Prophecy is a grace from God that He bestows to those whom He chooses from His servants, and those He distinguishes from His creatures “Allah chooses especially whom He pleases for His mercy, and Allah is the Lord of mighty grace.” (2:105)
Prophecy is selective and favoring. It can only be given to qualified individuals whom Allah has chosen for, because it is a heavy burden and a great entrustment that no one is capable of assuming except those endowed with constancy, just as He, The Exalted, said while addressing the Seal of the Prophets and apostles “Surely We will make to light upon you a weighty Word.”
And Prophecy can never be by force and compulsion, but rather by Allah’s selection of the best of His creatures and the elites of His servants whom He chooses to bear the burden of the mission, and whom He selects from the rest of human beings. To this God said in His Holy Book: “Allah chooses messengers from among the angels and from among the men; surely Allah is Hearing, Seeing.” (22:75).
From the prophets whom Allah has elected: “Surely Allah chose Adam and Nuh (Noah) and the descendants of Ibrahim and the descendants of Imran above the nations.” (3:33). Allah in the course of talking about some apostles says: “And most surely they were with Us, of the elect, the best.” (38:47)
Prophets and apostles do differ from wise men, leaders, reformers, and geniuses in two aspects: the first, their reception of the revelation from Allah, and the second, their communication with and warning of people. In this regard, Allah says: “He sends down the angels with the inspiration by His commandment on who He pleases of His servants, saying: Give the warning that there is no god but Me, therefore be careful (of your duty) to Me.” (16:2).
In another verse, the Holy Quran indicates by the tongue of the Prophet Mohammed (p.) when Allah ordered him to deliver to his people: “Say: It does not beseem me that I should change it of myself; I follow naught but what is revealed to me.” (10:15).
Between prophecy and the mission:
Opinions disagreed on the difference between a prophet and an apostle. Some say a prophet is the one who is sent whether he is ordered to deliver (a mission) or not. An apostle, on the other hand, is sent and ordered to deliver a mission.
Others say: prophecy may be minor to its holder who is then called a prophet, or may be associated with an assignment to correct the behavior of certain group of people in which case the assignment is said to be a mission and its holder is called an apostle. Therefore, every apostle is a prophet, but not every prophet is an apostle.
Allah said: “And mention Musa (Moses) in the Book; he was one purified, and he was an apostle, a prophet” (19: 51), also “And We did not send before you any apostle or prophet” (21:52), until He said: “so Allah raised prophets as bearers of good news and as warners” (10:213), as well as other verses that their explicit meaning imply that every envoy sent by Allah by an assignment is a prophet.
Thus it is said: a prophet and an apostle are both sent to people, yet a prophet is sent to communicate to people about what he has of the unseen (supernatural) that Allah had informed him about. Whereas an apostle is sent with a special mission added to the foundation of prophecy just as we can perceive from His saying: “And every nation had an apostle; so when their apostle came, the matter was decided between them with justice.” (10:47).
Accordingly, a prophet is the one who demonstrates to people the rightness of their subsistence and their hereafter through the religion’s principles and branches based on what Allah’s auspices has called for the guidance of people towards their happiness. An apostle, on the other hand, is the bearer of a special mission that includes the completion of a plea that, if breached, necessitates destruction or torment or the like “so that people should not have a plea against Allah after them (coming of) apostles.” (4:165).
No doubt that prophets, who came to guide humanity, are numerous, yet not all of them their names were mentioned in the Holy Quran “And certainly We sent apostles before you; there are some of them that We have mentioned to you and there are others whom we have not mentioned to you” (Ghafir: 78). As for the ones whom their names appeared in the Book, they were twenty-five: “Adam, Noah, Idris, Hud, Salih, Ibrahim, Lut, Ismail, Al-Yasha, Zulkifl, Ilyas, Yunus, Ishaq, Yaqoub, Yusuf, Shu’aib, Musa, Haroun, Dawood, Sulaiman, Zakaryia, Yahya, Ayub, Isa, and Muhammad” God's blessing and peace be upon all of them.
As for the number of prophets and apostles, narrations were dissimilar. Yet the more eminent of which is the one attributed to Abu Zar who quote Prophet Mohammed (p.) as saying that the prophets were one hundred twenty four thousand prophets, and the apostles were three hundred and twenty three apostles.
The Prophets of (endowed resolve) (Ulu al-Azm):
Of the prophets that the Quran described as “endowed with resolve” are: Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa, and Muhammad whom Allah called onhim to follow the example of his preceding prophets in their patience and struggle: “Therefore bear up as did the apostles endowed with resolve bear up with patience” (46:35). They were called as such because their resolve was very strong, their trial was immense, their struggle was arduous, and for their constancy remembrance to the strong covenant taken from them as Allah: “And when We made a covenant with the prophets and with you, and with Nuh and Ibrahim and Musa and Isa, son of Mariam, and We made with them a strong covenant” (33:7).
The Great Prophet Muhammad was the most militant, most patient, and the most sacrificing prophet: “No prophet has ever been hurt as I had”. Allah distinguished him with commendation and honoring to the extent that He had never before distinguished any prophet before him “And most surely you conform (yourself) to sublime morality” (68:4) .
The wisdom of the Almighty Allah demanded that He makes his prophets the most perfect of his humans by creation and by the nobility of character, the best and the most honorable in lineage, the most veracious by words, and their insight is acute. Allah surrounded those prophets with care and overwhelmed them with attention and guidance. He took on educating and teaching those prophets as well as to guarding them (make them infallible) from committing sins and disobediences. They were an example that guides to the right path. Their paths and memories, after their death, have turned into a lighthouse that lights up the darkness of life, and that guides to the road of conscious awareness. In this regard, Allah said: “And We made them Imams who guided (people) by our command, and We revealed to them the doing of good and the keeping up of prayer and the giving of the alms, and Us (alone) did they serve.” (21:73) If those prophets did not acquire such a level of perfection they would not have been listened to, and if they were to lie or betray they would have been abandoned.
The Prophets’ Miracles
God aided his prophets with supernatural things that were not accepted to the mind so as they could prove to those who did not believe them that they were speaking the truth.
Even though, some imagined that this was a kind of witchcraft could be learned ,that they could come up with something similar to , if they learn its rules. But they were destined to fail, for the prophets’ miracles had nothing to do with magic , being an act done by Allah, Who is capable of doing whatever He deems suitable.
The prophets’ miracles were various . Every prophet’s Miracle emitted from what was common among his people, so that it could be more supporting as well as more committing. For instance, Musa’s rod was converted into a snake that swallowed the magicians’ rods and ropes.
Some of these miracles were cosmic, such as the burst of water out of the stone when Musa struck it to supply his people with water to drink. Besides, the cloud that shaded the Children of Israel is another good example of such miracles…
Some miracles had to do with the unseen ,as when Isa told his people about what they had eaten; others were supernatural, as when the fire the unbelievers wanted to burn Ibrahim with, turned to be cold and peaceful instead.
It is worth noting that the all miracles the prophets were aided before Muhammad (p.) were addressed to a certain people in a certain time and under given circumstances. It was only natural that they would end and could only be heard about at a later stage. But this is not the case with Muhammad’s (p.) immortal and everlasting miracle, the Holy Quran, that challenged the Arab’s eloquence.
What characterizes Muhammad’s call is that his miracle is immortal as well as accessible to any researcher and truth seeker in any time and place..