By Khalid Baig
22 September 2017
ACCORDING to a report in Musnad Ahmed collection of Ahadees, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said: “From Adam to me, Allah sent a hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets, of whom three hundred and fifteen were entrusted with a Book.” The question is why were there so many more Prophets than Books? To reflect on this is to gain an understanding about the very institution of Prophethood. If the role of a Prophet were simply to deliver the Book, as some misguided people in our time try to argue, there should have been as many Books as Prophets. But the very fact that there have been many Prophets without a new Book, firmly establishes the need for the Prophets as a source of guidance in its own rights.
It had to be so because life emulates life. We need live human beings to inspire us; to show right from wrong in every day struggles of life; to confront us and pose questions; to answer questions; to clarify misconceptions; to hold our hand; to be the model. We certainly need principles to guide our thoughts and actions. But we also need real life examples to relate the principles to real life situations. This point is beautifully established in the Opening Chapter (Surah Fatiha) of Quran. It is a short Surah, consisting of only seven verses, and it consists of a prayer for guidance: O’ Allah! Show us the Straight Path. Yet two of the seven verses are used to describe the Straight Path in terms of people. “The path of those on whom Thou has bestowed Thy Grace. Not the path of those who earn Thy wrath nor of those who go astray.”
It would have been simpler to just refer to the Straight path as the Path of the Quran. But the longer description has been used to emphasis the fact that human beings need a human model to provide complete guidance. Of course Prophets were sent to provide the needed guidance. It is also obvious that whatever a Prophet declares is binding on all his followers. “To accept a person as a Prophet of God and then to refuse to accept his commands, is so ridiculous that I would not have believed any sensible person would ever offer this proposition,” says prominent Hadees scholar Maulana Manzoor Naumani. But this most irrational of ideas has been promulgated by a segment of Western educated Muslims. They say, without a sense of irony, that we accept the Quran but not the Hadees.
Anyone who says that he accepts the Quran but rejects the Hadith cannot be serious. Or he has not read the Qur’an either. For the Qur’an says: “And We have sent down unto you the Message so that you may explain clearly to the people what is sent for them and so that they may give thought.” (Al-Nahal 16:44). It also declares: “Allah did confer a great favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, purifying them, and instructing them in Scripture and Wisdom, while before that they had been in manifest error.” (Aale Imran 3:164). So it is the job of the Prophet (PBUH), to explain the Quran. And it is the job of the believers to obey him. “He who obeys the Messenger obeys Allah indeed” (Nisa 4:80). nd even more emphatically it says: “And obey Allah and obey His Messenger.”(Al-Taghabun 64:12).
It is to be noted that here the Quran did not say “Obey Allah and His Messenger.” By using the commands “obey” independently the fact has been firmly established that the status of an order given by the Prophet (PBUH), is the same as that given by Allah. Even a casual reader of the Quran can notice that it gives commands without giving many details. For example it refers to Salat (ritual prayers) 67 times. But it never explains how the salat has to be performed. The question is not just how a follower of the Qur’an is to follow that command, but the bigger question is: why the omission in the first place? Is it an oversight, in which case one cannot consider it to be the Book of Allah, or is it simply because another source for those details had been provided?
Similarly the Qur’an approvingly mentions many other practices, like the call to prayer (azan) and the Friday prayer, but never gives commands about them. Again, why? Is there any other explanation possible except for the obvious one that there is a parallel source of instruction in the person of the Prophet (PBUH)? Actually in the form of Hadees, Muslims have an unprecedented branch of knowledge. “Hadees is a branch of knowledge whose equivalent is not to be found in other religions,” says renowned scholar Dr Hamidullah.