Qur'an Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) was sent to the Children of Israel; he confirmed the validity of the Revelation which was revealed to the Prophet Moses (peace be upon him), and, he also brought the glad tidings of a Final Messenger to come after him:

"And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: 'O Children of Israel! I am the Apostle of Allah (God Almighty) (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving glad tidings of an Apostle to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.'* But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said, 'This is evident sorcery' ".
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 61:6).

*["Ahmad": "Ahmad" or Muhammad, meaning the Praised One, are both derived from the same Arabic Triliteral Root, which means, "to praise". In the original sayings of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), there was a prophecy of our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), "Ahmad" by name, and, "The Praised One" in terms of meaning.]

In the circumstances, the majority of the Israelites rejected the ministry of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). They plotted against his life and planned to kill him. However, the Holy Qur'an clarifies that they neither killed him nor crucified him, but instead, he was raised up to Allah (God Almighty);

"And they said, 'We killed Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah (God Almighty)'; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them; and, those who differ therein are all full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow; for of a surety, they killed him not - Nay, Allah (God Almighty) raised him up unto Himself; and Allah (God Almighty) is Exalted in Power, Wise"
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 4:157-158).

There is a verse in the Holy Qur'an, which implies that Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) will come back to Earth, and, that all the Christians and Israelites will believe in him before he dies. This is also explicitly supported by the Ahadith (authentic sayings) of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Final Prophet of Allah (God Almighty), Muhammad (peace be upon him), was born in Arabia in the sixth century A.C. Up to his age of forty, the people of Makkah knew him only as a man of excellent character and cultured manners, and, called him AL-AMEEN (the Trustworthy). He called the idolators of Makkah to worship Allah, the One and Only God Almighty, and, to accept him as Allah's (God Almighty's) Messenger. The Revelation, that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) received from Allah (God Almighty), was preserved, by being immediately recorded in writing by official amanuenses under the direct supervision of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and, in the memory of his companions, and, in the memory of Muslims ever since. Thus, the Holy Qur'an that we have today is exactly the same that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Allah (God Almighty) Himself has guaranteed the preservation of the Holy Qur'an:

"We (God Almighty) have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We (God Almighty) will assuredly guard it (from corruption)."
(English Translation, Holy Qur'an 15:9).

The Holy Qur'an claims to be the Book of Guidance for the whole of humanity forever, and, mentions the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as the Final Prophet of Allah (God Almighty).


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