Importance of Belief in Prophethood
The importance of prophethood (Nabuwwat) is simply emphasized by the fact that Allah the Almighty chose it as the medium to reach His message to the people.
Allah had introduced Himself in the realm of souls (Aalame’ Arwah) – testified in the Holy Quran in – so that every person born on this earth, irrespective of which faith he was born it, would innately testify to the Unity of Allah. This is an important point to note – despite all differences, man will unanimously agree that the belief in God is in our innate nature (fitrat). It may happen that this world and its elements may cause this innate nature to be veiled and consequently, hamper the recognition of Allah. Hence Allah in His infinite Wisdom appointed Prophets and Messengers to uncover these veils and guide man to the true recognition of his Creator.
Such is the importance of the station of Prophethood that the first person to step on this face of the earth – Hazrat Adam (as) was a prophet appointed by Allah so that no person who turned in attention to his innate nature would remain deprived of the message of Allah. The Holy Quran in the Chapter of the Cow, verse 255 testifies, “Allah is the friend of those who believe; He takes them from darkness to light.”
Since the station of Prophethood is divinely instituted, it is important to pay attention to the following points:
The appointment of a prophet is the sole prerogative and responsibility of Allah. The appointment does not leave any scope for human intervention or opinion. It is necessary that the prophet appointed by Allah is the best amongst his people in every aspect (for example, the prophet will be the most eloquent in the language spoken by his people) or that he brings proofs such as miracles (Mo’jizah) to establish his claim of being divine representative. Please note that while the word Mo’jizah may not appear in the Quran, the discussion of miracles is conclusively presented in the Holy Quran under the words “Ayat” or “Bayyanah” (clear signs).
The appointment of each prophet is preceded by an announcement made by the previous prophet. For example, the arrival of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) was heralded in all divine books. Here it is important to mention that Allah sent prophets not only subject to their acceptance of the prophet of Mohammed (pbuh), but also on the condition that they would proclaim his arrival to their tribes. This is testified by the Holy Quran in the following words:
‘Behold! Allah took the covenant of the prophets, saying: “I give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you an apostle, confirming what is with you; do ye believe in him and render him help.’
(Ref: Chapter of Ahzab (The Allies), verse 81)
This verse clearly highlights the covenant taken from the prophets regarding the appointment of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh). It naturally follows that if there were another prophet of messenger after Mohammed Mustafa (pbuh), then he would have informed us clearly about it. But we do not find any such message from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) which confirms that he was the last Prophet and Messenger from Allah.
It is important to understand the subtle difference between Prophets and Messengers. Prophets are called by the word Nabi, while Messengers are identified as Rasul. The word Nabi comes from the Arabic word Naba, which means “News”. A Prophet is therefore one who has “News from Allah”. The word Rasul comes from the Arabic word Rasala which means Message. A Messenger is therefore one who conveys the News from Allah (the Message) to the people. As per Islam, Allah sent 124,000 prophets of which 313 were Messengers. Messenger appointed by Allah were from the same group of Prophets. Messengers were not a group separate from Prophets. Thus all Messengers were Prophets, but all Prophets were not Messengers. It is not possible that a person claims to be a Messenger, but not a prophet from Allah.
When the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) was asked about the number of previous Prophets, he replied, “123,999.” To the question about the number of Messengers amongst these, he replied, “312″. Then he said, “I am the last Prophet and Messenger. There will neither be any prophet after me, nor any Messenger.” This tradition is another proof that Messengers were not a group separate from Prophets.
There are at least eight verses in Quran in which the word “Khatam” has been used and in each verse, the implied meaning is that of a seal indicating finality. In the 40th verse of the Chapter of Allies (Ahzab), it is clearly said that “Mohammed (pbuh) is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger (Rasul) of Allah and the seal of the Prophets (Nabi)”. Using the same reasoning as above, we conclude that by using the words “Seal of the Prophets” for the Holy Prophet (pbuh), Allah has conclusively sealed the doors for any future Messengers as well.
As against prophesizing about the arrival of another prophet or messenger, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) said, “There will arise 30 imposters in my nation and each one of them will pronounce that he is a prophet, but I am the last in the line of the Prophets and no Messenger will follow me.” Thus within his lifetime, the Holy Prophet (pbuh) actually cautioned his people from being deviated by any claimant Prophethood or Messengership after him.
The appearance of false claimants to the divine post of Prophethood is a testimony to the greatness and truthfulness of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) in addition to it being a conclusive proof that Islam is the final message from Allah till the Day of Judgment. All fraudulent claims to the post of Prophethood in recent times have been with the objective of abrogating Islam. No person comes forward today saying that he is the successor to Musa or Isa. He always claims to be a successor to the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh). Allah (swt), time and again, reminds in the Holy Quran to reflect upon the happenings around us and to take lesson from them in the following words, “Surely in this is a sign for those who reflect.”
The blessed arrival of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) upon this earth put an end to the celestial visits of Shaytaan. However one must remember that Shaytaan is that enemy who never tires of misguiding people and who persistently makes plans to ensure that people are deviated from the right path. Having been promised respite till the appointed time, Shaytaan realized that it is impossible to deviate the Holy Prophet (pbuh). He therefore turned his attention to misguiding people through the arrival of false prophets from time to time. We must remain alert from such attacks of Shaytaan for such an attack is made directly on the core beliefs which we will be questioned about on the Day of Judgment.
More often than not it is seen that false claimants to the post of Prophethood are given covert, and sometimes, open backing by Western governments. This leads us to believe that the arrival of false prophets is a conspiracy by the West to destabilize Islam and the create disunity amongst the Muslims. Even today we witness the open support which is offered to the Qadianis in the United Kingdom or to the Bahais by Israel.
It is often seen that the followers of false prophets appear to be outwardly extremely clean and of high morals. They interact well socially with the people, which attract people to their fold. Herein there is a dual message for us Muslims – While it is important that we are not misled by their outward appearance, it is also necessary that we ourselves revert to the teachings of the Holy Prophet of Islam (pbuh) to ensure that people do not carry a wrong impression of Islam due to our actions. It is also incumbent upon the scholars and speakers who represent Islam at various forums to caution the masses about the dangers of such false prophets so that people are not misguided. To my mind, the example of thse followers is no different than the legendary “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Once again, I would like to emphasize that the correct belief in Prophethood is a core necessity of Islam and is a critical element which we will be questioned about in our grave.
One method of mass propagation followed by the supporters of false prophets is the establishments of schools through which the young and impressionable minds of thousands of children are poisoned by false and misleading beliefs. It is necessary that we avoid sending our children to such schools. Apart from this, it is important that just as we question our children about the various subjects like English and Science which are taught in schools, we also inquire about the teachings related to Morals which is being imported to our children so that we are always aware if there is any deviation which are children are being exposed to. We must remember that while worldly education is important, its use is limited to the benefits of this world only. It cannot be used as an excuse for our lacking in the hereafter. Children are a trust given to us by Allah in this world. Apart from their upbringing, we must not forget that we are responsible for their beliefs as well and will be questioned about it.
The teachings of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) – not just his words but even the incidents which have reached us through the efforts of scholars are gems which we must recognize and take benefit from. In these times, when our faith is vulnerable to doubts and uncertainty, we must remain attached to the words of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) which will ensure success for us in this world and in the Hereafter.