Prophets are individuals who received Divine revelation and guidance to lead humanity towards righteousness and a recognition of God.
Since the inception of history, God sent numerous prophets and messengers to mankind. The messages of the prophets were of two types: regional or universal. While the local prophets were sent with specific messages to specific groups of people; the universal prophets were sent with messages and books for mankind and these were limited to five: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon all of them).
A unique characteristic of all the prophets and messengers is that they were infallible. They committed no sins. To demonstrate the validity of this concept is to consider that humanity needed prophets and messengers to set an exemplary structured lifestyle to emulate and follow. If they had committed errors, then people might be obliged to exemplify and excuse their errors, thus making the prophets and messengers untrustworthy.
Infallibility means protection from error in teaching doctrine of faith and morals and is defined as a spiritual grace from God that enables a person to abstain from sins by his own free will. The power of infallibility and immunity from sins does not make a person incapable of committing mistakes; rather, he or she refrains from transgression by his or her own power and will, due to realizing the consequences of their actions.
Infallibility is essential since the mission of the prophets and messengers was not only to convey Divine scriptures from God, but also to guide humanity toward the right path [God]. Therefore, prophets and messengers had to be role models and perfect examples for humanity. The mention of infallibility is stated thirteen times in the Quran, and one such example is when God said to Satan, “Certainly you shall have no authority over My servants except those who follow you and go astray.” (15:42) In another instance in the Quran we read, ”Satan then said to God, 'By Your might, then I will surely mislead them all, except Your chosen servants among them [the messengers and imams].'” (38:82)
When we look at the example of Prophet Muhammad, we see that he never committed any sin, nor was he ever harsh to any person or animal! God has stated in the Quran, “And by the mercy of Allah you dealt with them [people] gently, and had you been severe and harsh-hearted, they would have broken away from you.” (3:158)
In most societies, people with questionable records of conduct would be ineligible from becoming presidential or gubernatorial candidates, since they would have to set the examples of righteousness and honesty in order to lead society rightfully. This is also expected of the prophets.
Unfortunately, many distorted stories and images about God's prophets exist. For example, stories in the present-day version of the Old Testament accuse Prophet David of adultery with Baath-Sheba; Prophet Noah of being drunk; Prophet Lot of having committed incest; and Prophet Moses of committing adultery! Islam adamantly opposes such unethical and immoral writings that have been attributed to the prophets of God.
Nonetheless, the Quran does mention the slips of some prophets, such as the instruction that forbade Adam from eating of the tree. However, such a verse cannot be understood literally as Prophet Adam having committed a sin because the verses of the Quran can be divided into two types - allegorical and metaphorical verses - and both types are quite common in the Quran. Prophet Adam did not disobey the obligatory commands of God; rather, the command which he did not honor was a recommended suggestion. Therefore, in the teachings of Islam, Prophet Adam cannot be considered as having committed a sin.
Another belief of the Muslims is that God preordained all of the prophets; but at the same time, they had to strive for prophethood. The foremost example of the vocational test that prophets had to endure is told in the life of Prophet Abraham, the father of all prophets.
Prophet Abraham was born into an idolatrous society, but the purity of his nature recognized that the worship of idols was wrong, and he acknowledged that the idols were incapable of doing any harm or good.
One day, when no one was present, Prophet Abraham destroyed all of the idols, except for the largest. Upon their return to the village, the people began to question Prophet Abraham about the destruction of their gods. Prophet Abraham's reply was for the people to question the remaining statue for the answer since they believed that their stone idols had power.
Although the people were aware that their idols were indeed powerless, they did not know how to respond to the situation. Thus, out of embarrassment and anger, they cast Prophet Abraham into a colossal fire. However, God protected Prophet Abraham from the fire and confounded the plots of the polytheists.
After being tortured for and then saved by his faith in God; Prophet Abraham still had to undergo the hardest test of obedience - a direct order in the form of a dream (which came from God) to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
Although sadness overwhelmed him, Prophet Abraham was a strong believer in God, and thus, did not question the Divine order. Ishmael, too, unquestionably accepted the command of God by allowing his father to lead him to a mountain-top to be sacrificed. Ishmael's only request was that his father place him face down in order that his father would not see his facial expression during the sacrifice.
Prophet Abraham raised his blade, ready to comply with the command of God, when a revelation intercepted and caused the cessation of the sacrifice of his son. Prophet Abraham had proven his loyalty to God, and this incident was a trial to measure his faith.
Prophet Abraham was then given a sheep to sacrifice instead. The great trial of this prophet is remembered every year as the Feast of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha). This is a special holiday for Muslims in which the meat of animals is distributed to the poor.
After passing these tests, Prophet Abraham became the leader of mankind, as well as the father of the prophets of the three main monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Why Did God Send Different Prophets and Different Religions?
The total number of prophets that God sent to humanity was 124,000, and although they were sent to nearly all civilizations, the Quran only mentions twenty-five of them by name. The first of them was Prophet Adam, the father of humanity, and the last of them was Prophet Muhammad, the seal of the prophets.
Throughout history, different messengers with slightly different messages were sent to diverse societies. The reason was that the religious needs of humanity were growing and developing just as the human race was growing and developing. Also, diverse civilizations needed to be approached differently in relation to guidance. Nevertheless, the source and basic message behind the calling was the same - that there was only one God.
God sent Prophet Moses with the Torah as a light and guidance for the Children of Israel, along with many other prophets, such as prophets David and Solomon.
One thousand and five hundred years after Prophet Moses, God sent Prophet Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the Torah and bringing the Gospel, which was also a book of guidance and light.
Finally, six-hundred years after Prophet Jesus, God sent Prophet Muhammad with the Quran to confirm the messages sent before him and to complete the revelation of a universal religion to humanity.
Since all of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic prophets were sequentially sent, the question arises as to why Judaism, Christianity, and Islam now exist as separate religions. The answer is that the followers of these religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity, interpreted the teachings of their prophets differently. The Quran says, “Verily, the religion with Allah is Islam [total submission to Allah's will]; and those whom the Book had been given did not differ but after the knowledge [the truth] had come unto them, out of envy among themselves.” (3:19)
Nevertheless, many scholars consider the different religions as a Divine test. The Quran says, “For each of you, We have made a Law and a clear way. If Allah had willed, He would have made you one nation but that He may test you in what He has given you. So strive in good deeds. Your return is to Allah; then He will inform you about that which you used to differ.” (5:48)
The Life of Prophet Muhammad
In the 6th century ce Arabia, the majority of people were pagans. They lived in tribes, each with its own leader. Some were agriculture and cattle farmers, others were merchants and traders, while others raided other tribes for booty as a means of survival.
It was into this society, in 570 ce, that Prophet Muhammad was born into the tribe of the Quraysh, in the city of Mecca. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was still a young child, and thus, it was his grandfather who brought him up and looked after him. When his grandfather died, his paternal uncle, Abu Talib cared for him.
While growing up, Prophet Muhammad became known as “Muhammad the Truthful and the Trustworthy One” (As-Sadiq, al-Amin).
Early into his adulthood, Prophet Muhammad worked for a successful widow, Khadijah, who was so impressed with his honesty that she asked him to marry her. At that time, the Prophet was twenty-five years old, and remained in this monogamous marriage until Khadijah's death twenty-five years later.
Often, Prophet Muhammad would take a respite from the bustle of Mecca by traveling to a cave for periods of reflection. During one such time, when Muhammad was forty years old, he heard the voice of an angel named Gabriel giving him a command, “Recite in the Name of your Lord who creates, creates man from a clot. Recite! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful, who taught the use of the pen, taught mankind that which they knew not.” (96: 1-5)
Prophet Muhammad repeated the words until he had memorized them. He then rushed home and told his experience to his wife, Khadijah who comforted and reassured him. Khadijah and the Prophet's young cousin, Ali, were the first people to understand and accept that God had chosen “the Truthful and the Trustworthy” to deliver God's final guidance. Prophet Muhammad continued to receive revelations for over twenty years.
As time passed, it became clear to the ever-increasing number of people that Prophet Muhammad was indeed the Messenger of God. The least receptive people were the powerful Meccan leaders whom dealt in idols and slaves. They benefited mostly from idol worshiping and the pilgrim trade. The Meccans treated Prophet Muhammad with derision, but despite this, he continued to deliver the revelations of God's mercy and justice which were welcomed by the poor and oppressed.
The Meccans were becoming more and more intolerant of Prophet Muhammad and felt threatened by the messages he was advocating, such as the oneness of God, and with the increasing number of converts to Islam within the region, the Prophet was becoming a serious threat. In an attempt to dissuade the expansion of Islam, the Quraysh exiled the Prophet, his family, and followers from Mecca. The Quraysh then sanctioned an economic blockade on trade and association with the Muslims.
For three years, the Muslims were sheltered in the valley of Abu Talib, near Mecca. In conditions of hardship and hunger, the Muslims often faced the allotment of one date a day; and at times, two people shared one date. Yet, because of the Muslims' tenacious faith, the siege ended unsuccessfully.
Shortly after the siege ended, the Prophet was once again faced with tribulation. Two of the most influential and dearest people to him died - his uncle, Abu Talib and his beloved wife, Khadijah. Overwhelmed by grief, the Prophet declared that year as “The Year of Sadness.”
No longer being protected and supported by his uncle, the Prophet became more vulnerable to the escalating pressure by the Quraysh.
Leaders from the distant town of Yathrib secretly invited the Prophet and his followers to settle in their hometown and to preach the word of Islam. Before migrating to Madina in 622 ce, the Prophet narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Mecca.
Prophet Muhammad was received with excitement and jubilation in Madina, where he became head of what was to become the first Islamic state. Throughout the first ten years in Madina, Muslims witnessed several occasions that were to become milestones in the history of Islam.
The primary task was to build a mosque in Madina. The Prophet himself participated in building the mosque which also incorporated his home. In addition, the companions of the Prophet built their homes in close proximity to the mosque to be near the Prophet.
It was necessary for the Prophet to create a center where its members could assemble; and thus the mosque was not only a place of worship, but also a center of social, political, and educational services.
It was in Madina that the unity of brotherhood amongst the Muslims was introduced. There were two major tribes in Madina: the Muhajireen (immigrants) and the Ansar (indigenous). The Ansar were divided into two groups: Aws and Khazraj - tribes who had been fighting each other for over 100 years. Under a common purpose [Islam], the Prophet appeased the animosity that existed among the two tribes by establishing a form of brotherhood between them. “Now you have become brothers in faith, by pairs,” the Prophet said to his followers. By this method, the Prophet insured the political and spiritual nature of his nation.
Today, the unity of brotherhood continues to remain a tremendous act of equality among Muslims. Islam is a foundation upon which all races, nationalities, cultures, socio-economic levels, and genders can be united by religious kinship.
The Prophet made the institution of matrimony easier as well. The gift of marriage (mahr), which the man is to give to his bride was made moderate, and inter-marriages with other tribes became more accessible as socio-economic or ancestral descent was no longer a major factor in marriage. The establishment of marriage became a form of uniting, securing, and promoting Islam within various tribes and nations. Marriage not only symbolized the religious union of a man and a woman, but also, indirectly influenced and affected social and political ties. The Prophet said, “He who wishes to appear before God with a pure soul, should get married.” 
The Prophet set the example of marriage with his own daughter, Lady Fatima. Although many friends and companions of the Prophet had proposed marriage to Fatima, they were made aware that her marriage was not going to be based on affluence, rank, or descent. The men knew that the person that resembled the Prophet in matters of truthfulness, spiritual merit, and moral excellence would be none other than Ali.
The Prophet (by God's direction) told the suitors that the marriage of Fatima would only occur by Divine order. When Ali approached the Prophet to seek his blessings in marrying his daughter, he was overcome with shyness. The Prophet encouraged him to speak at which point Ali proposed. However the Prophet did not answer him immediately. The Prophet then consulted Fatima and sought her reply, which she accepted. The marriage of Ali and Fatima was then solemnized by God Himself and declared as such by the Prophet .
After the migration to Madina, the Prophet faced continual threats from the Quraysh and the polytheists of Mecca, and the non-Muslims who lived in and around Madina. Peace and security were paramount, yet the Prophet's attempts to keep peace within the region were proving to be futile. The opposition in Mecca mobilized its troops to demolish the newly established Islamic state in Madina.
Standing firm in the face of military aggression, the Prophet was compelled to defend Islam in what became known as the “Battle of Badr.” The battle erupted only two years after the hijrah (migration), and although the Prophet's army was far outnumbered - historians report that they were out powered and outnumbered three to one - they triumphed. A story about this battle in the Quran reveals that God sent an army of angels to assist the Muslims against the Meccans.
The Muslim success in the battle gave immense prestige to the infant Islamic community in Madina and struck a major blow to the pride of the Meccans.
The following year, the Meccans wanted to avenge their defeat. On a small mountain called Uhud, west of Madina, the second major battle was fought which became known as the “Battle of Uhud.”
In the beginning of the battle, the Muslims showed signs of victory. However, the insubordination of some Muslim men caused the final setback in the battle in which many Muslims were injured and lost their lives. The Prophet himself was injured and he lost his beloved uncle, Hamza ibn Abdul Muttalib, who was one of his greatest supporters.
Although the Battle of Uhud was a setback for the Muslim community, they were able to remain in Madina.
Afterwards, many other victorious defensive battles consolidated the Muslims; hence, Islam became an ever-increasing spiritual and political force in Arabia, which eventually paved the way to the conquest of Mecca.
In the ninth year of the hijrah (630 CE), Prophet Muhammad and his followers entered Mecca after a peaceful surrender by the Meccans. The Prophet went directly to the Kabah to perform the tawaf (circumambulation). As he entered the station of the Kabah, there sat the three main idols that the pagans had worshipped above the Kabah's door entrance. With his spear, Prophet Muhammad destroyed them while reciting, “And say, truth has arrived and falsehood has perished, for falsehood is bound to perish.”
Subsequently, more than three-hundred idols were destroyed inside and around the Kabah. The destruction of the idols symbolized the arrival and the proclamation of truth and the end to falsehood. Islam was now home. The Prophet then granted general amnesty to all the Meccans who had fought against him for twenty-two years. Afterwards he addressed them with these words, “You have been unreasonable countrymen. You refuted my prophethood and turned me out of my home, and when I took refuge in a far-off place, you rose to fight against me. You killed my uncle and my best companions. However, in spite of all these crimes of yours, I forgive all of you and make you free, and declare that you may go after the pursuits of your life.”
During the tenth year of the hijrah, the Prophet performed the “Farewell Hajj,” which was also his only and final Hajj pilgrimage. On the day of Arafat, over 100,000 pilgrims were present when the Prophet commenced his sermon by saying, “O people! Hear my words, for it possible that I may not meet you at this place in the future. O people! Your blood and property (honor and reputation) are forbidden toward one another until the day you meet Allah. O people! Your women have rights upon you and you also have rights upon them. You should treat them with kindness and love, and you should provide them with a comfortable means in life…”
After the farewell pilgrimage and three months before the Prophet's death, the final verse of the Quran was revealed, “Today I [Allah] have perfected for you your religion, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (5:3)
On the 28th of Safar (the second month of the lunar-based, Islamic calendar) 11 AH (632 ce), at the age of sixty-three, the Noble Prophet died. At the time of his death, the majority of the people in Arabia had accepted Islam as their religion and way of life.
 See Quran 20:115-123.
 See Quran 3:7.
 This story is mentioned in the Quran 21:51-68.
 A similar story is mentioned in the Old Testament; however, the difference in the Old Testament from Islam’s account is that Isaac was the son that was to be sacrificed, not Ishmael.
 Also see Quran 10:93.
 The Quraysh were a major tribe in Mecca, of which the clan of Hashim was a part of and to which Prophet Muhammad belonged.
 His father was Abdullah ibn Abd al-Muttalib.
 His mother was Amina, daughter of Wahab.
 Paternal grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim.
 His paternal uncle was the father of Imam Ali, and he was one of the chiefs of Mecca and noblemen of Quraysh. He was famous for his generosity, bravery, and dedication in protecting his nephew, Prophet Muhammad. He accepted Islam and supported the Prophet until the end of his life.
 Lady Khadijah, the first and most revered wife of the Prophet. She was the first female to embrace Islam. Khadijah bore the Prophet children; two sons, Qasim and Abdullah; four daughters: Ruqayah, Zaineb, Um-Kalthum, and Fatima. The male children died while the Prophet was in Mecca, while the daughters survived beyond the advent of their father’s prophethood. Khadijah was known for her noble traits and sincere dedication to the Prophet. Prophet Muhammad once described Khadijah in the following statement: “I have not acquired a better wife after her, she believed in my prophethood at a time when people rejected it. She placed her wealth at my disposal when people deprived me of attaining it, and Allah gave me, only through her, children, and not from any other woman.” Jafar Subhani, The Message, p.190.
 Angel Gabriel is one of the four Archangels and is considered one of the greatest of all angels since he was the channel through which the Divine books and the scriptures were revealed from God to the prophets. The other three angels are: Izrail, the angel of death; Israfil, the angel assigned to sound the trumpet on the Day of Resurrection; and Mikail (Michael), who watches over the places of worship.
 See Seerat ibn Hisham, v.1, p.236.
 Seerat ibn Hisham, v.1, p.350. An economic treaty was initiated by the grand counsel of Quraysh which entailed an endorsement and a pledge, until their deaths, by the community not to end the economic ban on the Muslims with the following criteria: 1.Every type of trade or business with the supporters of Muhammad shall be banned. 2.Association with Muhammad and his followers was strictly prohibited. 3.No one was entitled to establish matrimonial ties with the Muslims. 4.Opponents of Muhammad should be supported in all circumstances.
 Yathrib was a town approximately 350 miles north of Mecca. Yathrib was later renamed Madinatun Nabi, meaning The City of the Prophet.
 See Quran 8:30.
 The Islamic calendar began at the migration of the Prophet from Mecca to Madina, and it is based on the lunar cycles. Two important incidents occurred before the migration to Madina: the birth of the Prophet, during the Year of the Elephant 570 ce, which symbolizes the year that King Abraha came to destroy the Kabah with a herd of elephants (See Quran c.105) and the ordination of Muhammad to prophethood. Islam, in its first thirteen years in Mecca, was constantly suppressed and its followers were tormented. The migration (hijrah) marked the turning point in liberating Islam and its followers. In addition, Madina also provided a safe haven and an opportunity to establish the birth of the Islamic state. Quranic verses regarding rules of social, economic, political, and formal rituals were mostly introduced in Madina. Muslims consider the migration to Madina as an Islamic victory for freedom of religion.
 The Prophet proceeded to Madina. When his camel descended at a location known as the Valley of Wada and set its foot on the land of Yathrib, the people warmly welcomed and greeted the Prophet with jubilation. The mood surrounding this event is marked by a well-known poem: The white moon rose over us, from the valley of Wada and we owe it to show gratefulness when the call is to Allah. O you who were raised amongst us coming with a word to be obeyed; you have brought to this city nobleness; welcome best caller to God’s way!
 Muhajireen (Muslim immigrants from Mecca) and Ansar (the Helpers who received the Prophet in Madina) were the two major groups of Muslims in Madina.
 Aws and Khazraj were major tribes within Ansar that lived and supported the Prophet in Madina.
 Seerat ibn Hisham, v.1 p.123.
 Jafar Subhani, The Message, p.358.
 See Quran 3:124-126.
 See Quran 3:152; Seerat ibn Hisham, v.2 p.400.
 Battles such as: Ahzab, which took place in 5 ah (626 ce), Khaybar, which took place in 7 ah (628 ce), Mutah, which took place in 8 ah (629 ce), and Thatusalasil, which took place in 8 ah (629 ce).
 The Kabah is a cube made of stone. It was first built by Prophet Adam. Later, Prophet Abraham and his son Ishmael rebuilt the Kabah’s foundation. The Kabah is the center and direction of Muslim prayers.
 Quran 17:31.
 Seerat ibn Hisham, v.4 p.55.
 See Quran chapter Hajj (22).
 The Day of Arafat is a holy day for the Muslims and is the 9th day of the 12th lunar Islamic month of Dhul Hijjah. This happens to be approximately 70 days after the end of the month of Ramadan and marks the climax of the Hajj pilgrimage. The day following Arafat is the major Islamic Holiday of Eid al-Adha. At dawn of this day, Muslim pilgrims will make their way from Mecca to a nearby hillside and plain called Mount Arafat and the Plain of Arafat.
 Seerat ibn Hisham v.2 p.605.