The angels, jinn and prophets are all created by God and act as His servants; this is a basic tenet laid down by the Holy Qur’an, It is God who created them – and it is He Who regulates their course in life on earth. Like everyone else, they do not have the ability to cause either good or harm, unless God so wishes. All prophets are human beings, and therefore, like human beings, they are born, die, fall ill and enjoy good health; eat and drink and do not differ from them in their material way of being.
Prophets are void of divinity, as divinity is exclusive to God, but they do receive revelations, a fact which caused wonder and astonishment among earlier generations. Regarding this attitude. God says in the Holy Qur’an: Is it a matter of wonderment to me that we have sent our inspiration to a man from among themselves that he should warn mankind (of their danger) and give the good news to the believers. (Qur’an;10:2). And naught prevented mankind from believing when the guidance came unto them save that they said, ‘’Hath God sent a mortal as (His) messenger?” (Qur’an;17:94). God the Almighty replied by saying that a prophet is one among the community to which he is sent: Say: If there were upon the earth angels walking secure. We would have sent down for them from heaven an angel as messenger. (Qur’an;17:95). Those who were astonished argued saying, ‘’Ye are but mortals like us, who would fain turn us away from what our fathers used to worship. Then bring some clear warrant.” (Qur’an;14:10). The prophets answered: “We are but mortals like you, but God giveth grace unto whom He will of His slaves. It is not ours to bring you a warrant unless by the permission of God.’’ (Qur’an;14:11). And they argued saying, “What aileth this messenger (of God) that he eateth food and walketh in the markets?” (Qur’an;25:7). And the Divine answer to those who argued was: They say, “Why is not an angel sent down to him?” If we did send down an angel, the matter would be settled at once, and no respite would be granted them. If we had made it an angel, we should have sent him as a man, and we should certainly have caused them confusion in a matter which they have already covered with confusion. (Qur’an;6:8-9).
The Prophet is only superior to other human beings, inasmuch as he has been bestowed with divine revelation. God says to Muhammad: Say thou, “I am but a man like you; it is revealed to me.”(Qur’an;41:6). The word ‘but’ occurs in this verse for the purpose of restriction and qualification, and it also excludes any possibility of the Prophet having any qualities which are incompatible with human beings. This is further emphasized in this verse, by the words ‘like you’. As we said before, physically a prophet is just like us. But he differs from us in the way he behaves, his outstanding qualities and his greatness. Even if Muhammad had not been the last of the Prophets, he would have certainly been the greatest of the great and a hero of heroes. But if a prophet is like us, can he make the same mistakes? The answer to that question is as follows:
1). No prophet will miscommunicate the Divine message and teaching the path of God. A prophet cannot go wrong on such occasions, as when he gives such teaching he is acting as a ‘channel’ for the Divine Source, and therefore does not “say of his own desire.” (Qur’an;53:3). O mankind! The Apostle hath come to you in truth from God. (Qur’an;4:170). After receiving prophethood, it is impossible for a prophet to be anything but completely just and fair in his behaviour or to conduct himself in any way that contradicts his image as a perfect human being. This is because God has made him a shining example for us to use as a model for our own behaviour. Ye have indeed in the apostle of God a beautiful pattern (of conduct). (Qur’an;33:21). All prophets are deemed to be like this. There was indeed in them an excellent example for you to follow. (Qur’an;60:6). Such a quality requires a prophet to be above any vices and shortcomings.
2). The prophet may sometimes make a mistake with regards to religious teaching, but this is only when he exercises his own independent thinking concerning a matter about which he has not received Divine guidance. Any prophet may commit such an error. However, God does not endorse such mistakes, in fact. He corrects them and shows them the right path, as happened in the incident with the blind person, as narrated in the Holy Qur’an in Surah 80, entitled ‘He frowned’, and also the incident involving the captives, after the battle of Badr. On both these occasions the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), acted on his own opinion, which was later disapproved of through revelation. I pondered over his attitude towards the blind man, and said to myself, “If God had not revealed this Surah, He frowned’, and had the Prophet explained the reasons for his attitude to the politicians and wise and learned men of that time, would anyone of them have found fault with him or would they have unanimously approved of his action?” During this incident the Prophet, (peace be upon him), was engrossed in a discussion with a group of eminent men whom he was eager to win over to his side. At that time, one of his followers came up to him wanting clarification on a matter which was in no way urgent and could have waited until the Prophet had finished the task at hand. Would anyone have behaved differently in such a case? And could anyone deny that his action was correct? While he acted correctly according to human reasoning, this was overruled by Divine revelation for factors beyond the scope of the human minds. And of course. Divine reasoning is beyond any shortcoming whereas human thinking can be partial and misconstrued. The same may be said regarding the stand taken by the Prophet about the captives of the battle of Badr: according to Divine revelation it was an incorrect stand, even though it would have been Judged correct by the most serious-minded and wise men. However, it is important not to criticize these incidents as being mistakes made by a great man. What we can learn from them is that divine revelation is above the wisdom of every mortal.
3). A prophet may make mistakes regarding administrative or military matters, because a prophet is a human being, and he thinks and acts like one. When he was deliberating on such matters, the Prophet Muhammad’s companions would ask him whether his decision was based on Divine revelation or his own thinking. If he said that it was not a Divine directive but rather his own opinion, they would also express their personal views, which he would either accept or reject. To illustrate this, we can look at the incident of the battle of Badr. The companions asked, “O Prophet of God, is this a location assigned to you by the Almighty, which means we can neither advance nor retreat from it, or did you decide to come 215 General introduction to Islam here of your own will and discretion, thinking it was a tactical move?” When he answered that he had acted upon his own decision, they suggested a different move which he accepted and acted upon. Similar changes in his decision occurred during the digging of the trench and the truce with the tribe of Ghatafan, during that battle.
4). The Prophet expressed his own views, with regard to everyday matters, such as industry, agriculture and medicine. Of course, he may have been wrong, as such knowledge belongs to specialists in those areas. For example, he was wrong in his opinion of how to pollinate date palms. But this was not a shortcoming, as no one however great in his knowledge and learning, can be expected to know about everything. In this case the pollinating of date palms is a purely agricultural matter and the Prophet’s opinion was off the cuff. He neither pushed them to accept his view, nor did he accredit it to Divine revelation. When he realized his mistake he told them, “You know better regarding your worldly affairs.” The Prophet Has No Knowledge of the Unseen The Holy Qur’an states that the Prophet has no knowledge of the metaphysical world, and that God has commanded him to inform mankind of that fact: Say: I tell you not that with me are the treasures of God nor do I know what is hidden, nor do I tell you I am an angel. I but follow what is revealed to me. (Qur’an;6:50). Say: I have no power over any good or harm to myself, except as God willeth. If I had knowledge of the unseen,! should have multiplied all goods, and no evil should have touched me: I am but a warner and a bringer of glad tidings to those who have faith. (Qur’an;7: 188). The Prophet (peace be upon him), conveyed to mankind the above Divine Message; the same Message is contained in the Holy Qur’an and recited by all Muslims. Many Prophets, One Message God Almighty states in the Holy Qur’an that a prophet was sent to every nation: … there never was a people without a warner having lived among them (in the past) (Qur’an;35:24). However, the Holy Qur’an does not mention all the prophets: Of some apostles we have already told thee the story; of others we have not. (Qur’an;4:164). All the prophets were sent to convey faith in the oneness of God and the importance of following His path. The main principles of Islam are, therefore, the same as those of earlier religions, taught by earlier prophets. The same religion has He established for you as that which he enjoined on Noah- that which We have sent by inspiration to thee – and which we enjoined on Abraham, Moses and Jesus: namely, that ye should remain steadfast in religion and make no division therein. (Qur’an;42:13).
Each prophet was sent to his people to teach and explain the Divine Message in their language. And never have we sent forth any apostle otherwise than (with a message) in his own people’s tongue, so that he might make (the truth) clear unto them. (Qur’an;14:4). The Divine Message revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last message and it is addressed to all mankind, and he was the last prophet. All Divine Revelations ceased with his departure from this world and thus religion was complete. Today have I perfected your religious law for you and have bestowed upon you the full measure of My blessing, and willed that self surrender unto Me shall! be your religion. (Qur’an;5:3).
The Answer to an Important Question Many people may wonder why the message brought by the Prophet Muhammad was addressed to all mankind whereas other messages had been given only to their respective peoples. How can this message remain unchanged and un-amended whilst other messages have been changed? The answer to this question is, though God Almighty knows better, that the message of Islam is viable and suitable for every age and place. Islamic tenets of faith and principles of worship have been given in explicit and detailed texts. It admits no change or amendment because these tenets and principles do not need to be changed with the times, and they do not vary according to different traditions or conventions.
It is important to note that concerning constitutional issues, financial matters and administrative dealings which are affected by changing times and tradition. The Divine directives were conveyed in the form of broad principles. Like the foundations of a building, the structure built upon it is left to the discretion of every age and every society, and provided they are adhered to, are perfectly viable. Here are some brief examples. Islam teaches that a ruler should be selected by consensus of his nation, and that he should have the necessary qualities for performing the duties of the state. He should abide by the Islamic Constitution, which is the Holy Qur’an, and seek the opinion of those in power. In fact, every society throughout the ages has been given the freedom to decide how they will select their leader, the procedure they will use to appoint positions of authority, etc. In Islam, rule by justice is compulsory. But we are given freedom to determine the course of justice, ways of appointing judges and legal procedures. With regards to legal contracts, we have been given general rules that ensure the rights and privileges of the two parties involved. Rules concerning accurate wording and the expression of intent of the two sides have also been laid down. Any type of contract which will harm the good of the public or put one of the parties down, is banned. We are free to work out the details of the clauses of a contract- As regards individual enterprises and financial transactions, these are sanctioned by Islam, and only in instances where there are particular directives of something originally forbidden, are these banned.
Islam has opened the doors of reform for us. Any matter which is in the public interest of a Muslim society, and which is neither obligatory nor forbidden, as per the Shari’a, may be created as a religious duty by the order of a Muslim ruler. Financial laws, the penal code, administrative regulations (traffic rules, municipal laws, etc.,) all fall under this category. So Islam is applicable to the needs of every age and society. However, some latter jurists have, due to narrow attitudes, forbidden to the public what is permitted by the Shari’a, or, conversely, forced them to adopt liberal attitudes which are not allowed in Islam, In the olden days, especially during the time of the earlier prophets, the world was a vast expanse and nations were far apart with few means for contact and interaction with each other. Their only means of transport were camels and other animals. However, with the advent of Islam, contact and interaction grew rapidly. Nowadays a speech delivered in New York can be heard simultaneously in Tokyo. The world is growing smaller, and is becoming more like one nation. Therefore the Message of Islam could be spread to all comers of the world, if only Muslims were to take seriously their responsibility regarding what their religion enjoins upon them.
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