PROPHETHOOD IN ISLAM

Prophethood is not unknown to heavenly revealed religions, such as Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, however, it has a special status and significance.

According to Islam, Allah (the Arabic word for God) created man for a noble purpose: to worship Him and lead a virtuous life based on His teachings and guidance. How would man know his role and purpose of his existence unless he received clear and practical instructions of what Allah wants him to do? Hence the need for prophethood and accompanying guidance. Thus Allah had chosen from every nation one or more prophets to convey His Message to the people. The Noble Qur'an says:
"To every people (was sent) an Apostle: when their Apostle comes (before them) the matter will be judged between them with justice and they will not be wronged." (Qur'an, 10: 47).

Allah says in the Noble Qur'an: "And verily, we have sent among every nation a messenger (proclaiming):
'Worship Allah (alone) and avoid evil.' Then of them were some whom Allah guided, and there were some upon whom straying was justified. So travel through the land and see what was the consequence of those who denied (the truth)." (Qur'an, 16: 36).

Prophethood is Allah's blessing and favour that He may bestow on whom He wills. However, from surveying the various messengers throughout history, three features of a prophet may be recognised:

1- He is the best in his community morally and intellectually.This is necessary because a prophet's life serves as a model for his followers. His personality should attract people to accept his message rather than drive them away because of his imperfect character. After receiving the message he is rightly guided and infallible. That is, he would not commit any sin. He might make some minor mistakes which are usually corrected by revelation.

2- He is supported by miracles to prove that he is not an impostor. Those miracles are granted by the power and permission of God and are usually in the field in which his people excel and are recognised as superiors. We might illustrate this by quoting the major miracles of the three prophets of the major world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Moses' contemporaries were excellent in magic. So his major miracle was to defeat the best magicians of Egypt of his time. Jesus' contemporaries were recognised as skilful physicians. Therefore, his miracles were to raise the dead and cure incurable diseases. The Arabs, contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) were known for their eloquence and magnificent poetry. So Prophet Muhammad's major miracle was the Qur'an, the equivalent of which the whole legion of the Arab poets and orators could not produce, despite the repeated challenge from the Qur'an itself. Again, Muhammad's (P.B.U.H.) miracle has something special about it. All previous miracles were limited by time and place, i.e., they were shown to specific people at a specific time. Not so with the Qur'an, the miracle of Muhammad (P.B.U.H.). It is a universal and everlasting miracle. Previous generations witnessed it and future generations will witness its miraculous nature in terms of its style, content and spiritual uplifting. These still can be tested and will thereby prove the divine origin of the Qur'an.

3- Every prophet states clearly that what he receives is not of his own but from God for the well-being of mankind. He also confirms what was revealed before him and what may be revealed after him. A prophet does this to show that he is simply conveying the message which is entrusted to him by the One True God of all people in all ages. So the message is one in essence and for the same purpose. Therefore, it should not deviate from what was revealed before him or what might come after him.

Prophets are necessary for conveying God's instructions and guidance to mankind. We have no way of knowing why we were created? What will happen to us after death? Is there any life after death? Are we accountable for our actions? In other words, is there any reward or punishment for our deeds in this life?
These and so many other questions about God, angels, Paradise, Hell, etc. cannot be answered without 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. That is why, messengers are the select of their societies in terms of moral conduct and intellectual ability. The prophets are also miraculously supported by God and instructed by Him to affirm the continuity of the message. The content of the prophets' message to mankind can be summarised as follows:

1- Clear concept about God: His attributes, His creation, 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 has God created us? What does He want from us and what is the reward or punishment for obeying or disobeying Him?

4- How to run our societies according to His will? That is, clear instructions and laws that, when applied correctly and honestly, will result in a happy and ideal society.

It is clear from the above discussion that there is no substitute for prophets. Even today with the advancement of science, the only authentic source of information about the supernatural world are the revelations. Guidance can be obtained neither from science nor from mystic experience. The first is too materialistic and too limited whereas the second is too subjective and frequently too misleading.

God has sent a messenger (or more) to every nation. This is because it is one of God's principles that He will never call people to account unless He has made clear to them what to do and what not to do.

The Noble Qur'an mentions the names of 25 prophets and indicates that there have been others who were not mentioned to Prophet Muhammad. These 25 include Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. These, five are the greatest among God's messengers. They are called the resolute prophets. An outstanding aspect of the Islamic belief in prophethood is that Muslims believe in and respect all the messengers of God with no exception. All the prophets came from the same One God, for the same purpose - to lead mankind to God. Belief in them all is essential and logical while accepting some and rejecting others is like rejecting all.

The Muslims are the only people in the world who consider the belief in all the prophets of God an article of faith. Thus the Jews reject Jesus Christ and Muhammad; the Christians reject Muhammad and in reality reject Moses because they do not abide by his laws. The Muslims accept them all as messengers of God who brought guidance to mankind. However, the revelation which those prophets brought from God has been tampered with in one way or the other.
The belief in all the messengers of God is enjoined on the Muslims by the Qur'an:
"Say ye: "We believe in Allah and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord; we make no difference between any of them and we bow to Allah (in Islam)." (Qur'an, 2: 136 ).

The Noble Qur'an continues in the following verses to instruct the Muslims that this is the true and impartial belief. If other nations believe in the same, they are following the right path. If they do not, then they are following their own whims and biases and God will take them to account. Thus we read:
"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 will suffice thee as against them and He is the All-Hearing the All-Knowing."
(Qur'an, 2: 137 ).
There are, at Least, two important points related to prophethood that need to be clarified. These points concern the roles of Jesus and Muhammad as prophets who are usually misunderstood.

The Qur'anic account of Jesus (P.B.U.H) emphatically rejects the concept of his 'divinity' and 'divine sonship' and presents him as one of the great prophets of God. The Qur'an makes it clear that the birth of Jesus without a father does not make him son of God and mentions in this respect Adam who was created by God without a father or mother:
"The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam: He created him from dust then said to him: "Be" and he was." (Qur'an, 3: 59( .

Like other prophets Jesus also performed miracles. For example, he raised the dead and cured the blind and lepers, but while showing these miracles he always made it clear that it was all from God. Actually, the misconceptions about the personality and mission of Jesus found a way among his followers because the Divine message that he preached was not recorded during his presence in this world, rather it was recorded after a lapse of about a hundred years. According to the Qur'an he was sent to the children of Israel; he confirmed the validity of the Torah which was revealed to Moses and he also brought the glad tidings of a final messenger after him.
"And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: 'O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of Allah (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." (Qur'an, 61: 6 ).

"Ahmad is another name of Prophet Muhammad which means the praised one" .

However, the majority of the Jews rejected his ministry. They plotted against his life and in their opinion crucified him. But the Noble Qur'an refutes this opinion and says that they neither killed him nor crucified him, rather he was raised up to God. There is a verse in the Qur'an, which implies that Jesus will come back and all Christians and Jews will believe in him before he dies. This is also supported by authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H. ) .

The last prophet of God, Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) was born in Arabia in the sixth century A.C. The People of Mecca knew him only as a man of excellent character and cultured manners and called him AL-AMEEN (the trustworthy). At the age of 40, God appointed him a prophet and a receiver of revelations from God. He called the idolaters of Makkah to worship the one God and accept him as His prophet. The revelations which he received were preserved in his life-time in the memory of his companions and were also recorded on pieces of palm leaves, leather, etc...

Thus, the Noble Qur'an that is found today is the same that was revealed to him; not a syllable of it has been altered as God Himself has guaranteed its preservation. This Qur'an is the book of guidance for the entire humanrace for all times, and mentions Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) as the last Prophet of God:
"Muhammad is not the father of any of your men but (he is) the Apostle of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full Knowledge of all things."
( Qur'an, 33: 40 ) .

The Qur'an further speaks about the beautiful pattern of the prophet's life:
"Ye have indeed in the Apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern of (conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day and who engages much in the praise of Allah." (Qur'an, 33: 21 ) .

Allah is the name of God in the Arabic Language. Neither plural nor gender can be formed from it. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universes. He is the God of all people including the prophets such as: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob, Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad (Peace Be Upon All Of Them ).


What They Say About Muhammad (P.B.U.H)

Here we furnish some observations on Islam by great and acknowledged non-Muslim scholars of modern time. Truth needs no advocates to plead on its behalf, but the prolonged malicious propaganda against Islam has created great confusion even in the minds of free and objective thinkers. We hope that the following observations would contribute to initiating an objective evaluation of the Prophet of Islam Muhammad (P.B.U.H .).

If greatness of purpose, smallness of means, and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modem history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only they founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then-inhabited world; and more than that he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls.... His forbearance in victory, his ambition which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire, his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death-all these attest not to an imposter but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was twofold: the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the words. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images; the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all standards by which human greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater than he is?
Lamartine,
Histoire de la Turquie,
Pans 1854, Vol.11, pp. 276-77.

It is not the propagation but the permanency of his religion that deserves our wonder; the same pure and perfect impression which he engraved at Makkah and Madina is preserved, after the revolutions of twelve centuries by the Indian, the African and the Turkish proselytes of the Koran... The Mahometans object of their faith and devotion to a level with the senses and imagination of man. 'I believe in One God and Mahomet is the Apostle of God' is the simple and invariable profession of Islam. The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honours of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtue; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion.
Edward Gibbon and Simon Ocklay
History of the Saracen Empire,
London 1870,p 54.


He was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without Pope's pretensions, Caesar without the legions of Caesar: without a standing army, without a bodyguard, without a palace, without fixed revenue. If ever any man had the right to say that he ruled by the right divine, it was Muhammad, for he had all the power without its instruments and without its supports.
Bosworth Smith
Muhammad and Muhammadanism,
London 1874, p 92.

It is impossible for anyone who studies the life and character of the great Prophet of Arabia, who knows how he taught and how he lived, to feel anything but reverence for that mighty Prophet, one of the great messengers of the Supreme. And although in what I put to you I shall say many things which may be familiar to many, yet I myself feel whenever I re-read them, a new way of admiration, a new sense of reverence for that mighty Arabian teacher.
Annie Besant,
The Life and Teachings of Muhammad,
Madras 1932, p 4

My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular level.
Michael H. Hart,
The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, New York: Hart Publishing Company
Inc. 1978, p 33.


"I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitality. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess that assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence which can make itself appeal to every age. I have studied him the wonderful man and in my opinion for from being an anti-Christ, he must be called the Saviour of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it the much needed peace and happiness: I have prophesied about the faith of Muhammad that it would be acceptable to the Europe of tomorrow as it is beginning to be acceptable to the Europe of today."
G.B. Shaw,
The Genuine Islam, Vol. 1, No.81936

For more information about this subject:
www.al-sunnah.com

www.prophetmuhammed.org