, by DR. S. AUSAF SAIED VASFI
Especially because of the Indian context, it seems appropriate to first focus attention on the proverbial 4 Ws and 1 H – why, what, where, when and how – of Prophethood.
The dictionaries do not throw sufficient light on the subject. The Chambers says: One who proclaims or interprets the will of God; one who announces things to come; one who predicts or foretells events; one inspired by God to warn and lead. The Oxford says: A Prophet is one who is an inspired teacher or revealer of the Divine Will; one who predicts or foretells future events.
Naturally, these definitions are misleading simply because the compilers of these dictionaries happened to be ignoramus as far as the Divine Prophets are concerned. The Holy Messengers were not sent by God Almighty to predict future in the manner astrologers do nor did they just reveal the Divine Will. These wiseacres have totally ignored the life or character-aspect of the Prophets.
Briefly put, as far as the “why” of the Prophets is concerned, Allah subhanahu wa ta’aala, in His utter benevolence, has not left man uninformed about how he should pass life on earth. He sent the Prophets for the GUIDANCE of man which happens to be the first fundamental necessity of mankind.
As regards the “what”, the Prophets have all along been human beings. None of them belonged to the creatures like angels or djinns. There was nothing supernatural about them. The Prophets have been creatures like all of us. Diseases afflicted them. There were happier moments also in their lives. They had marital alliances and produced children. They had tragedies also in their lives. Death too occurred to them. As they were created as role-models, they never committed any sin or crime. They remained innocent throughout their lives. The Divine Prophets were models, icons and ideals.
The “where” of their lives lies in various nations, sent upon the surface of the earth at the various stages of civilization. Their task was to fully apprise their addressees of His Message coupled with the live-example of that Message.
The “when” of the Prophets relates to that turn in history when the precept and practice of the previous Messenger got blurred because of the followers’ “editing” and deliberate cold-shouldering of the Message. That necessitated the arrival of another Prophet.
As far as the “how” of the Prophets is concerned, it is through the might of the Divine Message coupled with the force of his matchless character that he confronts his audience. It is through the sweet alchemy of logic and persuasion that he disarms his antagonists and swells the ranks of his protagonists.
Before proceeding further another misgiving, popularised by the Orientalists has to be dispelled. Islam is not a new religion. The very first man who walked on earth, Prophet Adam, blessings of Allah upon him, was a Prophet. His religion was Islam. He was a Muslim. All the Prophets who came after him were Muslim and professed Islam as their ideology. It needs to be reiterated that the Last Prophet, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did not invent Islam. He only completed Islam.
A cursory glace at the various notions about the Prophets:
The Jews considered Prophet Uzair, blessings of Allah upon him, as the son of God. So felt Christians about Prophet Jesus, blessings of Allah upon him. This belief of the two was not, and is not based upon any Divine Revelation in the original scriptures with the Jews and the Christians. The Qur'an has corrected their fancy. Neither anybody is His father or mother. Nor has He fathered any son or daughter.
Similarly, a section of our brethren belonging to the majority community believe that the Prophets are avtaar or incarnation of God who descend upon the earth when the religion gets corrupted. According to their belief, He does so to rejuvenate or reinvigorate religion. Sometimes He comes in the form of men, sometimes in the shape of an animal. Islam does not subscribe to this view.
A Prophet is first a slave of Allah and then a Prophet. So were all the Prophets, right from Adam (blessings of Allah upon him) down to the Last Prophet (peace be upon him).
None of the Prophets had Divinity or any part thereof. Divinity belongs to Allah and Allah alone. No Prophet shares Divine qualities or Divine prerogative. God Almighty has no parentage. He has no family. He has no equal. He has no peer. He has no partner or any being of His stature and status.
The only difference between a Prophet and a human being lies in the fact that the former receives Divine oracles or wahī through an angel. The Prophet is the only link between Allah and mankind. It is through the Prophet that Allah sends His Message to mankind and apprises them of His approved way of life, dos and donts and likes and dislikes. It is through the Prophets that we have come to know about the Day of Judgement, Paradise and Hell.
It is important to note that it is through the Revealed Books and the various Prophets particularly the Last Prophet, peace be upon him, that mankind has come to know about he correct view of Allah subhanahu wa ta’laa.
That Allah is sovereign, unaccountable, sustainer, compassionate and provider, free from blemishes has come to us through the said sources. So on and so forth.
The Divine Prophets, it goes without saying, are chosen by God Almighty. One’s piety, virtues, character has nothing to do with Prophethood. It cannot be acquired by any means. Prophethood is God-given and God-chosen.