Prophethood is not unknown to heavenly revealed religions, such as Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, however, it has a special status and significance.
According to Islam, Allah created man for a noble purpose: to worship Him and lead a virtuous life based on His teachings and guidance. How would man know his role and purpose of his existence unless he received clear and practical instructions of what Allah wants him to do? Here comes the need for prophethood. Thus Allah had chosen from every nation a prophet or more to covey His Message to people.
One might ask: How were the prophets chosen and who were entitled to this great honor?
Prophethood is Allah's blessing and favor that He may bestow on whom He wills. However, from surveying the various messengers throughout history, three features of a prophet may be recognized:
Hence, the slanderous Biblical stories about some of the great prophets are not accepted by Muslims. For example, Lot is reported to have committed fornication while drunk, with his daughters; or David sent one his leaders to death to marry his wife. Prophets to Muslims are greater than what these stories indicate. These stories can not be true from the Islamic point of view.
The prophets are also miraculously supported by God and instructed by Him to affirm the continuity of the message.
The content of the prophets' message to mankind can be summarized as follows:
Now one might ask: How many prophets has God sent to humanity? We do not know for sure. Some Muslim scholars have suggested 240 thousand prophets. We are only sure of what is clearly mentioned in the Quran, that is, God has sent a messenger (or more) to every nation. That is because it is one of God's principles that He will never call a people to account unless He has made clear to them what to do and what not to do. The Quran mentions the names of 25 prophets and indicates that there have been others who were not mentioned to the Prophet Mohammed. These 25 include Noah, the man of the Ark, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.These five are the greatest among God's messengers. They are called 'the resolute' prophets.
An outstanding aspect of the Islamic belief in prophethood is that Muslims believe in and respect all the messengers of God with no exceptions. Since all the prophets came from the same One God, for the same purpose - to lead mankind to God - belief in them all is essential and logical; accepting some and rejecting others has to be based on misconceptions of the prophets' role or racial bias. The Muslims are the only people in the world who consider the belief in all the prophets of God an article of faith. Thus the Jews reject Jesus Christ and Muhammad; the Christians reject Muhammad and in reality reject Moses because they do not abide by his laws. The Muslims accept them all as messengers of God who brought guidance to mankind. However, the revelation which those prophets brought from God has been tampered with in one way or the other. The belief in all the messengers of God is enjoined on the Muslims by the Quran.
"Say (O Muslims): we believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob, and their children, and that which Moses and Jesus received and that the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them and unto Him we have surrendered."The Quran continues in the following verses to instruct the Muslims that this is the true and impartial belief. If other nations believe in the same, they are following their own whims and biases and God will take care of them. Thus we read:
"And if they believe in what you believe, then they are rightly guided. But if they turn away, then they are in disunity, and Allah will suffice you against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower. This is God's religion and Who is better than God in religion?"There are, at least, two important points related to prophethood that need to be clarified. These points concern the roles of Jesus and Muhammad as prophets who are usually misunderstood.
The Quranic account of Jesus emphatically rejects the concept of his 'Divinity' and 'Divine Sonship' and presents him as one of the great prophets of God. The Quran makes it clear that the birth of Jesus without a father does not make him son of God and mentions in this respect Adam who was created by God without a father and mother:
"Truly the likeness of Jesus, in God's sight, is as Adam's likeness; He created him of dust, then said He unto him, 'Be', and he was."Like other prophets Jesus also performed miracles. For example, he raised the dead and cured the blind and lepers, but while showing these miracles he always made it clear that it was all from God. Actually the misconceptions about the personality and mission of Jesus found a way among his followers because the Divine message that he preached was not recorded during his presence in the world, rather it was recorded after a lapse of about hundred years. According to the Quran he was sent to the children of Israel; he confirmed the validity of the Torah which was revealed to Moses and he also brought the glad tidings of a final messenger after him.
"And when Jesus son of Mary said, 'Children of Israel, I am indeed the Messenger to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be the PRAISED ONE."However, the majority of the Jews rejected his ministry. They plotted against his life and in their opinion crucified him. But the Quran refutes this opinion and says that they neither killed him nor crucified him, rather he was raised up to God. There is a verse in the Quran, which implies that Jesus will come back and all the Christians and Jews believe in him before he dies. This is also supported by authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
(61:6) (The capitalized portion is the translation of Ahmad which is Prophet Muhammed's name.)
The last prophet of God, Muhammad, was born in Arabia in the sixth century C.E. Up to the age of forty, people of Makkah knew him only as a man of excellent character and cultured manners and called him AL-AMEEN (the trustworthy). He also did not know that he was soon to made a prophet and receiver of revelation from God. He called the idolaters of Makkah to worship the only one God and accept him as His prophet. The revelation that he received was preserved in his life-time in the memory of his companions and was also recorded in pieces of palm leaves, leather etc...
Thus the Quran that is found today is the
same that was revealed to him; not a syllable of it has been altered as
God Himself has guaranteed its preservation. This Quran claims to be the
book of guidance for the whole humanity for all times, and mentions Muhammad
as the last Prophet of God.