What “New” Message Did Muhammad Bring?

Saleem Ahmed, Ph.D. President, Pacific Institute of Islamic Studies, Honolulu, Hawaii

The Qur’an declares:

Nothing is said to you (O Muhammad) except what was said to messengers before you (verse 41.43).

Revealed in Islam’s earlier years when the prophet lived in Mecca, this informed all — Jews, Christians, Muslims, and pagans alike — that the message of monotheism and righteous living, conveyed earlier by Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets and messengers via the Torah and the Bible, was reinforced by the Qur’an.

However, while there was nothing “new” in the crux of the message Muhammad brought – monotheism and righteous living – the “newness” was that it expanded significantly the geographical area in which God’s messengers reportedly lived: from merely the Middle East – as one would probably surmise by reading the Torah and the Bible — to the entire world – as one would probably surmise by reading the Qur’an. In this regard, consider the following Qur’anic verses:

To every people was sent a messenger (verse 10:47);

We assuredly sent amongst every people a messenger (with the command): “Serve God and shun evil” (16:36);

To those who believe in God and His messengers and make no distinction between any of the messengers, God will soon give their reward (4:152).

Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians2,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve (2.62. Similar message is in verse 5.69).

With no geographical boundaries being identified in any of the above or other Qur’anic passages regarding the area in which God sent messengers, we can only conclude that God sent messengers all over the world. Understandably, the Qur’an only narrates stories of some

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1 I consider “prophets” to be individuals who received a message from God; and “messengers” as individuals who helped convey that message to humanity. I am using “messengers” in the balance of this article to refer to both. 2 Sabians are generally considered to be a religious group living in southern Mesopotamia during the prophet’s times.

Biblical messengers to not only provide continuity of thought, but also to not bewilder us. After all, consider how 7th Century humans would have reacted to any mention in the Qur’an of messengers living in areas such as Australia and America they had not heard of; areas where animals such as bison and kangaroo roamed; areas where fruits such as pineapple and sugar apple abounded; and areas where one “day” lasted six-months, followed by a “night” lasting the other six months. The Qur’an clarifies this intentional omission by pointing out:

God did, afore time, send messengers before you (O Muhammad). Of them, there were some whose story God has related to you, and some whose story God has not related to you (40:78).

Prophet Muhammad reinforced this revolutionary idea of worldwide appearance of messengers by clarifying that God sent 124,000 messengers the world over from the beginning of time (Masnad Ibn Hambal 21257, quoted by Muzammil Siddiqui, www.PakistanLink, November 24, 2007). Keeping in mind the Biblical worldview then of God’s messengers being contained within a relatively small geographical area, this idea of the universality of God’s messengers was indeed revolutionary and remarkable.

But, while God sent messengers to all nations, only the following 24 are named in the Qur’an, 20 of whom are also mentioned in the Torah and Bible. And all of them probably lived in the Middle East:

Biblical name Qur’anic name Biblical name Qur’anic name

Adam Aadam Aaron Haroon

Noah Nuh Elias Ilyas

Abraham Ibrahim Elisha Al-Yasa

Enoch Idrees Lot Loot

Ishmael Ismail ___ Hud

Isaac Ishaq ___ Shuaib

Jacob Yaqoob ___ Salih

David Dawood Ezekiel Dhul-Kifl

Solomon Sulaiman Zechariah Zakariyah

Job Ayoob John Yahya

Joseph Yusuf Jesus Eesa

Moses Moosa ___ Muhammad

Who could be among the other God’s messengers mentioned in the above Hadith? We don’t know. Thus, the exciting journey ahead for Muslims would be to try to figure out which righteous individuals in yesteryears in other parts of the world could have been among God’s messengers. The only “clue” we have to help in our quest would be that all these holy people must have also extolled belief in one God and righteous living, and that their description of the Transcendental Being would have possibly included among attributes such as:

All-Hearing, All-Knowing, All Powerful, Compassionate, Creator of life and death, Creator of the universe, Eternal, Formless, Genderless, Master of afterlife, Perfect/Flawless, Omniscient, Omni-Present, Sees everything, True, Unique, and Wise.

To find answers, and rather than relying on hearsay, Muslims might consider reading the sacred texts of other religions and discussing this question objectively with their followers.

We will then realize that the inspiration our prophet received regarding earlier God’s messengers was not only to re-affirm the earlier information, but also to provide “new” thinking in our knowledge; innovative thinking that there must have been thousands of such messengers that He sent the world over ever since He created the first man and woman. And since recent scientific evidence suggests all humans have descended from the same mother and father, we can also marvel at the story of Adam and Eve as the first humans on earth.

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