Islam--Path to Paradise


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Belief in Allah's Prophets

Messengers of Allah

Messengers are human beings chosen by God who have the honor of conveying God's message to other men and women. Being such a Messenger is not a position that one attains by any consciously designed effort. It is a grace from Allah, but Allah grants this grace to those who are deserving of it. Messengers are not then, like the rank and file of us. True, they are men but they are men of an extremely high moral, spiritual and intelleaual standard that qualifies them--in the eyes of Allah--to be the bearers of His light to the world. When Allah chooses any of them, He supports the messenger with a clear 'sign' (Surah al-Hadeed 57:25) that proves the truth of his claim, and distinguishes him from false prophets, sorcerers and soothsayers (Surah at-Taghabun 64:41-42), Surah Taha 20:69). None of them betrays the message or falls short of being exemplary in practicing what he preaches. (Surah Hud 11:88)

Asked about prophet Muhammad's conduct his wife Ayesha said, "He was the Qur'an," meaning that he embodied all the ideals which the Qur'an presents.

Two related points about messengers which the Qur'an stresses, and which therefore deserve some elaboration are the humanity of prophets and the nature of their task.

Despite the vast spiritual, moral and intellectual difference between them and ordinary men, and despite the special relation with God that they enjoy, prophets are nonetheless humans with all that this term implies. They beget and are begotten; they eat and drink and go about in market plates (Surah Furqan 25:20); they sleep and they die (Surah Ambiyaa 21:34); they forget and they err (Surah Taha 20:121)(Surah Kahf 18:34).

Their knowledge is limited; and can therefore tell only that part of the future which God reveals to them (Surah al-Jinn 72:26-27). They cannot intercede with God on behalf of any person except with His permission (Surah al-Jinn 72:26-27) and it is not left to them to cause people to go in the right path (Surah al-Qasas 28:56). In short, they have no part to play in the running of the affairs of the universe [(Surah Ali lmran 3:128). Many early Muslim scholars have observed that to emphasize the humanity of the Prophet the Qur'an called him 'servant of God' on the three occasions on which he was honored.

"Blessed be He who has sent down the Salvation [Qur'an] upon His servant." (Surah al-Furqan 25:1)

"Glory be to Him, who carried His servant by night from the Holy Mosque to the Further Mosque the precints of which We have blessed, that We might show him some of Our signs."

"When the servant of God stood calling on Him, they were well-nigh upon him in swarms." (Surah al-Jinn 72:119)

A Prophet whose humanity is specially emphasized is Jesus. He was created in the same manner as Adam was created, from soil (Surah Ali Imran 3:59); he is the son of Mary not of God (Surah an-Nisa 4:157) he and his mother used to eat food (Surah Ma'idah 5:75) he is indeed the word of God (Surah al-Baqarah 2:45) but since he is a human being in the full sense of the word, this should not be interpreted to mean that there is a Divine element in him. He is the word of God only in the sense that God said 'Be' and he was. But in that sense everything is the word of God. Why then is he in particular called the word of God! Because, as many scholars have, rightly explained, he came more directly as a result of this word. Jesus is thus a loyal servant of God who never claimed that he was in any sense divine. (Surah al-Ma'idah 5:116-117)

Messengers are entrusted, we said, with the task of conveying Allah's word to other people. But this is not as simple as it looks. It implies many things which are not at first sight clear, and which the Qur'an therefore expounds and elaborates.

The most important point of which all Messengers are reminded, and which is very easy to forget or be heedless of, is that since their duty is only to convey the message they are not responsible for peoples' reaction to it, once they have made it clear to them. God has given man the power to understand the difference between truth and falsehood, especially in matters religious, once this has been explained to him. Allah has also given him the ability, by reason of his free-will, either to accept or reject this truth. And since it is only Allah who knows what goes on in people's minds, it is only He who can judge who is worthy of being guided and who deserves to be left groping in the dark; and it is God who according to this knowledge guides whom He will and withholds His guidance from Whom He will. A prophet has no such power, and cannot, therefore, guide whom he loves. (Surah al-Qasas 28:56)

"Then remind them you are only one who reminds, you are not charged to oversee them."

(Surah al-Gashiyah 88:21-22).

He should not, therefore feel sad if people turn away from him, or impute falsehoods to his message (Surah al-An'aam 6:33-34). But this is a most difficult rule to abide by. We love to be accepted by the community in which we live; many of us must have experienced that strange feeling of sadness, loneliness, and being lost when we come to live as aliens in a new community. We undergo a similar but more intense feeling, when as a result of our intellectual convictions we come to hold about life views that are entirely different from those of our own community. One easy and usual escape from the psychological and other hardships of such a life is to live in seclusion from society. Those who, for some reason cannot afford such a withdrawal, more often than not, sacrifice intellectual honesty for conformity with their community. Prophets have of course to live in the midst of the people for whom they are sent and they do not of course go to the extent of betraying their message. To have to cling tenaciously to the word of God, and yet live in the midst of people, is perhaps the greatest difficulty they have to put up with. This is made evident by the fact that most of the few occasions on which the Qur'an expresses God's disapproval of a certain line of behaviour taken by the Prophet Muhammad are related to his being so keen to win adherents as to verge on exceeding the desirable limits.

"Yet perchance if they believe wilt consume thyself, following not in this tiding, thou alter them of grief." Surah al-Kahf 18:6).

"Indeed they were near to seducing thee from that We revealed to thee, that thou mightest, forge against Us another, and then they would surely have taken thee as a friend. hnd had We not confirmed thee, surely thou were near to inclining unto them a very little; then would We have let thee taste the double of life and the double of death; and then thou wouldst have found none to help thee against Us. (Surah Bani Israel 17:73-74).