Divine religion is the name of “the system of laws imposed by Allah,” and the sole religion in the world today that protects its quality as a “divine religion” is Islam. As Judaism and Christianity were unable to protect their original identities for various reasons, they became “corrupted religions.”
The word peygamber (messenger) means “bearer of news” in Farsi. The terms “nabi” and “rasul” are used in Arabic to convey the same meaning. The phrase “bashir” has been used in the Qur’an to mean “bearer of good news.” In Islamic terminology, “nabi” is a messenger who perpetuates an old religion, and has not been given a new book, while “rasul” denotes a messenger who has been given a new shariah (canon).
The concepts of the Qur’an and the prophets are like two inseparable parts of one whole. It is difficult to get anywhere when we separate the Qur’an from the Messenger of Allah. A messenger without a book is like a guide without light.Islam has reached us from two sources alone: 1. the word of Allah, 2. Allah’s messengers. Along with this, the duty of messengers does not stop at spreading the word of Allah and conducting the necessary explanations. It is also their mission to demonstrate how Allah’s commands and prohibitions are to be applied. Thus it is ordained, “Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.” (al-Azhab, 33:21)
The general meaning of Islam is the name of a religion based upon Allah’s sovereignty which aims to regulate human life. The standard-bearers of this religion are the messengers of Allah. The advancement of the Islamic movement is possible through the guidance of these leaders.
Our knowledge of the lives and works of the messengers before Prophet Muhammad is rather limited and incomplete. For example, some of the statements attributed to Prophet Jesus in the Gospel are both far from trustworthy, and go no further than providing superficial information on how to advance the Islamic movement. The only light shed upon this topic for us is the life of the Holy Prophet. As a messenger, he has three important characteristics:
- He is the last of the prophets (khatmu’l-anbiya),
- His messengership and prophetic mission were gathered in his person,
- While all the [other] messengers were sent to the People of the Book, he was sent to an idolatrous tribe to which no prophet had been sent before.
The greatest need of mankind converges at the point of the necessity of prophethood. The Qur’an’s decree that “To Allah belongs the task of guiding aright, whereas there are also paths of evil,” briefly touches upon the institution of messengership; and this basic need was answered through the institutions of messengership and prophethood. The words of the one who does not believe in prophethood that “Allah gave us minds and wit that we may find the right path” are far from convincing and satisfying. As is understood from the ayah “If Allah had willed, He could have guided all of you” (an-Nahl, 16:9), rather than creating humans as feeble-minded and weak-willed beings, our Exalted Lord desired to create man as strong-willed, and able to choose of their own desire between good and evil, right and wrong. Thus, in another noble ayah it is said that “[And Allah has set up on the earth] marks and signposts; and by the stars (men) guide themselves” (an-Nahl, 16:16), explaining that Allah created every part of the earth in the same way, giving each region some unique characteristics.When settling mankind onto the earth, Allah, the creator of the universe, gave them principles – that is to say, he gave some commands to Prophet Adam and Eve as to how they were to live in the world. These first humans came to the world in possession of a set of basic knowledge, and their lifestyles were that of obedience to Allah – Islam. But from time to time, people strayed from the divine religion and made a series of mistakes, exalting many humans and superhuman forces on the earth and in the sky as deities alongside Allah.
It is fardh (mandatory) to listen to the words of the person who has been understood to be a true messenger of Allah, to obey them and follow their path. There can be no acceptable explanation for both recognizing a person as a messenger and also not listening to what they say. The messengers of Allah have always directed people toward the path of Truth, and worked to distance them from deviancy and depravity. And as messengers are sent by Allah, obeying them means, in a sense, to obey the commands of Allah.
The best and most satisfying answers to questions on topics like how the tradition of messengership began amongst people, who the first messenger was, who followed him, and how this lineage of chosen ones was sealed can be found in our exalted book, the Noble Qur’an. When we look at the issue in the light of the Qur’an, we see that Allah Almighty first created one man, and then his spouse, and then their progeny. The bloodline of man grew and expanded, in time spreading throughout the earth. All people who come into the world are the children of Prophet Adam and Holy Eve. This reality has been confirmed by many scientists and biologists. Almighty Allah gave Prophet Adam the command, “Go and teach Islam to your children.”
The good amongst Prophet Adam’s progeny walked the path shown by their father, and the bad ones amongst them deviated to other paths. Some of these worshiped the sun, moon and stars, and some of them deified trees, stones, rivers and even animals. According to some amongst them, the wind, water and fire are all gods.
Those who enter upon the topic by determining that the beginning of human life on earth was one of polytheism and ignorance that gradually developed, following a path of darkness to light that finally arrived at the idea of tawhid, the oneness of Allah, etc. -- they are in great error. The Qur’an informs us of the exact opposite of this. According to the Qur’an, man was born not in the darkness of disbelief, but to the contrary in the light of understanding and faith. To put it more openly, the first man and Islam were born at the same time.To research the importance represented by the institution of prophethood in divine religions is both a duty of the History of Religion, and along with this it is necessary to conduct this depending in particular upon the aggregation of correct information on this topic.
The messengers first and foremost reminded their own peoples of religious regulations, and drew attention to the fact that they must worship only Allah, and recommended that they perform deeds that would win His favor. It is also known that despite a lifetime of effort, some messengers were only able to gather a small number of followers. In turn, there were many messengers whose words were accepted and were able to gather many followers.
We learn from the Qur’an that the messengers came at set intervals and called their communities to gather around the truth that, “O my people, obey Allah; you have no Allah but Him. ”This call never changed from the Prophet Adam to the Prophet Muhammad, irrespective of how different the place, time, tribe and conditions were. The Prophet Abraham called openly to his people as such:
“So long as you do not accept the Exalted Truth (Allah) at the root of everything, there will be no common bond or true cooperation amongst you.” And the Prophet Moses, before going to Pharaoh, also first declared that he was Allah’s Prophet, and then invited to salvation everyone he could speak to. Before calling upon the Children of Israel and the other tribes to oppose the Romans, the Prophet Jesus first called them to belief in Allah and to gather upon the straight path (siratul-mustaqim). While he invited the Children of Israel to the path of Allah, the Prophet Jesus also explained his reason for coming to the earth:
“'(I have come to you), to attest the Law [Torah] which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me. It is Allah Who is my Lord and your Lord; then worship Him. This is a Way that is straight.” (Al-i Imran, 3:50-51) As with all the other messengers, the invitation of the Prophet Jesus was based on these main points:
1. The only supreme authority that all mankind must adhere to is that of Allah,
2. It is necessary to obey the prophets who represent this supreme authority,
3. The laws and regulations that order human life and guide it comprise only the principles set by Allah.
Another important point in the call of Prophet Jesus is that he was the last prophet before the Holy Prophet Muhammad. As will be understood by these statements, the Prophets Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and all the other prophets, in both their calls and the missions they took on, are no different from one another in terms of fulfilling their duties. The ayah, “[All these messengers] gave good news as well as warning, that mankind, after (the coming) of the apostles, should have no plea against Allah,” (an-Nisa, 4:165) expresses this reality.
In addition to calling to Allah, prophets and messengers are the persons most worthy of obedience. Thus in an ayah Almighty Allah says, “We sent not an apostle but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of Allah.” (an-Nisa, 4:64)
And one mission of the prophets is to ensure that the religion will prevail. We understand this from the ayah, “It is He Who hath sent His Messenger with guidance and the Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion.” (at-Tawba, 9:33)
It is the greatest of catastrophes for a person to set aside being a servant of Allah, following their own desires and pursuing different principles. And like the other divine books, the Noble Qur’an was sent down to avoid this disaster, and as it was this was the reason for the messengers’ arrival. The Noble Qur’an draws attention to this point in many of its ayahs, thus explaining the aim in sending the messengers. We need to think reflect deeply upon the ayah, “We only send the messengers as bearers of good news and as warners. But with false arguments the disbelievers seek to confute the truth, treating My revelations and My warnings as a jest.” (al-Kahf, 18:56). No matter how different the tongues were of the messengers that Almighty Allah sent to every corner of the earth, their religion had always been Islam. The ayah “The (religion) in the sight of Allah is Islam” (Al-i Imran, 3:19) sheds light upon this point.
The knowledge of the unseen granted by Almighty Allah to the prophets was not limited to the amount that needed to reach them. The ayah in which Prophet Jacob says to his own sons, “And I know from Allah what you do not know” (Yusuf, 12:86) represents a plain proof of this point.
We learn again from the Qur’an that before Allah’s punishment came to any people, he first sent prophets with messages to those peoples, and those messengers did not give their own peoples exact information about when the catastrophe would occur precisely. And this saying of the Noblest Prophet also represents one of the sure proofs of this: “O ummah of Muhammad, by Allah if you knew what I knew, you would laugh little and cry much.”
All of the messengers throughout history were individual people like us. Yet as a requisite of their mission, there was always a close relationship between the messengers and God. From this perspective, despite their seeing a great deal of oppression throughout the course of their mission, these messengers defended their cases with all their might, and with the aid of Allah attained success. These exceptional people were friends of Allah, His beloveds, and possessed of extraordinary strength and capabilities, but as humans had no divinity or any divine powers.
The innocence of messengers and prophets is a known fact. Despite their possession of all forms of human desire and thought, they also had the self-control (over their lower selves, the nafs) not to dare intentionally commit any sin, and it is also known that they were the ones who feared Allah the most. The consciences of the prophets were strong and pure enough to immediately oppose any desires of their nafs that would push them toward sin.
Just as we learn from the Qur’an that the messengers were equipped with a set of exceptional attributes, we also learn this from some of the Sacred Traditions of our Beloved Messenger. And again it is the Noble Qur’an that gives us the news that Prophet Abraham was an upright messenger, that Prophet Musa was chosen, and a messenger and prophet and that he was brought close to secrets (Maryam, 19:41-53), that Prophet Ishmael was a man of his word and was favored in the sight of his Lord and that Prophet Idris was raised to a lofty station (Maryam, 19: 55-58), that Prophet Lot was granted command and knowledge, that Prophet Noah and his family were saved from great distress, and that Prophet David had control over mountains and birds, and that Prophet Solomon had control over the wind (al-Anbiya, 21: 78-82), that the prayer of Prophet Job was accepted and he was thus relieved of his distress (al-Anbiya, 21:83-84), and that Prophet Jonah pleaded sincerely to God and was saved from his sorrows (al-Anbiya, 21:87-88).
An examination of human history will reveal that there are many figures such as rulers, scholars and friends of Allah (walis) that warrant imitation. So why is it that despite the passing of 1,421 years since his birth and the fact that the standards and conditions of life have changed this much, we today feel the need to reexamine the life of Prophet Muhammad? The Muslim knows above all else that if the path shown by the Messenger of Allah during his life is not followed, then it is not possible to be a Muslim at all. Everything that the Messenger of Allah taught was penned under His personal supervision, and in this way transmitted to later generations.
The ayah “We sent thee not, but as a Mercy for all creatures” (al-Anbiya, 21:107) informs that from the very first day, the divine message of the Holy Prophet addressed the entire world, and his messengership encompassed the entire universe. While he announced the principles that the believers must adhere to, he never saw himself as outside the scope of these rules.
It is a known truth that at the dawn of Islam, the Quraish tribe was in charge of Mecca. The Quraish claimed that they had come from Iraq and were of the lineage of Prophet Abraham. Prophet Muhammad was the son of Abdullah, who was one of the sons of Abdulmuttalib, one of the ten “ministers” of the Mecca City State. The Prophet Muhammad came into the world a few weeks following his own father’s death.
It is first expected of a prophet that they will demonstrate miracles. When the Prophet’s mother was bringing him into the world, she had no birth pains whatsoever. He was born circumcised by the Creator. Angels washed him, and struck the mark of prophecy between his two shoulders. Two angels split his chest and removed his hearth, washing it with heavenly water before returning it to its place.
We learn from established books of history that as every child, the Prophet Muhammad played games with his milk-sibling and other children according to the standards and possibilities of the region. There were elements of his manner and behaviors that were similar to the behavior of other children. For example, he was once lost near Mecca on the road back to his mother – upon the search efforts of his wet nurse, grandfather and relatives, he was found under a tree, playing by himself. He was sorely grieved when his mother Amina died suddenly in Abwa, and when he would later pass by this spot on his journeys, he would never forget to visit his mother’s grave. When the Prophet Muhammad reached the age of 8, he lost his grandfather. Following this, his care and upbringing were shouldered by his uncle Abu Talib. This man was possessed of a rarely seen manner of heart, and was a man of qualities incomparable to his brother, Abu Lahab. Due to his extreme generosity, Abu Talib was unable to balance his family budget, and often had to take out loans.
The marriage of the Prophet Muhammad and our mother Khadija presents to us the best example of the formation and maintenance of a happy family and home. This union, wherein all of the necessary procedures for a normal marriage were carried out, was far removed from all forms of deceitful behavior, and continued without a blemish until the death of our mother Khadija. This happy marriage of the Prophet’s is mentioned in the supplications offered during religious marriage ceremonies in our country in the following manner: “May Allah grant to these marrying persons the same love and conversation that was present between Adam and Eve, Muhammad and Khadija…”
The first light of divine religion came to Arabia through Prophets Hud and Salih. Later, the eras of Prophets Abraham and Ishmael began. These two prophets lived roughly 2,500 years before the Prophet Muhammad. The last prophet sent to the Hijaz area before the Prophet Muhammad was Prophet Shu’ayb. The Arabs had long been awaiting the arrival of a prophet. “They swore their strongest oaths by Allah that if a warner came to them, they would follow his guidance better than any (other) of the Peoples.” (al-Fatir, 35:42)
The place of the Prophet Muhammad in human history is so exalted that all of the great heroes and leaders that had come and gone before him are highly unimportant by comparison.
We also encounter news of the Holy Prophet’s arrival to the world in the Torah and Gospel. The Torah relates that Prophet Musa said that Allah the Exalted said the following: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you [Moses] from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18). The prophet referred to in this open sign of the Torah is none other than the Prophet Muhammad.
The following noble ayah is also of significant importance to our topic; in it, the Prophet Jesus gives news of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood: And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law [Torah] (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad." (as-Saff, 61:6) As is seen plainly in this ayah, the name of the Holy Prophet is mentioned as Ahmad. Authentic hadith and established books of history tell us that the Holy Prophet’s name was both Muhammad and Ahmad.
In the Gospel of John (I, 19-25) it is expressed that the Tribe of Israel was awaiting three figures – and it is emphasized that the third is “That Prophet.” Again in the Gospel of John (XVI, 12-25), it is foretold that after Prophet Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad is to come: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…”
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