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 (Arabic: ملائكة, malāʾikah); and "prophets" (nabī, pl. anbiyāʼ), lawbringers that Muslims believe were sent by God to every people, bringing God's message in a language they can understand. Knowledge of the Islamic prophets is one of the six articles of the Islamic faith, and specifically mentioned in the Quran.
Muslims believe that the first prophet was also the first human being, Adam (ادم), created by Allah (الله), The One and Only God who created everything in existence (رب لعالمين - translit. Rabilalameen) All Humans are descendants of Adam. Many of the revelations delivered by the 48 prophets in Judaism and many prophets of Christianity are mentioned as such in the Quran but usually in slightly different forms. For example, the Jewish Elisha is called Alyasa, Job is Ayyub, Jesus is Isa, etc. The Torah given to Moses (Musa) is called Tawrat, the Psalms given to David (Dawud) is the Zabur, the Gospel given to Jesus is Injil. Notwithstanding, none of the seven Jewish Prophetesses are mentioned in the Quran as prophets.
Unique to Islam is Muhammad (Muhammad ibn ʿAbdullāh), who Muslims believe is the "Seal of the Prophets" (Khatam an-Nabiyyin, i.e. the last prophet); and the Quran, revealed to Muhammad but not written down by him, which Muslims believe is unique among divine revelations as the only correct one protected by God from distortion or corruption, destined to remain in its true form until the Last Day. Muslims believe Muhammad (with exception of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community) to be the last prophet, although after the prophets there will still be saints.
In Muslim belief, every prophet in Islam 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 Islamic prophet and messenger of God, who would be named "Ahmed" commonly known as Muhammad. Each Islamic prophet directed a message to a different group of people, and thus would preach Islam in accordance with the times.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Characteristics
- 3 Scriptures and other gifts
- 4 Prophets and messengers
- 5 Other persons
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 External links
In Arabic and Hebrew, the term nabī (Arabic plural form:anbiyāʼ) 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", risālah (plural: risālāt), appears in the Quran in ten instances.
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 s̲h̲eliḥeh—s̲h̲alaḥ, occurs in connection with the prophets in the Hebrew Bible.
The following table shows these words in different languages:
|Arabic||Arabic Pronunciation||English||Greek||Greek pronunciation||Strong Number||Hebrew||Hebrew pronunciation||Strong Number|
|رسول||Rasul||Messenger, Prophet||ἄγγελος, ἀπόστολος||ä'n-ge-los, ä-po'-sto-los||G32, G652||מלאך (מַלְאָךְ)||mal'akh||H4397,H7971|
In the Hebrew Bible, the word navi ("spokesperson, prophet") occurs more commonly, and the Hebrew word mal'akh ("messenger") refers to Angels in Judaism. According to Judaism, Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi were the last prophets, all of whom lived at the end of the 70-year Babylonian exile. With them, the authentic period of Nevuah ("prophecy") died, and nowadays only the "Bath Kol" (בת קול, lit. daughter of a voice, "voice of God") exists (Sanhedrin 11a).
In the New Testament, however, the word "messenger" becomes more frequent, sometimes in association with the concept of a prophet. "Messenger" may refer to Jesus, to his Apostles and to John the Baptist. 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 (Yahya).
In Muslim belief, every Islamic 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. The Quran itself calls Islam the "religion of Abraham" (Ibrahim) and refers to Jacob (Yaqub) and the Twelve Tribes of Israel as being Muslim.
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:...
The Quran speaks of the Islamic prophets as being the greatest human beings of all time. A prophet, in the Muslim sense of the term, is a person whom God specially chose to teach the faith of Islam. 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. Others, such as John the Baptist, were called to prophesy while still at a young age and Jesus prophesied while still in his cradle.
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:
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!
Biblical stories retold in the Quran in the Arabic language (e.g., Job, Moses, Joseph (Yusuf) etc.) certainly differ from the Jewish Hebrew Bible, the Greek Old Testament and the Greek New Testament, 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. "We have made the evil ones friends to those without faith." "Assuredly God will defend those who believe." 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 companions" of the Prophet, the 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.
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. One less-than-sound hadith states there have been 124,000 prophets, while another scholarly source states that "their exact numbers are not known with any kind of certainty."
Most mainstream Sunni scholars agree that prophets were males only. Still, some like Ibn Hazm, Qartubi, Ibn Hajir, and al Ash‘ari thought that the verses that mention angels speaking to Mary are proofs of her prophet hood. Also, Ibn Hajir interprets the Hadith "Many among men attained perfection but among women none attained the perfection except Mary, the daughter of `Imran and Asiya, the wife of Pharaoh." He said perfection is prophet hood in turn his claim that Mary and Asiya were prophets.
Scriptures and other gifts
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. Nonetheless, Islam speaks of respecting all the previous scriptures, even in their current forms.
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, but Muslims believe that the current Pentateuch, although it retains the main message, 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. 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. The current Psalms are still praised by many Muslim scholars, 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, 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, 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. 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.
- Scrolls of Abraham: The Scrolls of Abraham are believed to have been one of the earliest bodies of scripture, which were vouchsafed to Abraham, and later used by Ishmael and Isaac. Although usually referred to as 'scrolls', many translators have translated the Arabic Suhuf as 'Books'. 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, a lost text spoken of in the Hebrew Bible.
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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. It also mentions that Joseph and Moses both attained wisdom when they reached full age; David received wisdom with kingship, after slaying Goliath; Lot (Lut received wisdom whilst prophesying in Sodom and Gomorrah; John the Baptist received wisdom while still a mere youth; and Jesus received wisdom and was vouchsafed the Gospel.
Prophets and messengers
All messengers mentioned in the Quran are also prophets, but not all prophets are messengers.
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 truth.
Prophethood in Ahmadiyya
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 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 subordinate to Muhammad continues. The Ahmadiyya Community recognizes Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835–1908) as such a prophet of God and the promised Messiah and Imam Mahdi of the latter days.
The Qur'an mentions 25 prophets by name but also tells that God (Allah) sent many other prophets and messengers, to all the different nations that have existed on Earth. Many verses in the Qur'an 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...."
- "For We assuredly sent amongst every People a messenger, ..."
Other special persons in the Qur'an
- 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.
- Joachim (Imran): The Family of Imran (Arabic: آل عمران) is the 3rd chapter of the Quran. 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 (Maryām) 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.
- 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 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.
- Mary (Maryam): A few scholars (such as Ibn Hazm) 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.
- Three persons of the town: These three unnamed person, who were sent to the same town, are referenced in chapter 36 of the Quran.
- 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 Yusuf (Joseph) and that they lied to their father.
Prophets in Islamic literature
- Qabil and Habil (Cain and Abel)
- Danial (Daniel)
- Elizabeth (Alyassabat)
- Isaiah (Ishiya)
- Jeremiah (Irmiya)
- Seth (Sheeth) (Khidir)
- Zechariah, son of Berekiah
- Biblical and Quranic narratives
- False prophet
- Major prophets in the Bible
- Table of prophets of Abrahamic religions
- Twelve Minor Prophets
- Campo, Juan Eduardo (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing. pp. 559–560. ISBN 9780816054541. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- Shaatri, A. I. (2007). Nayl al Rajaa' bisharh' Safinat an'najaa'. Dar Al Minhaj.
- Quran 30:47
- Quran 2:285
- Denffer, Ahmad von (1985). Ulum al-Qur'an : an introduction to the sciences of the Qur an (Repr. ed.). Islamic Foundation. p. 37. ISBN 0860371328.
- Understanding the Qurán - Page xii, Ahmad Hussein Sakr - 2000
- Quran 15:9
- Neal Robinson Christ in Islam and Christianity SUNY Press 1990 ISBN 978-0-791-40558-1 page 58
- 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
- Uri Rubin, "Prophets and Prophethood", Encyclopedia of the Qur'an
- Exodus 3:13-14, 4:13
- Isaiah 6:8
- Jeremiah 1:7
- A. J. Wensinck, "Rasul", Encyclopaedia of Islam
- Strong's Concordance
- According to the Vilna Gaon, based on the opinion that Nechemyah died in Babylon before 9th Tevet 3448 (313 BCE). Nechemya was governor of Persian Judea under Artaxerxes I of Persia in the 5th century BCE. The Book of Nehemiah describes his work in rebuilding Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. Gaon, Vilna. "Babylonian Talmud". San.11a, Yom.9a/Yuch.1.14/Kuz.3.39,65,67/Yuch.1/Mag.Av.O.C.580.6.
- Hebrews 3:1; John 17:3; Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Ephesians 3:5, 4:11; First Epistle to the Corinthians 28:12
- Albert Barnes under Malachi 2:7 and 3:1
- Wheeler, Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, "Prophets"
- Quran 3:67
- Quran 2:123–133
- Quran 42:13
- Wheeler, Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, "Noah"
- Quran 19:30–33
- Quran 4:69
- Quran 7:27
- Quran 22:49–133
- Rosskeen Gibb,, Hamilton Alexander; Pellat, Charles; Schacht, Joseph; Lewis,, Bernard (1973). The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill. p. 84.
- Al-Amriki, Yusuf Talal Ali; Ullah, Qazi Thanaa (1985). Essential Hanafi Handbook of Fiqh. Lahore, Pakistan: Kazi Publications. pp. 23–25.
- Quran 2:247
- Quran 36:12
- "Evidence of 124,000 Prophets/Messengers (peace be upon them) in Islam". Islam beta. Retrieved 22 June 2015.[unreliable source?]
- Muṭahharī, Ayatullah Murtadha (2006). Islam and Religious Pluralism - Second Edition. World Federation of the KSIMC. p. vi. Retrieved 22 June 2015.
- "There were no female prophets - Islam web - English". www.islamweb.net. Retrieved 2015-11-27.
- "Surat 'Ali `Imran [3:42] - The Noble Qur'an - القرآن الكريم". legacy.quran.com. Retrieved 2015-11-27.
- http://islamqa.info/en/158044With regard to Prophethood, some of the scholars – such as Abu’l-Hasan al-Ash‘ari, al-Qurtubi and Ibn Hazm – were of the view that there were some female Prophets! including Maryam bint ‘Imraan. Their evidence is the verses in which it says that Allah, may He be exalted, sent revelation to the mother of Moosa, for example, and what it says about the angels speaking to Maryam (peace be upon her), and also what it says about Allah, may He be exalted, having chosen her above the women of the world.
- http://islamqa.info/en/7181The scholars differed as to the meaning of the perfection of women. Some said, it refers to Prophethood. Ibn Hajar said in "al-Fath": "… it is as if he said: No women attained Prophethood except for So and so and So and so." (al-Fath, 6/447).
- Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril Glasse, "Holy Books"
- Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, Cyril Glasse[page needed]
- Quran 53:36
- Quran 87:18–19
- Quran 5:44
- Encyclopedia of Islam, "Psalms"
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary[page needed]; Martin Lings, Mecca[page needed]; Abdul Malik, In Thy Seed[page needed]
- Quran 3:184 and 35:25
- Quran 3:184
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, Appendix: "On the Injil"
- Encyclopedia of Islam, "Injil"
- Quran 87:19
- Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Quran[page needed]; Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary[page needed]
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary[page needed]
- Numbers 21:14
- Quran 26:83
- [Quran 10:22]
- Quran 28:14
- Quran 2:251
- Quran 21:74
- Quran 19:14
- Quran 3:48
- Morgan, Diane (2010). Essential Islam: A Comprehensive Guide to Belief and Practice. ABC-CLIO. p. 38. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
- Quran 19:53
- Quran 19:41
- Quran 9:70
- Quran 2:124
- Quran 22:43
- Quran 42:13
- Quran 2:31
- Quran 6:89
- Quran 17:55
- Quran 37:123
- Quran 37:124
- Quran 19:56
- Quran 21:85–86
- Quran 26:125
- Quran 7:65
- Quran 19:49
- Quran 19:54
- Quran 26:178
- Quran 7:85
- Quran 19:30
- Quran 4:171
- Quran 46:35
- Quran 33:7
- Quran 57:27
- Quran 61:6
- Quran 4:89
- Quran 3:39
- Quran 40:34
- Quran 37:139
- Quran 10:98
- Quran 6:86
- Quran 37:133
- Quran 7:80
- Quran 26:107
- Quran 26:105
- Page 50 "As early as Ibn Ishaq (85-151 AH) the biographer of Muhammad, the Muslims identified the Paraclete - referred to in John's ... "to give his followers another Paraclete that may be with them forever" is none other than Muhammad."
- Quran 33:40
- Quran 33:40
- Quran 42:7
- Quran 7:158
- Quran 19:51
- Quran 43:46
- Quran 26:143
- Quran 7:73
- 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.
- Quran 40:78
- Quran 16:36
- A-Z of Prophets in Islam, B. M. Wheeler, "Khidr"
- A-Z of Prophets in Islam, B. M. Wheeler, "Luqman"
- Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, Cyril Glasse, "Prophets in Islam"
- Ibn Hazm on women's prophethood Archived 12 March 2005 at the Wayback Machine.
- Beyond The Exotic: Women's Histories In Islamic Societies, p. 402. Ed. Amira El-Azhary Sonbol. Syracuse University Press, 2005. ISBN 9780815630555
- Quran 36:13–21
- 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)
- 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...
- Women in the Qur'ān, Traditions, and Interpretation. Oxford University Press. 1994. pp. 68–69.
- Abdullah Yusuf Ali refers to Hosea 8:14 for his notes on Q. 5:60
- Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, B. M. Wheeler, "Appendix II"
- Tafsir al-Qurtubi, vol 3, p 188; Tafsir al-Qummi, vol 1, p 117.
- Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir, "Adam"
- A-Z of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Appendix: "List of Prophets in Islam"