Prophethood is the institution which Allah, the God of the universe, has established for guidance of the mankind to His right and straight path. According to an eminent scholar of Islam, prophethood is superior to level of humanity in the same way as humanity is above animal nature. It is a divine gift and is not achieved by effort, labour or search. “This is the bounty of Allah which He bestows on whom He wants”. (Al-Qur’an 62:4). “Allah knows best with whom to place His message” (Al-Qur’an 6:124). Again the Qur’an says “…..But We have made it a light whereby We guide whom We want of Our slaves …..” (42:52). However, the holders of this divine gift are the persons of most excellent conduct, the most pious, the most righteous, the most God-fearing.

The Prophet is a person who is given the gift of Prophethood. He is a human being who is sent by Allah to a tribe or a nation or mankind for their guidance. If he is given a book or Shariah (law), he is called Messenger. So all the Prophets are not Messengers whereas all the Messengers are Prophets. However, the Qur’an has not made such distinction and has used the title Prophet or Messenger interchangeably for the same person.

The Qur’an (2:38-39) tells us that when God expelled Adam from Paradise, He announced that He would send His guidance to the children of Adam and those who follow it will have no fear (and would be rewarded) but those who reject it will be punished and thrown in Hell. True to His word, God sent many Prophets for the guidance of mankind, right from Adam (the first human and the first Prophet) to Muhammad (PBUH) the last Prophet. Their total number is not known. However, it is commonly known among the Muslims, on the basis of a tradition attributed to Prophet Muhammad, that their number is one hundred and twenty four thousand. But the Qur’an has mentioned the names of only twenty five Prophets besides Adam. Some of these Prophets were given books like Moses who was given Torah, David who was given Psalms, Jesus who was given Gospel and Muhammad who was given the Qur’an. Some scrolls were given to Prophet Abraham also.

The Jews believe, quoting Bible in support thereof, that Prophet is born only in the children of Israel. But the Qur’an rejects their claim and says that God has, in fact, raised Prophets in every nation, in every community and in every people. Prophets earlier to Muhammad (PBUH) were, however, sent to their tribes or nations, but Muhammad (PBUH), the last Prophet of God, was sent to the whole of humankind.

There is an interesting controversy among the scholars whether only men have been sent as Prophets or some women have also been blessed with this honour. It is mostly believed that only men have been appointed as Prophets, but some scholars have differed with this view and have held that women have also received this honour.

The Muslims believe in all the Prophets, without making any distinctions among them, and in all the books sent by God for guidance of humankind.

Now let us highlight some of the facts and peculiar features which the Qur’an has brought in focus about the Prophets and the Prophethood.

1.     The Prophets were sent to every nation

Allah has sent messengers to every nation to warn them. The Qur’an says: And for every nation there is a messenger …….. (10:47). God says in the Qur’an: And verily We have raised a messenger in every nation……. (16:36). “By Allah, We verily sent messenger to the nations before you…… (16:63). Addressing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), God says: Verily, We have sent you with Truth as bearer of good news and a warner, and there is not a nation but a messenger has passed among them- (Al-Qur’an 35:24). Again, God says: “Had We willed We would have raised a warner in every town”. (Al-Qur’an 25:51): The messengers were raised from their own nations and they were sent with the language of their people. The Qur’an says: And We have not sent any messenger except with the language of his own people so that he might make the message clear to them ……(14:4). God never destroyed a township unless He sent a messenger to warn the residents thereof. The Qur’an says: And never did We destroy a town, but it had its warners for reminder to them, as We have never been unjust (26:208-209)

2.     They were human beings

God has always sent human beings as His messengers to warn their people. All the messengers of God who came before Muhammad (PBUH) were human beings. They lived ordinary lives like common people. They ate food, walked in the streets, married and had children like a normal man. The Prophets neither claimed nor they were anything more or other than the ordinary men whom God had inspired to guide the people to the right path. They were neither divine beings nor angels nor supermen. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was also a human messenger like all other messengers sent by God from Adam to Jesus.

But it is unfortunate that all the messengers sent by God including Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were ridiculed and rejected by the disbelievers on the ground as to why God sent human beings as His messengers instead of angels or any superhuman creatures. According to the disbelievers, no mortal human being could be a messenger of God; only an angel or some being super or superior than a human could be appointed by God as His messenger. However, the Qur’an rejects this opinion of the disbelievers and unequivocally declares that all the Prophets were human beings and they were sent to the human beings. According to the Qur’an, had the angels been living in the earth then God would have sent an angel as messenger. Please refer to the following verses of the Holy Qur’an: 10:3, 11:27, 12:109, 13:38, 14:11, 16:43, 17:93-95, 18:110, 21:7-8, 23:23-25, 23:31-34, 25:7-10, 25:20,

It is, however, interesting to note that after the demise of the Prophets, some of their followers also start claiming that the Prophets were not human beings because they were messengers of God. Some people made their Messengers sons of God (as the Jews in case of Uzair and Christians in case of Jesus), some made them God (as the Christians in case of Jesus), some people made them as incarnations of God (as Hindus in case of Rama if Rama was really a Messenger), and yet some others claimed that their prophets were made of light and not of clay as ordinary men.   

3.     They had no superhuman powers

The Messengers sent by Allah for the guidance of their people were human beings only with the difference that they were inspired to convey Allah’s message in original state without any addition or deletion, or any modification or change. However, the ignorant people in each age have been thinking that the messengers had superhuman powers. According to them, the Prophets had the authority to benefit or harm people; they were masters of good and evil; they had control over the destinies of people; they could change the fate of the people; they had some say in the reward and punishment on the Day of Judgement; they could intercede with God in favour of the sinners; they had the knowledge of the unseen; they did not die, and above all they were innocent of sin and hence infallible. These ideas about the Prophets have been very common among the people through all ages. Even during the times of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), people had such wrong notions about the messengers of God. So the people asked Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to perform extra ordinary and supernatural acts. (as the Qur’an tells us in its Chapter 17, verses 90-93).

The Qur’an has refuted all the above mentioned notions about the extra-ordinary powers of the messengers of God as follows:

1)     The Prophets had no power to benefit or harm themselves or any other persons. Kindly refer to verses 7:188, 10:49-50, 72:20-22.

2)     They had no extra-ordinary powers. Please refer to Al-Qur’an verse 6:50

3)     No Prophet would have any say in the reward and punishment on the Day of Judgement. God is the Master of the Day of Judgement. Please refer to Al-Qur’an 1:3, 2:48.

4)     Every soul is to die and the Prophets are no exception to it. Refer to Al-Qur’an 3:144 and 3:185.

5)     No Prophet, not even Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), had any say in the decisions of Allah about the fate of the men. As recorded in some authentic Ahadith (Traditions) reported in Bukhari, Nisai and Tirmizi, Prophet Muhammad invoked God’s curse upon his enemies when he lay wounded during the battle of Uhud exclaiming, “how can those people prosper who hurt ‘their Prophet?,” whereupon verses 3:128-129 were revealed.

6)     No Prophet is empowered even to guide a person dearest to him to the right path if God does not will. According to several well reported traditions, Prophet Muhammad tried his best to persuade his dying uncle Abu Talib, whom he loved extremely as Abu Talib had brought him up like his own son and had protected him from his enemies throughout his life, to renounce the pagan beliefs of his ancestors and embrace Islam, but he did not succeed. So the following verse of the Qur’an was revealed: Verily, you (O Muhammad) cannot give guidance to whom you love but Allah gives guidance to whom He wants. And Allah knows them very well who receive guidance.   (28:56)

4.         Were the Prophets infallible?

Whether the Prophets are innocent, infallible and incapable to commit an error or sin is a very touchy issue. Those credulous believers who virtually deify the Prophets and consider them more or super than human beings claim that the Prophets are innocent and infallible, so they cannot commit even a small error what to speak of a sin. However, the view of the Holy Qur’an is contrary to it. According to the Qur’an, a messenger of God is a human being and like other human beings he is also likely to commit an error or sin. But since he is in God’s protection, so he does not fall in sin. A few examples from the Qur’an are given to illustrate this view:  

1)     The Qur’an tells us about Adam (who was the first human and also a Prophet) that he disobeyed God and, therefore, was expelled from Paradise. Then he realized his mistake and asked for pardon. Please refer to 2:29-39, 7:19-25

2)     The Qur’an (11:45-47) tells about Prophet Noah that he prayed to God for safety of his disbelieving son, upon which God admonished him.

3)     Prophet Joseph, son of Prophet Jacob, might have committed a great sin had Allah not protected him and shown him His argument in time   (Al-Qur’an 12:23-24).

4)     Prophet Jonah (Younus) left his place, after warning his people of the coming doom, before getting God’s permission. He was devoured by a fish at the command of Allah. Soon he realized his mistake and prayed to God for forgiveness. Allah pardoned him and delivered him out of the stomach of the fish. The incident has been briefly referred in the following verses of the Qur’an: Chapter 21 verses 87-88.

5)     Addressing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), God says: “Verily, We have given you a clear victory (in the form of Treaty of Hudaibiyah). That Allah may forgive you your sins of the past and of the future, and may complete His favour on you and may guide you on the straight path.” (Al-Qur’an 48:1-2). At another place (40:55), the Qur’an addresses him and says: “So have patience (O Muhammad): Surely, Allah’s promise is true. And ask forgiveness for your sins, and hymn the praises of your Lord at the fall of the night and in the early hours of the morning.”

The following Hadith about intercession on the Day of Judgement highlights some human errors committed by the Prophets other than Prophet Muhammad who would be approached to intercede for the people:

Anas reported that the Messenger of Allah said: The believers will be detained on the Resurrection Day till they will be perplexed on that account. They will say: If intercession is made for us to our Lord, we may find comfort in our place. So they will come to Adam and say: Thou art Adam, father of men. Allah created thee with His hand, and accommodated thee in His Paradise, and made the angels prostrate for thee, and taught thee the knowledge of everything. So intercede for us near thy Lord till we find ease in this place of ours. He will say: I am not here for you. (He will remember his sin which he committed by eating from the tree though he was prohibited therefrom). Go to Noah, the first Prophet Allah sent to the people of the world. So they will come to Noah who will say: I am not here for you (and he will remember his sin he committed by asking his Lord without knowledge); but go to Abraham, the friend of the Merciful. They will then come to Abraham who will say: I am not here for you (and he will remember about three falsehoods he spoke), but go to Moses, a servant to whom Allah revealed the Torah, with whom Allah spoke and whom he drew near to whisper. Then they will come to Moses. He will say: I am not here for you (and he will remember his sin he committed by killing a soul), but go to Jesus, servant of Allah and His Apostle, and Spirit of Allah and His word. So they will come to Jesus. He will say: I am not here for you, but go to Muhammad servant of Allah whom Allah has forgiven of his past and future sins. So they will come to me. I shall seek permission of my Lord for His presence, and it will be granted to me.   (Bukhari, Muslim)

5.         Had They Knowledge of the Unseen

Answer to this question is obviously: No. In fact, no human being, no creature, no angel, even no Prophet has knowledge of the unseen. Nobody knows what is in the heaven and in the earth, what is in the hearts of men, when a man would die, what would happen tomorrow, when the Last Day would come. Only God has the knowledge of the unseen. He knows the secrets of the heavens and the earth. He knows what the men hide in their breasts. Only he knows what would happen tomorrow. He knows when the Doomsday would come. He knows when the men would be raised after death. Only Allah has the knowledge of the visible and invisible things. However Allah may give some of the knowledge of the unseen to any of His chosen messengers whom he will. And when God gives some of His knowledge of the unseen to any of His chosen messengers, then He puts guards before him and behind him. Following Verses of the Qur’an highlight these facts: 3:179, 6:50, 6:59, 7:188, 27:65, 31:34, 67:25-26, 72:26-27,

After discussing the incident of false allegation against Ayesha, the wife of the Prophet, in the light of the verses 11-20 of Chapter 24 of the Holy Qur’an, Syed Abul ‘Ala Maududi writes:

“Furthermore, there was another aspect of goodness in it also. The Muslims came to understand fully that the Holy Prophet (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) had no knowledge of the unseen. He knew only that which Allah taught him. Beside that his knowledge was the same as that of a common man. For one full month he remained in great anxiety with regard to Hadrat ‘A’ishah.”

6.         Prophets and Intercession

it is a general principle that God will not accept intercession on the Day of Judgment as the Holy Qur’an says “And guard yourself against the Day when no one shall be of any benefit to the other, nor will intercession be accepted from anyone…..” (2:48). So as a matter of fact, no Angel, no human being, no pious person and even no prophet has power of intercession with God on behalf of the guilty and the sinners. When Prophet Noah’s son, who was non-believer and sinner, was drowning in the deluge, Prophet Noah tried to intercede but God rejected his prayer (al-Qur’an 11:45-46). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was enjoined by Allah not to ask forgiveness for disbelievers and hypocrites as Allah will not forgive them even if he asks forgiveness for them seventy times (9:80). Prophet Abraham tried to plead with Allah on behalf of the wrong-doing folk of Prophet Lot but of no avail. The wife of Prophet Noah and the wife of Prophet Lot would enter Hell and their husbands will avail them naught against Allah (Al-Quran 66:10).

However, God is the Most Merciful. He is millions rather billions of times more merciful than any of His most merciful creatures. Therefore, God has provided exception to the above mentioned general principle. God out of His mercy would give permission to the Prophets and the angels, even to the martyrs, the learned and the pious persons to intercede for some individuals, and as to whose favour the intercession would be accepted that would also be determined by God. The Holy Qur’an brings this fact home when it says: On that Day no intercession will avail except that of him whom the Beneficent has granted permission and whose word is acceptable to Him.    (20:109)

7.         Prophets and Miracles

A miracle is Mu’jizah which comes from the root Ijaz meaning a thing which makes one unable or lacking in strength for. Mujizah is an act in the nature of extraordinary or super human act not within ordinary comprehension of man. Human mind is unable to explain scientifically how it happened and so it becomes helpless and thus believes in the ability and power of the person who performs this extraordinary act. In the Qur’an, it is generally termed by the word Ayat (sign) and it can be done only by a Prophet of God. Such like acts or acts of lesser magnitude, if done by a saint or a pious man, are called Karamah.

It is a natural law that fire burns. If a man is thrown in fire and he is not burnt then it is a miracle. Similarly a dead man cannot be brought back to life according to natural law. But if a person brings a dead man to life then it is a miracle of that person.

The Qur’an tells us that miracles were given to the Prophets by Allah so they could show them to the people to convince them of Allah’s sovereignty and of their Prophethood. Some of the miracles mentioned in the Qur’an which were given to the Prophets before Muhammad (PBUH) are briefly described as under.

When Prophet Abraham broke the idols of his people whom they worshipped, they threw him into a big fire. God commanded the fire to be cool and peace for Abraham and so Abraham came out of it safe and sound (Al-Quran 21:68-71).

Prophet Salih was given a she-camel as a token and he asked his people, the tribe of Thamud to let her feed in Allah’s earth, let her take water on the day fixed for her and do no harm to her lest Allah’s torment seize them. But the evil-doers hamstrung her and thus invited Allah’s torment (Al-Quran 11:64-65).

God sent Moses with His tokens to Pharaoh to get the release of the children of Israel, but Pharaoh rejected the tokens as a mere magic. The Qur’an tells us: “(Pharaoh) said: if you have come with a token, then present it, if you are of the truthful. Then Moses threw his staff and all of a sudden it was real serpent. And he drew out his hand, and lo! It was white for the beholders. The chiefs of the people of Pharaoh said: This indeed is an expert wizard (7:106-109).

Prophet Jesus, son of Mary, was given many miracles. First of all, his very birth without a father is a great miracle in the history of man as none else except Adam (who was born without father and mother) was born in this way. Then he spoke to the mankind while a little child in the cradle. About the other miracles Jesus himself spoke to his people: I make for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, and I breath into it and it is a bird, by Allah’s leave. And I heal him who was born blind, and the leper, and I bring the dead into life, by Allah’s leave. And I tell you what you eat and what you store in your houses…… (Al-Qur’an 3:49).

Muhammad was given the Qur’an, whom Dr. Ahmad deedat calls the ultimate miracle. This is ever living miracle and people would read it, hear it and learn its wisdom and knowledge till the Last Day. This miracle is much better than the miracles given to the previous Prophets. Supernatural or a physical miracle given to a Prophet disappears when the prophet dies and only those people can see that miracles who happen to be present on the spot where the miracle is performed. But the Qur’an is a miracle which will live up to the Doomsday and people living in any age and in any corner of the world can enjoy its blessings provided they have thinking minds and reflecting hearts. They can touch this miracle, feel its heat, read it, hear it, reflect over its themes and can achieve betterment in this world and in the next world. Thus the Qur’an is, without a shadow of doubt, a miracle of miracles. And thus speaks Allah, the Almighty God of universe:

It is not enough (miracle) for them that We have sent down to you the Book (the Qur’an) which is recited to them? Verily, in it is a mercy and a reminder for people who believe.   (Al-Qur’an 29:51)

8.         Religion of all the Prophets was Islam

According to the Qur’an, Islam is not the new religion and neither Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) invented or founded this religion. Islam is in fact the same religion which all the Prophets of God before Muhammad (PBUH) preached, right from Adam to Jesus, whether mentioned in the Qur’an or not. God gave to Muhammad the same religion which He had given to prophets like Noah, Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, Moss and Jesus. It is the same religion which Abraham commended to his sons and later on Jacob enjoined upon his sons saying: The Qur’an tells us that Abraham who was the forefather of the Prophets like Moses and Jesus and Muhammad, was neither a Jew nor a Christian but an upright Muslim (3:67-68). The source of revelation is the same God Who sent messages through Angel Gabriel to all the Prophets and the mission of all the Prophets was the same i.e. to proclaim to the mankind Oneness of God and bring them to the worship of God alone without assigning partners unto Him. Thus all the Prophets were Muslims and the Qur’an tells us that the name given to the followers of all prophets is Muslim (22:78). These truths have been confirmed by the following verses of the Holy Qur’an:

2(131-133), 2(136), 3(67-68), 3(85), 6(161), 12(38), 21(25), 22(78), 41(43), 42(13),

9.         All the Prophets received Revelation from God

Revelation, in its wider sense, means a communication from God, direct or indirect, by which God reveals His will to his chosen people. In a rather narrow religious sense, revelation is confined only to direct messages which the Prophets from Adam to Muhammad received from God through Angel Gabriel.

The Qur’an (42:51) tells us the three ways through which God communicates with the mortals: “And it is not (vouchsafed) to any human being that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration or from behind a veil or that He sends a messenger (an angel) who reveals by His permission what He wills……”

All the Prophets sent by God received guidance and messages of God through revelation. Generally they received Allah’s messages and instructions through angels, particularly angel Gabriel. However, to Prophet Moses, God spoke behind a veil. Sometimes God inspired the Prophets by showing vision or dream. Books and Scrolls were also given to some of the Prophets through revelation. For all these methods of revelation (or Wahi) please refer to the following verses of the Qur’an:

2(97), 3(3-4), 3(44), 4(163), 16(43), 16(64), 17(86), 20(11-13), 26(192-194), 28(30), 37(104-106), 48(27),

Following are the verses of the Qur’an which bring to light this fact that no mortal being including a Prophet can see God. 2(55-56), 6(103), 7(143), 42(51)


10.       Allah’s covenant with the Prophets

            The Qur’an (3:81-82) tells us that Allah made covenant with the Prophets when He gave them scriptures that they would believe in and help a messenger (Prophet Muhammad) who would come after them and would confirm their scriptures. The relevant verses of the Qur’an are:

“And (remember) when Allah made covenant with the Prophets, saying: Now that I have given you of the Book and wisdom; and afterward there comes to you a messenger, confirming what is with you, you will have to believe in him and help him. Then He said: Do you agree and take this my covenant as binding on you? They said: We agree. He said: Then bear witness and I will be witness with you. So if anyone turns back after this, such people are miscreants”.   (3:81-82)

From these verses of the Qur’an it is abundantly clear that all the Prophets preceding Muhammad (PBUH) accepted the covenant of God and so they, and by implication their followers, are bound to believe in Muhammad (PBUH) and help him. That is why the previous prophets particularly Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus foretold the coming of Prophet Muhammad and enjoined upon their followers to believe in him.

11.       They were Bringers of good news, Warners and Witnesses

According to the Qur’an, all the Prophets and messengers of Allah were bringers of good news and warners. They were raised to give good news of success and of reward in the form of Paradise in the Hereafter to those who believe in Allah and do good deeds, and warn those who reject belief and do evil deeds of evil consequences and of punishment of Hell in the Hereafter (life after death). Addressing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the Qur’an says: “undoubtedly. We have sent you with the truth as bearer of good news and a warner……” (2:119). “verily, We have sent you with truth as bearer of good news and a warner, and there is not a nation but a warner has passed among them (35:24). In its Chapter 4, Verses 163 and 164, the Qur’an mentions the names of certain messengers and then in Verse 165, it says: (All these were sent to mankinds) Messengers of good news and of warning, in order that mankind may have no argument against Allah after the messengers……….

The Holy Qur’an also brings out another role of the Prophets in some of its verses that they would be witnesses on the Day of Judgement. When all the mankind will be called for final judgement about their good and bad deeds, the prophets would be asked to give evidence in respect of their people (Ummah). The Qur’an says:

·        How will it be when We bring from each nation a witness, and We bring you (Muhammad) a witness against these people (4:41).

·        And (you think of) the Day when We shall raise up from each nation a witness of their own against them, and We shall bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people (16:89).

12.       All the Prophets were ridiculed and initially rejected by their people

            The Qur’an tells us that all the Prophets were ridiculed, mocked at and derided by their people. They were called magicians, poets, madmen, soothsayers, etc. They were rejected, persecuted and oppressed. The Qur’an tells Prophet Muhammad (PBUH): “Messengers have been ridiculed before you, but those who scoffed were (ultimately) surrounded by the very thing that they used to mock at” (6:10). “Messengers indeed were denied before you, but they patiently bore with the denial and the persecution till Our help reached them”. (6:34). Please also refer to the following verses of the Qur’an: 3(21), 13(32), 15(10-11), 23(23-25), 25(7-9), 25(37), 51(52), 52(29-30), 68(1-2).


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