Necessity of Prophets

Some philosophers and deviant sects say, “The mind is enough for people to find the right path; there is no need for prophets” and deny the institution of prophethood. Among Muslims, some people like Abul Husayn Rawandi and Abu Bakr ar-Razi were influenced by that idea and started the current of denying prophethood.

Some philosophers and deviant sects say, “The mind is enough for people to find the right path; there is no need for prophets” and deny the institution of prophethood. Among Muslims, some people like Abul Husayn Rawandi and Abu Bakr ar-Razi were influenced by that idea and started the current of denying prophethood.

The evidence that those who deny prophethood show is completely unfounded and baseless.

Even though people can understand the existence and oneness of Allah with their minds, they cannot comprehend His names and attributes and cannot know how to worship Him. They cannot comprehend the affairs related to the hereafter and the responsibility in the hereafter. They are in need of being informed about those issues by Allah.

Allah sent prophets in order to meet those needs of people. When people did not know anything, they learned everything, every art and skill from prophets. Prophets also taught people the ways of being happy and living peacefully in the world and in the hereafter, the principles of getting on well with one another and the rules of ethics and good manners.

Imam Ghazali states the following regarding the issue:

“Man cannot discriminate between lethal poison and useful medicine and he needs a doctor or chemist; he cannot know the beliefs and the deeds that will save him in the world and in the hereafter on his own, either. He cannot discriminate between the things that will lead him to disasters from the things that will lead him to happiness. He certainly needs a guide. And that guide is a prophet.”8

Badiuzzaman says the following regarding the issue:

“The divine power, which does not leave ants without a leader and bees without a queen, will definitely not leave human beings without a prophet.” 9

Nothing in the universe, especially in the realm of living beings has been left purposeless, dutiless, systemless and even guideless. It is possible to see it in pieces or as a whole. Neither the bees are queenless, nor ants are leaderless.10

Since guides are not neglected for all of the other creatures, is it possible for man, who is regarded as superior by both the religion and science, to be left without prophets, who are essential guides? That is, is it possible to imagine the humankind without prophets or books?”11

Certainly not...

After this short introduction, we can list the need for prophets as follows:

1. Ensuring Order and Justice in Society:

The law and order in the community, the peace and happiness of the individuals, the prevention of oppression and injustice depend on the existence of the institution of prophethood. The issue is explained as follows in İşâratü’l-İ’câz:

“Man has been created with a strange, subtle nature distinguishing him from all other living beings and making him an exception to them. By virtue of this, there have arisen in him the desire to choose, and the wish for the most beautiful things and for fine decoration, and a natural desire to have a livelihood and position befitting humanity.

For his food, dress and accommodation – the for which arises due to the above-mentioned desires – to be prepared proficiently, man has need of multiple arts and crafts, but he is incapable of practicing all of these on his own. He needs, therefore, to mix with his fellow-men and to co-operate with them, and for all of them to assist each other and exchange the fruits of their labor.

However, since so as to allow men’s progress by means of the mainspring of the will the All-Wise Maker placed no innate limits on the human powers of appetite, anger and intellect – as with the animals and their limited powers – tyranny and aggression have arisen. And since no limit has been placed on them, the powers tend to aggression and the human community is in need of justice when exchanging the fruits of its labor. 

However, because the intellects of single members of society are incapable of comprehending justice, the human race as a whole needs a general or universal intellect to establish from which all may benefit. And that intellect is the universal law, and that law is the Shari’a. Then in order to preserve the effectiveness of the Shari’a and its enforcement, a law-maker is necessary, someone to lay claim to it and to promulgate it, an authority, and that is the Prophet (pbuh).

Then, in order to perpetuate his outward and inward domination over people’s minds and hearts, the Prophet needs to be eminently superior both physically and spiritually and morally, and in conduct and appearance, and by nature and in character. He is in need, too, of proof of the strength of his relation with the Creator, and such a proof is his miracles.”12

2.  Teaching man the reason why he was created and informing him about religious decrees:

As it is stated in the Quran the purpose and wisdom of man’s creation and being sent down to the world is to know his Creator, to believe in Him and to worship Him.13

The mind cannot understand the aim of the creation on its own. Even if we accept that man can understand the existence of God Almighty with his mind as some scholars of Kalam claim, he cannot understand how to worship Him and how to please Him on his own. Therefore, prophets are necessary.

God Almighty informed His distinguished servants that He chose among human beings about all of His orders and prohibitions. They practiced those decrees themselves first and then conveyed them to other people, making them know the Creator of the universe.14

3.  Blocking the Ways of Objection to Allah:

It is stated in the Quran that each tribe and nation was definitely sent a prophet that gave them the glad tidings of the mercy of Allah and warned them about the torture of Allah.

One of the reasons why each nation was sent a prophet like that is stated as follows in the Quran:

“Messengers who gave good news as well as warning, that mankind, after (the coming) of the messengers should have no plea against Allah: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”15.

Another verse is as follows:

“If (We had) not (sent thee to the Quraysh)― in case a calamity should seize them for (the deeds) that their hands have sent forth, they might say: "Our Lord! why didst Thou not send us a messenger? We should then have followed the Signs and been amongst those who believe!"16

An important reason of the existence of the institution of prophethood is understood from those verses. In addition, it is also understood that the nations that were not sent prophets or the people who did not know about the existence of prophets – they are called the people of interregnum – will not be held responsible. As a matter of fact, the following verse explains the issue more clearly: 

“Nor would We visit with Our Wrath until We had sent a messenger (to give warning).”17

The interpreter Jassas explained that verse in his work “Ahkamu’l-Qur’an” as follows: “God Almighty will not send His wrath unless a prophet proves His existence and oneness to them.”18 Most of the scholars of Ahl as-Sunnah  agreed that someone who died without hearing about the call of any prophet would be saved from the torture of hell.19

The Situation of the People of Interregnum:

When the scholars of Islam use the term “the period of Interregnum” they usually mean the period between Hazrat Eesa (Jesus) (pbuh) and Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh). The people who lived during the period that lasted more than six hundred years are called “the people of Interregnum”.

A short time after the death of Jesus, the original Christianity was changed; it was no longer a religion of oneness; the light of the true religion was veiled. During the period between that event and the emergence of the Messenger of Allah, people living in many places in the world, primarily the Arabian Peninsula, were unaware of prophets and the true religion. What will be the responsibility of the people who lived during that period?

According to Imam Maturidi and some Ahl as-Sunnah scholars, the people of Interregnum are responsible for knowing the existence and oneness of Allah, because the human mind is capable of knowing Allah by looking at the universe. However, he is not responsible for other orders of the religion except belief. He will be among the people of salvation in the hereafter; that is, he will be saved from the torture of Hell.

Acting upon the verse mentioned above, Imam Shafii and Imam Ash’ari say that the people of Interregnum who are unaware of the call of the prophets are not responsible for knowing Allah and that even if they are unbelievers, they will be among the people of salvation.(*) According to them, responsibility before God occurs through the sending of prophets, and when prophets are sent, responsibility is established through the knowledge of their mission. Since heedlessness and the passage of time obscured the religions of the former prophets, they could not provide the proof for the people of that time. If they obey the former religion, they receive reward; if they do not, they are not punished because it cannot be a proof since it was hidden.”20

There are many other verses apart from the ones we quoted above indicating that those who died in the period of Interregnum before a prophet came or those who were not aware of the emergence of a prophet will be among the people of salvation.(**)

That issue is used as evidence that the parents and grandparents of our Prophet will go to Paradise and that they are among the people of salvation. They died before the prophethood of our Prophet, during the period of Interregnum. 21 A question like this may come to one’s mind: What will happen to people who heard about the name and duty of the prophet but heard negative things about him and did not hear anything good about him?

While answering that question, let us have a look at the classification of Imam Ghazali. In the classification, Imam Ghazali deals with the situation of the Christians of the period that he lived and the Turks, who had not been Muslims yet and says the following: 

“I believe and hope that most of the Byzantines, Christians and Turks of our time will be surrounded by the Divine mercy and they will be Muslims. I mean the Byzantines and Turks who live in the distant countries and who are unaware of the call of Islam. They are divided into three: 

a. Those who have never heard the name of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh),

b. Those who have heard about the name, attributes and miracles of Hazrat Prophet. They are unbelievers who live in places near Islamic countries or among Muslims. 

c. Those who are between the two groups. They have heard about the Prophet but they have not heard about his qualities and characteristics. Or rather, they have known him as “a person called Muhammad, who is a liar – God forbid – and who claim to be a prophet” since they were children. They were informed about the Messenger of Allah like that. It is like our children hearing, “A liar called al-Muqaffa claims that Allah has sent him as a prophet and challenges that he is a prophet.”  In my opinion, they are like the first group because they have heard his name together with the qualities and characteristics that are contrary to his real qualities and characteristics. It does not lead a person to think and search.”

In our age, it was possible to find people that belonged to the third group mentioned by Imam Ghazali in the Christian World and in the Iron Curtain countries; maybe that judgment is still valid for today. There were many people living in the out-of-the-way places, far away from social life and deprived of the opportunity to find the true religion in the Christian World and many accused people living in the prison camps behind the iron curtain unaware of even the existence of the free world. The difficulty of finding Islam, the true religion, under those living conditions is obvious. The treatment of Allah, the Exalted, whose wisdom is endless and whose mercy surrounds everything, to those people will definitely be in accordance with the conditions they were in.  

It is known by everybody that the responsibility of the committees of seductions that work deceitfully against absolute belief in general and Islam in particular in order to deny divinity behind the curtain of a regime will definitely not be the same as that of oppressed people.22

8  Ghazali, Ihya trns., I, 291.

9  Sözler, 792

10  Abdullah Aymaz, Peygamberlik, p.7.

11 ibid

12 İşâratü’l-İ’câz, 92-93

13 az-Zariyat, 56;  see also:  Ayatu’l-Kubra, 8

14 For detailed information, see: Sözler, 56

15 an-Nisa, 165

16 al-Qasas, 47

17 al-Isra,  15

18 Tajrid trns., IV/539

19 ibid, IV/540

(*) There are some scholars who combine the viewpoints of the two imams: If someone did not see any prophets but did not deny and did not worship idols, he would be among the people of salvation. There are some people who do not have any ability to compose or analyze; it is impossible for them to deduce something from the happenings. Therefore, such a person is guided first; then, he is punished or rewarded based on his acts. However, if someone adopts unbelief as a lifestyle, defends it and declares war against Allah, he will be punished for his denial even if he lives in the remotest part of the world.

20 See: Mektûbat, 397. For detailed information, see also: Sadrettin Yüksel, Dini ve ilmi incelemeler. 140-146.

(**) For those verses and hadiths, see: Tajrid trns, IV, 540-543

21 For detailed information regarding the issue, see:  Mektûbat, 397-398; Tajrid trns.

22 Kader Nedir?, 71-72

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