The Prophet Muhammad (saw)

The Prophet's Role in Receiving and Practicing the Revelation

Due to the fact that it may be difficult for ordinary people to directly receive the Divine message, owing to their nature and position, the message has been sent from the Divine world into the human world via angels to a human prophet, and the revelation has been simplified to a level at which it can be understood by human beings. The duty of the angel is to safely take the revelation, that is, the divine message, to the prophet and supervise while the prophet explains this revelation to the people, and to protect the prophet, as he is human, from any mistakes that he may make. Supervising the prophet while receiving and expressing the revelation is a duty that is carried out to ensure the safe reception of the message by human beings. This supervising process is known as the protection of the prophet by Divine power or his being rewarded with the title of "honest". Providing such a protective shield for the prophet is not aimed to protect him physically, but rather to protect the revelation and to ensure its reliable conveyance. As a matter of fact, this condition is clearly portrayed in the following verse:

"Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur'an) to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and to promulgate it: But when We have promulgated it, follow thou its recital (as promulgated): Nay more, it is for Us to explain it (and make it clear)" (Al-Qiyama, 75/16-19). In this way, the Holy Quran has reached people via two reliable messengers (the angel Gabriel and Prophet Muhammad). The protection after this stage is undertaken by Allah Himself. "We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)" (Al-Hijr, 15/9). As protection by Allah Himself is not involved here, this can be accomplished only via a society that is just and conscientious. "Ye are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in Allah. If only the People of the Book had faith, it were best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors" (Al-i Imran, 3/110).

At this point, the establishment of prophethood gains importance, as it provides us with the conveyance of the Divine message. The Divine religion is completely composed of messages. These messages are brought by the prophets. Accordingly, the existence and reliability of the message depends on the existence and reliability of the prophet. The absence of one of these immediately affects the message. As a matter of fact, in the Quran, in the following verse, it is emphasized that the messenger is as important as the message itself: "O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth..." (Al-Hujurat, 49/6).When we look at Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in these terms, we can see that he was trusted in his community, even being given the epithet "reliable" before his assignment to this important role. For this reason, people found it difficulty to reject the messages brought by him, and they quickly understood the messages. As a matter of fact, they did not dare call Prophet Muhammad a "wizard" or an "oracle", and accused him only of being "human", trying to degrade his abilities. They gave inappropriate attributes to the messages he brought like "the words of a human", or "the legend of the previous ones", but they were not successful in denigrating the message.

The reliability and truth of a religion are determined by the reliability and honesty of the prophet who brings it. If the prophet cannot achieve reliability, then any deficiency or doubts about the messenger directly damages the religion. As a matter of fact, the deterioration of the Divine religions before Islam began with the denigration of the prophethood. When after the death of a prophet a community lost their status of being "a good ummah" the messages that their prophet had brought would become corrupted and the Divine features of the religion would become distorted.

Christians and Jews, who are People of the Book, changed the religion by altering the position of their prophets. They even misdirected scholars and clergymen, who were also important figures in the society subsequent to the prophets and who should have followed the way of the prophets. They laid the foundation for the scholars and the clergymen to attribute what was forbidden as lawful and vice versa.

In many verses it is emphasized that Prophet Muhammad was responsible for conveying the message, but that he was not liable for converting people to Islam. His first and primary duty was to tell people the truth and to notify them of the consequences of their actions. As a matter of fact, this condition is clearly stated in the following verse: "Verily We have sent thee in truth as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner" (Al-Baqara, 2/119).

Apart from the duty of receiving the revelation and explaining it to people, Prophet Muhammad also had the duty to instruct people how to practice the divine message in real life. It is for this reason that prophets were chosen from among human beings. It is easier for a human who knows the emotions, thoughts and basic human needs of his fellow humans to communicate with them and they are more comforted by such an address. In this way, the foundation of a relationship can be established between the prophet and the people that is similar to that which exists between a master and an apprentice. As a matter of fact, in the Quran, it is stated, "Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct)..." (Al-Ahzab, 33/21). This example teaches the Quran by offering practices, giving information about how to make use of it, showing how to implement it; this is Prophet Muhammad's sunnah. In this context it is possible to define sunnah as follows:

The sunnah consists of Prophet Muhammad's methodology of practicing the revelation. This includes worshipping, moral rules, and every order of the religion. For instance, in the matter of prayer, Prophet Muhammad emphasized his role as an exemplar in religious matters by stating "Perform the prayer the way you see me perform it" (Bukhari, Adhan, 18; Abu Davud, Salah, 46; Ahmed b. Hanbal, V, 53, 344). 

Prophet Muhammad's position as messenger is necessary if we are to understand the Divine message and to determine the method to be practiced. As a matter of fact, Allah emphasizes this truth in many verses and orders us to obey Prophet Muhammad: "Say: O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided" (Al-Araf, 7/158).

Neglecting the sunnah causes detachments and disagreements about the Quran to increase, laying the foundations for a pointless debate and allowing a number of personal conclusions to be accepted by scholars. This condition damages the message of the religion and the message becomes nothing more than a simple text. Indeed, the Prophet and the scholars who followed him gave spirit to this text. Ali (40/661) emphasized this fact and stated that it is necessary to have people who understand the Quran: "The Quran is a book between two covers. It is not possible for it to perform the duty of judge and speak for itself. It needs an interpreter to express its contents. It is the people who will perform the duty of expressing it."

For the entire text, please see Cagfer Karadas, “Vahyi Alma ve Uygulamada Hz Peygamberin Rolu ve Onemi (The Role and Importance of the Prophet in Receiving the Revelation)”, Diyanet Ilmi Dergi, Peygam


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