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|Islam and other religions|
Muslims regard as prophets of Islam (Arabic: نبي) those non-divine humans chosen by Allah (the standard Arabic-language word for "the God"). Humans rely on revelation or tradition to identify prophets.
Each prophet brought the same basic ideas of Islam, including belief in a single God and the avoidance of idolatry and sin. Each came to preach Islam and told of the coming of the final law-bearing prophet and messenger of God: Muhammad. Each prophet directed a message to a different group and each prophet taught minor variations in sharia (or the practice of religion) to a different target-audience. These variations constitute applications of Islam: mainstream Muslims do not consider them discrete versions of Islam.
Islamic tradition holds that God sent messengers to every nation. Muslims believe that God sent only Muhammad to convey the divine message to the whole world, whereas he sent other messengers (rusul) to convey their messages to a specific group of people or to an individual nation.
Muslims regard Adam as the first prophet and Muhammad as the last prophet; hence Muhammad's title Seal of the Prophets. Islam regards Jesus as a rasul (and sometimes as a nabi) because he received wahy (revelation) from God, through which God revealed the Injil (Gospel) to him.
Islamic theology recognises as many as 124,000 prophets. Five of them (sometimes known as Ulul Azmi or the Imams — literally: "leaders" — of the Rasuls) receive the highest reverence for their perseverance and unusually strong commitment to God in the face of great suffering, namely:
In both Arabic and Hebrew, the term nabī (plural forms: nabiyyūn and anbiyāʾ) means "prophet". These terms occur 75 times in the Qur'an. The term nubuwwa (meaning "prophethood") occurs five times in the Qur'an. 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 Qur'an 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 Old Testament (Exodus 3:13-14, 4:13; Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah 1:7).
Prophets and messengers in the Bible
The words "prophet" (Arabic: nabi, نبی) and "messenger" (Arabic: rasul, رسول) appear several times in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The following table shows these words in different religious languages:
|Arabic||Arabic Pronunciation||English||Greek||Greek pronunciation||Hebrew||Hebrew pronunciation||বাংলা|
|رسول||Rasool||Messenger, Apostle||מסנג 'ר|
In the Old Testament the word "prophet" (Hebrew: nabi) occurs more commonly, and the word "messenger" (Hebrew: malak) refers to angels, But the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, speaks of a messenger that some commentators interpret as a reference to the future prophet John the Baptist.
In the New Testament, however, the word "messenger" becomes more frequent, sometimes in association with the concept of a prophet.
"Messenger" can refer to Jesus, to his Apostles and to John the Baptist.
It seems that in the New Testament messengers have a higher rank than prophets: Jesus Christ said about John the Baptist:
But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
Prophets and messengers in the Qur'an
The table below charts the Qur'anic verses which explicitly reference a prophet (nabi), a messenger (rasul) , a leader (imam) or Christ (Messiah). It also includes explicit references to prophets' book(s) / people / divine law (Qur'an).
|Idris (Enoch)|| |
|Nuh (Noah)|| |
|People of Noah|| |
|Hud (Eber)|| |
|Saleh (Salih)|| |
|Ibrahim (Abraham)|| |
|Suhuf Ibrahim (Scrolls of Abraham)||People of Abraham|| |
|Lut (Lot)|| |
|People of Lut|
|Isma’il (Ishmael)|| |
|Is'haq (Isaac)|| |
|Yaqub (Jacob)|| |
|Yusuf (Joseph)|| |
|Ayyub (Job)|| |
|Shu'ayb (Jethro)|| |
|Musa (Moses)|| |
|Scrolls of Moses (Suhuf Mossa)||Pharaoh and his chiefs|| |
|Harun (Aaron)|| |
|Dawud (David)|| |
|Sulayman (Solomon)|| |
|Ilyas (Elijah)|| |
|People of Elijah|
|Al-Yasa (Elisha)|| |
|Yunus (Jonah)|| |
|People of Jonah|
|Zakariyya (Zechariah)|| |
|Yahya (John the Baptist)|| |
|Isa (Jesus)|| |
|Injil (Gospel)|| Sent to Children of Israel|| |
|Qur'an||Sign for the Whole World|| |
For Ahl al-Kitab (followers of the Holy Books), see People of the Book.
Distinguishing between prophets and messengers
In short, in Islam every messenger is also a prophet, but not every prophet is a messenger. The Qur'an, like the New Testament, ranks a messenger higher than a prophet. For example, whenever both titles appear together, "messenger" comes first. The crucial criterion is that a messenger delivers a new religious law (Sharia) revealed by God, whereas a prophet continues an old one. God sends both prophets and messengers as givers of good news and as admonishers to their people. In the case of messengers, however, it appears that a close relationship exists between them and their people (ummah). A messenger will become the witness that God will take from that community on the Day of Judgment (see the following Sura; Yunus 10:48; An-Nahl 16:38; Al-Mu’minoon 23:46; Ghafir 40:5; An-Nisa 4:45; Al-Qasas 28:75). According to the Qur'an, God sent Muhammad to all of humanity and to the Djinn.[Need quotation to verify]
Muslims distinguish between celestial and human messengers. In the Qur'anic world, God has made the angels messengers but not prophets. The human messengers, however, also function as prophets — though not every prophet serves as a messenger. Angels always carry "orders" to the human prophets or messengers on what to say, what to do, and so forth. While human messengers deliver some messages about new orders to the people, prophets only reinforce previous orders by earlier messengers or prophets, but since the angels carry orders to prophets to do their duty, then all angels of revelations count as messengers.
The status of prophets
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The Qur'anic 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!
Jesus as an apostle
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That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-
And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them;-
Islam views Muhammad's greatest miracle as the revelation of the Qur'an to mankind; Muslims regard this as the last in a series of divine revelations, one delivered word by word by the Angel Gabriel. At the time of the revelation of the Qur'an, Arabs who stood at the pinnacle of linguistic and poetic eloquence expressed astonishment at its linguistic perfection. The Qur'an seemed even more miraculous to the Arabians of his time given Muhammad's illiteracy (a very common state in the 7th century, especially in Arabia). Moreover, Muslims believe he had not read or written down any of the previous religious scriptures. Muslims used this situation as an argument and evidence against those who opposed Islam during the Muhammad's day, to testify to the fact that Muhammad couldn't have produced such perfect eloquence as appears in the Qur'an without divine intervention.
The Qur'an has survived in stable form since its compilation of 653/654 (but compare History of the Qur'an). Muslims up until present times have memorized it, making it the most memorized book in human history. Muslims believe that, unlike other miracles performed by other prophets who came before Muhammad, all ages can witness the miracle of the Qur'an. With the revelation of the Qur'an came a revolution in science, literature and philosophy that not only took place in the Islamic empire but worldwide.
Prophets and scriptures
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The prophets and Muhammad
Islam views every single prophet from Adam (Arabic: ادم) to Muhammad as important. According to the Qur'an, the prophets 'Isa (Jesus), Musa (Moses), Dawud (David), Ibrahim (Abraham), Saleh (Shelah), and Muhammad had the responsibility of ushering in their own holy scripture, given to them by God. 'Isa received the Injil (Gospel), as expressed in the following verses from the Qur'an:
At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: "O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought!
"O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman
But she pointed to the babe. They said: "How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?"
He said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet;
"And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live;
"(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;
"So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"!
Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.
However, Muslims believe that humans have altered the Injil, therefore, it now does not represent the full truth, as given by God. Musa received the Books of Moses, and Ibrahim the Books of Abraham. Dawud is responsible for the Zabur (Psalms). Saleh is responsible for the Dhikr, which is a practice that focuses on the remembrance of God. It often includes the repetition of the names of Allah. On the other hand, Muhammad was given the Qu'ran, which is believed by Muslims to be the purest and truest holy book of God. In Islam, it was believed to have been given to Muhammad through divine revelation by the angel Jibreel (Gabriel). Its purpose was to perfect the beliefs of the one true God, Allah, because of the turning away of the Jews and Christians from the true religion, into dogmas and doctrines.
The scope of the prophetic mission
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The purpose of messengers
The following list summarises the purpose of sending Gods messengers:
- God sent messengers to every nation to guide them to His path
- Messengers warned nations to follow God's commands and gave them glad tidings
- Messengers gave guidance from Allah, taught knowledge and provided a path to purification
- God explained that obedience to Him and to His Messenger will earn paradise
- And those who disobey will earn hell fire
- God said that He will judge people only after receipt of the Message from His Messengers, judging everyone based on their own actions
- Thus, those who received His message can not claim ignorance as an excuse
Distinguishing Muhammad from other messengers
Muhammad differs from other messengers in two respects:
- God sent all previous messengers to a specific nation in specific regions of the Earth. Their teachings also applied in a limited way for a specific time and period. But God uniquely sent Muhammad to the entirety of creation (mankind and Djinn), intending his message (the Qur'an) to serve until the end of time.
- The teachings of previous messengers confined themselves to specific nations and times, thus their laws relating to ethics and moral code, justice, trade, financial deals, and civil law remained incomplete. God through his final messenger, Muhammad, completed the religion and perfected it. It includes all the teachings from previous messengers, and abrogated those portions specific to separate peoples and times.
Most Muslims thus believe that since the days of the prophet the teaching of Muhammad remains as the only trustworthy source to reach the guidance of God, and that the Qur'an contains the true teachings of Moses and Jesus.
The relationship between messengers, prophets, the Announcement, and the Sender
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</tr> </table> The verse about the great news reads;
The word used in this verse, naba, relates to the word nabi.
Anbiya inform others of a coming naba. The Qur'an says that the naba is not the Qur'an itself but that it comes in the future.
Note that the word rasul relates to the word mursil.
So a mursil sends a rasul to give risalat. The Qur'an says that risalat of the mursil (Allah) form His kalimat. The Quran says that risalatullah cannot end.
Putting these together, we see that the mursil sent both Jesus and Muhammad (each a rasul) to act as a nabi and to inform of the naba.
The Qur'an itself even states that the messages (risalat) — by definition the kalamat (words) of God — remain inexhaustible. Therefore the naba which the anbiya (plural of nabi) announced must itself precede more risalat (messages).
If or when the naba appeared, no further need exists for any more nabi (who give the news of the naba). What about rusul (messengers) and risalat (messages)? Does the mursil stop sending rusul to give his risalat? The Qur'an says no.
Note that the sender of messages and messengers (mursil) functions as a rasul if he gives the risalat himself. And note that the mursil can send rusul who are not anbiya.
To summarize, we have four words: nabi, naba, rasul, and mursil.
The reception of the prophets
Table of prophets in the Qur'an
The following table lists the prophets mentioned in the Qur'an. Biblical versions of names also appear where applicable:
The Qur'an mentions only 25 prophets by name but there might have many other prophets and messengers sent by the God as mentioned in the Qur'an. Many verses in the Quran discuss this:
The Qur'an mentions Al-i-Imran as the father of Maryam. It does not mention Al-Khidr by name, but tradition assumes the reference Sura Al-Kahf 18:66 to relate to him. Ibn Kathir in his book mentions the Biblical prophets Danyal (Daniel), Ishaia (Isaiah), Armya (Jeremiah), and Samuel as prophets.
The Qur'an mentions Luqman in the sura named after him, but does not clearly identify him as a prophet or a wali. The most widespread Islamic belief views Luqman as a wise man, not as a prophet or as a wali. Legend recounts that Luqman had a dream, and in that dream he faced the choice between becoming a King and a wise man, and he chose the second.
Numerous other historical figures may rank as prophets, but debate and contention surround this matter. Such figures include: Zoroaster, Gautama Buddha, Socrates, Merlin, Laozi, Confucius, Krishna, (also mentioned in some books of Hadith) and Rama. However, Muslims will argue that one cannot know this for certain, since the Qur'an does not mentioned them by name. Those in favour of counting such men as prophets often argue that they came with the word of God, but that it later became corrupted, which accounts for the differences between Islam and the various religions and philosophies associated with which each man.
Maryam mother of 'Isa
A few scholars (such as Ibn Hazm)see Maryam as a nabi and a prophetess, since God sent her a message via an angel. The Qur'an, however, does not explicitly identify her as a prophet. Islamic belief regards her as a holy woman, but not as a prophet. The Qur'an usually refers to 'Isa as 'Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary), the matronymic indicating that Jesus had no father.
The world of Islam sees Maryam as a very holy and important woman. She alone of all the women in all of Islam has a sura attributed to her: Sura Maryam, the ninteenth sura of the Qu'ran.