IMAM HUSAIN ISLAMIC CENTRE “Light of Guidance and Ark of Salvation”
September, 20 2017 - 7:20 PM 28 Dhul Hijjah 1438

Were the Teachings of the Previous Prophets Universal?

Were the Teachings of the Previous Prophets Universal?


The stories of the prophets as mentioned in the Quran suggest that the teachings of the previous prophets have been limited to their own time and region to which they have been dispatched. For instance, about Prophet Nuh we read, “And indeed We sent Nuh to his nation saying: ‘Warn your nation before there comes to them a painful torment.” [71:1]

With regard to Prophet Moses, the Quran says, “And indeed We sent Moses with our signs saying ‘Bring out your nation from darkness into light'.” [14:5] Thus Judaism is the religion of the tribe of Judah so a ‘Jew' originally designates a member of that tribe.

Similarly, regarding Prophet Jesus, the holy Quran says, “And remember when Jesus son of Mary said, ‘O children of Israel I am the messenger of God unto you.'” [61:6]

It is also narrated in the gospel of Matthew that “Jesus was only sent for the lost sheep of the house of Israel .” [Matt.10:5-6]

Matthew and Mark further narrate that a gentile woman (non-Jewish) begs Jesus to heal her daughter but Jesus initially refuses saying that “it is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs of the house.” However, when she insists that even the house dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from the masters table, Jesus answers her and heals her daughter. [Matt.15:22-28]

Nevertheless, the holy Quran regards the story of Prophet Nuh and his followers who embarked the ship and saved from the flood, a Sign for the world. [29:15]. And the sacred house, the Ka'ba, which was built by Prophet Ibrahim is regarded in the Quran as guidance for the world.[3:96] The Almighty God elevated the spiritual status of Mary mother of Jesus, so highly in the Quran that she was chosen over all the women of the world. [3:42] And finally, referring to the children of Israel , the Almighty God in the Quran says, “O children of Israel . Remember My favour which I bestowed on you and that I preferred you to the world.” [2:122] 

Also, if the teachings of the previous prophets were regional and limited to the people of their time then one wonders as to why their stories and teachings are mentioned in the Quran knowing for a fact that every single verse in the Quran is part of the manifestation of Islam. Thus, it is not only for the sake of knowing the history of the past that the Almighty God revealed all the stories of the previous prophets. 

Our Christian brethren also disagree with the regional and time-limited mission of Prophet Jesus. They believe the story of the Gentile woman was in the beginning of Jesus' mission and eventually he proclaimed his mission to the world through his disciples. According to Mark and Matthew Jesus before his ascension (or resurrection as Christians believe) commanded his disciples to go to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. [Mark 16:15-16, Matt.5:14-16] 
It seems paradoxical that on the one hand the previous prophets have been designated to their own nation, yet on the other hand they are the divine Signs for the world. 

My suggestion for reconciliation between the two sides of the paradox is that the teachings of the previous prophets were limited due to the requirements and intellectual capacity of the people of their time and hence they were also limited to a specific time and place. Nevertheless, all those teachings were forming parts of the universal and eternal religion of God; Islam. Thus, seeing them individually they were regional but looking at them collectively they were the signs and parts of forming a universal and perfected religion. 

It is narrated from the prophet of Islam to have said; “The parable of my mission and the mission of the previous prophets is the parable of a man constructing a building until he makes it as complete and beautiful as possible. Then people walk around it and say, ‘we have never seen such a beautiful building except that there is a brick (part) missing in it.' So I am that brick.” [Muslim vol.4 ch. Prophet Muhammad is the Seal of the Prophets] 

We should also bear in mind that by making a point we should not rely on a distorted biblical story which insults the prophets of God. I cannot begin to imagine that prophet Jesus refuses to help a woman's child simply because they were not Jewish.

 

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