(٢١٣) كَانَ النَّاسُ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ النَّبِيِّينَ مُبَشِّرِينَ وَمُنذِرِينَ وَأَنزَلَ مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ فِيمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ ۚ وَمَا اخْتَلَفَ فِيهِ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ أُوتُوهُ مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَتْهُمُ الْبَيِّنَاتُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ ۖ فَهَدَى اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لِمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ مِنَ الْحَقِّ بِإِذْنِهِ ۗ وَاللَّهُ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ إِلَىٰ صِرَاطٍ مُّسْتَقِيمٍ
Mankind was but one people; so Allah sent the prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners, and He sent down with them the book with the truth, so that it might judge between the people in that in which they had differed. And none differed about it but the very people who were given it, after clear signs had come to them, revolting among themselves; whereupon Allah guided, by His will, those who believed to the truth about which they differed. And Allah guides whom He pleases to the straight path. (213)
This verse explains why religion was promulgated and mankind obliged to follow it, and why differences occurred in it.
Mankind, having been created with a natural urge to remain together and cooperate with each other, were in the beginning one single group. Then occurred differences about the acquisition of the necessities of life.
These differences could only be settled by creating laws to give each one his right and to make him respect the rights of others.
Allah has ordained the law and sent it down as religion, accompanied by good tidings of reward for those who obey and a warning of punishment for the offenders.
This religion was made perfect by the institution of worship. All this was accomplished by sending the prophets and the apostles.
After that, people differed again — this time about the knowledge of religion, or about matters concerning the beginning and end of mankind. Thus, religious unity was disrupted and various groups appeared on the scene, and their differences contaminated the other aspects of life.
These second differences only occurred because of the revolt of the very people who were given the book, after the fundamentals and characteristics of religion had been fully explained to them and the proof of Allah had been completed for them.
It is clear that there were two differences: First, the difference about worldly gains, which was but natural; second, the difference about matters of religion which was based, not on nature, but on the revolt of mischief-makers.
Then Allah guided the believers to the truth about which they differed; and this guidance was done by His Will; and Allah guides whomsoever He pleases to the straight path.
The divine religion is the only means of happiness and felicity for the human species, and it keeps life in order. It creates a balance between various human instincts and urges, and keeps them on the middle path, preventing them from going towards either extreme.
Thus, there appears the best system and the highest discipline in the human life both of this world and of the Hereafter, the material as well as the spiritual.
This is an outline of the social and religious history of human beings, as given in this verse. The details may be seen in various verses throughout the Qur’an.
It appears from various verses, found in various places in the Qur’an, that mankind did not developed from any other species - neither from any animal nor from any plant.
It is a species which was created by Allah directly from the earth. There was a time when the sky existed and earth existed with the things of the earth; but there was no man.
Then Allah created a couple, male and female, of this species, and all present human beings are descended from that couple.
O men! Surely We created you of a male and a female, and made you into tribes and families, so that you may recognise each other … (49:13);
and He says:
He it is who created you from a single being and of the same (kind) did He make his mate. (7:189);
again He says:
as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust … (3:59)
The theory of scientists that one species changed into another, and that homo sapiens developed from some kind of ape or, going further back, originated from some water animal, is just a hypothesis.
A hypothesis is not a definite fact; it is just a supposition made as a basis for reasoning, or as a starting point for academic investigation. There is no harm in treating it as a reality or as a possibility, because its only function is to provide a basis for scientific research, and to find out whether it can explain the causes and effects of a given matter.
It has no more value than that. We discuss this subject fully under the verse (3:59),
Surely the likeness of ‘Isa is with Allah as the likeness of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him ‘Be’ and he became.
When Allah created this species, He created it composed of two parts; a material substance, the body, and a non-material one, the soul or spirit.
Man’s body and soul remain together during his life in this world; then the body dies, the living soul departs, and thus man returns to his Creator.
And certainly We created man of an extract of clay, then We made him sperm, in a firm resting place, then We made the sperm a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We did grow it into another creation, so Blessed by Allah, the Best of the creators. Then after that you will most surely die; then surely on the Day of Resurrection you shall be raised. (23:12-16).
(See at what stage Allah says did grow it into another creation. The same meaning is found in the verse, So when I have made him complete and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down making obedience to him (38:72).
Then we come to the words of Allah, where He describes the creation of man goes on to say:
And they said: What! when we have become lost in the earth, shall we (even) then be (returned) into a new creation? Nay! They are disbelievers in the meeting of their Lord. Say: The angel of death, who is given charge of you, shall cause you to die then to your Lord you shall be brought back (32:10-11).
In this verse, Allah first mentions the ‘argument’ of the unbelievers that there was no possibility of being raised to life again because all the limbs and organs of the body disintegrated and turned to dust after death.
Then comes the reply that the angel of death causes them to die and fully takes hold of them; they are something different from the mere body; the bodies are lost in the earth but ‘‘they’’, i.e. their souls, are neither lost, disintegrated nor dead.
We shall explain in a proper place the teaching of the Qur’an about the soul of man.
Allah made man and gave him perception, and created in him hearing, sight and the heart (wisdom). He has been given the quality of mind which is known as intelligence and thinking power.
By those faculties, he looks at the present, finds out about the past and surmises about the future; he has a sort of comprehensive knowledge of the things around him. Allah says:
(Allah) taught man what he know not (96:5);
And Allah brought you forth from the wombs of your mothers, you did not know anything, and He gave you hearing and sight and the hearts (wisdom) so that you may give thanks (16:78);
And He taught Adam all the names … (2:31).
Allah has given him such faculties so that he can establish a relation and connection with all things and can derive benefit from all of them; he can establish that connection either directly or through instruments and machines, the aim all the time being to use them to his own advantage.
Look at the innumerable discoveries and inventions, and you will know how Allah has made everything subservient to man. For example, He says:
He it is Who created for you all that is in the earth (2:29);
And He has made subservient to you whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth, all, from Himself (45:13).
The two faculties — intelligence and the ability to exploit other things — produced a third wonderful faculty: to find out new avenues of knowledge and perception, so as to use them in his exploitation of other things to his advantage.
Suppose you were looking at this species of homo sapiens for the first time. You would be overwhelmingly astonished to see how each member of this species used an unlimited amount of knowledge and ideas to make his life comfortable.
That knowledge and those ideas were acquired, analysed, compared and developed either through the five senses, which provided knowledge of the external world, or through the five faculties of the mind, or through the power of thought, using and re-using the knowledge acquired by those senses.
Then if you were to look at that knowledge and perception, you would find that they could easily be divided into two groups.
First, that knowledge which had no direct bearing on man’s own actions; for example, the perceiving of the earth, the sky, men, horses, etc. or that four was an even number, or that water was a liquid.
Such percepts are acquired by man’s reaction to the world outside his own being. To acquire those percepts, man does not have to have any intention or action on his own part; they are just information of the outside world for which he is not obliged to do anything.
The second group is opposite to the first one. You will hear him saying: This is good; that is bad; this should be done; that must be avoided; justice is good; injustice is evil.
Then, also, you might find him thinking about the ideas of ruling and subjection; of mastership and slavery. Such thoughts and percepts have a direct bearing on his actions and activities.
All his intentional actions depend on those percepts and knowledge. And, unlike the first group, these percepts do not originate outside his being; they are formed in his mind either involuntarily, by his instinct, or voluntarily, through his own thinking, or feeling.
For example, he has a system for digestion and nourishment and another for reproduction. These systems are governed by some inner motivating forces which make him desire what helps in these functions and dislike what hinders him in pursuit of those pleasures.
This inner reaction creates in him such emotions and feelings as love, hate, inclination and desire.
These emotions and feelings compel him to think about what is good and what is bad, what is desirable and what is undesirable, what is compulsory and what is permissible, etc.
Then taking such ideas as a base, he decides his course of action and uses the things around him accordingly.
It is clear from the above that those ideas, morals or ethics (whatever you call them) have no value unless and until they are acted upon. As mere ideas they are worthless. Therefore, we may call them practical knowledge.
As mentioned above, Allah inspired man with these morals to prepare him for action and make him ready to exploit the hidden forces of the world: ‘‘in order that Allah might bring about a matter which was to be done.’’
Our Lord is He who gave to everything its creation, then guided it (to its goal.) (20:50);
Glorify the name of your Lord, the Most High, Who created, then made complete, and Who made (things) according to a measure, then guided (them to their goal.) (87:1—3)
The guidance, mentioned in these verses, is the general guidance bestowed on every creature, sentient as well as insentient, to lead it to the perfection of its being, and to encourage it to act for its own protection and maintenance.
Allah says, especially about the man:
And (I swear by) the soul as it is made perfect, and He inspired unto it (about) its vices and its piety. (91:7—8)
It shows that man knows about vice and virtue through a divine inspiration which is implanted in his nature.
These two percepts — ‘should do’ and ‘should not do’ — have no existence outside his mind; and perhaps that is why Allah used the pronoun ‘‘Its’’ (i.e. soul’s) about vices and piety.
Also, Allah says:
And this life of the world is nothing but a vain sport and play; and surely the abode of the Hereafter is certainly the life, if they but know (29:64).
Sport or play is in the attitude of the mind only. If the same action were done as a responsibility or as a job, it would loose its charm. Likewise, the aspect of this life — prestige, riches, progress, backwardness, mastership, servitude — are only in the mind of man.
These aspects do not exist outside the mind. For example, we say, ‘a man who is president’ or ‘a cloth which is possessed’.
Now, ‘a man’ and ‘a cloth’ are the things which exist outside the mind of the speaker; but that man’s ‘presidency’ and that cloth’s being ‘possessed’ are not so. These aspects are in the mind only.
To make a long story short, one of these ideas is the belief that men must take all necessary steps to preserve his own life; and because of this belief he makes use of all the materials available to him.
He exploits matter to fulfil his needs — the knife to cut, the needle to sew, pots to keep water, ladders to climb and innumerable such tools and machines for their benefit.
Likewise, he uses plants and vegetables for food, clothing, housing, etc. And subjugates animals to support his own existence; and takes advantage of their meat, blood, hide; hair, wool, tusks, horns, excrement, milk, bones and other such things.
He benefits not only from the parts of their bodies, but also from their actions, as he rides a horse or uses the oxen for pulling carts and ploughs.
Man’s exploitation does not end here. He goes further and exploits his own kind, subjugating other human beings, or taking advantage of them in other manners, as much as he can.
But man found, to his chagrin that other men in their turn wanted to subjugate him in the same way as he was thinking about them. The result was a mutual understanding that they would take advantage of him as much as he benefited from them.
This ‘‘give-and-take’’ prompted men to live in society and to cooperate with each other in their affairs. It necessitated the safeguarding of the rights of every member of that society to keep a balance between their rights and their duties. This is called social justice.
Society and social justice were founded on the unavoidable compulsion of the above-mentioned situation. Had it not been for that compulsion, man would not have agreed to it at all.
This is the reality behind the claim that man is social by nature and that he follows the dictates of social justice! The fact is that this sociability and social justice came into being under the compulsion of the mutual tendency to exploit each other.
That is why whenever a man acquires power over his fellows, the dictates of social justice are forgotten; and the mighty one ignores the rights of weaker ones.
It is as truer in the case of individuals as in that of nations and states; and this has been going on from the early history of mankind until the present, which is called the age of civilisation and freedom!
This has been hinted in the verses:
Surely he (i.e. man) is unjust, ignorant (33:72);
Surely man is created avaricious (70:19);
Surely man is very unjust, very ungrateful (14:34);
Nay! Verily man is wont to rebel as he sees himself free from want (96:6-7).
Had social justice been the primary urge of his nature, most of society would have been overwhelmingly just and equitable. But what we see is always opposite to that.
Always the demonstration of ‘might is right’ comes in front of our eyes; powerful ones coerce weaker ones into subjugation; victors humiliate the vanquished, and exploit them for their own advantage.
So, there is the natural instinct to take advantage of others. Then there are the necessary differences among individuals in bodily physique, in habitat, habits, character and things like that, which in their turn create a difference in strength; some become stronger, others weaker.
At this stage, the stronger men start ignoring the dictates of social justice and they no longer pay attention to the common weal of the society.
The mighty one exploits the weaker one and gives him little in exchange; the victor takes advantage of the vanquished without giving him any benefit in return.
The weak person makes it up by deception and trickery, always waiting for a chance to get the upper hand. And as soon as he gets a chance he avenges himself with a most severe reprisal.
Thus the difference leads to chaos, disorder and disturbance. Humanity comes near to extinction, and happiness and felicity depart from society.
It is this aspect to which the verse under discussion as well as some other verses refer:
And men were naught but a single people then they differed (10:19);
and they shall continue to differ except those on whom your Lord has mercy (11:118-119).
This disunity and difference was bound to occur in society. As has already been mentioned, men were different in the built of their bodies and the bent of their minds.
Of course, they were all human beings, and to a certain extent their activities and thinking were similar, but at the same time, their feelings, character and condition were different from each other.
That resulted in a difference in their ambitions, sins and goals of life, which in its turn motivated them to different types of actions, and finally led to the disruption of the social system.
That disruption and disturbance made it necessary to legislate such comprehensive and fundamental laws that could remove the disturbance, difference and disagreement by giving each one his due right. Also, it was essential to make people obey those laws.
Nowadays, societies use one of two methods to enforce the law:
1) Compelling the people to obey laws (which are legislated to make all people share in the means of livelihood and to give everyone what could take him to the perfection of his life) and discarding religious tenets like belief in God and higher moral values.
Faith in God is completely eradicated, and morality is made to follow the trends of society. Whatever is liked by a sizeable section of the community is accepted as virtue.
One day chastity is held in high regard, the next day it is ridiculed and debauchery becomes the norm of the time. One day, truth is respected; the next day falsity is glorified. One day trustworthiness favoured the next day embezzlement and so on.
2) Making people obey laws by character-building and by training them to respect the laws — but after removing religion and religious teachings from the training programs.
The first method uses the sheer force of the rulers, the second, combines force with moral teaching. Apart from the rot that sets into society as a result, both methods are based on ignorance and negate the reality of human existence.
Man is created by Allah; his existence depends on his Master; he came from Allah and to Him he will return. On his departure from this world, his life will continue in the next world forever and ever without disruption.
But the quality of the next life will depend upon this life — how he behaved here, how he maintained his relation with his Creator and which characteristics he developed and which qualities he acquired.
If a man builds his life here on the foundation of the rejection of the divinity, he will surely destroy his ‘‘self’’ and ruin his next life.
Let us take the example of a caravan. The company of travellers start for a far away place with sufficient provision for the journey. They camp in a caravanserai for a while, no sooner are they lodged for the night then they start quarrelling among themselves.
They do not stop at any misdeed; they fight with each other, murder and defame one another, plunder belongings and commit many other atrocities.
Then, appalled by the carnage, they sit together to find a way to save their lives and property. Someone says: ‘‘Let us jointly use, and benefit from, all these provisions, and allow every individual a right to enjoy them according to his service to the group.
We have nowhere to go from this place. Anyone opposing this scheme will be severely punished.’’
Another person says: ‘‘Let us make a law to remove this difference; each of us shall concentrate on building his character; we must behave with kindness towards our companions, we should not deviate from the path of love, gallantry and nobility.
Therefore, we should jointly enjoy the provisions which we have. After all, the provisions are for our own use in this very place.’’
There is no need to point out that both advisers are mistaken. They forget that the whole caravan is still on its way; and that the traveller, in all conditions and at all times, should remember his final destination and manage the affairs of his journey with only one goal in view: ‘‘What is the best way of his reaching home?’’
If he forgets this fundamental truth, there will be nothing left for him but becoming lost in the wilderness, and disaster and death.
A sensible adviser would have advised them with these words: ‘‘Use these provisions according to what you need of tonight; save the rest for other stopping places on the way; because your final destination is still very far and you must think to save some of the provisions for use after reaching home.’’
This is why Allah created laws, basing them on the belief of the oneness of Allah, on true faith, on fine character and good deeds.
In other words, these laws were made to teach people the reality of life, from the beginning upto its final destination; to make them realise that this life should be spent keeping the next life in view, and that this short life is but a preparation for the next one which will last forever and ever.
It is clear that it is only divine law which is based on knowledge. No other law was ever built on that foundation. Allah says:
Judgement is not but Allah’s; He has commanded that you worship not but Him; this is the right religion, but most people do not know. (12:40)
And He says in the verse under discussion:
so Allah sent the prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners and He sent down with them the book with the truth, so that it might judge between the people in that in which they had differed.
Here the sending of the prophets to bring good tiding and to warn has been joined with sending down the book which contains the laws and rules, so as to remove their differences.
Another verse says:
And they say: ‘‘There is nothing but our life in this world; we die and live and destroys us not but time ’’; and they have no knowledge of that, they only conjecture. (45:24)
This insistence of theirs was not only to refute belief in the hereafter; its real motive was to wriggle out from the responsibilities which result from that belief.
Reason says that, if you believe in the life hereafter, you must make this life subservient to that one; you must worship the Creator and obey the laws ordained by Him which will guide you in all the spheres of life: worship, social dealings, and the penal law.
In short, belief in the hereafter makes it obligatory to follow the dictates of religion, to always keep the improvement of the next life in view. That was the reason why the unbelievers rejected that belief and based their social norms on the assumption that there was nothing beyond life in this world.
Again Allah says:
they do not follow anything but conjecture, and surely conjecture does not avail against the truth at all. Therefore, turn aside from him who turns his back upon Our reminder and does not desire anything but the life of this world. That is the (last) reach of their knowledge … (53:28—30)
In this verse Allah makes it clear that they base their lives on conjecture and ignorance, while Allah invites them to the Abode of Peace and His religion is based on truth and knowledges, and which the Prophet calls them towards what gives them life.
O you who believe! Answer (the call of) Allah and the Apostle when he calls you to that which gives you life … (8:24).
Life which is mentioned in this verse has been explained in the following verses:
Is he who was dead then We raised him to life and made for him a light by which he walks among the people, like unto him whose similitude is that of one in utter darkness whence he cannot come forth? (6:122)
Is then he who knows that what has been sent down to you from your Lord is the truth, like unto him who is blind? Only those possessed of understanding shall bear in mind. (13:19)
Say, this is my way. I invite (you) unto Allah; with clear sight (are) I and and he who follows me; and glory be to Allah, and I am not of polytheists. (12:108)
Say, are those who know and those who do not know alike? Only those possessed of understanding shall bear in mind. (39:9)
… an Apostle from among themselves who shall recite to them Thy communications and teach them the Book and the wisdom, and purify them … (2:129)
There are many verses like these in the Qur’an extolling the virtues of understanding, calling people to acquire knowledge and follow the path of wisdom. It attaches so much importance to knowledge that it has named the pre-Islamic days ‘‘the period of Ignorance’’.
With this background, you will realise how unjust is the claim that religion is based on blind faith and ignorance, and is opposed to knowledge and learning.
This allegation was laid by some scientists. They spent their time in the natural and social sciences and they did not find in these physical sciences anything which could prove anything metaphysical.
And they thought that the ‘‘non-existence of a proof’’ is a ‘‘proof of non-existence’’. It is obvious that they were mistaken in that conjecture.
Going further, they looked at some myths which some entrenched interests had imposed on the masses in their countries, claiming that it was religion, and which in fact was nothing but polytheism — and Allah and His Apostle repudiate the polytheists.
Then they heard the preaching of priests exhorting the public to accept, without any questioning, the dogma and tenets of that mythical religion.
All these factors led them to declare that religion was against knowledge. But the true religion is too great to encourage ignorance or blind faith, or to exhort to act without understanding.
The true religion never uttered a word without proper guidance or without an illuminating book.
And who is more unjust than the one who forges a lie against Allah or gives the lie to the truth when it has come to him? (29:68)
Allah informs us in this verse that differences and disunity in the affairs of society and worldly life were removed for the first time by religion. If there are any laws which are apparently non-religious, they too are based on that first religious teaching.
Then Allah informs us that later on there occurred differences in the religion itself. These differences were created by the followers of the religion, who were given the clear book and who possessed knowledge of it.
It happened because of their revolt, injustice and rebellion. Allah says:
He has prescribed for you the religion which He enjoined upon Nūh, and that which We have revealed to you, and that which We enjoined upon Ibrahim and Mūsa and Isa, to establish the religion and be not divided there in … And they did not become divided until after the knowledge had come to them, out of rivalry among themselves; and had not a word gone forth from your Lord till an appointed time, certainly the affair would have been decided between them … (42:13-14).
Also He says:
And mankind was not but a single people, then they differed and had not a word already gone forth from your Lord, the matter would certainly have been decided between them in respect of that concerning which they disagree. (10:19)
The word which had gone forth was the promise given to Adam:
and for you there is in earth an abode and a provision for a (fixed) time. (7:24)
This difference among the followers of religion was based on rebellion and revolt, not on any dictate of nature. The divine religion is based on nature and normally people cannot go astray in a natural thing.
Nor can the demand of nature change. Allah says:
Then set your face upright for religion, in natural devotion (to the truth) - the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no change in the creation of Allah; that is the right (established) religion … (30:30)
This in short is the foundation upon which this verse is based.
Then Allah informs us that man shall soon depart from this world and his intermediate station will be a place called barzakh (barrier, البرزخ), and the final destination is a place called the Hereafter.
His life, after this life, is an individualistic one; there will be no social cooperation, mutual help or partnership. Man shall leave this physical world behind, returning to his Lord and Creator.
There shall be no room there for that knowledge which we named earlier ‘practical knowledge’. There will be no exploitation or taking advantage of others; no civilisation, social ‘‘give-and-take’’, nor any other of the paraphernalia connected with the life of this world.
His only companion will be his deeds which he did in this world; he will see the good or bad results of his actions. Reality will become clear to him, and he will clearly know the Great News about which they had differed.
And We will inherit of him what he says and he shall come to Us alone (19:80)
And certainly you have come to Us alone as We created you at first, and you have left behind your backs the things which We gave you; and We do not see with you your intercessors about whom you asserted that they were (Allah’s) associates in respect to you; certainly the ties between you are now cut off and what you asserted is gone from you (6:94)
There shall every soul become acquainted with what it sent before and they shall be brought back to Allah, their true Master and what they did fabricate shall escape from them. (10:30)
What is the matter with you that you do not help each other? Nay! On this day they are submissive. (37:25—26)
On the day when the earth shall be changed into a different earth, and the heavens (as well); and they shall come forth before Allah, the One, the Subduer. (14:48)
And that there is not for man (aught) except what he strives for; and that his striving shall soon be seen; then shall he be recompensed for the fullest recompense. (53:39-41)
These and many such verses clearly show that man’s system of life shall change after death. There shall be no cooperation and no striving. There he shall see the result of his striving and the fruits of his actions. All his striving shall appear before him in its true colour and he shall be recompensed for it with the fullest measure.
Qur’an: Mankind was but one people:
nas (النّاس) translated here as ‘mankind’, literally means ‘men’. Ummah (الامّة) translated here as ‘people’, means ‘a group of men’. Sometimes it is used for only one man, as in the verses:
Surely Ibrahim was a (ummatan, امّةّ) people, (devoutly) obedient to Allah (16:120);
sometimes for a long period, as in the verse:
and remembered after an (ummatin, امّة) a long time (12:45)
and in the verse:
And if We hold back from them the punishment until (ummatin ma‘dūdatin, امّة معدودة) stated period of time (11:8).
A fourth usage is for religion, as in the verse:
And surely this (ummatukum ummatan wahidah, امّتکم امّة واحدة) your religion is one religion and I am your Lord, therefore, fear Me (23:52)
Surely this your religion is one ‘religion’ and I am your Lord, therefore worship Me. (21:92)
In both these verses, according to some commentators, the word ummah (الامّة) has been used for ‘religion’.
The word ummah (الامّةّ) is derived from amma (he had an aim, امّ); thus it is used for a company of people — not every company, but that which has a single aim, a single goal and a single ambition, and that unity of aim unites all the members, and makes them one people.
That is why it is correct to use it for one man as well as for many; the other usages mentioned above are based on that basic meaning.
Anyhow, the sentence obviously refers to the beginning of humanity, when they were united, and lived a simple life and had simple thoughts.
There were no differences or any tug-of-war in matters of life or livelihood, nor was there any disagreement about religion or religious matters.
That at that time there was no difference about matters of life is evident from the next sentence, so Allah sent the prophets … so that it (the book) might judge between the people in that in which they had differed, as it shows that the prophets were sent and the book was revealed to remove differences, because earlier they were one people.
Thus the difference in matters of life occurred after the unity. And the proof that at that time there was no difference about matters of religion is seen in the following sentences,
And none differed about it but the very people who were given it … revolting among themselves, as it shows that the disagreement about religion was started by those who were given the book, which obviously means that it started after the book was revealed.
Experience also supports this. Mankind is continuously climbing the heights of knowledge and thought and ever progressing along the path of learning and culture, year after year, and generation after generation.
Thus civilisation goes forward day by day, new ways are found to fulfil even the slightest needs, natural and physical obstacles are removed and ever newer instruments are invented to make life more and more comfortable.
On the other hand, if we retrace our steps, going back towards the early days of humanity, every step will take us to people less and less acquainted with the secrets of life and the mysteries of nature, till we reach early man who knew almost nothing of the possibilities of life except those facts that were self-evident, and who used only a little imagination to gather his means of livelihood by the simplest methods.
His food consisted of plants and meat which he obtained by hunting; he lived in caves, and defended himself with sticks and stones.
It is clear that people who lived such a primitive life would not become entangled in any considerable disagreement; nor could there occur among them any lasting differences.
They were in a way like a flock of sheep, everyone following the others, all remaining together for the purposes of food and abode.
This was in the very beginning. But, as we have described earlier, man had the natural urge to take advantage of others. And although the need to cooperate with each other in gathering the necessities of life compelled people to remain together, it did not prevent them from quarrelling with, and getting better of, each other.
And every day man acquired new skills, and every new experience added to his store of knowledge. Whenever he used a newly-acquired expertise, it opened new avenues of progress and dexterity for him.
Also, because of the dictates of nature, some individuals were stronger while others were weaker. Those who were stronger in body or mind tried to reduce others to virtual subjugation, taking more from them than they gave them in return.
That was the beginning of the differences, which was only natural as it was based on the natural urge to take advantage of others, although it had been the same urge which had led to the creation of society.
It may seem strange that the same natural urge compelled men to remain together, on one hand, and led them to quarrel and find differences, on the other.
But there is nothing objectionable in the conflict between two natural demands, provided there is a third faculty above them to judge and decide, and to create a balance between them.
For example, there is hunger which urges man to fill his stomach with whatever he can, even when the digestive system cannot tolerate it. There is a conflict between hunger and the power of digestion, but always there is the mind and reason to judge and decide between these two demands.
It gives to each power only that which does not hinder the activities of the other.
The conflict between the two natural urges of marshalling others to one’s service and cooperating with others as a single society is of the same category, because, Allah decreed to remove that conflict by sending the prophets and revealing to them the book to decide and judge in the matters of their differences and contentions.
This is the correct interpretation of this verse. Unfortunately, some commentators have interpreted it in various other ways, but none of those interpretations conform to the meaning of the verse.
One of them has said: The verse says that all men were on the right path, because the differences began only when the book was sent down to them, and the followers of the book differed, revolting among themselves.
This man did not realize that the verse describes two conflicts, not one; and we have already explained this.
Also he did not pause to think that if all men were already on the right path and there was no difference, then what was the justification of sending the prophets and revealing the book and thus giving them an opportunity to differ among themselves by revolt, and thus creating chaos in the world, sowing the seed of unbelief and sin, debauchery and immorality?
Another one has said: Mankind was one group in the meaning that all had gone astray. Otherwise, Allah would not have said,
so Allah sent the prophets …
This man did not ponder upon the verse with a clear mind. This going astray, to which he referred in this interpretation, has been indicated by Allah in His words,
whereupon Allah guided … those who believed to the truth about which they differed.
It means that this difference and going astray had started because of the bad motives of the followers of the book and the scholars of religion after the book was revealed and its signs were clarified for people.
If people had already gone astray, if they had already been treading the path of disbelief, hypocrisy, sin and immorality, before the coming of the prophets and the book, how could it be attributed to the followers of the book and the scholars of religion?
A third interpretation: Mankind (nas, النّاس) in this verse refers to the Israelites only. Allah says somewhere else about them:
but they did not differ until after knowledge had come to them, revolting among themselves. (45:17)
As the same words have been used in the verse under discussion, it means that the people referred to are the same.
But it is proof which has no validity at all. If in one verse, a virtue or vice is attributed to a certain nation, it does not mean that that characteristic is confined to that nation or is its special characteristic.
Even more worthless is the fourth interpretation: Mankind means Adam; and the verse says that Adam (a.s.) was one group on the right path; then his descendants differed among themselves, so Allah sent the prophets ...
But the context of the whole verse disagrees with such a meaning. It is not possible to accept even a part of this interpretation, let along the whole.
A fifth interpreter said: ‘‘Was’’ (kana, کان) in this sentence should not be taken as a past tense; rather it stands for ‘‘is’’ and shows a continuously existing reality, as in the words of Allah:
and Allah is (kana, کان) Mighty, Wise (48:19).
In short, it means that mankind is by nature one group, because people are dictated by nature to remain together, and as cooperation and sociability is their natural urge, they have to live together in a society.
But this togetherness breeds difference and conflicts. Therefore, Allah sent the prophets and revealed the book to judge about that difference.
There are three defects in this interpretation:
First: It supposes that sociability and cooperation is the primary natural urge. But it has been explained that it is not so. The primary urge is to take advantage of others and use them for one’s own benefit.
It is only when a man finds out that others have the same design about him that he comes to a compromise with them, and this ‘‘give-and-take’’ results in cooperation.
So this cooperation is based on compromise, not on any natural urge. The Qur’an also goes against that supposition, as has been explained earlier.
Second: The mere fact that man is ‘‘social by nature’’, does not justify sending the prophets and revealing the book, unless it is mentioned that this ‘‘natural sociability’’ leads to conflict and disturbance.
In other words, this interpretation makes it necessary to read this verse in this way: ‘‘Mankind is but one people (but that oneness breeds conflict) so Allah sent the prophets ...’’ But the said interpreter does not accept that ‘conflict’ is implied in this sentence.
Third: This interpretation mentions only one conflict. But the verse clearly shows two conflicts — first, before the revelation of the book, when the differences were common to all people (so that it might judge between the people in that in which they had differed); and, second, after its revelation, which was confined to the religious scholars, and not common to all people (And none differed about it - i.e. about the book - but the very people who were given it ... revolting among themselves.)
Thus there were two differences, one was after receiving the knowledge and based on revolt, the other was not so.
Qur’an: so Allah sent the prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners:
Ba‘th (البعث) literally means to revive, to awaken, to bring back to life. Its past tense, ba‘atha (بعث) has been translated here as `sent down', only to make the meaning clear; otherwise, ‘sent down’ is the translation of arsala (ارسل), not of ba‘atha (بعث).
Why did Allah use here the word ba‘atha (awakened, revived, بعث) here and not arsala (sent down, ارسل)? The early period of mankind, which is being discussed in this sentence, was a period of quietness and inactivity.
And it was more relevant to say that they were awakened and revived than that someone was sent to them.
Perhaps that is also the reason why those representatives of Allah are here referred to as prophets (nabiyyin, النبیّین) and not apostles (mursalin, المرسلین).
It has been described in the first volume that the purpose of raising the prophets and revealing the books was to explain the truth to people, and to teach them the realities of their existence, making them aware of the fact that they have been created by their Lord, Allah Who has no colleague or partner in His divinity or power; and that they are to return to Him and then shall be resurrected and brought back to life on a great day; that presently they have halted in a mid way station which has no more reality than a sport or play.
Having realised this basic fact, they must keep it before their eyes in all situation and all their actions, always bearing in mind where they have come from, where they are, and what is their destination.
This waking up to the realities of life is more appropriately described by the word nabiyyin (prophets, النبیّین) because nabi (النّبی) means ‘‘one who has the news (naba’, النّبأ)’’.
Allah sent the prophets: The authority and responsibility for sending the prophets is on Allah alone. It is only He Who sends them. It proves their sinlessness in receiving the revelation and explaining it to the people. (This topic is described in detail at the end of this commentary).
The prophets were sent as bearers of good tidings and as warners. They brought the good news of the mercy of Allah, and His pleasure and paradise for those who believe in Him and guard themselves against evil.
And they gave the warning of the chastisement from Allah, and His displeasure and Fire, to those who reject the truth and commit sins.
The two aspects of prophethood — good tidings and warnings — are the most effective ways of keeping an average person on right path and making the prophetic mission a success, although some righteous servants of Allah do good and desist from evil only for the sake of their Lord without thinking about any reward or punishment.
Qur’an: and He sent down with them the book with the truth, so that it might judge between the people in that in which they had differed:
kitab (الکتاب) is on the paradigm of fi‘al (فعال) and means ‘the written’. The word generally refers to anything written by pen.
But as the covenants and decrees are confirmed through writing, it is not infrequently used for compulsory and obligatory commands, and for every confirmed fact or idea which is irrefutable.
And it has been used in this meaning in numerous verses of the Qur’an. The Qur’an itself is called the book (kitab, الکتاب) with this very meaning; otherwise, it is the talk. of Allah.
It is said in the Qur’an:
(It is) a ‘‘book’’ which We revealed to you, abounding in blessings … (38:29);
Surely, prayer is (compulsory) on the believers (kitaban mawaqūta, کتبا موقوتا) a timed ordinance. (4:103).
The words, in that in which they had differed show that the meaning is, ‘‘Mankind was but one people, then they differed, so Allah sent the prophets ...’’
The definite article ‘‘the’’ (al, ال) in ‘the book’ (al-kitab, الکتاب) indicates either the genus of book (and, accordingly refer to all divine books revealed to the prophets) or a known (and implied) book.
In later case, it would refer to the book of Nūh (a.s.), because Allah says in the Qur’an:
He has prescribed for you of the religion what He enjoined upon Nūh and .that which We have revealed unto you and that which We enjoined upon Ibrahim and Mūsa and ‘Isa … (42:13).
This verse describes the grace .and favour of Allah by saying that the shari‘ah (Law) sent down to the Muslims combines in itself what was given piecemeal to the previous prophets and over and above it contains many new features revealed to the prophet of Islam.
It means that the Law was given only to those great prophets who are named here: Nūh, Ibrahim, Mūsa, ‘Isa and Muhammad (peace be on them all).
Now, the verse under discussion (He sent down with them the book …) clearly says that the shari‘ah was given in written form. Look at these two verses together and you will see that:
First: Nūh (a.s.) was given a book containing the Law, and that book is surely referred to in this verse, He sent down with them the book either alone (if ‘‘the’’ is for a known and implied book) or with other divine books (if ‘‘the’’ denotes the genus of the book).
Second: The book of Nūh was the first divine book containing the shari‘ah. Had there been any other such book before him it would have contained a Law to judge between the people, and Allah would have mentioned that shari‘ah in verse (42:13).
Third: The period referred to in the sentence, Mankind was but one people was the era before the mission of Nūh (a.s.) and his book decided and judged between the people in their differences.
Qur’an: And none differed about it but the very people who were given it, after clear signs had come to them, revolting among themselves:
It has been explained that it refers to the difference about the matters of religion among the followers of the religion.
As the religion is based on the nature of man as created by Allah (Then set your face uprightly for the (right) religion — the nature made by Allah in which He had made men — 30:30), Allah attributed these differences to the revolt of the followers and the scholars of the religion.
The words but the very people who were given it indicate the origin of the religious differences about the meaning of the book. It does not say that every one who goes astray or follows a false religion is a rebel, although it is true that he has lost his way.
Allah would not accept the excuses of a rebel; but He might accept the entreaties of those who were confused and could not find the right path. Allah says:
The way (to blame) is only against those who do injustice to the people and revolt in the earth unjustly … (42:42);
And others have confessed evil (one); may be Allah will turn to them (in mercy); surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful … And others are made to wait Allah’s command — whether He will chastise them or whether He will turn (in mercy), to them; And Allah is All-knowing, All-wise (9:102—106);
Except the weakened ones from among the men and the women and the children who have not in their power the means nor do they find a way; so these, it may be, Allah will pardon them, and Allah is the Clement, Oft forgiving (4:98—99)
Moreover, nature may go hand in hand with forgetfulness or doubt, but it cannot with revolt and intentional transgression. That is why the verse uses the words of revolt especially for those who knew the book and for whom the signs were made clear.
And (as to) those who disbelieve in and reject My signs, they are the inmates of the Fire, in it they shall abide. (2:39)
There are numerous verses of this meaning in the Qur’an; and in all of them the disbelief has been made conditional on the rejection of the signs of Allah and then it is followed by the threat of punishment.
In short, this sentence shows that the second differences began because of the rebellion of the scholars of the book, after they were given knowledge of it.
Qur’an: whereupon Allah guided, by His will, those who believed to the truth about which they differed. And Allah guides whom He pleases to the straight path.
the truth about which they differed explains the subjects of the differences and that it was the truth with which the book was sent down (‘‘the book with the truth’’).
At this juncture, Allah guided the believers to the truth in both differences: differences in affairs of this life, and differences in the matters of religion.
The guidance of the believers was by His will, because they could not make it binding upon Allah to guide them, for the simple reason that there is none to impose upon Him.
It is only He Himself who takes upon Himself whatever He pleases. Therefore, the guidance was by His will; if He were not pleased, He would not have willed and would not have guided.
Accordingly, the sentence, And Allah guides whom He pleases to the straight path gives the reason of ‘‘by His will’’. He guided them because it is His discretion to guide whom He pleases, nobody can impose upon Him to guide this or to guide that. And He surely willed to guide the believers to the straight path.
Looking at the verses as a whole, we come to know the following:
First: The definition of religion: Religion is a way of life which contains the good of this world in a manner that ensures perfection of the next life - the life that is the real and eternal one near to Allah.
It means that the shari‘ah must contain the necessary laws for this worldly life and one’s livelihood.
Second: Originally religion was promulgated to remove natural differences; then it was perfected to remove both types of differences; then it was perfected to remove both types of difference — the natural ones and the un-natural ones emanating from the rebellion of religious scholars.
Third: Religion goes on perfecting itself until its laws cover all the possible needs and eventualities of life. When it reaches that stage of perfection it is finalised and no other religion comes after it.
Conversely, if a religion is the final one, it must be comprehensive enough to cover all eventualities and fulfil all the needs of life. Allah said:
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Last of the prophets… (33:40);
and We revealed unto you the book, explaining clearly everything … (16:89);
and most surely it is a mighty book; falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor f r o m behind it … (41:41-42).
Fourth: Every succeeding shari‘ah was more perfect than the preceding one.
Fifth: Why were the prophets sent and the books revealed? In other words, what was the reason for the prophetic mission? Man, by his nature, develops towards differences in matters of life, as much as he progresses towards social cooperation.
As it is nature itself which leads to differences, it is not capable of removing them. How can it repel a thing when it is forcefully pulling it towards itself?
Therefore, Allah took it upon Himself to remove that conflict; and He sent the prophets with the laws to lead men to their perfection — real perfection which is a part of their creation. Allah says:
Our Lord is He Who gave to everything its creation, then guided it (to its goal) (20:50)
It shows that Allah completes the creation of everything and guides it to its perfection. The creation of man is completed when he is guided to his perfection in both lives. Also He says:
All do We aid — these as well as those — out of the bounty of your Lord; and the bounty of your Lord is not confined (17:20).
It means that Allah aids out of His bounty everyone who is in need of His aid in his life and existence; He gives him what he deserves. His bounty is neither confined nor limited, so far as Allah is concerned. If there is any limitation, it is from man’s side, not from his Creator’s.
Obviously, man cannot perfect himself, because it is his own nature which is the case of this defect.
As it is nature which leads to the conflict, and as that nature is unable to mend what it has damaged, the reform (if there is to be any) must come from somewhere outside nature — it must come from the Creator; and it came in the form of prophethood guided by divine revelation.
The sending of the prophets for this reform and removal of conflict has been given the name of ba‘th (awakening, revival, البعث); and never has this verb been attributed, in the Qur’an, to anyone except Allah, although the prophetic calls, like everything else, have some connection with their place and time.
Prophethood is a divine (say, if you will, unseen) condition which has the same relation to general human perception and activity as wakefulness has to sleep.
The prophet receives the knowledge by which the conflicts and differences of human life can be removed. This perception received from the unseen is called, in the language of the Qur’an ‘revelation’; and the quality and condition of receiving that revelation is called ‘prophethood’.
Therefore, the reason for initiating the prophetic mission rests on the following factors:
(1) Human nature leads man to social cooperation;
(2) At the same time it creates friction and conflict;
(3) Nature itself cannot remove that conflict;
(4) Therefore, a force outside of nature, should intervene to remove that conflict;
(5) Allah completes creation and in His mercy, has taken it upon Himself to guide everything to its perfection;
(6) As a result of that undertaking, He sent prophets and revealed to them the book to reform human society.
All these factors are proved by reason and experience.
Never has man desisted from exploiting others to his advantage; never has that exploitation, after action and reaction, failed to created a society; never has any society been free from conflict; never has that conflict been removed without social laws; and never has human wisdom been able to make such laws which could cut away all the roots of conflict.
Look at the present world. See the chaos in human society, the degradation of moral values, the never-ending chain of wars, the destruction of crops and cattle, the fightings which exterminate millions and millions of people, the autocracies, the subjugation of nations, the abasing of the human spirit, the usurping of lives and property; you will find all these and much more.
And it is happening in this, the twentieth century, the century of civilisation, the age of progress, the era of culture and science. What could have been the situation in the old day — the age of ignorance and darkness?
That the teaching and training of religion, emanating from the prophets and revelation, have the ability to eradicate this conflict is proved by reason and experience.
Reason: Religion calls people to real knowledge, high ethics, and noble deeds. Humanity can reach the highest peak of perfection by following such teachings.
Experience: Islam has proved it during the short period when it had control over Muslim society, as will be explained, God willing, in a proper place.
Sixth: The religion, which has been sent as the last of all religions, proves that humanity has reached the final stage of its completion and perfection.
That is why the Qur’an has decreed that prophethood has come to its end with Muhammad (s.a.w.a.). His religion will never be abrogated, and his shari‘ah will remain in force till the end of the world.
It means that human perfection, individual as well as collective, shall always remain within the limits of the laws ordained by Islam. There can never arise a situation for which Islam has no guidance.
It is a prophecy of the Qur’an confirmed by the history of humanity in the last fourteen centuries. Mankind has, in this period, progressed tremendously, and reached unimaginable heights in the field of the material and. physical sciences.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about his ethics and morality. It has not progressed even one step since that time. Rather, it could be claimed that in this respect it has taken many steps backwards.
Thus humanity has not progressed as a whole. It is a lop-sided development. Man has strengthened his body, neglecting his soul, which has become weaker.
It is clear from above that the laws of Islam have as much relevance in this era as they had fourteen centuries ago. And they will not lose their relevancy even in the future.
Some people say: The laws of religion were made for the reform of man and the good of society. If society changes and climbs further towards the summit of perfection, religion and its law also must change, to stay in step with the changing society.
It is no secret that the difference between this age and that when the Qur‘an came down and Islamic laws were promulgated is far greater than the difference between the times of Mūsa and ‘Isa (a.s.) and that of the Prophet of Islam.
This vast difference demands the abrogation of the laws of Islam, so that other laws, more appropriate to a modern progressive society, can be ordained.
Reply: Religion does not aim only at the material and physical perfection of man but it looks at the human being as a whole, and seeks to make him perfect both physically and spiritually, so that he may attain both material and spiritual bliss.
Its deal is the social man who is perfect from the above-mentioned point of view, not a social man who might be perfect in technology and politics but bankrupt in other aspects of humanity.
These people looked at societies based on materialism. Matter is always in change, climbing up the ladder of perfection, and the same is true of materialistic societies.
These people thought that a society based on religion would also always be subject to change and abrogation. But they over-looked the fundamental difference between the two societies.
They forgot that Islam does not aim at a lop-sided development of man; instead, it seeks well-balanced development, where man becomes perfect as a whole, both in body and soul.
Before demanding the abrogation of Islam, they should produce an individual or a society which combines religious tenets and material progress.
Then they should say what deficiency has been left therein which should be completed by a new shari‘ah, or what weakness is there which needs a new law.
Unless and until they produce such a society to point to the supposed defects, they have no justification in claiming that Islam should be abrogated.
Seventh: The prophets (peace be on them all) were sinless and protected from error and sin.
‘Ismah (العصمة) which is generally translated as ‘‘sinlessness’’, literally means ‘protection’. The ‘protection’ with which we are concerned here, is of three kinds:
(1) protection from error in receiving the revelation,
(2) protection from error in communicating and imparting that revelation to the people, and
(3) protection from sins. Sin here means any thing or action which goes against the obligatory command of Allah, and thus becomes a disgrace for the man. In other words, any word or action which is against the dictates of the servitude, homage and devoutness of man towards his Lord.
‘Ismah ( العصمة ) in religious terminology, means the presence, in the man concerned, of a quality which protects him from committing anything unlawful, any error or sin.
So far as ‘ismah from extraneous things (i.e. other than receiving revelation and its communication, and sins) is concerned — for example, mistakes in perception by any of the five senses, or misjudging the benefit or harm of a medicine, food or other such thing, etc. — it is not relevant to this verse which we are now discussing.
Anyhow, the Qur’an definitely proves that every prophet was ma‘sūm (sinless, protected from mistakes, المعصوم) in all the above mentioned three aspects.
‘Ismah from error in receiving the revelation and in its communication to the people: The following sentences, in the verse under discussion, prove these two aspects:
so Allah sent the prophets, as bearers of good tidings and as warners, and He sent down with them the book with the truth, so that it might judge between the people in that in which they had differed. And none differed about it but the very people who were given it, after clear signs had come to them, revolting among themselves; whereupon Allah guided, by His will, those who believed to the truth about which they differed.
These words show that Allah sent them to bring the good tidings and to warn; and sent the book with them (and this was the ‘‘revelation’’), so that they might guide the people to true belief and true deeds.
This was the aim and object of Allah in appointing the prophets. And He says:
errs not my Lord, nor does He forget. (20:52)
It proves that Allah errs not in His action, and makes no mistakes in His affairs; when He wills a thing, He wills it in its proper way which creates the desired effect without fail; when He proceeds with a work, the result is produced without any mistake.
It is as it should be, because in His hand is creation and command, and for Him is power and judgement.
And He sends prophets by revealing to them the true knowledge of religion and teaching it to them — and without fail it must be so; of necessity the prophets must receive and understand the revelation correctly; and He sends them to communicate that revelation to their people, and without fail it must be so; without any error or mistake they must communicate it as Allah has willed.
Surely Allah attains His purpose; Allah indeed has made a measure for everything (65:3);
and Allah is predominant over His affair. (12:21)
Another verse which proves these two types of ‘ismah is as follows:
The Knower of the Unseen; so He does not reveal His secrets to any except to him whom He chooses for an apostle; for surely He makes a guard to march before him and after him, so that He may know that they have indeed delivered the messages of their Lord, and He encompasses what is with them and He takes account of everything. (72:26—28)
It is clear that Allah reserves His revelation for His messengers; so He reveals His secrets to them and supports them by guarding them from in front of them and behind them; and encompasses what is with them to protect the revelation from decay and alteration, whether that alteration comes from Satan or others; and it is done to make sure that they have indeed correctly delivered the messages of their Lord.
Another verse reports the words of the angels of revelation:
and we do not come down but by the command of your Lord; His is whatever is before us and whatever is behind us and whatever is between these; and your Lord is not forgetful. (19:64)
These verses prove that the revelation right from the start of its descent, to its reaching down to the prophets and up to its communication and delivery to the people is duly protected and guarded against change and alteration, from whatever source it might come.
These two verses prove the ‘ismah of the prophets in receiving and delivering the revelation only; but they may also be used, with the addition of one rational premises, to prove their ‘ismah from sins.
For an average man, actions speaks as loudly as, if not louder than, words. If someone does a certain thing, his action proves that in his eyes that work is good and lawful; it is as if he was announcing its legality and virtue in so many words.
If a prophet committed a sin, while he forbade it to his people, it would mean that he was preaching two contradictory things: his action allowed a thing, while his words forbade it.
Thus he would be preaching two things contradictory to each other. And preaching contradictory things is against the preaching of truth, because one order would belie and invalidate the other.
One who reports two contradictory items cannot be said to be reporting the truth. Therefore, ‘ismah of the prophet in delivering the message of Allah totally depends upon his ‘ismah from the sins.
There are many other verses which prove ‘ismah of the prophets in all its aspects:
(a) These are they whom Allah has guided; therefore, follow their guidance. (6:90)
All the prophets were decidedly guided by Allah. And Allah says:
and whomsoever Allah lets go astray, there is no guide for him; and whom Allah guides, there is none that can lead him astray; is not Allah Mighty, the Lord of retribution? (39:36—37)
Also He says:
whomsoever Allah guides, he is the rightly guided one. (18:17)
According to these verses those who are guided by Allah can never be led astray by any misleading agency. In other words, they are free from all misguidance; and every sin is a misguidance, as is shown by the words of Allah,
Did I not enjoin on you, O children of Adam! that you should not worship the Satan? Surely he is your open enemy, and that you should worship Me; this is the right way. And certainly he led astray a great multitude from among you. What! could not then understand? (36:60—62)
In this verse, Allah counts every sin as going astray, a misguidance as a result of the agency of Satan; at the same time regarding it as the worship of Satan. Looking at all the above verses we find that:
Allah guided all the prophets by His guidance.
Anyone guided by Allah’s guidance can never be misled, can never go astray.
Every sin is a misguidance; every sin is straying from the right path.
It follows that the prophets of Allah were sinless, free from every sin and protected from every mistake in receiving and delivering the revelation of Allah.
(b) And whoever obeys Allah and the Apostle these are with those upon whom Allah has bestowed the favours of the prophets and the truthful and the martyrs and the righteous ones; and excellent are these as companions! (4:69)
Also He says:
Keep us on the right path, the path of those upon whom Thou hast bestowed favours, not (the path) of those inflicted with Thy wrath, nor (of those) gone astray. (1:5—7)
The prophets are described as of those upon whom Allah has bestowed His favours; and those upon whom Allah’s favours have been bestowed are other than those who have gone astray.
It means that the prophets never went astray. If they had committed a sin, they would have gone astray (as explained above). Also, if they had committed any error or mistake in receiving or communicating the revelation, they would have gone astray. There fore, the two verses together prove the ‘ismah of the prophets in all these aspects.
(c) These are they on whom Allah bestowed favours, of the prophets of the posterity of Adam, and of those whom We carried with Nūh, and of the posterity of Ibrahim and Israel, and of those whom We guided and chose. When the signs of the Beneficent (God) were recited to them, they fell down prostrating (in obedience) and weeping. But there followed after them an evil generation, who neglected prayer and followed sensual desires, so they shall soon meet (the result of their) sin. (19:58—59)
This verse attributes two virtues to the prophets: first, the bestowing of favours (upon whom Allah bestowed favours); second, guidance (whom We guided and chose).
Then it goes on praising them for the highest degree of obedience, devoutness and humility before Allah. Afterwards, it condemns the unworthy following generation for their evil traits.
Obviously, we see here two opposite groups: one, the praiseworthy ones deserving to be honoured by Allah; the other, the condemned ones. This second group has been described as those who followed sensual desires and who will soon see the result of their sins.
It clearly means that the first group, i.e. the prophets, did not follow their desires and will not be overtaken by sin. Such sincere servants of Allah could not commit any sin, even before their appointment as prophets.
Had they committed any sin even before their receiving prophethood, they would have surely come under the condemnation, neglected prayer and followed sensual desires, so they shall soon meet (the result of their) sin.
But, as we explained, theirs is a group of diametrically opposite to the condemned ones.
This Qur’anic proof is somewhat similar to the rational proof given for the ‘ismah of the prophets, which is as follows:
The sending of the prophets and the showing of miracles in their hands is the confirmation of their words. It means that they cannot tell a lie. Also, it is an endorsement that they have the ability to communicate the message of Allah to their people.
But a man who indulges in sins and such actions as would harm a project, cannot be said to be qualified to preach the usefulness of that project or to invite the people to participate in it.
Therefore, when Allah showed miracles in the hands of the prophets it not only authenticated their claim of prophethood, but also confirmed that they could not commit error in receiving and delivering the divine revelation, and that they faithfully obeyed all the commands of Allah and desisted from all such things which were disliked by Allah.
In other words, they were sinless in all its aspects.
Question: All intelligent people take help, in all varieties of social needs and communications, from those who may discharge their duties to a certain extent, even if their delivery of the message or their performance in that social work is not quite perfect.
What is wrong if Allah sends prophets who are capable of doing His work to a certain extent, even if occasionally they indulged in sin?
Reply: Men overlook such defects in their agents for one of two reasons: either they do not mind a little short-coming and deficiency, or their aim is to get only that amount of service which the agent is qualified for.
But both these alternatives are unacceptable for a divine scheme. These alternatives show the deficiency and shortcoming of not only the agents but also of the principal. Allah cannot be like us mortals.
An Objection: Allah says,
why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may acquire (proper) understanding in religion, and that they may warn their people when they come back to them, so that they may be cautious? (9:122)
Here Allah has entrusted Muslim scholars with the task of warning their people, and those scholars are not sinless.
Reply: Muslim scholars (admittedly not sinless) have been allowed by this verse to communicate to their people what they have learned about religion.
It does not say that Allah confirms their words of warning, nor that their words are recognised by Allah as a divine proof over people. It is this divine confirmation and recognition which is the basic characteristic of prophethood, not mere warning.
(d) And We did not send any apostle but that he should be obeyed by Allah’s permission … (4:64)
The aim of sending an apostle is that he be obeyed, and the verse confines the aim to only this one thing. People should obey the apostle in both his words and actions, because preaching is done in both ways.
And both these aspects of obedience are covered by Allah’s permission. If an apostle erred in understanding the revelation or in its delivery, it would still be Allah’s will, according to this verse, that people should obey and follow him.
But Allah only permits truth. How can His permission be related to an error or mistake? Thus, it is clear that an apostle cannot err in receiving or delivering a revelation.
Likewise, if an apostle were to commit a sin, in words or actions, an impossible situation would arise. Sin is disliked by Allah, forbidden by Him. But the verse enjoins people to obey and follow their apostle.
Thus that same sin would, at the same time, be for the people an act of obedience which they would be required to follow and copy.
It would mean that Allah had, at one and the same time, willed it and not willed it, ordered it and forbade it; liked it and disliked it! As explained earlier, it would be an impossible order.
We do not mean an order to do an impossible work (which, some do say, can be given by Allah!); we mean that giving such an order is in itself an impossibility, because it would be, at one and the same time, an order and a non-order, a will and non-will, a liking and non-liking, a praise and non-praise, a condemnation and non-condemnation!!
(e) so that there may not remain any argument for people against Allah, after the apostles … (4:165)
It is clear that Allah wills to intercept the excuse which people might think of for their sins and disobedience; and that the only way of dismissing such excuse is by sending the apostles to them.
The coming of the apostles could cut their excuse short only if the apostles themselves desisted from all those things which Allah does not like — be it in word or action.
Otherwise, people could easily give their apostles’ sins and mistakes as their excuse, and that argument would be valid against Allah. Therefore, if Allah had sent a non-ma‘sūm apostle, He would have defeated His own purpose.
Question: It is accepted that the verses prove that the prophets do not commit any mistake or sin. But this does not prove that they had ‘ismah.
‘Ismah, as defined by scholars, does not mean merely ‘not committing any sin’; it is ‘‘a faculty which protects a man from committing any sin or mistake’’.
Doing or not doing a work does not prove that the man concerned possesses the faculty, or characteristic, of that doing or not doing. The verses prove that they did not commit any sin; while to prove ‘ismah it should be proved that they could not commit any.
Answer: What is needed for proving the subject matter of this verse, is only the fact that the prophets did not commit any sin or mistake. And the questioner accepts that the verses prove it.
To prove that this fact was based on a characteristic or faculty of the prophets, look up the subject of ‘miracle’ in the first volume. There it was shown that the verse,
Surely my Lord is on the straight path (11:56),
Surely Allah attains His purpose; Allah indeed has made a measure for every thing (65:3) prove that every happening depends on a cause which brings it into being.
Now in the case of a prophet, we see that all his actions throughout his life are invariably correct, proper and in obedience to Allah.
This firm and unchanging characteristic shows that there must be a faculty in his soul which protects him from committing any sin or mistakes, and causes all his actions to be in accordance with the commands of Allah. And that faculty is ‘ismah.
It is accepted that all actions of a prophet occur by his own will, as do our own actions. But his actions are always in obedience to Allah, while our actions are sometimes in obedience and sometimes in disobedience.
An action is said to occur by our will when it is based on our knowledge and discretion. Our actions differ in obedience and disobedience because of a difference in the knowledge and will from which they emanate.
If our knowledge and will demand to fulfil the dictates of servitude by obeying the divine command, obedience comes into being. If, on the other hand, our knowledge and will prefer the pursuit of pleasure and the satisfaction of lust, then disobedience and sin occur.
In short, the difference in the quality of our actions, obedience or disobedience, is caused by the difference in our knowledge and will.
Had our knowledge and will remained unchanged throughout our life, all our actions would have been of one type only - either a life-long obedience to Allah, or, God forbid, an unbroken chain of sins.
As the actions of a prophet are invariably according to the dictates of piety and in obedience to Allah, it follows that the knowledge and will from which his actions emanate are healthy ones, invariably good and virtuous.
In other words, it is ingrained in his mind and soul that he must always serve and obey Allah. It is this firmly-rooted knowledge which is called a faculty, characteristics or trait, like the faculty of chastity, of bravery, of justice, and so on.
When we admit that a prophet always obeys Allah and never commits any sin, we accept that he possesses a spiritual quality or faculty which always keeps him on right path and protects him from sin and mistakes. And that faculty is ‘ismah.
Also, we have shown that a prophet does not commit any error or mistake in receiving or delivering the divine revelation. It means that he possesses a spiritual quality which protects him from such mistakes.
If we say that a prophet does not have this spiritual faculty or characteristic (while it is known that he does not commit any sin or mistake) then it would mean that this unchanging habit (i.e. always following the divine command and desisting from mistake and sin) is not related to any spiritual or psychological trait of his own - in other words, it is caused directly by the will of Allah, and that the prophet has no choice, option or will of his own in his actions; in short his actions are not caused by his knowledge and will.
But it is already admitted that the actions of the prophet are based on his knowledge and will just like those of other human beings.
‘Ismah comes from Allah; He creates in the prophet a cause from which all his actions emanate — the actions which are done by his own will and are always in obedience to Allah; and that cause is the firmly-rooted knowledge — in other words, the characteristic, trait or faculty.
Allah uses two words for those who received His revelations so as to guide people to the right path. These words are rasūl (apostle, messenger, الرّسول) and nabi (prophet, النّبیّ), which divide, or almost divide, them into two groups, Allah says:
... and the prophets and the witnesses shall be brought up … (39:69);
On the day when Allah will assemble the apostles, then say: What answer were you given? (5:109)
Rasūl (الرّسول) means the one who brings the message (risalah, الرّسالة); nabi (النبی) is the one who brings the news (naba’, النّبأ) Rasūl (الرسول) has the distinction of being an intercessor (or intermediary) between Allah and His creatures.
Nabi (النبی) has the distinction of having the knowledge of Allah and from Allah.
It is said that rasūl (الرّسول) is the one who is sent by Allah and commissioned to convey the divine message to the people; and nabi ( النّبیّ) is the one who is sent by Allah, whether he is told to convey the message or not.
According to this interpretation, the relationship between the Apostle and Prophet is such that all apostles are prophets but not all the prophets are apostles.
But the words of Allah do not support this view. For example, Allah says:
And remember Mūsa in the Book; surely he was one purified and was an apostle, a prophet (19:51).
The aim of this verse is to praise Mūsa and show his greatness and in such a context the adjectives should progress from general to distinctive and not vice versa.
Also at another place, Allah says:
And We did not send before you any apostle or prophet but … (22:52)
This verse joins the apostles and the prophets together and then uses the verb ‘‘to send’’ (irsal, الارسال) for both, making all of them apostle (mursal,( المرسل)
But there are other verses which apparently show that everyone who was sent by Allah to people was a prophet. See, for example,
… and the book shall be laid down, and the prophets and the witnesses shall be brought up … (39:69);
… but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the prophets … (33:40);
and also the verse under discussion,
... so Allah sent the prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners …
All these verses show that the prophets were sent with a divine message to people. Then what is the significance of the verse mentioned above,
… and was an apostle and a prophet?
Probably, the two words have been used here in their literal sense: Mūsa was a Messenger of Allah and had the knowledge and information of the signs of Allah and His secrets.
Likewise, the next-mentioned verse (And We did not send before you any apostle or prophet but ….) may be taken to mean that the prophet and the apostle both are sent to the people, but the prophet is sent to convey to them information of the unseen, as he knows the divine secrets, and the apostle is sent to bring them something more than a prophetic communication.
This may be inferred from the verses, like:
And every people had an apostle; so when their apostle came, the matter was decided between them with justice … (10:47)
nor we chastise until We raise an apostle. (17:15)
Accordingly, the prophet explains to people what is good for their lives in this world and in the hereafter, the roots of the religion and its branches, as the mercy of Allah decides to guide the people to their bliss and felicity; and the apostle brings to people a special message to complete the proof over them, a message, rejection of which brings destruction and chastisement in its wake. Allah says:
… that there may not remain any argument for people against Allah after the apostles. (4:165)
In short, the words of Allah do not show any difference between the two except what appears from their literal meaning. And it leads us to the same conclusion which we have mentioned earlier, i.e., apostle has the distinction of being an intercessor (or intermediary) between Allah and His creatures, and the prophet has the distinction of having the knowledge of Allah and from Allah.
We shall later quote the traditions of the Imams of Ahlu ’l-bayt about the difference between an apostle and a prophet.
The Qur’an very clearly says that there were numerous prophets, and that Allah has not described all of them in His Book. For example, Allah says:
And certainly We sent apostles before you: there are some of them that We have mentioned to you and there are others whom We have not mentioned to you … (40:78)
There are twenty odd prophets mentioned by name in the Book of Allah: ’Adam, Nūh, Idris, Hūd, Salih, Ibrahim, Lūt, Isma‘il, Alyasa‘, Dhu ’1-kifl, Ilyas, Yūnus, Ishaq, Ya‘qūb, Shu‘ayb, Mūsa, Harūn, Dawūd, Sulayman, Zakariyya, Yahya, Isma‘il Sadiqu ’1-wa‘d1, ‘Isa, and Muhammad, May Allah bless them all.
Some other prophets have been mentioned, but not by name. Allah says:
Did you not look at the chiefs of the children of Israel after Mūsa, when they said to a prophet of theirs; Raise up for us a king … (2:246);
Or like him who passed by a town, and it had fallen down … (2:259);
When We sent to them two, and they rejected both of them, so We strengthened (them) with a third ….(36:14);
Then they found one from among Our servants whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves (18:65);
the grandchildren (2:136).
There are some about whom it is not clear whether they were prophets or not, like the boy (disciple) of Mūsa (And when Mūsa said to his boy — 18:60), Dhu ’l-Qarnayn, ‘Imran (father of Maryam) and ‘Uzayr.
(The first one is mentioned in the Qur’an by an adjective and the other by name).
The Qur’an has not mentioned how many prophets there were all together. The traditions giving their number are not mutawatir and differ among themselves. The most well-known is the tradition of Abū Dharr that the prophet told him that there were one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets; three hundred and thirteen of them were apostles.
The chiefs of all the prophets are the ones endowed with fortitude (ulu’l-‘azm اولوالعزم); and they are Nūh, Ibrahim, Mūsa, ‘Isa and Muhammad (blessings of Allah be on him and them all!)
Therefore bear up patiently as did the apostles endowed with fortitude bear up with patience… (46:35)
It will be explained later on that ‘azm (fortitude, determination, firm resolve, العزم) in this context means that they firmly upheld the first covenant they made with Allah, and they never forgot it.
And when We made a covenant with the prophets and with you, and with Nūh and Ibrahim and Mūsa and ‘Isa, son of Maryam, and We took from them a firm covenant. (33:7).
Also He says:
And certainly We had covenanted unto Adam before, but he forgot and We did not find in him any determination. (20:115).
Each of these five apostles brought a new law and a book. Allah says:
He has prescribed for you of the religion what He enjoined upon Nūh and that which We have revealed unto you, and that which We enjoined upon Ibrahim and Mūsa and ‘Isa … (42:13);
Most surely this is in the earlier scriptures, the scriptures of Ibrahim and Mūsa. (87:18—19);
Surely We sent down the Torah in which was guidance and light; with it the prophets … were judging (matters) … And We sent after them in their footsteps ‘Isa, son of Maryam, verifying what was before him of the Torah … And We have revealed to you the Book with the truth, verifying what is before it of the Book and a guardian over it; therefore, judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their desires (to turn away) from the truth that has come to you; for every one of you did We appoint a law and a way, and if Allah had pleased He would have made you (all) a single people, but that He might try you in what He gave you … (5:44—48)
These verses clearly show that these five ulu ’l-‘azm prophets had been given laws, and that Ibrahim, Mūsa, ‘Isa and Muhammad (peace be on them all) were given books.
So far as the book of Nūh is concerned, we have already explained that the verse under discussion, read together with verse 42:13, proves that he was given a book. All these books contained a law and a shari‘ah.
The Qur’an says that Dawud (a.s.) was given a book (And We gave Dawūd the Zabūr (4:163)), and according to the traditions Adam, Shith and Idris also were given books. But we are not concerned here with those books, because they did not contain any law or shari‘ah.
Revelation is essential for prophethood. Revelation is a sort of talk of Allah, and prophethood depends upon it. Allah says:
Surely We have revealed to you as We revealed to Nūh and the prophets after him … (4:163).
A full discussion of revelation will be given, God willing, in the chapter of ash-Shūra.
al-Baqir (a.s.) said: ‘‘The men before Nūh, were one people, on the creation of Allah, neither rightly guided nor gone astray, then Allah raised the prophets.’’ [Majma‘u ’l-bayan]
There is a tradition from as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said about this verse:
And it was before Nūh.
He was asked whether they were on the right path. He said: ‘‘Rather they were astray. When Adam and his good children died, his successor, Shith, was unable to expound the religion of Allah which was followed by Adam and his good children.
It was so because Qabil had threatened to kill him as he had killed his brother, Habil. Therefore, Shith lived among them in fear, keeping his religion secret. Their straying increased day by day until nobody remained with them on the earth except those who had already passed away.
And the successor (of Adam) settled in an island to worship Allah. Then Allah decided to raise the apostles. And if these ignorant ones were asked they would say that He (Allah) had finished the matter; but they are liars; verily it is thing about which Allah decrees every year.’’
Then the Imam recited:
Therein every wise affair is made distinct. (44:4).
(Then he said:) ‘‘So Allah decrees what should happen during the year, hardship or abundance or rain or other such things.’’ The narrator asked whether before the prophet they had gone astray or were on the right path.
The Imam said: ‘‘They were not on guidance. They were on the creation of Allah upon which they were created. There is no change in the creation of Allah.
And they were not to be guided until Allah guided them. Do you not hear the words of Ibrahim,
Had not my Lord guided me, I would certainly have been of the erring people. (6:77)
i.e., forgetful of the covenant.’’ [al ‘Ayyashi]
The author says: The words, They were not on guidance. They were on creation of Allah, explain the words they were astray which have been used in the beginning of the tradition.
It means that they were not guided in detail to the divine knowledge, but had its rudimentary knowledge. And such guidance may be termed straying in the meaning of ignorance of details.
The first tradition, quoted from Majma‘u ’l-bayan, mentions it in these words: ‘‘on the creation of Allah, neither rightly guided nor gone astray.’’
The last words of this tradition, ‘‘forgetful of the covenant’’ also explain the straying mentioned earlier.
Guidance is the remembrance of the covenant in its reality (as is the case with the perfect believers), or the carrying on like those who remember the covenant, even if one oneself does not remember it in reality (as is the case of most of the believers); and giving the name of guidance to this second group is only because of the mercy of Allah.
Hisham ibn al-Hakam narrates that an atheist came to Abū ‘Abdillah (a.s.), and asked him, ‘‘From whre did you prove the prophets and apostles?’’
The Imam said: ‘‘When we proved that there is a Creator and Maker who is elevated above us and above all the created things, and that that Creator is wise, and that it is not possible for His creatures to see Him or touch Him; and that He cannot live with them nor they with Him, and He cannot have discussion with them nor they argue with Him; then it is proved that He must have in His creation some envoys to guide the people to their advantage and interest and to that on which depends their existence and the neglect of which brings their destruction.
Thus it is proved that there should be some people to enjoin (good) and forbid (evil) on behalf of the (Creator who is) wise and Cognizant of His creation.
It all proves that He has his interpreters, and they are the prophets, His chosen ones from among His creation, wise, well-trained in erudition, sent (to the people) with that (wisdom); not like the people in their conditions though they are like them in physique and the make-up of the body; supported by the Wise, the All-knowing with wisdom and proofs and arguments and evidence, like raising up the dead and healing the blind and the leper.
So, the earth of Allah cannot remain empty from a proof (of Allah) with whom should be a sign to show that he is truthful in his words, and it is essential for him to be on justice.’’ [at-Tawhid ]
The author says: Evidently, this tradition contains three proofs about three subjects of prophethood:
First: A reason to prove the necessity of prophethood in general; on deep consideration you will find it in conformity with what we have inferred from the verse under discussion.
Second: The proof that it is necessary that the prophet be supported with miracles. It conforms with what we said about miracles under the verse (2:23)
And if you are in doubt as to that which We have revealed to Our servant, then produce a chapter like it …
Third: The proof that there should always be a representative of Allah on this earth, be he a prophet or an Imam. And we shall explain this, God willing, in a suitable place.
There is a tradition narrated by ‘Utbah al-Laythi from Abū Dharr (May Allah have mercy on him) that he said: ‘‘I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! How many prophets were there?’
The Prophet said: ‘One hundred and twenty-four thousand.’ I said: ‘How many of them were apostles?’ He said: ‘Three hundred and thirteen, a large crowd!’ I said: ‘Who was first of the prophets?’
He said: ‘Adam.’ I said: ‘Was he an apostle from among the prophets?’ He said: ‘Yes. Allah made him by His hand (power) and breathed into him of His spirit.’
Then the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) said: ‘O Abū Dharr! Four of the prophets were Syrians: Adam, Shith, Ukhnūkh i.e. Idris (and he was the first to write with the pen) and Nūh; and four of them were Arabs: Hūd, Salih, Shu‘ayb and your prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.a.); and the first prophet among the children of Israel was Mūsa, and the last of them was ‘Isa and (between them were) six hundred prophets.’
I said: ‘O Messenger of Allah! How many books were sent down by Allah?’ He said: ‘One hundred and four books.
Allah sent down fifty books unto Shith, and thirty books unto Idris, and twenty books unto Ibrahim, and He sent down the Torah, and the Injil, and that Zabūr, and al-Furqan.’ ’’ [al-Khisal and Ma‘ani al-akhbar]
The author says: This tradition, and especially its first part describing the number of the prophets and the apostles, is famous, and it has been narrated by Shi‘ahs and Sunnis in their books.
And as-Sadūq has narrated a tradition of the same meaning in al-Khisal and al-Amali, from ar-Rida (a.s.) through his forefathers from the Prophet; and (another tradition) from Zayd ibn ‘Ali through his father and grandfather from ‘Ali (a.s.); and similar traditions have been reported by Ibn Qawlawayh in Kamilu ’z-ziyarah and by as-Sayyid in al-Iqbal from as-Sajjad (a.s.) and in al-Basa’ir from al-Baqir (a.s.).
There is a tradition from al-Baqir (a.s.) about the words of Allah:
and he was an apostle, a prophet (19:51),
that he said: ‘‘The prophet is the one who sees in his dream and hears the voice but does not see the angel; and the apostle is the one who hears the voice, and does not see in dreams, and sees the angel.’’[al-Kafi]
The author says: There are other traditions with this meaning. Possibly, their meaning may be inferred from such verses as,
therefore, send Thou to Harūn (26:13).
This tradition does not say that the apostle means the one to whom the angel of revelation is sent. It simply says that prophethood and apostleship are two ranks, the speciality of the one is seeing in the dream, and of the other is seeing the angel of revelation.
Sometimes, both ranks are combined in one person, then the two specialities are found together; and sometimes prophethood is found without apostleship.
Therefore, apostleship is more particular than prophethood, in practice, but not in meaning. See for example, the tradition of Abū Dharr, mentioned above, in which he asks, ‘‘how many of the prophets were apostles?’’
Therefore, it is clear that every apostle is a prophet but not vice versa. This clear explanation provides the answer to the misunderstanding of some people who say that the Holy Prophet of Islam was not the last apostle, though he was the last prophet. Their ‘‘argument’’ is as follows:
but he (i.e. Muhammad) is the Apostle of Allah and the last of the prophets (33:40).
The verse says that he was the last of the prophets, but does not say that he was the last of the apostles.’’
Reply: Prophethood is, in fact, more general and comprehensive than apostleship. When a general item is negated its particular groups are automatically negated.
And so far as the traditions are concerned they have never said that apostleship can be found without prophethood. As you have seen they clearly say that all apostles were prophets, but not all prophets were apostles.
Abu ’l-Hasan ar-Ridha (a.s.) said: The ulu ’l-‘azm prophets were given this name because they were people of firm determination and (brought a new) law.
It was like this: Every prophet coming after Nūh was on his shari‘ah and his way, and followed his (Nūh’s) book upto the time of Ibrahim, the friend (of Allah).
And every prophet from the time of Ibrahim was on the shari‘ah of Ibrahim and his way and followed his book upto the time of Mūsa. And every prophet from the time of Mūsa was on the shari‘ah of Mūsa and his way and followed his book upto the time of ‘Isa.
And every prophet who was in the time of ‘Isa and after him, was on the shari‘ah of ‘Isa and his way and followed his book upto the time of our prophet, Muhammad (s.a.w.a.).
So, these five are ulu ’l-‘azm, and they are the best of the prophets and apostles (peace be on them all). And the shari‘ah of Muhammad will not be abrogated till the Day of Resurrection.
Therefore, anyone who makes a claim to prophethood after him or to bringing a book after the Qur’an, his blood is allowed (i.e. it is allowed to kill him) to anyone who hears this (claim) from him.’’ [ ‘Uyūnu ’l –akhbar]
The author says: A tradition of similar meaning is reported from as-Sadiq (a.s.) in Qisasu’l-anbiya’.
About the verse:
Therefore, bear up patiently as did the apostles endowed with fortitude bear up with patience,
that the apostles referred to here are Nūh, Ibrahim, Mūsa and ‘Isa (peace be on them all). And the meaning of ‘‘endowed with fortitude’’ is that they were the first of all prophets in believing in Allah, and they believed in every prophet who was before them or came after them; and they were determined to remain patient even when they were rejected (by their people) and tormented. [at-Tafsir, al-Qummi]
The author says: It has been narrated by Sunni chains from Ibn ‘Abbas and Qatadah that the prophets endowed with patience were five: Nūh, Ibrahim, Mūsa, ‘Isa and Muhammad (s.a.w.a.).
It is the same as narrated in the traditions of Ahlu ’l-bayt. There are other views attributed to some Sunni scholars. One said that they were six: Nūh, Ibrahim, Ishaq, Ya‘qūb, Yūsuf and Ayyūb.
Another said that they were the prophets who were given the order to fight in the way of Allah, and thus waged war. Some one said that they were four: Ibrahim, Nūh, Hūd, and the fourth was Muhammad (s.a.w.a.). But all these sayings are without any proof.
There is a tradition narrated by ath-Thumali from al-Baqir (a.s.), that he said: ‘‘The prophets between Adam and Nūh were concealed, and that is why they were not mentioned in the Qur’an nor were they named therein as were named those prophets who declared themselves (before their people).’’ [al-‘Ayyashi]
The author says: This meaning has been narrated from the Imams of Ahlu ’l-bayt by numerous chains.
Tafsir of as-Safi quotes from Majma‘u ’l-bayan a tradition of ‘Ali (a.s.) that Allah raised a black prophet whose story He did not reveal to us.
In the first of Nahju ’l-balaghah,‘Ali (a.s.) says, mentioning Adam (a.s.):
‘‘Then (Allah) sent him down to the place of trial and procreation of progeny. And from his progeny Allah chose prophets and took their pledge for (His) revelation and for carrying (His) message as their trust.
In the course of time, many people changed the covenant which Allah had made with them; thus they ignored His right, and took partners along with Him.
And Satan turned them away from knowing Him and cut them off from His worship. Then Allah raised among them His apostles, and sent to them His prophets one after another, to exhort the people to fulfil the covenant of His creation; and to remind them of His bounties which were forgotten; and to argue with them by communicating (to them revelation), and to bring out for them the buried (treasures of) wisdom, and to show the signs of His omnipotence: namely, the roof (i.e. sky) which is raised over them, and the floor (i.e. earth) which is placed beneath them, and the means of livelihood that sustain them, and the deaths that make them die, and the ailments that turn them old, and the happenings that successively betake them.
And Allah never allowed His creation to remain without a prophet sent (by Him), or a book sent down (from Him), or a binding proof, or a laid-down highway — the apostles who were not discouraged by the smallness of their (followers’) number or largeness of their rejectors.
Among them was a predecessor who was told the name of his follower, or a follower introduced by his predecessor.
In this way, ages passed by, and the times rolled on, and the fathers passed away while the sons took their place, till Allah raised Muhammad in fulfilment of His promise and to finalize His prophethood.’’
The author says: ‘‘In fulfilment of His promise’’ refers to the promise made by Allah to sending His Apostle, Muhammad; and good tiding of him were brought by ‘Isa and other prophets (peace be on them), as Allah says:
And the word of your Lord has been accomplished truly and justly … (6:115)
There is a tradition narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn al-Walid from as-Sadiq (a.s.) that he said: ‘‘Allah said about Mūsa:
And We wrote for him in the tablets admonition from everything … (7:145)
So, we know that He did not write for Musa everything (but only a portion ‘from everything’). And He said quoting ‘Isa:
so that I may make clear to you part of what you differ in … (43:63).
And He said to Muhammad (s.a.w.a.)
... and (will) bring you as a witness against these; and We revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything … (16:89)’’ [al-‘Ayyashi]
The author says: The same meaning has been narrated in Basa’iru ’d-darajat from ‘Abdullah ibn al-Walid by two chains.
The words of the Imam, ‘‘Allah said about Mūsa…’’ point out that the words of Allah, in the tablets … from every thing explain the immediately following words about the Torah, and clear explanation of all things.
If Allah had meant a comprehensive description of every thing, He would not have said, from everything which refers only to a portion, not to the whole. This ‘‘from’’ shows that the ‘‘explanation of everything’’ means only a partial, not a comprehensive, explanation of everything.
Prophethood, per se, is primarily a theological, not a philosophical, subject.
It is concerned with ordained laws which have no independent physical existence; while philosophy is concerned with those things which exist outside the imagination, which have existence independent of the mind of the beholder.
Even then, looking from a different angle, we may say that it is also a philosophical subject.
Religious teachings — its fundamental beliefs and moral and practical laws — have a strong relation with the human soul; they etch on the mind firm knowledge and qualities which, in their turn, create firmly ingrained characteristics and abilities.
This knowledge and these characteristics give a distinct identity to the human soul and decide its path, either towards bliss and nearness to Allah, or towards perdition and distance from Him.
Man, if he has true and correct beliefs and acts righteously, acquires those perfections which bring him nearer to Allah and His pleasure and take him to paradise.
On the other hand, if he has wrong beliefs and does evil acts, his soul will acquire an ugly face; he will have no other goal except this transitory world and its trinkets, and, as a result, after departing from this world, he will enter hell and perdition.
This journey of human soul — to paradise or to hell — is not a thing confined into mind; it is a fact and a reality existing independent of human imagination. Accordingly it becomes a philosophical subject; and we may philosophically prove the institution of prophethood as follows:
The earlier-mentioned abilities and characteristics of the human soul take him on the road to perfection. Man is a species existing in reality, and he is the cause of many effects which also exist in reality.
Experience shows that all existing things have been given the ability to reach their perfection. And Allah is the absolute Benefactor and there is no limit for His beneficence, so far as He is concerned.
Therefore, every soul must have been given what it needs to reach its perfection, and to turn its abilities into accomplishments — the accomplishments which are called bliss if they contain good attributes and virtuous characteristics, and perdition if they take the shape of bad habits and evil characteristics.
These characteristics are acquired by those of man’s actions which are done of his own will and choice. That choice is based on his belief that a certain thing is good and another bad. He has been given the instincts of love and fear.
He loves what he thinks beneficial for him and fears what, in his thinking, is harmful. Love and fear are the only two instincts from which the actions of comman man emanate.
Therefore, the beneficence of Allah also should make use of these two faculties of man. Allah should call man to follow the right path and live a virtuous life; and that call should be accompanied by love and fear, good tidings and warnings.
In this way, true believers will reach their perfection of bliss and felicity; and unbelievers and the unjust will reach the perfection of misery and unhappiness.
And the call needs a caller to communicate the divine message to human beings. And that caller is the prophet sent by Allah.
Question: The faculty of reason and wisdom is enough to exhort man to follow the truth in belief and action and to lead him to excellence and piety. So, what is the need of sending the prophets?
Answer: It has been explained earlier that there is a pure and spiritual wisdom which perceives the real nature of things. Also, there is practical wisdom which says, ‘this is good’ and ‘that is bad’.
It is this practical wisdom which invites man to follow the truth in belief and action. This wisdom bases its judgement on human feelings and emotions; and in the beginning, the only emotions that exist in man are desire and fear.
The faculty of pure spiritual wisdom and intellect, which can control these emotions, remains only a potentiality.
It has been explained at length that it is this desire and fear, this emotion and feeling which lead man to conflict and difference. If man were left under the control of these emotions, his intellect and other potentialities would never turn into accomplishments.
It does not take long for an individual or a nation, when they have been deprived of good training, to return to barbarism and savagery, even though they have the practical wisdom and are governed by natural instincts.
Therefore, there is always need of divine help in the form of prophethood to strengthen the intellect and pure spiritual wisdom.
Question: It may be accepted that human wisdom cannot act independently in all situations concerning an individual or a nation. But nature always progresses towards its good, and also society, which is based on nature, follows it and moves towards the good of its individual members, and finally acquires an ideal form which ensures the happiness of all its members.
This principle is called the effect of the environment. Conflicting faculties and powers, after action and reaction, ultimately create a noble society, befitting human life.
History and experience show that all societies are always in search of their perfection; they aspire for the common weal and are progressing towards a felicity and happiness which are the final ambition of every man.
Some societies, like Switzerland, have already attained that goal, while others are on the way, and may be nearer to, or farther from, it.
Answer: Nobody can deny that nature always strives to attain perfection and happiness; and that society, which is based on nature, is also like that.
But it should be remembered that its desired perfection and bliss is not real perfection and bliss. What nature possesses at the moment are the instincts of love and fear, not intellect.
But it is the intellect which is the foundation of real perfection and bliss. Even the evidence offered in the question shows this fact. The perfection and happiness found in some countries and desired by others is only material perfection and the happiness of the body.
But man is not body only; he is made of both body and soul. The body’s perfection is not man’s perfection. The body dies while the spirit lives forever. Perfecting only one side and neglecting the other (and that also the one which is to last forever) is not perfection at all.
Historical and sociological evidence strengthens our view that society, by trial and error, can only progress towards material perfection and physical happiness if any society wants to lead its members to the perfection of the total being, then it cannot do so without prophetic help and divine guidance.
Question: If it is true that the prophetic call has a connection with divine creative guidance which leads everything to its goal of perfection, then it must have a clear and existing influence on human societies.
We see that not only man but everything is naturally guided to the matters of its advantage and benefit without fail. If the prophetic call had been a source of guidance like that, it would have been influential in all human societies and man would not have been able to ignore it, just as he is unable to ignore other natural calls.
But we know that it is not so. So how can it be called a true reformation when it is not accepted by societies? So, the theory that the prophetic mission is necessary to remove the differences in society and life is just a theory which cannot be proved by facts.
Answer: First: (a.) The effects, of the religious call are there for every one to see and appreciate. Only an obstinate contender can deny it.
Since its foundation and appearance, it has trained thousands and thousands leading them to bliss, and has condemned several times more to perdition and unhappiness — depending on their acceptance or rejection, submission or arrogance and belief or disbelief. Such an effective thing cannot be said to have had no effect.
(b) Some societies have from time to time been established based on religion, and they have shown what may be achieved by following this path.
(c) This world is still alive; the human species is not yet extinct. It is possible that one of these days human society will turn into a virtuous society founded on religion — a society which will guarantee the true happiness of man, and real excellence of character and morality.
It will be a day when none shall be worshipped except Allah, and justice and virtue shall be the norm of the day. Such a magnificent effect cannot be ignored or belittled.
Second: Sociology, psychology and moral science prove that our actions have a dual relationship with our characteristics: they come into being because of psychological factors, and they in their turn have an influence on psychological factors.
The actions are the effects of soul and psyche; and they affect the psyche in its characteristics. It is this principle which has given birth to two principles: the principle that man is influenced in his character and morals by society, and the principle that he inherits many characteristics from his forefathers.
In short, these actions increase their scope horizontally through the environment, and continue from generation to generation vertically through heredity.
Now, it is known that the divinely appointed prophetic mission has remained with human societies since the dawn of humanity, not only in historical, but even in pre-historical, days.
Nobody can deny that such a mission, such a call, must have deeply affected man’s social characteristics and high morals. This religious call must have influenced man’s psyche very deeply, even if he does not believe in that call.
We would be justified in asserting that all the good qualities of present-day nations and societies are the effects of prophethood and religion, which they have acquired through heredity or the environment.
Religion, since its inception, has been accepted and followed by many great societies and groups. And do not forget that religion is the only institution which calls man to the true faith, to noble character, justice and common welfare.
Whatever good traits are found today in nations (however little they may be) are the residue of the effects of religion and its results.
Societies can be managed in any of three ways - there is no fourth alternative.
First is the system of tyranny; it turns human beings into the slaves of the tyrant (or tyrants) in all aspects of their lives.
Second is the system based on civil laws; these laws control overt actions only; they do not touch other aspects of the human personality, like character and ethics.
Third is religion which controls and rules over the whole being — beliefs, ethics, and actions — and calls to keep all of them on right path, with truth and virtue.
It is clear from the above that if there is any good in this world or any happiness and bliss for man, it must be attributed to religion and its effects, because no other system aspires to give any guidance on these matters.
Look, for further proof, at the nations that have built their societies on materialism and have neglected religion and morality. They soon lost the virtue, love, mercy and purity of heart and forgot all probity and ethical excellence.
It all happened while they were following the dictates of nature. Had nature, per se, been enough, and had those characteristics not been a legacy of religion inherited from the ancients, they would not have lost those noble virtues.
History says that the Christians, during and after the Wars of the Crusades, adopted important points of Islamic law and acted upon them.
Now they have advanced, while the Muslims, who did not follow their own religion, have been left behind.
To make a long story short, heredity and environment have let the spirit of religion permeate human society, as they do with other things. Therefore, it is wrong to say that religion has had no impact on humanity.
Question: Well then, what is the role of nature in this scheme? It appears from the above that nature is of no use, and that happiness and bliss are in the hands of the prophethood. If that is so, then why should the prophethood claim that the shari‘ah is based on nature?
Answer: One has only to refer to what we have written on the relationship of the nature to man’s felicity and bliss to realize that this objection is baseless.
The happiness and perfection brought by prophethood is not something alien to the human species nor is it separate from man’s nature. It is nature which finds its way towards that bliss, but it cannot find it alone without outside help; and that help (i.e. prophethood) also is not something separate from humanity and its perfection.
In other words, prophethood is not like a stone put beside a man; otherwise, it would not have meant any credit to the prophet — that stone does not increase the weight of the man.
The fact is that prophethood is the perfection of human nature; it is a special perception and a particular conception which is hidden in human nature; but only those few individuals can be led to find it whom the Grace of Allah has specially chosen for it.
An analogy may be given — though it is beneath the dignity of prophethood — to the pleasure of the sexual act which only mature persons can feel; minors cannot know it, even when that instinct which both adults and minors equally share is ingrained in human nature.
In short, neither is the reality of prophethood something extraneous from the humanity of the man, who is the prophet, nor is the bliss which it brings to people who follow it anything separate from their humanity and nature. Otherwise, it could not be perfection for the prophet or a bliss for his people.
Question: In that case, the objection is turned against prophethood. What the above explanation says is that nature by itself is enough, and prophethood is not separate from nature.
It appears that the human species is social by nature and has diversity in its unity; that some individuals excel others in all good aspects: their nature is true, their intelligence free from imaginary things and lust, their character purified from undesirable traits.
Those highly distinguished persons are guided by their straight-forward character and discriminating wisdom to what contains the good of society and the happiness of man. Then they legislate laws which ensure the common weal and prosperity of this world and the hereafter.
Accordingly, the prophet is a virtuous man who is a social genius.
Answer: Not at all. It is an interpretation which does not fit with the reality of prophethood nor with its accompanying factors:
First: It is a hypothesis invented by some sociologists who had no knowledge of religious matters and knew nothing about the Creator or the final destination of man.
It was their theory that a prophet is a genius who has a straight forward character and healthy, wisdom. Such a genius ponders over the social condition of his time and thinks how his chaotic society may be reformed and how the members of society may find happiness and bliss.
According to this theory, that genius is ‘the prophet’; the good healthy thought which flows from the fountain-head of his thinking power is ‘the revelation’; the laws made by him for the reform of the society are `the religion'; his pure spirit which showers these thoughts on his thinking power, and does not deceive the human world by following lustful desires is ‘the Trustworthy Spirit’ i.e. Jibril; the real inspirer of that revelation is ‘God’; the book containing his lofty and pure thoughts is ‘the heavenly book’; the natural powers or factors which call towards good are ‘the angels’; the soul which incites to evil or the powers and factors inviting to bad deeds are ‘Satan’; and so on.
It is a totally invalid theory, and I have mentioned under the subject of ‘miracles’ that prophethood with this meaning would be better called a political toy rather than divine prophethood.
Also it has already been explained that this thinking, which they have named genius, is a particular phase of practical wisdom, which distinguishes between good and bad according to its benefit or harm, and is commonly found in all human beings.
Also, it has been described that it is that wisdom which is the cause of all the conflicts and differences among human beings; and as such it cannot remove that difference itself.
Surely, it needs another power to complete its work. And we have said just above that that power is a special type of perception which is found, by the Grace of Allah, only in a few chosen persons who are called prophets.
Obviously, this special spiritual perception is totally different, in its reality, from the perception which comes through thinking. The results to which man reaches through thinking, logic and reasoning are completely unlike those which he perceives through the prophetic faculty.
Not only the results, but even the ways to obtain those results, are diametrically opposed to each other.
Psychologists are sure that man has an inner source of perception which occasionally manifests itself in some individuals. Then a door is opened before the eyes of this individual and he sees a world beyond this world and is given knowledge of astonishing facts and realities beyond the purview of reason and thinking.
This fact is vouched for by all ancient psychologists as well as a group of modern European scholars.
In short the way of prophetic revelation is different from reasoning and thinking. And prophethood cannot be given the meaning invented by these people. The same is the case with the shari‘ah, religion, the heavenly Book, the angels, and Satan.
Second: What is recorded of the speech of the prophets who claimed they had received prophethood and revelation, like Muhammad (s.a.w.a.), ‘Isa, Mūsa, Ibrahim, Nūh and others (peace be on them all), and what is extant from their books (like the Qur’an) clearly refutes the interpretations which these people have invented for prophethood, revelation, the sending of books, angels and the other realities of religion.
The book of Allah, the traditions of the Holy Prophet of Islam and the sayings of the earlier prophets (peace be on them all) clearly say that these realities and their effects are beyond the sphere of matter and nature, and they are not a part of natural phenomena and cannot be perceived by any of the human senses.
With this background, the interpretation which tries to bring these prophetic realities within the jurisdiction of the physical world and under natural laws is a futile attempt which does not conform to the context and nature of the above meanings and sayings.
It has been mentioned earlier that the factor which removes conflict in the human society is this inner spiritual perception which is independent of that perception which comes through the agency of thinking.
Question: It would mean that this inner perception is something extraordinary and abnormal. It is not a common experience; only a few persons have ever claimed to have had it.
How can such a rare experience lead the whole of society to reform and to the removal of conflict and difference? How can it guide them to their true happiness?
You have already said that the factor which will lead the people to bliss and happiness must be related to and connected with, their nature; it should not be some thing extraneous like a stone at the side of a man.
Answer: There is no doubt whatsoever that prophethood is an extraordinary thing; and that it is an inner spiritual perception unknown to the five senses.
But reason does not deny that extraordinary and abnormal things and things hidden from our senses do exist in the world. What it denies is the existence of something which is impossible.
Reason has its ways to verify whether a thing claimed to be abnormal and hidden from the senses really exists. It can prove its existence through its causes (deduction) or through its effects or its accompanying factors (induction).
Prophethood may be proved by one of two methods.
(1) Through its effects — the religion brought by the prophet ensures the happiness of man in this world and in the hereafter.
(2) Through its accompanying factors — the claimant of prophethood claims an abnormal thing that Allah talks with him through revelation; therefore, if his claim is true he should be able to produce some other abnormal signs, which are called miracles.
Therefore we have these two ways to verify a claim of prophethood, the good quality of the religion brought by the prophet, and miracles.
Question: It may be agreed that the conflicts of society can be removed by this inner perception which is called prophetic revelation.
It may also be agreed that the prophet can prove it through miracles, and then it will be obligatory on people to accept and follow the religion promulgated by him.
But what is the guarantee that the prophet cannot commit any mistake in the promulgation of the shari‘ah? After all, he is a human being like everyone else, and every one by nature commits mistakes.
If an error occurred at this stage of promulgating the law and removing differences, the same process would have to be started again.
Answer: Previous explanations are enough to answer this question. The divine revelation does not come through human thinking, which might commit mistakes. It exists independently of human thought and imagination.
There is a law of creation, decreed by the Creator, that He, after creating a thing, guides it to its perfection. See the verse:
Our Lord is He Who gave to everything its creation, then guided it (to its goal). (20:50)
The thing created does exist in reality; it is a fact. There is no mistake or falsehood in a fact. Mistake and falsehood may occur when the man starts the process of his thinking and tries to acquire knowledge.
Then what conforms with the fact is called truth and what does not conform is false hood. Thus it is human thought which may be contaminated by lies and falsehood, and not the divine creation, which is a fact, a reality.
Now, the Creator made man and He guides him to his bliss and happiness, to his perfection, through a guidance which is called revelation.
That revelation is a thing created by Him; it is a fact and a reality. And no falsehood can be attributed to a fact and a reality. A fact is a fact; a reality is a reality.
As this guiding agency is a fact and creation of Allah, not a result of human thinking, there can never be any mistake or error or falsehood in it.
Nor can there be any such possibility in perceiving or communicating that revelation, because this also is done through the creative guidance of Allah.
Neither does the creative power make any mistake in putting that prophetic spirit and spiritual perception (i.e. revelation) in the person of the prophet nor does that agency of divine guidance, i.e. the spiritual conception, make any mistake in discriminating between what is good for the humanity and what is bad for it.
That is why Allah does not bestow prophethood on anyone without creating in him the faculty of ‘ismah, the ‘ismah from mistake in receiving and communicating the revelation and ‘ismah in all matters connected with religion and promulgation of the shari‘ah. This ‘ismah is other than ‘ismah from sin.
Question: Why is this inner perception not subject to change, deterioration and feebleness like human reason and thinking? Human thinking power is something other than matter.
But, because it has a connection with matter (as it passes through the brain) it is subject to all types of changes.
It can be strong or feeble; it may exist or cease to exist completely, as in the case of lunacy; also there are variations in its degree, as in the cases of idiots, the feeble-minded or the mentally-retarded, or in senile people.
Now, this inner perception also has a connection with the body of the prophet, and, as such it may also be subject to changes, deterioration and other defects. In that case all the previously mentioned difficulties would arise afresh.
Answer: We have already said that this guidance of human beings to their true happiness is done, not by human thinking, but by the hands of the Creator who brings that agency of guidance into being; that agency is a truly existing thing, and there is no question of any mistake in an existing thing or ‘fact’.
It is not accepted that every perception, having any relation with body, is liable to change and deterioration.
What is accepted is that perception based on reason and logic is liable to such change and deterioration; but it is known that this inner perception, i.e. prophetic revelation does not come under this heading.
For example, man has a perception of his own person, and this knowledge cannot change, disappear or deteriorate, because it is a self-evident knowledge, not based on reasoning or logic.
Now, we may sum up this long discussion as follows:
First: Mankind proceeds towards a social life and its differences.
Second: These differences, which cut at the root of the happiness of the species, are not, and cannot be, removed by the laws made by human wisdom which acts through reason and logic and are liable to mistake.
Third: The differences can only be removed by prophetic perception, which is created by Allah in some chosen human beings.
Fourth: The basis of this inner perception, found in the prophets, is totally different from the basis of human thinking, common to all sane men and women.
Fifth: This inner perception never makes any mistake in perceiving the beliefs and laws which are communicated to it by Allah for the betterment of the human species in its true happiness.
Sixth: These conclusions (and the last mentioned three are the most important: the essentiality of sending the prophets, the basic difference between the perception of revelation and perception based on reasons, and the ‘ismah of the prophet in receiving and communicating the revelation) are in conformity with the general scheme of things in this physical world.
Every species in this world is progressing towards its perfection guided by the Creator who gave it the means to progress along the road to final perfection and bliss.
Man is one of those species; and he has also been given the faculties by which he can acquire right beliefs and noble virtues, and can do good acts in a good and noble society.
Therefore, it is necessary that the Creator should make arrangement to bring that potential bliss into real existence; that He should guide him with His creative guidance which is free from mistake or error.
- 1. This is as it appears in the Arabic original, but it is in fact the same prophet as the Ismā‘īl appearing earlier in the list.