Islam, as the last, universal form of the Divine religion, orders its followers to believe in all of the Prophets. Being a Muslim also means being a follower of Jesus and Moses and of all the other Prophets at the same time.
The Qur’an declares:
The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been revealed to him by his Lord, and so do the believers. They all believe in God and His angels, His Scriptures and His Messengers: ‘We make no distinction between any of His Messengers’—and they say: ‘We hear and obey. Grant us Your forgiveness, our Lord; to You is the journeying (2.285).
Since, due to their historical conditions, the messages of all the previous Prophets were restricted to a certain people and period, certain principles had prominence in those messages. Also, God bestowed some special favors on each Prophet and community according to the dictates of the time. For example, Adam, upon him be peace, was favored with knowledge of the ‘names’, that is, the keys to all branches of knowledge. Noah, upon him be peace, was endowed with steadfastness and perseverance. Abraham, upon him be peace, was honored with intimate friendship with God and being the father of numerous Prophets. Moses, upon him be peace, was given the capability of administration and exalted through being the direct addressee of God, and Jesus, upon him be peace, was distinguished with patience, tolerance and compassion. All the Prophets have, however, some share in the praiseworthy qualities mentioned, but each of them surpasses, on account of his mission, the others in one or more than one of those qualities.
When the Prophet Moses was raised as a Prophet, the Israelites were leading a wretched existence under the rule of the Pharaohs in Egypt. Because of the despotic role and oppression of the Pharaohs, slavery was ingrained in the souls of the Israelites and had become a part of their character. In order to reform them, to equip them with such lofty feelings and values as freedom and independence, and to re-build their character and free them from subservience to the Pharaohs, the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, came with a message containing stern and rigid rules and measures. This is why the Book given to Moses was called the Torah, meaning Law. Again, as a requirement of his mission, the Prophet Moses, upon him be peace, was a reformer and educator of somewhat unyielding and stern character. Therefore, it was quite natural for him to pray in reference to Pharaoh and his chieftains: ‘Our Lord, destroy their riches and harden their hearts so that they will not believe until they see the painful chastisement.’
In the time when Jesus came, the Israelites had abandoned themselves to worldly pleasures and led a materialistic life. The Qur’an (9.34) states that not only the common people but also, and more so, the rabbis and scribes consumed the goods of others in vanity and barred people from God’s way. They exploited religion for worldly advantage:
You see many of them vying in sin and enmity and how they consume the unlawful; evil is the thing they have been doing. Why do the masters and rabbis not forbid them to utter sin, and consume the unlawful? Evil is the thing they have been doing (Qur’an, 5.62-3).
A similar sentiment is to be found in the Gospels, attributed to Jesus:
You snakes—how can you say good things when you are evil. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good person brings good things out of his treasure of good things; a bad person brings bad things out of his treasure of bad things (Matthew, 12.34-5).
Take care: be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of Moses’ Law. So you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do; do not, however, imitate their actions, because they don’t practice what they preach. They tie onto people’s backs loads that are heavy and hard to carry, yet they aren’t willing even to lift a finger to help them carry those loads. They do everything so that people will see them. . . They love the best places at feasts and the reserved seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the market-places and to have people call them ‘Teacher’. . . How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. You hypocrites. . . You give to God one tenth of the seasoning herbs, such as mint, dill and cumin, but you neglect to obey the really important teachings of the Law, such as justice and mercy and honesty. These you should practice, without neglecting the others (Matthew: Chapters 23, 13, and 12).
When Jesus, upon him be peace, was sent to the Israelites, the spirit of the Religion had been dwindled away and the Religion itself reduced to a device for its exponents to rob the common people. So, before proceeding to put the Law into effect, Jesus concentrated on faith, justice, mercy humility, peace, love, repentance for one’s sins and begging God’s forgiveness, helping others, purity of heart and intention and sincerity:
Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor: The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Happy are those who mourn: God will comfort them.
Happy are those who are humble: They will receive what God promised.
Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires: God will satisfy them fully.
Happy are those who are merciful to others: God will be merciful to them.
Happy are the poor in heart: They will see God. (Matthew: 5.3-10).
As for the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, he has all the qualities mentioned above, except being the father of Prophets, and in addition, he has, because of the universality of his mission, the distinction of being like Moses, upon him be peace, in that he is a warner and established a Law and fought with his enemies, and like Jesus, upon him be peace, in that he is a bringer of good news who preached mercy, forgiveness, helping others, altruism, humility, sincerity, purity of intention and moral values of the highest degree. We should remember that the Qur’an declares that God sent the Prophet Muhammad as a mercy for the whole of creation. Again, Islam presents God, before all other Attributes and Names, as the All-Merciful and the All-Compassionate. This means God mainly manifests Himself as the All-Merciful and All-Com-passionate and His wrath and punishment are only accidental. That is, it is man himself who attracts God’s wrath because of his sins and wrongdoing. But God is the All-Forgiving and He forgives most of the sins of His servants:
Whatever misfortune befalls you, is for what your own hands have earned and for many (of them) He grants forgiveness. (Qur’an, 42.30)
The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, had the mission of both Moses and Jesus. It is evident from the historical episode we mentioned at the beginning of this article that among the leading Companions, while Abu Bakr represented the ‘mission of Jesus’, ‘Umar (may God be pleased with them both) stood for the ‘mission of Moses’. Since Islam must prevail to the end of time, it requires its followers to act, according to circumstances, sometimes as Moses and sometimes as Jesus, upon them be peace.