Throughout history, we see that Allah’s actions manifest in stages, whether it is creating the world, spiritual ascension, punishment, or rewards. Prior to Adam(as), man lived in a state of innocence, unaware of evil’s existence and, thus, ignorant of the ever-present necessity of making a choice between the many possibilities of action and behavior. He lived, like all other animals, in the light of his instincts alone. His innocence was only a condition of his existence and not a virtue, it gave to his life a static quality and thus precluded him from moral, spiritual and intellectual development. The growth of his consciousness – symbolized by the willful disobedience to God’s command – changed all this. It transformed him from a purely instinctive being into a full-fledged human entity – a human being capable of discerning between right and wrong and thus of choosing his way of life.
Prophets were sent in stages to increase guidance consistent with man’s intellectual development because, “Allah does not burden any soul with more than it can bear” (2:287). The aim is to help man achieve spiritual stability and spiritual sobriety. It is this merging of our self with divinity that is the lesson and purpose of our spiritual path and all of our faith traditions.
Yet, this path which begins with similarities, becomes more refined as it evolves to match man’s intellectual developments. The Holy Quran lays a foundation for these similarities and distinctions – which also manifest the stages of Allah’s actions. Regarding Moses(as), Allah says: And when Moses came at Our appointed time and his Lord spoke to him, he said, ‘My Lord, show Thyself to me that I may look at Thee.’ He replied, ‘Thou shalt not see Me, but look at the mountain; if it remains in its place, then shalt thou see Me.’ And when his Lord manifested Himself on the mountain, He broke it into pieces and Moses fell down unconscious. And when he recovered, he said, ‘Holy art Thou, I turn towards Thee, and I am the first to believe.’ (I am the First Momin: Ana Awwalul momineen) (7:144)
Additionally, the Holy Prophet(sa) is commanded to say: ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds. He has no partner. And so am I commanded, and I am the first of those who submit. (I am the First Muslim: Ana Awwalul Muslemeen) (6:163-164; 6:15; 39:12-13)
These references are unique and offer similarities and distinctions in both Prophets, which will be explored here.
Dome of an old Mosque in the Night with stars on the Sky
Allah says in the Holy Quran: Verily, We have sent to you a Messenger, who is a witness over you, even as We sent a Messenger to Pharaoh (73:16)
اِنَّاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنَاۤ اِلَیۡکُمۡ رَسُوۡلًا ۬ۙ شَاہِدًا عَلَیۡکُمۡ کَمَاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنَاۤ اِلٰی فِرۡعَوۡنَ رَسُوۡلًا
In this verse, the Holy Quran refers to similarities between the prophet Moses(as) and The Holy Prophet(sa). The verse also alludes to the biblical prophecy:
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My word in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19)
“[L]ike unto thee” is significant because it shows that both prophets would be of the same kind – that is, both will bring a new law. Both prophets held the rare status amongst prophets to be law-bearing prophets.
Furthermore, both law-bearing prophets had long-awaited, reformer prophets. Both promised Messiahs (Jesus(as) and Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as)) appeared in the beginnings of the fourteenth centuries of their respective faiths.
Allah says in the Holy Quran: This day have I perfected your religion for your benefit and completed My favour upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your faith.(5:4) This means that there is optimal distinctiveness of the religion, its Prophet(sa), the Prophet’s(sa) companions , and the Ummah.
The prior scriptures and prophets were limited to a specific people and time. The Holy Quran and The Holy Prophet(sa) and The Holy Quran were sent for all mankind and for all times.
Over time, people corrupted the prior scriptures, losing not only the text, but the intent as well. In these verses, Allah refers to a distinction between the Torah and the Quran:
Surely, We sent down the Torah wherein was guidance and light. By it did the Prophets, who were obedient to Us, judge for the Jews, so did the divines and the jurists; for they were required to preserve the Book of Allah, and because they were guardians over it. Therefore fear not men but fear Me; and barter not My Signs for a paltry price. And whoso judges not by that which Allah has sent down, these it is who are the disbelievers. (5:45).
Verily, We Ourself have sent down this Exhortation, and most surely We will be its Guardian. (15:10). Whereas the Jews were required to protect the Torah, Allah Himself will guard the Quran. No other scripture can make this claim. This is verified with evidence by seeing how the Quran was originally revealed and preserved since the time of the Prophet(sa).
Another unique feature of the Holy Quran is its revelation in stages. Allah says: And the Qur’an We have revealed in pieces that thou mayest read it to mankind at intervals, and We have sent it down piecemeal.(17:107) This was done to enable the Holy Prophet’s(sa) Companions to remember, learn and assimilate it into their lives. It had to answer the temporary objections of its immediate addressees and to satisfy the immediate spiritual needs of the first converts to Islam. It had to lay down guidance for the multitudinous and multifarious problems of mankind for all times. The piecemeal revelation of the Qur’an also fulfilled the biblical prophecy:
Whom shall he teach knowledge and whom shall he make to understand the message? Them that are weaned from the milk; and drawn from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little for, with strange lips and another tongue will he speak to this people (Isaiah 28:9-11).
Islam is a religion consistent with man’s nature. As the Quran says: Devote thyself single-mindedly to the Faith, and thus follow the nature designed by Allah, the nature according to which He has fashioned mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah. That is the everlasting faith. But most people know not (30:31)
The Holy Quran presents another distinction between Prophets Muhammad(sa) and Moses(as) through a parable. As stated earlier, Moses(as) always knew that a prophet would appear from among the Israelites’ brethren in whose mouth God would put His words. (Deuteronomy 18:18-19). The prophecy signified that the Promised Prophet would be a greater manifestation of God than Moses. Moses desired intensely to see who “that Prophet” could be. (7:144) To satisfy his curiosity, God showed him a vision of “that Prophet”, who is also known by the name “Khizr”. In the parable, Moses(as) meets with God’s Servant “whom We had taught knowledge from Ourself” (18:66). This Servant takes Moses on a journey. Moses’ curiosity is palpable throughout the parable and the “servant of God” repeatedly admonishes Moses to keep silent. (18:68) Yet, as they journeyed, Moses(as) kept asking questions. Finally Khizr said, “This is the parting of ways between me and thee.” (18:79) The Holy Prophet is reported to have said, “Would that Moses had kept silent! If he had done so, we would have been vouchsafed more knowledge about the unseen” (Bukhari, Kitabut-Tafsir). Through study of the Quran, it is evident that this Servant of God – this Abdullah – was none other than an embodiment of Prophet Muhammad’s(sa) soul.
This returns us to First Momin and the First Muslim. When Prophet Moses(as) asked for God to reveal Himself to him, Allah declared that Moses(as) could not bear it. (7:144). In this verse, Moses(as) realized that he had not attained the high spiritual eminence to witness and withstand that Divine Manifestation which he had requested. That unique privilege was reserved for one much greater than him—the Crown of God’s Creation––the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa). So Moses(as) cried spontaneously, “I turn towards Thee, and I am the first to believe.” The Chief Israelite Prophet – one whose followers became Jews and Christians – declared his belief in the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa), thus becoming the first to believe in him.
We see this in its ultimate form in the relationship of Allah and The Prophet(sa) as described in The Holy Quran in the spiritual journey (Miraj) of The Prophet(sa): Then the Prophet drew near to Allah ; then Allah leaned down towards him, so that it became as it were a case of one chord serving two bows or closer still. Then He revealed to His servant that which He had willed to reveal. (53:9-11)
The Promised Messiah(as) says:
Our Holy Prophet(sa) combines in him the names of all the prophets, for in him are blended the noble qualities we find only singly in all the other prophets. Hence, he is Moses as well as Jesus; he is Adam, he is Abraham, he is Joseph and he is also Jacob. God indicates that in the verse: “So do thou follow their guidance.” (6:91): Meaning: O Prophet of God, merge in yourself the various teachings of all the prophets! This shows that the excellence of all the prophets was combined in the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. In fact the very name Muhammad points towards this because it means “the one who is most highly praised.” The highest praise can only be conceived if it is granted that the very best virtues and special qualities of all the prophets are blended in him. (Ayena Kamalat e Islam: Roohani Khaza’in, Vol. 5, p. 343)
Moses(as) faced a challenge of him and his people leaving their homes due to persecution. Pharaoh and his forces were in hot pursuit, so when Moses(as) and company reached the Red Sea, it seemed like a dead end. The Holy Quran says : And when the two hosts came in sight of each other the companions of Moses said, ‘We are surely overtaken. (26:62; 5:22-23; 7:149; 20:87-92) and Moses(as) said: ‘Never!’ said he, ‘My Lord is with me; He will direct me aright.’ (26:63). And, direct them aright He did.
This happens in every Prophet’s time. Its brightest example is in the Holy Prophet’s(sa) life. The Holy Quran says:
If you help him not, then know that Allah helped him even when the disbelievers drove him forth while he was one of the two when they were both in the cave, when he said to his companion, ‘Grieve not, for Allah is with us.’ Then Allah sent down His peace on him, and strengthened him with hosts which you did not see, and humbled the word of those who disbelieved, and it is the word of Allah alone which is supreme. And Allah is Mighty, Wise. (9:40)
Just as Moses(as) left Egypt, Prophet Muhammad(sa) left Mecca, experiencing a similar hot pursuit with a seeming dead end. The aforementioned Quranic verse references the Holy Prophet’s(sa) emigration from Mecca to Medina when he took shelter in a cave with Abu Bakr(ra). Abu Bakr(ra) immediately knew the significance of their peril. While in the Cave, Abu Bakr(ra) began weeping. The Holy Prophet(sa) asked him why he wept. Abu Bakr replied, “I do not weep for my life, O Prophet of God, because if I die, it is only the question of a single life. But if you die, it will be the death of Islam and of the entire Muslim community” (Zurqani)
Despite the fact that Moses(as) showed several divine signs, including saving them from death’s grip at the sea, his followers remained hesitant. When it was time to enter the Promised Land, his followers said, ‘O Moses, we will never enter it, so long as they are in it. So go thou and thy Lord and fight, and here we sit.’ (5:25) Thus, the companions of Moses(as) were cowardly, faithless and slothful. As both Moses(as) and Prophet Muhammad(sa) had to flee their homes, would the latter also suffer from cowardly companions?
History proves that Prophet Muhammad’s(sa) companions were turned from sinners into saints and constantly vied with each other to be better. One of the great tests of courage came when Prophet Muhammad(sa) sought counsel from his ill-equipped companions about battling the better-equipped Meccans at Badr. A companion rose and addressed the Holy Prophet(sa) in the following memorable words, “We would not say to thee, O Prophet of God, as did the companions of Moses, ‘Go thou and thy Lord and fight and here we sit’. On the contrary, O Prophet of the Lord! We are ever with thee and we will go with thee whither thou goest. We will fight the enemy on thy right and on thy left and in thy front and behind thee; and we trust God that thou wilt see from us what will comfort thine eyes.” The tradition says that when the Holy Prophet heard these words, his face beamed with delight. (Bukhari & Hisham)
Allah says in the Holy Quran about The Prophet(sa): He it is Who has raised among the Unlettered people a Messenger from among themselves who recites unto them His Signs, and purifies them, and teaches them the Book and wisdom, although they had been, before, in manifest misguidance (62:3) The most distinctive sign was the power and miracle of prayers and divine communion. Certainly, Moses(as) also showed miracles and divine communion, but Prophet Muhammad’s(sa) magnitude was at an entirely different level. The Promised Messiah(as) explains:
Have you any notion what was the strange event that occurred in the desert country of Arabia when hundreds of thousands of the dead were revived within a brief period and those who had been misguided through generations put on Divine color, and those who were blind obtained sight, and those who had been dumb began to speak of the understanding of the Divine, and the world underwent a revolution which had never been seen or heard of before? It was the supplications during dark nights of one who had lost himself in God which raised a clamor in the world, and manifested such wonders as appeared impossible in the case of that unlearned helpless one. Send down Thy blessings and peace, O Allah, on him and his people according to the amount of pain and anguish he felt for his Ummah, and pour down upon him the lights of Thy mercy forever. (Blessings of Prayers page 17)
The exalted status of the companions of The Prophet(sa) reflected the exalted status of The Holy Prophet(sa) and the lasting influence The Holy Prophet(sa) had on the people of his time and those from the Akhareen (the latter days) buoyed by the Promised Messiah(as) who exemplified the commandment of the Holy Quran (3:32) asking The Prophet(sa) to Say, ‘If you love Allah, follow me: then will Allah love you and forgive you your faults. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful.’ Meaning love and obedience to the Holy Prophet(sa) transcends place and time and brings man close to Allah.
These companions of The Prophet(sa) who are also called Salaf-as-Salih (pious predecessors) were prior to Islam a people without any sense of human achievement or performance, but once they were exposed to the empowering message of the Qur’an, and the company of The Prophet(sa) they became energized and utterly transformed; they shook off their complacency and lethargy, and became peak performers and achievers. Whatever they touched was changed anew through their dynamic faith. The Promised Messiah(as) says that it is narrated in a Hadith that the Messenger of Allah (sa), said: Allah Allah fi Ashabih i.e. nothing but Allah, and Allah alone resides in the hearts of my companions. (Malfuzat English Vol 1 page 196)
No prior scripture makes much mention of the exalted status of the companions of the prophets. The Holy Quran makes high mention of the companions of The Holy Prophet(sa) Raziallaho unhum wa razoo unho – Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. (5:120; 9:100; 58:23; 98:9)
The Holy Quran refers to the Muslim Ummah : You are the best people raised for the good of mankind; you enjoin what is good and forbid evil and believe in Allah. And if the People of the Book had believed, it would have, surely, been better for them. Some of them are believers, but most of them are disobedient. (3:111)
The Holy Quran is replete with warnings for the Muslim Ummah of what not to do and what to avoid . That is why there is repetition of what happened to the people of the former prophets. That is why prayer of the whole Surah Fatihah is the beginning of The Holy Quran. Muslims are urged to pray and seek: The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, those who have not incurred Thy displeasure, and those who have not gone astray. (1:7) Muslim should not only desire mere virtue but should aim at inclusion in the class of men who have won the special favors of God (4:70) The latter portion of the verse contains a stern warning. Man receives favors from God and then begins to abuse them. Or he loses the right path, encounters a fall, and becomes rejected by God. It is to guard against this danger that the latter portion of the verse contains a warning for mankind in general and for Muslims in particular. God enjoins us to pray that after becoming His favored ones, we should not incur His displeasure nor stray from the right path, so that our progress, be it spiritual or temporal, may be continuous with no falling back. Allah warns us: Say, ‘Shall I inform you of those whose reward with Allah is worse than that? They are those whom Allah has cursed and on whom His wrath has fallen and of whom He has made apes and swine and who worship the Evil One. These indeed are in a worse plight, and farther astray from the right path. (5:61)
Unlike other prior religions and prior prophets The Prophet of Islam saw the victory of his message in his life time. Victory in Islam means winning over the hearts of people so they accept Islam as their faith. That is why Allah says to the Prophet(sa) after the triumphant entrance into Mecca when thousands joined the fold of Islam : Now that Allah’s succor has become manifest and victory has been achieved and thou has seen people join the religion of Allah in large numbers, then glorify thy Lord, with His praise, and seek forgiveness of Him for their frailties. Surely He is oft-returning with compassion. (110:2-4) .The expression, “He is Oft-Returning with compassion,” holds a message of hope for the Holy Prophet(sa). He is told that whenever there was any danger of his followers deviating from the path of Islam and falling victims to moral decay on a large scale, God will return to them with compassion and will raise from among them a Reformer who will lead them to the right path.
God did not desire that anyone should remain alive eternally, but this Chosen Prophet lives forever. To keep him alive forever, God has ordained that his spiritual and law-giving blessings would last until the day of resurrection. Finally, as a continuation of his spiritual blessings, God has sent unto the world the Promised Messiah—whose advent was essential for the completion of the edifice of Islam. It was necessary that the world should not come to an end until the dispensation of Muhammad had been granted a spiritual Messiah, as had been endowed to the Mosaic dispensation. Now the dispensation of Muhammad has replaced the Mosaic dispensation, but it is thousands of times higher in status. The one sent in the likeness of Moses is greater than Moses and the one sent in the likeness of the Son of Mary is more exalted than the Son of Mary. Just as the Messiah son of Mary came in the fourteenth century after Moses, the Promised Messiah appeared in the fourteenth century after the Holy Prophet(sa). (Our Teachings page 7)
Truly, living in this time – although a struggle – contains so many blessings that we can experience heaven on earth through accepting Prophet Muhammad(sa) & his Messiah Ahmad(as).The Holy Prophet’s(sa) advent is described metaphorically as the appearance of God Almighty. He attained the stage of Ruh ul Amin — The Spirit of Security, a state beyond the imagination of man; a state of getting together with God. A state of Perfect Unity – Dana Fa Ta Dalla (53:10). The Holy Prophet(sa) became the mirror reflecting Divine Attributes. He was Al Abd. The Holy Quran calls him Abdullah (72:20) — The Servant of Allah; the Exemplar par excellence. Not only is this distinct compared to Moses(as), it truly is a distinction for all times.
Allah knows best, Allahu A’alam.
This review is based on Holy Quran, Ahadith, Writings of The Promised Messiah(as), Commentary of The holy Quran by Khalifatul Masih II(ra) and The Bible. More at Essence of Islam Vol IV pages 179-209.