The Prophets who are not mentioned in the Holy Quran
Friday Khutba by Dr Zahid Aziz, for Lahore Ahmadiyya UK, 18 November 2022
“Surely We have revealed to you as We revealed to Noah and the prophets after him, and We revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and We gave to David a scripture. And (We sent) messengers We have mentioned to you before and messengers We have not mentioned to you. And to Moses Allah addressed His word, speaking (to him) — messengers, bearers of good news and warners, so that the people may have no plea against Allah after the (coming of) messengers. And Allah is ever Mighty, Wise.” — ch. 4: An-Nisa, v. 163–165
اِنَّاۤ اَوۡحَیۡنَاۤ اِلَیۡکَ کَمَاۤ اَوۡحَیۡنَاۤ اِلٰی نُوۡحٍ وَّ النَّبِیّٖنَ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِہٖ ۚ وَ اَوۡحَیۡنَاۤ اِلٰۤی اِبۡرٰہِیۡمَ وَ اِسۡمٰعِیۡلَ وَ اِسۡحٰقَ وَ یَعۡقُوۡبَ وَ الۡاَسۡبَاطِ وَ عِیۡسٰی وَ اَیُّوۡبَ وَ یُوۡنُسَ وَ ہٰرُوۡنَ وَ سُلَیۡمٰنَ ۚ وَ اٰتَیۡنَا دَاوٗدَ زَبُوۡرًا ﴿۱۶۳﴾ۚ وَ رُسُلًا قَدۡ قَصَصۡنٰہُمۡ عَلَیۡکَ مِنۡ قَبۡلُ وَ رُسُلًا لَّمۡ نَقۡصُصۡہُمۡ عَلَیۡکَ ؕ وَ کَلَّمَ اللّٰہُ مُوۡسٰی تَکۡلِیۡمًا ﴿۱۶۴﴾ۚ رُسُلًا مُّبَشِّرِیۡنَ وَ مُنۡذِرِیۡنَ لِئَلَّا یَکُوۡنَ لِلنَّاسِ عَلَی اللّٰہِ حُجَّۃٌۢ بَعۡدَ الرُّسُلِ ؕ وَ کَانَ اللّٰہُ عَزِیۡزًا حَکِیۡمًا ﴿۱۶۵﴾
“And certainly We sent messengers before you — among them are those We have mentioned to you and among them are those We have not mentioned to you …” — ch. 40, Al-Mumin, v. 78
وَ لَقَدۡ اَرۡسَلۡنَا رُسُلًا مِّنۡ قَبۡلِکَ مِنۡہُمۡ مَّنۡ قَصَصۡنَا عَلَیۡکَ وَ مِنۡہُمۡ مَّنۡ لَّمۡ نَقۡصُصۡ عَلَیۡکَ ؕ …
The first set of verses I have recited begins by telling us that all messengers of God received revelation from God in the same manner, and it was in the same way that the Holy Prophet Muhammad received revelation. Some twelve messengers are named here and it is added that, in addition to these, there were other messengers not mentioned in the Quran. The other verse which I recited repeats that there were other messengers sent by God in addition to those whose names are mentioned in the Quran. The Quran also tells us that prophets and messengers were sent to each and every nation (ch. 10, v. 47, ch. 35, v. 24), just as the Holy Prophet was a prophet and messenger of God. This means that there were so many of them that all of them could not possibly be named in the Quran. The reason for the appearance of so many messengers is given as “so that the people may have no plea against Allah after the (coming of) messengers”. In other words, no people in the world could say that God did not give them guidance.
Another reason why many of the prophets could not be mentioned in the Quran is that it could only mention those prophets that the Arabs of that time, in the land where the Quran was revealed, had heard of. But by saying that there were prophets and messengers in addition to these, it left the door open for future Muslims, when Islam spread into other parts of the world outside Arabia, to recognise the great founders of the religions of those countries as true messengers.
We all know that Muslims are required by the Quran to believe in all prophets equally. Muslims are described as follows: “And those who believe in Allah and His messengers and make no distinction between any of them” (ch. 4, v. 152). This applies also to the messengers not mentioned in the Quran, even though in their case it is a matter of our own judgment to conclude that such and such a great historical figure was one of these unmentioned messengers.
Just because their present-day followers might believe in several gods, and revere their founders to be more than just mortal human beings, does not reflect badly on their great founders. We know from the Quran how the followers of the Israelite prophets, including Jesus, deviated from the real teachings of their prophets. Their prophets are not responsible for this and it does not detract from their high status. This teaches us that the beliefs and the condition of the followers is no reflection on their prophets. Even in case of us Muslims, the beliefs and behaviour of some sections cannot be attributed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
During the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, Muslims encountered Jews and Christians, and some other related sects, in Arabia. Their prophets are explicitly mentioned in the Quran along with some details of their histories. The Jews and Christians are called “People of the Book” in the Quran because they possessed scriptures which the Quran recognised as having been, originally, revealed by Allah to their prophets.
When Muslims expanded to countries outside Arabia, they encountered other religions whose founders were not mentioned in the Quran. But from the very beginning Muslims realised that the followers of these religions may also be in the category of “People of the Book” if they possessed scriptures containing teachings of their ancient sages. And Muslim realised that the founders of these religions must have been prophets and messengers of Allah.
When Muslims conquered Iran, about seven years after the death of the Holy Prophet, the religion prevailing in Iran was Zoroastrianism, a very ancient religion. It is named after its founder Zoroaster. Something of this religion was already known to Muslims since Salman, a famous Companion of the Holy Prophet, was a Persian. The Quran itself mentions “the Magians” (al-majūs) along with the Jews and the Christians (ch. 22, v. 17). Magians are considered to be the same as Zoroastrians, known as Parsis in the Indian subcontinent. It is recorded in some ancient Muslim literature that the Holy Prophet Muhammad had himself given instructions to Muslims that they must treat Zoroastrians as “People of the Book” (The Preaching of Islam, by Sir T.W. Arnold, p. 207). Of course, Zoroaster is not mentioned in the Quran.
After Islam spread in the Indian subcontinent, some Sufi saints recognised the Hindu religion and its scriptures as being of Divinely-revealed origin. One of them was Mirza Mazhar Jān-e-Jānān (1699–1780) who was a famous Sufi poet of Delhi. He is recognized as one of the four pillars of eighteenth century Urdu poetry. There is a collection of his letters that has been published. He writes: “According to the verses ‘And there is not a people but a warner has gone among them’ (ch. 35, v. 24) and ‘And for every nation there is a messenger’ (ch. 10, v. 47), prophets and messengers were sent to the lands of India, and the accounts of their lives are in their scriptures, and from whatever knowledge about them which remains it appears that they had reached the highest degrees of spiritual development. The broad mercy of God did not forget the human needs of this vast country.” He goes on to add: “It is well-known that before the coming of the Holy Prophet Muhammad messengers were sent to every nation, and that nation was required to obey its messenger, and not the messenger of another nation. But after the coming of our Messenger (the Holy Prophet Muhammad) until the end of the world no one can disobey him.”
Then he says that as regards previous religions: “the Quran tells us that ‘We sent messengers before you — among them are those We have mentioned to you and among them are those We have not mentioned to you’, and it is silent about the lives of many prophets. Therefore we should not pass any judgment about the founders of other religions who are not mentioned in the Quran. We can neither believe with certainty that their followers are kafir and doomed to hell, nor can we be sure that they will receive salvation. We must hold a favourable opinion about them. … Without any strong evidence we must not easily call anyone as kafir” (Maktubat Mirza Mazhar Jān-e-Jānān, published Lahore, 1997, Letter no. 14, p. 132–133).
What he means is that Hindus and followers of other pre-Islamic religions, who possessed revealed scriptures, cannot be called kafir in the sense in which the Arab idol-worshippers are called kafir in the Quran, but rather, they are included in the category of the People of the Book.
Another example of Muslims encountering a pre-Islamic religion was provided by a Mughal general, Mirza Muhammad Haidar who led armies for the Mughal emperors Babur and Humayun. This was almost 500 years ago. He wrote a history of the Mughals in Persian entitled Tarikh-i-Rashidi, in which he mentions going to Tibet with his army and meeting the local people there and talking to them about their customs and religion. The local people were Buddhists. He writes that some histories say that Buddha was one of the prophets who appeared in India. He also writes that the local people told him that Buddha had prophesied the appearance of prophets after him, the last of whom would have no father or mother. They told him:
“All the world will comprehend his religion. When he is sent it will be necessary for the whole world to submit to him, and blessed will he be who hastens to adopt his faith. I bequeath my own religion in order that it may be handed down from generation to generation until the blessed time of his appearance. … People should believe in him before all other men.” (Tarikh-i Rashidi, English translation published 1895, p. 415–416)
Their statement to Mirza Haidar fulfills a claim made in the Quran. The Quran says:
“And when Allah made a covenant through the prophets (with their followers): Certainly what I have given you of Book and Wisdom — then a Messenger comes to you verifying what is (already) with you, you shall believe in him, and you shall aid him. He said: Do you affirm and accept My compact in this (matter)? They said: We do affirm. He said: Then bear witness, and I (too) am a bearer of witness with you” (ch. 3, v. 81).
According to the Quran, every prophet told his followers: A Prophet will appear in the future who will verify me as being true, so when he appears it will be the duty of my followers to believe in him and assist him in his mission.
To prove this claim of the Quran factually and historically, and from the scriptures of earlier religions, was a work undertaken by Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, a great scholar and lifelong missionary of our Jamaat, who published his research in the book Muhammad in World Scriptures. I mention this today, and have chosen this topic for my khutba, because today is the 45th anniversary of the Maulana’s death in Lahore. This day was a Friday in that year as well (1977).
May Allah enable us to continue the mission of the past elders of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Jamaat. — ameen.