What is the role of prophets in Islam?

Muslims believe that God has provided guidance to humanity over the ages through the institution of prophethood. In the Islamic context, prophets are not persons who prophesy (foretell the future); rather they are seen as righteous and truthful messengers selected by God to fulfill the most important mission—calling on people to worship God alone, and teaching them to live righteously, in accordance with God’s commandments. Muslims believe prophets, and the scriptures given to some of them, are the only sure sources of God’s guidance, and that God has chosen, throughout history, thousands of prophets from among all peoples of the earth, culminating with the last prophet, Muhammad.

“Say: We believe in Allah and that which isrevealed to us, and in what was revealed to Abraham, Ishma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, to Moses and Jesus and the other prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Allah we have surrendered ourselves.” (Qur’an, 2: 136)

Thus, in Islam, the prophets are seen as spiritual brothers one to another. Some commonly known figures who are considered prophets in Islam include Noah, Jonah, Abraham, Ishmail, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus. The chain of prophethood ended with Muhammad (570-632 C.E.), who lived 600 years after his predecessor Jesus.

Essentially, prophets give warnings as well as glad tidings to fellow humanbeings: warnings of punishment in this world and the next for unjust, immoral people who have turned away from God and His natural order, and glad tidings of reward in this world and the next for those who are conscious of God and follow His guidance as revealed to the prophets.

The Qur’an mentions twenty-five prophets by name, and tradition indicates thatmany thousands of prophets were chosen by God throughout human history between the time of Adam and that of Muhammad.

Essentially, Muslims view Islam not as a “new” religion, since it embodies thesame message and guidance that God revealed to all His messengers, but rather a reestablishment of the “primordial” religion of humankind, centered around recognizing God’s Oneness and adhering to His commands. The view of Islam as having achieved its final form through the scripture given to Muhammad and his own teachings is an important aspect of faith. Consequently, Muhammad is considered the final messenger of God, the “Seal” of the Prophets. Any claimants to prophethood after Muhammad, who died in 632 C.E., are not accepted by Muslims.

Muhammad is the father of no man among you. He is the Apostle of Allah and the seal of the Prophets. Allah has knowledge of all things.” (Qur’an,33: 40)

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