Islamic And Jewish Views Of God’s Prophets – OpEd


The only way humans learn about what God wants us to do is from God’s Prophets and Messengers. The Qur’an says:”There never was a people without a Warner (prophet) having lived among them.” (35:24) because “We would never visit our wrath (chastise any community) until We had sent a Messenger (prophet) to give a warning.” (17:15)

Thus, the Qur’an clearly states: “Those who believe (Muslims), those who declare (their religions to be) Judaism, Christians and Sabaeans: whoever believes in God and the last day (of Judgment) and does good, righteous deeds, surely their reward is with their Lord, and they shall have no fear, nor will they grieve”. (Qur’an 2:62)

It is narrated from Abu Dharr that one day he asked the Messenger of Allah: How many prophets are there in all? He replied: One hundred and twenty four thousand. He then asked: How many of them were messenger (who proclaim a sacred text) prophets? He replied: Three hundred thirteen from the above group. He asked: Who was the first of them? He replied: Adam…The first prophet from Bani Israel was Musa and the last of them was Isa (Jesus) and they were in all six hundred (Jewish) prophets.” (Biharul Anwar, Vol. 11, Pg. 32)

From the generation following Prophet Abraham, the generation of Prophets Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob, only two or three non-Jewish prophets are found in the pages of the Hebrew Bible; Prophets Bilam, Shu’ayb (Job) and perhaps Prophet Jethro (Yathrā). Ibn Taymiyya says that the most authoritative Companions and Successors believed that the shaykh referred to in Qur’an verses (28:22–28) was not Shuʿayb but rather Jethro (Yathrā).

Jewish tradition believes that the long period of Jewish prophecy ended about 1.000 years after Prophet Abraham lived; with the Prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, who lived towards the end of the sixth century BCE, that began with the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. 

Prophet Zachariah, who was one of the last generations of Jewish Prophets states God’s word: “On that day, I will banish the names of the idols from the land, and they will be remembered no more,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will remove both the [false] prophets and the spirit of impurity from the land. And if anyone still prophecies, their father and mother to whom they were born, will say to them, ‘You must die, because you have told lies in the Lord’s name.’ Then their own parents will stab the one who prophesies. “On that day every [false] prophet will be ashamed of their [false] prophetic vision. They will not put on a prophet’s garment of [sheep] hair in order to deceive.” (Zechariah 13:2-4)

Three and a half centuries after Prophet Zachariah, and shortly after the death of Judah the Maccabee (1 Maccabees 9:27) the Catholic Bible states, “So there was great distress in Israel, such as had not been since the time that prophets ceased to appear among them.” Without God’s prophets to challenge the Priestly bureaucracy many Priests became corrupted.   

Perhaps this is the reason most first century Jews believed Jesus was not an original prophet; but was a revived Biblical prophet: “Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man [the term Prophet Jesus preferred to describe himself] is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the [other] prophets.” (Matthew 16:13-14, Mark 8:27-28, and Luke 9:18-19)

Clearly the political establishment led by King Herod thought contemporary prophets were just  resurrected prior prophets because (Mark 6:14-16) reports that “King Herod heard [reports about Jesus] for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, “John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in [Jesus].” But others said, “It is Elijah.”  And others said, “It is a prophet like one of the prophets of old.” But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised [from the dead].” 

In Arabic and Hebrew the word nabī (Arabic plural form: أَنْبِيَاء anbiyāʼ) means “prophet”. Forms of this noun nabi occur 75 times in the Quran. In the Hebrew Bible, the meaning of navi is best  described in the Torah, Deuteronomy 18:18, where God says, “…I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them [his people] all that I shall command him.”

The Talmud names 48 male prophets plus seven female prophetesses; whose message has relevance for all generations of Jews: Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah (mother of the Prophet Samuel), Abigail (a wife of King David), Huldah (from the time of Prophet Jeremiah), and Queen Esther.

The most successful non-Abrahamic descent prophet after Jesus was Mani (216-276), a Persian prophet who probably originally belonged to a religious group now called Elkhasitts (a Jewish- Christian Gnostic mix). Mani included elements of Judaism and Christianity in the religion he founded: Manichaeism. It became the best known and most developed of the Middle East Gnostic religions.  Mani’s religion spread quickly, especially within the Roman army, but after several centuries it disappeared.

Thus, Prophet Muhammad was the last of the Abrahamic descent prophets, and Islam’s world wide success is undisputed. 

“Indeed, We sent down the Torah, in which was guidance and light. The prophets who submitted [to Allah] judged by it for the Jews, as did the rabbis and scholars by that with which they were entrusted of the Scripture of Allah, and they were witnesses thereto. So do not fear the people (who oppose you Muhammad) but fear Me, and do not exchange My verses for a small price. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed – then it is those who are disbelievers.” (Qur’an 5:44)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *