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The term nabi is derived from the Arabic root naba’ (news) and a prophet is called nabi because he gives news of the Unseen (ghayb). The Quran dubs the perception and reception of this hidden news as wahy (revelation) and its receiver as nabi (messenger; prophet). Wahy is a form of God’s speech to man, which constitutes the basis of prophecy (Nisa’ 4: 163). Wahy is intended as a means of warning men, especially with regards to the Day of Judgment, for otherwise no call to religion would be of any efficacy (Shawra 42: 7). Wahy or the inner consciousness of prophets never undergoes change or corruption. Thus, all prophets are infallible. Infallibility is of three types: infallibility in terms of taking delivery of the divine message, infallibility in terms of conveying the divine message to others, and infallibility in terms of committing sin, i.e. breaching the bounds of servanthood and disobedience to the divine command. In sum, there is an element in the infallible man which prevents him from slipping into sinful conduct.
Another aspect of being a prophet is to bring forth miracles. In other words, the Quran speaks of events that are out of the ordinary, as compared with the normal course of nature. These are miracles that the Quran attributes to such prophets as Noah, Hud, Salih, Abraham, Lot, David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (PBUT). The prophets are of several rankings. Rasul is one to whom the angel of revelation appears and who speaks with the angel. Nabi is one who sees the angel in his dream and who thereby receives the revelation. The Ulu ‘l-`Azm Prophets – Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (PBUT) – are of a special status, i.e. each of them has been given a scripture and shari`ah (Ahqaf 46: 35; Ahzab 33: 7; Shawra 42: 13; Naba’ 78: 19; Ma’idah 5: 51). However, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) occupies a special place among prophets. Verse 157 of the Surah of A`raf (7) refers to five of his distinctions. He was rasul, nabi and ummi. He called people to good and warned them against evil. He removed the limitations that prevented them from the performance of good deeds. Through his new religion and scripture he managed to breathe new life into the practice of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil and raised it from a mere slogan to a jihad with one’s life and property. Islam is the only religion which covers the entire spectrum of human life and divides its affairs into the two categories of pure and impure. The first group is lawful (halal) and the second group is unlawful (haram). Islam also abrogated all the difficult practices imposed on the People of the Book, especially the Jews.
Another one of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) distinctions is that he is the last prophet who has brought the final revelation (Ahzab 33: 40). This implies that Islam is a religion that will not be abrogated, with a lasting shari`ah. It also means that man’s individual and social perfection is confined to what has been mentioned in the Quran and what has been legislated by the Islamic shari`ah (law). The Quran is the ever-living miracle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). It is the most authentic document of Islam which underpins the most fundamental aspects of the religion, i.e. the principles of faith and the beliefs that flow from them. It also elaborates the foundations of ethics and the general religious and legal principles. In sum, according to its own assertion, it calls men to a creed that provides the most illuminating guidance for humanity (Asra’ 17: 9). Though, Islam has suffered from many internal conflicts and sectarian divisions no Muslim has ever doubted the authority and sacredness of the Quran, which remains the ultimate arbiter in all religious disputes in Islam.
The revelation of the Quran took place in two stages: complete and gradual. In the Quran, the notion of inzal implies its complete revelation in one instance, while tanzil points to its gradual revelation over several years. The sudden nuzul (descent, revelation) of the Quran may be a reference to the fact that the Quran which was revealed to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) over a period of 23 years is based on a hidden reality which appeared to him in the form of a single truth (Dukhan 44: 2; Baqarah 2: 185; Qadr 97: 1).
Another issue relating to the Quran has to do with the Muslims’ belief that no distortion has ever taken place regarding its text, i.e. the collection of verses in our hands is exactly the same as what was heard by the compilers of the Holy Book from the Holy Prophet (PBUH) (Hajar 15: 9; Fussilat 41: 42).
Another characteristic of the Quran is that it has an outer (zahir) as well as an inner (batin) meaning. Since the Quran intends to make its teachings available to all classes of the society (Al-i `Imran 3: 195; Hujurat 49: 13), it presents its points in a simple, accessible language. This would inevitably lead to a situation when the immediate sense of the verses would imply sensual connotations which would conceal the spiritual aspects of the issues. Thus, each reader would arrive at a different level of meaning commensurate to his own understanding. Another consequence of this approach is that the surface of the words, as compared to their inner meaning, would appear as metaphors. Metaphors that are employed to facilitate the understanding of the divine word for the ordinary human minds (Asra’ 17: 89; `Ankabut: 29: 43).
The notions of muhkam and mutashabih are among the other aspects of the Quran. Mutashabih verses are those whose meanings are not self-referent, i.e. are made clear through reference to muhkam verses. In one sense, all Quranic verses are both muhkam and mutashabih (Hud 11: 1; Zumar 39: 23; Al-i `Imran 3: 7). Many hadiths point to the fact that the notions of muhkam and mutashabih are relative, i.e. a verse that is muhkam for one person may be mutashabih for another. Ta’wil and tanzil are two other pairs of Quranic concepts. Ta’wil is the subject to which a Quranic verse refers, while tanzil is the clear and immediate sense of the verse. According to verse 53 of the Surah of A`raf (7), ta’wil applies to the entire text of the Quran.
* source: Gorji , Abolghasem "Islam Entry" The Great Islamic Encyclopedia. Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.8 ,pp.405 - 406
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