Prophets are the chosen and distinguished people who get in contact with Allah, find out the truth and communicate it to the people. This contact is called revelation. It is a special kind of contact between a prophet and Allah. A Prophet with his inner eyes sees the mysteries of the universe and with the ears of his heart listen to divine calls and conveys them to the people.
Islamic history tell us that, for the guidance of people, Allah has sent about 1, 24,000 prophets, first of them being Adam and the last Muhammad (S) son of Abdullah.
The most outstanding prophets who brought independent codes of law were five. Their names along with the names of the Books revealed to them are given below:
1. Noah (A) Epistle
2. Abraham (A) Epistle
3. Moses (A) Torah
4. Jesus (A) Evangel
5. Muhammad (S) Quran
The programs and aims of the prophets include:
1. To lay the foundation of justice on a firm basis.
2. To teach and educate.
3. To combat every form of superstition, corruption, undue discrimination and deviation from divine unity, truth and justice.
The Holy Quran says: "Surely we have sent Our messengers with clear proofs and we have sent own with them the Book and the balance (necessary Laws) so that mankind may keep justice."
In respect of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (pbuh) it says: "It is he who has raised up among an unlettered people, a messenger from among themselves, who recites to them His verses and purifies them and teaches them the Book and the wisdom although before this they were in a clear error."
This is the noble aim for which the prophets have been sent.
Prophets are divided into two groups. Some received revelation, but were not charged with the mission of propagation. Others had such a mission. Some of the latter group did not have a distinct code of laws of their own, but spread the laws of another prophet. It has also happened that at the same time there were several prophets, carrying out their functions in different countries or different cities and towns.
A study of prophetic movements shows that they have been the biggest source of intellectual and reformatory revolution in society. It is they who preached justice, humanity, philanthropy, brotherhood, equality, and service to mankind, love, human freedom, peace, purity, piety and other social and human virtues.
Furthermore, it is they who more than anyone else exposed the oppressors, the tyrants, the hypocrites and the self-seekers, and taught the people to resist them boldly and make a sacrifice for this purpose. The main feature of their program was to fight against subjugation and humiliation and strive for liberty and emancipation.
Reflect on the following verses: "Indeed We raised in every nation a messenger, (proclaiming): Worship Allah and shun false gods". (Quran, 16:36).
"We indeed sent Our messengers with clear signs, and revealed with them the scriptures and the criteria for judging what is right and what is wrong, so that the people may establish justice. We sent down iron, in which there is vital power and wherein there are many uses for mankind, so that Allah may know who helps Him though unseen and helps His messengers. Surely Allah is Strong, Almighty ". (Quran, 57:25).
Prophet Ibrahim (Peach be upon him)
Since the dawn of the recorded history Ibrahim has been acknowledged to be the champion of monotheism, iconoclasm and the exploding of myths. It is he who taught to sacrifice one's life, property and children for the sake of the cause which one holds dear; and it is he who fought against the elements of transgression and self-seeking represented by Nimrud.
Consequently he was thrown into blazing fire because he continued his struggle against the idols and false gods. He set an example of resistance and self-sacrifice and resumed his struggle as soon as he crossed this ordeal uncurbed. He laid the foundation of the oldest centre of monotheism, namely the Ka'abah. He was. the inspirer of all great Semitic religions believing in one God in a vast area of the world.
Prophet Musa or Moses (Peace be upon him)
The efforts of Moses for the emancipation of his people, his vast struggle against subjugation and humiliation and his bold stand against those who possessed wealth and power and were the embodiment of oppression and lust of authority, crowned the history of popular struggle and human movements with success.
"Go both of you to Pharaoh. He has transgressed the bounds indeed". (Quran, 20:43).
"So go to him and say: We are two messengers of your Lord. Therefore let the children of Israel go with us and do not torture them ". (Quran, 20:47).
"We sent Musa and his brother Harun with Our signs and a clear authority, to Pharaoh and his chiefs, but they scorned them for they were despotic people. They said: Are we to believe in two human beings like ourselves, whose people are servile to us?" (Quran, 23:47).
To counter the demands of Moses, Pharaoh and his aides resorted to calumniation, intimidation and brain washing.
“But none believed in Musa except a few o f his own people, who were afraid that Pharaoh and his chiefs might harass them, because Pharaoh was a tyrant in the land and he was guilty of transgression". (Quran, 10:83).
"When he conveyed them the truth from Ourselves, they said: Slay the sons of those who believe with him and spare their daughters. But the scheme of the disbelievers was a mere failure. Pharaoh said: Let me kill Musa. Let Musa call his Lord (if he can). I fear that he will alter your religion or he will create disorder in the land. Musa said: Indeed I seek refuge in my Lord and your Lord from every arrogant person who does not believe in the Day of Reckoning". (Quran, 40:25 - 27).
"Pharaoh proclaimed among his people saying: My people! Is the kingdom of Egypt not mine, and these rivers flowing under my feet not belong to me? Do you not perceive? I am surely better than this wretched man who cannot even speak clearly. (If what he says is true), then why have bracelets of gold not been put on him or angels not sent along with him? " (Quran, 43:51-53).
"Pharaoh said to Musa: If you acknowledge a Lord besides me, I will imprison you ". (Quran, 26:28).
But Moses was firm. He did not give up his struggle, and said to, his companions: "Pray to Allah for help and be patient. The earth belongs to Allah. He gives it to those of His slaves whom He pleases. Happy shall be the end of the pious”. (Quran, 7:128).
Moses encouraged his people and gave them good news saying: "It may be that your Lord is going to destroy your enemy and make you succeed him in the land. Then He may see how you behave". (Quran, 7:129).
As we know, at last Moses was successful in rescuing his people. The enemy despite all his power and grandeur was annihilated. Thus a new chapter of history was opened, which set in motion a series of historical events.
Prophet Isa or JESUS (Peace be upon him)
For some two thousand years Isa has been recognized in history as a savior and messenger of peace and justice. He stood right in the midst of selfishness, war-mongering, amassing of wealth and rivalry and bloodshed.
At that time the self-aggrandizement and fraudulent dealings were at their height. The unworthy churchmen, who were supposed to be the religious leaders and the bearers of the Divine commandments, were themselves involved in rivalry with each other and were committing such heinous crimes as slaying of the prophets, deceitful forgery, usury and hypocrisy.
In such circumstances Isa stood and fought against all the evils of his time. He reformed and reintroduced Mosaic religion which had been distorted and misinterpreted, and preached righteousness, purity, humanitarianism, love and service to mankind. He led his life with utmost simplicity and pursued his mission in right earnest even at the risk of his life.
In the course of history his teachings stirred a great wave of new ideas of moral conduct and fellow-feeling in a large sector of the world. His teachings were the source of many epoch-making movements and revolutions.
The history of Christianity and the Church is full of many good and ugly events and movements. Obviously all that was good was the outcome of following the teachings of Isa and all that was bad and ugly was the result of the misuse and misinterpretation of these teachings and of deviation from his mission.
At last there came the turn of the greatest and the most fruitful Divine movement that is the message of Islam.
Revelation: a motive force of the Prophetic Movements
There is no doubt that every prophet started his mission at the most opportune time, when injustice, wrong conceptions, undue discrimination, dissensions and neglect of duties were rampant and the situation demanded the beginning of a reformatory movement to dispel darkness and to illuminate the atmosphere with the light of virtue and truth. But in all cases the actual campaign for changing the intellectual and social conditions started only at the behest of Divine revelation.
It is true that Musa from his youth was feeling extremely perturbed and upset by the humiliation and the bondage of his people. He was conscious that power and wealth were concentrated in the hands of one party and the other was suffering poverty, slavery, pain and torture. But still he had no plans to take any action or to carry out any reforms.
Even when he killed a person from the enemy camp during an encounter with him, he escaped from the city in great bewilderment, as he felt that his life was in danger.
But years later when he was raised to prophethood and Divine revelation asked him to take action, he returned to the same city, went straight to Pharaoh, the powerful and dangerous enemy of his and his folk and asked him to liberate the children of Israel and stop torturing them. Only then the things began to move.
Until the age of forty, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) lived among an ignorant people whose way of life was unmanly and very unfair. His pure and clear mind perceived the moral perversion of society and felt distressed. As for himself, he never reconciled to the environment, and every now and then made efforts even to prevent aggression and patch up differences.
But he took no steps to preach social reform or to launch a campaign for that purpose. The breakthrough was made only when he received his first revelation in a cave on the hill of Hira. That was the event that heralded the Islamic Movement.
Therefore it may be said that revelation is the main pillar and the foundation stone of the mission of the prophets. But what is revelation and what effects does it produce?
Please the next article on revelation and its effects.
The following sources are used to prepare the above article. Some hyperlinks may not be still active.
1. Group of Scholars, Rationality of Islam (1978), under the auspice of Ayatullah Sayyid Abu'l Qasim al-Khu'I, Publisher: Islamic Seminary Publications, Pakistan.
2. Dr. M. H. Behishti, Dr. M. J. Bahonar, Philosophy of Islam, Islamic Seminary Publications (1984)