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An Insight Into Prophecy: Infallibility.

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Introduction

An Insight Into Prophecy: Infallibility By Yasir Al-Wakeel ybaw@hotmail.com Plato once remarked that a community could produce its ideal leader and guide by handpicking a select few and exposing them to an intricate balance of gymnastics and classical music. Apart from the emasculating effect of such a course of action, it no doubt falls short of the prophetic paradigm. Prophets are an important vehicle by which Allah (swt) guides mankind; their task is to convey God's will and provide an example worthy of emulation. Yet, in order to be emulated they must themselves be of an impeccable character. In this brief article, I shall approach the topic of prophethood from the gateway of infallibility and attempt to assess, through a discussion of the purpose of prophethood, why infallibility is required. In order for the discussion of infallibility to be a fruitful one, it would seem most appropriate to begin by shedding light upon the institution of prophethood. The religions of the world have venerated those that they consider to be prophets. These charismatic figures have led communities and shaped subsequent history. Such influence and prestige appears to derive from their common claim; that they are divinely inspired. Their popular appeal thus stems form the fact that they represent one of the many ways by which God manifests His immanence; that God is closer to us than our jugular veins.1 Yet, beyond this link with the divine, religions have differed, in some respects, regarding prophethood. ...read more.

Middle

oneness, and their ultimate accountability before Him.7 In spite of such archetypes, the children of Israel on many occasion defied their prophets. The Qur'an gives many an example of such defiance and the resulting divine retribution. The end product was that Rabbinical Judaism became fraught with legalism, and the spirit of faith began to fade. This was to contrast with the esoteric teachings of Moses (a.s), to whom the burning bush spake.8 The Qur'an also presents Jesus (a.s) as a worthy apostle who vehemently denies claims that he is God. The very first words of the Qur'anic Jesus (a.s), uttered in the cradle to defend his mother from charges of unchastity, form both a rebuttal to Pauline Christianity and concisely capture the Islamic prophetology: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the book and made me a prophet.9 Hence, in Islam, a prophet is simply a messenger of God sent to guide his people to the right path. The practical side of prophecy is that of responsibility; a responsibility by the people to follow the prophet. Regarding the final and most honoured of the prophets, Muhammad (s.a.w) the Qur'an says: Take what the Messenger gives to you, and refrain from what he prohibits you.10 It is from this platform that we may make the relatively straightforward leap to infallibility. ...read more.

Conclusion

And yet, upon reflection, it would appear that prophecy is a great burden. Indeed, the Qur'anic revelation is described as a 'heavy word'15 that is sent down upon the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). It is only with impeccable character, fortitude and resilience that the prophets were able to welcome such a burden, and live up to the responsibility of guiding mankind. Such character can only be adequately captured in an understanding of infallibility that does not seek to atomise, either temporally or spatially, the lives of the prophets; inerrancy most truly encompasses all domains and periods of the life of a prophet. 1 Holy Qur'an 50:16. 2 Genesis 25-28. The Genesis account speaks of Jacob having an elder brother by the name of Esau. Isaac had intended to bless his elder son before he died, but Jacob, aided by his mother Rebekah sought to trick Isaac into giving Esau's birthright to Jacob. 3 Holy Qur'an 13:7. 4 Holy Qur'an 21:107. 5 Holy Qur'an 3:67. 6 Holy Qur'an 12:3. 7 Holy Qur'an 12:36-42. 8 Holy Qur'an 20:9-14. 9 Holy Qur'an 20:33 10 Holy Qur'an 59:7. 11 Shomali, S.A. Shi'i Islam, ICAS (2002) (unpublished manuscript), p67. 12 'Allamah Hilli, al-Bab al-Hadi 'Ashr, commentary by Miqdad ibn 'Abd Allah al-Siyuri, Mashad (1989), p41. 13 Tusi, Nasir al Din, Kashf al Murad fi Sharh Tajrid al-I'tiqad, commentary by 'Allamah Hilli, Beirut (1990), pp.341-342. 14 Op.cit. Al-Hilli, p124. 15 Holy Qur'an 73:5 ...read more.

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