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Prophethood: Its Nature and Necessity

Abul Ala Maududi
3/2/2013
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God has most graciously provided man with all that he needs in this Universe. Generally every new-born child arrives in the world endowed with eyes to see, ears to hear, a nose to smell and breathe, hands to touch, feet to walk and a mind to think. All those potentialities, powers and faculties, that a man needs or can need are most carefully provided and marvellously set in his tiny body. Every minute requirement is foreseen and provided for.

 

 

It is the same with the world he lives in. Everything essential for his life is provided: air, light, heat, water and so on. A child on opening his eyes finds his food in his mother's breast. His parents love him instinctively and in their hearts has been implanted an irresistible urge to look after him, to bring him up and to sacrifice there all for his welfare.

 

 

Under the sheltering care of His system of sustenance the child grows to maturity and at every stage of his life obtains from nature all that he needs. All the material conditions of survival and growth are provided for: he finds that the whole Universe is at his service.

 

 

Furthermore, man is blessed with all those powers, capacities and faculties - physical, mental and moral, which he requires in his struggle for life. But God has not distributed these gifts equally. This would have made men totally independent of each other and would have excluded mutual care and co-operation. Thus, although mankind as a whole possesses all that is needed, between men capacities are distributed unequally and sparingly.

 

 

Some possess physical strength and prowess; others distinguish themselves for their mental talents. Some are born with a greater aptitude for arts, poetry and philosophy, some possess sharpness of tongue, others military acumen, commercial intelligence, mathematical keenness, scientific curiosity, literary observation or philosophical bent. These special aptitudes make a man distinct and enable him to grasp those intricacies, which elude the common man. These insights, aptitudes and talents are the gifts of God. They are innate in the nature of those men whom God has destined to be thus distinguished. They cannot be acquired merely by education and training.

 

 

Reflection on this disposition of God's gifts also reveals that man's talents have been distributed in a marvelous way. Those capacities, which are essential for the general maintenance of human culture, have been endowed to most people, while extraordinary talents, which are required only to a limited extent, are given only to a small number. There are many soldiers; peasants, artisans and workers; but military generals, scholars, statesmen and intellectuals are comparatively few. The general rule seems to be: the higher the capacity and greater the genius, the fewer people who possess them. Super geniuses, who leave an indelible mark on human history and whose achievements guide humanity for centuries, are fewer still.

 

 

Here we are faced with another question: do people just need specialists in the fields of law and politics, science and mathematics, engineering and mechanics, finance and economics and the like? Or do they also need men to show them the right path — the way to God and salvation? There must clearly be someone to tell man the purpose of creation and the meaning of life itself: what man himself is and why he has been created: who has provided him with all the powers and resources and why: what are the proper ends of life and how are they to be achieved: what are the proper values of life and how they can be attained.

 

 

Our reason refuses to accept that God, Who has provided man with even the smallest of his requirements, would not provide for this greatest and most vital need. It can never be so. And it is not so. While God has produced men of distinction in arts and science. He has also raised men with deep vision, pure intuition and the highest faculties to know and understand Him, to them. He revealed the way of godliness, piety and righteousness. He gave them the knowledge of the aims of life and values of morality and entrusted them with the duty to communicate Divine Revelation to other human beings. These men are the Prophets and Messengers of God.

 

 

The Prophets distinguish themselves in human society by their special aptitudes, natural bents of mind and a pious and meaningful way of life; more or less in the same way as other geniuses in art and science distinguish themselves by their extraordinary capacities and natural aptitudes. The genius in man is its own advertisement and automatically persuades others to recognize and acknowledge it.

 

 

Thus, a Prophet's mind grasps problems which defy other minds; he throws light on subjects which no one else can; he has insights into such subtle and intricate questions that no one else would have even understood after years of deep thought and meditation. Reason accepts whatever he says; the heart feels its truth; and experience of the world testifies to every word that flows from his mouth. If, however, we ourselves try to produce the same or a similar work, we inevitably meet with failure. In all affairs his attitude is that of truthfulness, straightforwardness and nobility. He never does or utters wrong, nor does he commit any evil. He always encourages virtue and righteousness, and practices himself what he preaches to others. Neither his words nor his deeds are prompted by self-interest. He suffers for the good of others, and never makes others suffer for his own good.

 

 

When it becomes quite clear that a person is a true Prophet of God, the natural dictate of this realization is that his words should be accepted, his instructions followed and his orders obeyed. It is illogical to accept a man as God's true Prophet and yet not to believe in what he says and not to follow what he ordains; for your very acceptance of him as God's Prophet means that you have acknowledged that what he says is from God and that whatever he does is in accordance with God's Will and Pleasure. Disobedience of him is disobedience of God — and disobedience of God leads to ruin.

 

 

Therefore, the very acceptance of a Prophet makes it incumbent on you to follow his instructions unconditionally. You may not be able fully to grasp the wisdom and usefulness of" this or that- order, but the very fact that an instruction has emanated from a Prophet is sufficient guarantee of its truth. One's inability to understand it does not mean there is something wrong with it. Rather it is our understanding, which is at fault.

 

 

Some men admit the integrity and truthfulness of a Prophet, but do not put faith (Iman) in him, nor do they follow him in the affairs of their life. Such men are not only Kafirs, but imprudent: for not to follow a Prophet after admitting him to be true means that one knowingly follows untruth. And what folly can be greater than that!

 

 

Some people declare: "We do not need a Prophet for our guidance and we can ourselves find the way to truth." This, too, is a wrong view. You have probably learnt geometry, and you know that between points there can be only one straight line; all other lines must be crooked or will fail to touch the points in view. The same is the case with the way to truth, which in the language of Islam, is called the Straight Path (al-Sirat al-Mustaqim). This path begins from man and goes straight up to God, and this path can by definition be one and only one; all other paths must be aberrations. This Straight Path has been indicated by the Prophets, and there is and can be no straight path besides that. The man who ignores that path soon finds himself lost in the maze created by his own fancy. What can you think of a person who loses his way and, when a good man shows him the right one, defiantly declares: "I will not take your guidance nor accept the way you have shown to me, but I will myself grope in this unknown region and try to reach the object of my search in my own way?" This, in the presence of the clear guidance of the Prophets, is sheer stupidity. If everybody tried to start from scratch, it would be a gross waste of time and energy. We never do so in the sciences and arts: why here?

 

 

If you go a little deeper into the matter, it will become clear that a person who disbelieves in a true Prophet cannot find any way, straight or otherwise, to God. This is because a man who refuses to believe the advice of a truthful man adopts such a perverse attitude that he ceases to understand the difference between truth and falsehood and becomes a victim of his own obstinacy, arrogance, bias and perversity. This refusal may be due to false arrogance, or blind conservatism and obstinate adherence to the way of one's forefathers, or to slavery to the lower desires of the self, whose gratification becomes impossible by submission to the teachings of the Prophets.

 

 

On the other hand, if a man is sincere and truth loving, the road to reality opens up to him. He will find in the teachings of the Prophets the very echo of his own soul and discover himself by discovering the Prophets.

 

 

Above all, a true Prophet is raised by God Himself. It is He Who has sent him to mankind to convey His message to His people. It is His Command that one should put one's faith in the Prophet and follow him. Thus, one who refuses to believe in God's Messenger refuses to follow God’s Commandment and becomes a rebel. There is no denying that one who refuses to acknowledge the authority of the viceroy of a sovereign actually refuses the authority of the sovereign himself. This disobedience turns him into a rebel. God is the Lord of the Universe, the true Sovereign, the King of Kings, and it is the bounden duty of every man to acknowledge the authority of His Messengers and Apostles and to obey them as His accredited Prophets. Anyone who rejects the Prophets of God is a Kafir, be he a believer in God or a disbeliever.

 

 

 






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