in previous chapters, we provided examples and evidence that help us to ponder and grasp something of allah's might and grandeur. the reason why allah endowed us with the faculties of thinking and reasoning is in order for us to come to know him. allah has also sent us the revealed books through which he introduces himself. he communicates what he expects from us in these books. allah commissioned and sent messengers who set examples for their peoples with their excellent conduct. through these messengers, the pure message and revelation of allah provide guidance for mankind. it is difficult to know exactly how many messengers allah sent, although there are traditions relating that, for example, there have been three hundred and thirteen messengers and a much greater number of prophets throughout history. we only know the names of the prophets
mentioned in the qur'an, the last revelation sent by allah.
allah provides us with knowledge of the lives of the prophets to allow us to understand their conduct. through the messengers he sent, our lord conveys to us the right way of living and how to conduct ourselves correctly in this world. only through allah's communications can we know how to conduct ourselves, and which types of behaviour are better and more in
compliance with the values of the qur'an. it is only through his communications that we can ever know the behaviour that earn allah's good pleasure and his infinite reward as well as those that lead to punishment.
in the qur'an, allah informs us that throughout history he sent his messengers to all communities, and that they warned them. these messengers summoned their people to worship
allah, to pray to him and to comply with his commands. he also made clear to them that otherwise they would be punished. in brief, they warned the disbelievers and those who engaged in wicked deeds, and they gave glad tidings to believers that they would be rewarded. (the garden and the fire will be dealt with extensively in the following sections.) the last prophet allah sent to mankind was the prophet muhammad, may allah bless him and grant him peace. the qur'an is the last revealed book.
the earlier revelations from allah have lost their authenticity, since ignorant people and those with bad intentions have incorporated their own words and extra pieces into them. therefore, their originals, the true revelations that were initially sent to the peoples, did not survive to our day. but allah sent us the qur'an, the book that is impossible to alter.
the prophet muhammad, may allah bless him and grant him peace, and later muslims preserved the qur'an very well. the qur'an is so clear that everyone can understand it. when we read the qur'an, we can immediately understand that it is the speech of allah. the qur'an, which has survived completely intact, is under allah's protection and it is the only revealed book for which people will be responsible until the day of judgment.
today all muslims, wherever they are, read the very same qur'an; not a single discrepancy can be found in one word or letter. the qur'an revealed to the messenger, may allah bless him and grant him peace, and compiled by the caliph abu bakr and then later written out by the caliph uthman, may allah be pleased with them, who lived 1,400 years ago, and the qur'an we read today are identical. there is a one-to-one
correspondence between them. this means, from the day the qur'an was revealed to the prophet muhammad, peace be upon him, it has survived intact. that is because allah protected the qur'an from evil people who intended to alter it or incorporate extra bits in it. in one verse, allah informs us that he preserves the qur'an specially:
it is we who have sent down the reminder [i.e., the qur'an]
and we who will preserve it. ( surat al-hijr: 9)
with the word "we" in this verse, allah refers to himself. there is no other god besides allah, he has no partner. he is the almighty allah, the originator of everything and the one who encompasses everything in his knowledge. in some parts of the qur'an, allah refers to himself with the word "i," and in some others with the word, "we." in arabic, which is the language of the qur'an, the word "we" is also employed to refer to a single person with the purpose of arousing feelings of might and respect in the listener. there is a similar case in english known as "the royal we." in the succeeding sections of this book, we will give you examples of verses (of the qur'an) and surahs (chapters of the qur'an). they are the most correct words because they are the words of allah, the one who knows us better than we do ourselves. in the qur'an, allah wants us to take lessons from the lives of the prophets. one verse reads:
there is instruction in their [i.e., messengers'] stories for people of intelligence... (surah yusuf: 111)
the type of person to whom allah draws our attention in this verse is a person who knows that the qur'an is the speech of allah and thereby thinks, exercises his reason and strives to learn the qur'an and live by its commands. allah holds the people to whom he sends his messengers responsible for complying with his commands. having received allah's revelations, people will have no right to put forward excuses on the day
of judgment. that is because the messengers of allah convey to their peoples the knowledge of the existence of allah and of what he expects from people. once a person hears this message, he is responsible for it. this is related in the qur'an as follows:
messengers bringing good news and giving warning, so that
people will have no argument against allah after the coming of
the messengers. allah is almighty, all-wise. ( surat an-nisa:
allah created many groups of people on earth. some of these groups refused what their messengers brought to them and denied that they were messengers at all. because they did not listen to their words and comply with allah's commands, they were punished. through his messengers, allah also warned these rebellious people of a terrible life in
this world. despite this, they continued to oppose their messengers and slander them. furthermore, they became so violent as in some cases even to murder them. upon this, allah gave them the punishment they deserved, and, in time, new communities replaced them. in the qur'an, the situation of such communities is related as follows: have they not seen how many generations we destroyed before them which we had established on the earth far more firmly than we have established you? we sent down heaven upon them in abundant rain and made rivers flow under them. but we destroyed them for their wrong actions and raised up further generations after them. ( surat al-an'am: 6)
in coming chapters, we will dwell on the exemplary behaviour of the prophets who struggled against these rebellious communities.