Having accepted monotheism as the first and most fundamental Islamic axiom, here we are to investigate prophethood or prophecy as the second most important one which is based on a monotheistic worldview. This axiom illustrates God’s mercy by sending prophets to humankind as mediators in order to convey His message and guide people towards what is good.
Prophets are chosen messengers of God for humans to guide them through a virtuous life in order to reach eternal bliss. According to this principle, human’s life would be disrupted, and he would not know the purpose of his existence unless he received clear and practical instructions and directions for his life either in this world or hereafter. So the need for prophets is that of guidance which leads human beings through their path to perfection.
The necessity of prophethood becomes evident by accepting the existence of God, His Oneness, and the fact that He has not abandoned us to find our way by ourselves. In other words, prophethood is undeniable if one finds the need for prophets and the possibility of being guided by them on the one hand, and believes in the flawlessness of God and His Perfection on the other; in fact, God has provided every creature with all the blessing and mercy based on their capabilities.
As it was mentioned before, the belief in prophethood roots in human’s monotheistic worldview; that is God as the necessary being is gracious and guides every creature to perfection. This guidance, which is received through the revelation of God, includes all the beings from the tiniest particles to the biggest stars and the most excellent creatures that are human beings.
As a matter of fact, it is God’s status as the Lord of the universe that requires him to send revelation to everything in the world according to their capacity. Now one might wonder what the nature of God’s revelation is and how this communication with God takes place.
Revelation is the natural ability to navigate, which exists within every creature and is like a spiritual light that helps them find their way. The grades and degrees of this ability differ in accordance with each being’s capacity and their level of awareness; that is the revelation sent to humankind is not like the one sent to plants or animals.
In other words, what animals and plants are capable of, is totally different from that of humankind, and so is the one between ordinary people and prophets who receive God’s most supreme revelation. Thus, the revelation received by prophets is the same as normal inspirations by nature; however, its degree is determined based on the creatures’ position in the universe.
Furthermore, revelation is nothing like the other perceptions of human beings; we notice the things around us with our senses, solve mathematical problems with the help of wisdom and understand other matters using our conscience or nature, but the revelation is a divine reception from God to guide humankind.
The first question that arises about the characteristics of prophets is if they are ordinary people like others or not. In fact, they are ordinary in the human being nature of needs (from food, sleeping, having children, dying ...etc.) but extraordinary in receiving revelation and telling us the message from God, being accompanied with miracles, infallibility from committing sins or making the slightest mistakes and fighting against idolatry, superstitions, injustice, and cruelty.
The most prominent characteristic of prophets that distinguishes them from the other people, either ordinary ones or geniuses, is the supreme revelation and guidance prophets can get from God through the unseen world. However, this kind of revelation does not exclude them from the rest of human beings; it just makes them perfect role models to teach and guide us further to the straight path.
One of the other most important attributes of prophets is their innocence (Ismah) and infallibility which is defined as the fact that they never, at any point of their lives, committed sins, nor did they approach any kind of disobedience, mistakes, or forbidden things.
They maintained their innocence throughout their everyday lives among people; therefore they proved their infallibility and eligibility necessary for prophethood. This innocence also made prophets infallible either in receiving the revelations from God or conveying the orders and messages that were revealed to them to their nations exactly, without missing or adding anything that would mislead them.
God supported His Prophets with miracles, which were supernatural events that took place based on the power of Allah - and not prophets- to prove their truthfulness and neutralize the objections and the obstinacy of the deniers.
The other proof that distinguishes prophets from people who are endowed with brilliant minds that have developed advanced philosophies is the miracles they brought forth, which is far from magic and the concept known to popular culture. A Miracle is actually something beyond the reach of people, natural causes, and the physical laws we are all familiar with. Although beyond human’s capacity, miracles are possible and not against humans’ reason.
When the miracle becomes clear, there can be no doubt either in the message or the one who brought it forth.
After accepting the necessity and importance of prophethood through rational thinking, we need to testify to the existence and truth of certain prophets to whom God granted miracles and whose advent the previous prophets prophesied.
All prophets brought and taught people the same message and doctrines. These doctrines were gradually sent to humankind based on their capacity and talent, until the chain of prophethood came to an end by the coming of the last prophet, Muhammad (PBUH&HP). He is our final prophet, and no prophet will be born after him. The religion of Islam, as well as all other religious doctrines, was completed and sent to people through his miracle, Quran, so there is no need for another messenger from God.
God sent His message, the same message, to humankind through different prophets. But what are the reasons for this renewal:
One reason for God to repeat his message by sending new prophets is the distortion of His teachings by the people of earlier ages. The generations before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) were not mature and wise enough to record and preserve their holy book and religious lessons.
So the message would normally be changed, distorted or destroyed by them. Accordingly, the message had to be renewed.
The second one is the incapability of the people to receive the whole completed message sent by God due to their lack of maturity and intellectuality; therefore they had to be guided through the right path, little by little and step by step.
The third and the last reason is the need of humankind for people to preach and interpret God’s message. The people before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) had not reached the appropriate level of wisdom, awareness, and civilization to be capable of proselytizing, teaching, preaching, and sometimes changing their religious lessons according to their needs and situations.
However, by the development and growth of science and people’s awareness and maturity, this could be possible for them. As a result, one of the necessities of finality is the human’s social maturity to the extent that he is able to protect and preserve his religious and scientific legacies and to preach and teach them himself.
In conclusion, Abrahamic religions have always been the same, from the beginning till the end of the time and all the prophets have tried to encourage people to accept the same doctrine and religion. Their main roles and responsibilities were to receive God’s revelations and teach and interpret them for humankind.
The need for these roles, however, was finalized by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) by whom the whole religion and doctrine were sent since people had the talent, capability, and maturity necessary for the acceptance and preserving God’s message. What’s more, people had become sensible and mature enough to interpret the prophet’s teachings by themselves.
“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets, and Allah has knowledge of all things” (33:40).
Based on some Islamic narrations, God has sent as many as 124000 prophets to humankind throughout history in different lands; the first of whom was Prophet Adam (AS), and the last divine prophet was Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
What do you think was the primary purpose for which the prophets were raised? God says in the Holy Quran:
“O Prophet! Indeed, We have sent you as a witness, as a bearer of good news and as a warner. and as a summoner to Allah by His permission, and as a radiant lamp” (33:45-46)
“Certainly We sent Our apostles with manifest proofs, and We sent down with them the Book and the Balance, so that mankind may maintain justice;” (57:25)
According to the verses above and many other verses in the Quran [i], prophets were all sent to awaken the inner prophet within each person (i.e. people’s reason), guide them to the right path and invite them to monotheism (worshipping the only One God), which would ultimately lead to their well-being and salvation here in this world and also the hereafter. In fact, no one can deny the effective role prophets had in different aspects of people’s lives in history, as Will Durant puts:
“There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion. France, the United States, and some other nations have divorced their governments from all churches, but they have had the help of religion in keeping social order” .
Now you might wonder, “if God is One and all the prophets were sent to bring us closer to Him, then why would He send different religions?”
From the Quranic point of view there is No such thing as different religions, but rather “all Prophets irrespective of the fact whether they had or did not have an independent code of law, had the same mission and preached the same message” . Quran says:
“Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam, and those who were given the Book did not differ except after knowledge had come to them…” (3:19)
So, why would God send as many as 124000 prophets?
The answer is God’s message had to be renewed and developed according to the requirements of the time, the environment and also the people to whom God’s prophets were sent. Based on the stage of human development in each time and environment, a preaching or law-giving prophet [ii] would come to restore the divine message which had previously been changed, destroyed or distorted by people.
As stated above, people’s intellectual immaturity was the main reason why God renewed his message and developed it over time. However, by the advent of Islam and revelation of the holy Quran, humanity had passed the period of its childhood and had become mature enough to preserve its intellectual heritage, i.e., the religion of God. One thing that proves human’s maturity at the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) is that literacy had become more common among people.
That is why the Prophet’s (PBUH&HP) main miracle is not of anything physical, material and time-dependent, instead, it is a book which is made of words understandable for people of all times. In other words, God, then, guides people and shows them His signs using words (Quran) not by events like parting the sea (led by prophet Moses) or healing the blind or the sick (led by prophet Jesus). God’s message, accordingly, was revived through the revelation of the holy Quran and hence, Muhammad (PBUH&HP) was the last prophet of God.
It is noteworthy that the majority of divine prophets were the preaching ones who would interpret and spread the teachings of the law-giving prophets. But now that God has provided all requirements for humans to achieve their individual and social perfection giving them His book of guidance and wisdom to think, and people have reached a higher intellectual stage and become mature enough to interpret God’s message [iii], there won’t be a need for a new prophet.
At this age of knowledge, the religious scholars are capable of applying the general principles of Islam to the requirements of the time and place and deducing the rules of religious laws :
“The scholars are the inheritor of prophets” Imam Sadiq .
It is clear from what has been discussed above that the intellectual maturity of human has played an essential role in the finality of prophethood in several ways:
It has enabled man to receive his evolutionary program all at once and not by stages,
It has enabled him to keep the celestial Word of God (Quran) unaltered,
It has enabled him to interpret the revealed word of Allah, preach and propagate the teachings of religion and apply the religious principles to all the changing circumstances .
The last mentioned task is now performed by religious experts (Mujtahid) and is named Ijtihad meaning striving and making an effort to deduce the divine laws of Islam from the reliable sources and proofs.
The finality of prophethood does not mean that humanity is now able to dispense with religion. It is the need for prophets and the revelation of God that has ceased to exist, which is only because God’s message has been immune to any sort of alteration or distortion since the advent of Islam:
“Indeed We have sent down the Reminder, and indeed We will preserve it” (15:9)
This message is indestructible, and all people of next generations can have a recurring experience when dealing with it, irrespective of time.
However, God has never left the earth devoid of His guidance, and Imams as the successors of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HP) have played the main part in maintaining humans’ spiritual connection with God from then on.
[i] “Certainly We raised an apostle in every nation [to preach:] ‘Worship Allah, and shun fake deities.’ Among them were some whom Allah guided, and among them were some who deserved to be in error. So travel over the land and observe how was the fate of the deniers” (16:36). Also see: (7:59, 7:65, 7:85 and 7:73)
[ii] The messengers of God where either law-giving, who would be sent with a noble message and guidance and whose number did not exceed the fingers of one hand, or preaching who would spread and propagate the teachings of the law-giving ones.
[iii] "We ought to present you with the principles and you ought to arrive at specific conclusions from them." Imam Sadiq (AS) 
[iv] the holy Quran, the tradition of the holy prophet and 12 infallible Imams (Sunnah), consensus (Ijma`), and reason (`Aql)
- Mand and Universe
- Wasail al-Shia, Bab 6, Hadith 51, 52
- al-Kafi, vol. 1, p. 32, Hadith 2
The plurality of different religions is undoubtedly one of the most important issues that concern people who are interested in religious studies today. Some of the questions they may ask include:
- Which religion is right?
- What do they have in common?
- How should the followers of different faiths behave when faced with the followers of other religions?
- Will all religions lead to eternal salvation?
In this article, we will see how Islam regards other religions and more specifically how it deals with the questions above.
According to the Islamic viewpoint, all Divine religions have been sent to connect human beings to their Gracious Creator, the only one God. Quran says:
“O People of the Book! Come to a common word between us and you: that we will worship no one but Allah, that we will not ascribe any partner to Him, and that some of us will not take some others as lords besides Allah…” (3:64)
As per this verse, Islam holds that all the other Divine religions root in Monotheism. The idea of God is actually so clear in these monotheistic faiths that some religious studies scholars regard it as an essential requirement for them to be included in the category of religions; in other words, those faiths that have no belief in God or practices of worship cannot be called religion at all.
Moreover, though the followers of some other faiths may worship different gods, all the Abrahamic religions assert the unity of God, and that He is the only Creator. This has been mentioned in the holy Quran many times:
“We did not send any apostle before you but that We revealed to him that ‘There is no god except Me; so worship Me.’” (21:25)
The belief in One God is somehow evident in the other religions as well; lots of them admit the fact that they feel there is some being which created the world and life and influences it to some extent. Quran says:
“If you ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth, and who has disposed the sun and the moon?’ They will surely say, ‘Allah.’” (29:61)
This has also been asserted in the verses of Bible and Torah:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods before Me. "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.…” (Exodus 20:3) .
Contrary to popular belief, the religion of Islam does not deny the truth of the previous monotheistic religions, rather the religion of God was perfected in Islam through the revelation that was sent to the last messenger of God, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
“We have sent down to you the Book with the truth, confirming what was before it of the Book and as a guardian over it…” (5:48)
In fact, Islam has been revealed to purify the previous faiths from distortions and to complete their teachings:
“Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam as your religion…” (5:3)
The advent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) with his true religion was also predicted in the Bible:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come” (John, 16:13) .
Also, Islamic teachings and the holy Quran always emphasize the significance of respecting the freedom and other rights of the followers of the previous religions; Muslims, accordingly, hold the followers of those religions in high regard:
“Do not argue with the People of the Book [the followers of the previous monotheistic faiths] except in a manner which is best, except such of them as are wrongdoers, and say, ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us and in what has been sent down to you; our God and your God is one [and the same], and to Him do we submit.’” (29:46)
In Islam “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256), and even if one chooses to follow another monotheistic faith other than Islam, he/she has every right to live in peace among Muslims as an honored citizen with all rights and privileges .
“So set your heart as a person of pure faith on this religion, the original nature endowed by Allah according to which He originated mankind…” (30:30)
Muslims believe that the innate religion is something both Muslims and non-Muslims possess by birth; this original religion is what Muslims define as Islam. They also hold that the differences between various religions are due to particular requirements and potentials of societies during the various periods of prophecy:
“We did not send any apostle except with the language of his people so that he might make [Our messages] clear to them.” (14:4)
Consequently, the calls of the prophets were alike since all their invitations originated from a single source and followed a unified line of faith with a single aim, i.e., submission to the Lord of the worlds, which is the real meaning of Islam:
“Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam” (3:19)
In fact, Islam, i.e., submission to Allah is the cornerstone of all religions.
So, Muslims testify to the truth of all God’s Messengers and that they have all agreed with each other, each of them testifying to the truth of the words of the preceding Prophets (AS) and giving the tidings of the Divine appointment of the next Messenger:
“Say, ‘We have faith in Allah and what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus were given, and that which the prophets were given by their Lord; we make no distinction between any of them and to Him do we submit’” (2:136).
Indeed, with Allah religion is Islam 
Islam is a religion for all human beings of all time:
“We did not send you [Muhammad] but as a mercy to all the nations” (21:107)
This verse clearly indicates the universality of the message brought by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP).
Although the holy Quran regards belief in the prophets a major basis of a Muslim’s ideology, it maintains that what was revealed to the last Prophet, Muhammad (PBUH&HP), was the most advanced program and the perfect law of the divine religion:
“It is He who has sent His Apostle with guidance and the true religion that He may make it prevail over all religions though the polytheists should be averse” (61:9).
Accordingly, it will not be accepted by Allah to remain on the previous incomplete paths after the revelation of the Holy Quran:
“Should anyone follow a religion other than Islam, it shall never be accepted from him, and he will be among the losers in the Hereafter” (3:85).
The verse above does not, however, mean that the followers of other faiths will be all losers. Quite the opposite! There are believers who have not had a chance to reach the completed and updated truth, or those who are exposed to intense propaganda against Islam and think it is impossible that such a religion (distorted image of Islam) might be the right way to salvation, or even those Christians, Jews or any other believers who have searched enough and have been convinced, based on reasons, that their beliefs are right (even if their reasons seem invalid and wrong in the eyes of Muslims); what do you think Quran says about them?
“Indeed, the faithful, the Jews, the Christians and the Sabaeans—those of them who have faith in Allah and the Last Day and act righteously—they shall have their reward from their Lord, and they will have no fear, nor will they grieve” (2:62).
Finally, going through the Quranic verses about religions and their messages, we may conclude that Islam encompasses all the other divine revelations; the ones that have been distorted throughout history, or simply do not sufficiently meet people’s needs any longer; Islam is, in fact, the final, authentic, complete, and updated message of God that draws a perfect picture of man and the base for his reformation that will ultimately lead to his salvation.