وَإِنَّ مُحَمَّداً صلى الله عليه وسلم عَبْدُهُ المُصْطَفَى، وَنَبـِيُّهُ المُجْتَبَى، وَرَسُولُهُ المُرْتَضَى
(And we believe and are certain) that Muḥammad is His chosen Slave (‘abd), His elect Prophet (nabi) and His Messenger (rasūl), with whom He is well-pleased.
The author began by speaking of the first article of faith (īmān), namely belief in Allāh’s Oneness, and the first part of the testimony of faith that makes a person Muslim. The author now follows up that discussion by speaking about the second part of the testimony, namely belief in the Prophethood of Muḥammad (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) which is also part of one of the articles of faith (īmān) as listed in the famous Prophetic Narration of Jibrīl. In this narration the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) spoke of belief as comprising of faith in the Messengers (rasūl) including his own, amongst five other matter. This clarifies that all of Allah’s Messengers and Prophets are included within this tenant of faith and doubting the idea of God sending them to convey His message to His creatures is disbelief (kufr).
The Creator rhetorically asks the disbeliever: ‘Did you, then, think that We created you in mere idle play…?’ as purpose and meaning behind human life is self-evident. In fact, the Creator left nothing without meaning as He: ‘did not create heaven and earth and everything between them to no purpose. That is the opinion of those who are disbelievers.’ The purpose behind human creation is that they worship the Creator and devote themselves to Him alone. Their lives have been designed as an environment of test and tribulation in order for them to prove true their faith in Him in pursuit of this aim. The Qur’ān makes it clear that test, trial and misfortune are an intended aspect of human life: ‘We created man from a mingled drop to test him, and We made him hearing and seeing’. Embedded within this construct of life and purpose is the concept of Prophethood as it is through a long line of Prophets that the Creator chose to communicate to human beings His purpose for bringing them into existence. Otherwise, how would mankind come to know of the reasoning behind their creation? The alternative would be to inspire each and every human being with the message directly, however, this would render the principle of testing faith obsolete as each person would then have experienced the phenomena of receiving revelation through supernatural interaction with angels. Therefore, the only viable option is to communicate the message directly to certain select individuals who are qualified to propagate that on to the rest of mankind and jinnkind.
The messages from the Creator were called Books (kutub) and those who received them through revelation and were commanded to convey the messages, they were called Messengers (rasūl).
The reality is that there is no other means through which one can formulate a sound belief about godhood, the afterlife, universal laws and truths, the world of the unseen; except through what the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) came with. This is the very role of the noble Messengers: ‘Messengers bringing good news and giving warning, so that people will have no argument against Allāh after the coming of the Messengers. Allāh is Almighty, All-Wise.’ It was the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) who taught mankind the pure belief of the Oneness of Allāh (tawḥīd) and His beautiful Names and Attributes.
Our duty is only to obey Allāh, but there is no way of knowing His words and Commands except through His messengers. Whoever He chooses to speak on His behalf, conveys His words and His Commands, is, therefore, to be obeyed in whatever he says. This is essentially why being sent a Messenger is such a phenomenal blessing from Allāh.
HOW THE TRUTHFULNESS OF A PROPHET IS KNOWN
Leading on from the first question about how the Creator communicates His Will to mankind, the subsequent question would thus be: how can the claim of prophethood be verified? That is, if someone performed great feats of magic, displayed supernatural behaviour, or performed a miracle, would this constitute Prophethood on his part?
The scholars of speculative theology (mutakallimūn) have attempted to answer this question when explaining this statement of al-Ṭaḥāwi, often delving into a great deal of detail and complexity. However the true answer requires no such degree of complexity as it is simple and intuitive.
Firstly, the excellent character and high moral standing that Prophets have amongst their people bears testimony to their truthfulness. When revelation first came to the Prophet, he was so overwhelmed that he thought perhaps he had been bewitched. It was his loving wife Khadījah who comforted him by saying: ‘By Allāh, Allāh will never disgrace you. You keep the ties of kinship, speak the truth, help the needy, honour the guest, give to the poor, and assist those in difficulty’, as if to affirm that Allāh would not forsake someone with such noble character.
People do not simply earn the title of being a Prophet, but rather it is God who chooses certain people to be Prophets and He chooses based on His Divine Will and Wisdom. He selects the best of men to carry His message, teach the people His Religion, and be guides for their respective communities. He chooses those who embody the best character and integrity a human being could aspire to have as they are charged with the task of leading their people and being role models for them. Therefore, a prophet will have the best human qualities and this is a crucial sign that points to the veracity of a person’s claim to prophecy. Anyone who claims prophethood and yet displays bad conduct and behaviour is not a prophet but rather an impostor.
Secondly, as to their life and mission, the Prophets preach nothing except the establishment of justice in this life, pursuit of happiness in the next life, and the worship of the One and Only God. Moreover, their lives’ are full of virtue and piety. Whilst the lives’ of those who falsely claim Prophethood are riddled with sin, disobedience to God, lack of adherence to Godly Commands, and based on an agenda of pursuing fame, fortune, and power.
Thirdly, Allāh blesses His Prophets with miracles that everyone who witnesses them, whether from the jinnkind or mankind, all know with certainty that they are from none save God. They point to the veracity of their prophethood. Allāh blessed the Prophet Muḥammad (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) with the miracle of the Qur’ān and said to him: ‘Say: If both men and jinn banded together to produce the like of this Qur’ān, they could never produce anything like it, even if they backed each other up.’ One the miracles of the Qur’ān is that it cannot be reproduced or matched as it lies beyond the power of men and jinn. However, the wonders of diviners and the sorcerers can be reproduced by others. When the Pharaoh invited Musā to compete with his magicians the people saw that what the magicians brought was something similar to each other, yet what Musā brought was something beyond human power.
Some claimed that the Prophets are those who have three characteristics: supernatural hearing, sight, and intuition. They are thus able to sense things beyond normal human capacity. For these people, a Prophet is someone who sees or hears without anyone around him perceiving it, he sees only within himself and hears only within himself. That is why Ibn Taymiyyah said about their view: ‘He is no different from a person experiencing hallucination’. This was the claim of the philosophers who negated outright the concept of revelation as affirmed by Ahl al-Sunnah. The three qualities which they mentioned as distinctive qualities for prophethood are also found in the non-prophets, even in infidels!
Prophethood is a favour from Allāh. It is a revelation from Allāh to a slave (‘abd) of His choice; the prophet is thus one whom He chooses to receive the revelation, and the revelation comes to him from none but Allāh. It was Jibrīl (‘alayhis salām) who would bring down the revelation and communicate it to the Prophet Muḥammad (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam). Allāh made it clear that Jibrīl was an angel, a real being, not a figment of the Prophet’s imagination, when He said: ‘Verily this is the word of a most honourable messenger, endued with power, with rank before the Lord of the Throne.’
Every blessed word that comes from a Prophet is true; they neither lie nor say something false. Unlike the sorcerers, psychics and diviners who mix falsehood with truth, and sometimes pure lies. Allāh says: ‘Shall I tell you upon whom the satans descend? They descend on every evil liar.’ This is why Ḥassan b. Thābit said about the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam): ‘Had there been no other distinguishing sign in him, his face would have been sufficient to tell you about him’.
Some of the extreme Sufis, such as Ibn ‘Arabi, took up the philosophers’ ideas and expressed them in their own mystical language. It was based on this distorted understanding of prophethood that they would claim that saints (awliyā) were better than prophets.
The scholars of speculative theology (mutakallimūn), such as the Mu’tazilites and the Ash’arites, claimed that the veracity of a Prophet can only be deduced by way of miracles (mu’jizāt). For them, the ability to bring forth supernatural phenomena that contravenes the norm, was the defining hallmark of a Prophet. Indeed, miracles are signs of Prophethood, but there are many more signs and indications as already mentioned.
The reality is that Allāh has made truth easily distinguishable from falsehood, it is only the ignorant that cannot tell the difference between a Prophet and an impostor.
PROPHETS AND MESSENGERS
A well-known point of discussion related to the subject of prophethood is the clarification between a prophet and a messenger.
The majority of the scholars believe that there is a difference between a prophet (nabi) and a messenger (rasūl), though every messenger is a prophet, every prophet is not necessarily considered a messenger. The Qur’ān makes such a distinction in a number of places, such as Allāh’s statement: ‘And We did not send before you any messenger (rasūl) nor prophet (nabi) except that when he spoke…’; meaning that both are sent by Allāh yet they have a distinguishing quality making them different. Amongst the various views of the scholars is that a Prophet is sent to a nation that essentially believes in the Oneness of Allāh (tawḥīd) and are agreeable to his message, whereas a messenger is sent to a disbelieving nation that oppose him. The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) was sent to the Quraysh of Makkah, who were a disbelieving people, stooped in idol-worship, they opposed him and abused him till the very end until, finally, with the conquest of Makkah, they submitted. Thus Muḥammad b. ‘Abdullah, was both a Prophet and a Messenger. May Allāh’s eternal peace and blessings be upon him. Other scholarly points of view may follow later.
THE FINAL MESSENGER OF ALLĀH: MUḤAMMAD B. ‘ABDULLĀH
Our faith (īmān) in the Prophethood of Muḥammad (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) is part of this overall belief (aqīdah) in the Oneness of Allāh (tawḥīd). That is why the testimony of faith is to declare that: There is no deity worthy of worship save Allāh, and that Muḥammad is the Messenger of Allāh.
The author’s statement points to our belief in the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) as:
1) A human servant of Allāh
2) A Prophet (nabi)
3) A Messenger (rasūl)
4) The seal of all Prophets and Messengers
5) He is the beloved of Allāh and His friend (khalīl)
6) He was sent to all mankind and jinnkind until the Day of Judgment.
If a person believes in the Oneness of Allāh (tawḥīd), yet disbelieves in the Prophethood of Muḥammad (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) he is not considered a Muslim. Such is the case of the Ahmadiyyah sect in our times.
Allāh described His Prophet (,Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) as a servant (‘abd) when relating his epic night journey to Jerusalem (al-isrā wa al-mi’rāj), saying: ‘Glory be to Allāh, Who took His servant (‘abd) for a journey by night’. He also mentioned him by this title when He said: ‘Yet when the servant (‘abd) of Allāh stands forth to invoke Him’ and when He said: ‘He conveyed the inspiration to His servant (‘abd) what He meant to convey’.
The title of being the Servant of Allāh points to the excellence of the Prophet’s servitude and devotion (‘ubudiyyah) to Allāh. The Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) excelled everyone in this world when it came to this and reached the highest rank. That is why ‘Isā (‘alayhis salām) will say on the Day of Judgment when the people come to him seeking his intercession on their behalf: ‘Go to Muḥammad; he is the servant (‘abd) who has had all of his early and later faults forgiven.’ This is the greatest title a person can achieve, it is the actualisation of human purpose which Allāh intended for mankind when He created them, for Allāh says: ‘And I have not created jinnkind nor mankind, except to worship Me’.
Allāh, Exalted is He, clarified to mankind that the Prophet was indeed a human being and not an angel or an angelic spirit. He told the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam): ‘Say: ‘I am only a human being like yourselves who has received revelation.’ What is correct is to say that the Prophet is the Servant (‘abd) of Allāh, this is his praised station and to elevate him above and beyond that is to contradict the Qur’ān, the Sunnah, and consensus of the scholars of Islam.
THE AUTHORITY OF THE PROPHET ṢALLĀHU ‘ALAYHI WA SALAM
As stated earlier, our duty is only to obey Allāh, but there is no way of knowing His words and Commands except through His messengers. Whoever He chooses to speak on His behalf, conveys His words and His Commands, is, therefore, to be obeyed in whatever he says. This is essentially why being sent a Messenger is such a phenomenal blessing from Allāh. It is especially true in the case of Muḥammad (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam). Allāh has said: ‘Allāh did confer a great favour on the Believers when He sent among them a messenger from among themselves, reciting unto them His signs, purifying them, and instructing them in scripture and wisdom; while before that they had been in manifest error’. Without the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) we would be lost and misguided, not knowing how to live our lives as intended by our Creator. Without the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) we would not know the very meaning behind human life, that Allāh has: ‘…not created jinn or mankind except to Worship Me.’
Every utterance that came from his blessed lips bears testimony to his authority as he was conveying the message of God. Moreover, divinely protected from erring and: ‘neither did he speak from whim’. The Shaykh of Islam Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728AH) said: ‘Indeed Allāh commanded obedience to His Messenger in more than thirty places of the Qur’ān. He equated obedience to His Messenger as being akin to showing obedience to His Majestic Self and likewise He equated disobedience to His Messenger as being akin to disobeying His Majestic Self.’ This is why there is universal agreement that the speech, conduct, and tacit approvals of the Prophet (Ṣallāhu ‘alayhi wa salam) i.e., his sunnah, are part and parcel of the religion. The entire religion therefore stems from only these two sources: the Qur’ān and the Prophet’s Sunnah.
 Q. Al-Mu’minūn, 23: 115.
 Q. Ṣād, 38: 27.
 Q. Al-Insān, 76: 2.
 Q. Al-Nisā, 4: 165.
 Q. Al-Isrā, 17: 88.
 an-Nubuwwāt 168-72
 Q. Al-Takwīr, 81: 19.
 Q. Al-Shu’arā, 26: 221-222.
 Q. Al-Isrā, 17: 1.
 Q. Jinn, 72: 19.
 Q. Al-Najm, 53: 10.
 H. Al-Bukharī
 Q. Al-Dhāriyāt, 51: 56
 Q. Al-Najm, 53: 3.
 See Majmū’ al-Fatāwā, 19:103.