One might well ask:
How many prophets has God sent to humanity? We are only sure of what is clearly mentioned in the Quran, that God has sent a messenger to every nation. That is because it is one of God’s principles that He will never call a people to account unless He has made clear to them what to do and what not to do. The Quran mentions the names of 25 prophets and indicates that there have been others who were not mentioned to Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon him. These 25 include Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them). These five are the greatest among God’s messengers. They are called ‘the resolute’ prophets.
An outstanding aspect of the Islamic belief in prophethood is that Muslims believe in and respect all the messengers of God with no exceptions. All the prophets came from the same One God, for the same purpose: to lead mankind to God. Hence, belief in them all is essential and logical; accepting some and rejecting others has to be based on misconceptions of the prophet’s role or on a racial bias. The Muslims are the only people in the world who consider the belief in all the prophets an article of faith. Thus the Jews reject Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them), and the Christians reject Muhammad (pbuh). The Muslims accept them all as messengers of God who brought guidance to mankind. However, the revelations which those prophets before Muhammad (pbuh) brought from God have been tampered with in one way or another.
The belief in all the prophets of God is enjoined upon the Muslims in the Quran:
“Say (O Muslims): We believe in God and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob, and their children, and that which Moses and Jesus received and that the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them and unto Him we have surrendered.”
The Quran continues in the following verses to instruct the Muslims that this is the true and impartial belief. If other nations believe in the same, they are following in the right track. If they do not, they must be following their own whims and biases and God will take care of them. Thus we read:
“And if they believe in what you believe, then they are rightly guided. But if they turn away, then they are in disunity, and God will suffice you against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower. This is God’s religion and who is better than God in religion?”
There are, at least, two important points related to prophethood that need to be clarified. These points concern the roles of Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them) as prophets, who are usually misunderstood.
The Quranic account of Jesus emphatically rejects the concept of his ‘divinity’ and ‘divine sonship’ and presents him as one of the great prophets of God. The Quran makes it clear that the birth of Jesus without a father does not make him the son of God and mentions, in this respect, Adam, who was created by God without a father or mother.
“Truly, the likeness of Jesus, in God’s sight, is as Adam’s likeness; He created him of dust, them said He unto him “Be”, and he was.”
Like other prophets, Jesus also performed miracles. For example, he raised the dead and cured the blind and lepers, but, while showing these miracles, he always made it clear that it was all from God. Actually, the misconceptions about the personality and mission of Jesus, peace be upon him, found a way among his followers because the Divine message he preached was not recorded during his presence in the world. Rather, it was recorded after a lapse of about one hundred years. According to the Quran, he was sent to the Children of Israel; he confirmed the validity of the Torah, which was revealed to Moses, peace be upon him, and he also brought the glad tidings of a final messenger after him.
“And when Jesus son of Mary said, ‘Children of Israel. I am indeed the messenger to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be the praised one…”
(The “praised one” is the translation of “Ahmad”, which is Prophet Muhammad’s name.)
However, the majority of the Jews rejected his ministry. They plotted against his life and in their opinion, crucified him. But the Quran refutes this opinion and says that they neither killed him nor crucified him; rather, he was raised up to God. There is a verse in the Quran which implies that Jesus will come back and all the Christians and Jews will believe in him before he dies. This is also supported by authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
The last prophet of God, Muhammad, SallAllahu Alaihi Wa Sallam, was born in Arabia in the sixth century C.E. Up to the age of forty, people of Makkah knew him only as a man of excellent character and cultured manners and called him ‘Al-Ameen’ (‘The Trustworthy’). He also did not know that he was soon to be made a prophet and receiver of revelation from God. He called the idolaters of Makkah to worship the one and only God and accept him (Muhammad) as His prophet. The revelation that he received was preserved in his lifetime in the memory of his companions and was also recorded on pieces of palm leaf, leather, etc. Thus the Quran that is found today is the same that was revealed to him, not a syllable of which has been altered, as God Himself has guaranteed its preservation. This Quran claims to be the book of guidance for all of humanity for all times, and mentions Muhammad (pbuh) as the last Prophet of God.