Articles \ THE PROPHETHOOD
Doctrine of Prophethood
We believe that prophethood is a Divine duty and a mission from Allah; He appoints to it those whom He selects from among His good servants, from those who are exalted among mankind. He sends them to the rest of humanity to be a guide to what is of benefit to them and is in their interest in this world and the next; to purify them from immorality, evil deeds and harmful customs, and also to teach people wisdom and knowledge and the ways of happiness and goodness until they attain to the perfection for which they were created, and reach the highest position in both worlds.
We believe that the Grace of Allah (lutf) requires that He send His messengers to His servants to guide them, to carry out reforming work, and to be intermediaries (sufara', pl. of safir) between Allah and his gerents (khulafa', pl. of khalifah). For we believe that Allah does not allow mankind to appoint, nominate or select a person as a prophet; indeed only Allah can choose and appoint someone as a prophet, because:
Allah knoweth best with whom to place His message. (6;125)
It follows that people have no right to dispute over those whom Allah sends as guides, bringers of good tidings and warners of what is to come, nor over that which they bring, i.e. the commandments and religious laws.
Prophecy is from Divine Grace (lutf)
Man is a changeable creature, a complex structure containing his being, his nature, soul and intelligence. Every individual personality is similarly of a complex nature, in which there are causes of good and evil. On the one hand, man has been created with emotions and instincts, such as self-love, desire and pride; he obeys the call of his desires, has a natural disposition to show his superiority over others, to own things, and to take for himself that which belongs to others; he rushes recklessly at the objects and ornaments of this world. As Allah has said:
Most surely man is in loss. (103;2)
Man is most surely inordinate, Because he sees himself free from want. (96;6&7)
Most surely (man's) self is wont to command (him to do) evil. (12;53)
There are other verses which clearly talk about and point to the desires and feelings of the human soul which was created with man.
On the other hand, Allah has given intelligence (aql) to man to guide him to what is in his interest and to the way of goodness, and He has also bestowed on him a conscience which prevents him from doing evil and oppressing others, and which also upbraids him when he has sinned.
There is continual enmity and struggle between man's desires and his intelligence. One whose intelligence overcomes his desires will attain the highest position among mankind and a perfect spirituality, but one whose desires to conquer his intelligence will be among the great losers, the lowest of mankind and comparable in nature to the beasts.
The desires and their legions are stronger than intelligence and its armies, and this is why most people go astray and wander far from the straight path of guidance, through obeying their desires and answering the call of their emotions. As is said in the Qur'an:
And though thou try much, most men will not believe. (12;103)
The value-system of Islam, by contrast, completes the whole structure of prophethood: its logical coherence and unshakeable firmness embrace all the extensive dimensions of prophethood, and it includes within itself all that the preceding Prophets put forward to satisfy the human being's needs for social regulation, as well as all other moral and material needs.
The role that the Prophets played in correcting the errors and deviations of society and establishing a correct mode of thought and action is now to be assumed by the religious leaders who draw on the inexhaustible resources of Islam. The Quran, the valuesystem of which nurtures the whole of Islam and endows it with validity, also determines the direction in which the Muslims are to advance and serves as the source of comprehensive laws which leave nothing beyond their all-embracing purview. In addition, the Quran contains the essence and fundamental meaning of the teachings proclaimed by all the bearers of God's word.
Once the human being reaches a stage in his development where he is able to comprehend universal truths and Divine teachings and laws, the scholars and the learned emerge as successors to the Prophets, with the function of firmly implanting the authentic criteria of religion in the minds of people.
In pursuit of the exalted ideals of their religion, they take on the tasks of investigation and research and struggling against distortion of religion; they propagate the teachings of God in their true form.
Besides, man is reluctant and unaware of all the facts and secrets of the world around him, and since he is also ignorant of his own self, how can he know all that will make him prosperous and what will make him suffer. how can he know everything that is in his own interest or in the interests of mankind as a whole? Whenever he advances with a new discovery, he sees his own ignorance and realises that he knows nothing. It is because of this that Man has an insistent need for someone to show him the clear, straight path to prosperity and to give support to his intelligence, so that it may overcome its unruly, persistent enemy, and so that he may prepare to fight his emotions. (1)
Montesquieu says: "It is in the very nature of human laws that they obey events and occurrences. That is to say, events influence them. By contrast, heavenly laws do not change on the basis of events or the changing will of the human being. Human laws always aim at attaining the best of solutions; heavenly laws actually discover the best of solutions. Virtue and goodness have, no doubt, many different aspects and varieties, but
the best of all solutions is necessarily unique and also, therefore, immutable. The human being can change human laws because it is possible that a given law be beneficial in one age but not in another. Religious systems always offer the best laws and because they cannot be improved upon, they are unchangeable." (2)
Man is desperately in need of someone to help him to the path of goodness and happiness, especially when his emotions deceive him, disguising his bad actions as good and his good actions as bad, as a result of which his intelligence is confused and cannot find the right path to prosperity and distinguish between the real good and the real evil.
Everyone of us has succumbed on this battlefield, either consciously or unconsciously. except the man whom Allah protects. It is difficult for an enlightened, civilised man to attain the way of goodness and happiness, so how much more difficult is it for an ignorant, unschooled man!
When all people co-operate and consult with one another and deliberate together they are still unable to understand what is useful and what is harmful for themselves and for society. So Allah through His Grace and Mercy for mankind sends them a messenger. The Qur'an says:
He it is who sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His signs, and to purify them and to teach them the Book and Wisdom. (62;2)
and he (the messenger) warns them concerning what is evil and gives glad tidings to them about what is good for their welfare.
(The giving of) this Grace is necessary for Allah, because it is a sign of His Perfection, and He is Kind and Generous to His servants. When a man deserves His Mercy and Grace, Allah must grant it to him, because there is no deficiency or withholding in the Being of Allah. The meaning of "necessary for Allah" is not that anyone forces Him to act in this way and that it is necessary for Him to obey, but it means that this is an inseparable attribute of Allah, i.e. Mercy and Grace cannot be separated from Him, in the same way as we say that His Existence is inherent in Him, or that He is Necessarily Existent, i.e. His Existence is co-existent (with Him) and cannot be separated (from Him).
Why does a prophet need to be infallible?
Allah (swt) the creator of humans and the entire universe has blessed man with a mind and the intelligence to distinguish between bad and good. The Almighty Allah (swt) has bestowed his blessings upon us and guided us to the right path. Allah (swt) send his faultless and saintly people to guide humanity and these messengers of Allah carry through this objective by spreading the teachings of Allah (swt) and they spend their lives in the manner that Allah (swt) wishes of them. They seek to instill this behavior that Allah (swt) desires amongst fellow humans. It is necessary to believe that these messengers of Allah (swt) are infallible both before and after they declared their prophethood to the people.
If we believe that a prophet was subject to misdemeanors before declaring his prophethood then people would automatically consider him to be a sinner, the people would reject his teachings they would have misgivings doubts over his prophethood and this would make the entire concept of prophethood fruitless.
If we were to entertain the thought that prophets can commit sin after declaring their Prophethood to the people then this is even more dangerous. How can a Messenger of God tell others to refrain from sinning when he is himself a sinner? If we accept that a prophet can forget and make mistakes then the authenticity of divine law can be called into question as one that can forget things can also forget the message of Allah (swt), worse he could incorrectly convey the message of Allah (swt). This belief is unacceptable, since no one can have faith in an individual that is unsure over something he said / did. It is therefore necessary to believe that Allah (swt) has selected pure innocent people as Guides whose sole objective shall be to guide others to the right path.
This chain of prophetic guidance came to an end with Hadhrath Mohammed al Mustafa (s). It is an accepted fact that no man submits himself to an individual that shares the same traits as him. Allah (swt) would never give preference to an illiterate person over a literate and sensible individual, as this would contravene justice. That is why Allah (swt) bestowed infallibility, literacy, wisdom and knowledge to his prophets. We deem Prophet Mohammed (s) to be the most learned of all individuals, and this is based on two facts:
There exists no one in the universe who possesses the complete knowledge of Qur’an as Mohammed (s) has. When all knowledge is bestowed in Allah (swt)’s book then is clear that he who possesses a complete knowledge of that Book is the most learned.
Allah (swt) says in the Holy Qur’an: Allah has revealed to you ( prophet Mohammed) the Book and the wisdom, and He has taught you what you did not know, and Allah's grace on you is very great. (Quran 4;113)
The fact that Allah (swt) conveyed news of the hidden to the Apostle of Allah (s) also gives him a rank of superiority above all other creations. Often people have considered the word ‘Ummi’ to mean illiterate but it means one who lives in Makkah that is why the Prophet (s) was referred to as Ummi by Allah [swt].
Who is Mohammed (s)?
The last prophet of Allah is Mohammed al-Mustafa—upon whom be blessings and peace. He was born on 17th Rabi’u ‘l-Awwal, 1st Year of ‘آmul Fil (The year of the Elephant miracule) in Mecca amidst the family of Banu Hashim (of the tribe of Quraysh) who were considered the most honoured of the Arab families. Banu Hashim were descendants of Ismâ’il, the son of Prophet Ibrahim.
The Prophet’s grandfather, ‘Abdu ‘l-Muttalib, was the chief of Banu Hashim and also the guardian of the Ka’bah. His father was called ‘Abdullah and his mother, Aminah bint Wahab. His father passed away a few months before his birth. At the age of six, the Prophet lost his mother as well and was placed under the care of his paternal grandfather, ‘Abdul Muttalib. But his grandfather also passed away after four years; and at this time the Prophet’s uncle, Abu Tâlib, took charge of him and became his guardian, taking him to his own house. Thus the Prophet grew up in his uncle’s house and even before reaching the age of adolescence used to accompany his uncle on business journeys by caravan.
The Prophet had not received any schooling; yet, after reaching the age of maturity he became famous for his wisdom, courtesy, trust-worthiness and truthfulness. He soon became famous as “as-sâdiq al-amîn” (the truthful, the trustworthy). Abu Tâlib used to say: “We have never heard any lies from Mohammed, nor seen him misconduct himself or make mischief. He never laughs unduly nor talks untimely.”
As a result of his sagacity and trustworthiness, Khadija bint Khuwaylid, a Qurayshi lady well-known for her wealth, appointed him as the custodian of her possessions and left in his hands the task of conducting her commercial affairs. The Prophet once journeyed to Damascus with Khadija’s merchandise and as a result of the ability he displayed was able to make an outstanding profit. Before long she asked to become his wife and the Prophet accepted her proposal. After the marriage, which occurred when he was twenty five years old, the Prophet began the life of a manager of his wife’s fortunes, until the age of forty, gaining meanwhile a widespread reputation for wisdom and trustworthiness.
He refused to worship idols, as was the common religious practice of the Arabs of the Hijaz. And occasionally he would make spiritual retreats to the cave of Hirâ ’ in the mountains of the Tihâmah region near Mecca , in which he prayed and discoursed secretly with Allah.
At the age of forty, when he was in spiritual retreat in the cave of Hirâ ’, he was given the mission of propagating the new religion. At that moment the first five verses of sûrah 96 were revealed to him. (This event is known as bi’that — being raised to proclaim God’s message.) That very day he returned to his house and on the way met his cousin, ‘Alî bin Abi Tâlib, who after hearing the account of what had occurred declared his acceptance of the faith. After the Prophet entered the house and told his wife of the revelation, she likewise accepted Islam. Soon after, Zayd ibn al-Hârithah (a loyal slave whom he treated like his own son) also became a convert. (3)
Now Islam became global with 2 billion Muslims spread around the globe.
1. Shia faith, by Muhammad Rida al-Muzaffar, Part two, Doctorine of Prophethood
2. L'esperit des lois, The Spirit of Laws, (Persian translation), p.725
3. Faith, Practice & History, by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi, Lesson 36