Finality and renewal of Prophethood and Criticizing Iqbal Lahauri’s view on this subject (1)

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RELIGLON OR RELIGIONS
The scholars of divinity and the writes on the history of religion usually discuss their subject under the heading of religions. For example, they talk of Prophet Ibrahim’s religion, the Jewish religion, the Christian religion of Islam. They regard every Prophet to whom a code of low was revealed as the founder of a separate religion.

But the Holy Qur’an has its own terminology and its own style. From its point of view there has been only one Divine religion from the beginning to the end. All Prophets irrespective of the fact whether they had or had not an independent code of law, has the same mission and preached the same message. Their basic principles called religion were the same. Their teachings differed only in rules and subsidiary matters of secondary importance which varied according to the requirements of the time, the peculiarities of the environment and the characteristics of the people whom these Prophets addressed. But in spite of the difference in the form of their teachings, all Prophets visualized on single goal. Apart from the difference of form there was a difference of level also. The Prophets who came later, their teachings were of a higher level in keeping with the stage of the human development. For example, there is a vast difference in the level of the teachings of Islam and those of the earlier Prophets in respect of the genesis of man, the Hereafter and the conception of the world. In other words man vis-à-vis the teachings of the Prophets is like a student who is brought up step by step from class I to the highest class. This process signifies the development of religion, not the different of religions. The Holy Qur’an has nowhere here used the word religion in a plural from. From the point of view of the Holy Qur’an what has existed is the religion, not the religions. There exists one big difference between the Prophets and great philosophers and other outstanding social leaders. Each eminent philosopher has had his own school. That is why so many schools of philosophy have always existed in the world. In contrast, the Prophets have always corroborated and never contradicted each other. Had any one of the Prophets lived in the time and environment of other prophets, he would have preached the rules of law and conduct similar to those preached by the latter.

The Holy Qur’an declares expressly that all Prophets from one singe series. The earlier prophets foretold about the later ones, and the latter Prophets acknowledged the earlier ones. The Holy Qur’an also says that Allah made a covenant with the Prophets to the effect that they would believe in each other and help each other. It says: When Allah made the covenant with the Prophets, He said: Here are the Scripture and the wisdom which I have given you. Later a Prophets will come to you confirming what you possess. You shall believe in Him and you shall help him. He then said: Do you agree to this and take the responsibility I placed on you? They answered: We agree. He said: Then bear witness and I will bear witness you. (Surah Ale Imran, 3:81)
((و اذ اخذ الله میثاق النبیین لما ا تیتکم من کتاب و حکمة ثم جاء کم رسول مصدق لما معکم لتومنن به و لتنصرنه قال اقرتم و اخذتم علی ذلکم اصری. قالوا اقررنا.قال فاشهد وانا معکم من الشاهدین.)).

The Holy Qur’an calls the Divine religion Islam and described it as a continuous process from Adam to the last Prophet. This does not mean that the Divine religion has always been known by this name. What is meant is that Islam is that best word to describe the nature of the religion. That is why the Holy Qur’an says: There is no doubt that only true faith in Allah ‘s sight is Islam. (Surah Ale Imran, 3: 19) (ان الدین عندالله الا سلا م).

At another place the Holy Qur’an says: Ibrahim was neither a Jew nor a Christian. He was upright in faith and a Muslim. (Surah Ale Imran, 3:67) (ما کان ابراهیم یهودیا ولا نصرانیا ولکن کان حنیفا مسلما ).

FINALITY OF PROPHETHOOD
We have said that despite the differences in details all Prophets have delivered the same message and belonged to the same ideological school. The principles and teachings of this school were explained to human society gradually in proportion to its development till the humanity reached the stage when the entire teachings in a comprehensive from were presented. At this point Prophet hood came to an end. The Holy Prophet, Muhammad bin Abdullah (peace be on him and his progeny) was the person through whom the complete ideology was conveyed, and the Holy Qur’an was the last celestial Book. The Holy Qur’an itself says: In truth and justice has been perfected the word of your Lord. None can change His words. (Surah Ale Imran, 6:115) (و تمت کلمة ربک صدقا و عدلا. لامبدل لکلمته).

Now let us see why in the past the Prophet hood was renewed from time to time and so many Prophets were raised in succession, though most of them were not given a new and independent code of law and were sent to promulgate then existing code? Why did this procedure come to an end with the last Prophets since whose time no Prophets, neither a law –giving one nor a preaching one has not come, nor will ever come? Here we touch upon the reason briefly.

Reasons of the Renewal of Prophethood
Though Prophet hood is one continuous process and the Divine message, as the religion is not more than one reality, the reason of the appearance of so many law-giving and preaching Prophets in succession and the termination of Prophet hood after the advent of the last Prophet are as under:

Firstly the ancient man because of his intellectual immaturity was unable to preserve his celestial Book. Usually the Divine Book were either altered and corrupted or were lost totally. Therefore it was necessary that the message should be renewed from time to time. The revelation of the Holy Qur’an corresponded with a period when humanity had passed the period of its childhood and had become able to preserve its intellectual heritage. That is why there could be no alteration in the last Divine and Holy Book. The Muslims committed to memory and recorded in writing every verse of it was revealed, and did away with every possibility of addition, omission or alteration in it. Thus one of the reasons of the renewal of Prophet hood disappeared.

Secondly, humanity being immature. it was not previously competent enough to have a comprehensive for guidance, and hence it was necessary that it should be guided by the Prophet piecemeal and step by step.

Anyhow, by the period of the final Prophet hood humanity had developed to the extent that it was able to have a comprehensive plan of conduct and it was no longer necessary that it should receive guidance stage by stage. Besides the extinction of the old celestial Books and the alteration in them, another reason for the continual renewal of Prophet hood was that man in olden day was not able to receive a comprehensive plan. When his ability sufficiently developed, a comprehensive scheme was put at his disposal at this reason of the renewal of Prophet hood also disappeared. Now the Muslim scholars who were specialists in this field, can guide the Muslims in the light of this scheme and can frame the rules and procedures for them to sit every occasion.

Thirdly. the overwhelming majority of the prophets consisted of the preaching and not the law-giving Prophets. The number of the law-giving Prophets did not exceed the number of the finger of one hand. The task of the preaching Prophets was to propagate, interpret and promulgate the religious law prevailing during their time. Now the religious scholars of the age of the finality of Prophet hood, which is the age of knowledge, are capable of applying the general principles of Islam to the requirements of the time and place and deducing the rules of religious law. This process is called ijtihad. The outstanding Muslim divines in this way perform many duties of the preaching Prophets and some of those even of the law-giving Prophet without being the law –giving themselves. They guide the Muslim Ummah. Thus, though the need of religion still exists and is expected to be ever increasing with the further cultural development of humanity, the need of new Prophets and the new revealed Book has ceased to exist. And hence Prophet hood has come to an end with the final Prophet.

c. Summary of the mentioned subjects
It is a clear from what has been mentioned that intellectual and social maturity of mankind has played a big role in the finality of Prophet hood in several ways:
(i) It has enable man to keep his celestial Book unaltered.
(ii) It has enable him to receive his evolutionary programme all at once and not by stages.
(iii) It has enable him to undertake the task of preaching and propagating religion, to set up religious institutions, to exhort people to do what is good and to restrain them from what is evil. Thus there is no longer any need of preaching Prophets, who used to preach and propagate the teachings of the law-giving Prophet. This need is now being adequately fulfilled by the religious scholars and Divines.
(iv) From the viewpoint of mental development man has now reached a stage that in pursuance of his ijtihad he can interpret the revealed words and can apply the relevant principles to all the changing circumstances. This task is also being performed by the religious scholars.

It has evident that the finality of Prophet hood does not mean that man is no longer in need of Divine teachings received through revelation. Prophet hood has not come to an end because as the result of his mental development man is now able to dispense with religions.

Sources

Man and Universe- part Revelation and Prophethood- pages: 138to142

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