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Roots of Religion: Prophethood

In the series of lessons related to the ‘Roots of Religion’, we commenced our discussion with ‘Tauheed’ the first and most basic principle of Islam. Therein, we stated that the Allah’s recognition and His worship are the foundations of Islam and the source of belief. We then discussed about the second principle viz. ‘Adl’ – Allah’s Justice, wherein we learnt that Allah is Just and never oppresses His creatures. Inshallah, now we shall proceed to explain the third principle viz. ‘Prophethood’ (Nabuwwat). Prophethood means that Allah has sent some guides for human guidance.

Let us initiate our discussion by appreciating the need for Prophets.

NECESSITY OF PROPHETS:

Man is in need of prophets due to the following reasons:

(1) NEED OF LAWS FOR THE SOCIETY

Man cannot live in isolation. He cannot survive independently, but lives in a society, where he interacts with other humans. The smallest unit in a human society is the family. Many families combine to form a small village, which is the next biggest unit followed by a big village, a town, a city, a district and finally a nation.
In a society, members tend to maintain some sort of a relationship with each other, seek advantages and benefits for themselves and strive to avoid losses. Usually, this results in conflicts, disputes and disagreements, often leading to violence and bloodshed. Therefore, the society is in need of some well-defined laws, so that all its members can reside in peace and tranquility. Thus, the need for the laws is a rational necessity. Therefore, people feel the need for a person through whom Allah has expounded these individualistic and social laws.

(2) WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO FRAME LAWS?

No matter how chaste a man or a group of men may be, there always exists the possibility of personal interest influencing the laws framed by him/them. There exists the possibility that only a particular section in society will benefit from the laws, while the rights of another section are completely disregarded. Even otherwise, men do not possess the right or capability to formulate equitable laws for others. Drafting laws means governance, which invariably leads to acquisition of power to usurp the wealth and rights of others. Since framing of laws is a sensitive issue, none other than Allah the Almighty has the right to formulate laws, as He alone is man’s creator and commands absolute dominion over his affairs. Our existence depends upon our Master and Trainer, Who is Allah.

In reality, none is completely aware of what is good and bad for society, and therefore no one is capable of determining its path of progress. No one can claim with certainty, which action will be useful for society and which action will bring it on the verge of destruction.

Therefore, man cannot formulate a law beneficial for all sections of the society. A law capable of implementation. A law that will unite diverse people. A law that cannot be exploited by a few influential individuals/groups. Formulating laws that will meet all these criteria should be the responsibility of the one who is completely aware of all the facets of society, both evident and concealed, minor and major, significant and insignificant. Undoubtedly, only Allah, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise is aware of all these aspects. Therefore, only He is eligible for formulating laws for mankind, and there is no one who can dispute with Him in this regard. Allah framed these laws and conveyed it to man through the Messengers (a.s.), to ensure human success in this world as well as the hereafter.

People, who ignore divine laws and consider themselves capable of formulating laws for man, have some inherent defects in their so-called superior laws:
(a) Oppressive and dictatorship laws based on the ideas of one man. Such law bears the characteristics of weakness, deprivation, oppression, narrow mindedness etc.

(b) Oppressive laws, framed either by the worker class or the aristocratic class. It goes without saying that such laws are prejudiced and serve only one of the classes, depending upon which class has framed the laws.

(c) Democratic laws framed by the majority. It is of no consequence whether the majority is aware and learned or unaware and ignorant. Today, such laws are considered to be the most progressive, as they are in touch with reality. However, as it is clear to all, these laws have not succeeded as yet.

(3) NEED FOR A GUIDE AND A LEGISLATOR

In man, Allah has created an amazing creature, adorning him with diverse capabilities. Now if He leaves man without a guide and legislator, his creation would be rendered meaningless and irrational. Left on his own, man will deviate. He will create an idol for himself, every other day. He will associate partners with his Lord. Hence, the need for a God’s representative to guide man’s thinking and protect it from going astray, so that he may not get entangled in false beliefs, idol or fire-worship. Prophets also reminded man of the forgotten bounties of Allah and awakened him from the sleep of negligence.

(4) THE REQUIREMENT OF KNOWLEDGE

Man loves knowledge. He always strives to discover the unknown. He wants to investigate the facts of world, as also the hereafter. Left on his own, he will beget thousands of irrational viewpoints and false beliefs. He will be unable to attain true and immaculate knowledge. Hence the need for a trustworthy, divine teacher to guide man towards true knowledge. For example, modern medical science has proved the perils of eating pork. However, thousands of years ago, when humanity was in ignorance and unawareness, Allah the Almighty conveyed this to the people through His messengers. Allah did this without research and experiments and in the most simple manner possible. In reality, there are many matters about which we know nothing, nevertheless, the All-Knowing Allah, has informed us about these matters through His Messengers.

(5) TO REALIZE THE DIVINE VIEW ON GOOD AND BAD

We have accepted the fact (in the lessons of Tauheed and Adl) that the All Powerful Allah has created us, and His actions are not in vain (i.e. that there is some aim in man’s creation). As such, we will have to accept that there may be some deeds that please Allah and yet others that may displease Him and He may punish us for those actions. Therefore, it is necessary for man to know what pleases Allah and what becomes the cause of His displeasure, so that he can act accordingly. It is important for man that he always endeavours to achieve Allah’s pleasure and refrain from displeasing Him. Hence, the need of the prophets, to convey to man, what is the cause of Allah’s pleasure and what is the cause of His displeasure.

ANOTHER FACET TO THE NECESSITY OF PROPHETS

In addition to the above-mentioned points, there are certain other aspects that will make us appreciate the need for the Prophets:

Man has to select a path to lead his life. However, the question is how should he select this path?
(1) By his own understanding.
(2) Accepting the path undertaken by others.
(3) Accepting the path shown by the divine messengers.

A little contemplation will direct us to the third alternative, because experience tells us that not once but many times we have changed the path after realising our mistakes and this was due to our lack of knowledge and foresight as also our decisions being influenced by our impulses and environments. As a result, we become unsure of our power and capabilities and abandon the path we had chosen with so much confidence and conviction.

The course undertaken by others also holds no value for us. Since what afflicts us, afflicts them as well. As with us, their selection is also subject to error and deviation. Thus, the only way to a successful life is the way determined by the revelation of the perfect knowledge of Allah, conveyed to us by the infallible Prophets.

The following illustration will clarify this point:

Take a host who has invited many people to his house. The guests are unaware of his address, and to complicate matters further, the road to his house has many lanes and alleys. Moreover, the path is dark, and perilous with thieves and wild animals. Now there are only two possibilities:

First: Either the host does not make any arrangement to receive his guests and throws away the food when they fail to turn up.

Second: He sends an informed and compassionate person with a lamp to guide his guests to his house. For if he does not do this, his invitation will become meaningless.

Similarly, Allah created this Universe for man’s benefit. He invited us to His servitude and obedience. But there is every possibility that a man, eager to tread on the path of Allah’s obedience, slips and gets misguided. Or on the path to Allah’s servitude, the man encounters satanic whisperings, the temptations to disobey Allah, disbelief, ignorance and confusion, which deviate him from his objective. If our host, Allah, glorified be He, had not sent respectable personalities like the Prophets with the lamp of miracles, and had not revealed a complete code of life in the Noble Quran, then His invitation would be meaningless. Every journey requires a path and a guide and therein lies the necessity of divine Prophets.

Now that we have understood the need for prophethood, we must also realise that sending Prophets is possible for Allah, as He is the All Powerful. He can select anyone from among His creatures to convey His message.

Many verses of the Noble Quran declare the reason for sending prophets. For example,

"He it is who has raised among the illiterates an Apostle (Muhammad) from among themselves, who recites to them His communications and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and the Wisdom, although they were before certainly in clear error."

(Jum’ah : 2)

The traditions and sayings of the Holy Imams (a.s.) also convey the same point – that the purpose of appointing Prophets was to improve the general economic conditions, to remind about the hereafter and invite the people towards Allah through teachings of the Quran and wisdom (hikmah).

THE METHOD OF INVITATION OF PROPHETS (A.S.) AND THEIR ENDEAVOURS

The Lord of the Worlds has not sent the Prophets (a.s.) and Messengers (a.s.) for any specific section of human society i.e. a prophet cannot claim that he has come only for doctors and engineers and is not concerned with the others. Hence Allah’s Prophets (a.s.) addressed each and every section of the society. They invited all of them towards Allah, and His worship.

When a Prophet comes and calls the people, his invitation is simple and can be understood by all the people, and not just by the eminent scholars and intellectuals of society. The most insignificant and the dullest individual of society can understand the Prophet’s invitation, since the latter does not deceive the masses with vague and confusing language and ambiguous terms. Rather he impresses his point by appealing to the innate nature of his audience.

The very first point that the Prophets (a.s.) underlined in their invitation was related to Allah’s worship and His recognition. It follows that when a person recognises his Creator and Sustainer, he adopts the path, which leads to His pleasure and performs those actions that are a cause of His satisfaction. This alone can guarantee a person success in this world and the hereafter. This was the main aim of the Prophets’ (a.s) invitation.

Allah’s Prophets (a.s.) always endeavoured to awaken the strengths and abilities of man’s inner nature. Therefore, the Prophets (a.s.) are referred to as iþ·hå¿ – Reminder or Awakener. Prophets convey the message of the Almighty Allah to the creatures. They invite the people towards Allah and towards those actions which invite His pleasure like reformation, discarding worship of other deities, truth, beneficence, justice, equity and the best of moral etiquette. Likewise they free humanity from the shackles of cravings and desires, conflicts of ideologies and oppression of tyrants and idol-worship. Prophets (a.s.) were appointed to proclaim the greatness and glory of the Almighty Allah alone, and no one else besides Him. Everything that they announced was by His order, and nothing was from their own or anyone’s side. They were always humble and soft-spoken in their conversation and impressed the fact they were mere emissaries of Allah and spoke only as they had been commanded by Him. When we scrutinise the life of our beloved Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a), we see that he referred to himself as ‘Allah’s slave’.

CONDITIONS FOR PROPHETHOOD

If a person claims to be Allah’s Prophet, then he should necessarily fulfill the following conditions:
(1) He must possess the characteristics of goodness, purity, trustworthiness, truthfulness and other morals and ethics, so that the people may heed his claim.

(2) He should be infallible. Infallibility implies complete faith, belief and recognition as a consequence of Allah’s grace and favour in such a way that, despite having total freedom and knowledge, he is not at all inclined towards sins and disobedience of Allah’s laws.

There are some people who express amazement as to how it is possible that a man does not get inclined towards sin. Infallibility was not peculiar to the Prophets (a.s.) as we ourselves are infallible in so many actions. We neither perform certain deeds nor even lean towards them. For instance:
(i) Have you burnt yourselves (knowingly) with fire or thought of doing it?
(ii) Have you jumped from a mountaintop or even thought of doing it?
(iii) Are you ever inclined towards catching a live electric wire?

Obviously the answer to all three questions will be in the negative. This is because we possess sufficient information about the destructive powers of these acts. Our belief in this regard is perfect, and we don’t need to be convinced about the stupidity of jumping from the mountaintop or catching a live wire.

Similarly, when we reach the stage of complete belief and understanding, then we will stop committing sins like backbiting, lying, listening to music, etc., which we now perform with audacity. The real problem is that we know the dangers of these sins, but our belief and conviction is not strong enough for us to prevent us from sinning. Therefore, although we understand that an action is bad we still perform it. Kindly pay attention on the following example:

We know that a corpse neither breathes, nor punches nor kicks. Still in the dead of the night, we fear to be in the same room as the corpse. Why? Our knowledge and conviction is not perfect, rather it is defective. On the other hand, a person washes the corpse, spends the entire night with the corpse without fear and terror. By this example we can appreciate the difference between us and the person who washes the dead body. We possess the knowledge but he possesses the faith.

Messengers (a.s.) due to their deep knowledge and perfect faith, not only refrained from sin but were not even inclined towards committing it. This is called ‘Infallibility’ and the person having this special characteristic is known as ‘Masoom’ (Infallible).

(3) The person who claims to have been sent from Allah’s side not only invites men to logical pronouncements and intimations, but also to laws and affairs that are outside the realm of human understanding. Hence, it is necessary that a claimant of prophethood possesses both the signs i.e. divine knowledge and divine power. So that it is conclusively proved that whatever he says is from Allah’s side and not his own ideas and thoughts.

Miracles, which only the prophets could perform, are totally distinct from the acts of magicians and sorcerers. The magician conjures his tricks through repetition and practice, by applying the laws of physics and chemistry and sometimes employs the sleight of hand and mesmerism to complete his act. Such a performance fetches the magician a little applause and has no value beyond that. But the Allah’s Prophets show miracles only with the help of Allah’s unlimited power.

For instance, one day the people gathered around Hazrat Saleh (a.s.) and demanded that if he had power from Allah’s side, then he should at that very moment produce a she-camel with certain characteristics from the mountain.

Hazrat Saleh (a.s.) did not tell his people, ‘Please wait and let me practice or gather the material required to perform such a miracle.’ (Although it is obvious that even after doing so, he would not have been able to produce a camel from the mountain). Rather, Hazrat Saleh (a.s.), by the power that Allah had vested in him, commanded the mountain, and instantly a she-camel appeared from it with all the requisite characteristics demanded by his people. Such are the miracles and they can only be performed by Allah’s emissaries.

HISTORY OF ALLAH’S PROPHETS (A.S.)

From the traditions of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and the Holy Imams (a.s.) we learn that, Allah with His special favour and grace has sent a series of 1,24,000 Prophets for man’s guidance. The first among them was Hazrat Adam (a.s.) and the last was Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.).

The Prophets whose names are mentioned in the Holy Quran are: Hazrat Adam (a.s.), Hazrat Idris (a.s.), Hazrat Nuh (a.s.), Hazrat Hud (a.s.), Hazrat Saleh (a.s.), Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.), Hazrat Lut (a.s.), Hazrat Ismail (a.s.), Hazrat Ilyas (a.s.), Hazrat Al-Yasa’ (a.s.), Hazrat Uzair (a.s.), Hazrat Ishaaq (a.s.), Hazrat Yaqub (a.s.), Hazrat Yusuf (a.s.), Hazrat Shoaib (a.s.), Hazrat Musa (a.s.), Hazrat Haroon (a.s.), Hazrat Dawood (a.s.), Hazrat Sulaiman (a.s.), Hazrat Ayyub (a.s.), Hazrat Zulkifl (a.s.), Hazrat Yunus (a.s.), Hazrat Zakariya (a.s.), Hazrat Yahya (a.s.), Hazrat Isa (a.s.) and the Prophet of Islam, Hazrat Mohammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.).

Of the above, some Prophets only received Allah’s communication through Wahy (revelation) but were not appointed for propagation. Some of them were appointed for propagation, but did not bring any new laws (Shariat). Rather they explained and communicated the Shariat of other Prophets. Hazrat Nuh (a.s.), Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.), Hazrat Moosa (a.s.), Hazrat Isa (a.s.) and Hazrat Mohammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.) are the greatest of all the Prophets. They are those who brought an independent Shariat and a book, from Allah’s side. These five Prophets are known as ‘Ulul Azm’ (lit. Firm in determination). Some Prophets were sent for the guidance of entire mankind, while some came for a specific group or tribe.
(Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 11)

Human society is in need of Messengers. Without them, man cannot aspire to scale the peaks of excellence. In the present era, it is the holy personage of Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.w.a.), who is Allah’s Messenger and emissary for us. Since every aspect of the life of the divinely appointed person is worth studying and probing, we present some part of the illustrious life and personage of Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). For this purpose we have tried to utilise and take maximum benefit from the reliable books of history and authentic traditions. We have also tried to make the narrative as simple as possible. In order to understand the lofty character of our beloved Prophet (s.a.w.a.), it is necessary to draw your attention to the place where he (s.a.w.a.) was born and nurtured and grew up to be an extraordinary man. Also, it is important to understand the circumstances of the people of that time.

HOLY MECCA

The holy city of Mecca was just like any other oasis in Arabia and did not hold any geographical importance. At the time of our Prophet’s (s.a.w.a.) birth, murder and mayhem, looting and plundering, intoxication and gambling were a way of life for the Arabs. The Arabs were steeped in these despicable actions to such an extent that they would gamble away their own wives, and bury their daughters alive. They were also the perpetrators of the greatest crime, i.e. idol-worship. They bowed in front of idols, instead of bowing in front of Allah, the Almighty. They considered the idols as their intercessors.

THE LIFE OF HOLY PROPHET (S.A.W.A.)

Our beloved Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was born in this rebellious and oppressive age. He was born on 17th Rabiul Awwal, 570 A.D. in the house of Bani Hashim, which was the most excellent of tribes and most pure in terms of lineage. His (s.a.w.a.) illustrious father was Hazrat Abdullah, son of Hazrat Abdul Muttalib (a.s.) His (s.a.w.a.)respected mother was Janabe Aamina binte Wahab (s.a.). His (s.a.w.a.) father expired while he (s.a.w.a.) was not yet born. At the time of his birth, a strange voice declared, ‘You have given birth to the most excellent of men, keep his name "Muhammad" (s.a.w.a.).’ After his (s.a.w.a.) birth, he was entrusted by his grandfather, Hazrat Abdul Mutallib (a.s.), to the care of Janabe Halima (r.a.) for weaning. She kept the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) with herself for two years and some months after which she entrusted him back to Hazrat Abdul Mutallib (a.s.). When he (s.a.w.a.) was six years old, his respected mother and his nurse Umme Aiman, took him to Medina for visitation and introduction to relatives. His (s.a.w.a.) mother expired on the return journey and he (s.a.w.a.) returned to Mecca with his nurse, Umme Aiman. When he (s.a.w.a.) was eight years old, his (s.a.w.a.) beloved grandfather also expired, and then as per the latter’s will, his affectionate uncle Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.), took him under his care.

THE JOURNEY TO SYRIA

When he was twelve years old, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) travelled to Syria along with his uncle, Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.). Many a miracle took place on the way to which the fellow travellers were witnesses. For instance, when the sun would beam fiercely upon the caravan, a small cloud would always give shade to the personage of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). It was on this very journey that they met a Christian monk named ‘Baheera’ who predicted amazing and astonishing facts about Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.). He also posed some questions to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and upon hearing the replies, revealed that he (s.a.w.a.) was indeed the awaited Prophet whose advent the Bible had prophesized and about whom Hazrat Isa (a.s.) had given glad tidings. Then he warned Hazrat Abu Talib (a.s.) and advised him to take precautions to safeguard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) from the machinations of the Jews. He also informed the other travellers of the prophethood of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

Later, in his youth he (s.a.w.a.) again travelled to Syria as a representative of a rich lady named Janabe Khadija (s.a.). In this journey, too, many miraculous events occurred through his holy personage. It is not possible to narrate all the events over here. However, one of these miracles was the returning of the eyesight of a blind Christian named ‘Faleeq’. On his return from Syria, the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) married Janabe Khadija (s.a.).