Meena Malik

Prophets exist as a bridge between God and humanity. They are living, breathing teachers of what God’s Guidance looks like in real life. The concept of prophethood is central to Islam’s belief system. For those learning about Islam, it’s essential to understand why prophets hold such significance in Islam and what distinguishes them from ordinary individuals.

What is a Prophet’s Role? 

At the core of the need for prophets lies the understanding that God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, desires to guide people toward the truth and wants them to live good lives. To do this, He chose to communicate that Divine Guidance with humanity. But how does God bridge the gap between Himself and human beings? He could communicate directly and individually with everyone on the earth–but this is not the case. Because the message of Islam includes teachings that impact the lifestyle of its followers, God chose special individuals who serve as perfect models of how to put His Divine Message into action. Thus, prophets serve two main functions–bearers of revelation and exemplars of divine guidance.

Who are the Prophets? 

The prophets are individuals handpicked by God and chosen to serve as vessels that convey God’s message to humankind. What sets prophets apart is their sinlessness—a quality that means they are pure and show unwavering devotion to God. God protects His Divine Message by creating sinless prophets with perfect character. While they are not immune to the occasional human error, their fundamental nature is perfect and remains untainted by deliberate disobedience. Moreover, they are shielded from the pitfalls of ego and temptation, ensuring that their actions and teachings remain untarnished by worldly influences.

Historically, prophets of Islam are divided into two categories—prophets and messengers. There are slight distinctions between the two, but they serve complementary purposes. The prophet, or nabi, receives divine inspiration without the aid of a specific scripture and is tasked with reviving the teachings of their predecessors and guiding their communities along the path of righteousness. Examples include John the Baptist and Zakariyyah, who upheld the legacy of their respective predecessors while imparting moral guidance to their people. In contrast, the messenger, or rasool, delivers a divine revelation through sacred scripture—such as Moses with the Torah and Jesus with the Gospel. Their mission extends beyond calling a community back towards guidance; it also includes teaching Divine Revelation. Both prophets and messengers were historically sent to specific communities and were not responsible for educating and guiding all of humanity.

The Quran, Islam’s holy scripture, enumerates 25 prophets by name. Muslims believe all prophets sent from God preached the same essential message: worship the one true God alone. It is possible that God sent countless others throughout history whose names and legacies are not documented in the Quran. This inclusivity reflects the divine principle that no community is deprived of divine guidance, with prophets sent to every corner of the earth to illuminate the path to righteousness.

The Need for a Final Prophet and Messenger

Among all of the prophets God sent to humanity, one figure stands as the culmination of this prophetic tradition: Muhammad, peace be upon him, the final messenger of God. His unique status lies in his role as the last prophet God will ever send to guide people and in his universal message, which transcends cultural and temporal boundaries. Unlike his predecessors, whose mission was limited to their immediate communities, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was chosen by God to guide and teach the entire world and future generations of humanity. In the Quran, God states, “This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islām as religion” [Quran, 5:3]. Muhammad’s, peace be upon him, mission encapsulates the essence of all previous prophets, consolidating their teachings into a comprehensive guide for humanity. Although Muslims do believe in and deeply respect the prophets who came before Muhammad, peace be upon him, they only follow the Quran as their holy scripture and the direct teachings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.

The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, is the most important figure in Islam because he is the one who received the message of the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran.  A verse from the Quran alludes to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, stating, “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger…And if you obey him, you will be rightly guided…” [Quran, 24:54]. As mentioned in this verse, following the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him is of utmost importance because he serves as the teacher and leader God chose to guide all of humanity from the year 610 and onwards.

In conclusion, prophets in Islam serve as conduits between the divine and the mortal, tasked with delivering God’s message and serving as perfect examples to humanity. Their sinlessness and unwavering commitment to righteousness distinguish them as exemplars for all believers to emulate. Through their teachings and actions, prophets illuminate the path to salvation, ensuring that the light of divine guidance reaches every corner of the earth.

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