“The World – Prophet”
Al-Azhar Magazine – May 1969
According to the Holy Quran the prophet hood is a free gift of God, not the result of anything done on the part of man. That is to say, that no man can rise to the dignity of prophet hood by his own efforts; it is God Who raises someone to that dignity when He intends to reform men. The Holy Quran declares that: “God knows best where He places His message”. (6:124)
Just as He has granted His gifts of physical sustenance to all men alike, so His spiritual gift of prophet hood, through which a spiritual life is awakened in man, is also a free gift to all the nations of the world. The faith in Divine revelation is one of the essentials of Islam, and since revelation must be communicated through a man, faith in the messenger is a natural sequence. The Prophet is not only the bearer of the Divine message, but he also shows how that message is to be interpreted in practical life; and therefore he is the model or exemplar to be followed.
It is the Prophet’s example that inspires a living faith in the hearts of his followers and brings about a real transformation in their lives. This is why the Holy Quran lays special stress on the fact that the Prophet must be a man. The reformation or transformation of man can only be accomplished through a man-Prophet. The angel’s function is restricted simply to the delivery of the Divine message to the perfect man, the Prophet. Hence an angel is seen as a messenger to the Prophet and not as a messenger to men generally. He belongs to a different class of beings and cannot serve as a model for men. The reformation of man is thus entrusted to man:
“ قُل لَّوۡ كَانَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ مَلَـٰٓٮِٕڪَةٌ۬ يَمۡشُونَ مُطۡمَٮِٕنِّينَ لَنَزَّلۡنَا عَلَيۡهِم مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مَلَڪً۬ا رَّسُولا ً ( “ ٩٥ -الإسرَاء)
it means: “Had there been in the earth angels walking about as settlers, We would have sent down to them an angel from the heaven as an apostle.” (17:95); “And We did not send before thee any but men to whom We sent revelation….; And We did not give them bodies not eating food” (21:7-8). If, then, even an angel cannot serve as a model for men much less would God Himself serve that purpose, even if it was possible that He should come in the flesh. The doctrine of incarnation is, therefore, rejected, because God incarnate would serve no purpose in the reformation of man; seeing that man has to face temptations at every step, but there is no temptation for God.
According to the Holy Quran, there is not one nation in the world in which a prophet has been raised up:
وَإِن مِّنۡ أُمَّةٍ إِلَّا خَلَا فِيہَا نَذِيرٌ۬ ( ٢٤ -سُوۡرَةُ فَاطِر)
It means: “There is not a people but a warner has gone among them”. (35:24) And again: “Every nation had an apostle”. (10:47). We are further told that there have been prophets besides those mentioned in the Holy Quran:
وَرُسُلاً۬ قَدۡ قَصَصۡنَـٰهُمۡ عَلَيۡكَ مِن قَبۡلُ وَرُسُلاً۬ لَّمۡ نَقۡصُصۡهُمۡ عَلَيۡكَۚ وَكَلَّمَ ٱللَّهُ مُوسَىٰ تَڪۡلِيمً۬ا ( ١٦٤ -سُوۡرَةُ النِّسَاء)
It means: “And We sent apostles We have mentioned to thee before and messengers We have not mentioned unto thee.” (4:164)
A belief in all the prophets of the world is thus essential principle of the religion of Islam, and though faith of Islam is summed up in two brief sentences, “there is no god but Allah and Muhammed is His apostle.” Yet the man who confess belief in Muhammed, in so doing accepts all the prophets of the world, whether their names are mentioned in the Holy Quran or not. Islam claims universality to which no other religion can aspire, and lays the foundation of a brotherhood as vast as humanity itself.
In order to study the institution of the prophet hood, it is worthwhile to quote the great Muslim writer Moulana Muhammed Ali. “The Divine scheme whereby prophets were raised up for the regeneration of the world, as disclosed in the Holy Quran, may be briefly summed up as follows. Prophets were raised up in every nation, but their message was limited to that particular nation and in some cases to one or a few generations. All these prophets were, so to say, national prophets, and their work was limited to the moral upliftment and spiritual regeneration of one nation only. But while national growth was a necessity of the first condition of the human race, when each nation lived almost an exclusive life and the means of communication between different races were wanting, the grand aim which the Divine scheme had in view was the upliftment and unification of the whole human race. Humanity could not remain forever divided into watertight compartments of nationality, formed on the basis of blood or geographical limitations. In fact these divisions had through jealousy, become the means of discord and hatred between different nations each looking up itself as the only chosen nation and despising the rest”.
“Such views tended to extinguish utterly any faint glimmerings of the aspirations for the unity of the human race. The final step, therefore, in the institution of prophet hood was the rising up of one prophet for all the nations, so that the consciousness of being one whole might be brought to the human race. The day of the national prophet was ended; it had served the purpose for which it was meant and the day of the world-prophet dawned upon humanity in the person of the Holy Prophet Muhammed, to lead it on to the grand idea of the oneness of the human race.”
“The idea of the world prophet is not based on a solitary passage occurring in the Holy Quran, as to the extent of the mission of this or that prophet; but is a fully developed Divine Scheme. When mentioning the earlier prophets, the Quran says that Noah was sent “to his people” (7:59; 71:1), and so Hud(7:65) and Salih(7:73), and Shu’aib (7:85) – everyone of them was sent to his people. It speaks of Moses as being commanded to “bring forth thy people from darkness into light” (14:5); it speaks of Jesus as “an apostle to the children of Israel” (3:48); But in speaking of the Holy Prophet Muhammed, it says in unequivocal words that “We have not sent thee but to all men as a bearer of good news and as a warner” (34:28). The Arabic word for all men are Kaffat-an li-llnas, where even al-nas carries the idea of all people, and the addition of Kaffa is meant to emphasize further that not a single nation was excluded from the heavenly ministration of the Prophet Muhammed. On another occasion, also the universality of the Prophet’s mission is thus stressed: “Say, O people! I am the Apostle of Allah to you all, of Him Whose is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth” (7:158). One thing is sure that no other prophet is spoken of either in the Holy Quran or in any other scriptures as having been sent to the whole humanity or to all people or all nations, nor is the Holy Prophet Muhammed ever spoken of in the Holy Quran as having been sent to his people only. It is no doubt, true that he is commanded to warn “a people whose fathers were not warned” (36:1), but that does not mean that he was not to warn others than Arabs, for in 25:1, he is expressly described as being “a warner to all the nations”. Nay, the Holy Quran itself is repeatedly termed “a reminder for the nations.” (68:52; 12:104). And he is not only a warner to all the nations but a mercy to all of them as well. “And We have not sent thee but as a mercy to all the nations”. (21:107).
“…that a world-prophet is spoken of here is evident from the fact that his acceptance-“you must believe in him and you must aid him”-is made obligatory on the followers of all the prophets that had passed away before him. As prophets had been sent, according to the plain teachings of the Holy Quran, to every nation, the conclusion is obvious that the followers of every prophet are required to believe in this, the final Prophet. The distinguishing feature of the world-prophet, as mentioned here, is that he will “Verily that which is with you”; in other words, that he will bear testimony to the truth of all prophets of the world. You turn pages of all the sacred books and search the sacred history of every nation, and you will find that there is but One Prophet who verified scriptures of all religions and bore testimony to the truth of the prophets of every nation.
In fact no one could aspire to the dignity of world-prophet who did not treat the whole humanity as one; and Muhammed is the only man who did so by declaring that prophets of God had appeared in every nation and that everyone who believed in him must also belive in all the prophets of the world. Hence it is that the verse requiring a belief in all the prophets of God- a belief in Abrahm; in Ismail; in Isaac, in Jacob, in Moses, in Jesus and finally and comprehensively in the prophets, – which occurs several times in the Holy Quran, is repeated here again and followed by the plain statement that Islam, or belief in all the prophets of God is the only religion with God, and whosoever desires a religion other than Islam-a belief only in one prophet while rejecting all others-it shall not be accepted from him, because belief in one prophet is after all only acceptance of partial truth, and tantamount to the rejection of the whole truth, to wit, that there have been prophets in every nation”.
“Muhammed (peace be upon him), therefore does not only claim to have been sent to the whole world to be a warner to all people and a mercy to all nations, but lays the foundations oa world-religion, by making a belief in the prophet of every nation the basic principle of his faith. It is the only basis of equal treatment for all nations. The idea of a world-prophet is not a stray idea met with in the Quran; it is not based simply on one or two passages, stating that he had been raised up for the regeneration of all nations; but the idea is here developed at length, and all the principles which can form the basis of a world-religion are fully enunciated. The whole of humanity is declared to be one nation (2:213). God is said to be the Rabb (the Nourisher unto perfection) of all nations (1:1); prophets are declared to have been raised up in all the nations for their upliftment (32:24); all prejudices of color, race, and language are demolished (30:22; 49:13); and a vast brotherhood, extending over all the world, has been established, every member of which is bound to accept the Prophets of all nations, and to treat all nations equally. Thus not only is the Prophet Muhammed a world – Prophet who takes the place of the national Prophets but he has also established a world – religion wherein the idea of nationality is superseded by the consciousness of the unity of the human race.”
The Prophets are all one community and they were all raised up for one purpose. They were essentially all truthful, all were pure, all of them guarded against evil, all were honorable and none of them was insolent or disobedient to God. The prophets are raised up for the upliftment of humanity and for freeing man from the bondage of sin.
Man was commanded to live in a spiritual and moral progress, but since he was unable to withstand the temptations of the devil, the Divine revelation came to his aid; and a rule for all time was laid down of the guidance of all men. The Divine revelation says:
فَإِمَّا يَأۡتِيَنَّكُم مِّنِّى هُدً۬ى فَمَن تَبِعَ هُدَاىَ فَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَيۡہِمۡ وَلَا هُمۡ يَحۡزَنُونَ ( ٣٨ -سُوۡرَةُ البَقَرَة)
It means: “There will come to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon the, nor shall they grieve” (2:38). Every prophet brings the message of the Existence of God and His Oneness, and the significance underlying this message has already been shown to be the all round advancement of man, physical as well as spiritual and moral. And every prophet is called: “mubashir” (giver of good news) and: “mundhir” (warner); the good news relating to his advancement and elevation, the warning to the retarding of or interference with his progress.
The Holy Quran refers to the four works of the Prophet in the following verse:
كَمَآ أَرۡسَلۡنَا فِيڪُمۡ رَسُولاً۬ مِّنڪُمۡ يَتۡلُواْ عَلَيۡكُمۡ ءَايَـٰتِنَا وَيُزَكِّيڪُمۡ وَيُعَلِّمُڪُمُ ٱلۡكِتَـٰبَ وَٱلۡحِڪۡمَةَ( ١٥١ -سُوۡرَةُ البَقَرَة)
It means: “We have sent as Apostle to you from among you who recites to you Our communications and purifies you and teaches you the Book and the Wisdom.” (2:151). All these references to the Holy Book show that the object of sending prophets was no other than the upliftment of man, to enable him to subjugate his animal passions, to inspire him with nobler and higher sentiments and to imbue him with Divine morals.
Another important point which requires to be explained in this connection is the finality of prophet hood. In the Holy Quran, Prophet Muhammed is spoken of as the last of all prophets:
مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ۬ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمۡ وَلَـٰكِن رَّسُولَ ٱللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَۗ وَكَانَ ٱللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَىۡءٍ عَلِيمً۬ا( ٤٠ -سُوۡرَةُ الاٴحزَاب)
It means: “Muhammed is not the father of any of your men, but he I the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the Prophets” (33:40). The words “khatam al-nabiyyin” or “khatim al-nabiyyin” mean the last of the prophets; for both the words “khatim” and “khatam” mean the last portion of anything. The best Arabic lexicologists are agreed that “khatam al-qaum” means the last of a people. The doctrine of the finality of prophethood in Muhammed therefore rests on the clear words of the Holy Quran. It also stated that his message is general to all nations till the end of this world:
قُلۡ يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلنَّاسُ إِنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيۡڪُمۡ جَمِيعًا ( ١٥٨ -سُوۡرَةُ الاٴعرَاف)
It means: “Say: O mankind! Surely, I am the messenger of god to you all…” (7:158)
There is another point to be explained at length; that is the idea of unification of human race based on finality of prophet hood. The idea that prophet hood came to a close in the person of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) is not a stray idea. On the other hand, it is the natural conclusion of the universalization of the theory of revelation which is the basic principle of the religion of Islam. Revelation, according to the Holy Quran is not the solitary experience of this or that nation but the spiritual experience of the whole of the human race.
Starting from the broad basis, the Holy Quran develops the theory that prophets were sent to every nation:
وَإِن مِّنۡ أُمَّةٍ إِلَّا خَلَا فِيہَا نَذِيرٌ۬ ( ٢٤ -سُوۡرَةُ فَاطِر)
It means: “There is not a people but a warner has gone among them.” (35:24)
At the same time it is stated that the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammed universalized the institution of prophet hood in a real sense. The day of the national prophet was over, and one prophet was raised for the whole world, for all nations and for all ages. The Holy Quran declares:
تَبَارَكَ ٱلَّذِى نَزَّلَ ٱلۡفُرۡقَانَ عَلَىٰ عَبۡدِهِۦ لِيَكُونَ لِلۡعَـٰلَمِينَ نَذِيرًا ( ١ -سُوۡرَةُ الفُرقان)
It means: “Blessed is He Who Sent down the ‘Furquan’ upon his servant that he may be a warner to all the nations” (25:1). And:
وَمَآ أَرۡسَلۡنَـٰكَ إِلَّا ڪَآفَّةً۬ لِّلنَّاسِ بَشِيرً۬ا وَنَذِيرً۬ا وَلَـٰكِنَّ أَڪۡثَرَ ٱلنَّاسِ لَا يَعۡلَمُونَ ( ٢٨ -سُوۡرَةُ سَبَإ)
It means: “We have not sent thee but to all the men as a bearer of good news and as a warner but most men do not know”. (34:28).
The World-Prophet, therefore took the place of the national prophets, and the grand idea of unifying the whole human races and gathering it together under one banner, was thus brought to perfection. All geographical limitations were swept away as were all bars of color and race, and the basis of the unity of the human race was laid upon the grand principle that the whole human race was one, and that all men, where ever they may be found, were a single nation.
Such unity of human race could not be accomplished unless the finality of prophet hood was established, for if prophets continued to appear after the world-prophet, they would undoubtedly demand the allegiance of this or that section and shatter the very foundations of the unity at which Islam aimed by giving a single prophet to the whole world. It may be further added that by bringing prophet hood to a close. Islam has not deprived the world of a blessing which is available to previous generations. The object of sending a prophet to a people was to make known the Divine will and point out the way by walking in which men could hold the elevation and happiness of the two worlds. That object was also brought to perfection through the great World-Prophet, whose message was so perfect that it met the requirements not only of all future generations as well. This is plainly stated in the Holy Quran:
ٱلۡيَوۡمَ أَكۡمَلۡتُ لَكُمۡ دِينَكُمۡ وَأَتۡمَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ نِعۡمَتِى وَرَضِيتُ لَكُمُ ٱلۡإِسۡلَـٰمَ دِينً۬اۚ (٣ -سُوۡرَةُ المَائدة)
It means: “this day I have perfected for you your religion and completed on you My blessing and chosen for you as religion Islam”. (5:3)
The perfection of religion and the completion of the blessing of Prophet hood thus go hand in hand. This blessing is made complete in the person of Prophet Muhammed(peace be upon him).