The Concept of Prophethood in Hinduism and in Islam
In this series of articles, we are analyzing similarities and common grounds between two major religions of the world: Hinduism and Islam. In the article in the November 2004 issue of the Islamic Voice, we examined and highlighted similarities between the concept of angels and revelation in Islam and in Hinduism as mentioned in their respective scriptures. In this month’s article, we shall study the similarities between the concept of prophethood, and the attributes of God, in Islam and in Hinduism.
Messengers in Islam
Messengers or Prophets of Almighty God are persons chosen by Almighty God to communicate His message to the people.
Messengers were sent to every nation
- To every people (was sent) a Messenger: when their Messenger comes (before them), the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged.
(Al Qur’an 10:47)
- For We assuredly sent amongst every people a messenger (with the command), “Serve Allah and eschew Evil”: of the people were some whom Allah guided, and some on whom Error became inevitably (established). So travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who denied (the Truth).
(Al Qur’an 16:36)
- And there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (In the past).
(Al Qur’an 35:24)
- And to every people a guide.
(Al Qur’an 13:7)
25 PROPHETS ARE MENTIONED BY NAME IN THE QUR’AN
There are 25 Prophets mentioned by name in the Glorious Qur’an. Some of such prophets are: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad (peace be upon them all).
STORIES OF ONLY SOME PROPHETS MENTIONED IN THE QUR’AN
It is mentioned in the Qur’an:
- Of some messengers We have already told you the story; of others we have not and to Moses Allah spoke direct.
(Al Qur’an 4:164)
- We did aforetime send Messengers before you: of them there are some whose story we have related to you, and some whose story we have not related to you.
(Al Qur’an 40:78)
1,24,000 PROPHETS SENT BY ALLAH
According to a Sahih Hadith in Mishkatul Masaabih Vol. 3 hadith No. 5737 Ahmad Ibn Hambal Vol. 5 page 265-266: “There were 1,24,000 prophets sent by Allah (swt).”
PREVIOUS PROPHETS WERE SENT ONLY FOR THEIR PEOPLE
All the prophets that came before Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) were sent for their people and nation, and the complete message they preached was meant only for that time.
PROPHET MUHAMMAD (PBUH) IS THE LAST AND FINAL MESSENGER
It is mentioned in Surah Al-Ahzab:
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, And the Seal of the Prophets: And Allah has full knowledge of all things
(Al Qur’an 33:40)
PROPHET MUHAMMAD (PBUH) SENT FOR WHOLE OF HUMANKINFD
- Since Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the last and final messenger of Allah (swt), he was not sent for only Muslims or the Arabs but he was sent for the whole of Humankind. It is mentioned in the Qur’an:
We sent you not, but As a mercy for all creatures
(Al Qur’an 21:107)
- We have not sent you but as a universal (Messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (Against sin), but most men understand not. (Al Qur’an 34:28)
- It is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari:
“Allah’s Messenger (pbuh) said every prophet used to be sent to his nation only but I have been sent to whole of humankind”.
(Sahih Bukhari Vol. 1, Book of Salaah Chapter 56 Hadith 429)
Avtars & Messengers in Hinduism
Avatar according to common Hindus
Common Hindus have the following concept of Avatar. Avatar is the Sanskrit term where ‘Av’ means ‘down’ and ‘tr’ means ‘passover’. Thus Avatar means to descend down or to come down. The meaning of ‘Avatar’ in the oxford Dictionary is, “(In Hindu Mythology) the descent of a deity or released soul to earth in bodily form”. In simple words, Avatar according to common Hindus means Almighty God coming down to earth in bodily form.
A Common Hindu believes that God Almighty comes down to the earth in some bodily form to protect the religion, to set an example or to set the rules for human beings.
There is no reference of Avatars anywhere in the Vedas, the most sacred of the Hindu scriptures i.e. sruti. However it is found in the smrti i.e., the Puranas and the Itihasas.
It is mentioned in the most popular and widely read book of Hinduism
i) Bhagavad Geeta Chapter 4 verse 7-8:
Whenever there is a decay of righteousness, O Bharata, And a rise of unrighteousness, then I manifest Myself. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of righteousness, I am born in every age.
(Bhagavad Geeta 4:7-8)
ii) It is mentioned in Bhagawata Purana:
“Whenever there is deterioration in righteousness and waxing of sinfulness, the glorious lord incarnates himself.”
(Bhagawata Purana 9:24:56)
No Concept of Avatar but Messenger in Veda and Islam
Islam does not believe that Almighty God takes human forms. He chooses a man amongst men and communicates with them on a higher level to deliver his message to the human beings – such individuals are called Messengers of God.
‘Avatar’, as mentioned earlier, is derived from ‘Av’ and ‘tr’, which means to descend down or come down. Some scholars state that God’s Avatar indicates a possessive case and actually means the coming of a man “who is in special relationship with God”. Mention of such chosen men of God appears in several places in all the four Vedas. Thus if we have to reconcile Bhagavad Gita and Purana with the most authoritative scripture the Vedas, we have to agree that Bhagavad Gita and the Puranas, when they speak about Avatars, they refer to chosen men of God. Islam calls such men Prophets.