I -Unity of the Basic Principles of Prophethood
Indeed, We have revealed to you,
[O Muhammad], as We revealed to Noah
and the prophets after him.»
(Surah an-Nisaa’, 4:163)
Did prophets actually walk this planet of ours, prophets to whom the angel Gabriel delivered scriptures revealed by God? Scriptures that contain:
• Information about God and expressions of love for Him, sentiments of satisfaction and contentment to be living within His dominion and eagerness to meet Him in the Hereafter
• Refinement and fulfillment of the individual human being, and his attainment of reasonable perfection
• Enrichment of collective human life within a framework of education, knowledge, brotherhood, mercy, justice, truthfulness, faithfulness, tolerance, rightfulness, and beauty
Did blessed messenger prophets, with such attributes and messages really walk on this planet of ours?
In answer to this question, the People of the Book, i.e., the Jews and Christians, emphatically affirm that messenger prophets with such attributes and messages did indeed walk this planet of ours at successive periods of time.
This confirmation by the People of the Book is a basic requirement of faith, obligatory by virtue of their belief in God,s prophets: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, Moses, Aaron, Zachariah, John, Jesus, and the others, peace be upon them all. It is an established tenet of faith for the People of the Book. And Islam regards it as one of the evidences that confirm the prophethood of Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) in as much as it relates to belief in the concept of revelation and prophethood. Verification is in the following verses:
«And We sent not before you, [O Muhammad], except men to whom We revealed [the message], so ask the people of the message [i.e., former scriptures] if you do not know.» (Surah al-Anbiyaa’, 21:7) The people of the message are the People of the Book, and the message refers to earlier revelations inspired to their prophets.
«And those who have disbelieved say, You are not a messenger. Say, [O Muhammad], Sufficient is God as Witness between me and you, and [the witness of] whoever has knowledge of the Scripture.» (Surah ar-Ra‘d, 13:43) Those with knowledge of the scripture are the learned ones among the People of the Book.
«Those who follow the Messenger [i.e., Muhammad], the unlettered prophet, whom they find mentioned in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them.» (Surah al-A‘raaf, 7:157)
«And they did not appraise God with true appraisal when they said, God did not reveal to a human being anything. Say, Who revealed the Scripture that Moses brought as light and guidance to the people.» (Surah al-An‘aam, 6:91) Those who failed to give God the appreciation due to Him by denying that He was the source of revelation and claiming that God had never revealed to anyone previously were said to be the Arab polytheists. The irrefutable argument that disproved their claim was confirmation of the scripture revealed to Moses.
«He [i.e., God] has ordained for you of religion what He enjoined upon Noah and that which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], and what We enjoined upon Abraham and Moses and Jesus – to establish the religion and not be divided therein.» (Surah ash-Shuraa, 42:13)
«And indeed, it [i.e., the Qur’an] is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds. The Trustworthy Spirit [i.e., Gabriel] has brought it down upon your heart, [O Muhammad] – that you may be of the warners – in a clear Arabic language. And indeed, it is [mentioned] in the scriptures of former peoples. And has it not been a sign to them that it is recognized by the scholars of the Children of Israel?» (Surah ash-Shu‘araa’, 26:192-197)
«Say, Have you considered: if it [i.e., the Qur’an] was from God, and you disbelieved in it while a witness from the Children of Israel has testified to something similar…?» (Surah al-Ahqaaf, 46:10)
These are verses that serve as clear evidence, and when combined prove two facts:
1. The fact that the revelation to Muhammad was preceded by revelation to the prophets of the People of the Book, foremost among them being Moses, son of ‘Imraan, and Jesus, son of Mary, peace be upon them both.
2. The fact that prophets attest to the truth of one another. Moses attested to the truthfulness of earlier prophets.
Therefore, implications in the Qur’an of the significance of the scriptures revealed to him are coupled with implications of the same significance of the scriptures revealed to Abraham. So evidence for the second fact is also found in the verses below:
«Or has he not been informed of what was in the scriptures of Moses and [of] Abraham, who fulfilled [his obligations] – that no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another and that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives and that his effort is going to be seen – then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense – and that to your Lord is the finality.» (Surah an-Najm, 53:36-42)
«He has certainly succeeded who purifies himself and mentions the name of his Lord and prays. But you prefer the worldly life, while the Hereafter is better and more enduring. Indeed, this is in the former scriptures, the scriptures of Abraham and Moses.» (Surah al-A‘laa, 87:14-19)
Then Jesus came to attest to the truthfulness of Moses.
«…And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you.» (Surah Aali ‘Imraan, 3:50)
«And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.» (Surah al-Ma’idah, 5:46)
«And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, O Children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of God to you confirming what came before me of the Torah» (Surah as-Saff, 61:6)
Muhammad, in turn, attested to the truthfulness of Moses and Jesus.
«He has sent down upon you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming what was before it. And He revealed the Torah and the Gospel.» (Surah Aali ‘Imraan, 3:3)
«And this is a Book which We have sent down, blessed and confirming what was before it.» (Surah al-An‘aam, 6:92)
«And that which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], of the Book is the truth, confirming what was before it.» (Surah Faatir, 35:31)
Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) presented a beautiful picture of this coordinated and direct succession of prophets, who succeeded each other chronologically. He said:
«The example of me and the prophets before me is that of a man who built a building, He did it well and completed it except for the place of a brick at one of the corners. People began to walk around it and wonder at the building, saying, Shouldn,t a brick be placed here to complete your building? I am that brick and I am the last of the prophets.»
Another narration serves as an explanation of this one by declaring the brotherhood of prophets and the sameness of their faith. Prophet Muhammad said:
«I am nearest to the son of Mary in this world and the Hereafter. There is no other prophet between him and me. Prophets are brothers from their father, having various mothers; and their religion is one.»
So seekers of the truth may agree and come together on the truth in which all of them believe. Therefore, those who are just among the People of the Book cannot but attest to the truth of what was revealed to Muhammad.
• «Indeed, those who were given knowledge before it – when it is recited to them, they fall upon their faces in prostration, and they say, Exalted is our Lord! Indeed, the promise of our Lord has been fulfilled. And they fall upon their faces weeping, and it [i.e., the Qur’an] increases them in humble submission.» (Surah al-Israa’, 17:107-109)
• «And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of what they have recognized of the truth. They say, Our Lord, we have believed, so register us among the witnesses. And why should we not believe in God and what has come to us of the truth? And we aspire that our Lord will admit us [to Paradise] with the righteous people. So God rewarded them for what they said with gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally. And that is the reward of doers of good.» (Surah al-Ma’idah, 5:83-85)
• «Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it – they are believers in it. And when it is recited to them, they say, We have believed in it; indeed, it is the truth from our Lord. Indeed we were, [even] before it, Muslims [i.e., submitting to God]. Those will be given their reward twice for what they patiently endured and [because] they avert evil through good, and from what We have provided them they spend.» (Surah al-Qasas, 28:52-54)
For the sake of belief in the whole truth as revealed to Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and all other prophets, the People of the Book, as well as Muslims, are commanded: «Say, We have believed in God and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.» (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:136)
The Negus of Abyssinia gave expression to this truth when he said, «There is not the least difference between what was revealed to Muhammad, son of Abdullah, and what was revealed to Jesus, son of Mary.»