Why No More Prophets After Prophet Muhammad? – OpEd


Because the Qur’an says: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things.” (33:40) But why does the second half of this verse follow after the first half. 

Because just as Prophet Muhammad will have no son to inherent his authority to rule the Muslim community; so too should the highest religious authority in each future religion not be an inherited position. And even more important from the sacred text point of view are the four sacred languages. 

Samawal al-Maghribī says in his book If ḥām al-Yahūd –Silencing the Jews’ that according to the Torah Ishmael lived in Paran (Genesis 21:21), as did his descendants. Given that Prophet Muḥammad was a descendant of Prophet Ishmael he also lived in Paran. And if Paran is Mecca, then Deuteronomy 33:2 clearly refers to Muḥammad’s future.

Some rabbinic Midrashim and Targumim do state that Sinai refers to Moses, Seir to Esau (who is linked with Rome and Catholic and Eastern Christianity) and Paran to Ishmael (Muḥammad’s forebear according to Islamic tradition). These texts claim that God offered the Torah to non-Israelite nations before He gave it to the Israelites but that each of them rejected it for various reasons. 

The earliest Jewish source that mentions the sons of Esau and Ishmael in a commentary on Deuteronomy 33:2 is Sifrei Debarim (Midrash Deuteronomy), a Midrashic compilation from the Land of Israel. Scholars disagree about the composition and redaction dates of this Midrash. Some place it in the third to fourth century CE; others think the fifth century CE.

 Commenting on ‘The Lord came from Sinai’, the text reads: ‘And [Moses] said, the Lord came from Sinai’ – When the Holy One revealed Himself to give the Torah to Israel, He did so not in one language but in four languages: ‘The Lord came from Sinai’ – this is Hebrew. ‘And rose up from Seir unto them’ – ‘the language of the Romans, either Greek or Latin. ‘He shone forth from Mount Paran’ – this is Arabic. 

‘And He came with ten thousands of saints’ – this is Aramaic.The text speaks about four languages that became holy because each one was used for a different Sacred Scripture. The “ten thousands of saints” refers to the many sacred texts that came from ancient Mesopotamia like the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Enuma Elish; and the later Aramaic texts of Mandaeism, Mithraism, Manichaeism. and those influenced by the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. These are the Sabaean religions. 

As the Qur’an states: “Those who believe (Muslims), those who declare 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)

Also, starting with Prophet Abraham, Allah established a family dynasty of prophets which as far as we know was a unique event for as far as we know this was a unique event which began with Prophet Abraham and ended with Prophet Muhammad. None of the recent messengers, like Joseph Smith who promoted the Book of Mormon for the Mormon Church, or the prophets and originators of the Bahai, Druze, and Sikh religions were descendants of Prophet Abraham. 

The great exception to this rule was Abraham-the-Hebrew, “whom God chose to be His friend,” and who, as far as we know is also the only prophet to have two sons who were also prophets. 

And these two sons of Prophet Abraham, Prophet Ishmael and Prophet Isaac, are the only two Prophets who each had a descendant many centuries later, who proclaimed an other sacred scripture which has become the basis for one of the two largest religions in the whole world; with current trends showing that Christianity will lose its position as the world’s most populous religion to Islam by the end of the 21st century.

Thus, the uniqueness of Prophet Abraham, the Hebrew (Genesis 14:13) who came after Messengers Seth and Noah and all their colleagues had failed to establish an on-going monotheistic religion. Messenger Abraham was the first of those we know of to successfully establish, through his own descendants Prophets Moses, David, Jesus and Muhammad the major monotheistic religions that are still practiced today.

Prophet Abraham is famous for the numerous ways God tested him, especially the two terrible tests: banishing Hagar and his first born son Ishmael (Qur’an 2:124, & Genesis 16:1-16) and calling on Abraham to make his son an offering to God. (Qur’an 37:100-113 & Genesis 22:1-24)

Most Muslim commentators say the son, unnamed in the Qur’an, was Ishmael (Arabic Isma’il). Some Muslims assert it was Isaac. Perhaps both participated in the test at different times, so that each son could produce descendants who in time would become a blessing for other non-Hebrew nations of the earth. (Genesis 22:16-18 & Qur’an 4:163)

Islam teaches that Prophets were raised and sent to the whole of mankind in different lands and at different times. What is essential is that no land, people or period was neglected by God. Prophets were sent to every human language group since the age of Adam. The Qur’an says: “There never was a people without a Warner (Prophet) having lived among them’ (35:24) and “We would never visit our wrath (chastise any community) until We had sent a Messenger to give warning” (17:15)

Since there are over 7.000 languages now spoken, and another 10-20,000 that were spoken over the  previous 10,000 years and then died out, all human societies have have been taught the way God wants each of them to conduct their Divine worship (Qur’an 21:25), and the moral behavioral rules they should observe (Qur’an 16:90-92).

Throughout human history, thousands of prophets were sent to guide human beings. Adam was the first of the prophets and Prophet Muhammad was the last of them. The exact number of prophets is not known, but in many Hadith traditions their number mentioned is 124,000.

Of these prophets 313 brought sacred scriptures and are called Messengers. Most prophets did not bring any books. Sometimes there were more than one prophet in a single town or city, who fulfilled the duties of prophethood.

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 asked: How many of them were messenger prophets? He replied: Three hundred thirteen from the above group. He asked: Who was the first of them? He replied: Adam. 

Then Prophet said: O Abu Dharr: There were four Syriac prophets: Adam, Sheeth (Seth), and Ukhnuh, (called Idris) and who was the first to write and Nuh. Four were Arabs: Hud, Salih, Shuaib (Job) and your prophet, Muhammad. The first prophet among Bani Israel was Musa and the last of them was Isa and they were in all six hundred prophets. (The Rabbis taught that 48 named male prophets and 7 named female prophets prophesied in Israel. Who were the 7 female prophets? Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Hulda and Esther.)

Abu Dharr asked: O Messenger of Allah how many sacred scriptures descended? He replied: 104, of which Allah revealed to Sheeth (Seth) 50 scrolls, 30 on Idris and 20 on Ibrahim. He also revealed (the 4 still in use) Taurat, Injeel, Zabur and Quran. (Biharul Anwar, Vol. 11, Pg. 32.)

Five messenger prophets brought sets of laws (Halakah and Shariah) and they are prophets: Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa and Muhammad. Ismail Jofi narrated from Imam Muhammad Baqir: The messengers are five in number: Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, Isa and Muhammad. (Biharul Anwar, Vol. 11, Pg. 32)

We do not have much information about the names or numbers of all the prophets; in books of history only some of their names are mentioned. In the Quran, 26 of them are mentioned by names: They are: Adam, Nuh, Idris, Hud, Salih, Ibrahim, Lut, Ismail, Al-Yasa, Zulkifl, Ilyas, Ayyub, Yunus, Ishaq, Yaqub, Yusuf, Shuaib, Musa, Harun, Dawood, Sulaiman, Zakariya, Yahya, Ismail the keeper of his word, Isa and Muhammad. (Biharul Anwar, Vol. 11, Pg. 32.)

None of the Messengers sent prior to Prophet Abraham were able to establish an ongoing monotheistic community that lasted to the present. “And when there came to them a Messenger from Allah, confirming what was with them, a party of the people who were given the Book threw away the Book of Allah behind their backs, as if they did not know it!” (Qur’an 2:101) 

And “Those who disbelieve are steeped in arrogance and defiance. How many generations have We destroyed before them? They cried out when it was too late to escape. And they marveled that a warner had come to them from among them. The disbelievers said, “This is a lying magician.” “Did he turn all the gods into one God? This is something strange.” The notables among them announced: “Go on, and hold fast to your gods. This is something planned. We never heard of this in the former faith. This is nothing but a fabrication. (Qur’an 38:2-7)

And finally: “The people of Noah denied before them, and the companions of the well and Thamūd; and ʿAad and Pharaoh and the brothers [neighbors] of Lot; and the companions of the forest, and the people of Tubbaʿ. All denied the messengers [Allah sent to them] so My threat was justly fulfilled.” (Qur’an 50:12-14)

Among Islamic scholars there are some who count a few women as prophets: abu al-Hassan al-Ash’ari, Imam al-Qurtubi and ibn Hazm. These scholars agree in counting Mariam, the mother of Jesus, as a female prophet, and  Hawa’/Eve based on the idea -which is already in the Jewish scripture- that Hawa’/Eve was created from a side of Adam, so that the side can’t be higher or lower then the whole person, Sarah the first wife of Prophet Abraham, the mother of Musa/Moses, Hajar and Aassiya the wife of pharaoh among them!

Why did they choose these women? The mother of Musa because the revelation or inspiration she was given in (Qur’an 28:7) Mariam because of her dialogue with the angle (Jibreel) in (Quran 19:17-19) and with other angles in (3:42-43). They considered anybody who received an order or a prohibition via an angel as a prophet! 

This was most likely the same logic used by the rabbis in selecting the 7 named female prophets. Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Hulda and Esther. The rabbis had the direct guidance of the the written Torah (Exodus 15:19-21) “When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. Both horse and (chariot) driver He hurled into the sea.”

Thus, the rabbis had the written example of Miriam the prophetess, sister of Prophets Aaron and Moses as well as other “prophetesses” referred to in other places in the Hebrew Bible: Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; and Isaiah 8:3. 

Perhaps the part of our opening verse “the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things” means that God is cognizant that most men would not listen to a female prophet until woman become religious leaders and then men will be ready to listen to them.

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.

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