Is it possible for prophets not to be innocent before their duty of prophethood? Does the attribute of ismah (innocence) start after the duty of prophethood starts?

Details of the Question
Is it not possible for prophets to have committed sins even if they are minor sins?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Prophets are free and away from committing sins both before and after prophethood.

According to the majority of Islamic scholars, prophets are protected from committing minor and major sins. They did not commit even very small sins. Some mistakes attributed to some prophets are not sins. Besides, those mistakes took place before their prophethood. In both cases, prophets are innocents. Besides, the mistakes called zallat (singular from: zallah) are related to their ranks and states. That is, those zallat are not regarded as mistakes for ordinary people; they are regarded as mistakes for prophets since they are closer to Allah than other people are.

Therefore, we think it will be wrong to deal with the issue of zallah, which is completely related to their rank, as if it is an ordinary issue.

We demand security clearance for a small rank in government offices for the people to be appointed; how can prophets commit sins? If a person is to be appointed a prophet, security clearance will be necessary not only for him but also his ancestors. Since people act very carefully and cautiously for a simple worldly issue, is it possible not to act sensitively and responsibly for the loftiest duty that is related to both the world and the hereafter? Is it possible not to look for the qualifications and merits for the duty in the man to be appointed?

Think of the fact that even the angel that conveyed the revelation was famous for being trustable among other angels and that he was given this duty due to this characteristic. The following is stated in the Quran about Jibril (Gabriel):  

“With authority there, (and) faithful of his trust.” (at-Takwir, 81/21)

He is both very obedient to Allah and trustable to convey the revelation. Since the angel that conveys the revelation is required to have these qualifications, is it possible for prophets not to have those qualifications?

Allah never lets an impostor, a thief, a drunkard and an enemy of honor and chastity represent such a blessed and decent duty. Since these mean and low weaknesses are regarded as disgusting by ordinary people, how can a prophet have such weaknesses? How can a slanderer who attributes such faults and mistakes to prophets be called a human and a sane person? Yes, a dirty person cannot be the representative of purity and cleanliness. And such people cannot be called prophets. A person who attributes such impurity to prophets cannot be called a human. 

Yes, the mind necessitates that prophets be innocent. The mind also necessitates that the blessed people who undertake the duty of supporting the cause of the prophets make innocence their ideal. It is so necessary that committing sins should be more agonizing than going to Hell for them.  

Innocence is very important. In fact, the great prophets always displayed their innocence throughout their lives. Except for some sentences that can be called delirium in the distorted books, nobody attributed sins to prophets. The Quran mentioned them in accordance with their lofty characteristics and always described them as decent personalities.

The prophets in the world are equivalents of Jibril, Azrail, Mikail and Israfil in the sky. However, we only know as much as the Quran tells us about these lofty personalities and only say these with their names.

Evidence for the Innocence of Prophets

Allah Almighty addresses Hz. Musa (Moses) as follows:

“…But I cast (the garment of) love over thee from Me: and (this) in order that thou mayest be reared under Mine eye.”(Taha, 20/39)

It is understood from the verse above that Allah did not leave Hz. Musa's education to the Pharaoh or his mother when He placed him in the palace of the Pharaoh. Allah Himself educated and reared Hz. Musa so that his eyes would see no other images and his spirit would not be surrounded by strange thoughts. A prophet reared by such surveillance will definitely be innocent. He had been under the surveillance of Allah since his childhood and was educated in the best way.

The Prophet states the following in a hadith: 

“Satan touches all children that are born. However, Hz. Isa and his mother were excepted from it.”(Bukhari, Anbiya 44; Muslim, Fadail, 147)

That is, Satan could not touch him when he was born. Hz. Isa is a prophet that was under the protection of Allah Almighty even when he was born. How can one think that such a prophet could commit a sin?

The Messenger of Allah (pbuh) intended to go to a wedding ceremony twice but Allah Almighty made him sleepy and he fell asleep on the way and could not go to the wedding.

If he had gone there, his eyes would probably have looked at haram things. Thus, Allah protected him and did not allow him to approach such potential sins. In fact, he had not been appointed as a prophet yet when those incidents took place.

When the Prophet was a child, he was trying to help the repair of the Kaaba. He was carrying stones and adobes to his uncles; the stones and adobes he carried on his back hurt his back, which was naked. He felt disturbed.  Hz. Abbas advised him to lift the rim of his garment and place it on his shoulder. This was regarded a normal act at that time. The Prophet did so and some part of his body over his knee was opened. As soon as he took one step, he fell on his back; he stared at one point and froze. Jibril told him that what he did was not appropriate and said, “it does not fit you.”

For, in the future, he would be given the duty of covering the legs too. Humanity would learn manners and chastity from him. Even if he was a child, he was educated by Allah Almighty. Yes, Allah protected His beloved one from sins, from minor sins, even when he was a child.

In the army, the criminal records of the future generals are kept and checked with great care. They are followed to see whether they are inclined to the right or left. A person who is expected to reach a high rank in the army is followed and checked for forty years regarding all of his acts and attitudes. Similarly, Allah Almighty checks His future prophets beginning from their childhood, protects them and does not allow them to commit sins. This is the view of the Islamic scholars called jumhur.

They are the best of the people and the essence and cream of human merits. This cream is the cream of milk and it is skimmed from milk. As the Quran puts it (Sad, 38/47),  “…of the company of the Elect and the Good”. That is, prophets are the best of the people even at the beginning. However, not all good ones are prophets. Prophets are chosen from the most distinguished ones among them.

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