How can a Muslim establish a true belief in the Messengers of God?
Belief in the Messengers is one of the pillars of faith. It means that Muslims believe that God did not leave creation to their own devices, rather He cared for their needs and sent revelations to people at every time and place. It also means that the Prophet Muhammad is the seal of the prophets and there is no prophet after him. This is a general response.
As for particulars, Muslims believe in the Messengers mentioned in the Quran. Their number is twenty-five, eighteen of whom God mentioned in Chapter 6 of the Quran, That is Our argument. We gave it unto Abraham against his folk. We raise unto degrees of wisdom whom We will. Lo! thy Lord is Wise, Aware. And We bestowed upon him Isaac and Jacob; each of them We guided; and Noah did We guide aforetime; and of his seed (We guided) David and Solomon and Job and Joseph and Moses and Aaron. Thus do We reward the good And Zachariah and John and Jesus and Elias. Each one (of them) was of the righteous. And Ishmael and Elisha and Jonah and Lot. Each one (of them) did We prefer above (Our) creatures, [6:83-86].
The remaining seven are, Muhammad, Adam, Hud, Salih, Dhu al-Kefl, Shu’ayb, and Idris whom God has mentioned in Quran, Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets; and God is ever Aware of all things [33:40]; And He taught Adam all the names, then showed them to the angels, saying: Inform Me of the names of these, if ye are truthful. They said: Be glorified! We have no knowledge saving that which Thou hast taught us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower, the Wise. He said: O Adam! Inform them of their names, and when he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I not tell you that I know the secret of the heavens and the earth? And I know that which ye disclose and which ye hide [2:31-33]; Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful [2:37].
Dhu al-Kefl was mentioned in two places in the Quran, And (mention) Ishmael, and Idris, and Dhu’l-Kifl. All were of the steadfast [21:85]; And make mention of Ishmael and Elisha and Dhu’l-Kifl. All are of the chosen [38:48]. He mentioned Idris in more than one place in the Quran including, And make mention in the Scripture of Idris. Lo! he was a saint, a prophet; And We raised him to high station [19:56-57].
God also mention Hud in the Quran in more than one place including, And unto (the tribe of) A’ad (We sent) their brother, Hud. He said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other God save Him. Will ye not ward off (evil)? [7:65]. Salih is mentioned in more than one place in the Quran including, And We verily sent unto Thamud their brother Salih, saying: Worship Allah. And lo! they (then became two parties quarrelling [27:45]. God mentioned Shu’ayb in more than one place in the Quran including, And unto Madian (We sent) their brother Shu’eyb. He said: O my people! Serve Allah. Ye have no other God save Him! And give not short measure and short weight. Lo! I see you well-to-do, and lo! I fear for you the doom of a besetting Day [11:84].
Those are the ones that are mentioned in the Quran, and Muslims must believe in them specifically, meaning that Muslims should not deny the prophethood of any one of them. Muslims must also believe that God sent prophets other than those mentioned and that their actual number is greater, Verily We sent messengers before thee, among them those of whom We have told thee, and some of whom We have not told thee; and it was not given to any messenger that he should bring a portent save by God’s leave, but when God’s commandment cometh (the cause) is judged aright, and the followers of vanity will then be lost [40:78].
The Prophet said, “I am the seal of one thousand or more prophets. No prophet has ever been sent except that he warned his community of the dajjal.” According to Abu Dharr he asked the Prophet, “O Mesenger of God, how many prophets are there?” The Prophet said, “One hundred thousand prophets, and one hundred and twenty four prophets.” I asked, “How many of them are messengers?” He said, “Three hundred and thirteen.”
Just as Muslims were asked to believe in the divinely revealed books, the same request applies to the belief in the prophets. It is not permissible for Muslims to depart from following the |Prophet Muhammad and follow another one. Muslims’ faith in the prophets is that they believe that God sent them to their communities and commanded their communities to follow them.
Thus it is not permissible for us to follow them for the same two reasons provided above regarding the divinely revealed books, namely: we cannot be sure that what has been related concerning them in the books of other peoples has not been altered. Even if what has been related concerning them has not been altered, it is not permissible for us to follow them because God has abrogated following them when He sent the Prophet Muhammad, the Seal who said, “I have brought it to you white and pure, and if Moses were alive he would have followed me.”
What has been mentioned is the summary of the belief of Muslims regarding the messengers. We ask God to provide us with true faith and good works, and our final prayer is, all praise is to God, Lord of the Worlds.
And God is Most High and knows best.