God has created the mankind, to live in this world for a trial, which people undergo by either attaining ethical and spiritual peace through leading their lives in accordance with the commands of God hence becoming His obedient servant by totally surrendering to the will of God (in Arabic known as Muslim) or follow the footsteps of Satan by disobeying his Creator. Qur’an says: “God has created the heavens and the earth to manifest the truth, and to reward each human being according to its deeds, and none of them shall be wronged.”(Qur’an;45:22); “He who created death and life, that He may try which of you is best In deed: and He is the Exalted In Might, Oft-Forgiving;”(Qur’an;67:2). He has not left the humanity in lurch; He has provided the guidance and freedom of choice resulting in individual responsibility and accountability. God has provided the guidance essentially through three ways: Firstly; the natural Guidance (instinctive cognition). Secondly; through grant of intellect and providing Signs (ayah). Man is endowed with forms and faculties exactly suited to what is expected of him, and to the environment in which his life will be cast, giving due order and proportion to everything. He has ordained laws and decrees, by which human can develop themselves and fit into His whole scheme of progression for all His Creation. Thirdly; direct guidance through His Messengers and scriptures: “It is not the way of Allah to confound people after He has guided them, until He makes clear to them what they should guard against; surely Allah has the knowledge of everything.” (Qur’an;9:115); “..God draws unto Himself every one who is willing, and guides unto Himself everyone who turns unto Him”(Qur’an;42:13).
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The guidance has been provided in the form of Revelations through especially chosen men, the Messengers (Rasool or Nabi). The Hebrew word for prophet is navi`, usually considered to be a loan word from Akkadian nabu, naba`um, means; “to proclaim, mention, call, summon”: The title has a general application to all selected people who received messages from God to guide their community. Some scholars describe that, a Rasool (Messenger) is the Nabi who has delivered the written revelations (scripture). Every Rasool (Messenger) is aslo Nabi, where as every Nabi is not necessarily Rasool. Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been addressed as Rasool (Qur’an;3:144) as well as Rasool and Nabi (Qur’an;7:157,33:40). The English words; ‘Messenger’ and ‘Prophet’ has been used here for both i.e. Rasool and Nabi. The messengers and prophets were sent throughout the history for the guidance of mankind. Allah says: “For We assuredly sent amongst every People a Messenger (with the Command) “Serve Allah and eschew Evil”..”(Qur’an;16:36);“To every people (was sent) a Messenger: when their Messenger comes (before them) the matter will be judged between them with justice and they will not be wronged.”(Qur’an;10:47). Allah says: “And there never was a people, without a Warner having lived among them (in the past)”(Qur’an;35:24). Beginning with the first human and Prophet Adam (peace be upon him), there has been many messengers and prophets from Noah (peace be upon him) through Abraham (peace be upon him) for their respective nations. According to Muslim traditions there has been more than 1,24,000 prophets sent to different nations at different times, it includes 315 Rasool (Messenger) granted scriptures (law). Allah says: “We did aforetime send Messengers before thee (O’ Muhammad) : of them there are some whose story We have related to thee and some whose story We have not related to thee” (Qur’an;40:78).
Some of the well known Messengers mentioned in Bible and Qur’an are: Adam, Salih (Methuselah), Noah, Idris (Enoch), Hud (Heber), Lut, Abraham (early 2nd Millennium BC), Isma’il (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Ya’qub (Jacob), Yusuf (Joseph), Musa (Moses, 14-13th Century B.C), Harun (Aaron), Shu’aib (Jethro), Shammil (Samuel, 11th Century B.C), Dawud (David, died 962 B.C), Sulaiman (Solomon, 10th Century B.C), Al-Yas’a (Elisha, 9th Century B.C), (Elijah, 9th Century B.C), Shia (Isaiah, 8th Century B.C), Yunus (Jonah, flourished around 785 B.C at Nineveh), Aramaya (Jeremiah, 7-6th Century B.C), Ayyub (Job, the Book of Job, 6-4th Century B.C), Elias, Dhul Kifl, Hizqeel (Ezekiel, 6th Century B.C), Daniel (6th Century B.C), ‘Uzair (Ezra, 5th Century B.C, also considered a saint), Zechariah, Yahya (John the Baptist, 1st Century C.E), ‘Isa (Jesus, 4 B.C-28-30 C.E) and Muhammad (571-632 C.E) (peace be upon all of them).
All the Messengers preached monotheism [Tawheed]:
They conveyed good news to mankind and admonished them so that, after conveying the message through the Messengers, people should have no excuse to plead against Allah.(Qur’an;4:165). The Muslims do not discriminate against anyone of His Messengers (Qur’an;2:285) and follow the eternal guidance provided to all of them being the same. Allah says: “(O Muhammad) those were the (prophets) who received Allah’s guidance: Follow then their guidance;..” (Qur’an;6:90). The Revelations were protected from the tempering of Satan in transmission (Qur’an;22:52). The Revelations were given in different ways: inspiration, from behind a veil or by the sending of a Messenger (Qur’an;42:51). It is through these forms that God revealed His scriptures to the messengers and prophets, who remained available for the guidance even after the messengers, had left this world. Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) after successful trial of his faith, was rewarded with the honour to be the spiritual leadership of the nations and later his pious decedents (not the disobedient ones). (Genesis;17:7-10, Qur’an;2:124, 4:54). Initially the children of Isaac through Jacob (Israel) were entrusted with this responsibility and honor. (Genesis;17:19-22, Deuteronomy;8:19-20, Leviticus;26:15, Qur’an;21:71-73). Children of Israel, which was despised, became a great and glorious nation under King and Prophet David and his son Solomon (peace be upon them), who had goodly territory, and was doubly blest. And thus promise of God with the Children of Israel was fulfilled (Qur’an;7:137). Many prophets were sent to them, with revelations, some available in distorted form in the Bible.
Bible is the sacred book of Christianity, which includes the Old Testament [also called Hebrew Bible] and the New Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures is also the sacred book of Judaism containing remnants of Torah, (Law of Moses). As distinguished in Christianity, the New Testament forms the record of the new dispensation belonging to the Church. The gospels are claimed to contain the reveled scripture to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). These books are not in their original revealed form, even the Biblical traditions accept the doubtful authenticity of these books.
Previously the messengers were sent for the particular nation or community for particular time. Once a new messenger or prophet came it was obligatory to follow him, denying one messenger means denying all the messengers. Once Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) came, he showed the way to the God, when Jesus (peace be upon him) came, he provided the way. However this system of messengers came to end with the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Muslims while believing in all the previous messengers of God and scriptures, adhere to the message preached by the last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and The Qur’an as the final uncorrupted holy scripture not restricted to any particular race but for the guidance of whole humanity, while superseding all the previous scriptures.
Belief in the Messengers of Allah and His revelations in the form of scriptures is appreciation of Allah’s mercy and care for His people for sending those great messengers to guide them to the straight path. The prophets, peace and blessings be upon them, are free of all sins, major and minor, of unbelief, and of all that is repugnant. It may be, however, that they apparently commit insignificant lapses and errors in secular matters but not in spiritual matters or faith (din). It is reflection of love and respect of the prophets and their praise what they deserve, because they are Allah’s messengers and His choice among His people. They worshipped Allah according to the best of their abilities, conveyed His message to mankind, gave sincere advice to the people, and bore patiently whatever hurt they received.
The Israelites repeatedly disobeyed the commandments of God, altered the scriptures and even killed some prophets. They did not believe in Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) and even tried to kill him, but Allah raised him to Himself. His followers deviated from the monotheism of Abraham, Jacob and Moses (peace be upon them all), invented a different religion known as Christianity based on the concepts of Original sin and Trinity, disregarding the Law [Shari’a of Moses]. Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) had settled his eldest son Ishmael at Makka, a deserted place which developed as town on the main trade route. Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon him) became the ancestor of Arabs, promised to be a great nation in Bible (Genesis:21:18). His descendents also corrupted the original teachings of Abraham and Ishmael (peace be upon them) to become polytheists and Idolaters. For a very long period no messenger was sent to them (Arabs). Due to the persistent disobedience and rebelliousness of the Children of Israel, and corruption of original message of God; the leadership role was taken away by God from the Children of Israel and granted to the Children of Ishmael (peace be upon them), by appointing Muhammad, peace be upon him (an Arab, from the progeny of Ishmael) as His last messenger in 610 C.E. This was continuation of initial covenant of God with Prophet Abraham (peace be upon them), mentioned at Genesis;17:7-10, 21:18 and Qur’an;2:124, 4:54. Many volumes may not suffice to touch upon the life and achievements of the greatest human being and last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), here efforts have been made to present just coup d’oeil [glimpse] of his life.
A GLIMPSE AT THE LIFE OF THE LAST PROPHET [pbuh]:
During end of 6th century after Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was born at Makka in 571 C.E (according to a research by Dr.Hamidullah, the corresponding date according to Gregorian calendar was 17 June 569 C.E). He was chosen to be the last messenger of God for the guidance of humanity till eternity. He was not from the progeny of Israel (Jacob) but from the progeny of Ishmael, the eldest son of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). Ishmael has been mentioned in Bible to be leader of a nation being the seed of Abraham (Genesis;13:18, 16:12, 17:20). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was chosen by God to revive the original faith of Abraham(peace be upon him) in its true form, for the humanity, which over the time had been distorted and corrupted by the decedents of Prophet Israel (Jacob) and followers of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon them). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent as the fulfillment of prayer, of Prophet Abraham and Ishmael, who while raising the foundations of House of Lord (Kabah) around 1800 B.C, had prayed: “Our Lord! send amongst them a Messenger of their own, who shall rehearse Thy Signs to them and instruct them In Scripture and Wisdom, and sanctify them: for Thou art the Exalted In Might, the Wise.” (Qur’an;2:129).
The Birth, Early Life and Prophethood:
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (571-632 C.E) was born as orphan in the ruling tribe (Quraish), descendent of Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon him) at Makka Arabia. This tribe was the custodian of Kabah, the house of worship of Allah, originally rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael but, during 7th century C.E, it was packed with idols. He was initially brought up by his grandfather and later by his uncle Abu Talib. He was illiterate but extremely honest and trustworthy. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was one of few among pagan Arabs known as hanafi who, did not worship idols and believed in only one God. At the age of forty he started meditation in cave Hira where in 610 C.E he was visited by the angel Gabriel, to deliver the first revelation from God. He continued to receive the Revelations during next 23 yeas (till his death) which were promptly and accurately recorded by scribes, which is known as Qur’an, the basis of Islam.
The mission of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was remarkable, Allah says: “It is He who hath sent His Messenger with guidance and the way of life (Din) of truth, to proclaim it over all (false) way of life (Din), however much the idolaters may be averse. They desire to extinguish the light of God with their mouths but God will not allow it to happen, for He seeks to perfect His light even though the disbelievers may dislike it. (Qur’an;9:32-33, similarly at 61:8-9 & 48:28). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) began to preach publicly in 613 C.E, urging the rich to give to the poor and calling to worship and obey Allah (one God, the God of their ancestors Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and all) instead of idols. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not introduce a new religion but was sent to revive Islam (surrender to the will of One God) the original faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham (the common ancestor of Israelites, Christians and Arabs) Moses and all other messengers up to Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon them all). The restrictions imposed upon Children of Israel due to their hardness of heart and rebelliousness were to be relaxed, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last messenger of God for all the humanity till eternity. Allah says: “We have not sent you (O’ Muhammad) but as a universal (Messenger) to the entire mankind giving them glad tidings and warning them (against sin) but most men understand not.” (Qur’an;37:28). “O mankind! There hath come to you a direction from your Lord and a healing for the (diseases) in your hearts and for those who believe Guidance and a Mercy.”(Qur’an;10:57). Hence being a messenger of God for the mankind, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) preached to all without discriminating to any race, group or clan. Among his first ‘companions’ and converts, beside the Arabs can be counted Bilal the Abyssinian, Salman the Persian and Abdullah Bin-Salaam the Jew.
The new Muslim converts and the Prophet had to suffer worst oppression, from Quraish, his kinsmen for initial 13 years at Makkah, but they bore the torture and humiliation with patience. The Prophet (peace be upon him) along with his family and guardian uncle Abu Talib were isolated and confined in a valley for two years. The social and economic boycott failed to dent their resolve and faith. They were not permitted to fight even in self defence, patience and peaceful preaching was the only way. They were commanded to make Mighty Jihad (Jihad Kabira) against unbelief with the Qur’an (Al-Furqan-25:52). Hence scholars opine that warfare (Jihad with sword) by stateless elements is not permissible.
Having filed to confront the message of Islam through wisdom, logic or argument, unbelievers planed to kill him. By this time many people at Median had accepted Islam, consequently he had to migrate from Mecca to the distant city of Yathrab [Medina] in 622 C.E, where a warm welcome awaited. This migration is known as the Hijrah, which marks the beginning of the Islamic era. He established the first ever Islamic State at Medina, having first ever written constitution, conceding equal rights to all the people including Jews and Christians. It was only when Islam gained strength at Medina; Jihad by sword was permitted to defend the frail expanding Muslim community. Qur’an says; “To those against whom war is made permission is given (to fight) because they are wronged and verily God is Most powerful for their aid. (They are) those who have been expelled from their homes in defiance of right (for no cause) except that they say “Our Lord is God.” Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries churches synagogues and mosques in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure. God will certainly aid those who aid His (cause); for verily Allah is Full of Strength Exalted in Might.(Qur’an; 22:39-40).”
The offensive by army of polytheists and idolaters of Mecca was thwart in 624 C.E at Badar; Muslims suffered partial reverses in 625 C.E at Uhad but repelled a Meccan siege of Medina in 627 C.E in the Battle of Trench. The ‘Truce of Hudabia’ in 628 C.E, with polytheists of Makka provided peace and opportunity for expansion of Islam among many Arabian tribes.
Conquest of Mecca and Spread of Islam:
Ultimately Mecca peacefully fell to Muslims in 630 C.E and by 631 C.E Muslims were in control of almost all of Arabia (estimated total area of about three million square kilometers) at the total loss of 240 enemies, the Muslim losses were even lesser. People started embracing Islam in large numbers. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) continued to stay at Yathrab [now called Medina-tu-nabi, The city of Prophet] he made his last journey to Mecca in 632 C.E, establishing the rites of the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca as tradition of Abraham) and purged it of pagan rituals. The Messenger (peace be upon him) completed his mission; he was commanded to deliver the complete message of guidance, in unambiguous terms. Allah says: “O Messenger! Deliver the message which has been revealed to you from your Lord, and if you do not, you are not doing justice to your mission. Allah will protect you from the mischief of the people. Rest assured that Allah will not let the unbelievers succeed against you”(Qur’an;5:67). Any laxity in conveyance of message by hiding or concealing result in curse of God: “Those who conceal the clear proofs and the guidance, after We have made it clear in the Book for mankind, will have Allah’s curse and that of those who are entitled to curse;”(Qur’an;2:159). The Messenger (peace be upon him) did not conceal any thing and completed his mission, which is further confirmed, Allah says: “..This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion AL- ISLAM..”(Qur’an;5:3). He died later that year, and buried at the Prophet’s Mosque at Medina; the second holiest site along with Al-Aqsa Mosque (1st Temple at Jerusalem) after Ka’ba at Makka. He left Qur’an the living miracle full of wisdom (hikmah) and his Traditions (Sunnah) for the guidance of humanity for ever.
The Achievements and Legacy:
Within few years after Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), his devout followers brought major parts of neighboring empires under their influence as far as up to southern France, through Spain, central Asia, India to the Atlantic Ocean. Islamic rule and political influence continued to expand, in the intervening centuries, far beyond the borders of the original Muslim conquests. Renowned scholar Michael Hart, in his famous book, placed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) at the top of the list of 100 most influential men in history of mankind. According to him, Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) preached and promulgated one of the world’s great religion, and became an immensely effective political leader. Even fourteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive; there are around 1.5 Billion Muslims in the world. The majority of influential men of history had the advantage of getting born and raised in centers of civilization, highly cultured or politically pivotal nations, while Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born and raised at Mecca, the most remote and isolated corner of the world. He single-handedly accomplished the great mission with almost no means and resources. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was also an ideal leader who lead from front and left the land marks for the Muslims in all secular and spiritual spheres. He is the legislator-jurist who defined ritual observance and Islamic law in the light of Qur’an i.e. Allah repeatedly ask the believers to offer prayers (salah), but how to offer the prayers? The jurists find in the traditions (Sunnah) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He is the ideal seeker of spiritual perfection for the mystics. Philosophers and statesman find a role model of both as conqueror of hearts and just ruler in him. The ordinary Muslims can find a model of reflection of God’s grace and salvation in him. He was an effective administrator, legislator, judge and military commander as well as teacher, preacher and prayer leader of the Muslim community.
At the end of his last sermon during last Hajj (632 C.E) the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Remember, one day you will appear before Allah and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone. O’ People, no messengers or prophet will come after me and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O’ People, and understand my words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur’an and my example, the Sunnah and if you follow these you will never go astray. All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness oh Allah that I have conveyed your message to your people.” History is witness to the fact that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did convey the Message very effectively and successfully. Before his demise Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) being universal messenger of God for the humanity, extended the invitation of Islam to the neighboring Kings and rulers through epistles and emissaries. The most prominent are, Hercules the Eastern Roman Emperor (610-641 C.E), Khusro Parvaiz of Perisa, Najashi, the King of Habsha (Abyssinia), rulers of Bahrain and Oman. He died in 632 C.E at Medina and was buried at the Prophet’s Mosque (Masjad-I-Nabwi).
All previous messengers and scriptures were meant for the guidance of specific nations and that period, where as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Qur’an is the guide for the humanity for ever. Hence it is now mandatory for all the humanity, including the Jews and Christians to believe and follow the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Qur’an, to attain salvation. Allah says: “As for those who are bent on denying the truth and on barring (others) from the path of God – all their (good) deeds will He let go to waste; whereas those who have attained to faith and do righteous deeds, and have come to believe in what has been bestowed from on high on Muhammad – for it is the truth from their Sustainer – (shall attain to God’s grace) He will efface their (past) bad deeds, and will set their hearts at rest”.(Qur’an;47;2-3); “If instead of this rebellious attitude the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) had believed and become God fearing, We would certainly have removed their iniquities and admitted them to the gardens of Bliss”(Qur’an;5:65). The custodians of the Qur’an after the holy Prophet are the People of Islam. They are chosen for the Book, not in any narrow sense, but in the sense that the Book is given for their age and they are charged to believe, read, understand, obey, preserve and propagate it, so that all mankind should receive the Message. In this present era of high-tech communications and media, with the efforts of believers this guidance is available to the ever increasing numbers of people, who are embracing Islam in great numbers. There is no doubt that this Message will remain available to the humanity till the Day of Judgment. The legacy of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon them) continues at universal level through the legacy of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them).
The Last Messenger for Humanity
محمد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم