Al-Nubuwwa (Arabic: النُبُوَّة) or Prophethood is a divine selection of a person to whom divine teachings are revealed in order to lead people to the path of perfection and happiness. The main features of the prophets include the reception of wahy (revelation), the power to perform miracles, and infallibility.
The necessity of prophethood and the rise of prophets is emphasized in the Qur'an, hadiths from the Infallibles (a), and theological texts. Reasons given for its necessity include giving an ultimatum to human beings, their essential need for revelations, and their need for a community. According to the Qur'an, all the prophets shared common goals, such as calling to monotheism and resurrection, pursuit of justice, teaching and training people, purification of their souls, piety, and liberating people from their burdens and shackles.
The doctrine of prophethood counts as a principle of religion, the belief in which is considered as a necessary condition of being a Muslim. In Islam, the doctrine refers to the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and other prophets referred to in the Qur'an or the Prophet Muhammad's (s) tradition. The prophethood began with Adam (a), and according to explicit verses of the Qur'an, it ended with the Prophet Muhammad (s). This belief is shared by Shi'a and Sunni Muslims. By an appeal to Quranic verses and hadiths from the Infallibles (a), the Shi'as believe that after the end of prophethood, God has selected the Imams (a) to preserve and explain the religion.
According to the Qur'an, prophethood is a divine selection of certain people to whom divine teachings are revealed in order to guide people to the path of perfection and happiness. The belief in prophethood is an essential element of Islam as well as other divine religions. The word, "nubuwwa" (Arabic: نبوّة) and its cognates in Arabic have been used to mean different things, such as giving news, heights, going out of a place, a clear path, and a secret voice.
According to the majority of scholars, there are differences between a "nabi" (Arabic: نبي, prophet) and a "rasul" (Arabic: رسول, meaning: messenger): while every "rasul" is also a "nabi", not all "nabis" are "rasuls". A "rasul" receives revelations in both waking and sleeping times, but a "nabi" only receives them while dreaming. Moreover, a revelation to a "rasul" is more transcendent than the one to a "nabi", since a revelation to a "rasul" is delivered by Jabra'il, while a revelation to a "nabi" is delivered by other angels or by an inspiration to the heart or through a true dream. However, some people take "rasul" and "nabi" to be synonymous.
In theological books, prophethood is discussed under two major sections i.e. general prophethood and special prophethood. General prophethood refers to a set of discussions addressing such issues as the necessity of sending prophets, infallibility and miracles while in special prophethood the issues about the prophethood of a specific individual are discussed including the reasons for his prophethood and his miracles.
The necessity of prophethood has been emphasized by the Qur'an, hadiths from the Infallibles (a), as well as theological texts. Reasons for its necessity include giving an ultimatum to people, as an essential need of human beings, and their need for a community.
According to Quranic verses, all prophets shared some goals, including the call for monotheism and resurrection, establishing justice, education and training, purification and piety, as well as liberating people from their burdens and shackles.
|Tawhid (Monotheism)||Tawhid of Essence • Tawhid in Attributes • Tawhid in Actions • Tawhid in Worship|
|Other Beliefs||Tawassul • Shafa'a • Tabarruk|
|Bada' • Amr Bayn al-Amrayn|
|Infallibility • 'Ilm al-ghayb • Mu'jiza • Integrity of the Holy Qur'an|
|Infallibility • Wilaya • 'Ilm al-ghayb • Occultation of Imam al-Mahdi (a) (Minor Occultation,Major Occultation) • Reappearance of Imam al-Mahdi (a) • Raj'a|
|End Time • Hereafter • Barzakh • Embodiment of Actions •Bodily Resurrection • Al-Sirat • Tatayur al-Kutub • Mizan • Hashr|
|Other Outstanding Beliefs|
|Ahl al-Bayt (a) • The Fourteen Infallibles • Taqiyya • Marja'iyya • Tawalli • Tabarri|
Prophets have certain characteristics, such as the direct or indirect reception of wahy (revelation), performing miracles to prove their prophethood, as well as 'isma (infallibility).
"Wahy" (or revelation)—the conveyance of God's words to prophets—is, according to the Qur'an, a common characteristic of all prophets, including Noah (a), Ibrahim (a), Isma'il (a), Jesus (a), and Muhammad (s). God conveys religious doctrines and orders to guide people to prophets through Jabra'il or without any mediation.
A miracle is an extraordinary act performed by prophets to prove their prophethood—such acts are the ones that cannot be done by ordinary people. Various verses of the Qur'an refer to miracles by prophets. The majority of Shiite theologians believe that miracles are directly performed by God. On the contrary, the majority of the philosophers maintain that prophets can perform miracles because of the extraordinary power of their souls.
According to Shiite theologians, infallibility is a grace bestowed by God, and according to philosophers, it is an internal power within the prophets which helps them avoid sins or disobedience of God, although they have the power to do so.
Some Shiite muhaddiths, such as al-Shaykh al-Saduq, believe that prophets become infallible from the beginning of their prophethood. According to al-Saduq, the prophet might make inadvertent mistakes ("sahw"). However, al-Shaykh al-Mufid, a prominent student of al-Shaykh al-Saduq, criticized his teacher's view, considering the theory of inadvertent mistakes to fail to acknowledge the place of prophets. Al-Shaykh al-Mufid takes the infallibility of the Prophet Muhammad (s) to be superior and more wide-ranging than that of other prophets.
The first prophet was Adam (a) who was created, together with his wife, Eve, in heaven, and was ousted from there because of eating the "forbidden fruit". And the last prophet was Muhammad (s) who was born in 570 in Mecca.
Five prophets are considered as Ulu l-'Azm, that is, they brought a new religion with new rulings. Other prophets propagated the religion of their Ulu al-'Azm predecessors. Prophets have different degrees. The Qur'an has only mentioned 26 prophets.
In most of the hadiths, the number of prophets is said to be 124000, 313 of which are "rasuls". According to other hadiths, there were 8000 prophets. According to al-'Allama al-Majlisi, these 8000 people were prominent prophets.
Some prophets had a divine book. Divine messages they received were collected in a sacred or a divine book and served as the main source for their followers to act upon. Some prophets who had a divine book include: Noah (a), Ibrahim (a) (Suhuf or Scrolls of Abraham), David (a) (Zabur), Moses (a) (Torah), Jesus (a) (Gospel), and Muhammad (s) (the Qur'an).
Khatamiyya (or Finality of Prophethood) is a theological notion and a doctrine shared by all Muslims. According to this doctrine, there will be no prophets after the Prophet Muhammad (s) and thus, there will be no new religion after Islam. The term has its origin in the Qur'an. According to the verse 40 of Sura al-Ahzab, Muhammad (s) was the last prophet.
The belief in the finality of prophethood was a widely-accepted doctrine both in the period of the Prophet Muhammad (s) and later. It has always been considered as an essential part of Islam, that is, if someone denies the finality of prophethood, then they will be excommunicated from Islam and it would be as if they have not accepted the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (s).
The Shi'as appeal to several Quranic verses and hadiths, such as Hadith al-Thaqalayn, to hold that after the end of prophethood, God has preserved the last religion—Islam—by Imams who are supposed to protect the religion. They believe that the last Imam who is still alive and lives anonymously will someday be commissioned to rule the whole world with Islam and guide the human beings to perfection.