Infallibility of Prophets (عصمة الأنبياء`Ismat al-Anbiya)

As already explained, the Prophets came to convey to people the Message of God. If we liken this Message or the Divine Revelation to light or pure water, as the Qur’an itself does (al-Ra’d, 13. 17; al-Nur, 24.35), it is absolutely necessary and indispensable to the nature of the Revelation that both the Archangel Gabriel who brought the Revelation, and the Prophet himself who conveyed it to people, should be absolutely pure. Otherwise, that Divine light, the Revelation, would have been extinguished or dimmed, or that ‘pure water’ polluted. Every falling off is an impurity, a dark spot, in the heart. Like Gabriel, the heart or soul of the Prophet is like a ‘polished mirror’ through which the Divine Revelation is reflected to people, or a ‘cup’ from which people quench their thirst for that pure ‘Divine water’. Any black spot on the mirror would absorb a ray of that light; a single drop of mud would be enough to make the water unclear. This would mean that the Prophets did not – God forbid such a thought! – convey the whole of God’s Message. Whereas, in truth, they performed their duty perfectly and left nothing of the Message not conveyed. This is clear from the following verses of the Qur’an:

O Messenger! Convey what has been sent to you from your Lord. If you did not, you would not have fulfilled His mission. And God will defend you (ya`simuka) from people. Certainly, God guides not the unbelieving people. (al-Ma’ida, 5.67)

Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed My favour upon you, and I have chosen and approved for you Islam as religion. (al-Ma’ida, 5.3)

Secondly, people learn from the Prophets all the commandments and principles concerning belief and conduct. In order that people should learn these commandments in their pristine purity and truth and as perfectly as possible to secure their happiness and prosperity in both worlds, the Prophets must, first, represent, and, then, present them without any faults or defects, for they are guides and good examples for people to follow, as explicitly stated in the Qur’an:

You have indeed in the Messenger of God a beautiful pattern, an excellent example, for anyone who aspires after God and the Last Day, and who engages much in the remembrance of God. (al-Ahzab, 33.21)

There is for you an excellent example in Abraham and those with him – there was indeed in them an excellent example for you – for those who aspire after God and the Last Day. (al-Mumtahana, 60. 4,6)

Despite his utmost care not to do anything contrary to Islam and not even to say a single word which is not sanctioned by God, if a Prophet were to utter an untrue word, he would repent for a life-time, or even longer. It is narrated that the Prophet Abraham, upon him be peace, will direct to Moses those who will appeal to him to intercede for them on the Day of Judgment saying he cannot as he spoke allusively three times in his life.1 Although it is not a sin to make an ‘indirect’ reference to the truth when it is more appropriate rather than being direct, Abraham’s repentance of his three allusions will continue in the Hereafter.

Thirdly, the Qur’an commands believers to obey all the orders or prohibitions of the Prophet without exception, and emphasizes that: it is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by God and His Messenger, to have any option about their decision (al-Ahzab, 33.36). It also warns believers that what falls to them when God and His Messenger have given a judgment is only to say, ‘We have heard and obeyed’ (al-Nur, 24.51). Absolute obedience to a Prophet means that the Prophet is right in all his commands and prohibitions.

Prophethood is so great a favor that all the Prophets bore unbearable pains in fulfilling the duty of thanksgiving and were always worried about not having worshipped God sufficiently. The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, often implored God using the following words:

Glory be to You, we have not been able to know You as Your knowledge requires, O Known One.

Glory be to You, we have not been able to worship You as Your worship requires, O Worshipped One.

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