Prophets and messengers in Islam

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Prophets in Islam (Arabic: الأنبياء في الإسلام‎) include "messengers" (rasul, pl. rusul), bringers of a divine revelation via an angel;[1][2] and "prophets" (nabi, pl. nabiyin), lawbringers that Muslims believe were sent by God to every people, bringing God's message in a language they can understand.[1][3] Belief in prophets is one of the six articles of the Islamic faith, and specifically mentioned in the Qur'an.[4]

In Islamic belief the first prophet was the first human being, Adam. Many Jewish and Christian prophets and revelations they delivered are mentioned in the Quran as prophets and revelations but usually with different names, (the Jewish Elisha is called Alyasa, Job is Ayyub, Jesus is Isa, etc.; The Torah given to Moses is called Tawrat, the Psalms given to David is the Zabur, the Gospel given to Jesus is Injil).[1]

Unique to Islam is Muhammad, who Muslims believe is the "Seal of the Prophets" (Khatam an-Nabiyyin, i.e. the last prophet); and the text revealed to him (the Qur'an), which Muslims believe is unique among divine revelations as the only one protected by God from distortion or corruption,[5] destined to remain in its true form until the Last Day.[6]

In Muslim belief, every prophet preached the same main Islamic beliefs, the Oneness of God, worshipping of that one God, avoidance of idolatry and sin, and the belief in the Day of Resurrection or the Day of Judgement and life after death. Each came to preach Islam at different times in history and some told of the coming of the final prophet and messenger of God, who would be named "Ahmed" commonly known as Muhammad. Each prophet directed a message to a different group of people, and thus would preach Islam in accordance with the times.[citation needed]

Etymology[edit]

In Arabic and Hebrew,[7] the term nabī (plural forms: nabiyyūn and anbiyāʾ) means "prophet". Forms of this noun occur 75 times in the Quran. The term nubuwwah (meaning "prophethood") occurs five times in the Quran. The terms rasūl (plural: rusul) and mursal (plural: mursalūn) denote "messenger" or "apostle" and occur more than 300 times. The term for a prophetic "message", risāla (plural: risālāt), appears in the Quran in ten instances.[8]

The Syriac form of rasūl Allāh (literally: "messenger of God"), s̲h̲eliḥeh d-allāhā, occurs frequently in the apocryphal Acts of St. Thomas. The corresponding verb for s̲h̲eliḥehs̲h̲alaḥ, occurs in connection with the prophets in the Hebrew Bible.[9][10][11][12]

The words "prophet" (Arabic: نبي nabī) and "messenger" (Arabic: رسول rasūl) appear several times in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

The following table shows these words in different languages:[13]

Prophet and Messenger in the Bible
Arabic Arabic Pronunciation English Greek Greek pronunciation Strong Number Hebrew Hebrew pronunciation Strong Number
نبي Nabi Prophet προφήτης prophētēs G4396 נביא nâbîy' H5030
رسول Rasul Messenger, Apostle ἄγγελος, ἀπόστολος ä'n-ge-los, ä-po'-sto-los G32, G652 שליח,מלאך mal·äkh', shä·laḥ' H4397,H7971

In the Hebrew Bible, the word "prophet" (Hebrew: navi) occurs more commonly, and the word "messenger" (Hebrew: mal'akh) refers to angels (Arabic: ملائكة, Malāīkah), But the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, speaks of a messenger that Christian commentators interpret as a reference to the future prophet John the Baptist.[14]

In the New Testament, however, the word "messenger" becomes more frequent, sometimes in association with the concept of a prophet.[15] "Messenger" may refer to Jesus, to his Apostles and to John the Baptist.

Characteristics[edit]

In Muslim belief, every prophet preached Islam. The beliefs of charity, prayer, pilgrimage, worship of God and fasting are believed to have been taught by every prophet who has ever lived.[16] The Quran itself calls Islam the "religion of Abraham"[17] and refers to Jacob and the Twelve Tribes of Israel as being Muslim.[18]

The Quran says:

The same religion has He established for you as that which He enjoined on Noah—the which We have sent by inspiration to thee—and that which We enjoined on Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein:...

—Quran, sura 42 (Ash-Shura), ayah 13[19]

Status[edit]

The Quran speaks of the prophets as being the greatest human beings of all time.[16] A prophet, in the Muslim sense of the term, is a person whom God specially chose to teach the faith of Islam.[16] Before man was created, God had specifically selected those men whom He would use as prophets. This does not, however, mean that every prophet began to prophesy from his birth. Some were called to prophesy late in life, in Muhammad's case at the age of 40 and in Noah's case at 480.[20] Others, such as John the Baptist, were called to prophesy while still in young age and Jesus prophesied while still in his cradle.[21]

The Quran verse 4:69 lists various virtuous groups of human beings, among whom prophets (including messengers) occupy the highest rank. Verse 4:69 reads:[8]

All who obey Allah and the messenger are in the company of those on whom is the Grace of Allah—of the prophets (who teach), the sincere (lovers of Truth), the witnesses (who testify), and the Righteous (who do good): Ah! what a beautiful fellowship!

—Quran, sura 4 (An-Nisa), ayah 69[22]

Biblical stories reproduced in the Quran (e.g., Job, Moses, Joseph etc.) differ somewhat from those of the Bible in that the Quran always demonstrates that it is "God's practice" (sunnat Allah) to make faith triumph finally over the forces of evil and adversity. "Assuredly God will defend those who believe."[23][24] Thus the Islamic Isa did not die on the cross like the Christian Jesus, but deceived his enemies and ascended to heaven.

According to orthodox Sunni doctrine, prophets are unlike other human beings (including the "the companions" of the Prophet,, members of Muhammad's family, and Sufi Saints) in that they are "protected from major and minor wrongdoing" (Ma'soom). However, they also "share no divine attributes", and possess "no knowledge or power" other than that granted to them by God.[25]

Numbers[edit]

Muslims believe that many prophets existed, including many not mentioned in the Quran. The Quran itself refers to at least four other prophets but does not name them.[26][27] One less-than-sound hadith states there have been 124,000 prophets,[28][29] while another scholarly source states that "their exact numbers are not known with any kind of certainty."[25]

Prophethood in Ahmadiyya[edit]

Unlike other Muslims, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community does not believe that messengers and prophets are different individuals. They interpret the Quranic words warner (nadhir), prophet, and messenger as referring to different roles that the same divinely appointed individuals perform. Ahmadiyya Muslims distinguish only between law-bearing prophets and non-law-bearing ones. They believe that although law-bearing prophethood ended with Muhammad, non-law-bearing prophethood continues. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community recognizes Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908) as a prophet of God and the promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi of the latter days.[30]

Scriptures and other gifts[edit]

Holy books[edit]

The revealed books are the records which Muslims believe were dictated by God to various Islamic prophets throughout the history of mankind. All these books promulgated the code and laws of Islam. The belief in all the revealed books is an article of faith in Islam and Muslims must believe in all the scriptures to be a Muslim. Muslims believe the Quran, the final holy scripture, was sent because all the previous holy books had been either corrupted or lost.[31] Nonetheless, Islam speaks of respecting all the previous scriptures, even in their current forms.[32]

The Quran mentions some Islamic scriptures by name, which came before the Quran:

  • Tawrat (Torah): According to the Quran, the Tawrat (Torah) was revealed to Moses,[33] but Muslims believe that the current Pentateuch, although it retains the main message,[34] has suffered corruption over the years. Moses and his brother Haroon (Aaron) used the Torah to preach the message to the Children of Israel. The Quran implies that the Torah is the longest-used scripture, with the Jewish people still using the Torah today, and that all the Hebrew prophets would warn the people of any corruptions that were in the scripture.[35] Jesus, in Muslim belief, was the last prophet to be taught the Mosaic Law in its true form.
  • Zabur (Psalms): The Quran mentions the Psalms as being the holy scripture revealed to David. Scholars have often understood the Psalms to have been holy songs of praise.[36] The current Psalms are still praised by many Muslim scholars,[37] but Muslims generally assume that some of the current Psalms were written later and are not divinely revealed.
  • Book of Enlightenment: The Quran mentions a Book of Enlightenment,[38] which has alternatively been translated as Scripture of Enlightenment or the Illuminating Book. It mentions that some prophets, in the past, came with clear signs from God as well as this particular scripture.
  • Books of Divine Wisdom: The Quran mentions certain Books of Divine Wisdom,[39] translated by some scholars as Books of Dark Prophecies, which are a reference to particular books vouchsafed to some prophets, wherein there was wisdom for man. Some scholars have suggested that these may be one and the same as the Psalms as their root Arabic word, Zubur, comes from the same source as the Arabic Zabur for the Psalms.
  • İnjil (Gospel): The İnjil (Gospel) was the holy book revealed to Jesus, according to the Quran. Although many lay Muslims believe the Injil refers to the entire New Testament, scholars have clearly pointed out that it refers not to the New Testament but to an original Gospel, which was sent by God, and was given to Jesus.[40] Therefore, according to Muslim belief, the Gospel was the message that Jesus, being divinely inspired, preached to the Children of Israel. The current canonical Gospels, in the belief of Muslim scholars, are not divinely revealed but rather are documents of the life of Jesus, as written by various contemporaries, disciples and companions. These Gospels contain portions of Jesus's teachings but do not represent the original Gospel, which was a single book written not by a human but was sent by God.[41]
  • Scrolls of Abraham: The Scrolls of Abraham are believed to have been one of the earliest bodies of scripture, which were vouchsafed to Abraham,[42] and later used by Ishmael and Isaac. Although usually referred to as 'scrolls', many translators have translated the Arabic Suhuf as 'Books'.[43] The Scrolls of Abraham are now considered lost rather than corrupted, although some scholars have identified them with the Testament of Abraham, an apocalyptic piece of literature available in Arabic at the time of Muhammad.
  • Scrolls of Moses: These scrolls, containing the revelations of Moses, which were perhaps written down later by Moses, Aaron and Joshua, are understood by Muslims to refer not to the Torah but to revelations aside from the Torah. Some scholars have stated that they could possibly refer to the Book of the Wars of the Lord,[44] a lost text spoken of in the Hebrew Bible.[45]

Holy gifts[edit]

The Quran mentions various divinely-bestowed gifts given to various prophets. These may be interpreted as books or forms of celestial knowledge. Although all prophets are believed by Muslims to have been immensely gifted, special mention of "wisdom" or "knowledge" for a particular prophet is understood to mean that some secret knowledge was revealed to him. The Quran mentions that Abraham prayed for wisdom and later received it.[46] It also mentions that Joseph[47] and Moses[48] both attained wisdom when they reached full age; David received wisdom with kingship, after slaying Goliath;[49] Lut received wisdom whilst prophesying in Sodom and Gomorrah;[50] John the Baptist received wisdom while still a mere youth;[51] and Jesus received wisdom and was vouchsafed the Gospel.[52]

Prophets and messengers[edit]

All messengers mentioned in the Qur'an are also prophets, but not all prophets are messengers.[53]

Prophets and messengers in the Qur'an
Name Prophet Messenger Imam Book Sent to Law (Sharia) Messengers Chronological Order
Aaron (Harun) [54] 15
Abraham (Ibrahim) [55] [56] [57] Scrolls of Ibrahim [58] The people of Ibrahim [59] [60] 6
Adam (Adem) [61] 1
David (Dawud) [62] Zabur [63] 17
Elijah (Ilias) [62] [64] The people of Elias [65] 19
Elisha (Alyasa) [62] 20
Enoch (Idris) [66] 2
Ezekiel (Dhul-Kifl) [67] 16
Ezra (Uzair) [68]
Eber (Hud) [69] [69] ʿĀd [70] 4
Isaac (Is'haq) [71] 9
Ishmael (Ismail) [72] [72] 8
Jacob (Yaqub) [71] 10
Jethro (Shuaib) [73] [73] Midian [74] 13
Jesus (Issa) [75] [76] [77] [78] Injil [79] The people of Israel [80] [60] 24
Job (Ayoub) [81] 12
John (Yahya) [82] 23
Joseph (Yusuf) [81] [83] 11
Jonah (Younis) [62] [84] The people of Younis [85] 21
Joshua (Yusa) [86]
Lot (Lut) [87][62] [88] The people of Lot [89] 7
Noah (Nuh) [62] [90] [77] [78] The people of Noah [91] [92] 3
Muhammad [93] [93] [57] Quran [94] Whole Mankind and Jinn [95] [60] 25
Moses (Musa) [96] [96] [77] [78] Torah [97] Pharaoh and his establishment [98] [60] 14
Shelah (Saleh) [99] [99] Thamud [100] 5
Samuel (Samoel) [101]
Solomon (Suleiman) [62] 18
Zechariah (Zakaria) [62] 22

To believe in God's Messengers (Rusul) means to be convinced that God sent men as guides to fellow human beings and jinn (khalq) to guide them to the path of the Truth, and that they cannot say except the truth about God.[citation needed] It is obligatory to know twenty-five particular messengers.[102]

Other persons[edit]

The Quran mentions 25 messengers by name but also tells that God sent many other prophets and messengers, to all the different nations that have existed on Earth. Many verses in the Quran discuss this:

  • "We did aforetime send messengers before thee: of them there are some whose story We have related to thee, and some whose story We have not related to thee...."[103]
  • "For We assuredly sent amongst every People a messenger, ..."[104]

Other special persons in the Quran[edit]

  • Caleb (Kaleb): In the Quran Caleb is mentioned in the 5th Surah of the Quran (5:20-26).
  • Dhul-Qarnayn: Dhul-Qarnayn, often identified with Alexander the Great or Cyrus the Great, is a revered ruler in Islam. His narrative, which parallels that of Alexander in the Alexander romance, does not explicitly denote him as a prophet but some Muslims believe he was a prophet as well.[105]
  • Joachim (Imran): The Family of Imran (Arabic: آل عمران) is the 3rd chapter of the Qur'an. Imran is Arabic for the biblical figure Amram, the father of Moses and Aaron, who is regarded by Muslims as being the ancestor of Mary and Jesus through his son Aaron. In Muslim belief, however, the Christian Joachim has been attributed the name Imran as well.
  • Khidr: The Quran also mentions the mysterious Khidr (but does not name him), identified at times with Melchizedek, who is the figure that Moses accompanies on one journey. Although most Muslims regard him as an enigmatic saint, some see him as a prophet as well.[105]
  • Luqman: The Quran mentions the sage Luqman in the chapter named after him, but does not clearly identify him as a prophet. The most widespread Islamic belief[106] views Luqman as a saint, but not as a prophet. The Arabic term wali (Arabic ولي, plural Awliyā' أولياء) is commonly translated into English as "Saint". However, the wali should not be confused with the Christian tradition of sainthood. A key difference is that the wali continues what a prophet taught without any change. However, other Muslims regard Luqman as a prophet as well.[107]
  • Mary (Maryam): A few scholars (such as Ibn Hazm)[108] see Maryam (Mary) as a nabi and a prophetess, since God sent her a message via an angel. The Quran, however, does not explicitly identify her as a prophet. Islamic belief regards her as one of the holiest of women, but not as a prophet.[109]
  • Three persons of the town: These three unnamed person, who were sent to the same town, are referenced in chapter 36 of the Quran.[110]
  • Saul (Talut): Saul is not considered a prophet, but a divinely appointed king.
  • Sons of Jacob: These men are sometimes not considered to be prophets, although most exegesis scholars consider them to be prophets, citing the hadith of Muhammad and their status as prophets in Judaism. The reason that some do not consider them as prophets is because of their behaviour with Yousif (Joseph) and that they lied to their father.
  • Terah (Azar): Menitoned in 6:74.[111]

Prophets in Islamic literature[edit]

Numerous other prophets have been mentioned by scholars in the Hadith, exegesis, commentary as well as in the famous collections of Qisas Al-Anbiya (Stories of the Prophets). These prophets include:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Campo, Juan Eduardo (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing. pp. 559–560. ISBN 9780816054541. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  2. ^ Shaatri, A. I. (2007). Nayl al Rajaa' bisharh' Safinat an'najaa'. Dar Al Minhaj.
  3. ^ Quran 30:47
  4. ^ Quran 2:285
  5. ^ Understanding the Qurán - Page xii, Ahmad Hussein Sakr - 2000
  6. ^ The Qur'an, 15:9
  7. ^ The Hebrew root nun-vet-alef ("navi") is based on the two-letter root nun-vet which denotes hollowness or openness; to receive transcendental wisdom, one must make oneself "open". Cf. Rashbam's comment to Genesis 20:7
  8. ^ a b Uri Rubin, "Prophets and Prophethood", Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
  9. ^ Exodus 3:13-14, 4:13
  10. ^ Isaiah 6:8
  11. ^ Jeremiah 1:7
  12. ^ A. J. Wensinck, "Rasul", Encyclopaedia of Islam
  13. ^ Strong's Concordance
  14. ^ Albert Barnes under Malachi 2:7 and 3:1
  15. ^ Hebrews 3:1; John 17:3; Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Ephesians 3:5, 4:11; First Epistle to the Corinthians 28:12
  16. ^ a b c d Wheeler, Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, "Prophets"
  17. ^ Quran 3:67
  18. ^ Quran 2:123–133
  19. ^ Quran 42:13
  20. ^ Wheeler, Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, "Noah"
  21. ^ Quran 19:30–33
  22. ^ Quran 4:69
  23. ^ Quran 22:49–133
  24. ^ Rosskeen Gibb,, Hamilton Alexander; Pellat, Charles; Schacht, Joseph; Lewis,, Bernard (1973). The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill. p. 84. 
  25. ^ a b Al-Amriki, Yusuf Talal Ali; Ullah, Qazi Thanaa (1985). Essential Hanafi Handbook of Fiqh. Lahore, Pakistan: Kazi Publications. p. 23-25. 
  26. ^ Quran 2:247
  27. ^ Quran 36:12
  28. ^ "Evidence of 124,000 Prophets/Messengers (peace be upon them) in Islam". Islam beta. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  29. ^ Muṭahharī, Ayatullah Murtadha (2006). Islam and Religious Pluralism - Second Edition. World Federation of the KSIMC. p. vi. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  30. ^ Ahmad, Mirzā Ghulām (September 1904). "My Claim to Promised Messiahship". Review of Religions 3 (9). ISSN 0034-6721.  As reproduced in Ahmad, Mirzā Ghulām (January 2009). "My Claim to Promised Messiahship" (PDF). Review of Religions 104 (1): 16. ISSN 0034-6721. 
  31. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril Glasse, "Holy Books"
  32. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril Glasse[page needed]
  33. ^ Quran 53:36
  34. ^ Quran 87:18–19
  35. ^ Quran 5:44
  36. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, "Psalms"
  37. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary[page needed]; Martin Lings, Mecca[page needed]; Abdul Malik, In Thy Seed[page needed]
  38. ^ Quran 3:184 and 35:25
  39. ^ Quran 3:184
  40. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Appendix: "On the Injil"
  41. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, "Injil"
  42. ^ Quran 87:19
  43. ^ Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Quran[page needed]; Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary[page needed]
  44. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary[page needed]
  45. ^ Numbers 21:14
  46. ^ Quran 26:83
  47. ^ Quran 12:22
  48. ^ Quran 28:14
  49. ^ Quran 2:251
  50. ^ Quran 21:74
  51. ^ Quran 19:14
  52. ^ Quran 3:48
  53. ^ Morgan, Diane (2010). Essential Islam: A Comprehensive Guide to Belief and Practice. ABC-CLIO. p. 38. Retrieved 24 June 2015. 
  54. ^ Quran 19:53
  55. ^ Quran 19:41
  56. ^ Quran 9:70
  57. ^ a b Quran 2:124
  58. ^ Quran 87:19
  59. ^ Quran 22:43
  60. ^ a b c d Quran 42:13
  61. ^ Quran 2:31
  62. ^ a b c d e f g h Quran 6:89
  63. ^ Quran 17:55
  64. ^ Quran 37:123
  65. ^ Quran 37:124
  66. ^ Quran 19:56
  67. ^ Quran 21:85–86
  68. ^ Quran 9:30
  69. ^ a b Quran 26:125
  70. ^ Quran 7:65
  71. ^ a b Quran 19:49
  72. ^ a b Quran 19:54
  73. ^ a b Quran 26:178
  74. ^ Quran 7:85
  75. ^ Quran 19:30
  76. ^ Quran 4:171
  77. ^ a b c Quran 46:35
  78. ^ a b c Quran 33:7
  79. ^ Quran 57:27
  80. ^ Quran 61:6
  81. ^ a b Quran 4:89
  82. ^ Quran 3:39
  83. ^ Quran 40:34
  84. ^ Quran 37:139
  85. ^ Quran 10:98
  86. ^ Quran 18:60–60
  87. ^ Quran 6:86
  88. ^ Quran 37:133
  89. ^ Quran 7:80
  90. ^ Quran 26:107
  91. ^ Quran 26:105
  92. ^ Quran 13:42
  93. ^ a b Quran 33:40
  94. ^ Quran 42:7
  95. ^ Quran 7:158
  96. ^ a b Quran 19:51
  97. ^ Quran 53:36
  98. ^ Quran 43:46
  99. ^ a b Quran 26:143
  100. ^ Quran 7:73
  101. ^ Quran 2:246
  102. ^ Keller, N. H. (1994). Reliance of the Traveller. Amana publications.[page needed]
  103. ^ Quran 40:78
  104. ^ Quran 16:36
  105. ^ a b A-Z of Prophets in Islam, B. M. Wheeler, "Khidr"
  106. ^ A-Z of Prophets in Islam, B. M. Wheeler, "Luqman"
  107. ^ Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, Cyril Glasse, "Prophets in Islam"
  108. ^ Ibn Hazm on women's prophethood
  109. ^ Beyond The Exotic: Women's Histories In Islamic Societies, p. 402. Ed. Amira El-Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780815630555
  110. ^ Quran 36:13–21
  111. ^ (6:74)
  112. ^ a b The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Note 364: "Examples of the Prophets slain were: "the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar" (Matt. 23:35)
  113. ^ Wheeler, B. M. "Daniel". Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism. Daniel is not mentioned by name in the Qur'an but there are accounts of his prophethood in later Muslim literature... 
  114. ^ Women in the Qur'ān, Traditions, and Interpretation. Oxford University Press. 1994. pp. 68–69. 
  115. ^ Abdullah Yusuf Ali refers to Hosea 8:14 for his notes on Q. 5:60
  116. ^ Tafsir al-Qurtubi, vol 3, p 188; Tafsir al-Qummi, vol 1, p 117.
  117. ^ Qur'an 3:49–53
  118. ^ a b Historical Dictionary of Prophets In Islam And Judaism, Brandon M. Wheeler, Disciples of Christ: "Muslim exegesis identifies the disciples as Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, Philip, John, James, Bartholomew, and Simon"
  119. ^ Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, "Adam"
  120. ^ A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Appendix: "List of Prophets in Islam"

External links[edit]