What is Prophethood?


PROPHETHOOD IN ISLAM

The concept of prophethood is found in the three great monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In Islam, however, it has a special status and significance.

According to Islam, Allah created man to worship Him and to lead a virtuous life based on His teachings and guidance. But how can man know and fulfill his role and the purpose of his existence if he does not receive clear and practical instructions of what Allah wants him to do?

The existence of prophethood, by which Allah sent a prophet to every nation to reveal His message in terms that the people could understand, has answered this question most effectively.

One might ask: How were the prophets chosen and which individuals were so honored?

Prophethood is Allah’s blessing and a favor that is bestowed on an individual chosen by Him to convey His message. From studying the lives of the prophets that have appeared, we notice several characteristics:

1. He is the best person in his community as regards morality and intellectual ability. This is necessary, for a prophets life serves as a model for his followers. His personality should not drive people away from his message, but rather inspire them to accept it and to

transform their own lives. After receiving the message, he is infallible on all matters dealing with the revelation. Although he might commit some small mistakes, but not in any matter that concerns the revelation, he cannot commit a sin.

2. He is supported by miracles, which derive from the power and permission of Allah and not of the prophet himself, to prove that he is not an impostor. Such miracles are direct challenges to the powers that be, for they do not follow the rules laid down by the

Experts in the affected field or activity By way of illustration, let us review some of the miracles recorded in the Old Testament, the New testament, and the Qur’an.

Moses’ Egyptian contemporaries excelled in magic. Thus his major miracle was to defeat the best magicians that the society could offer.

Jesus’ contemporaries were skilled physicians, and so he raised the dead and cured those suffering from incurable diseases.

Muhammad’s contemporaries were known for their eloquence and magnificent poetry. Therefore Muhammad’s major miracle was the Qur’an, which no poet could imitate or surpass, despite their repeated and vigorous efforts to do so.

All previous miracles were limited to a specific people living at a specific time.

This is not the case with the Qur’an, however, for this miracle is universal and everlasting. Although previous generations actually witnessed it, all future generations will continue to witness its miraculous nature in term of its style, content, and spiritual impact and message.

This ability of the Qur’an to rise above the limits imposed by time and space on all other miracles proves its divine origin.

3. Every prophet states clearly that what he receives comes from Allah and that it is for the well-being of humanity. He confirms what was revealed previously and what may be revealed by a future prophet, for his task is to convey the message entrusted to him by

Allah. Thus the revealed message is always the same in essence and purpose-it cannot deviate from prior or future revelations.

Prophets are necessary for conveying God’s instructions and guidance to mankind. Without this knowledge, we would be unable to answer the fundamental questions of our existence:

Why were we created? What happens after death? Is there an afterlife? Are we accountable for our actions? Is there any future reward or punishment for what we do? What about Allah, His angels, heaven, and hell?

Each of these questions, and all others, are answered in the revelation brought by the prophet. But in order for his community to believe and accept them, the prophet must be brought by individuals who have attained a position of trust and respect among their people. This is why he must be morally and intellectual superior to his contemporaries.

Based on this understanding, Muslims reject some of the stories found in the Old Testament concerning the prophets.

For example: The prophet Lot engaging in fornication-with his own daughters when

drunk, or the prophet David sending one of his military leaders to his death so that he could marry his wife. it is inconceivable to Muslims that a prophet of Allah could do such things.

Prophets are also miraculously supported by God and instructed by Him to affirm the continuity of His message. In brief, the divine revelation consists of the following information:

a) A clear concept of God, His attributes and creation, and what should and should not be ascribed to Him.

b) A clear idea about the unseen world, angels and jinn (spirits), paradise and hell.

c) Why has God created us? What does He want from us? Will we be rewarded (or punished) for obeying (or disobeying) Him?

d) A clear explanation of how to order our societies according to His will. This involves the implementation of a law that, when applied correctly and honestly, will bring about a happy and ideal society.

As we have seen in the above discussion, there is no substitute for prophets. Despite the tremendous and impressive advancements of modern science, even it cannot provide authentic information about the supernatural world or provide guidance. Its very nature, which is too materialistic and limited, precludes it from serving this purpose. Mystic experience is also unsuitable, for it is too subjective and, frequently, too misleading.

Now one might ask: How many prophets has Allah sent to humanity?

Although we cannot answer this question definitively, some Muslim scholars place the number at two hundred forty thousand. We are only sure of what is clearly mentioned in the Qur’an: God has sent one or more messengers to each nation, for He would not be just if he were to hold a nation to account for its actions w shout first informing its people of what is allowed and what is not.

The Qur’an mentions twenty-five prophets by name (i.e., Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, who are considered the greatest of all the prophets) and indicates that there were others not known to Muhammad. Muslims are required to believe in and to respect all of the messengers of Allah without exception.

Since all the prophets come from the same God and for the same purpose-to lead   humanity to Allah-belief in them all is essential and logical. If some are accepted and others are rejected, it is due to the individual’s misunderstanding of the prophet’s role or of racial (or other) bias.

The Muslims are unique in considering belief in all of the prophets of God to be an article of faith. The Jews reject Jesus Christ and Muhammad; the Christians reject Muhammad and, in reality, reject Moses because they do not abide by his laws.

The Muslims accept them all as messengers of God who brought guidance to mankind.

However, this acceptance is characterized with a degree of caution, for the Qur’an and the Prophet states the revelation conveyed by those prophets has been distorted and corrupted by those who received it.

We read in the Qur’an:

Say (O Muslims), we believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob, and their children, and that which Moses and Jesus received and that the prophets received from their Lord. We maize no distinction between any of them and unto Him we have surrendered. (2:136)

The Qur’an tells the Muslims that this is the true and impartial belief. If other nations share this belief, it means that they are on the right track. If they do not share this belief, it means that they are following their own whims and biases.

The Qur’an says:

So if they believe in the same as you believe in, then they have been [rightly] guided; but if they turn away, they are only in dissension, and Allah will be sufficient for you against them. And He is the Hearing, the Knowing. [And say, “Ours is] the religion of Allah. And who is better than Allah in [ordaining] religion? And we are worshippers of Him.” (2:137-38)

There are two important points that need to be clarified about the roles of Jesus and Muhammad, as they are usually misunderstood and distorted. In the case of Jesus, the Qur’an rejects completely the Christian assertion of his divinity and his status of the “son” of God.

It also states that the unusual circumstances of his birth-without a father-does not make him a “son” of God, for if this logic were followed to its logical conclusion, Adam, who had no father and no mother, would be greater than Jesus, for: Truly the likeness of Jesus, in God’s sight, is as Adam’s likeness; He created him of dust, then said unto him, “Be,” and he was (3:59).

Like other prophets, Jesus performed miracles: he raised the dead and cured the blind and the lepers. He also made it perfectly clear that these miracles were done by God, not by him. But his message was distorted, because it was not recorded in his presence and under his direction, but only about one hundred years after his death.

According to the Qur’an, Jesus was sent to the children of Israel to confirm the Torah of Moses and to bring glad tidings of a final messenger who would come after him:

 

And when Jesus son of Mary said, Children of Israel, I am indeed the Messenger to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall

come after me, whose name shall be the praised one. (61:6)

(the underlined portion is the translation of Ahmad, which is also a name of the Prophet Muhammad).

 

However, the majority of the Jews rejected his ministry and plotted against his life. The Qur’anic account of his death differs from the one found in the New Testament: he was not killed or crucified, but rather was raised to heaven by God. It is also implied that Jesus will return one day and that all of the Christians and Jews will believe in

him before he dies. This is also supported by authentic sayings of the

Prophet Muhammad.

Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last prophet of God, was born in Makkah in the sixth century CE. Until the age of forty, he was known as a man of excellent character and cultured manners. These characteristics earned for him the nickname of al-Amin (The Trustworthy). There

were no prior indications that Allah had chosen him to be His last messenger. Once he was entrusted with this task, however, he began calling his idol-worshipping people to Islam. The revelation was recorded during his lifetime in writing and in the memory of his followers. The care taken to preserve each revelation as it was transmitted by the Prophet ensured that it would reach future generations in an uncorrupted form. As Allah has stated that the Qur’an would be preserved accurately, it is the source of divine guidance for all time, and the Prophet Muhammad is His final prophet.

Source: WAMY Series on Islam No. 7

Is there life after death?


Muslims believe that the present life is a trial in preparation for the next realm of existence. When a Muslim dies, he or she is washed and wrapped in a clean, white cloth (usually by a family member) and buried after a special prayer, preferably the same day. Muslims consider this a final service that they can do for their relatives and an opportunity to remember that their own existence here on earth is brief.

The question of whether there is life after death does not fall under the jurisdiction of science, as science is concerned only with classification and analysis of sense data. Moreover, man has been busy with scientific inquiries and research, in the modern sense of the term, only for the last few centuries, while he has been familiar with the concept of life after death since time immemorial.

All the Prophets of God called their people to worship God and to believe in life after death. They laid so much emphasis on the belief in life after death that even a slight doubt in it meant denying God and made all other beliefs meaningless.

The very fact that all the Prophets of God have dealt with this metaphysical question of life after death so confidently and so uniformly – the gap between their ages in some cases, being thousands of years – goes to prove that the source of their knowledge of life after death as proclaimed by them all, was the same, i.e. Divine revelation.

We also know that these Prophets of God were greatly opposed by their people, mainly on the issue of life after death, as their people thought it impossible. But in spite of opposition, the Prophets won many sincere followers.

The question arises: what made those followers forsake the established beliefs, traditions and customs of their forefathers, notwithstanding the risk of being totally alienated from their own community? The simple answer is: they made use of their faculties of mind and heart and realized the truth.

Did they realize the truth through perceptual consciousness? They couldn’t, as perceptual experience of life after death is impossible. God has given man besides perceptual consciousness, rational, aesthetic and moral consciousness too. It is this consciousness that guides man regarding realities that cannot be verified through sensory data. That is why all the Prophets of God while calling people to believe in God and life after death, appeal to the aesthetic, moral and rational consciousness of man.

For example, when the idolaters of Makkah denied even the possibility of life after death, the Quran exposed the weakness of their stand by advancing very logical and rational arguments in support of it:

 And he (i.e. man) presents for Us an example (i.e. attempting to establish the finality of death) and forgets his [own] creation. He says, “Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?” Say, “He will give them life who produced them the first time; and He is, of all creation, Knowing.” [It is] He who made for you from the green tree, fire, and then from it you ignite. Is not He who created the heavens and the earth Able to create the likes of them? Yes, [it is so]; and He is the Knowing Creator.  (Quran, 36:78-81)

On another occasion, the Quran very clearly says that the disbelievers have no sound basis for their denial of life after death. It is based on pure conjecture:

 And they say, “There is not but our worldly life; we die and live (i.e. some people die and others live, replacing them) and nothing destroys us except time.” And they have of that no knowledge; they are only assuming. And when Our verses are recited to them as clear evidences, their argument is only that they say, “Bring [back] our forefathers, if you should be truthful.” Say, “God causes you to live, then causes you to die; then He will assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt,” but most of the people do not know.  (Quran, 45:24-26)

Surely God will raise all the dead. But God has His own plan of things. A day will come when the whole universe will be destroyed and then the dead will be resurrected to stand before God. That day will be the beginning of a life that will never end, and on that day every person will be rewarded by God according to his or her good or evil deeds.

The explanation that the Quran gives about the necessity of life after death is what the moral consciousness of man demands. Actually, if there is no life after death, the very belief in God becomes meaningless or even if one believes in God, it would be n unjust and indifferent God, having once created man and now not being concerned with his fate.

Surely, God is just. He will punish the tyrants, whose crimes are beyond count – having tortured and killed hundreds or thousands of innocent people, created great corruption in society, enslaved numerous persons to serve their whims, etc., because man has a very short life span in this world and because numerous individuals are affected by one’s actions, adequate punishments and rewards are not possible in this life.

The Quran very emphatically states that the Day of Judgment must come and that God will decide the fate of each soul according to his or her record of deeds:

 But those who disbelieve say, “The Hour (i.e. the Day of Judgment) will not come to us.” Say, “Yes, by my Lord, it will surely come to you. [God is] the Knower of the unseen.” Not absent from Him is an atom’s weight within the heavens or within the earth or [what is] smaller than that or greater, except that it is in a clear register – That He may reward those who believe and do righteous deeds. Those will have forgiveness and noble provision. But those who strive against Our verses [seeking] to cause failure (i.e. to undermine their credibility) – for them will be a painful punishment of foul nature.  (Quran, 34:3-5)

The Day of Resurrection will be the Day when God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy will be in full manifestation. God will shower His mercy on those who suffered for His sake in the worldly life, believing that an eternal bliss was awaiting them. But those who abused the bounties of God, caring nothing for the life to come, will be in the most miserable state. Drawing a comparison between them, the Quran says:

 Then is he whom We have promised a good promise which he will meet [i.e. obtain] like he for whom We provided enjoyment of worldly life [but] then he is, on the Day of Resurrection, among those presented [for punishment in Hell]?  (Quran, 28:61)

The Quran also states that this worldly life is a preparation for the eternal life after death. But those who deny it become slaves of their passions and desires, making fun of virtuous and God-conscious persons.

Such persons realize their folly only at the time of their death and wish to be given a further chance in the world but in vain. Their miserable state at the time of death, and the horror of the Day of Judgment, and the eternal bliss guaranteed to the sincere believers are very clearly and beautifully mentioned in the following verses of the Quran:

 [For such is the state of the disbelievers], until, when death comes to one of them, he says, “My Lord, send me back that I might do righteousness in that which I left behind (i.e. in that which I neglected).” No! It is only a word he is saying; and behind them is a barrier until the Day they are resurrected. So when the Horn is blown, no relationship will there be among them that Day, nor will they ask about one another. And those whose scales are heavy [with good deeds] – it is they who are the successful. But those whose scales are light – those are the ones who have lost their souls, [being] in Hell, abiding eternally. The Fire will sear their faces, and they therein will have taut smiles (i.e. their lips having been contracted by scorching until the teeth are exposed).  (Quran, 23:99-104)

The belief in life after death not only guarantees success in the Hereafter but also makes this world full of peace and happiness by making individuals most responsible and dutiful in their activities.

Think of the people ofArabiabefore the arrival of the Prophet Muhammad . Gambling, wine, tribal feuds, plundering and murdering were their main traits when they had no belief in life after death. But as soon as they accepted the belief in the One God and life after death they became the most disciplined nation of the world.

They gave up their vices, helped each other in hours of need, and settled all their disputes on the basis of justice and equality. Similarly the denial of life after death has its consequences not only in the Hereafter but also in this world. When a nation as a whole denies it, all kinds of evils and corruption become rampant in that society and ultimately it is destroyed.

The Quran mentions the terrible end of Aad, Thamud and the Pharaoh in some detail:

 [The tribes of] Thamud and Aad denied the Striking Calamity [i.e. the Resurrection]. So as for Thamud, they were destroyed by the overpowering [blast]. And as for Aad, they were destroyed by a screaming, violent wind which He [i.e. God] imposed upon them for seven nights and eight days in succession, so you would see the people therein fallen as if they were hollow trunks of palm trees. Then do you see of them any remains? And there came Pharaoh and those before him and the overturned cities (i.e. those to whichLotwas sent) with sin. And they disobeyed the messenger of their Lord, so He seized them with a seizure exceeding [in severity]. Indeed, when the water overflowed, We carried you [i.e. your ancestors] in the sailing ship (i.e. which was constructed by Noah). That We might make it for you a reminder and [that] a conscious ear would be conscious of it. (Quran, 69:4-12)

Events of the Day of Judgment

God states in the Quran about the events of the Day of Judgment:

 Then when the Horn is blown with one blast, and the earth and the mountains are lifted and leveled with one blow [i.e. stroke] – Then on that Day, the Occurrence [i.e. Resurrection] will occur, And the heaven will split [open], for that Day it is infirm (i.e. weak, enfeebled and unstable). And the angels are at its edges. And there will bear the Throne of your Lord above them, that Day, eight [of them]. That Day, you will be exhibited [for judgment]; not hidden among you is anything concealed (i.e. any person or any secret you might attempt to conceal). So as for he who is given his record in his right hand, he will say, “Here, read my record! Indeed, I was certain that I would be meeting my account.” So he will be in a pleasant life – In an elevated Garden, Its [fruit] to be picked hanging near. [They will be told], “Eat and drink in satisfaction for what you put forth (i.e. literally, advanced in anticipation of reward in the Hereafter) in the days past.” But as for he who is given his record in his left hand, he will say, “Oh, I wish I had not been given my record, and had not known what is my account. I wish it [i.e. my death] had been the decisive one (i.e. ending life rather than being the gateway to eternal life). My wealth has not availed me. Gone from me is my authority.” [God will say], “Seize him and shackle him. Then into Hellfire drive him. Then into a chain whose length is seventy cubits insert him.” Indeed, he did not used to believe in God, the Most Great. (Quran, 69:13-33)

The Prophet Muhammad  taught that three things continue to benefit a [believing] person even after death – charity which he had given (which continues to benefit others), beneficial knowledge which he had left behind (i.e. authored or taught), and supplication on his behalf by a righteous child (Narrated by Saheeh Muslim).

Thus, there are very convincing reasons to believe in life after death:

1)  All the Prophets of God have called their people to believe in it.

2)  Whenever a human society is built on the basis of this belief, it has been the most ideal and peaceful society, free of social and moral evils.

3)  History bears witness that whenever this belief is rejected collectively by a group of people in spite of the repeated warning of the Prophet, the group as a whole has been punished by God even in this world.

4)  Moral, aesthetic and rational faculties of man endorse the possibility of the life after death.

5)  God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy have no meaning if there is no life after death.

Source:  WAMY