Muslims believe that there have been 124,000 prophets and messengers sent down to mankind throughout the ages. All these prophets preached the oneness of God ('Tahweed' in Arabic). The difference between a prophet and a messenger is that a messenger is someone chosen by God to call people to the worship of one God and was given a new book or source of revelation, ie, Moses pbuh1 was given the Torah and Muhammad was given the Qur'an2. A prophet, on the other hand, is someone chosen by God to call people to the worship of one God but who follows the divine law of a previous messenger.
While all messengers were prophets, not all prophets were messengers. At least one prophet or messenger was sent to every community on earth at some time preaching the same message. Muslims believe though that throughout the ages these prophets and messengers were lost from memory and the message they preached has been altered and changed.
In the Qur'an only 25 of these prophets and messengers are mentioned. This Entry will look at the six main prophets and messengers highlighted in the Qur'an. These six are the main prophets for two reasons. Firstly, they are the ones that mankind is more familiar with and that know the most about. Secondly, they had important tasks to perform and messages to give mankind.
These prophets are the most revered of all the prophets, to Muslims. Muslims must believe in all prophets and messengers that came before Muhammad, who was the last (seal) of the prophets and messengers.
The prophet Adam is the first man that Allah created. All people descend from him and this is why he is referred to in Islamic tradition as the father of mankind. Allah created Adam from clay. As such, Muslims believe that all humans are made from clay. Adam lived in paradise, but was alone, as he had nobody like him to spend time with. So Adam asked Allah to create him someone to share paradise with. So Allah created Eve mabph3 so that she would be his companion.
When Allah originally created Adam, He told all the angels and Jinn to bow before Adam. So they all did, except Iblis who thought he was better then mankind. Iblis vowed to prove he was right and decided to corrupt mankind. Adam and Eve were allowed to dwell in paradise by Allah but they were warned not to eat from a forbidden tree. Iblis came to Adam and Eve and tempted them both to eat from the tree. The pair ate from the tree and sinned.
After eating from this tree they became aware of their nakedness, and so grabbed leaves to cover themselves up. Realising that they had sinned, they asked Allah to forgive them. As Allah is most merciful, he did forgive them, but told them to live the rest of their lives on Earth, and that mankind will have to earn his/her place in Paradise. This worried Adam as he had sinned and he had direct knowledge of Allah, and so he told Allah his worries. Allah in his mercy said to Adam, do not worry for I will send guidance, and so Adam became the first prophet of mankind.
Like Christians and Jews, Muslims also believe in the Flood of Noah – or 'Nuh' in Islam. The Qur'an relates this story to Muslims and as a result, Noah is regarded as one of the messengers of God.
During his life, Noah's people led sinful lives: they lied, cheated and disobeyed God. When Noah attempted to teach his people better ways of behaviour, they dismissed him, calling him a 'madman.'
After preaching for 950 years Noah realised that there was nothing he could do, and so he prayed to Allah and requested that Allah give them whatever punishment they deserved. Allah gave Noah news of an imminent flood and told him to build an ark. Noah related the news to his people. He wished to warn them about the flood in order that they could save themselves from it. Despite the rejection of the people, Noah was faithful to God and began to build the ark – just as God had instructed. The people mocked and made fun of the prophet, believing that building an ark was only confirmation of their claims that Noah was insane.
However, he laboured on. When the ark was finally ready, Noah put two of each living creature on board. This order, commanded by Allah, was intended to guarantee the survival of all earthly creatures.
A few people believed him, but most treated Noah's warnings with disdain and disrespect. When the flood came, Noah and his closest companions were saved whilst the wicked and arrogant people perished.
Referred to in Islamic tradition as the father of the prophets and the friend of God, Abraham pbuh – or Ibrahim, in Islam – is looked upon with tremendous respect. To this day, many Muslims visit Hebron, in Palestine, where Abraham is buried.
Abraham is also the father of two other prophets, Isaac and Ishmael. Both of his sons are revered by Muslims and looked up to as true prophets of Allah.
The people Abraham lived around believed in idols, something strictly forbidden in Islam. Unlike his brethren, Abraham wanted to worship the true God and so he would think about what the real God looked like. He saw the sunrise and thought, 'this is my God', but when it set he said 'this is not God as God would never go away or set'. After many years, he realised that Allah had no physical form. Abraham called his people to the worship of one God, but they rejected his words and continued to worship their idols. One day when the villagers had gone away to celebrate a festival, he sneaked into a temple and destroyed all the idols except the biggest one. He placed an axe in that idol's hand. When the people came back they where dismayed and knew only Abraham would have done that. So they questioned Abraham about the desecration of their idols. When Abraham asked 'Why don't you ask your idols who broke them?' they replied that idols could not talk, and so Abraham pointed out to them the folly in believing in idols that could not protect themselves, or speak up, or do any harm to you. His people decided to burn him rather than accept what he was saying, but Allah saved Abraham by calming the fire. According to the Holy Qur'an 21: 69, Allah said: O Fire! Be cool and safe for Abraham!
Known by his Aramaic name, Musa, Moses is considered to be one of the great messengers of Allah. When he was born, the Egyptian Pharaoh, Rameses I ordered that the first-born of every family from the tribes of Israel be killed.
To save her newborn, Moses's mother placed her son in a basket, and placed it on the river. The river carried the child towards the palaces of the Egyptian royal family. Here, he was picked up and eventually brought up in the house of Pharaoh by Pharaoh's wife.
When he grew up, Allah spoke to Moses and told him and his brother Aaron (Haroon) to challenge Pharaoh Rameses II. Moses was at first reluctant, but Allah told him not to be afraid and that he would help Moses in his task.
Subsequently, Moses and his brother went to Rameses II and instructed him to stop his wickedness and to free all the people he had enslaved. Rameses II arrogantly refused and continued to tyrannise people. Even when Moses performed miracles, with the permission of Allah, Rameses II said, 'This is nothing but magic!' Eventually, Allah destroyed him and the Egyptians for their conceitedness and oppression of innocent people.
Known in the Qur'an as Isa Bin Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary) this prophet is not only revered and loved by Christians but by Muslims as well. Islam makes it an article of faith to respect Jesus.
The holy book of Islam, which mentions the name 'Muhammad' only five times, mentions the name of Jesus no less than 25 times. The Qur'an instructs Muslims to believe in Jesus's miraculous birth and spectacular miracles and to acknowledge him as a true messenger.
No Muslim is a true Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus. Muslims believe that he was one of the greatest messengers ever sent to mankind; Muslims believe that he was born without male intervention; Muslims believe that he cured those born deaf, blind and lepers; and Muslims believe that Jesus raised the dead with Allah's permission. The only parting of ways is that Muslims do not believe that he is God or part of a trinity or that he was crucified.
In the Qur'an, Jesus's first miracle is speaking as a baby to defend the allegations aimed at his mother.
The Prophet Muhammad was born in 570 AD. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was six. He was brought up by his uncle, Abu Talib.
While still a boy, he was loved by his people. When he grew up, he was known as Al-Amin – the trustworthy one. When local tribes were quarrelling over who should place the sacred black stone near the Ka'bah, they asked Muhammad to adjudicate. He brought forth a cloth, upon which he placed the stone. Then, each of the four tribes' leaders held a corner of the cloth and took the stone towards the Ka'bah. Muhammad then took the stone and placed it in its sacred position near the 'House of God'. This was an example of his shining ability to make peace between people.
At the age of 40, he was visited by the Archangel Gabriel who first revealed the Qur'an to him. Over the next 23 years, the holy book of Islam was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.