By Aftab Ahmad, New Age Islam
12 May 2014
God sent down one lakh twenty four thousand prophets for the guidance of man. All the prophets and messengers were chosen people of God. God sent prophets to every community and nation. There is no community or nation in the world to which a prophet was not sent. This truth has been presented in the Quran on many occasions.
“And for every nation is a messenger.”(Yunus: 47)
“And for every people is a guide.”(Al-Rad: 7)
“And there was no nation but that there had passed within it a warner.”(Fatir: 24)
All the prophets tried to prevent his community or nation from idol worship and shirk and other social and moral vices. As a result, their community opposed them because they were not ready to shun the religion of their forefathers. Another reason for their opposition to the message of the prophets was that they were also human beings like them and were part of the same society. When they claimed that they were prophets sent down by God and that they were ordained to tell people not to worship false gods, they would be surprised as to how one who ate like men and wandered about in the market place be a prophet. They wondered if they were prophets sent by God why angels did not accompany them or why their appearance was not different from ordinary persons. The Quran says about prophets:
“Those were the ones upon whom Allah bestowed favour from among the prophets of the descendants of Adam and of those We carried [in the ship] with Noah, and of the descendants of Abraham and Israel, and of those whom We guided and chose. When the verses of the Most Merciful were recited to them, they fell in prostration and weeping.”(Mariam:58)
People who worshipped false gods were surprised to hear that one God was the creator and master of the entire universe. They had the belief that different departments of the universe were controlled by different gods. There was a god for rains while there was another god for cure from diseases. Similarly, gods for fire and victory in the war were different. Therefore, when prophets told them that the real creator or master of the universe is One God, they looked at each other in astonishment.
“And they wonder that there has come to them a warner from among themselves. And the disbelievers say, "This is a magician and a liar. Has he made the gods [only] one God? Indeed, this is a curious thing."(Saad: 4-5)
The same topic has been discussed in another verse:
“Have the people been amazed that We revealed [revelation] to a man from among them, [saying], "Warn mankind and give good tidings to those who believe that they will have a [firm] precedence of honour with their Lord"? [But] the disbelievers say, "Indeed, this is an obvious magician."(Yunus: 2)
Therefore, when prophets tried to prevent them from idol worship, the polytheists would oppose them. This happened to all the prophets, from Noah to Prophet Muhammad.
The heads of the nation of Noah said:
“So the eminent among those who disbelieved from his people said, “We do not see you but as a man like ourselves, and we do not see you followed except by those who are the lowest of us [and] at first suggestion. And we do not see in you over us any merit; rather, we think you are liars."(Hud: 27)
Prophet Noah’s reply was:
“And I do not tell you that I have the depositories [containing the provision] of Allah or that I know the unseen, nor do I tell you that I am an angel, nor do I say of those upon whom your eyes look down that Allah will never grant them any good. Allah is most knowing of what is within their souls. Indeed, I would then be among the wrongdoers."(Hud: 31)
The treatment of Hadhrat Shuaib by his nation was the same as that of Noah by his nation. When Prophet Shuaib tried to prevent his nation from idol worship and extolled them to weigh things honestly while doing business, they would say to him that to them he was an ordinary person and they did not give him any importance.
They said, "O Shu'ayb, we do not understand much of what you say, and indeed, we consider you among us as weak. And if not for your family, we would have stoned you [to death]; and you are not to us one respected."(Hud: 91)
All the prophets announced that they did not possess the knowledge of the unseen (ghaib) and whatever knowledge they possessed was the gift of God to them. Therefore, whatever news or tidings they gave to their nation was by dint of the knowledge given to them by God. The knower of the unseen is only the trait of God.
“Knower of the unseen” (Saba: 4)
Knower of the unseen the powerful and wise”(Al Taghabun: 18)
“All the praise is to God to whom belongs whatever is in the heavens and on the earth, and praise is to whom on the Day of Judgment. He is Wise, Omniscient, knows what enters into the Earth and comes out of it and what descents from the sky and what ascends to it and He is merciful and forgiver”(Saba:2-3).
The polytheists and Jews of Makkah would try to test the knowledge of the Prophet by asking him many critical question as to when the Day of Judgment would come or that what Ruh (soul) was.
And they ask you about Rooh (soul) tell them Rooh is with the order of God and you have been given little bit of knowledge.”(Bani Israel: 85)
Similarly God said in reply to the question about Quayamat:
“They ask you about Quayamat, tell them only God knows about it and you never know it may be closer.(Al Ahzab: 63)
It is evident from the verses quoted above that God gave some knowledge of the unseen to his chosen prophets through revelation and appointed angels as their guard so that His message is conveyed to the people without any tampering by Satan:
God says to Prophet Muhammad in the Quran:
“Tell them I am not a new prophet and I do not know what is going to happen to me or to you. I follow what is revealed to me and my duty is to give clear warning.”(Al Ahqaf: 9)
Polytheists would be surprised as to what kind of prophet he was as he ate food and walked through the streets.
“They said, what kind of prophet is he, he eats food and walks through the streets.” (Al Furqan: 7)
In the Quran, God replied to their question:
“And the messengers whom We sent before thee were all (men) who ate food and walked through the streets :”( Al Furqan: 20)
Similarly, God informed the Prophet of the fate of the previous nations so that they could learn a lesson from it. Man did not know about their fate. God narrates the tale of the nation of Noah and their destruction to Prophet Muhammad and says to him:
“These are news from the unknown which we reveal to you, you did not know about them nor did your nation know about it.”(Hud: 49)
In another verse God says to the prophet
“You say, I am a man like you, I get the order that your God is one.”(Al Kahf: 110)
In yet another verse the Quran declares that only God is the knower of the unknown:
“And they ask you why a sign was not revealed to you, tell them only God knows the secrets, so wait for it, I also wait with you.”(Yunus: 20)
Before Prophet Muhammad, Noah had said to his nation that he had neither had the treasures from God nor did he possess the knowledge of the unseen nor was he an angel. Similarly, God instructed Prophet Muhammad to announce before his nation:
“Tell them, I do not claim to have treasures from God, nor do I possess the knowledge of Ghaib nor do I say that I am an angel, I only follow what is ordained to me.”(Al An’am:50)
In the Quran, God is repeatedly called Aleem and Hakeem meaning God is the possessor of all knowledge and wisdom:
“And he has all the keys to the unknown which no one knows except Him.”(Al An’am:59)
Indeed, Quran says that God gives a portion of his knowledge to the prophets as he wishes.
“God is not that gives the knowledge of the unseen but only to whom chooses from among the prophets.”(Al-e- Imran: 179)
In Quran, God says about Prophet Muhammad:
“And (O people!) your companion is not one possessed; And without doubt he saw him in the clear horizon. Neither doth he withhold grudgingly knowledge of the Unseen.”(Al Takweer: 23-25)
It means that whatever knowledge he got from Gabriel the angel, he conveyed to the people without holding anything from it back.
In many occasions in the Quran, it is clearly said that only God is the knower of the unknown, after which there is no room left for confusion or disagreement on this issue.
“Or you have a house of gold or you ascend into the sky. And [even then], we will not believe in your ascension until you bring down to us a book we may read." Say, "Exalted is my Lord! Was I ever but a human messenger?" (Bani Israel: 93)
“God says to his prophet that he gave him book and taught him what he did not know.”(Al Nisa: 113)
“[He is] the Exalted above [all] degrees, Owner of the Throne; He places the inspiration of His command upon whom He wills of His servants to warn of the Day of Meeting”.(Al Momin:15)
God had given the knowledge of the unknown to also to Jesus:
“And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses.”(Al-e-Imran: 49)
Similarly, God had given Hadhrat Khidhr the knowledge of Ghaib and had instructed Moses to meet him and learnt words of wisdom from him.
God gave Hadhrat Muhammad the Book and wisdom. The prophet made many predictions on the basis of the knowledge given by God and narrated the stories of the previous nations with the order of God so that Muslims till the Day of Judgment would benefit from them. One trait of God is that God is Aalim ul Ghaib, Aleem and Hakeem (knower of the unseen, omniscient and wise). He has monopoly on all knowledge and gives a portion of His knowledge to his prophets according to His will. This does not have any bearing on the status, greatness and sanctity of the prophets. Allah does not approve of Muslims setting up partners with God in terms of power and knowledge. That’s why on many occasions in the Quran he made the prophets make the announcement that they were prophets, human beings and that they did not possess the knowledge of the unseen. Only God has the knowledge of the unseen and the prophets are not the masters of their own fate.
“Say, "I possess not for myself any harm or benefit except what Allah should will.”(Yunus: 49)
Quran says that God gave some individual gifts to some of the prophets:
“Those messengers We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them Allah spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit”(Al Baqarah:253)
God gave Jesus the power to heal patients and bring the dead back to life with the permission of God. God gave Moses the honour of talking to him directly.
“It is not fitting for a man that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by the sending of a messenger to reveal, with Allah's permission, what Allah wills”(Al Shura:51)
God gave Prophet David the knowledge of the language of birds and animals. Hadhrat Sulaiman had the power of flying in the air with the permission of God. God made Prophet Muhammad the head of all the prophets and granted him meeting on Meraj (Ascension to Heaven). God swore about the greatness of Prophet Muhammad in the Quran:
“Nun. By the Pen and the (Record) which (men) write,- Thou art not, by the Grace of thy Lord, mad or possessed. Nay, verily for thee is a Reward unfailing: And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character.”(Al Qalam: 1-4)
“O Prophet! Truly We have sent thee as a Witness, a Bearer of Glad Tidings, and Warner,- And as one who invites to Allah's (grace) by His leave, and as a lamp spreading light.”(Al Ahzab: 45-46)
God says to Prophet Muhammad in the Quran:
“Say thou: "I am but a man like you: It is revealed to me by Inspiration, that your Allah is one Allah.”(Ha Meem Sajda:6)
Therefore, God revealed clear verses about the greatness of prophets which leave no room for any exaggeration about them.
Aftab Ahmad is an occasional contributor to New Age Islam and a freelance journalist. He has been studying the Holy Quran for some time.