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The Prophet’s Life and Mission As the Qur’an Depicts Them

The Prophet’s Life and Mission As the Qur’an Depicts Them

By Abdur Raheem Kidwai

The Qur’an depicts a clear picture of the Prophet’s life and mission, his place in Islam, and his coveted position in the sight of Allah. So, what does the Qur’an say about that?

Those who believe and do good deeds and believe in the revelation sent down to Muhammad – for it is the truth from their Lord– He will remove from them their misdeeds and improve their condition. (Muhammad 47:2)

Although there exist many standard biographies of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in every major world language, the Qur’an itself brings out the outstanding features of his illustrious life and career.

Reading the Qur’an one gets a clear picture of his message and mission and the central place he occupies in Islam. In the above verse of the Qur’an Muslims are promised forgiveness for their sins, if they follow the divine message sent down to the Prophet. This underscores the Prophet’s coveted position in the sight of Allah. Without the pledge to abide by his teachings, no salvation is possible. His message is hailed as the truth revealed by Allah.

More remarkably, Allah promises that one’s commitment to it is bound to bring success in both worlds. For he is part of the chain of Allah’s messengers who conveyed divine guidance to mankind. Rather, he stands out as the final Messenger, marking the end of messengership:

And Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias. Each one (of them) was of the righteous. And Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot. Each one (of them) did We prefer above (Our) creatures, with some of their forefathers and their offspring and their brethren; and We chose them and guided them unto a straight path. Such is the guidance of Allah wherewith He guides whom He will of His bondmen. (Al-An`am 6:85-88)

Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is ever Aware of all things. (Al-Ahzab 33:40)

To Teach & Purify

Muhammad (peace be upon him) belongs to the progeny of the Prophet Ishmael, son of the Prophet Abraham. His advent in seventh century Makkah marks Allah’s acceptance of the supplication made by the Prophets Abraham and Ishmael:

Our Lord! Raise up for them (the children of Ishmael) a Messenger from among them who will recite to them Your revelations and will teach them the Book and wisdom and will purify them (of sin and unbelief). Surely You alone are Almighty, the Wise. (Al-Baqarah 2:129)

There is ample evidence to prove that he accomplished his fourfold mission well. At the time he appeared on the scene, the Arabs had discarded and corrupted the divine message conveyed to them by the Prophet Abraham. All sorts of evil – social, moral and economic – had crept into their way of life.

They were given to drinking, causing bloodshed and sexual licentiousness. They had grown so callous that they used to bury their daughters alive. They had installed hundreds of idols in and around the Ka‘bah and openly indulged in polytheism. As a pious person even in his pre-prophetic life, Muhammad felt disturbed over the degeneration which he observed in his society.

When he was 40 years old, Allah appointed him His final Messenger, directing him to convey divine guidance in both word and deed. The Archangel Gabriel transmitted to him the opening verses of Surat Al-`Alaq (the 96th chapter of the Qur’an), which constitute the first installment of divine revelation.

Throughout the 23 years of his Prophetic career he received at intervals its other parts, which taken together comprise the Qur’an, the final Book of guidance for all mankind, regardless of time and place. His main assignment consisted in giving the good news to believers and warning unbelievers. At several places the Qur’an projects him in this role:

Lo! We have sent you (O Muhammad) with the truth, a bringer of glad tidings and a warner. And you wilt not be asked about the companions of hell-fire. (Al-Baqarah 2:119)

O Prophet! Lo! We have sent you as a witness and a bringer of good tidings and a warner. (Al-Ahzab 33:45)

Abraham’s Way

He made plain his adherence to the Prophet Abraham’s way with a view to reminding fellow Arabs of their original faith. So doing, he emphasized also the cardinal principles of monotheism in faith:

(Abraham declared) “As to me, I have set my face firmly and truly towards Him Who created the heavens and earth. Never shall I ascribe partners to Allah. (Al-An`am 6:79)

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) presented the essence of the creed of earlier messengers, asserting that he was there to confirm the Scriptures originally sent down to mankind. The Qur’an stresses the essential similarity between its message and that of the Books revealed to other messengers. For all of these originated from the same source – Allah. Since earlier Scriptures had been corrupted by the wicked beyond recognition, there was a need to revive the original divine message.

This task was performed by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Life of a True Believer

Not only did he transmit faithfully the Word of Allah, he also demonstrated the way of life of a true believer. His distinguished life and conduct serve as the role model for all time and place. For example, Allah directed him to engage sincerely in worshipping Him in order to achieve closeness to Him.

Moreover, he displayed exemplary bravery, courage and tact in overcoming the unbelievers on the battleground:

When you climbed (the hill) and paid no heed to anyone, while the messenger, in your rear, was calling you (to fight). Therefor He rewarded you grief for (his) grief, that (He might teach) you not to sorrow either for that which you missed or for that which befell you. Allah is Informed of what you do. (Aal `Imran 3:153)

And if We had not strengthened you, you would have almost inclined to them a little. (Al-Israa’ 17:74)

These and many other points are cited in the Qur’an in order to vindicate his genuine Messengership. The following passages, in particular, adduce arguments in support of his designation as Allah’s Messenger:

Lo! those of mankind who have the best claim to Abraham are those who followed him, and this Prophet and those who believe (with him); and Allah is the Protecting Guardian of the believers. (Aal `Imran 3:68)

But Allah (Himself) testifies concerning that which He has revealed unto you; in His knowledge hath He revealed it; and the angels also testify. And Allah is sufficient Witness. (An-Nisaa’ 4:166)

Rather, Allah promised him the highest reward imaginable – that of elevating him to the station of praise and glory:

Your Lord will raise you to the rank of praise and glory. (Al-Israa’ 17:79)

And We have exalted your fame. (Al-Inshirah 94:4)

The Last Messenger

Another of his distinctions is that he is the last Messenger in the chain of Allah’s envoys. What this signifies is that Islam as revealed to and preached by him will serve as the final message for all time to come. The universality and timelessness of his mission are special to him:

Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is ever Aware of all things. (Al-Ahzab 33:40)

As part of His grand plan for the guidance of mankind, Allah sent the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) down as the mercy for all the worlds:

And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107)

Abiding by his directives amounts to obeying Allah. This underscores his pivotal position in matters of faith. Hadith and Sunnah, his sayings and deeds respectively, are therefore, of the utmost importance in Islam and constitute the primary sources of faith. The Qur’an commands Muslims to obey him unquestioningly:

And obey Allah and the Messenger, that you may obtain His mercy. (Aal `Imran 3:132)

He who obeys the Messenger, obeys Allah. (An-Nisaa’ 4:80)

A Human

Notwithstanding his many special features, the Prophet is a mortal human being, a servant of Allah, chosen by Him to convey His message to man. He does not share any trait of divinity. Nor does he have access to the realm of the Unseen which is only Allah’s prerogative. The Islamic concept of messengership is marked by balance and moderation.

Unlike Christianity, it does not elevate the Prophet to Godhead. And, unlike some other faiths, it does not project a tainted picture of messengers, given to worldliness and vice. In keeping with its cardinal principle of monotheism, the Qur’an denies any superhuman feature to him:

(O Muhammad) Say: “I do not tell you that the treasures of Allah are with me. Nor do I know what is hidden. Nor do I tell you that I am an angel. (Al-An`am 6:50)

They ask you concerning the Hour – when it is to come. Say: “Its knowledge is with my Lord alone. None can disclose its time but He” … Say: “I have no power over any good or harm to myself except as Allah wills. Had I knowledge of the Unseen, I would have amassed all good and no evil should have ever touched me. I am only a warner and bring glad tidings to the people who believe.” (Al-A`raf 7:187-188)

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The article is an excerpt from Abdur Raheem Kidwai’s book “The Qur’an: Essential Teachings”, published by the Islamic Foundation, 2005/1426 H.

 

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