Need for prophets
Allah created mankind to worship Him and lead a virtuous life based on His teachings and guidance (LI: 56).
He endowed man with faculties and freedom of action and out of His Grace and Justice sent messengers (nabis) with clear and practical instructions of what He wants people to do. He sent a number of prophets to mankind from time to time to teach them how to live according to His law. The prophets were responsible for conveying the truth to a well-defined audience (people of his community) and give glad tidings of reward of Allah to those who accepts his message and warns the rejectors (kafiroon) with a horrible end. The good tidings are termed as basharat (good news) and the warnings as indhaar (warning). The people may accept his message or reject it.
The prophets dealt with deep issues such as why we were created, what will happen to us after death, is there any life after death, are we accountable for our actions, and many more questions relating to Allah, angels, paradise, hell, and much more. Such questions could not be answered without direct revelation from the Creator and Knower of the unseen. Those answers had to be authentic and brought by individuals whom we trust and respect. As such Allah sent messengers who were the elite of their societies in terms of moral conduct and intellectual ability to act as examples for mankind and to inspire them and to lead them to the Siratul Mustaqim (Straight Path), the path of righteousness.
In Islam, god does not come to earth in human form – a process known as anthropomorphism (attributing human qualities to non-human objects) – as is the case with many other religions such as Christianity and Hinduism. Rather, He chooses a man amongst men and communicates with them on a higher level and reveals instruction manual to guide mankind. Since the beginning of time, Allah has sent His guidance through these chosen people. The prophets were sent to mankind in different times and places to communicate His message on earth and teach people about the faith in One Almighty Allah. No nation or community was left without such guidance and every nation was sent at least one prophet. (X:47 and XVI:36).
The prophets were tasked with:
- Presenting clear concept of Allah: His attributes, His creation, what should and should not be ascribed to Him.
- Presenting clear idea about the unseen world, the angels, jinn (spirits), Paradise and Hell.
- Answering why Allah has created us, what He wants from us and what rewards and punishments are for obedience and disobedience.
- Demonstrating 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 smoothly functioning, harmonious society.
Some prophets, known as Rasools (Apostles), were also revealed Allah’s Word through books of revelation.
Characteristics of prophets
The prophets were special human beings chosen and favoured by Allah. They spoke the truth, committed no sins and conveyed the message without adding or leaving out anything. They carried out miracles with the help of Allah Ta’ala.
Though prophethood is Allah’s blessing and favour that He may bestow on whom He wills, the chosen prophets had many common features. These included:
- He is the best in his community morally and intellectually. Since he was to be a role model for his followers his personality should attract people to accept his message rather than drive them away by his imperfect character. After receiving the message, he is infallible. That is, he would not commit any sin. He might make some minor mistakes, which are usually corrected by revelation.
- He is supported by miracles to prove that he is not an imposter. Those miracles are granted by the power and permission of God and are usually in the field in which his people excel and are recognized as superior. For example, Musa’s (or Moses in Hebrew text, Peace Be Upon Him) contemporaries were excellent in magic, so his major miracle was to defeat the best magicians of Egypt of his day. Isa’s (Jesus in Christian text, Peace Be Upon Him) contemporaries were recognized as skilled physicians, therefore, his miracles were to raise the dead and cure incurable diseases. Muhammad’s (Peace Be Upon Him) contemporaries were known for their eloquence and magnificent poetry so the Prophet’s major miracle was the Qur’an, the equivalent of which the whole legion of Arab poets and orators could not produce, despite the repeated challenge from the Qur’an itself.
- Every prophet states clearly that what he receives is not of his own making, but from Allah, 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 that 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.
The Qur’anic and Biblical criteria, tale and divine response of prophethood are very similar in a lot of ways. However, there is one major difference – the Qur’anic idea of prophecy insist that a prophet has to be ma’sum (inerrent or impeccable). That is, the prophets are divinely secured from major sin whereas Old Testament prophets can sin and repent – which is projected by Jews and Christians as being part of their greatness – but the Qur’anic prophets are infallible.
25 Prophets mentioned in the Qur’an
In the Qur’an there are 25 Prophets (Peace Be Upon Them) who are mentioned by name. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the final messenger sent by Allah (swt) in a series of prophets beginning with Hazrat Adam (‘alaihis salam // pbuh).
- Adam آدم
- Idris إدريس
- Nuh (Noah) نوح
- Hud هود
- Saleh صالح
- Ibrahim (Abraham) ابراهيم
- Lut (Lot) لوط
- Ismail (Ishmael) اسماعيل
- Ishaq (Isaac) اسحاق10
- Yaqub (Jacob) يعقوب
- Yusuf (Joseph) يوسف
- Ayyub (Job) أيوب
- Shoaib شعيب
- Musa (Moses) موسى
- Harun (Aaron) هارون
- Dhul-Kifl (Ezekiel) ذو الكف
- Daud (David) داود
- Sulayman (Solomon) سليمان
- Ilyas (Elijah) إلياس
- Al-Yasa (Elishaاليسعيس# ) 21
- Yunus (Jonah) يونس
- Zakariya (Zechariah) زكريا
- Yahya (John the Baptist) يحيى
- Isa (Jesus) عيسى
… Peace Be Upon Them (PBUT).
Their will never be another prophet after Muhammad Mustapha (pbuh) as such he is considered the Seal of Prophethood (Khatamun Nabiyin) (XXX:40). Prophet Muhammad (sws) also has the highest position and rank among all the Prophets.
surah ahzab 33:40 – muhammad (pbuh) is the seal;
A messenger sent to every nation
Most of the twenty-five prominent prophets mentioned in the Qur’an are Semitic prophets of the Middle East. However, the Qur’an also states that there were many more whose names have not been revealed (XL:78).
Muslims believe that there have been 124,000 prophets (in another hadith it is 224,000) and every people, be it Europeans, Native Americans, Africans, central Asians, Aborigines, South Pacificers, Indians, Far easterners etc were sent at least one prophet. That is because it is one of Allah’s principles that He will never call a people to account unless He has made clear to them what to do and what not to do.
surah faatir 35:24 – not a nation or tribe who hasn’t received message; surah rad 13: 7 – every nation have been sent an warner;
It is compulsory for a Muslim to believe in, love, and respect all the messengers of Allah with no exceptions. All the prophets came from the same One God, for the same purpose: to lead mankind to Allah. Therefore, it is paramount and only logical that every Muslim believe in them. Accepting some and rejecting others has to be based on misconceptions of the prophet’s role or on a racial bias, and both are prohibited in Islam.
The Muslims are perhaps the only people in the world who consider the belief in all the prophets an article of faith. Thus the Jews reject Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them), and the Christians reject Muhammad. The Muslims accept them all as messengers of Allah who brought guidance to mankind. However, the revelations which those prophets before Muhammad brought from Allah have been tampered with in one way or another as such a Muslim must only follow the Qur’an but still maintain respect for the other holy books.
The belief in all the prophets of God is enjoined upon the Muslims in the Quran:
“Say (O Muslims): We believe in God and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob, and their children, and that which Moses and Jesus received and that the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them and unto Him we have surrendered.” (Quran 2:136)
The 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 in the right track. If they do not, they must be following their own whims and biases and God will take care of them. Thus we read:
“And if they believe in what you believe, then they are rightly guided. But if they turn away, then they are in disunity, and God will suffice you against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower. This is God’s religion and who is better than God in religion?” (Quran 2:137-138)
All Prophets are guaranteed Heaven. However, people must always remember that prophets are best role model for them but they’re not gods to be worshipped. Only Allah alone should be worshipped.
Nabi & Rasool
In Islam there are two types of prophets, one is the Nabi (Prophet, plural Anbiyaah) who are regular prophets sent to do as mentioned. The second type is the Rasool (Apostles, plural Rusul) who are high prophets or messengers as they were sent a revelation in the form of a holy book or scripture and shariat (Divine Law).
[Pickthal 2:253] Of those messengers[rosolo], some of whom We have caused to excel others
A Nabi follows the Shariat of a Rasool before him.
The exact number of anbiyaah who were also rasool are not known – some say 313, others 315 – however, they include: Nuh, Hud, Saleh, Ibrahim, Lut, Shoaib, Musa, Daud, Yunus, Isa and Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Them. They’re known as “Ulu l-azm” prophets, meaning those who possess a quality of determination and firmness.
A ‘Hazrat’ is only an ‘Honorary title’, such as ‘sir’ in English. It is commonly used before the name of Prophets but can be applied to any people that is highly respected e.g. esteem scholars.
Sunnah & Hadiths
Sunnah refers to the deeds, sayings and approvals (including silent approvals) of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Hadith is the narration of a saying, or of an act, or of an approval of the Prophet (pbuh). They range in authenticity from Sahih (i.e. narrated by righteous, trustworthy and God-fearing persons of sound and dependable memory) to Hasan (narrators are of a slightly lower intellectual calibre than those of the Sahih, but otherwise fulfil all other conditions of Sahih), Da`if (contrary to Sahih or Hasan; or a link is missing in the chain of narrators, or a certain narrator in between is not found to qualify), Mawdu` (narrator are given to lies and falsehood), or Maqlub (narrators name changed in two different narration).
After the Qur’an, the sunnahs and authentic (sahih) hadiths are the most important sources for Islam. Muslims base their laws on these three things.
Surah ambiya 21:107 – prophet (pbuh) mercy to whole world, surah saba 34:28 – universal messenger but most human don’t know
The Sahabahs are companions of the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). They came from every tribe, tongue and nation and included non-Arabs and women.
It’s from the Sahabahs that the “Khalifah Rashidun” (Rightly Guided Successors) were selected. And it’s also from them that leaders of conquests, scholars of jurisprudence, judges who ruled with justice and great preachers of Islam was also derived.
The Sahabahs played a great part in spreading Islam throughout the world, especially during the turbulent and testing early days when the religion came to the lands of the pagan Arabs as something new and strange. The dedication to the cause, deep humanity, wider sense of justice and loyalty to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was unparalleled. It is from the Sahabahs the world learnt about the deen (religion) of Islam, and it is from them that Muslims established the Shariat (Islamic Divine Laws) and obtained the Sunnah of the Rasool (pbuh).
Their stories remain a timeless source of inspiration, guidance and strength for all. The Companions have been praised by Allah and promised forgiveness and great reward.
“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are stern against the disbelievers and merciful amongst themselves. When you see them you will find them bowing down, falling prostrate, and seeking Allah’s favour and good pleasure. They have the marks of prostration on their faces. This is their description in the Torah; and in the Gospel they have been likened to a crop which put out its shoot, then strengthened it, then swelled and then stood on its own stem, filling the sowers with delight and the disbelievers with rage. Allah has promised those of them who believe and do good works, forgiveness and an immense reward.” [Al-Qur’an 48:29]
Along with the Prophets (Peace Be Upon Them), there are 10 Sahabahs who are guaranteed Jannat (Heaven):
- Abu Bakr Siddiq
- Abdur Rahman bin Auf
- Saad bin abi Waqqas
- Saeed bin Jubair
- Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah
… Radi Allahu’anhum (May Allah Be Pleased With Them).
The Sahabahs are held in high esteem. A non-Sahabi is not equal in rank to the lowest Sahabi, even though the non-Sahabi may be the greatest wali (pious friend of Allah). It’s compulsory for the Muslims to show respect to all the Sahabahs and abstain from speaking ill and criticising any of them.
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The first generation after the sahabas are known as the Tabi’in (Followers), and the generation after that Taba’ at’Tabi’in.
The best people are those living in my generation, and then those who will follow them, and then those who will follow the latter. Then there will come some people who will bear witness before taking oaths, and take oaths before bearing witness.