Why do we need Prophets? And what can we learn from them?

Why do we need Prophets? And what can we learn from them?

In the Name of God, The Most Merciful, The Especially Merciful

الحاجة الى هُداة السُّبُل ومُقِيمِي المِلَل

The divine Manager does not leave the affairs of mankind to take their own course. On the contrary, He is full of eternal grace to men and wants to establish a good order. For that reason, He has sent prophets.

Humankind, the Qur’an teaches, was created as a homo religiosis. A dahrī, a materialist, so Ṣhāh Walī Allāh infers, is someone who rejects the knowledge of God granted him by birth. In other words, Islam has, in principle, no need of a founder of religion or of a religious guide. However, history shows that from time to time people deviate from their true humanity. Therefore, they are in need of guidance to bring them back. This can be rationalised if we accept that in many cases we cannot come to know what is truly in our benefit and what is harmful. Secondly, there are those who seek to sow corruption, are misled and misguide others. Finally, there are others who are simply suffering from ignorance. Hence, what is required is a person who is protected from all of these errors.

So what should their qualities be?

This person should publicly prove that he is: fully aware of the rightly-guided practice (al-sunna al-rāṣhida); completely preserved from error and misguidance; he has complete knowledge of how to undertake the rectification (iṣlāḥ) of society. Therefore, he must be infallible and one upon whom there is a consensus about him being a guide.

The guide realises the path to guidance via intuitive perception (wijdān)

This knowledge (of guidance) does not come through rational proofs, thinking or sense perception. They are disclosed by what is known as the intuitive perception (wijdān); via sound spiritual experience. Such people disclose matters according to the exigencies of the time while also expounding on new matters. The intuitive perception of a prophet cannot accept error while that of a religious scholar can. For the latter, it should be viewed in light of what other scholars have stated and must be viewed through the prism of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

How can we know that the intuitive perception is correct?

He is bestowed with intuitive or essential knowledge which originates without thought, reflection or proof; known as immediate knowledge (‘ilm ḍarūrī) such that it is ontologically correct i.e. what he comprehends and discerns is truly identical with reality. This knowledge is acquired via a natural disposition and is confirmed by the fact that they (the prophets) are continuously correct.

How is the society to be convinced of the one who possesses this knowledge?

This is confirmed in four ways:

  1. Rationally demonstrated and rhetorical proofs
  2. Their path is of righteousness
  3. It is observed in them the signs of proximity to God by way of miracles and their prayers being accepted
  4. People love them due to them observing their excellent qualities such mercy, generosity, gentleness, justice, chastity, honesty, integrity and so forth.

Though prophets are no longer to come, their exemplary conduct and teachings are the inheritance that can enable us to return back to our humanity; something we are in desperate need of once again.

And only God knows best.