Section 5: Prophecy

152. Concerning prophecy: the prophet (al-nabi) – on him be peace – is a man who brings a message (al-mukhbir) from Allah the Most High without the mediation of any human being.

153. When he had finished the discussion of Justice he connected with it the discussion of Prophecy, because of its being a branch of it. And he defined the Prophet as man who brings a message from Allah without the mediation of any human being. And by the term “man,” angel is excluded. And by the term, “a bringer of a message from Allah,” everyone is excluded who brings a message from any besides Allah. And by the term (which requires) the absence of human mediation, the Imam and the doctor (‘alim) are excluded, for they are bringers of a message from Allah through the mediation of the Prophet.

154. Since this is settled, then know that (the existence of) Prophecy and its being good (husn) are necessary (wajib) on philosophical grounds, contrary to the Barahmiyya and the Ash‘arites. And the proof of this is that since the purpose in the bringing of mankind into existence is the advantage (maslaha) which accrues to them (that is, Allah creates man not for His own glory but for man’s good), then bringing them near to that in which their advantage consists and restraining them from that which would corrupt them is necessary o1n philosophical grounds. And that is (true), either in their present state or their future state.

155. (1) As for their present state, since for the preservation of the human race necessity requires a society (ijma‘), and since in a society every individual opposes his companion in seeking what he needs, then a society must result in contentions and disagreements which arise from the love which every individual has for himself and the desire that he has for his own profit, not for that of another, so that it would end in the corruption and extinction of the race. Hence, wisdom demands the existence of justice which will ordain a law to be put into effect among men in such a way that every individual may obey its commands and heed its prohibitions.

Then if that law were ordained from them, the result would be the same as at first (namely, disorder and anarchy), because every individual has his own opinion which his reason and desire dictate and his nature necessitates. Hence, in such a case there must be a lawgiver who can distinguish between the verses (ayat) and teachings (of the Qur’an) which prove his own veracity, that a proclaimer be appointed for the law by Allah to promise rewards to the obedient and to threaten with punishment the disobedient, that he may invite man to obey his commands and prohibitions.

156. (2) And as to their future state – now since final blessedness (sa‘ada) is not acquired except by the perfection of the soul (nafs) by real knowledge and right actions, and since attachment to the things of the world and the absorption of the mind in the garment of flesh prevent the attainment of that in the most complete manner and the most direct way, or if it is attained it is mingled with doubt and opposed by fear – hence in such a case the existence of a person is required who does not have that hindering attachment.

So that he can give them proofs and make them plain to them, and make doubts to vanish and protect men from them, and assist that to which their reasons guide them (that is, natural religion), and explain that to which they have not been guided (namely, perfect knowledge), and remind them of their Creator and their Object of Worship, and appoint them acts of devotion (‘ibadat) and right actions, what they are and how they are to be performed, in order to secure for them nearness to Allah, and repeat them for men in order that they may through repetition seek to keep his admonitions, lest carelessness and forgetfulness, which are a man’s second nature, overcome them. And this person who is needed both for the present and the future state is the Prophet. Hence, (the existence of) the Prophet is necessary (wajib) on philosophical grounds, and that is what we sought.

1. Proof Of The Mission Of Muhammad (S)

157. And in this there are several subjects for investigation. (1) First, regarding the prophetic mission (nubuwwa) of our Prophet Muhammad B. ‘Abdu‘llah B. ‘Abdu’l-Muttalib, the Messenger of Allah (upon him be peace!) (and he is a prophet) because miracles (mu‘jiza) were wrought by his hand, such as the Qur’an and the splitting of the moon and the issuing of water from between his fingers and the feeding of a great multitude with a little food and the praising Allah of pebbles in his hand, and his miracles were more than can be numbered. Now he claimed to be a prophet. Hence, he is veracious (sadiq), otherwise the inciting of the mukallaf to evil would be necessary, and that is impossible.

158. Since problems vary according to the changing of the times and of people, as in the case of a sick person whose condition changes as regards the nature of his cure and the use of medicines according to the variation of his constitution and the fluctuation of his disease, so that at one time he is cured by something which at another time would not be able to cure him, therefore prophecy and laws (shari‘a) must vary according to the variation of the problems of man in different ages.

And this is the mystery in the abrogation of some codes of laws by others, till prophecy and law culminated (intahat) in our Prophet Muhammad, whose prophecy and law by the demands of reason (al-hikma) abrogate (nasikh) that which preceded them, and will themselves abide so long as taklif abides.

159. And the proof of the validity of his prophetic mission is that he claimed to be a prophet, and miracles were wrought by his hand, and whoever is thus is really a prophet. Therefore, we need to explain three matters: first, that he claimed to be a prophet, second, that miracles were wrought by his hand; and third, that whoever is thus is really a prophet. (1) As for the first, it is proved by the agreement of all men, so that no one denies it.

160. (2) And as for the second – now a miracle (mu‘jiza) is a thing (amr) which breaks in upon the ordinary course of nature in accordance with a claim (e.g. he must first say, “I will heal this blind man,” and then heal him), and united with a purpose (tahaddi), the doing of the like of which is impossible for man. If it does not break in upon the ordinary course of nature, then it is no miracle, as, for instance, the rising of the sun in the east. And it must accord with a claim, because it is to prove the truth of that which he claims. For if the miracle did not so accord, as in the case of Musaylima the Liar, then it would not prove his veracity. And it is impossible for men to do the like of it, because if it should occur frequently, it would not attest (the truth of) prophecy.2

161. Now there is no doubt that miracles were wrought by the hand of our prophet, and this is known by tawatur (trustworthy tradition which has come down by a number of independent lines without a break), which acquaints us with necessary knowledge (‘ilm). And among his miracles is the Gracious Qur’an with which he challenges (tahadda) men and seeks from them the bringing of its like. But they have not been able to do it, for the eloquent orators of the purest Arabs were impotent, and their impotence even led them to war and fighting which resulted in the loss of their lives and property and the captivity of their wives and children.

For since they were better able to defend themselves against that (the miracle of the Qur’an) because of their mastery of individual words and the arrangement of them, inasmuch as they were people of eloquence and style and speech and oratory and conversation and repartee, their turning back from that to war is a proof of their impotence, for a rational creature will never choose the harder course when the easier is open to him, except when he is impotent to do the easier.

162. And others of his miracles are the splitting of the moon, and the gushing of water from between his fingers, and the feeding of a great multitude with a little food, and the praising of Allah of pebbles in his hand, and the speech of the poisoned wild calf (warning Mohammad not to eat it), and the moaning of the five-year-old camel (warning him of danger), and the speech of dumb animals, and the telling of things hidden, and the answering of his prayers, and others that cannot be numbered for multitude which are known from books of miracles and history.

So that the record of more than one thousand miracles has been preserved, the greatest and most exalted of which is the Mighty Book:

“Falsehood, from whatever side it cometh, shall not come night it; it is a missive down from the Wise, the Praiseworthy.” (41:42).

Which their hearts did not embrace and which their ears did not hear, and by the excessive rejection of which (the like of it) was not produced, and the darkness has not been illumined except by it.

163. (3) As for the third, if he were not veracious in his claim to be a prophet, then he would be a liar. And this is false, since it would necessitate the inciting of mukallafs to obey a liar, and that is evil which the Wise (Allah) would not commit.

2. The Prophet Must Be Immune To Sin

164. (2) Second, regarding his immunity to sin (‘isma) and immunity to sin is a hidden kindness (luft) which Allah the Most High shows to (the Prophet) on whom He has laid this task (mukallaf), that he may have no incentive to forsake obedience and to commit sin (ma‘siya), although he has the power (qudra) to do so, for if it were not so one could have no confidence in his word. Then the value of his prophetic mission would be nullified, and that is impossible.3

165. Know that a person immune to sin (ma‘sum) shares with others in the kindnesses which bring men near to Allah. And in addition to that, because of the nature of his soul (malaka nafsaniyya), he enjoys a special form of kindness which Allah bestows upon him, so that because of that he does not choose to forsake obedience and to commit sin, although he has the ability to do so. (An angel does not have that ability.) And some hold that the Ma‘sum cannot commit sin, and this is false, otherwise he would deserve no praise.

166. Now that this is settled, know that there is a difference of opinion regarding the immunity of the prophets to sin. And the Kharijites (al-Khawarij) held that sins (dhunub) were possible for them, and according to them all sin is infidelity. And the Hashwites held that it was possible for them to commit the great sins. And some of them denied (that they committed them) intentionally but not that they committed them unintentionally, and they held that the intentional committing of small sins was possible. And the Ash‘arites denied absolutely that they could commit the great sins, but they allowed the small ones unintentionally committed.

And the Imamites have made immunity to all sin, intentional and unintentional, absolutely necessary (wajib), and that is the reality, for two reasons: (1) The first is that to which the author referred, and his explanation is that if the prophets were not ma‘sum the value of their mission would be nullified. And this necessity is false, hence that which necessitates it is false also. And the explanation of this necessity is that when disobedience is possible for them no confidence can be placed in their word, because in this case a lie would be possible (ja’iz) for them. And when no confidence could be placed in them, then their commands and prohibitions would not be obeyed. Then the value of their mission would be nullified, and that is impossible. (2) Second, if sin (dhanb) proceeded from them it would (still) be incumbent to follow them, because tradition teaches that to follow them is incumbent. But that would be impossible, for it would be evil (to follow a man who is a sinner). Hence, it is impossible for sin to proceed from them, which is what we sought.4

3. The Prophet Must Be All His Life Immune To Sin

167. (3) Third, he is immune to sin from the first of his life to the last of it, because the hearts of men will not be bound in obedience to one in whom has been observed during his past life various sins great and small and that which the soul hates.

168. Those whom we mentioned (the Ash‘arites) who assert the immunity of the prophets to sin hold that this applied to them only after their inspiration (wahy), though they deny that they were previously guilty of infidelity and repeated sin. And our companions (the Imamites) say that immunity to sin is absolutely necessary (wajib) both before inspiration and after it to the end of life. And the proof of that is what the author mentioned, and it is self-evident.

169. And that which is found in the Mighty Book

“Ask pardon of thy sin (dhanb)!” (47:19).

And in the traditions which might lead one to imagine that they had been guilty of sin involves (only) their leaving the better course (tarku’l-awla). Thus, what reason teaches us harmonizes with the veracity of tradition, although all of this which has been mentioned has various aspects and implications. And thou canst read the book, “The Clearing of the Prophets” (Tanzihu’l-Anbiya), which Sayyid Murtada ‘Alamu’l-Huda al-Musawi composed, and other books also, and if I did not fear to prolong the discussion, I would quote a sample of it.

4. The Prophet must be the best of the people of his time

170. (4) Fourth, it is necessary that the prophet be the best (afdal) of the people of his age, because it is evil both by reason and tradition for an inferior (al-mafdul) to have precedence over a superior (al-fadil). Allah the Most High says,

“is he then who guideth into the truth the more worthy to be followed, or he who guideth not unless he be himself guided? What then hath befallen you that ye so judge?” (10:35).

171. It is necessary (wajib) that the Prophet possess all the qualities of perfection and superiority, and It is necessary that he be in that respect superior to and more perfect that every individual of the people of his age. For it is evil, both by reason and tradition, for the Wise and Omniscient (Allah) to give to the inferior who needs perfecting precedence over the superior and the perfector.

(It is evil) by reason, as is evident, since it is evil in the opinion of authorities to make a beginner in jurisprudence take precedence over Ibn ‘Abbas and others like him among the lawyers, or to make a beginner in logic take precedence over Aristotle, or to make a beginner in grammar take precedence over Sibawaihi and al-Khalil, and so in all the sciences. And (it is evil) by tradition, as the Praised One indicated in the verses quoted and in others5.

172. (5) Fifth, it is necessary that he be far removed from baseness (dana’a) on the part of his male ancestry and from debauchery (‘ihr) of the female, and from defects in his creation and from flaws in creation, since that would be imperfection. Then he would lose his place in men’s hearts, and that is contrary to what we are seeking.

173. Since, what is sought in creation is complete attachment (inqiyad) to the prophet and that men’s hearts should welcome him, it is necessary that he possess the qualities that are praiseworthy, such as the perfection of reason and of sagacity and of prudence, and the absence of forgetfulness, and strength of opinion and of vigor and of greatness and of self-restraint and of courage and of generosity and of liberality and of bounty and of kindness and of zeal and of tenderness and of mercy and of humility and of meekness, and so forth, and that he be free from everything which would cause imperfection in Him.

And that would be caused either by his relationship to something outside himself, such as the baseness of his fathers and the debauchery of his mothers, or by his relationship to himself, and that is either:

(1) In his condition (ahwal), such as eating on the road (an unseemly thing for a prophet), and association with corrupt people, and that he should be a silk-weaver who weaves with his feet, or that he should bleed people, or be a street-sweeper, or have any such base occupation; or

(2) In his character (akhlaq), such as rancour and ignorance and malice and envy and harshness and rudeness and avarice and cowardice and covetousness of the world and desire for it and paying attention to the people of the world and excusing them from Allah’s commands and other such faults, or

(3) In his nature (tabi‘a), such as leprosy and elephantiasis (judham) and insanity and dumbness and imperfection of mind, for in all this there is imperfection which would cause him to lose his place in men’s hearts.

  • 1. See note on paragraph 130:
    The Ash‘arites held that “it is not incumbent upon Allah the Most High to do that which may be best for the creature” (creed of an-Nasafi, Macdonald, p. 300) “There is nothing incumbent upon Allah, against the doctrine of the Mu‘tazilites, who say that it is incumbent upon Allah to do that which is best (salah) for the creature” (See the creed of al-Fadali where the Ash‘arite answer to the Mu‘tazilite position is given – Macdonald, p. 343).

    The Mu‘tazilites insisted that Allah could do nothing which was not for the good of the creature. “And they have agreed that the Wise (al-Hakim) does nothing except what is advantageous (salah) and good (khayr), and because of His wisdom it is necessary for Him to consider the advantage of the creatures. But they differed as to what is most advantageous” (Shahrastani, p. 29) See Macdonald, “Development,” p. 136.

  • 2. When Musaylima, the false prophet of Arabia, tried to reproduce some of the miracles of Muhammad the result was just the opposite of what he desired. The application of his saliva made sore eyes blind, and wounded limbs leprous, and fresh water brackish! See “The Hyat-ul-Kuloob” (Herrick), p. 309.
  • 3. In the Sunnite creeds of an-Nasafi (d. 537 A.H.) and al-Ghazzali (d. 505 A.H.) and al-Ash‘ari (d. c. 320 A.H.) there is no mention of ‘isma as a quality necessary for a prophet. However, in the late creed of al-Fadali (13th century A.H.) we read that one of the necessary things for messengers is “their being preserved (‘isma) from falling into things forbidden (muharram) and disliked (makruh)” (Macdonald, p. 347), and this is now the orthodox belief. See Sell, “The Faith of Islam,” p. 244.
  • 4. Refer to Sell, “The Faith of Islam,” p. 244, note 2.
  • 5. Refer to Nicholson, “A Literary History of the Arabs,” p. 343.