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Prophethood (Nubuwwah)

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 monotheistic world view. This axiom illustrates God’s mercy by sending prophets to mankind as mediators in order to convey His message and guide people towards what is good.

Mankind’s Need for Messengers

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 being through his path to perfection.

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The Proof of Prophethood

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 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.

Prophethood As the Second Axiom

As it was mentioned before, the belief in prophethood roots in human’s monotheistic world view; that is God as the necessary being is gracious and guides each and every creature to perfection. This guidance, which is received through revelation of God, includes all the beings from the tiniest particles to the biggest stars and the most excellent creatures that is 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.

The Nature of God’s Revelation

Revelation is the natural ability to navigate, which exists within every creature and is like 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, revelation received by prophets is the same as normal inspirations by nature; however its degree is determined based on 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 by means of our conscience or nature, but revelation is a divine reception from God to guide mankind.

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Characteristics of Prophets

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 most 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.

Miracles

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.

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The Prophets

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). He is our final prophet and no prophet will be born after him. The religion of Islam, as well as all other religious doctrines were completed and sent to people through his miracle, Quran, so there is no need for another messenger from God.

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The Finality of Prophethood (Khatm al-anbīyā)

God sent His message, the same message, to mankind 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) 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 mankind for people to preach and interpret God’s message. The people before Muhammad (PBUH) 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) by whom the whole religion and doctrine was 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.

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