The Reality of Belief in the Messengers
Mankind’s need for the Messengers:
The Prophets are the Messengers of Allah to His slaves; they convey His commands, and give them glad tidings of the delights that Allah has promised them if they obey His commands, and they warn them of the abiding punishment if they go against His prohibitions. They tell them the stories of the past nations and the punishment and vengeance that befell them in this world because they disobeyed the commands of their Lord.
These divine commands and prohibitions cannot be known through independent thinking, hence Allah has prescribed laws and enjoined commands and prohibitions, to honor mankind and protect their interests, because people may follow their desires and thus transgress the limits and abuse people and deprive them of their rights. So by His wisdom Allah sent among them from time to time Messengers to remind them of the commands of Allah and to warn them against failing into sin, to preach to them and to tell them the stories of those who came before them.
For when people hear wondrous stories it makes their minds alert, so they understand and increase in knowledge and understand correctly. For the more people hear, the more ideas they will have; the more ideas they have, the more they will think; the more they think, the more they will know; and the more they know, the more they will do. So there is no alternative to sending Messengers in order to explain the truth.
Messengership is essential to guide mankind to that which is best for them in this world and in the Hereafter. Man cannot follow what is best for him with regard to the Hereafter unless he follows the Message and he cannot be guided to what is best for him in this world unless he follows the Message. Man needs the shari’ah because he has two motives, to bring that which will benefit him and to ward off that which will harm him. This shari’ah is the light of Allah on this earth, and His justice among His slaves, and the refuge which whoever enters it will be safe.
Shari’ah does not mean distinguishing between what is beneficial and what is harmful on a physical basis, because even animals are able to do this.
Donkeys and camels are able to differentiate between barley and dust. Rather the distinction is between deeds which will harm a person in this world and the Hereafter, and deeds which will benefit him in this world and in the Hereafter, such as faith, Tawheed, justice, righteousness, kindness, trustworthiness, chastity, courage, knowledge, patience, enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, upholding the ties of kinship, honouring one’s parents, treating neighbours well, recognizing people’s rights, sincerely doing things for the sake of Allah, putting one’s trust in Him, seeking His help, accepting His decree, submitting to His will, believing in Him and in His Messengers in all that they have told us, and other deeds which are of benefit to a person in this world and in the Hereafter.
The opposite of that leads him to misery and doom in this world and in the Hereafter.
Were it not for the Messengers, our minds could not guide us to differentiate between the beneficial and the harmful in this life in a detailed manner. One of the greatest blessings that Allah has bestowed upon His slaves is that He sent Messengers to them and revealed books to them, and showed them the Straight Path. Were it not for that, they would have been like cattle, and even worse off.
So whoever accepts the Message of Allah and adheres to it is one of the best of mankind, and whoever rejects it and ignores it is one of the worst of mankind, even worse off than dogs and pigs, and the vilest of the vile. The people of this world could not survive except by virtue of the Messengers’ teachings, traces of which are still extant amongst them. If these traces of the Messengers vanished from the earth and their teachings were wiped out, Allah would destroy the upper and lower realms and the Hour would begin.
The need of the people of the earth for the Messengers is not like their need for the sun, moon, wind and rain, or like a man’s need for his life, or like the eye’s need for light, or like the body’s need for food and drink. Rather it is greater than that, greater than his need for anything you could think of. The Messengers (alaihi as-salaam) are intermediaries between Allah and His creation, conveying His commands and prohibitions. They are ambassadors from Him to His slaves. The last and greatest of them, the noblest before his Lord, was Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). Allah sent him as a mercy to the worlds, guidance for those who want to draw closer to Allah, proof which left no excuse for all people.
He enjoined the people to obey him, love him, respect him, support him, and acknowledge his rights. Allah took the covenant from all the Messengers and Prophets that they would believe in him and follow him, and He commanded them to take the same covenant from the believers who followed them. He sent him just before the Hour as a bringer of glad tidings and a warner, calling people to Allah by His leave and as a brightly shining lamp. He concluded the line of Messengers with him. Through him He guided people and dispelled misguidance, taught them and dispelled ignorance.
Through his Message He opened blind eyes, deaf ears and hard hearts. Through his message He filled the world with light after it had been in darkness, He brought people together after they had been divided, He straightened the crooked path of mankind and showed them the clear way. He opened his heart for him and removed from him his burden, and raised high his fame (cf. Surah al-Sharh 94:1-3). He inflicted humiliation and shame on those who went against his command. He sent him (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) at a time when there had been no Messengers for a long while and when the Books had vanished, when words had been distorted and laws changed, when all peoples referred to their own unfair opinions, developed their own ideas about Allah and judged among people by their own corrupt ideas and whims and desires.
Through him Allah guided mankind and clarified the different means of drawing closer to Allah. Through him, He brought the people forth from darkness into light. Through him, He differentiated between those who will prosper and those who are immoral. So whoever follows his guidance is truly guided, and whoever turns away from his path is misguided and has deviated. May Allah send blessings and peace upon him and upon all the Messengers and Prophets.
We may sum up man’s need for the Messengers as follows:
Man is created and subjugated, and he has to know his Creator and what He wants of him, and why he was created. Man cannot come to know that independently. He has no way of finding that out except through knowing the Prophets and Messengers, and the guidance and light which they brought.
Man is composed of body and soul, His body is nourished by his food and drink, but the nourishment of his soul is that which was explained by its Creator, namely the true religion and righteous deeds. The Prophets and Messengers brought the true religion and taught them to do righteous deeds.
Man is religious by nature; he has to have a religion to follow, and this religion has to be correct. There is no way to the true religion except through believing in the Prophets and Messengers and believing in the message they brought.
Man needs the way through which he may attain the pleasure of Allah in this world, and reach His Paradise and bliss in the Hereafter. No one can show these ways and guide people to them apart from the Prophets and Messengers.
Man is weak by nature, and there are many enemies lying in wait for him, such as the Shaytaan who wants to lead him astray and bad companions who make evil things attractive to him, and his own self which is inclined towards evil. Hence he needs something to protect himself from the plots of his enemies. The Prophets and Messengers guide him towards that and show it to him clearly.
Man is sociable by nature. In human meetings and interactions, there have to be laws to guide people in a fair and just manner – otherwise the law of the jungle would prevail. This guiding law must protect the rights of all those who have rights, without neglecting or exaggerating in any way. No one can produce a perfect law except the Prophets and Messengers.
Man needs something that will give him security and peace of mind, and guide him to the means of true happiness. This is what the Prophets and Messengers guide people towards.
The reality of belief in the Messengers
Firm belief that Allah sent to every nation a Messenger from amongst them:
Firm belief that Allah sent to every nation a Messenger from amongst them, to call them to worship Allah alone and to disbelieve in everything that is worshipped instead of Him, and that they (the Messengers) were all truthful, speakers of the truth, righteous, wise, pious and honest, and that they conveyed everything with which Allah sent them, concealing and altering nothing. They did not add even one letter from themselves or omit anything.
“Are the Messengers charged with anything but to convey clearly the Message?” (16:35)
Their message was the same, from the first to the last of them, based on the principle of Tawheed, i.e., that all kinds of worship should be devoted to Allah alone, beliefs, words and deeds alike, and that everything that is worshipped instead of Allah is to be rejected. The evidence for that is the verses:
“And We did not send any Messenger before you (O Muhammad) but We revealed to him (saying): Laa ilaaha illa Ana (none has the right to be worshipped but I (Allah)), so worship Me (Alone and none else).” (21:25)
“And ask (O Muhammad) those of Our Messengers whom We sent before you: ‘Did We ever appoint aalihah (gods) to be worshipped besides the Most Gracious (Allah)?’” (43:45)
And there are very many similar aayahs.
With regard to the obligatory duties by which Allah is to be worshipped and the minor details of legislation, prayers and fasts may have been enjoined on some nations but not on others, and some things may have been forbidden to some and permitted to others, as a test from Allah.
“Who has created death and life that He may test you which of you is best in deed.” (67:2)
The evidence for that is the verses: “To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way.” (5:48)
Ibn ‘Abbaas (razi allahu anhu) said “(This means) a way and a path.” Mujaahid, ‘Ikrimah and many of the mufassireen said likewise.
In Saheeh al-Bukhaari and Saheeh Muslim it is narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: “The Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: ‘The Prophets are like brothers from one father, their mothers are different but their religion is one’” – i.e., the Prophets are united on the principle of Tawheed, the message with which Allah sent every Messenger whom He sent, and which He included in every Book that He revealed, but their laws differed as to command and prohibitions, what was permitted and what was forbidden.
Whoever disbelieves in the message of one of them has disbelieved in all of them, as Allah says:
“The people of Nooh (Noah) belied the Messengers.” (26:105)
Allah described them as disbelieving in all of the Messengers even though there was no Messenger other than Nooh at the time when they disbelieved.
Belief in those Messengers whose names we know and whose names we do not know:
Belief in those Messengers whose names we know, such as Muhammad, Ibraaheem, Moosa, ‘Eesa and Nooh (alaihi as-salaam). With regard to those who have been mentioned in general terms but whose names we do not know, we are obliged to believe in them in general terms, as Allah says:
“The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. (They say,) ‘We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers.’” (2:285)
“And, indeed We have sent Messengers before you (O Muhammad), of some of them We have related to you their story. And of some We have not related to you their story.” (40:78)
And we believe that the Final Messenger was our Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), and there is no Prophet after him, as Allah says:
“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets. And Allah is Ever All-Aware of everything.” (33:40)
In al-Bukhaari and Muslim it is narrated from Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas (razi allahu anhu) that the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) went out to Tabook, and appointed ‘Ali as his deputy (in Madinah). ‘Ali said, “Are you leaving me in charge of the children and women?” The Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said, “Does it not please you that you are to me like Haroon to Moosa? But there will be no Prophet after me.”
Allah favoured him and singled him out for great blessings which were given to no other Prophet. For example:
Allah sent him to all of the two races of mankind and jinn, whereas each Prophet who came before him was sent only to his own people.
Allah supported him against his enemies by striking fear into the hearts of all his enemies within the radius of one month’s travel.
The earth was made a place of prayer and a means of purification for him.
War booty was made permissible for him, where it had not been permitted to any Prophet before him.
He will be granted the position of greater intercession.
And there are many other special favours that have been bestowed upon him (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam).
Believing in the sound reports:
Believing in the sound reports that have been narrated from the Messengers.
Following the laws of the Messenger:
Following the laws of the Messenger who has been sent to us, namely the Final Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), who was sent to all of mankind. Allah says:
“But no, by your Lord, they can have no Faith, until they make you (O Muhammad) judge in all disputes between them, and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions, and accept (them) with full submission.” (4:65)
We should note that belief in the Messengers bears great fruit, such as:
Knowledge of the mercy of Allah towards His slaves and His care for them, as He sent the Messengers to guide them to the path of Allah and to show them how to worship Allah, for human reason alone cannot come to know that.
Giving thanks to Him for this great blessing.
Loving and venerating the Messengers (alaihi as-salaam), and praising them in the manner that befits them, because they are the Messengers of Allah, and because they worshipped Him and conveyed His Message, and were sincere towards His slaves.
The life of the Prophets:
The Prophets (alaihi as-salaam) are dead as far as the people of this world are concerned. Allah says, addressing the last and best of them:
“Verily, you (O Muhammad) will die, and verily, they (too) will die.” (39:30)
But before Allah they are alive, for if the martyrs are alive with Allah, then the Prophets are undoubtedly higher in status before Allah.
It was narrated in a Saheeh report that the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “The Prophets are alive in their graves and they pray.”
This prayer is something that they are blessed with just as the people of Paradise are blessed with tasbeeh (glorifying Allah).
They (alaihi as-salaam) are in their graves apart from ‘Eesa (alaihi as-salaam), whom Allah raised up into heaven, as He says:
“But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared so to them (the resemblance of ‘Eesa was put over another man and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not (i.e. ‘Eesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary)): But Allah raised him (‘Eesa) up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he is in the heavens). And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise.” (4:157-158)
With regard to the Prophets praying behind the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) on the night of the Isra’ (Night Journey), they prayed behind him in spirit, but their bodies were in their graves. The same applies to his seeing the Prophets during the Mi’raaj (ascent into heaven), when he saw Adam in the lowest heaven, and ‘Eesa and Yahya in the second heaven, and Yoosuf in the third, and Idrees in the fourth, and Haroon in the fifth, and Moosa in the sixth, and Ibraaheem in the seventh, or vice versa. He saw their souls appear in the shape of their bodies.
Some people say that he saw the same bodies that are buried in the graves, but this view does not carry any weight.
But ‘Eesa ascended into heaven body and soul, and the same is said of Idrees. But with regard to Ibraaheem, Moosa and others, they are buried on earth.
The Messiah (alaihi as-salaam) will inevitably descend to earth, to the white minaret in the east of Damascus; he will kill the Dajjaal (“Antichrist”), break the cross and kill the pigs, as is proven in the saheeh ahaadeeth. Hence he is in the second heaven even though he is superior to Yoosuf, Idrees and Haroon, because he will descend to the earth before the Day of Resurrection, unlike the other Prophets. And Adam is in the lowest heaven because the souls of his descendents who are blessed (i.e., destined for Paradise) will be shown to him.
As for the souls of the doomed (i.e., those who are destined for Hell) the gates of heaven will not be opened for them and they will not enter Paradise until the camel passes through the eye of the needle. So if they will be shown to him, he has to be near them. There is no contradiction in the fact that they (alaihi as-salaam) prayed behind the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) then he met some of them after he was taken up into the heavens, because the souls are like the angels, they may ascend and descend in an instant; they are not like bodies.
Preferring some Messengers over others:
The aayah: “Those Messengers! We preferred some of them to others.” (2:253) is like the aayah: “And indeed, We have preferred some of the Prophets above others.” (17:55)
There is no doubt that some of the Prophets and Messengers are superior to others; the Messengers are superior to the Prophets, and the “Messengers of strong will” (cf. Surah al-Ahqaaf 46:35) are superior to all the others. The Messengers of strong will are the five whom Allah has mentioned in two verses of the Qur’aan, the first of which is in Surah al-Ahzaab:
“And (remember) when We took from the Prophets their covenant, and from you (O Muhammad), and from Nun (Noah), Ibraaheem (Abraham), Moosa (Moses), and ‘Eesa (Jesus) son of Maryam (Mary).” (33:7)
These are Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), Nooh, Ibraaheem, Moosa and ‘Eesa ibn Maryam (alaihi as-salaam).
The second verse is in Surah al-Shoora:
“He (Allah) has ordained for you the same religion (Islamic Monotheism) which He ordained for Nooh (Noah), and that which We have revealed to you (O Muhammad), and that which We ordained for Ibraaheem (Abraham), Moosa (Moses?) and ‘Eesa (Jesus).” (42:13)
These five are superior to all others.
With regard to what Allah says concerning the believers:
“Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. (They say,) ‘We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers.’” (2:136)
What this means is: we make no distinction between them in terms of belief, we believe that they are all truly Messengers from Allah, and that they did not tell lies, so they all spoke the truth. This is the meaning of the phrase “We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers”, i.e., in terms of belief: we believe that they were all truly Messengers from Allah.
But in terms of the kind of belief that implies following, for those who come after the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), this applies only to the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam). He is the one to be followed because his shari’ah (law) abrogates all other laws. Hence we know that we must believe in all of them and believe that they are truly Messengers from Allah, but after the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) was sent, all previous religions were abrogated by his shari’ah, and it became obligatory upon all people to follow Muhammad (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) only. Allah by His wisdom abrogated all religions apart from the religion of the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam), hence He says:
“Say (O Muhammad): O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah — to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. Laa ilaaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He). It is He Who gives life and causes death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger (Muhammad), the Prophet who can neither read nor write (i.e. Muhammad), who believes in Allah and His Words ((this Qur’aan), the Tawraat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) and also Allah’s Word: “Be!” — and he was, i.e. ‘Eesa (Jesus) son of Maryam (Mary)), and follow him so that you may be guided.” (7:158)
So all religions other than that of the Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) are abrogated, but we must still believe in the Messengers and that they are true.
The difference between a Messenger and a Prophet:
The well-known difference between a Prophet and a Messenger is that a Messenger is one to whom a law is revealed and he is commanded to convey it, whilst a Prophet is one to whom a law is revealed but he is not commanded to convey it. But this distinction is not free of problems, because a Prophet is also commanded to call people, convey the Message and judge among the people.
The correct view is that the Messenger is one who is sent to a disbelieving people, and the Prophet is one who is sent to a believing people with the shari’ah of the Messenger who came before him, to teach them and judge between them, as Allah says:
“Verily, We did send down the Tawraat (Torah) (to Moosa (Moses)), therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to Allah’s Will, judged for the Jews.” (5:44)
So the Prophets of the Children of Israel judged by the Tawraat which Allah had revealed to Moosa.
With regard to the aayah:
“But he is the Messenger of Allah and the last (end) of the Prophets.” (33:40)
And why it did not say the last of the Messengers – the end of the Message does not mean the end of Prophethood, but the end of Prophethood does mean the end of the Message. Hence the Prophet (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam) said: “There will be no Prophet after me,” and he did not say, there will be no Messenger after me.
Thus we know that there is no Messenger and no Prophet after him (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam); he was the last of the Prophets and of the Messengers, (sallallahu alaihi wa-sallam).