The Qur'an as Scripture, Part II

Arthur Jeffery

[Part I] [Part II] [Part III] [Part IV]

In the religious thought of the ancient Near East it was well understood that a man might be the recipient of a revelation from the gods and thereby be called upon to make known to others what he had learned of the divine will. The Louvre tablets make it quite evident that at least as early as the already mentioned Urukagina, King of Lagash, we are in contact with a man who claims to have heard the voice of his god Ningirsu bidding him undertake to restore the "way of the gods." After a period of political and social upheaval Urukagina came to the throne to find the situation in his realm well nigh out of hand, and organized religion not only incapable of dealing with the troubles, but itself involved in the corruption. Officials had misappropriated estates. Judges had been imposing a tax for their personal benefit on cases coming before them. Men in positions of power were enslaving the poor. Lay officials were plundering temple revenues. Even the Chief Minister was demanding his percentage on everything that passed through his hands, while in the temples, where one might have expected better things the oracle-priests and the sacrificial priests, in spite of the fact that they were on the temple budget, were demanding private fees, and for their own benefit were deliberately encouraging senseless extravagance in the funeral ceremonies. Such things ought not to be so, and at the call of his god Ningirsu king Urukagina girds himself to a mission of reform to restore the ancient ways, the "ways of the gods."

In early seventh century Mecca affairs were sadly out of joint. Outside pressure from three great powers, Byzantine in the north and west, Sasanian in the east, and Abyssinian in the south, was forcing the Arabs in on themselves, and there was no unity among the tribes to present an effective resistance. At home the wealthy merchants were growing ever wealthier and the poor folk ever poorer. There was injustice, oppression, exploitation, and the official religion of Mecca, though its shrine was in some sense the pantheon of all Arabia, was powerless to deal with the urgencies of the situation. Then there appeared a man Muhammad, just an ordinary man, one from among themselves, who had shared as they had in the caravan trade so important for their economy, but who claimed to have heard the voice of Allah calling him to a mission to restore a "way of God" which had been forgotten. As in the case of Urukagina his reform included large measures of social and political reform, but his reforms were based on religion. In essentials his mission was an attempt to bring the life of the community in which he lived once again under divine direction as it had been in olden time.

The Qur'an makes it clear that in undertaking his mission Muhammad thought of himself as standing in the succession of that great company of men to whom God had spoken, and who, because they had received a revelation of the mind and will of God, or what they conceived to be such, felt themselves called of God to announce that revelation to men and thereby undertake the task of reform within their communities. In his preaching he often referred to the stories of his predecessors in this succession. It seems evident that he knew that he could assume in his audiences some familiarity with a number of these stories, and indeed we have a certain amount of evidence that some of these stories of men of God who had preached to their communities were known to the pre-Islamic poets.1 What Muhammad has to say about them in the Qur'an is interesting to us for two reasons, (1) because even a cursory examination shows that for him their stories follow a clearly defined pattern which obviously gives us his theory of the "messenger and his mission"; (2) because they provide another clue to what Muhammad meant when he spoke of his Qur'an as Scripture.

The two words that Muhammad used for such a messenger are rasul and nabi. Sometimes the messenger is called a mursal, but that is from the same root as rasul and in the Qur'an means the same thing. Arsala is "to send", so a mursal is "one who is sent," and rasul, "a messenger," is equally one who has been sent.

In the case of rasul we are dealing with a normal Arabic word which has been given a special religious meaning. Human messengers may bear the name rasul, as e.g. the messenger whom the king of Egypt sent to Joseph in the prison (XII.50), while the related word mursal is used of the envoys from the Queen of Sheba (XXVII.35). The celestial messengers sent to Lot have the name mursal (XV.57,61), Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that he is a rasul from Allah (XIX.19; cf. LXXXI.19), and the angels who come to take the soul at death are Allah's messengers (VI.61; VII.37/35). The parallel here with the development of meaning in the case of the Greek , and of the Jewish words shaluah, shaliah, is striking.2

Sh'liha is the terminus technicus in the Syriac-speaking Church for "messenger," "legate," and in the religious sense "Apostle." That this root RSL from which are derived both mursal and rasul was the normal South Semitic equivalent for the North Semitic root SLH would seem clear from the fact that it is used in Sabaean inscriptions for "legatus" (Conti Rossini, Glossarium, p. 242).

The development of the religious use of such a word is fairly obvious. Kings and potentates sent messengers to carry word from their presence to those whom they desired that word to reach. Such messengers heard the word from their mighty overlords, in their turn they spoke the word with authority and with expectation that it would be received and obeyed. Often they carried with them credentials to prove that they were accredited messengers, and not uncommonly they were empowered to speak warnings or utter threats of what might be the consequences if their message were disregarded. Now God was King of Kings and Lord of Lords, so at any time He might send messengers to bear His word to men. Such a messenger would necessarily have what to all intents and purposes was an audience, in which he was told the content of the message he would have to deliver and given instructions as to the people to whom it was to be delivered. In the accomplishment of his mission he would have to speak in the name of God who sent him, might prove his accreditation by showing his credentials, and might have occasion to point out the kind of vengeance God would take on such as disregarded the message sent by his mouth.

It is obvious that such a conception might have arisen independently at a number of different points in time and space, but as we study Muhammad's statements in the Qur'an with regard to the messengers and to his own place in the succession of these messengers, it becomes clear that he is following very closely a pattern of thought already well established in the religious tradition around him in the area of his mission.

The other word nabi "prophet" was not originally an Arabic word. There is a genuine Arabic verb naba'a cognate with the Akkadian nabu "to summon, call," but the word nabi in the meaning of "prophet" is a borrowing into Arabic from the Judaeo-Christian tradition.3

In the Old Testament a nabi' is not necessarily a messenger. The Canaanite Baals and Asheras had their "prophets" (I Ki. XVIII.19-40; II Ki. X.19). Abraham was a prophet though he was the bearer of no message (Gen. XX.7), and indeed all the Patriarchs were Prophets (Ps. CV.15). Miriam, the sister of Moses, was a prophetess (Ex. XV.20), and when the Spirit of God happened to fall on quite ordinary men such as Saul's messengers (I Sam. XIX.20) they might prophesy. It seems that in ancient Palestine the nabi' was primarily associated with the cult and would normally be expected to have close associations with some shrine.4 The well-known gloss in I Sam. IX.9 shows that the nabi' was known to belong to the fraternity of what we should call the "diviners".5 The passive sense of the word would thus seem to be the original,6 i.e., the nabi' was one who "was called" and then acted in response to the call. The call was not necessarily by a voice. Some happening at the shrine; some seemingly fortuitous occurrence in life as it went on around him; some peculiarity in the casting of the lots or in the consulting of the omens; some sudden "falling of the spirit" on him, or it might even be just the sense of the shaping of political or social crises around him in his environment would call him and he would respond.7 The response was not necessarily the delivering of a message. Abraham heard the call and his response was to go out on his venture of faith. Miriam heard the call and her response was to lead the song and dance in an expression of thankfulness for deliverance. Indeed, in his Dalalat al-Ha'irin Maimonides considers that the stories of the judges and the leaders who succeeded them are rightly labelled "Former Prophets" in the Hebrew Bible, for these were the men who heard the call and responded by delivering their country from oppressors, intervening to prevent injustice, and labouring to establish the well-being of the community. That is, in their way each of them responded by an effort to establish the "ways of God."

The response, however, might well be the delivery of a message. The prophet Gad gave David a message for his direction before he was king (I Sam. XXII.5), and the prophet Nathan gave him messages after he was king (II Sam. VIII.3 ff.) Deborah the prophetess seems to have given messages of counsel to the people as she judged Israel from her seat under the palm tree (Judg. IV.4 ff.). Hilkiah the priest and Shaphan the scribe went to Huldah the prophetess, wife of the keeper of the king's wardrobe, for the express purpose of getting a message with regard to the find they had made in the temple (II Ki. XXII.14 ff.). Even more explicitly we read of the message given in "the word of the Lord" to a prophet, as e.g., to the unnamed prophet in Judg. VI.7 ff. in the days of distress under the Midianites, or to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha king of Israel (I Ki. XVI.1-4,7,52). In later times the word "prophecy" came to be narrowed to this specific form of response by delivering a message. Still later attention was concentrated on the threats and promises contained in the message, so that prophecy tended to mean no longer the whole message of the prophet but the predictions of what doom would fall on the disobedient and what joyous triumph would be the lot of the obedient.

Muhammad as he took up his mission claimed to be both a rasul and a nabi' representing Allah as addressing him "O thou Apostle" (ya ayyuha' r-Rasul: V.41/45,67/71) and "O thou Prophet" (Ya ayyuha' n-Nabi: VIII.64/65,65/66). He assumes that the audiences know what these words mean, for more than once he gives expression to his distress that they think it amusing that he should consider himself in the succession of the ancient messengers (XXV.41/43; X.2). What then would the nabi as messenger have meant to the people of Scripture from whom his contemporaries had learned the word? A number of points immediately suggest themselves as important for our consideration.

(1) He was a source of guidance.

When there was a prophet among the people they would turn to him in moments when more than human guidance was needed with expectation that he could make contact with God and bring them a message containing such guidance.

"But Jehoshaphat said: Is there not here a prophet of the Lord that we may enquire of the Lord by him? And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said: Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat ... and Jehoshaphat said: The word of the Lord is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him." (II Ki. III.11,12).9

In the First Book of Maccabees we see the other side of the picture, namely the makeshift arrangements that must of necessity suffice when there is no prophet among the people to whom they may turn for needed guidance.10

(2) He would be a man subject to peculiar experiences.

The contact with God through which the message was received was commonly, if not always, a psychically disturbing experience for the prophet.11

(a) It might cause disturbances which were forced to manifest themselves in bodily reactions. The prophets of Baal in a kind of frenzy gashed themselves with knives (I Ki. XVIII.28). Saul when under the influence of inspiration stripped off all his clothing and lay naked for a day and a night (I Sam. XIX.24). The youthful attendant of the priest Zakarbaal at Byblos, as we read in Wen-Amon's narration, when he was "seized by the god" danced and began to prophesy (Breasted, Ancient Records, IV. p. 280, §570). So Ezekiel was as it were taken out of his body during the experience (Ezek. VIII.3; cf. II Cor. XII.1,4), and in the Biblical Antiquities of Philo, XXVIII.6 we read that when the Holy Spirit came upon Kenaz, as he sat among the elders, "it took away from him his bodily sense and he began to prophesy." This is the "prophetic ecstasy." The psychic experience frequently upsets the recipient. Daniel is pictured as being smitten down, overcome by the experience (Dan. X.9,15), as were Ezekiel (Ez. I.28) and Paul (Acts XXII.7) and the Seer in IV Ezra V.14,15. Commonly we read how the prophet was sore afflicted by the experience (Dan. VII.15; VIII.27; X.8; Isa. VI.5: IV Ezra V.14; Apoc. Baruch XLVIII.25; LV.1-4), which was doubtless one element in the "burden" of the Prophets (Isa. XIII.1; Nah. I.1; Jer. XXIII.33-39; Hab. I.1; Zech. IX.1).

(b) It might include visions. The passage in I Sam. IX.9 is interesting evidence of the connexion that was felt to exist between the nabi' and the Seer,12 so that we are not surprised to find Michaiah having a vision of the Lord on His throne and seeing the way in which the celestial powers were directing human affairs (I Ki. XXII.19 ff.). When Ezekiel was called to his mission in Babylonia the heavens were opened and he saw visions of God (Ezek. I.1). So Isaiah in the year that king Uzziah died saw a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne (Isa.VI.1 ff.), Amos saw Him on the altar (Amos IX.1), and Zechariah had vision of the chariots and horsemen (Zech. VI.1 ff.). Daniel tells what he saw in visions (Dan. VIII.1 ff.; X.7 ff.; XII.5 ff.), as in the later books do Baruch, Ezra and Enoch (Apoc. Baruch LIII.1; IV Ezra II.42 ff.; XIII.25; Eth. Enoch XXXVII.1 ff.). One of the afflictions of a community is when its prophets find no vision from the Lord (Lam. II.9), for people in distress turn expectantly to their prophet for a vision (Ezek. VII.26).

(c) It might include dreams.13 In Numb. XII.6 we read how God said, "If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak to him in a dream." So some of the messages reported to have been given to Daniel were in dreams (Dan. VII.1), Enoch saw dreams (Eth. Enoch LXXXV.1), as did Ezra (IV Ezra XI.1). Jeremiah reports how the prophets of his day used to come forward with their message saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed" Jer. XXXIII.25, and cf. verses 28,32). Just as it was the descent of the spirit of God which caused the prophetic ecstasy, it was a similar descent of the spirit which caused such dreams, as the Chronicle of Jerahmeel XLII.8 tells us in connection with the dream of Miriam the sister of Moses.

(3) He would be a preacher.

The message had to be delivered. When it was a simple message as a word of God about some specific matter it might be delivered in a sentence or a few sentences. The message of Gad to David in I Sam.XXII.5 was in three brief commands. The message of the prophet to Ahab concerning the army of the Syrian Benhadad was in three sentences (I Ki.XX.13,14). Michaiah, however, preached a little sermonette to the monarchs and their court when he was sent with his message (I Ki.XXII.19 ff.). Jonah was sent to preach (Jonah III.2). Amos preached his message to "all the house of Israel," and the "burdens" of Habakkuk and Nahum as well as the messages of the Second Isaiah and Jeremiah were sermons in the true sense. It was thus natural that at a later time the office of the prophet should be thought of as in a special sense that of a preacher, "And Thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of Thee at Jerusalem" (Neh.VI.7). So we find that Noah is described as a "preacher of righteousness" (II Pet. II.5. cf. Josephus Ant. I.iii, 1), Solomon was the preacher who was king over all Israel (Eccl. I.12), and in the Apocalypse of Abraham we find the Patriarch delivering a sermonette to his father Terah, much as Enoch is represented as preaching to his children (Slav. Enoch LVII ff.). In the Apoc. of Baruch the elders are specially assembled that Baruch may preach to them, and Moses, the Rabbis say, preached and expounded the Torah in seventy languages (Ginzberg, Legends of the Jews, III.439).

Since the message was from God the prophets preached what they claimed was a word from God (Jer. XXIII.16; XXVIII.18; XVIII.12; XXXlV.8; Ezek. XXIII.1; Hos. IV.1; Dan. IX.6: Hag. II.1; Zeph. I.1; Amos. VII.16; Apoc. Baruch XIII.2). Jeremiah in telling of his call says that the Lord put the words into his mouth (Jer. I.9; XV.19 and cf. XXXIV.8). Ezekiel contrasts his message as the word of the Lord with that of many contemporary prophets who but prophesied out of their own hearts (Ezek. XIII.2). The common complaint against the false prophets was that they prophesied although the Lord had not spoken to them (Jer. XXIII.21; Ezek. XIII.3,6-9), therefore their prophesying is called prophesying lies (Jer. XIV.14; XXIII.25; XXVII.9; Ezek. XXII.28), so that they are "prophets of deceit" (Jer. XXIII.26: Lam. II.14; Zeph. III.4), who lead the people astray instead of guiding them (Micah III.5). Since the message is the word of God the true prophet is under a sense of compulsion to speak the word that has been given him. This appears quite clearly in Jer. I.4-10, and was given its classical expression by Paul in I Cor. IX.16, "for necessity is laid on me; yea, woe is me if I preach not the gospel."

(4) He might be a quite unexpected person.

Though in ancient times the prophets were generally attached to the shrines, and there was even a sort of "order of prophets" among whom men would naturally expect the gift of facility in making contact with the divine and bringing the message, yet the "spirit of God" might fall on any ordinary man at any time and cause him to prophesy. The story of Saul tells how at one time the spirit of God came upon him so that he prophesied among the prophets (I Sam. X.5-13. cf. I Sam. XIX.20-24). Amos told Amaziah the priest that he had been no member of any order of prophets, nor the son of a prophet, but a simple herdsman when God called him, taking hold of him and saying: "Go, prophesy to My people" (Amos VII.14,15). The most unexpected person, the most unlikely person,14 might at any time anywhere be "taken hold of" by God to serve as His messenger to preach His word.

(5) He might be expected to record his message.

Though the earlier prophets seem to have written nothing the later prophets were writing prophets who set down their message in a more permanent form. Habakkuk was expressly commanded to write his message (Hab. II.2), as were Jeremiah (XXX.2; XXXVI.2) and Isaiah (VIII.1). Since Daniel is told to seal up the scroll (XII.4) it would seem that he also had been bidden write his message. As this tradition of written prophecy gained authority there was a tendency to suggest that the earlier prophets had also written their messages along with accounts of the events amidst which they sought to carry out their mission. Thus in I Chron. XXIX.29 we read of books of Samuel, Nathan and Gad, in II Chron.XII.15 of books of Shemaiah and Iddo (cf.XIII.22), and in XXI.12 Elijah is pictured as writing to Jehoram. From this it was only a step to the idea that to every prophet must be ascribed a book, so that, presently, since all the Patriarchs were prophets, we begin to find references to Books bearing the names of Noah, Lamech, Enoch, Seth, Abraham, Joseph and even of Adam.

(6) He might be an unpopular person in the community.

The preaching of the prophets who as preachers of righteousness sought to restore the "way of God" among men was by no means always popular with the privileged and powerful in the community. We read of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada that the spirit of the Lord came upon him so that he prophesied but the powerful conspired against him and stoned him (II Chron. XXIV.20,21). The prophet sent to Amaziah had to hold his peace lest he be smitten (ibid. XXV.16). In the days of Jezebel's power in the land Obadiah had to save a group of prophets from slaughter by hiding them in a cave till the storm of persecution was over (I Ki. XVIII.4,13).

Elijah himself had to flee from Jezebel who threatened his life (I Ki. XIX.2-4). Ahab king of Israel tells Jehoshaphat plainly that he hates Michaiah the prophet and only unwillingly brings him in for consultation, and then when Michaiah tells the kings the truth a courtier smites him in the face and the king has him sent to prison (I Ki. XXII). Jeremiah was often in prison because of his message (Jer. XX.2; XXXII.2; XXXVII.15) and Jesus mourned over Jerusalem the city which killed the prophets and stoned those sent to it (Matt. XXIII.37. cf. Neh. IX.26). Even as early as Amos we hear the complaint that when God sent prophets the leaders of the people forbade them to prophesy (Amos II.12; VII.12-16). In this rejection by the people the messengers shared the fate of the prophets:

"And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because He had compassion on His people, and on His dwelling-place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought upon them the King of the Chaldees" (II Chron. XXXVI.15-17).

It will already have been noticed how closely all this corresponds with the picture we have in Qur'an and Tradition of Muhammad as prophet. He claimed to come with "guidance" (XVII.94/96; V.15/18; XXVII.2), and expects the people to turn to him for the solution of their perplexities (II.189/185-217/214,222; V.4/6; LXXIX.42; XVII.85/87 and cf. IV.59/62,65/68; XXIV.48/47). The accounts of his ministry all mention the strange physical and psychical disturbances to which he was subject and which he associated with his reception of messages from Allah.15 Tradition says that his revelations began with veracious dreams,16 and there are Traditions recording his statement that certain classes of dreams belong to prophecy.17 Sura LIII.1-18 is an account of one of his visions, and the famous Mi'raj story recounts his vision of heaven and hell. Over and over again he announces that he has been sent to preach both good tidings and warnings (XI.2; V.19/22; VII.188; II.119/113; XXXIV.28/27; XXXV.24/22). What he has to preach is Allah's word (Kalima, XLII.24/23; X.82; XI.119/120; VI.115; XVIII.109), and so he is under constraint to deliver the message (X.16/17). That he was an unexpected phenomenon when he appeared as a messenger is clear both from the attitude of his contemporaries towards him (XLIII.31/30; X.2; L.2; XXXVIII.4/3; XXV.41/43), and from his own statement that he was only a messenger from among themselves (III.164/158; IX.128/129; LXII.2). That his preaching was highly unpopular with the groups in power and authority in his community hardly needs illustration. Finally there is his insistence that he has a Book from Allah (XLII.17/16; VI.114; III.3/2; IV.105/106).

To every prophet a Book, therefore Muhammad must have a Book. Here again it is clear that he has taken over from the religious tradition in his environment not only a theory as to the nature of Scripture but also a theory of the prophetic office in connection with which Scripture comes to men. Let us look therefore a little more closely into what the Qur'an reveals of his own thinking about that prophetic office to which his experience had led him to feel that he had been called.

Apparently he made no special distinction between the two names rasul and nabi. The later theologians made a definite distinction between them, taking nabi to be a word of wider significance than rasul. They spoke of a very great number of prophets, perhaps as many as 124,000, who while they exercised the prophetic office had no particular message, whereas the messengers were a smaller number, each of whom was given a special risala. Thus for them every rasul would be a nabi but not every nabi a rasul.18 The Qur'an does not support such a distinction.19 If anything the Quranic evidence would seem to point the other way and suggest that the nabi was the narrower term, the prophet being a special class among the messengers. In this Muhammad would be following the older usage for in the Old Testament the prophet appears as a messenger of a particular kind.

He speaks of himself as both a rasul (II.101/95) and a nabi (VII.158). Like those of old he was "sent" (III.144/138) in order to announce (nabba'a, XV.49), and to preach (bashshara, XXXIII. 47/46), so that he is both a bearer of good tidings (bashir, XI.2) to those who heed the message, and a warner (nadhir, XVII. 105/106) to those who disregard it. Thus he stands in the succession both of the ancient warners (LIII.56/57; XXVII.92/94), and of the previous messengers (II.252/253 ff.), and feels bidden to declare to his contemporaries, "I am Allah's messenger to you all" (VII.158/157). His message is in his Qur'an. It is the Qur'an he is to preach as his good tidings (XIX.97), and it is by the Qur'an that he is to warn (VI.19,92; XIX.97; XXV.1; XXXII.3/2; XLII.7/5) and to remind (L.45). He thus expects his Qur'an to be taken as Scripture in the same sense as the messages of earlier prophets and messengers had come to be regarded by other communities as Scripture.

What then did he know of these earlier messengers and their Books? Over and over again he reminds the Arabs that they had hitherto had no such messenger sent to them. "Nay it (i.e. the Qur'an) is the truth from thy Lord, that thou mayest warn a people to whom no warner has come before thee" (XXXII.3/2 and cf. XXVIII.46; XXXIV.44/43). For this reason he can claim that he is teaching them what neither they nor their fathers had known (VI.91), since they had so far received no book of Scripture (XXXIV.44/43; XXXV.40/38; LXVIII.37). He challenges them to produce Scriptural evidence in support of their religious practices if they think that they are in "the way of God" (XXXVII.157; XLVI.4/3 and cf. XVIII.5/4). He even represents them as complaining that had Allah sent them a messenger and a Scripture they might have been in the true path (XX.134; XXXVII.168,169; VI.157/158; XXVIII.47).

The point he is making in all this is that without Scripture there can be no true religion. For true religion men need accurate knowledge of God and guidance from God as to the "way of God." Such knowledge and guidance can come only by way of revelation. While it is true that the Divine Being does in a measure reveal Himself in His works (L.6-11),20 and to some extent in history (XLVII.10/11), yet His more complete and purposeful revelation of Himself has ever been through the messages He has given to those men whom He has chosen (XXI.7,25). How foolish, therefore, is it for one to venture to dispute about Allah without knowledge or guidance or enlightening Book (XXII.8). Indeed, it is precisely because revelation is essential to true religion that Satan is ever interested in interfering in this matter (XXII.52/51).

Since revelation is of such importance it is obvious that Allah would have revealed Himself in this special way very early in the history of mankind. In the text books of Muslim theology we find at the sending of messengers is thought to have begun with Adam, who was the first of the series of prophets which extended in continuous succession up to Muhammad.21 In the Qur'an itself Adam is never called either a nabi or a rasul, but we read how Allah taught him (II.31/29 to 37/35), guided him (11.38/36; XX.122/120 and cf. 123/121), and particularly how Allah chose him (XX.122/121; III.33/30), all three of which are terms which have a special use in connexion with Allah's calling of messengers. The passage (III.33/30) is particularly interesting for it mentions how Allah chose above all human beings Adam, Noah, Abraham's family and the family of 'Imran, thus placing Adam at the beginning of that series of three groups which elsewhere in the Qur'an are specially marked as those chosen for the task of bearing Allah's revelation to mankind (XXXIII.7; LVII.26,27; XXIX.27/26; VI.84-89; XIX.58/59).22

This setting of Adam at the beginning of the prophetic line is possibly a later development of thought, for there are other passages in which Noah appears to be the starter of the line of messengers. Sura LVII.26,27 23 speaks of the sending of Noah and Abraham and the appointing of the prophetic office and Scripture to be among their posterity, so that in their footsteps the messengers followed one another, and finally Jesus also. Again both IV.163/161 and X.74/75 suggest that it was only after Noah that messengers began to come in regular succession, while in XXXIII.7 we find him as the first in the list of those predecessors of Muhammad with whom Allah made strict covenant. It would be natural, of course, for a new start to be made after the flood, so that this does not necessarily mean more than that with Noah the succession was taken up again.

In any case Adam's progeny were promised that messengers would come to them (VII.35/33), and that Muhammad thought of a succession of them according to some divine plan appears clearly. "Then sent We our messengers, one after the other. Every time its messenger came to a community they treated him as a liar, so We caused them to follow in succession of one another" (XXIII.44/46 and cf. X.74/75 ff.). One such messenger has been sent to every nation (XVI.36/38; X.47/48; XXXV.24/22), and even to the Jinn (VI.130), for it was not consistent with the justice of Allah to visit with punishment any community till a messenger had been sent to warn it (XXVIII.59; XVII.15/16), and after one has been sent men have no plea against Allah (IV.165/163). For this reason the messengers are normally chosen from the members of the community itself (XIV.4), so that their message may be plain.

In His choice of messengers Allah exercises His divine prerogative and chooses whom He will (III.179/174).24 Some of them were more highly endowed than others, and some He raised to higher rank than others (II.253/254; XVII.55/57), but they are all His servants (XXXVII.171; XVI.2; XIV.1 1/13; XL.15). His sending them is an act of mercy (rahma) on His part (XLIV.6/5), and He desires that men make no distinctions among them (II.136/130,285; III.84/78; IV.152/151).25 They are always humans (XXI.7,8; XVI.43/45; XVII.93/95 ff.; XIV.11/13; XII.109), performing normal human actions such as eating and going about the market places (XXV.20/22) and having wives and children (XIII.38). This apparently excited comment from Muhammad's contemporaries, for there seems to have been some idea abroad that this bringing a divine message ought to have been the task of angels rather than men (XXV.7/8,21/23; XV.7; XVII,92/94; XI.12/55; VI.8,9,91,111). Muhammad apparently felt the pressure of this objection so much that he represents the same objection having been raised against Noah by his contemporaries (XXIII.24; XI.31/33), and by the peoples of 'Ad and Thamud against their messengers (XLI.14/13). Since the messengers, however, are but humans, they are not to be taken as Lords (III.80/74), yet are to be obeyed (IV.64/67) as those to whom Allah has given authority over what He wills (LIX.6).

Having chosen His messengers Allah enters into a covenant with them (XXXIII.7; III.81/75). On His part He gives them a revelation of Himself which makes clear to them His uniqueness (XXI.25), promises them His aid (XL.51/54; X.103),26 and His guidance (VI.90; XIX.58/59), and of course gives to them the message, His "word" which they are to deliver (XXXVII.171). They on their part undertake the task of delivering the message (V.67/71; VII.62/60,68/66,79/77),27 firmly enduring in spite of all opposition (XLVI.35/34; VI.34), bearing witness (LXXIII.15), setting forth Allah's signs (XX.134), and asking no recompense from men since their reward is from Allah (XXXVI.21/20). They are to expect opposition to their mission (XXV.31/33; VI.112), and to be made mockery of (XLIII.7/6), but on the great Judgment Day all men will have to face questioning on how they responded to the messengers sent them (XXVIII.65; VII.6/5),28 and it will then become apparent that Allah and His messengers finally prevail (LVIII.21; XXXVI.52).

In connection with this idea of a "covenant" with the prophets Muhammad uses a number of technical terms.

(1) There are first of all the two words he uses for the covenant itself, viz. mithaq and 'ahd, both of which were in secular use but which lent themselves to use in a technical religious sense. (a) mithaq is related to the verb wathiqa "to put trust in anyone," which is used in the III. Form to mean "to enter into a compact or treaty with anyone." So mithaq is a "covenant" or "treaty" entered into in such a way. It is used in the Qur'an in its secular sense with reference to compacts between humans (IV.21/25,90/92,92/94; VIII.72/73). In its technical sense, however, it is used only in connection with messengers and their communities. Most often the mithaq is that between Allah and the Children of Israel (II.83/77,84/78,93/87; V.12/15,70/74; VII.169/168),29 but Allah also had one with the Christians (V.14/17), and indeed with all the people of Scripture (III.187/184). It was because of the covenant that messengers came to the Children of Israel (V.70/74), and part of the covenant was that they should believe in the messengers and help them (V.12/15), but they broke the covenant30 and killed the prophets (IV.154/153 ff.). The communities, however, come into the covenant relationship only because of their prophets, for Allah's strict mithaq is really with those whom He sends (XXXIII.7). But when they have come into this covenant relation and have received Scripture through their prophet, they, like their prophets, are under covenant obligation to spread the message and labor to establish the "way of God" (III.187/184; XIII.20-25; II.27/25; V.12/15). Since Muhammad claims to have a place in the prophetic succession he also is under the mithaq (XXXIII.7),31 and so consequently is his community (LVII.8).

(b) 'ahd is related to the verb 'ahida "to enjoin," "to stipulate," which in the III. Form is used to mean "to make a covenant with." It is used in the Qur'an of covenants among men (II.177/172; III.76/70; XXIII.8; XIII.20; XVII.34/36; LXX.32), of Muhammad's compacts with his contemporaries (XXXIII.15,23; II.100/94; IX.12), and of covenants men might make with Allah (XIX.78/81,87/90). In this last case the word has already begun to take on a religious rather than a secular sense (cf. XLVIII.10; IX.75/76). It is more generally used in the Qur'an, precisely as mithaq is used, for the covenant relation entered into by communities with Allah through the messages sent to them by the messengers.32 It is in this sense that Allah is said to be faithful to His covenants (IX.111/112; II.80/74), that there is reproof for the ancient communities because Allah found them not following their covenant (VII.102/100), and men are reproved for their evil ways since it was enjoined on them in their covenant not to serve Satan (XXXVI.60). It was in this sense that some among the audience answered back to Muhammad and told him that their covenant with Allah bade them accept no messenger unless he presented a sacrifice which fire from heaven devoured (III.183/179).

(2) In VI.189 after a list of the messengers who in times past had had the covenant with Allah and had been sent to their communities, we read: "these are they to whom We gave the kitab, the hukm and the nubuwwa."33

(a) Kitab, as we have already seen, is the normal word for Scripture, so it is clear that the message, the "word" (kalima) of XXXVII.171, is thought of as connected with the Book. It is true that we are not expressly told of each messenger or prophet mentioned in the Qur'an that he had a Book, but we have the general statement that when Allah sent prophets to announce good tidings and to warn, He sent down Scripture with them (II.213/209; XXXV.25/23; XL.70/72; LVII.25).34 This Scripture was given them bi'l-haqq that they might decide among the people on matters wherein they differed (II.213/209). Furthermore, LVII.26 states that it is particularly the progeny of Noah and Abraham who are concerned with the receiving of Scripture (cf. IV.54/57) and we have already noticed that these are the families specially associated with the gift of prophecy.

The kitab is given to the chosen messengers by revelation (IV.163/161; XXL.7,25; XVI.43/45; XI.36/38; XIV.13/16; XII.109). The mechanism of revelation we shall have to investigate later on, the point of interest at the moment is that the terms used for Allah's process of revealing His message to His messengers are precisely the same as those used for the revealing of Scripture.

(b) hukm in this connection means "jurisdiction." The word is used frequently in the Qur'an to mean "judgment" or "decision," as when the ordinance concerning marriage with believing and unbelieving women is called a hukm of Allah (LX.10), or when we are told that no man may have part in Allah's judgment (XVIII.26/25). It may even refer to a human decision, as e.g., that of David and Solomon (XXI.78), or that of the Times of Ignorance (V.50/55). In this sense the Torah contains the hukm of Allah (V.43/47), and the Qur'an is said to be sent down as an Arabic hukm (XIII.37). Since the root HKM also develops the meaning of "wisdom," some have thought that in these latter cases we are to understand the word in this sense, that the Torah and the Qur'an contain the "wisdom" of Allah, that when Abraham prays for hukm to be bestowed on him he is praying for divine wisdom, and that when Allah bestows hukm on Joseph (XII.22), on Lot (XXI.74), on Moses (XXVI.21/20; XXVIII.14/53), on David and Solomon (XXI.79), on John Baptist (XIX.12/13) and on Jesus (III.79/73), it was a bestowal of His wisdom. This may be so. Its use along with kitab and nubuwwa in the three passages already mentioned, however, makes it more likely that when used in connection with the messengers whom Allah sent it refers to the prophetic jurisdiction.

In the ultimate sense final jurisdiction, of course, is with Allah alone (VI.57,62; XII.40,67; XXVIII.70; XL.12), so that when men differ about a matter the decision goes to Him (XLII.10/8; cf. XXVII.78/80). Yet Allah gives delegated authority to His messengers (LIX.6). They come with the truth (VII.43/41,53/51), at their coming to a community judgment is given with justice (X.47/48), and Allah expects that His messengers will be obeyed (IV.64/67).35 Their jurisdiction is associated with Scripture, for we read that the prophets among the Children of Israel gave judgment according to the Torah (V.44/48).

(c) nubuwwa is the prophetic office. Those called of Allah are "sent" (XLIII.6/5; XXIII.44/46; XLIV.5/4 and frequently).36 Their mission is twofold, they are to be announcers of good tidings and they are to be warners (II.213/209; VI.48; XVIII.56/54), the former to those who received the message, the latter to those who reject it. They are not responsible for the outcome of their mission, but only for fulfilling it (XXXIII.39) and clearly proclaiming their message (XXXVI.17/16); XVI.35/37; V.99; XXIV.54/53; XXIX.18/17). Allah knows best where to place His messengers (VI.124), and it is for Allah to make a way for the message in the hearts of sinners (XV.12; XXVI.200 and cf. XLIX.7). The message will differ in particulars according to the needs of the community to whom the messenger is sent but the one element common to all the messages was that Allah alone should be worshipped and idolatry shunned (XVI.36/38).

The messengers bring Allah's command (LXV.8), and they make known to men Allah's promises (III.194/192), but the two main functions are those mentioned above, those of

(a) warner - mundhir (XXXVII.72/70; IV.165/163; VI.48; XVIII.56/54), or nadhir (LIV.5,23,33,41) who bring to men Allah's threat (L.14/13,45) to evil doers and point to the coming judgment (XXXIX.71; VI.130).

(b) preacher - mubasshir, "announcer of good tidings" (IV.165/163; VI.48; XVIII.56/54), or bashir (V.19/22; VII.188; XI.2. cf. XII.96), setting forth Allah's signs for men to follow (XX.134),37 and teaching men Scripture (II.129/123).38

For their accreditation they bring from Allah clear evidentiary proofs (bayyinat). A bayyina may mean nothing more than something which makes clear. Allah's judgments on former peoples are a bayyina (XXIX.35/34). False gods have no Scripture which contains a bayyina (XXXV.40/38). What was revealed in previous Scriptures was a bayyina for men (XX.133), and so Muhammad's own message is referred to as a bayyina (II.209/205; VI.157/158; XXIX.49/48). The word, however, is also used for a miracle. Moses' nine miracles are called bayyinat (XVII.101/103), and Salih's miraculously produced she-camel is a bayyina (VII.73/71). So when the messengers are said to have come with bayyinat as well as Scripture (III.184/181; XXXV.25/23), and Allah declares that He has sent as messengers none but inspired men with their bayyinat (XVI. 44/46), we are justified in deciding that the bayyinat with which several messengers are said to have come (VII.101/99; IX.70/71; IX.13/14,74/75; XIV.9/10; XXX.9/8; XXXV.25/23) were the miracles they performed in justification of their mission.39 As such these miracles are also called ayat "signs" (XL.78; XXI.5; VI.109,124; XVII.59/61). The messenger does not himself choose the type of miracle he will produce, but Allah bestows the power of producing them when and how He sees fit (XIV.11/13), for such things of wonder are in the power of Allah alone (XXIX.50/49; VI.109) and may be wrought only by His express permission.

The fulfilling of the mission was no easy task. No messenger was ever sent but he was mocked at by his contemporaries (XV.1; XLIII.7/6; XXXVI.30/29). Men scoffed at them (XXI.41/42; Xl.38/40; XIII.32), treated them as impostors (LXVII.9; L.12 ff.; XV.80; X.39/40; XXXVIII.14/13; XXIII.44/46),40 argued with them to refute their message (XL.5; XVIII.56/54), thought their pretensions an example of insolence (LIV.25), taunted them that they were only human (XXXVI.15/14; XXlII.33/34 ff.,47/49; XXI.3), said they were possessed (LI.52), and not content with opposing them (LXV.8), tried to lay violent hands on them (LX.5; III.183/180). The Jews in particular are upbraided for having killed the prophets unjustly (II.61/58,91/85; III.21/20,112/108,181/177; IV.155/154). The miracles they produced as evidentary signs were considered as impostures (LIV.42; XVII.59/61), or as the products of magic (LIV.2). The Satans endeavored to lead them astray from their mission (XXII 52/51), and we read that Allah appointed a special enemy to every prophet (XXV.31/33; VI.112).

We thus have a fairly clear picture of Muhammad's conception of the prophetic office of those messengers into whose fellowship he felt that he had been brought by his "call." But who were the prophets in whose succession he made claim to stand?

Nowhere in the Qur'an do we find any statement of the number and order of the prophet succession from Adam to Muhammad himself. Muhammad thought of them as a numerous body. Sura XLIII.6/5 reflects on how many a prophet Allah had sent to those of old, and Moses is represented as bidding the Children of Israel remember Allah's goodness in appointing prophets to be among them (V.20/23, cf. 32/36), a statement which assumes that there were a number anterior to Moses.41 That others were raised up later than Moses is clear from (II.87/81), and it was in the footsteps of these that Jesus walked (V.46/50)). The Ahl al-Kitab, i.e., the Jews and the Christians, know about these messengers (XXI.7; XVI.43/45), and think that the succession has already reached its end (V.19/22). Muhammad knows that though he his learned about the stories of a number of them yet there are some about whom he has no information (XL.78; IV.164/162). No list that we could derive from the Qur'an would thus be, even for Muhammad, a complete list, but such lists as we find are highly significant for our attempt to understand what the prophetic office meant to him.

The earliest passage which provides such a list is Sura XIX, where we have the stories of a number of messengers whom Allah chose and guided and sent. In this appear Zechariah and his son John Baptist, Jesus, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Ishmael, Idris and Noah. In II.136/130 we have mention first of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and "the Tribes,"42 as those to whom a message had been "sent down," and then Moses, Jesus and the prophets as those to whom something had been given. This list is repeated in III.84/78. In III.33/30 is the list of those whom Allah "chose" for his special service, namely Adam, Noah, Abraham's family and 'Imran's family,43 all of whom are in family succession from one another. Sura LVII.26,27 makes the succession start with Noah and Abraham, then the messengers followed in their footsteps and finally Jesus in those of the messengers. The list in IV.163/161 also begins with Noah who was followed by the prophets, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the Tribes, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, Solomon, David, and then in the next verse Moses. The longest lists are those in VI.84-89 and XXI.48/49-91. In the former we find Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Zechariah, John Baptist, Jesus, Elijah, Ishmael, Elisha, Jonah and Lot. In the latter occur the names of Moses and Aaron, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Lot, Noah, David and Solomon, Job, Ishmael, Idris, Dhu'l-Kifl, Jonah, Zechariab and John Baptist, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Finally in XXXIII.7 where Muhammad includes himself in the list of those with whom Allah made this strict covenant, the others are, the prophets, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

Apart from these lists we read elsewhere in the Qur'an of one Hud, who was sent to the ancient people of 'Ad, of Salih, who was sent to the people of Thamud, of Shu'aib, who was sent to the folk of Midian, and that is the complete list of the messengers mentioned by name in the Qur'an.44

The most obvious thing about the personages in these lists is that they are almost all Biblical characters. Many Western scholars, indeed, have endeavored to make all of them Biblical characters. Idris is generally identified with Enoch, though Torrey would make him Esdras or Ezra. Dhu'l-Kifl has been thought to be Ezekiel or Obadiah. This name, which occurs in XXI.85 and XXXVIII.48, means "he of the portion," and may be but another name for Elijah, just as Jonah, who is usually called Yunus, in XXI.87 is called Dhu'n-Nun, "he of the fish." Shu'aib has often been equated with Jethro in view of his association with Midian, and with less likelihood Hud with Eber and Salih with Salah the father of Eber. In any case Muhammad's tradition about the succession of messengers would, as far as the lists go, quite clearly derive from the Jewish and Christian groups of his day. What is more striking, however, is that when we examine in detail the pattern of his teaching about these messengers and their mission we are at every point taken back to these same groups.

1. The Patriarchs as Prophets.

To us it seems a little strange to consider Adam as a prophet, but Clement of Alexandria commenced the prophetic line with the father of mankind, regarding him as a prophet "who spoke prophetically with regard to the woman and in the giving of names to creatures" (Strom. I.21). This was a notion he derived from Jewish sources45 for it occurs in Philo's Quis Rer. Div. Haeres, 51, in the Seder Olam Rabba, XXI (ed. Ratner, p. 91) and the Zohar I. 125 a. Origen repeats it in De Principus, I,iii,6 (ed. Koetschau, V.58) and In Cant. ii (ed. Lommatzsch, XIV.418), and it is often referred to in the later literature.46 It was doubtless under the influence of this idea that the various "Books of Adam" later came into circulation. Jewish sources similarly stress the prophetic activity of Noah (Jubilees, VIII.18; Seder Olam Rabba, XXI, ed. Ratner, p. 92; Philo Quis Rer. Div. Haeres, 52), and in this are followed by Christian writers (Clem. Alex. Strom I.,21; Theophilus ad Autol. iii,19), so that it is not surprising that we find "Books of Noah" in circulation.47 Clement of Alexandria in the passage above quoted adds Abraham, Isaac and Jacob among those who prophesied, apparently reproducing an earlier Jewish idea that all the Patriarchs were prophets and consequently had books.48

2. The Covenant with the Prophets.

That God had a covenant with the Patriarchs is a notion fundamental to the theology both of the Old and of the New Testaments. The covenant with the prophets as a body was but an extension of this, an extension which may very well have been suggested by the fact that Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus, whom XXXIII.7 specially mentions in connection with Allah's strict covenant, are all figures prominently connected with covenant relations in the Scriptures of the older religions.49

The illuminating passage with regard to this covenant is Sura III.81/75. There we read of a particular occasion on which Allah laid on the prophets as a whole the covenant obligation that in return for His giving them Scripture (kitab) and wisdom (hikma) they would promise that when a messenger came confirming what they had from Him they would believe in him and aid him. That was the condition on which they were to take up their task, and when they assented Allah promised that He would be with them. Obviously Muhammad is here referring to his own claim to be in the prophetic succession. He is the one who comes "confirming" what was sent to the earlier messengers,50 and verse 85/79 expressly links this passage with his religion of Islam. On the surface it would seem absurd that the prophets, who were all dead long before Muhammad was born, should be called on to make a promise that when he did appear they would believe on him and aid him, so the Commentators have had to work out ingenious theories to explain that covenants with prophets included their followers, or that "prophets" in this passage does not mean the actual prophets but the descendants of the prophets, or that here it means the Jews, since they claimed that the gift of prophecy was found only among them.51 The fact, however, is that in this verse we have a reflection of the popular Jewish legend that all the Patriarchs and the prophets were assembled at Sinai, both those who had been and those who were to come to witness the giving of the Torah to Moses, since the Torah was the great covenant of God with His people,52 and there Moses is told that the perfect successsor he desires will not come till the end of time when he will come as Messiah.53

Now Sura II.129/123 speaks of Abraham praying that Allah would raise up among the Arabs a prophet who would rehearse to them His signs, teach them the Scriptures (kitab) and wisdom (hikma) and purify them. Muhammad's claim is that he is the answer to this prayer, since he is the Arab prophet sent with an Arabic Scripture to warn Mecca and the places thereabout (XLII.7/5). Consequently he claims that his coming was foretold in previous Scriptures (VIl.157/156; LXI.6)54 that he is in a particular sense in the Abrahamic succession (III.68/61),55 so that he is the one who has the kitab and the hikma (IV.113), who has come to purify them (LXII.2; II.151/146; III.164/158). This is conclusive evidence that he has heard of this Messianic expectation56 among the People of the Book, and being convinced by his own experience of a call that he is to bring to his people the religion of the Ahl al-Kitab, he identified himself with this expected figure, and so included himself in XXXIII.7 among those under the prophetic covenant.

3. The Prophetic Succession.

That God, before sending chastisement upon the nations, gives them due warning by the mouth of His messengers, is clear enough from the messages of the Old Testament prophets. That there was a planned succession of such messengers was a later idea. The basis for it is in the Old Testament. There we find that such a prophetic order was not confined to the Children of Israel. God raised up prophets to bear His message also among the Gentile peoples. The most famous of these in the eyes of the later Rabbis were Balaam and Job57 and his friends. Nor was the mission of the Jewish prophets confined to their own communities for Jonah was sent to Nineveh, Obadiah to Edom, and the messages of the greater prophets were often enough addressed to the surrounding nations. Later Jewish piety was anxious to confine the prophetic gift to its own people, so that on the one hand we find attempts to show that the Gentile prophets were somehow connected with the Israelitish community, and on the other hand, the theory worked out to show how the gift was withdrawn from the Gentiles and after the death of Moses was confined exclusively to Israel.58 Nevertheless God's message through His prophets was intended for the seventy Gentile nations also, so the Torah was written out in their seventy different languages,59 was interpreted by Moses in seventy tongues,60 while the prophets preached their messages in seventy languages.61 There was also an idea of some plan of a succession among the prophets, for the Rabbis told how Adam was shown the series of prophets who should come each in his generation.62

The universal outreach of the messengers appeared again in Christianity, for Jesus in the Gospels sends out the Seventy to preach his message (Lk. X.1,17). Early Christian legend delighted to elaborate on the missionary activity of the Seventy as they moved out into the various lands allotted to them as the scene of their labors.63 In consideration of the gift of tongues at Pentecost it was taken for granted that they would be able to preach in the various tongues of the peoples to whom they were sent. These apocryphal Acts of the Apostles were widely read among the adherents of the Eastern Churches,64 so that Wensinck, The Muslim Creed, p. 203, has suggested that it was from them that Muhammad learned the idea of a messenger being sent to each people. A much closer parallel with the Quranic teaching on this matter is that of Mani, who not only sent his apostles as messengers to the peoples of the surrounding countries, but himself in his address to the Sasanian monarch Shapur I in his Shah purqan, as quoted by Biruni (Chronologie, ed. Sachau, p. 207), said:—

"Wisdom and mighty deeds have always been brought to mankind by messengers coming from time to time from God. So in one age they were brought to India by the messenger named Buddha, in another by Zarathushtra to Persia, in another by Jesus to the West. So now this revelation has come down, this prophecy in this last age, through me, Mani, the messenger of the God of truth to Babylonia."

4. The humanness of the Messengers.

It is curious how often the Qur'an mentions men's expectation that a messenger from God ought to have been an angel (XVII.92/94,94/96; VI.8,9; XXIII.24), against which expectation Muhammad feels the necessity of constantly asserting that they are always humans (XXI.7,8; XXV.20/22; XVII.93/95-95/97; XIV.11/13; XII.109; VII.35/33), though of course Allah can choose His messengers from among angels or men (XXII.75/74), and angels do mediate revelation (XVI.2). This expectation of angels as messengers may have something to do with the fact that Heb. mal'ak and Aram. mal'aak, like the Gk. , are both "messenger" and "angel." Yet there is also the fact that angels as God's messengers to bring messages and revelations are well known in both the Old and the New Testaments. It was an angel who came to the wife of Manoah (Judg. XIII.2 ff.), angels came to Lot (Gen. XIX), one to Gideon at Ophrah (Judg. VI.11 ff.), and it was Gabriel who appeared both to Daniel (Dan. IX-XII) and to the Virgin Mary (Lk. I.30 ff.).

The prophets of the Old Testament, however, were men with human imperfections and limitations. They were sent (Jer. XIV.15; XXIII.21,32; XXIX.19; Ezek. II.3; Isa. VI,8; Jonah III.1-3; Chron. XXXVI.15), just as Muhammad insists that prophets are sent (XLIII.6/5; XXIII.32/33 etc.). Also as Muhammad insists they are in the Bible always servants (Jer. XXIX.1-9; II Ki. IX.7; XVII.13,23; XXI.10; XXIV.2; Ezra IX.11; Amos III.7; Dan. IX.6; Ezek. XXXV1II.17; Jer. VII.25; XXV.4; XXXV.15), in whose mouths God has put His word (Jer. I.9; XXIII.16; Zech. VIII.9), that may warn (Jer. VI.10; XLIV. 4-14; Ezek. II.1-7; III.18,19; IXXXIV,XXXV; Acts XX.31). They give good tidings (Isa. XL; XLI.27; LV; LX-LXII; Nah. I.15),65 they even reveal where necessary God's secret knowledge (Amos III.7). Their utterances, because they are human and deal with human situations, commonly make use of parables (Ezek. XXIV3; XVII.2; XX.49 [in the Heb. XXI.5; Lk V.36; Mk. IV.13] where the Heb. word mashal and the Aramaic word underlying the Gk. are precisly the mathal used in the Qur'an for the similitudes employed by Allah's messengers. Indeed we learn from Hosea XII.10 (11) that similitudes were to be expected from prophets, who are always sent in the language of their own people (Ezek. III.5,6).

5. The Accreditation of the Messengers.

We have already noticed that some of Muhammad's audience averred that they could credit no messengers who did not cause fire to descend from heaven on a sacrifice (III.183/179). The reference is usually taken to be to the Elijah story of I Ki. XVIII, though the same idea is present in the Gideon story in Judges VI.17-24. In any case it is sure evidence of the presence in that audience of conceptions derived from the Old Testament, and since the Meccans seem to be well aware that all the messengers of old produced signs (XXI.5; VI.124), it would seem that the Ahl al-kitab of Muhammad's day had made so much of the miraculous in association with the messengers that when folk heard Muhammad claiming a place in the prophetic succession they immediately demanded a miracle as his credential (XX.133; XXI.5; XVII.90/92 ff.; X.20/21; VI.37,109).66 To this his answer is that when such signs were granted to the peoples of old they did not believe in them (XVII.59/61; cf. VI.109). This demand was no new thing. When Jesus was preaching his Gospel he was asked: "What sign shewest thou, that we may see and believe thee? What workest thou?" (Jn. VI.30, cf. Matt. XII.38; XVI.1; Lk. XI.16). Such a request was not unnatural in that audience. They had read of how Moses was given his rod for the special purpose of working with it signs in accreditation of his mission (Exod. IV.17), being told when it was given him that if the Egyptians did not believe at the first sign maybe they would at the second (Exod. IV.8). Aaron also, they would remember, had performed signs (Exod. IV.30; VII.9), and the man out of Judah in the story in I Ki.XIII produced a sign in attestation of his mission. That signs and wonders could be expected of prophets whether true or false was the common belief (Deut. XIII.1-5). Jesus warned that the false prophets who should come would show great signs such as might deceive even the elect (Matt. XXIV.24) and the Rabbis used to say that when a prophet came and began to prophesy, if he produced a sign or wonder men would hearken, but if he did not men would not hearken (Sifre Deut.XVIII 19, §177). The apocryphal Acts of the Apostles are full of stories of the miracles which the disciples of Jesus performed in attestation of their mission in the various lands to which they were sent.

Muhammad's usual word for such an evidentiary sign is aya, which is the Arabic equivalent of the Heb. oth and the Aram. atha used of the signs which in a special way were associated with God's messengers and His revelation to them.67 His other common word bayyanat is formed from the verbal stem bayyana, "to make clear," "cause to understand," the Hebrew equivalent of which is the Hiphil form hebin, used in the Old Testament in precisely the same sense, and in particular in connection with God's making clear His and purpose to men.68

6. The Reckoning with the Messengers.

It was doubtless a natural thing in the Courts of human kings that those who had been entrusted with a mission should be called on to render an account of their performance of that mission, which would suggest that the King of Kings would demand a reckoning both from His messengers and from those communities to whom they had been sent. There are two parables of Jesus (Lk. XVI.1-12 and XIX.12-26) which picture the master demanding an accounting from his stewards to whom he has committed his wealth, and in both there is an obvious reference to a coming accounting with God. The Grand Assizes at the Last Day is an appropriate place for this, so that such Quranic references as V.109/108; VII.6/5 to an accounting of this kind on the Day of Judgment might be part of any picture of the final Assizes. When we consider other passages, however, such as LXXVII.11; XVI.89/91; XXXIX.69 ff., which suggest that the accounting on the Day begins with the summoning of the prophets to bear witness,69 the parallels with aboda zara 2a - 3b are so striking that we can hardly avoid Tor Andrae's conclusion70 that both are the product of the same conception of the meaning of revelation from God and the responsibility on man's part to respond to its message when it is brought to him.

We thus come at the conclusion of our second study on the Qur'an as Scripture to the same point we reached in the first. In carrying through the mission to which he felt he was called Muhammad knew that he must have a Scripture such as the Ahl al-Kitab had, and from those Ahl al-Kitab he took over a theory as to the nature of Scripture. Scripture, however, was mediated through human messengers sent from God, the prophets to whom God had given revelation. The Ahl al-Kitab had a theory also about prophets and their mission, a sort of "Doctrine of Prophecy," and it is now clear why in such passages as XVI.43/45; XXI.7 he bids the Arabs ask the Ahl al-Kitab about the prophets. They would obviously tell the same story as he has been telling for he has taken over their pattern in this matter as he has thought out his own justification of his mission to his people.


Columbia University


1 The relevant passages are assembled by J. Horovitz in his Koranische Untersuchungen, Berlin, 1926.

2 See Rengstorf in Kittel's Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament, I, 406-434. From Epictetus Diss. III, 22 we see that was used in this sense as early as the Cynics, for they considered themselves to be "sent" to be the "messengers, intelligence officers and heralds of the gods."

3 See my Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an, p. 276.

4 See A. Jepsen, Nabi, soziologische Studien zur alttestamentlichen Literatur und Religionsgeschichte, (1934). pp. 154 ff.; 191 ff.

5 Micah, it will be remembered, complains (III.11) of the prophets who so lower themselves as to divine for money: cf. Jer. XIV.14; XXIX.8; Mic. III.6.

6 Jepsen, op. cit. p. 10; Torczyner in ZDMG, LXXXV, p. 312.

7 Good illustrations of this are given in Guillaime's Prophecy and Divination among the Hebrews and other Semites, London, 1938.

8 A suggestion that fulfillment of prediction was the mark of a true prophet is already given in Jer. XXVIII.9.

9 See also I Ki. XXII.5-28; I Sam. IX.9.

10 I Macc. IV.46; IX.27; XIV.41; cf. Ps. LXXIV.9; I Sam.III.1: Lam. II.9.

11 At times the bystanders also were affected by the psychical disturbance, though unaware just what it was that the prophet was experiencing. In the story of Daniel we read: "I Daniel alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me saw not the vision, but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide selves" (Dan. X.7). This reminds us of the experience of Saul of Tarsus on the way to Damascus, where his companions stood speechless with amazement at the psychic manifestation, though they knew nothing of the "call" it gave to him (Acts IX.7).

12 Seers are mentioned along with Diviners in the Zakir inscription, (Lidzbarski, Ephemeris für semitische Epigraphik III.8). In II Sam. XXIV.11 the prophet Gad is called David's Seer; cf. II Ki. XVII.13; Hab. I.1.

13 Deut. XIII.1 ff. does not necessarily mean that the dreamer of dreams is to be distinguished from the true prophet, though it is clear from as far back as Early Sumeria that it was thought that revelations by way of dreams might come to others than prophets.

14 E.g., the messengers from Saul in the story in I Sam. XIX.20 were as unlikely persons as one could imagine, yet on their mission to apprehended David, when they came upon Samuel and the prophets prophesying the spirit suddenly seized them also so that they prophesied.

15 Bukhari, Sahih, I.4, 389, 447; Abo Dawud, Sunan, I.392.

16 Ibn Hisham, Sira, p. 151; Musnad Ahmad, VI.153; Bukhari, Sahih, III.380, 381.

17 Bukhari, Sahih, IV.348, 350; Musnad Ahmad, I.315.

18 Sharh at-Tahawiya fi'1-'Aqa'id as-Salafiya, p. 89; Hashiyat al-Baijuri p. 135; Sharh at-Taftazani 'ala'l-'Aqa'id an-Nasafiya, p. 30 (with the super-commentaries of al-Khayali and al-'Assam on the same page); Sharh Abi Mansur 'ala ‘l-Fiqh al-Akbar, p. 26.

19 This is contrary to Wensinck, Muslim Creed, p. 203, who has transferred the later theory of the theologians to the Qur'an.

20 There is teaching ('ibra) in the phenomena of cattle (XVI.66/68; XXIII.21), in the succession of day and night (XXIV.44), in the histories of the messengers (XII.111), in the stories of the dire punishment visited by Allah on various peoples (LXXI X.26), and even in the events of the battle of Badr (III.13/11).

21 Cf. al-Jaza'iri in G. F. Pijper's De Edelgesteenten der Geloofsleer, Leiden, 1948, p. 17; Ibn Sa'd Tabaqat, I.1,26; Musnad Ahmad V.178,179; at-Tayalisi, Musnad, No. 479.

22 The fact that in XIX.58/59 the prophets are said to have been of the posterity of Adam is not significant in this connection, for it need mean nothing more than that as humans they were naturally children of Adam.

23 The Exegetes make V.25 also refer to Noah, for the "balance" mentioned in that verse they regard as our well known instrument for weighing but which was unknown to mankind till Gabriel instructed Noah in its use and Noah instructed his posterity.

24 "A big point was made of this in the later theological writings, which insisted that men might attain high positions of power, wealth, learning and even sanctity by their own efforts, but no man by his own efforts could ever attain the office of prophet. For that office Allah chose whom He would, perhaps a person of no learning or position or significance in human eyes, but whom He saw was the one best fitted to bear His message at that particular time to that particular group. It is noteworthy how often the word "chosen" (XIX.58/59) is used in connection with these messengers.

25 Apparently there were some in his audiences who wished to believe in certain of the messengers but not in others (IV.150/149). One supposes that Muhammad is referring here to those who believed in earlier prophets but refused to believe in him, but the position he consistently takes is that belief in the whole succession of messengers is what is required of men who would follow the "way of God" (II.285; III.179/174; IV.136/135,150/149,152/151,171/169).

26"Emphasis is laid on the fact that Allah always makes good His promises to His messengers (XXI.9; XIV47/48) and on how when they are in distress and despair, He comes to their aid (XII.110).

27 There is a curious suggestion in LXXII.27,28 that when Allah has revealed the message to a messenger, He sets angelic guards to see that the message is delivered.

28 There is a suggestion that a special time is assigned to the Messengers on the Day, when they will be called to a reckoning and have to give an account of their mission (LXXVII.15; XVI.89/95; XXXIX.69-71 and cf. V.109/108).

29 Some details are given of the content of the covenant with the Children of Israel (II.83/77 ff.; IV.154/153; V.12/15 ff.) which make it clear that Muhammad has in mind the Mosaic Law. This Jewish covenant is associated with revelation in II.63/60,93/87; V.70/74.

30 Which suggests that II.27/25; V.7/10 were addressed to the Jews.

31 This explains why in III.81/75 he insists that part of the covenant with the prophets was that when he appeared to preach his mission their communities should recognize his claim to be in the succession and should aid him.

32 Covenant with the Children of Israel is particularly mentioned in II.40/38,80/74, and with the Ahl al-Kitab in general in III.76/70 ff.

33 These three terms occur together again in XLV.16/15 where all three are said to have been bestowed on the Children of Israel, and in III.79/73, where it is said that it is unseemly for a man on whom Allah has bestowed kitab and hukm and nubuwwa to claim that men should worship (or serve) him instead of Allah.

34 And compare III.184/185; XVI.43/45 ff.; II.136/130.

35 This may he the meaning of the statement that Allah never sends a prophet to a people but He afflicts that people (VII.94/92; VI.42,43).

36 Two different verbs are used arsala and ba'atha, but apparently they are used interchangeably. Thus arsala is used of the sending of Moses in XI.96/99, but ba'atha in VII.103/101.

37 This is commonly referred to as "rehearsing" Allah's signs (XXVIII.45,59; XXXIX.75; VII.35/33; VI.130; II.129/123).

38 This is said to "purify" men (II.129/123).

39 This was the accepted theory of the later theologians who devoted much space to the discussion of miracles as evidentiary signs of the prophets. See Sharh, al-Tahawiya, 81 ff., Sharh Abi'l-Muntaha 'ala 'Fiqh al-Akbar, p. 31; al-Jaza'iri in Pijper's Geloofsleer, pp. 18-20; Wensinck, Muslim Creed, p. 224.

40 Cf. V.70/74; XXIX 18/17; XXXV1 14/13.

41 Since the verse 20/23 goes on to mention the appointing of kings some have thought that the reference is to the prophets and kings whom God has appointed to come in the future to the Israelites. In XL.31/32-34/36, however, we find that the Egyptian at Pharaoh's Court, who supported Moses there, is represented as knowing that messengers had been sent to early communities such as those of Noah, 'Ad and Thamud, and that Joseph had brought bayyinat to the Egyptians themselves.

42 In my Foreign Vocabulary of the Quran, pg. 57, I was inclined to favor the view that there was in this use of "the Tribes" a confusion between the twelve tribes and the "Twelve" as a name for the Minor Prophets, among whom was the Jonah who is mentioned in the Qur'an. It seems more likely, however, that it means "the Patriarchs," the twelve sons of Jacob, who in later Jewish thought were included among the prophets, and who even had a "Book," the well known Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs.

43 By the well known confusion of Miriam the sister of Moses and Aaron with Miriam (= Mary) the mother of Jesus, the latter comes to belong to the family of Imran.

44 "Two other lists should be mentioned which, though they are not strictly lists of messengers, are connected therewith for they are lists of ancient peoples who rejected their messengers. One such list is an interpolation in Sura L, where it now forms verses 12-14/13, and the other is in IX.70/71. The former lists the people of Noah, the men of ar-Rass, Thamud, 'Ad, Pharaoh, the brothers of Lot, the men of the Grove, and the people of Tubba'. The latter enumerates the people of Noah, 'Ad. Thamud, the people of Abraham, those of Midian and of the overthrown cities. The "overthrown cities" are Sodom and Gomorrah, in all probability, and so their prophet would be Lot. The "men of the Grove" are the Midianites of the Shu'aib story. Pharaoh's people, of course, had the message from Moses and Aaron. The men of ar-Rass are mentioned again in XXV.38/40, along with 'Ad and Thamud, as people of ancient times, but we have no idea who they were, nor who was the prophet Hanzala who later tradition says was sent to them. The people of Tubba' are the Himyarites of South Arabia, who are mentioned again in XLIV 37/36, but nothing is said as to their prophet, who some think is meant by the name Tubba', the people being so called because they were the people to whom be was sent. Ezra is mentioned in IX.30 and would he classed by us among the prophets, but the Muslim Commentators are doubtful whether he belongs to the prophet succession, as they are about the Luqman who appears in Sura XXXI, and the Dhu'l-Qarnain of Sura XVIII.

45 In the Zoroastrian Videvdat, ii. Ahura Mazda revealed his law to the first man Yima and wanted him to promulgate it as the first prophet, but Yima was unwilling.

46 Cf. Moses bar Kepha. Comm. de Paradiso, I .28; the Clementines Homil. III.21 (ed. Schwegler. p. 95); Excerpta ex Theodoto, 62 (ed. Casey, p. 82); Bezold, Die Schatzhöhle, p. 14 of the Syriac text.

47 Such passages as Jub. VI.35; VIII.11; X.13 connect Noah with written documents. A fragment of a "Book of Noah" is printed by Jellinek in his Bet Hammidrash, III.155-160.

48 The idea is implicit in Ps. CV.15. Cf. also Philo Quaest in Gen. I,87, and Ratner's note to Seder Olam Rabba, XXI. That they had revelation given to them is often mentioned, e.g., Mekilta de R. Shim'on, 170,171. The Apocalypse of Abraham and the Testament of Abraham are well known pseudepigraphal books, but we also have Christian apocalypses of Isaac and Jacob, and the above mentioned Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs purports to derive from the sons of Jacob. It is curious that in Test. Zeb. IX.5 we have a tradition that Zebulun possessed the writings of the earlier Patriarchs.

49 On the covenant idea see P. Karge, Geschichte des Bundesgedankens im Alten Testament, and Behm and Quell in Kittel's Theologisches Wörterbuch, II.105-137. For the covenant with Noah see Gen. IX.12; for that with Abraham Gen. XVII.7; for Moses and the covenant Exod. XXXIV.28; Deut. IX.9,11; and for Jesus as the mediator of the new covenant, Heb. XII.24.

50 II.101/95; XXXVII.37/36; cf. X37/38; VI.92; XXXV.31/28; III.3/2; V.48/52, and notice in this connection V.15/18; XVI.44/46,64/66.

51 See the Commentaries of Tabari, Qurtubi and Baidawi ad loc., and the discussion in al-Alusi's Ruh al-Ma'ani, III.184 ff.

52 It is so called in Deut.IX.9-11.

53 A simple statement of this legend may be read in Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews, III.398.

54 This latter is the famous Paraclete passage where the promise of the Paraclete in Jn. XVI.7 ff. is taken to be a prediction of the coming of Muhammad. It will be remembered that there was persistent tradition that Mani had much earlier identified his coming with the promise of the Paraclete (Fihrist, pp. 328,333; Al-Biruni Chronologie, p. 207; Augustine, C. Felice, ix; Schmidt, Manifund, pp. 55,56), and that the Montanists taught that the Paraclete had manifested himself in Montanus (Eusebius. Hist Eccl. V. 14), so that while the 01d Testament and the New Testament were for the childhood and youth of religion respectively, this new revelation through Montanus was for the maturity of religion (Tertullian, de Vel. Virg. 1; de Monog. 14; de Pudicit. 21; Gregory Naz. Orat. XII, chap.11).

55 Cf. VI.161/162; XVI.123/124; IX.113/114 ff.

56 Though there was a consciousness among the Jews that prophecy had ceased (Ps.LXXIV.9; Zech. XIII.2; Josephus C. Apion, I.8; Sanh. 11a; Tosephta Sota XIII.2; I Macc. IX.27), there was an expectation that it would appear among them again (I Macc. IV.46; XIV41; Orac. Sibyl. III.78; Test.Benj. IX.2) and the time of its reappearance would be in the Messianic age (Joel III.1; Numb. Rabba, XV), when a new Torah would be revealed (Jellinek, Bet Hammidrash, III.27-28). It will be remembered how this expectation appears in the Gospels (Jn. I.21; Lk. III.15), where Jesus is constantly spoken of as a prophet, and in the stories in Josephus of pretenders to the prophetic office with Messianic claims who all had a considerable following (Thedas: Ant. XX,V,1; the Egyptian: Bell.Jud. II.xiii,5). The more famous Bar Cochba stood in the same succession.

57 In this connection it is of interest to note that Muhammad knows of both Balaam (VII.176/175) and Job (XXXVIII.41/40; IV.163/161; XXI.83,84).

58 Numb. Rabba. XX.1; Tanhuma, ed. Buber, IV.132; Baba bathra, 15a - 15b; Mekilta, ed. Lauterbach. I, p. 4. Muhammad found the Jews of Arabia claiming this exclusive possession of revelation and for that reason rejecting his claims (II.91/85; III.73/66 and cf. II.135/129).

59 From a calculation of the progeny of Noah as detailed in Gen.X it was held that there were seventy-two (or seventy) different nations and consequently seventy-two (or seventy) languages. That the Torah was in them all appears from the statement of Sota VII.5.

60 See Ginzberg. Legends of the Jews, III.439.

61 Aggadath Bereshith, XIV (ed. Buber, p. 32).

62 Seder Olam Rabba, XXX (ed. Ratner. p. 151).

63 The material has been conveniently assembled by Lipsius, Die apocryphen Apostelgeschichten, 1884. A convenient tabulation of the various areas of their missionary activity is given by Solomon of Basra in chapter XLVIII of his Book of the Bee, the Syriac text of which was edited by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1886 for the Anecdota Oxoniensa.

64 A characteristic sample of these legends is that in the Ethiopic Gadla Hawaryat (Contendings of the Apostles), edited by E. A. Wallis Budge in 1898 a cheap edition of the English translation of which is published by the Oxford University Press (London 1935).

65 That prophets should be joyful persons was a theory of the Rabbis who held that the spirit of prophecy would come upon a Seer only when he was in a state of joyfulness. See on this Ginzberg, Legends, II.116.

66 Cf. in this connection VI.124; XIII.7/8; II.118/112; XXIX.50/49.

67 See C. A. Keller, Das Wort 0th als Offenbarungszeichen, 1945.

68 Ps. CXIX.27,34,73,135,169; Isa. XXVIII.9; Dan. VII.16.

69 Pseudo-Ghazzali, ad-Durra al-fakhira, pp. 71 ff. makes much of the scene of the prophets being called up and having to confront their respective communities. Cf. also ash-Sha'rani, Tadhkira, p. 51.

70 Ursprung, p. 69. In the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs we have the idea that the ancient worthies Enoch, Shem, Noah, Abraham, etc. rise first at the general resurrection for some sort of confrontation of their communities.

The Muslim World, Volume 41 (1950), pp. 106-134.

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