Attributes necessary to be present in Prophets
The institution of prophethood is innate (given by Allah). It cannot be obtained through the efforts of a person unlike taqwa and piety. Prophets are distinguished personalities that God Almighty chooses specially among people, protects and educates.
When the Messenger of Allah informed Quraish about his prophethood, Walid bin Mughirah, one of the notables of Quraish said:
“If the prophethood was true, I would be the prophet instead of you because I am older than you and I have more wealth and children than you.”23
In the verses that were sent down upon his words, it was stated that Allah knew better to whom He would give the prophethood and that it was not a rank to be obtained by material means like having more children or being older.24
In addition, it was stated clearly in the verses that prophethood was a divine and sublime mercy and that it would be given to someone Allah wished and that no one could claim to have deserved to be a prophet.25
Prophethood has nothing to do with the will and efforts of a person; it depends on the preference of Allah. However, there are some attributes that have to be present in prophets. We can list these attributes as follows:
1) Prophets are chosen among free men. There were no prophets among slaves, women, concubines, jinn and angels.
a) Prophethood is peculiar to MEN only. It is definitely stated in the 7th verse of the chapter al-Anbiya. Although some scholars put forward the view that some women like Maryam (Mary) Hawwa (Eve), Asiya, Sarah, Hagar, Yuhaniz (Jochebed), Moses’s mother could be prophets, the majority of the scholars did not regard that view correct.26
b) Prophets are chosen among FREE men. There were no prophets among slaves, who are despised in the society. Therefore, Hazrat Luqman is not regarded to be a prophet according to the view of the majority of the scholars. He was a slave that was freed. He met many prophets after he was freed and learned many things from them. He is well-known as a wise man.27
c) There were no prophets among angels. In a verse, some of the angels are mentioned as rusul (messengers) but it was not used in the meaning of prophets lexically. They were mentioned as rusul because some angels were messengers between Allah and prophets, and they also inspired to saintly people.28
d) There were no prophets among angels, and according to the view of the most of the scholars, there were no prophets among jinn.29
2) Prophets are free from diseases like blindness, speckled skin, lepra, being blamed due to their ancestors, hard-heartedness, attributes not appropriate for humanity and disgusting situations.
They are equal to other human beings in all kinds of issues except the duty of prophethood and in normal human situations that do not involve disgusting things. They eat, drink, sleep, get married, get angry, laugh, etc like other people.
The disease of Hazrat Ayyub (Job) and the cataract that Hazrat Yaqub (Jacob) had took place after they became prophets. Those diseases were given to them temporarily and to teach something to people; then, they were removed wondrously by the divine mercy as miracles. Therefore, they are not contrary to the condition mentioned above. That condition is related to the period before the prophethood.30
3) Prophets have the attribute of ISMAH (innocence), that is, they are innocent and free from mistakes and sins. The attribute of ismah is related to the following 2 issues:
a) Regarding belief: Prophets are free from all kinds of unbelief and denial, whether apparent or secret, before the prophethood and after it. There exists consensus of the scholars regarding the issue.
b) Regarding the words they utter: Prophets are also free from TELLING LIES, which means giving information contrary to truth to people before the prophethood and after it, whether based on a cause or not, whether deliberately or indeliberately.
Prophets always tell the truth. They always do what is right. Being truthful is one of the main attributes of prophets. Prophets are free from acting contrary to the truth and uttering unnecessary words whether when they are furious or happy. It is permissible for them to make jokes but the jokes must be based on a truth and be free from lies. The jokes they make are based on a truth.31
As a matter of fact, when Abdullah bin Amr, one of the companions, asked the Prophet (pbuh) whether he should write whatever the Prophet said when he was calm and angry, the Prophet told him that he should write everything when he was calm and angry because he could only utter true words.
c) Regarding deeds: Prophets are free from committing all kinds of MAJOR SINS. There exists consensus about it.
Minor sins are divided into two:
aa) Minor sins that cause the dislike and hatred of others: For instance, stealing a morsel of bread secretly or weighing something that one sells one or two grams less. Although they are insignificant, they show how mean and low a person who does such things is; therefore, prophets are free from doing such deeds deliberately or indeliberately.
bb) As for the small mistakes that do not cause hatred and that can be tolerated: Prophets are free from them after they become prophets. Taftazani holds this view in his book ash-Sharhu’l-Maqasid; he regards it permissible for prophets to make small mistakes deliberately or indeliberately. Those small mistakes 32 that can be made by prophets are called “zalla”. Apart from those actual states, there may be mistakes in their opinions or interpretations. It is permissible for prophets to make mistakes temporarily in some of their acts in order to make a religious judgment clarified.33 However, those mistakes are immediately corrected by God Almighty. Thus, the believers are enabled to draw the necessary lessons from them.
4) Prophets have FATANAH (intelligence). Prophets are the most intelligent, farsighted and cleverest people of their age. Their sense of apprehension and perception are extremely developed. People who are mentally retarded, short-sighted and insane cannot be prophets.
5) Prophets carry out their duty of TABLIGH (conveying the message of Islam) properly. Each prophet conveys all of the judgments that are delivered to him to their ummah without forgetting or confusing any of them. No missing or extra conveyance is in question regarding the issue. They are protected from making mistakes like that by Allah.
6) Prophets are AMIN (reliable) personalities. All of the prophets are the most reliable and trustworthy people of their age. Everybody accepted that they were reliable people both before and after the prophethood. It is the greatest evidence showing that prophets are right and tell the truth regarding their causes. They asked their nations to accept the truth by reminding their tribes their attribute of reliability.34
Is it possible for a person who is reliable before prophethood and who has never told a lie or deceived anybody to say, “I am the messenger of Allah” and slander and betray Allah although he is not a messenger? It is impossible. Right-minded and fair people will notice it.
As a matter of fact, that attribute was among the issues that Heraclius, the Emperor of Byzantium, asked the delegation from Quraish in order to investigate the truth of the prophethood of the Messenger of Allah. He asked the Quraishi people whether they had heard any lies from him before his prophethood. When he heard the answer, “No”, he said, “A person who has never told a lie to people cannot dare to slander Allah. He is right in his cause.”35
7) All prophets received DIVINE REVELATION and met the angel that brought revelation. We will deal with revelation later.
8) All prophets did some extraordinary things based on the power and permission of Allah in order to prove that they are prophets. They are called MIRACLES. We will deal with miracles later, too.
9) One of the attributes of prophets is that God Almighty received a MITHAQ (promise, oath) from all of the prophets without an exception. He received MITHAQ GHALIZ from some of them.
Mithaq means agreement, contract, vow and promise in Arabic. As a term, it means the vow or promise given by prophets to Allah that they will put up with all kinds of difficulties, torments and oppression and that they will never give up their cause. All prophets made that promise.36
Mithaq Ghaliz is the form of that promise confirmed and certified with a vow or oath. There were five prophets from whom Mithaq Ghaliz was taken. They are called ulul azm (possessors of strong will) in the Quran; they are: Hazrat Noah, Hazrat Abraham, Hazrat Moses, Hazrat Jesus and our Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh).37
The reason why mithaq is received from prophets is as follows:
The duty of prophethood is a very difficult and arduous work. Therefore, God Almighty informed those distinguished people He chose about the obstacles and difficulties that they will face. That is, He prepared them for such a struggle spiritually. The vow that Allah received from His prophets aims to increase their determination, efforts, patience and perseverance. Even the laziest person does his best to keep his promise so as not to be ashamed when he makes a promise. It is obvious how hard those distinguished people who promised Allah will work. Many difficulties and adverse situations await them behind their mithaq and mithaq ghaliz. The roads of ulul azm prophets are more arduous and the difficulties they face are unbearable for ordinary people. Therefore, God Almighty received a solemn vow, that is, mithaq ghaliz, from them.
The following verse in the Quran shows those difficulties clearly:
“Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of Bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: "When (will come) the help of Allah?" Ah! verily the help of Allah is (always) near!”.38
23 H. Jisri, ibid, 520
24 al-An’am, 124
25 az-Zukhruf, 31-32
26 For detailed information, see: Muhittin Bahçeci, ibid, 87-88
27 H. Jisri, ibid, 528-529
28 Fatir, 1; See ibid, 530
29 For detailed information regarding the issue, see: ibid, 530-531
30 H. Jisri, ibid, 527-532
31 Muhâkemât, 54; For the jokes the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) made to his companions, see: Ghazali, Ihya trns., III, 287-293
32 See: Tajrid trns, IV, 295-296
33 H. Jisri, ibid, 432
34 See: al-A’raf, 68; ash-Shuara, 107, 128, 162, 178; ad-Duhan, 18
35 H. Jisri, ibid, 547
36 Aal-i-Imran, 80
37 al-Ahzab, 7; Vehbi, ibid, XI/4390-91; M. H. Yazır, ibid, V/3872
38 al-Baqara, 214