The Mission of the Prophet and
the Reality of his Prophethood

By Prof. Majid Ali Khan


      The feature of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), which has been portrayed much occasionally and most extensively by the majority of the biographers—both the Eastern and the Western—, is the battles which he fought after the great Hijrah (migration) to Madinah. As a matter of fact these battles and military expeditions were never the aim of the Prophet’s Mission. He was not sent to wage wars against the people and to force them to accept the Message brought forward by him as the Holy Qur’aan declares:

Let there be no compulsion in religion...”


      The faith accepted under coercion is not generally reliable and, most of the times, not durable, because a person who had professed a faith under threat would never be a sincere believer. He would be hiding the Unbelief under the cover of the Faith thus would be, from the point of view of Islam, among the hypocrites about whom the Holy Qur’aan says: “the Hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire (of Hell)”.

      The primary, basic and fundamental aims of the Mission of the Holy Prophet (SallallaIiu alaihi wa sallam) were to call the people towards Allaah, the One; to deliver His Message to them; to preach His Religion, Islam; to guide them towards Allaah’s commandments; and to teach them the revelations which he received from AllaAh. The Holy Qur’aan says:

"It is He who has sent amongst the Unlettered a Messenger from among themselves, to recite to them His verses (i.e. Messages), to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom, —although they had been, before, in manifest error .."


      The battles and the military expeditions took place either in self-defence or to clear the way of his call to Allaah and to remove the hindrances and obstacles put forward by the Non-believers. When the Holy Prophet called the Arabs towards Islam, they rejected his call, opposed him and forced him even to leave his native place, Makkah. Although the Holy Prophet and the Muslims migrated to Madinah, the Quraish, the Chief tribe of Makkah who opposed the very Mission of the Messenger of Allaah (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), did not give up their hatred against and opposition to them and to Islam. They did not tolerate the growing popularity of the Holy Prophet. The Quraish, who were watching with increased anxiety and hatred the growing prosperity of the Holy Prophet and the Muslims in Madinah, were determined to put down such growing strength and influence of the Muslims over there. They conspired against them and attacked them a number of times to exterminate rather annihilate them. The Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) defended their offences hence the battles and military expeditions took place.

      If the Muslims, under the guidance and leadership of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi Wa sallam). had not made Herculean efforts to protect themselves and their religion against barbarians and war-mongers amongst the Arabs, Islam would have been wiped out at its very birth. The evil effects of wars cannot be denied. They necessarily entail cruelty. At the same time peace at all costs and at any price “may result in creating and perpetuating greater cruelties with destruction of all liberties and persecution and enslavement of the weak by unchecked aggressors let loose on peaceful humanity.”

      The characteristic features of the Holy Prophet were to warn the transgressors, to give glad tidings to the Believers and to call the mankind towards Allaah:

“0 Prophet! Truly we have sent thee as a testifier (of all truth), a bearer of glad tidings, and a warner —and as the one who calls to Allaah by his permission, and a Lamp spreading Light.”


In the above verses the Prophet of Islam (SallallaAHU alaihi wa sallam) is shown in five capacities:

(i) He was sent as a testifier of all the spiritual truths which had been observed by ignorance and superstitions.

(ii) He was sent to proclaim the glad tidings of the Mercy of Allaah to those who would transgress, provided they believed in Allaah and in the Mission of His Messenger, and led a pious life.

(iii) He was also sent as a warner to those who did not stop their transgressions and who are heedless of their future to tell them that this life is transitory and that there is a future life which will bear out the results of their present deeds.

(iv) He was sent as the one who had a “right” to “call all the men to the path of Allaah” by the permission and authority given to him by Allaah. This is told significantly lest people would defy him as they had done to other prophets before him.

(v) He was sent as a light-spreading lamp to illuminate the whole world with the light of the guidance towards the path of Allaah.


      As the one who instructs the Believers in the Scripture (of Holy Qur’aan—62:2, referred to above), his mission also included the function of the interpreter of the ‘Revealed Book’. The Holy Qur’aan points out at another place:

“And we have revealed to thee the Reminder (i.e. the Qur’aan) so that thou wouldest make clear to men that which has been revealed to them and that they may give thought (to it).”

      Thus as a part of his mission it was his duty to interpret the Book revealed through him to mankind and to elucidate fully the Divine Will and purpose contained in it. “People who assert that the mission of the Prophet lay wholly in the transmission of the Qur’aan to the world, which is the be-all and end-all of religion, and that it is not necessary after it, to follow the Tradittions or the Sunnah reject, in fact” the word of God contained in the verses: “He instructs them in Scripture and Wisdom,” and “that thou wouldest make clear to men that which has been revealed to them.” The Sunnah (i.e. the Traditions) of the Prophet are but the exposition of these verses. “They make available to us a complete picture of his Prophets endeavour of teaching the Book and Wisdom and of cleansing and explaining clearly to men what is sent to them, and because of them we can profit by his mission almost to the same degree as the Holy Companions did as a result of their personal contact with him.”


      As the interpreter of Divine Will, he was Allaah’s vicegerent on this earth. The regulations and maxims he formulated were Divinely inspired, springing forth from the knowledge that had been vouchsafed to him by Allaah. It is in this respect that Allaah says about him:

“...he makes lawful to them what is good (and pure) and prohibits them what is bad (and impure) “

      Thus the aim of his mission was also to liberate man from servitude to other than Allaah, as the Holy Qur’aan says in the same verse (referred to above):

“..  and he removes from them their burden and the shackles which were on them. So those who believe in him and honour him and help him, and follow the light which has been sent down with him—these are the ones who are successful.”


In this context, Syed Qutub writes:

“A further reason is that the divine character of Islam means that it is the only path free of the results of human desires, human weaknesses and human self-interest. It is free from any attempt to gain self-interest by means of legislating for the benefit of that individual, his family, class, people or race. The ordainer of the path of Islam is God Almighty, the Lord of all mankind. He does not legislate for His own sake, or for that of one class of mankind in preference to another, one people in preference to another, or one race in preference to another.”

“Human legislation, as laid down by a ruling individual, family, class, nation or race, cannot possibly, in the light of human nature, be unaffected by the desires and interests of the legislator.”

“When the path ordained by God is that which rules human life, this defect disappears, and true, complete and comprehensive justice is obtained, that justice which cannot be reached by any human, manmade system will free it of the factors of human desire, human weakness and attachment to self-interest in one form or the other.”

“There are then lofty divine instructions for the erection of complete and comprehensive justice, untouched by human passion or consideration of relationship. God said to the Muslim community: ‘0 you who believe! Be upright before God, witnesses to equity. Let not the hatred of a people inspire you to act with other than justice. Act justly, for that is closer to piety. Fear God, for God is aware of what you do.”

      Thus one of the foremost aims of the mission of the Holy Prophet (Sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) was to preach the social justice among the people and to tell them the Divine Law which is free of all the human weak­nesses and shortcomings. At this juncture it is necessary to know the reality of the prophet because it is a prophet who tells men Divine Will and it is he who interprets it.



      There is a great difference between a common man and a prophet at spiritual level. Although a prophet is always a man as far as his physical features, habits, traits, desires, wants and passions are concerned, but as far as his spiritual level is concerned he is always guided by a special kind of Divine intuition—the Revelation or the Inspiration i.e. the “ Wahy”. Every word (and each action) of a prophet is guided by the Revelation (or Inspiration):

“Nor does he say aught of (his own) Desire. It is no less than revelation sent down to him.”

 “In Inspiration or prophetic experience, intuition is at its highest level and is directly guided by Allaah. All the inspired knowledge of a prophet, actually is a revelation.”

      Shaikh Ahmad (Mulla Jiwan) in his famous book, the Nur-ul-Anwar, defines Inspiration or Revelation as follows: “Wàhi, or inspiration, is either Zahir (external), or Batin (Internal). Wahi Zahir is divided into three classes’ (1) Wahi Quran, that which was given by the mouth of the angel Gabriel, and which reached the ear of the Prophet after he knew that it was Gabriel who spoke to him. (2) Ishrau-ul-Malak, that which was received from Gabriel, but not by word of mouth, as when the Prophet said, ‘The Holy Ghost has breathed into my heart.’ (3) Ilham or Wàhi Qalb, that which was made known to  the Prophet by the Light of prophecy.   Wahi Batin is that which the Prophet obtained by analogical reasoning (qias) just as the enlightened doctors, or Muftahidin, obtained it.”

      The Christian authors generally have mistaken Wahy with the llham while portraying the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu alaihi ~wa sallam) because “Islam is the word generally used by Christian missionaries for the inspiration of the sacred Scriptures.”

      As a matter of fact the Wahy or “a prophetic experience differs from that of a mystic one (i.e. Ilham) in many respects. Both mystic and the prophet return to the normal levels of experiences from the response of unitary experience; but with this difference that the return of a prophet, may be aught with infinite meaning for mankind and the return of a mystic does not mean much for mankind at large. The Prophet’s return is creative. He returns to insert himself into the sweep of time with a view to control the forces of history, and thereby, to create a fresh world of ideals.”

      According to A1-Ghazzali “the highest form of‘Ilm al-Mukashafah or intuitive experience is Wahy (Inspiration), which is the privilege of the prophets, and in which the messenger angel assumes a visible form before the prophet. All other forms of intuitive experience are I/ham (the mystic experience). Still lower forms in which intuitive knowledge comes to man are dreams or walking visions.”


In the Holy Qur’aan the term Wâhy has been used both in its general meaning and in its technical meaning i.e. Inspiration or Revelation. For example the Holy Qur’aan says:

“And thy Lord inspired the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations.”

It also says:

“And the Earth throws up its burdens (from within) and man cries (distressed). What is matter with it? On that Day will it declare her tidings: for that thy Lord will have given it inspiration.”

      In the above verses at one place the word “Auha” —inspiration - is used for a bee (a living thing) and at the other place it is used for the earth (a non-living being). So ordinarily “Auha :Wàhyun” means the message put into the mind or the heart: or the command or the direction conveyed to an object. (Also refer to the Holy Qur’aan: Chapt.28, Verse7; Chapt.5, Verse 114; Chapt 41, verse 12 etc.) It is also used for putting evil temptations by the Satan into his friends—refer to the Holy Qur’aan: Chapt.6, Verse 121; and Chapt.6, Verse 112. This di­versity in the usage is due to the literal meaning of the word Wahy which means: (to) inform, insinuate, suggest, tell in secret, inspire, reveal, send.a messenger, to write, hasten etc.”

      But in technical and specialised sense the term Wahy (Inspiration or Revelation) is used for the Divine Revelation or Inspiration through which only a Prophet is guided. Allaah tells the Holy Prophet in the Holy Qur’aan as follows:

“We have sent thee Revelation (Wàhy), as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him:

We sent Revelation to Ibrahim (Abraham), ‘Isma’il (Ishmael), Is’haque (Isaac), Ya’qub (Jacob), and the tribes, to ‘Isa (Jesus), Ayyub (Job), Yunus (Jonah), Harun (Aron), and Sulaiman (Solomon), and to Dawud (David) we gave the Zabur (Psalms).”

Thus Wahy (Revelation) enjoys the highest form of intuitive knowledge, which is particular only to the Prophets.


      Muslim scholars and philosophers have defined prophethood (and prophet) variously. In the ‘words of Dr. S.M. Iqbal, a prophet may be defined as “a type of consciousness in which unitary experience tends to overflow its boundaries and seeks opportunities of redirecting or refashioning the forces of collective life. In his personality the finite centre of life sinks into his own infinite depth to spring up again, with fresh vigour to destroy the old and to disclose the new direction of life.”

While describing the reality of the prophethood (Nubuwwah) Imam Fakhruddin Razi writes:

“There are two groups of people who believe in the prophethood (Nubuwwah). One of the groups considers the miracles to be the evidence for the truthfulness of the prophethood. This is the view of the people of old religion and has generally been adopted by the followers of the religions and sects.

      While the people holding the other view first of all decide the truthful and factual beliefs and such deeds which are righteous. After determining that it should be noticed that (whether) the man (considered to be a prophet) calls people towards the truthful religion (or not); and that (whether) his call has the great influence over the people in turning them from the wrong to the right (or not). (If it is so) then we will believe that he is the true prophet and he must be followed (and obeyed). This way is more nearer to the reason and has comparatively less doubts.”

He has also written under a separate heading:

“The study of the Holy Qur’aan also tells us about the second way (of thinking) to be more perfect and ex­cellent for the evidence of the prophethood.”


      Shah Waliyallah of Delhi has discussed the reality and the characteristics of prophethood in a separate chapter of his famous book, Hujjatullahil-Baligha. He writes at one place:

“When Allah determines, out of his Divine Wisdom, to send a man of understanding among the people (He does so by sending such a man) who brings out the people from the depths of darkness to the light. It becomes incumbent upon all the people to submit themselves with their hearts to him. The heavenly beings (i.e. the angels) are ordered to support his followers after being pleased with their obedience to him; and to curse those, and be separated from them, who oppose him. Allah informs people about that and asks them to obey him at all costs. Such a man is the prophet.”

He adds later on:

“.. This is the reason why the miracles (al-Mujizat), acceptance of the prayers i.e. the Duas (by Allaah), and other likewise things are excluded from the (essence of the) prophethood.”

According to Imam Ghazzali:

“The prophethood is over and above the human instinct as human instinct is over and above animal instinct. ...It is a heavenly gift which is purely bestowed by Allaah and can not be obtained by labour, work and search. He says in the Holy Qur’aan: ‘Allaah knoweth best with whom to place his message’ (i.e. whom should he select as His messenger).”

At another place he writes:

 “The acceptance of the prophethood means to accept a category over and above the intellect. Here such (internal) eyes are opened due to which one would gain the knowledge of such things which cannot be perceived through the intellect  

According to another Muslim scholar, Ibn Hazam:

“The prophethood means that Allaah sends a group (of people) who are distinguished with gifted excellence and not with an excellence which may be due to certain other reasons. Allaah teaches him without any (worldly) teachings; and he is upgraded (without any material resource) and without any demand (for that). This happens like a dream which comes true.”


      To sum up the different views it may be said that the prophethood (Nubuwwah) is the God-gifted office. A prophet is distinguished from other persons by receiving Wàhy (Revelation or Inspiration) from Allaah and all of his acts are directly guided by Him.








Qur'aan: Meaning & Explanatory


Ethics in Islam

The Prophet's Sermons

Selected Khutbat

Sayings of The Prophet (S.A.W.)



Islamic Poems

Islamic Quizzes

Colour Me

Other Islamic Links

About Us

Contact Us