Apart from natural instinctive guidance, Allah due to His Mercy and Justice, bestowed His guidance to the people: “It is not the way of Allah to confound people after He has guided them, until He makes clear to them what they should guard against; surely Allah has the knowledge of everything.”(Qur’an;9:115);“..God draws unto Himself every one who is willing, and guides unto Himself everyone who turns unto Him”(Qur’an;42:13). The guidance has been provided in the form of Revelations through especially chosen men, the Messengers (Rasool or Nabi). The Hebrew word for prophet is navi`, usually considered to be a loan word from Akkadian nabu, naba`um, "to proclaim, mention, call, summon": The title has a general application to all who have messages from God to men. Some scholars describe that, a Rasool (Messenger) is the Nabi who has delivered the written revelations (scripture).
Every Rasool (Messenger) is also Nabi, where as every Nabi is not necessarily Rasool. Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been addressed as Rasool (Qur’an;3:144) as well as Rasool and Nabi (Qur’an;7:157,33:40). The English words; ‘Messenger’ and ‘Prophet’ has been used here for both i.e. Rasool or Nabi. The messengers and prophets were sent throughout the history for the guidance of mankind. Allah says: “For We assuredly sent amongst every People a Messenger (with the Command) "Serve Allah and eschew Evil"..”(Qur’an;);“To every people (was sent) a Messenger: when their Messenger comes (before them) the matter will be judged between them with justice and they will not be wronged.”(Qur’an;). Allah says: “And there never was a people, without a Warner having lived among them (in the past)”(Qur’an;35:24).
Beginning with the first human and prophet Adam (peace be upon him), there has been many messengers and prophets from Noah (peace be upon him) through Abraham (peace be upon him) for their respective nations. According to Muslim traditions there has been more than 1,24,000 prophets sent to different nations at different times, it includes 315 Rasool (Messenger) granted scriptures (law). Allah says: “We did aforetime send Messengers before thee (O’ Muhammad) : of them there are some whose story We have related to thee and some whose story We have not related to thee” (Qur’an;40:78). Some of the well known Messengers mentioned in Bible and Qur’an are: Adam, Salih (Methuselah), Noah, Idris (Enoch), Hud (Heber), Lut, Abraham (early 2nd Millennium BC), Isma'il (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Ya'qub (Jacob), Yusuf (Joseph), Musa (Moses, 14-13th Century B.C), Harun (Aaron), Shu'aib (Jethro), Shammil (Samuel, 11th Century B.C), Dawud (David, died 962 B.C), Sulaiman (Solomon, 10th Century B.C), Al-Yas'a (Elisha, 9th Century B.C), (Elijah, 9th Century B.C), Shia (Isaiah, 8th Century B.C), Yunus (Jonah, flourished around 785 B.C at Nineveh), Aramaya (Jeremiah, 7-6th Century B.C), Ayyub (Job, the Book of Job, 6-4th Century B.C), Elias, Dhul Kifl, Hizqeel (Ezekiel, 6th Century B.C), Daniel (6th Century B.C), 'Uzair (Ezra, 5th Century B.C, also considered a saint), Zechariah, Yahya (John the Baptist, 1st Century C.E), 'Isa (Jesus, 4 B.C-28-30 C.E) and Muhammad (571-632 C.E) (peace be upon all of them). The status of three pious respectable persons i.e. Luqman (The Wise, sage), Dhul Qarnain (Two Horned Conqueror) and the one, referred as ‘one of his servants’ (Qur’an;18:65), customary called Khizar is unknown.
All the Messengers conveyed good news to mankind and admonished them so that, after conveying the message through the Messengers, people should have no excuse to plead against Allah.(Qur’an;4:165). The Muslims do not discriminate against anyone of His Messengers (Qur’an;2:285) and follow the eternal guidance provided to all of them being the same. Allah says: “(O Muhammad) those were the (prophets) who received Allah's guidance: Follow then their guidance;..”(Qur’an;6:90).
The Revelations were protected from the tempering of Satan in transmission (Qur’an;). The Revelations were given in different ways: “it is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration of from behind a veil or by the sending of a Messenger to reveal with Allah's permission what Allah wills: for He is Most High Most Wise”(Qur’an;42:51). Three ways are mentioned: (1) Inspiration (Wahyun); (2) from behind a veil; and (3) by the sending of a Messenger. Angel Gabriel has been mentioned in Bible and Qur’an as messenger (courier) of Revelations: “And the angel answering said unto him (Zechariah), I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings.”(Luke;1:19, similarly in Qur’an;2:97, 3:39,81:19; also Daniel; 8:16; 9:21-23; 10:11 & 12:6-7; Isaiah;42:19; Hag1:13). It was Gabriel, who announced the birth of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) to the Mary (Luke;-35, Qur’an; mentions him as an angel). Inspiration, is interpreted to be of two kinds: (1) a suggestion thrown by Allah into the heart of man, by which man understands the substance of the Message, whether it is a command or prohibition, or an explanation of a great truth; and (2) verbal or literal inspiration, by which the actual words of Allah are conveyed in human language. Vision (dream) is also an other method (Qur’an;17:60, 48:27), which is also mentioned in Bible: “And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.”(Numbers;12:6);“After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram (Abraham) in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”(Genesis;15:1); “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,”(Hebrews;1:1). It is through these forms that God revealed His scriptures to the messengers and prophets, which remained available for the guidance even after the messengers, had left this world. Bible is the sacred book of Christianity, including the books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The first of the two main divisions of the Christian Bible, corresponding to the Hebrew Scriptures, the covenant of God with Israel which is also the sacred book of Judaism containing remnants of Torah, (Law of Moses). As distinguished in Christianity, the New Testament forms the record of the new dispensation belonging to the Church. The gospels are claimed to contain the reveled scripture to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). Even the Biblical traditions accept the doubtful authenticity of these books. Previously the messengers were sent for the particular nation or community for particular time. Once a new messenger or prophet came it was obligatory to follow him, denying one messenger means denying all the messengers. Once Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) came, he showed the way to the God, when Jesus (peace be upon him) came, he provided the way. However this system of messengers came to end with the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Muslims while believing in all the previous messengers of God and scriptures, adhere to the message preached by the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and The Qur’an as the final uncorrupted holy scripture not restricted to any particular race but for the guidance of whole humanity, while superseding all the previous scriptures.
Sphere & Traits of Messengers:
Chosen People: The messengers were chosen people of God, who were men of high virtue and character. They remained steadfast in their duties towards Allah and fellow human. They bravely faced opposition and even some times it cost them their lives. They did not err in conveying the message of God to their people and practically demonstrated the implementation of message, thus they were the role model for their respective communities
Messengers are not restricted to a particular race: Contrary to the belief of Israelites, Allah may choose any one as His Messenger whom He may like: “Do not follow anyone except the one who follows your own religion." (O Muhammad), tell them: "The only true guidance is the guidance of Allah." These (people of the Book - Jews & Christians) do not believe that revelation could be sent to anyone besides themselves, like that which has been sent to you; or that they will ever argue with you in the presence of your Lord. Tell them: "For sure, grace is in the hands of Allah: He bestows it on whom He pleases; Allah has boundless knowledge." He chooses for His mercy whom He pleases, Allah is the Owner of mighty grace.(Qur’an;3:73-74); “Possessor of the Highest Rank, the Master of the Throne of Authority sends down the Spirit by His command on those of His servants whom He chooses, that he (the Prophet who received the revelations) may warn mankind of the Day when they shall meet Him.”(Qur’an;40:15 and similarly also at 28:68, 42:13, 16:2).
The messengers were required to convey the message; they were not required to force the people. Allah says: “Obey Allah and obey His messenger; but if ye turn away, then the duty of Our messenger is only to convey (the message) plainly.”(Qur’an;64:12 also 36:17); “O children of Adam! Whenever there come to you Messengers from among you and recite to you My revelations, those who will become righteous and mend their ways will have nothing to fear or to regret;”(Qur’an;7:35). This aspect is further highlighted in Qur’an: "Mankind was one single nation and Allah sent Messengers with glad tidings and warnings; and with them He sent the Book in truth to judge between people in matters wherein they differed; but the People of the Book (Jews & Christians) after the clear Signs came to them did not differ among themselves except through selfish contumacy. Allah by His Grace guided the believers to the truth concerning that wherein they differed. For Allah guides whom He will to a path that is straight.”(Qur’an;2:213). There are glad tidings for the believers and warning of punishment in hell for disbelievers. 'Who so shall follow My Guidance, on them shall come no fear, nor shall they grieve. But those who will disbelieve and treat Our Signs as lies, they shall be the inmates of the fire and they shall abide therein.” (Qur’an;2:39, 40). There is freedom of choice available to man; as such he can not blame any one but himself for making a choice of evil against truth: “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from (way of) error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all hearing, all-knowing”(Qur’an;2:256). The Qur’an alludes to the inevitability of dissension among human beings: in other words, it is the will of God that their way to the truth should be marked by conflicts and trial by error: Allah says: “If We had so Willed We could certainly have imposed Our guidance upon every soul but (We have not willed it thus-and so, to let them exercise freedom of choice) that word of Mine has come true: “Most certainly will fill hell with jinns as well with humans, all together!”. (Qur’an;32:13); “If We wanted, We could send down upon them a sign from the heaven before which they would bend their necks in submission, but that is not what We want.”(Qur’an;26:4); "And if it were Our Will We could make angels from amongst you succeeding each other on the earth.”(Qur’an;43:60); “And Allah doth advance In guidance those who seek guidance..”(Qur’an;19:76);“to you be your religion (Din), and to me mine.”(Qur’an;109:6).
Leaders as Role Model for the Believers: While messengers conveyed the message of guidance, their life was a role model for the believers in execution of commands of God. Mere conveying of revelations are not sufficient, the practical performance of good deeds and worship by a human messengers prove the practicability of the faith. Allah says: “And We made them leaders guiding (men) by Our Command and We sent them inspiration to do good deeds to establish regular prayers and to practice regular charity; and they constantly served Us (and Us only)”( Qur’an;21:73).
Surrendered to God: All the Messengers and Prophets of Allah are to be believed by a faithful Muslim, without any discrimination (Qur’an; 2:136).They preached same religion from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Solomon, Jesus and by Muhammad (peace be upon them all). They remain steadfast in religion and make no divisions therein. All Messengers came with the same message and the same teachings. It came from one and the same source; the One Allah, and It requires the people to submit to His will, worship no one but Him alone, not to associate partners with Him and to obey His law. Hence they had surrendered themselves to the will of God (in Islam). Later with the passage of time the people misunderstood, misinterpreted and corrupted the Divine message of guidance and got divided in to various groups and sects.
Messengers were mortal humans: Historically there is tendency among the followers of Messengers to exalt the messengers to the level of supernatural being, even sharing divinity thus becoming unbelievers (kafir). This has mainly been due to many factors like, ignoring and misunderstanding the teachings of their Messenger, over enthusiasms in displaying the love and affection to the Messengers. The example of Christians is well known, who made Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), the son of Mary as son of God and then a Divine, part of Trinity. The Messenger were endowed with Divine revelations and appointed by Allah to guide their communities among the mankind. They did not possess any divine qualities, however at times they performed miracles (super natural acts) with the grace of Allah as His signs. They were chosen and exalted among the human being as Messenger of Allah, He tells His prophet; “Say: "I am but a human (ana bashar um misl u kum) like yourselves (but) the inspiration has come to me that your God is one God: whoever expects to meet his Lord let him work righteousness and in the worship of his Lord admit no one as partner."(Qur’an;18:110). Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) told his people: "I do not say to you, 'I possess the treasures of Allah.' I do not know the unseen, and I do not say 'I am an angel"(Qur’an;). Allah says: “And they (pagans) say: What sort of Messenger (Muhammad) is this who eats food and walks through the streets? Why has not an angel been sent down to him to give admonition with him?”(Qur’an;25:7). Allah directed Muhammad (peace be upon him), who is the last among them, to say: "I do not say to you I possess the treasures of Allah, nor do I know the unseen, and I do not say to you I am an angel"(Qur’an;); "I have no power to hurt or benefit you. Say none can protect me from Allah, nor can I find any refuge besides Him" (Qur’an;72:91-2). Islam dispels the mythological tendency in strictest terms and declares that all messengers were mortals, human beings: “We did not give them (messenger) bodies which could survive without food, nor were they immortal.”(Qur’an;21:8). Death is inevitable, every human has to die one day, even the prophets were not exempt from bodily death, much less the righteous, but they live in their beneficent work and the memories they leave behind. Allah says: “Every human being is bound to taste death”(Qur’an;3:185,); “Every soul shall taste death, then to Us you shall all return.”(Qur’an;29:57);"We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return."( Qur’an;2:156); “Whosesoever you may be, death will overtake you, even though ye were in lofty towers…”(Qur’an;4:78);“O Prophet (Muhammad), you shall die and they too shall die.”(Qur’an;39:30). During the battle of Uhad (625 C.E), the Muslims got demoralized and started dispersing in panic on hearing the rumor that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been martyred, God declared: “Muhammad is no more than a Messenger: many were the Messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain will ye then turn back on your heels? ..”(Qur’an;3:144). The incident which took place at the time of death (632 C.E) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) further elaborate the reality of death and human nature of Prophets. Narrated by Aish’a: Abu Bakr came from his house at As-Sunh on a horse. He dismounted and entered the mosque, but did not speak to the people till he entered upon 'Aish’a and went straight to Allah's Messenger who was covered with Hibra cloth (i.e. a kind of Yemenite cloth). He then uncovered the Prophet's face and bowed over him and kissed him and wept, saying, "Let my father and mother be sacrificed for you. By Allah, Allah will never cause you to die twice. As for the death which was written for you, has come upon you." Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: Abu Bakr went out while Umar bin Al-Khattab was talking to the people. Abu Bakr said, "Sit down, O 'Umar!" But 'Umar refused to sit down. So the people came to Abu Bakr and left Umar. Abu Bakr said, "To proceed, if anyone amongst you used to worship Muhammad, then Muhammad is dead, but if (anyone of) you used to worship Allah, then Allah is Alive and shall never die. Allah said: “Muhammad is no more than a Messenger of Allah, like the Messengers that have passed away before him. If he dies or is killed will you turn back on your heels (become unbelievers)? He that turns back on his heels will do no harm to Allah; but Allah will reward the thankful.”(Qur’an;3:144).By Allah, it was as if the people never knew that Allah had revealed this Verse before till Abu Bakr recited it and all the people received it from him, and I heard everybody reciting it (then). Narrated Az-Zuhri: Said bin Al-Musaiyab told me that 'Umar said, "By Allah, when I heard Abu Bakr reciting it, my legs could not support me and I fell down at the very moment of hearing him reciting it, declaring that the Prophet had died."(Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith: 5.733).
The messengers are among God's blessed servants: He blessed them with the message and described them as servants, in the context of praising and honoring them. He says: “.. Noah, he was a truly thankful servant”(Qur’an;17:3). Allah said about the last messenger Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Blessed be He who sent down the Qur’an to His servant, that he may warn mankind”(Qur’an;25:1). As for some other messengers, he said: "And mention Our servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, men of might and vision" (Qur’an;38:45); "And remember Our servant David, who was a mighty and penitent man" (Qur’an;38: 17); "And to David, We gave Solomon, he was an excellent and penitent servant" (Qur’an;38:30)."He (Jesus, son of Mary) is only a servant whom We blessed and We made him an example to the children of
Allah concluded the process of revelations with the final message for the
humanity through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah commanded him:
“Say, 'O mankind, I am Allah's Messenger to you all. To him belongs the Kingdom
of the Heavens and the Earth; there is no god but He. He ordains life and
death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet who
believes in Allah and His words. Follow him so that you may be rightly
guided”(Qur’an;7:158);“he is also sent for others of them who have not yet
joined them (including who live in other ages). He is the Mighty, the
Wise”(Qur’an;62:3). There is an implied covenant on all created things to
follow Allah's Law, which is the law of their being; But there is a special
implied covenant with all prophets, strict and solemn, that they shall carry
out their mission, proclaim Allah's Truth without fear or favour, and be ever
ready in His service in all circumstances. Allah says: “O Muhammad, remember
the Covenant which We took from all the Prophets - from you as well as from
Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, the son of Mary-We took from them a solemn
Covenant:” (Qur’an;33:7). That gives them their position and dignity, and their
tremendous responsibility in respect of the people for whom they came to
instruct and lead to the right path. Israel
Endowed with gifts, some above others: Different gifts and different modes of procedure are prescribed to Messengers in different ages. [Perhaps their degrees are different though it is not for mortal human, with their imperfect knowledge to make any difference between one and another of God's Messengers;Qur’an;2:136, 4;152]. Allah says: “Those Messengers we endowed with gifts, some above others: to one of them Allah spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary we gave Clear (Signs), and strengthened Him with the holy spirit. if Allah had so willed, succeeding generations would not have fought among each other, after clear (signs) had come to them, but they (chose) to wrangle, some believing and others rejecting. if Allah had so willed, they would not have fought each other; but Allah fulfilled His plan.”(Qur’an;2:253). Three illustrations are given from the past, how it affected God's Messengers. To Moses God spoke in clouds of glory; he led his men for forty years through the wilderness, mainly fighting against the unbelief of his own people; he organized them to fight with the sword for Palestine, but was raised to God's mercy before his enterprise ripened, and it fell to Prophet Joshua (peace be upon him) to carry out his plan. Prophet David (peace be upon him), though a mere shepherd boy, was chosen by God. He overthrew the greatest warrior of his time, became a king, and waged successful wars. Besides being a prophet, poet and sage, he was an excellent vocalist in reciting the hymns. Prophet Jesus was "strengthened with the holy spirit": he was given no weapons to fight and his mission was of a more limited character. In the mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) all these characters were combined. Gentler than Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), he organized on a vaster scale than Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) and from Medina he ruled and gave laws, and the Qur’an has far reaching scope than the Psalms of David (peace be upon him).
ABRIDGED LIFE HISTORY OF SOME MESSENGERS:
Belief in the Messengers of Allah and His revelations in the form of scriptures is appreciation of Allah's mercy and care for His people for sending those great messengers to guide them to the straight path. The prophets, peace and blessings be upon them, are free of all sins, major and minor, of unbelief, and of all that is repugnant. It may be, however, that they apparently commit insignificant lapses and errors in secular matters but not in spiritual matters or faith (din). It is reflection of love and respect of the prophets and their praise what they deserve, because they are Allah's messengers and His choice among His people. They worshipped Allah according to the best of their abilities, conveyed His message to mankind, gave sincere advice to the people, and bore patiently whatever hurt they received. A glance at the life of some prominent messengers of God would further elucidate this aspect.
Prophet Adam (peace be upon him):
Adam and Eve, in the Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions, is the original human couple, parents of the human race. Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) was the first human being, who was created from clay to be God's vicegerent on earth, he was exalted by imparting the faculty of wisdom and knowledge. Allah says: “It is we who created you and gave you shape; then we bade the angels bow down to Adam, and They bowed down; not so Iblis; He refused to be of those who bow down. (Allah) said: "What prevented Thee from bowing down when I commanded thee?" He said: "I am better than He: Thou Didst create me from fire (as Jinn), and Him from clay."(Allah) said: "Get Thee down from this: it is not for Thee to be arrogant here: get out, for Thou art of the meanest (of creatures)."He said: "Give me respite till the Day They are raised up." (Allah) said: "Be Thou among those who have respite. "He (Iblis) said: "Because Thou hast thrown me out of the way, Lo! I will lie In wait for them on Thy straight way: "Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: nor wilt Thou find, In Most of them, gratitude (for Thy mercies)."(Allah) said: "Get out from this, disgraced and expelled. if any of them follow thee,- Hell will I fill with you all.”(Qur’an;7:11-18). Subsequently Iblis tempted Adam and his "wife" in the Garden to eat of the forbidden fruit. Allah then sent them down on earth, where their progeny were doomed to live as enemies; but, being Merciful, Allah offered Adam and his progeny eternal guidance if they would follow only Him, not Satan. The total submission and obedience to Allah (Islam) would be rewarded on the Day of Judgment. Christian theologians developed the doctrine of original sin based on the story of their transgression; in contrast, the Qur’an teaches that Adam and Eve’s sin was their individual act, which was forgiven by God due to their repentance, hence it did not make the humanity as sinners by birth. Adam taught his progeny to obey and worship one God. According to Islamic traditions, Adam built the first house of worship of Allah at Ka’ba. The Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) had left his progeny in a state of social and moral health but gradually they began to forget the teachings of Allah and adopted the evil path of Satan and indulged in corruption and depravity. They became mean, evil-doers and greedy. They cheated and hurt one another, began to worship idols and forgot to pray to Almighty Allah. The entire society had been split up into different sections and this state of affairs gave birth to oppression and injustice. The Iblis (Satan) continue to misguide the people who follow him, however Satan does not have any authority over the devotees of God (Qur’an;).
Prophet Noah (peace be upon him):
Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) is the well known Messenger of God after Adam. Qur’an refers to the narrative of Noah at many places to serve as a warning and lesson for the rebellious non believers: “We sent Noah and Abraham, and bestowed among their descendants Prophethood and the Book. Some of them adopted the right guidance, but most of them were transgressors. After them We sent other Messengers, one after the other, and followed them with Jesus the son of Mary. We gave him The Gospel, and put compassion and mercy into the hearts of his followers…... Yet We rewarded those among them who were true believers, but most of them are transgressors.”(Qur’an;57:26-27). Qur’an gives account of Noah at Chapter;-49 and at other places. Allah, the Most Merciful, wanted the people to be guided on true path. According to the Qur’anic narrative Noah, was sent as a messenger for the guidance of his nation: “We sent Noah to his people. Noah said: "I have come to warn you plainly,”(Qur’an;, also at , 38:12, 71:1). He preached the obedience and worship of one God to this people for very long period but few followed him, the majority ridiculed him. Consequently Almighty Allah destroyed the unbelievers through great floods except Noah and few believers, rescued in the ark along with pairs of animal species. Thus Prophet Noah (peace be upon him) becomes the father of larger part of humanity after prophet Adam (peace be upon him).
According to Bible, Noah appears in Genesis; as the son of Lamech and ninth in descent from Adam. After destruction of rebellious people through great floods, the entire surviving human race descended from Noah's three sons; Shem, Ham, and Japheth. After the floods, God renewed His commands given at creation but with two changes: man could now kill animals and eat meat, and the murder of a man would be punished by men. The Biblical version is almost identical to the Islamic account with some exceptions of blasphemous narratives which have been usually incorporated by the Israelites to degrade most of the pious messengers and prophets of God (Genesis;Chapter5-15, likewise Prophet Lot has been dishonored shamefully at Genesis;-38). The cultivation of the vine is attributes, to Noah, and the shameless drunkenness of Noah does not accord well with the character of the pious Messenger of God. Noah's drunkenness and the disrespect it provokes in his son Ham, (or Canaan) result in Noah's laying of a curse on Ham and his descendants(Geneses;9:20-27) is nothing but character assassination of Noah. The messengers are not ordinary people, they are specially chosen by God to deliver and practically demonstrate the implementation of message, thus they are the role model for their community. Any indecent act does not behoove well with their sacred assignment.