BELIEF IN THE
The fourth fundamental article of faith in Islam
is belief in all the prophets. This article is in fact a logical
conclusion to the third one. The same philosophy as underlies
the belief in all books also necessitates belief in all the prophets.
The Holy Quran speaks of the many prophets who mostly belong
to the Middle Eastern line of prophethood, beginning with Adam
upto the time of Muhammad, peace be upon him. But there are exceptions
to the rule. There are two things which are specifically mentioned
in the Quran relating to this issue:
a) Although the names and short histories of
some prophets were revealed to the Holy Founder of Islam, the
list is in no way exhaustive. They are just specimen names, and
there are a large number of prophets do not find mention in the
b) In the list of prophets who are specifically
mentioned, there are certain names which do not seem to belong
to the prophets of Israel. Many commentators therefore are inclined
to believe that they are non-Arab prophets who are included in
the list just for the sake of representation of the outer world.
For instance, Dhul-Kifl is one name in the list of prophets which
is unheard of in the Arab or Semitic references. Some scholars
seem to have traced this name to Buddha, who was of Kapeel, which
was the capital of a small state situated on the border of India
and Nepal. Buddha not only belonged to Kapeel, but was many a
time referred to as being 'Of Kapeel'. This is exactly what is
meant by the word 'Dhul-Kifl'. It should be remembered that the
consonant 'p' is not present in Arabic, and the nearest one to
it is 'fa'. Hence, Kapeel transliterated into Arabic becomes
Apart from the evidence of the Quran, there
is one reference which is controversial among the commentators.
There is a tradition reported from the Holy Prophet (sa) which
speaks of an Indian prophet by name. In his words:
Now anyone acquainted with the history of Indian
religions would immediately connect this description to Lord
Krishna, who is invariably described in the Hindu literature
as being dark of complexion. Also, the title Kanhaya is added
to his name Krishna. Kanhaya contains the same consonants K,N,H
as does the name Kahan -- in no way an insignificant similarity.
But whether any non-Arab prophet was mentioned by name or not
is only an academic discussion. There is no denying the fact
that the Holy Quran makes it incumbent on every Muslim not only
to believe in all the prophets, but it also clearly informs us
that in every region of the world and in every age, God did raise
messengers and prophets.
This belief in principle in the truth of the
founding prophets and also the minor prophets of other religions
is a unique declaration of the Quran, absent in all other divine
books. It throws light on the universality of creation as well
as on the universality of Islam itself. If the Quranic claim
that the teachings of the Quran are for the entire world is true,
then it has to recognise the truth of all prophets. Otherwise
the followers of so many different religions will not find any
connecting bridge between themselves and Islam.
The recognition of the truth of all books and
the recognition of the truth of all prophets is a revolutionary
declaration which has many benefits for man as a whole. Among
other things, it powerfully paves the way for inter-religious
peace and harmony. How can one be at peace with the followers
of other religions if one considers them to be impostors and
if one monopolises the truth only for the religious divines of
one's own faith?
It is a universal observation that the followers
of various religions tend to know very little about the doctrinal
aspects of their own religions. It is the ordained priesthood
or other leaders who seem to be the custodians of religious knowledge,
and it is to them that the common people turn when they stand
in need of religious guidance. Such people are far more sensitive
to the question of the honour of their prophets and divines than
they are even on the issue of God and His honour.
Apart from Islam, none of the divine books of
religions bear testimony to the truth of the founders of other
religions. The absence of any recognition of the truth of prophets
other than their own has insulated religions from one another,
each one claiming to monopolise truth, each viewing the prophets
of other religions as impostors. Although in every day life we
do not find this expressed in such strong terms, the hard reality
remains, that if the followers of any religion take their beliefs
seriously, they have to consider all other religions to be false,
even at their sources. It is impossible to conceive a Christian,
a true believer in Christianity as he understands it today, who
would testify to the truth of Buddha, Krishna and Zoroaster.
Particularly, the Christian stance against the Holy Prophet (sa)
of Islam is exactly the one mentioned above; they have to denounce
him as an impostor, otherwise the only alternative for them is
to become Muslims. The orientalists discussing this subject have
always maintained this position very clearly, many among them
having gone to the extent of showing undisguised hostility towards
the founder of Islam on the premise that he had to be false.
The same applies to other religions alike.
Although in every day life we do not come across
such glaring examples of discourtesy and insult, but whether
one keeps one's views to oneself or expresses them openly, the
barrier still remains. It is evident from this that the followers
of all religions have compartmentalised themselves against all
others, and the barrier between truth and falsehood, right or
wrong does succeed in preventing the religious harmony so much
needed by man today.
Of course, there are very civilised and educated
Christians in the world, who out of courtesy would not offend
the sensibilities of Muslims by denouncing the Holy Prophet (sa)
of Islam as an impostor. However the Christians, in accordance
with their beliefs, have no option but to reject the truth of
the founder of Islam. In the case of a Muslim however, it is
a completely different story. When he speaks of Jesus Christ
or Moses or Krishna or Buddha with veneration and love, he does
so because he has no other option. It is a part of the fundamental
article of his faith to extend not just a human courtesy, but
to genuinely believe in their truth and honour. In the light
of this, this article of faith appears to hold an importance
of global scale. It establishes inter- religious peace and harmony
and genuinely creates an atmosphere of mutual trust and love.
Like the Unity of God it holds the intrinsic quality of being
irreplaceable -- there is no alternative.
The Promised Messiah, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
of Qadian, has summarised the Islamic belief in other prophets
One of the principles which
forms the basis of my belief refers to the established religions
of the world. These religions have met with wide acceptance
in various regions of the earth. They have acquired a measure
of age, and have reached a stage of maturity. God has informed
me that none of these religions were false at their source
and none of the prophets impostors.2
This is a beautiful principle,
which promotes peace and harmony, and which lays the foundation
for reconciliation, and which helps the moral condition of
man. All prophets that have appeared in the world, regardless
of whether they dwelt in India or Persia or China, or in
some other country, we believe in the truth of them, one
and all. 3
With the establishment of this fact that there
had to be prophets all over the world in all ages who originated
from God, the stage seems to be set for a universal prophet.
The acceptance of a universal prophet requires a reciprocity.
When you expect others to believe in someone you consider to
be true, it would certainly help if you bear witness to the truth
of such holy people in whom the other party has unshakeable faith.
Islam therefore lays down the foundation for
the universality of a single prophet. As such the claim of the
Quran -- that the Holy Prophet (sa) was raised not only for Arabia
but for the whole of mankind -- is founded on a sound philosophy.
We find mention in every religion of a utopian future or golden
age when all mankind would be brought under the one flag. But
there does not seem to be any foundation laid for the unification
of man in his beliefs and dogmas. It was for the first time in
the history of religion that Islam paved the way for a universal
religion by the declaration that all the people of the world,
at different times, were blessed with the advent of divine messengers.
According to the Holy Quran, the institution
of prophethood is universal and timeless. There are two terms
used to indicate the same office, each with slightly different
connotations. The term An-Nabi has the connotation of prophecy.
Those whom God chooses to represent Him are implanted with the
knowledge of certain important events regarding the future. They
are also told of things past, which were unknown to the people,
and his knowledge of them stand as a sign of his being informed
by an All-Knowing Being. Prophecy as such establishes the truth
of the prophets, so that people may submit to them and accept
The second term used in connection with prophets,
is Al-Rasool or Messenger. This refers to such contents
of the prophet's revelation as deal with important messages to
be delivered to mankind on God's behalf. Those messages could
be speaking of a new code of law, or they could simply be admonishing
people for their past lapses in reference to previous revealed
Both these functions unite in a single person,
and as such all prophets can be termed as messengers, and all
messengers as prophets.
According to Islam, all prophets are human beings
and none bear superhuman characteristics. Wherever some miracles
are attributed to prophets, which are understood to indicate
their superhuman character, the categorical and clear statements
of the Quran reject such a notion. Raising of the dead is one
of such miracles attributed to certain prophets. Although similar
descriptions are found in many divine scriptures or religious
books, according to the Quran they are not meant to be taken
literally, but have a metaphorical connotation. For instance,
it is attributed to Jesus (as) that he raised the dead into a
new life. But the Holy Quran speaks of the Holy Prophet Muhammad
(sa) in the same terms, with the same words being applied to
his miracle of spiritual revival. Similar is the case of creating
birds out of clay and causing them to fly in the name of God.
These birds are only human beings who are bestowed with the faculty
of spiritual flight, as against the earthly people.
No prophet is granted an exceptionally long
term of life which makes him distinctly different and above the
brotherhood of prophets to which he belongs. Nor is any prophet
mentioned as having risen bodily to remote recesses of the universe.
Wherever there is such mention, it is spiritual ascent which
is meant, not bodily ascent, which the Quran categorically declares
is against the character of prophets. When the Holy Founder of
Islam was required by the People of the Book to physically ascend
to heaven and bring back a book, the answer which God taught
him was simply this:
Say to them: 'My Lord is far
above (such childish conduct). I am no more than a human
being and a prophet.' Surah Bani-Israel (Ch. 17: V.94)
This answer rejects all claims about other prophets
who are understood to have ascended physically to heaven. The
argument implied in this answer is that no human being and no
prophet can rise bodily to heaven, otherwise the Prophet Muhammad
(sa) could also have repeated the same miracle. The emphasis
on the human characteristics of prophets and their human limitations
is one of the most beautiful features of fundamental Islamic
teachings. Prophets rise above their fellow human beings not
because they were gifted with superhuman qualities, but only
because they gave a better account of the qualities that they
had been gifted with. They remained human despite having ascended
to great spiritual heights, and their conduct as such is inimitable
by other human beings.
On the issue of continuity of prophecy, Islam
categorically declares the Holy Prophet (sa) of Islam to be the
last of the law- bearing prophets and the Quran to be the last
Divine book of law, perfected and protected till the end of time.
Obviously a book which is perfect and also protected from interpolation
transcends alteration. No change is warranted on both counts.
As long as a book is perfect and protected from human interpolation,
no change is justified.
As far as prophecy other than law-bearing prophecy
is concerned, the possibility of its continuity is clearly mentioned
in the Quran. Again there are clear prophecies about such divine
Founder of Islam and the Holy Book -- the Quran. The following
verse of Surah Al-Nisa leaves no ambiguity about this:
And whoso obeys Allah and
this Messenger of His shall be among those on whom Allah
has bestowed His blessings, namely, the Prophets, the Truthful,
the Martyrs, and the Righteous. Surah Al-Nisa (Ch. 4:
In short, Islam is declared in the Quran to
be the last perfected religion for the benefit of mankind, after
which no new teaching would be revealed to annul the teachings
of Islam, nor would a new independent prophet be born outside
the domain of Islam; any new prophet would be completely subordinate
to the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa.
The prophets always came to deliver a message.
That message was not confined to the areas of beliefs, but also
covered the areasre of practices and implementation of the beliefs.
The teachings are divided into two large categories:
- How to improve one's relationship with God.
- How to conduct oneself in relation to one's fellow human
These two categories in fact cover all aspects
of religious laws. We cannot enter into a lengthy discussion
of how this task is carried out to perfection in Islam, but perhaps
it would be appropriate to illustrate a few important features
of this teaching of universal character.