The Prophets were Sent to Illuminate the Way of Mankind
Today, the greatest problem of mankind is that they do not recognize the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, and that they neglect and, in some parts of the world, even refuse, to follow his way. God sent Muhammad, as He had sent all the previous Prophets, to illuminate the way of mankind. He said:
God was gracious to the believers when He raised up among them a Messenger from themselves who recites to them the verses (of His Book) and shows them His signs [in their selves and in the universe], purifies them [of their sins and their deviations of thought and belief], and instructs them in the Book and the Wisdom. They were evidently in manifest misguidance before. (Al ‘Imran, 3:164)
God sent Messengers to mankind throughout the ages so that mankind might be guided to the truth and be purified of sins. Those who were enlightened by the Messengers of God, found the way to the Divine Presence and attained the highest rank of humanity. In the words of Ibrahim Haqqi, ‘God declared that He could not be contained by heavens and earth; He can be known and reached through hearts only.’ It is for this reason that the Messengers led mankind to the knowledge of God. Through them, He was deeply felt by the ‘innermost senses‘ of people. The ‘innermost sense‘ of man, whether we call it heart or soul, or ‘conscience‘, is so great that through it man can ‘grasp‘ God with all His greatness and other attributes. God cannot be contained by the heavens and earth. Minds cannot comprehend Him. Philosophical thoughts are by no means sufficient to reach Him. It is only through his soul or heart that a man can rise to the holy Presence of God. Therefore, it was the Prophets who purified the souls so that they could be the mirrors in which God might manifest Himself. The Prophet Muhammad is the last and greatest of these Prophets, and he left us the Qur’an and Sunna so that we can, by following them, live in accordance with the purpose for which all the Prophets were sent.
Before further elaboration on the Divine purpose for sending the Prophets, I would like to emphasize three points.
Prophets were chosen men through whom God manifested Himself
Firstly, the Prophets were far from being as some lacking in manners and sound reflection have described them. They were not, as some think, ordinary men like us. They were chosen men through whom God manifested Himself. God chose them from among people and paid great attention to their upbringing, so that during their life they would always seek to gain His approval. Like his predecessors, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, always pursued God’s good pleasure and his last words were: ‘To Rafiq al-A’la (the Highest Abode)’. ‘A’isha, Mother of Believers, gives the following account of his last moments:
I was with him during his last moments. Whenever he became ill, he used to ask me to pray for him and, expecting my prayer to be accepted through the blessing of his auspicious hand, I held his hand and prayed. During his last illness, I wanted to do the same and pray, when he suddenly withdrew his hand and said, ‘to Rafiq al-A’la!’1
Secondly, the world has never been devoid of the successors to the mission of Prophethood, who devote their lives to the dissemination of truths. They should seek what the Prophets sought, they should preach what the Prophets preached, and they should strictly follow the Prophets in performing their duties – in enjoining good and forbidding evil. By explaining the Divine purpose for sending the Prophets, I hope I will be able to shed some light on the way of those who try to lead the people along the path of the Prophets.
Thirdly, death is not total annihilation. It is only a changing of the worlds, but without completely breaking away from this one. In addition, the death of the Prophets is different from that of ordinary people. God declares about martyrs, whose spiritual degrees are lower than that of the Prophets, Say not of those slain in God’s way, ‘They are dead’, but they are alive but you understand not’ (al-Baqara, 2.154). So we should not say of the Prophets, ‘they are dead’. For this reason, the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, did not taste death in the manner we know; he only changed places and passed on into another dimension or degree of life. Those who can penetrate with their inner faculties into the dimensions other than the ones in which we live, can experience different dimensions of time and space. They can see different creatures and look into things and events from different viewpoints. We consider things and events according to the stream in which we are, but if we can rise high enough to see this stream with all its dimensions, and the scope of our sight is enlarged as we rise, then we will be able to obtain a more comprehensive capacity and standard in our judgment of everything. Thus, those who have been able to gain this capacity, while sitting among us, might also be sitting in the presence of God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, and God’s Messenger himself may now be stroking the heads of some among us. While performing prayer here with us, he may also be leading the same prayer in the Hereafter before the angels. There is a particular class of saints called abdal – substitutes – for when one of them dies, he is immediately substituted with a new one, who can see the Prophet whenever they wish. Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, a sixteenth-century scholar, once said: ‘I have seen God’s Messenger twenty-eight times while awake.’
After these introductory points, we shall explain the Divine purposes for sending the Prophets.
1. Bukhari, Maghazi, 78; Muslim, Salam, 50,51; Abu Dawud, Tib, 19.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.