The Prophets: Links in the Chain of Prophethood

The prophet and the believers believed in that which had been revealed unto him his Lord. Each one believed in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers - We make no distinction (they say) between any of His prophets - and they said: We heard, and we obeyed. Grant us your forgiveness, our Lord. Unto you is the journeying. (Al-Baqarah, 285)


Throughout history mankind has been faced with major problems, like bigotry, conservatism and extremism. The Prophets of Allah were faced with bigotry; sometimes people acted against them with hostility, sometimes they slandered them, and sometimes they tried to make it seem as though the prophets were opposed to one another or perceived them in such a way. The history of mankind is full of many examples of such acts. For instance, the attitudes and approaches that have developed since the early periods against Judaism led some Christian movements to involve themselves in a number of controversies against the God which they called the Old Testament God (Jehovah) and who created, ruled and judged the universe and against such prophets as Moses. Similarly, within religions such as Sabianism, controversies were directed against prophets like Abraham, Moses and Jesus, while there was a discussion if the message of these prophets was different to that of John the Baptist or whether John was superior to them. When we look at the present day, we come across such attitudes and approaches. For instance, the actions taken by various groups against Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and prejudiced accusations against him can easily be seen as an example of this. Islam approaches all of life and the universe within the framework of the belief in one God (tawheed) and considers the history of mankind within this context. According to this, the entire history of mankind, starting from Adam, the first human, until the last human, is the story of just such a struggle, where all the people are taught that Allah is the only god or superior power that nothing should be ascribed to Him as a partner and that people should worship Allah alone. Throughout the history of mankind many prophets were sent to convey and teach these tenets. During the time that lasted from Adam to Muhammad, Allah sent a prophet or a warner to each society and these warners invited mankind to the truth and to the path of Allah. The names of some of these warners are mentioned in the Holy Quran.

The prophets whose names are mentioned within the Quran are the people whom the Arabs of the Hejaz, the first to accept the revelations of the Quran, included in their own cultural structures and traditions. In addition to this, Abraham, Jesus, Zachariah and other prophets lived in places near the Hejaz region, like Palestine, Jordan and Egypt. However, within the Holy Quran it is emphasized that Allah does not reveal His wrath to any society to which He did not send a warner. (Ash-Shuaraa, 208; Al-Fatr, 24). This tells us that Allah has sent prophets to warn mankind and to give them the message of truth not only within the vicinity of the Hejaz region but to all regions of the world throughout the history. Islam sees all the prophets as being successive and interconnected links of a chain of people who conveyed the same message to humanity. In Islam, making a distinction between the prophets is prohibited. It is written in the Quran: We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. (Al-Baqarah, 136) Moreover, it is again emphasized in the Quran that Allah will give those who believe in Allah and His messengers their dues and that He makes no distinction between any of them. (An-Nisaa, 152).

Islam does not make any distinction between the prophets and does not allow any distinction to be made. In the Quran acts of comparing the prophets, the preference of one over another or showing the prophets as if they were opposed to one another are all strongly opposed. An incident which occurred during the time of Prophet Muhammad is considerably significant in terms of its message about this matter. According to the narration of Abu Hurairah, one day a Muslim and a Jew were arguing. The Muslim said to the other: “I swear by Allah who deemed Prophet Muhammad superior to the universe!” And then the Jew said: “I swear by Allah who deemed Moses superior to the universe”. Then the Muslim raised his hand and slapped the Jew and the Jew went to Prophet Muhammad and complained. The Prophet listened to him and commanded: “Do not deem me superior to Moses! Because people will always faint. I will be the one who rises first. When I awake, I will see Moses holding one side of the sky. I don’t know if he is one of those who will wake up immediately after fainting or of those who are exempted by Allah”. (Bukhari, Husumat 1, Anbiyaa 34, 35, Riqaq 43, Tauhid 31; Muslim, Fazail 160; Abu David, Sunnah 14).

With this hadith, Prophet Muhammad opposes the bigotry that occurred from time to time and the extremism that results from such bigotry; he warns the Muslims (in fact not only the Muslims, but all of mankind) about this matter. Moreover, any approach that shows Moses or Holy Jesus or another prophet at a level different from Muhammad is in contradiction with the historical notion and the prophetic teachings of Islam. To act in opposition to any prophet is to cross the line. In the Quran examples of such acts of bigotry from history are provided. We are told about societies like the Israelites, who would sometimes treat the prophets harshly, banishing and rejecting them, even killing them. The Quran points out that the prophets all have the same status in terms of the messages they brought and conveyed and the mission of prophethood they performed. Without a doubt, we can find expressions within the Quran of the superiority of some of the prophets over others. (Al-Baqarah; 17/55). However, when the context of the related verses is closely observed, it can be understood that this superiority occurs not due to their messages or prophetic traits, such as leadership, guidance, or acting as an instructor or warner, or to the tasks they carried out, but as emphasized in Surat Al-Baqarah, 253, rather in connection with the birth of each prophet, the social environment in which they lived, and their relations with the social environment. The qualities of Adam’s creation from earth and his state as the first prophet, Abraham’s being the friend of Allah, the immaculate conception of Jesus, the fact that David and the Solomon were granted worldly kingships and that Muhammad was the final prophet expresses the special conditions of each of the prophets.

The Hues of Belief Corner by Sinasi Gunduz, a professor of the history of religions, deals with the attitude of Prophet Muhammad towards other religions and his relationship with their members


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Şinasi Gündüz

Professor Şinasi Gündüz, the head of the Religious History department at the Faculty of Theology, Istanbul University, graduated from the Faculty of Theology, Ankara University in 1984. In 1991 he completed his doctorate at the Middle East Research Department, Manchester University. In 1995 he received his associate professorship from Ondokuz Mayıs University, Faculty of Theology, and he became a professor in 2003 at Istanbul University, Faculty of Theology. Still head of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Istanbul University, Faculty of Theology, Şinasi Gündüz is a member of the Executive Board of the Faculty of Theology, Istanbul University and is a member of the Senate of Istanbul University; Professor Gündüz has published a large number of international articles. He has written sections for international publications and presented articles in a number of refereed journals and at international academic conferences, making great contributions to the field of religious history. In 2004 Professor Gündüz was seen worthy of the Successful Researcher Award by the Istanbul University Rector's Office and in 2005 by the Istanbul University Academic Research Projects Institute.

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