Belief in Prophets
When one examines history all the way back to the first era there are traces of ancient remains, one can see that man was always aware of the existence of an almighty entity that was the Lord and creator of everything. The forms of worship changed according to time and the social conditions in a given society; however, people of all eras tried to fulfill their responsibilities and obligations towards their creator. The name given to this almighty entity changed according to time and venue; however, the envisioning of a creator that is divine, all-powerful and transcendent remained the same.
At the same time, there has never been a shortage of those inviting people to follow the truth, and stray away from acting on personal benefit and ancestrally-inherited mistakes. These reformists have generally announced that they have come with a divine task. The Holy Books which they given to their people, have been perceived as inspiring divine works having been revealed from our Creator, Allah. However, genocides, massacres, internal wars between siblings and exiles have caused almost all of these divine messages to become destroyed.
The religions sent by Allah, changed form many times throughout the centuries. When we examine the forms of belief in the well-known parts of the world following the birth of Jesus (pbuh) -- close to the end of the 6th century -- we see that they fall into three groups:
- Religions which sincerely announce that they are specific to certain races. The religions have not concerned themselves with the ill-fate or frustration which had befallen on the rest of humanity, almost leaving them entirely to their own fates. (Nationalistic religions such as Judaism.)
- Religions which claim to be universal and teach that salvation relies on a complete disassociation from this world; for this reason, these types of religions were ones which only a small number of people could accept and follow. (Religions such as Christianity which prioritize divinity.)
- And finally in different lands, disbelief, materialism and all kinds of lack of religion reigned supreme and people there thought what is important is satisfying one's own desires and wishes without any regard for to the rights of others. (Disbelief and all other kinds of deviant beliefs.)
As people distanced themselves from the divine sources in which Allah explains himself, they didn't distance themselves from Allah. On the contrary, they distanced themselves from a correct envisioning of Allah. When people didn't believe in Allah, they didn't cease to believe in anything; instead they came to believe in everything. Furthermore, prophets were perceived as the bodification of a divine being on earth due to the communication they had with God and people were not able to protect the mental border in their minds between the created and the Creator.
Every metaphysical thought system and every religion has its own terms and interpretations. While it is not possible to reach a decision on that religion without familiarizing one's self with those terms and interpretations, it is possible to say that certain interpretations and explanations are more logically consistent and are more coherent for intellectual minds. Furthermore, when evaluating a religion it is also important to examine what kind of a lifestyle it is suggesting to person it's addressing. A religion which claims to be universal should take into consideration the needs of the whole of mankind and should be able to show the minimal ways in which people of all levels of morality can become successful in becoming honest and noble in life. The superior success of a religion lies not in its' dealing of people in a superior state of morality, but the way in which shows average people how to become noble.
The book brought by the last Prophet, was committed to people's memory in addition to being recorded in writing while he was still alive and has survived until today without any dispute. There is no other example of a book that dates to the time in which the prophet [who was delivering the message] was alive. The calling which Allah voiced through His Last Prophet speaks to us, with the purity of its first day of revelation in the pages of the Holy Qur'an.
The concept of a prophet and the belief in prophets
The messengers, who are chosen from among his servants and honored with revelation and given the duty carrying the commandments and the unlawful to people, are called prophets.
In the religion of Islam, belief in Prophets is one of the six pillars of faith. Almighty Allah has made it obligatory for Muslims to believe in all Prophets, without differentiating between them. Belief in some of the prophets and denial of others is considered ‘kufr' (abandoning religion). "Those who deny Allah and His Messengers, and (those who) wish to separate Allah from His Messengers, saying: "We believe in some but reject others": and (those who) wish to take a course midway. They are in truth (equally) Unbelievers; and We have prepared for Unbelievers a humiliating Punishment. (Surah An-Nisaa (4): 150-151).
As with all matters, Islam followed a moderate path on the subjects of prophets, not elevating them to the status of a god, considering them Allah's messengers and servants. For Prophets, who were sent to be models to mankind, being successful in their mission is only possible through them being ‘humans' and ‘believers' in full capacity. However, none of them have the characteristic of being godly. They don't know about the unseen with the exception of what Allah has made known to them. (Surah Al-Maida (5): 72-73, 75, Surah Al -Aaraf (7) 188, Surah At-Tawba (9): 30).
Prophets were not only enjoined with spreading religion, they were also held responsible for explaining the essentials of religion to the believers, being examples and educating and purging them of their evil doings. In order for this to happen, their words and actions which carried religious pertinence, were considered binding, and the leading of prophets were not left to the desire of their followers.
Prophets are obliged to function on every matter in line with the direction given to them by Allah: they do not act based on their will with regard to their prophetic responsibilities and follow the will of Allah. It is for this reason that their actions and words which have reached us through strong narrative chains, shed light for us on every matter. The Prophets' religious principals which came with revelation as well as the path they followed in comprehension and application are more reliable than the interpretation of all other people.
As indicated in the Holy Qur'an, prophecy came to an end with Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) (Surah Al-Ahzab: 33-40). Another prophet will not come after him. The message he brought is binding until the day of judgment.
The need for prophets
Allah the Almighty created a universe which functions perfectly. Our world within this universe came to be with His will and it was planned it in a way that will cease to exist with His will. If our existence in this world were never to come to an end and continue until infinity and if we were not to exist in another life and be held accountable there for our actions here, perhaps we may have been left to our vices. However, this would have been heedlessness by the Creator for what He created and this is an unfathomable thought.
Even though humans were equipped with intellect, awareness, comprehension, choice and other talents, they need their hands to be held and light to be shed on them in order for them attain the truth of infinity by utilizing their strengths. Allah, who knows this aspect of man best, has sent mankind prophets as an extension of his wisdom, LUTUF and assistance. According to Qur'anic teachings, there is not a single community or peoples whom have not had a prophet sent to them. (Surat Al-Nahl (16): 63, Surah Al-Yunus (10): 47). And this is because mankind is a responsible being. Man is the only creature in the universe with free will, and for this reason he will be held into account for how he spent his existence and how he spent other creatures as he is the only creature with intellect. Prophets were given the duty of notifying people of the limits and outcomes of this responsibility, guiding people from the first day of existence. The fact that the first man on earth was also prophet reflects the truth that not a single moment of our existence has been spent without the leadership of prophets. For this reason, the source of all values created by mankind, there will surely be the traces of guidance of prophets.
In essence, the sending of Prophets by Allah is a grand service to his creation. Because they were able to show to us the world, which falls outside our sight and realm but whose spiritual existence we know of, through the information coming directly from that world. Thus, we, as humans, are equipped with infallible knowledge of the world [the afterlife] which we are not able to attain on our own, but must prepare for as we will inevitably arrive there one day. Furthermore, humans may, through their own intellect, understand Allah's existence and oneness; however, they are not able to comprehend the attributes of Almighty Allah beyond this. They can't know how to perform worship to Allah or gain knowledge about the afterlife. There is a need for prophets to be sent to earth in order for a person to be held accountable and responsible on certain matters, so that they may be given rewards or punishment regarding their acts. (Surah An-Nisaa (4): 165).
The divine knowledge brought by Prophets quenches the search for truth which exists in the nature of mankind, in a way that has not become polluted by worldly matters, is clean and beyond the limitation of time. The personal experiences of prophets become trail-blazing and special examples for us on our path leading to the truth. Thus, we are able to fulfill the needs of our search for truth and we are able to transfer this knowledge into our daily lives by way of infallible examples as demonstrated by prophets. This is a great favor for mankind. Because the situation of a man, who monitors his surroundings, realizing that there are shortcomings, but does not know what the truth is, is a very sad one. Revelation teaches us what the truth is and Prophets demonstrate how these truths can be actualized in our daily lives.
Religion is not comprised of revelation which is simply read. It also must include the application and manifestation of divine knowledge that comes with revelation. If this were not the case, there would be no need for prophets. Allah the Almighty would have sent his books to people in a manner in which they could attain and ask people to believe by simply reading these books. However, this is not what happened and Allah the Almighty showed people how to apply every one of his religions through prophets which he sent. Thus when mankind is questioned for their humane and moral merits on the Day of Judgment, they will not be able to present any excuse.
If prophets had not been sent, humans would have a hard time finding the truth, the good and what is right and experience difficulty in differentiating between what his beneficial and what is harmful. Furthermore, they would for the most part, remain under the pressure of their emotions, traditions and temporary desires when doing so, mixing the real truth and practical benefits with one other and not being able to make the correct decisions. It is here that we must become aware of the fact that the source of a universal moral code is not man's nature and intellect as if often believed. Because humanity has never been completely free of the message of prophets during any time in its history, any value that is not rooted in revelation is irrelevant. Because Allah has sent prophets, whose numbers are said to be over 100,000 according to a hadith, never leaving the world in the absence of the calling and message of a prophet. This is also the natural result of Him being "Rabbu'l A'lameen" (The Lord and maintainer of the Universes). Prophets also played a role in the development of civilizations, cultural and community development with their professions in the arts, commerce and agriculture. The essence of the formation of all civilizations set up by people has their roots in religion. In this respect, the essence of civilizations is prophecy.