The Earlier Prophets and Their Books
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The Earlier Prophets and their Books
There is a tradition in the Musnad of Ahmad ibn Hanbal that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
“From Adam to me Allah sent a hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets of whom three hundred and fifteen were entrusted with a Book.”
The names of all these Prophets to whom scriptures were revealed are not mentioned either in the Quran or in the Hadith. It is not possible for us therefore, to provide details about them. We come across a few references to the books revealed to Adam, the first Prophet. Unfortunately, however, we are not aware of the language in which they were revealed nor do we have any idea of their contents.
Adams son, Shith (peace be upon him) was also a Prophet. A few scriptures. it is suggested in some accounts, were revealed to him. But they, too, are not extant. Parts of a book attributed to ldris (peace be upon him), one of the earliest Prophets, have been found only recently. A few scrolls have been discovered in some caves near the Dead Sea in Palestine. A scripture among these scrolls is attributed to Enoch (in Arabic, Akhndkh) who is none else than Prophet Idris (peace be upon him). Recently a Jew[ish] translation of this book into English [has] been published. Even though there is no definitive and irrefutable proof, yet the research date so far suggests that this book could be called the scripture of the most ancient Prophet. The book contains a prophecy about the last Prophet which is also incorporated in the “Letters of Jehovah” in the New Testament.
After Idris (peace be upon him) we come across a few allusions to Noah. There is a small sect called Sabacans in Iraq. Sabacans have a religion of their own. They claim to be followers of Noah and his religion. According to them they once possessed Noahs entire Book which is now extinct and they are left with no more than four or five lines which deal with morality. Noah is followed by another Prophet whose book is mentioned in the Quran. He was Abraham (peace be upon him). Twice the Quran refers to “The Books of Abraham and Moses” (53:36-37 and 87:19). The contents of Abrahams Book [is] not found in the Jewish and Christian literature, but [has] been briefly mentioned in the Quran.
Besides these Prophets there are other individuals who have not been accorded the status of a Prophet in clear terms in scriptures, still the possibility that they were Prophets cannot be dismissed altogether. One of them is Zoaster. The Psrsis acclaim him as their Prophet, and it is possible because the Quran mentions Magians (22:17) whose religion is based on Avesta, a book revealed to Zoaster.
If we were to compare the teachings of Avesta, as known to us, with those of the Quran, we shall have some idea of the intrinsic superiority of the latter. Avesta was written in the contemporary language called Zand. After the conquest of Iran, the language of the new rulers gained currency and the old tongue became archaic with the result that except for a few specialists, no-one remained familiar with Zand. That is why the scholars of Zoroastrianism summarized, and wrote commentaries on Avesta in the new language called Pazand. Only abort one-tenth of this version of Avesta is available to us, the rest has disappeared. It comprises some details about prayers and a few commandments.
In any case, an ancient religious book is known to us as Avesta, even though it has not come down to us in its entirety. The Avesta, among other things, contains the following statement of Zoaster: “I have not perfected the religion. Another Prophet will come after me and he will perfect this religion; his name will be Mercy for the entire universe.
This reminds one of the Quranic verses in which Muhammad (peace be upon him) has been so-called (see Quran 21:107). In India, too, some religious scripture[s], are to be found. Hindus believe them to be revealed by God. Among these holy books are the Vedas, the Puranas, the Upanishads and others. It is difficult to determine whether they were all revealed to a single Prophet. It is possible that they were revealed to various Prophets (provided they were Prophets). In these books too, particularly the Puranas, we come across a few interesting allusions. Purana is the same word [that] is still used in Urdu in the sense of ancient. In the Quran, we come across a significant reference; “And lo, it is in the Scriptures of the men of old.” (26:196).
There are ten Puranas. In one of them a it is mentioned that in the final epoch a man will be born in a desert. His mothers name will be “Reliable” (Aminah?) and his fathers name will be the “slave of God” (Abd AIIah?). He will be obliged to move north from his country and settle there. He will then conquer his own country with the help of ten thousand men several-fold. In the battle, his chariot will be drawn by camels and they will be so swift that they will soar to the skies.
From these statements in the Puranas, it is possible to infer that they refer to the coming of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).
In addition to these ancient books, there are others with which Muslims are quite familiar, i.e. the Torah, the Zabur (Psalms) and the Evangel. The Book revealed to Moses (peace be upon him) is generally referred o as the Torah, but in fact the Torah is only part of the Book revealed to him. The word Torah means law. The Jews attribute five books o Moses. The first is called the “Book of Genesis”, the second is “Exodus”, which deals with the exodus from Egypt; the third is “Law”; the fourth is called “Numbers”, because Moses had ordered a census of [the] Jews based on their distribution into various tribes; and the fifth is called “Deuteronomy”, which means retelling of old accounts, their updating and elaboration.
The History of the Earlier Scriptures
In the beginning, the fifth book was not extant among the Jews. It was six hundred years after Moses, and during the time of war, that a man brought a book to the then Jewish ruler and said that he had found it in a cave. He did not know what it was exactly, but the book contained some religious commandments. The king sent the manuscript to a Prophetess of his time. The Jews had women Prophets (at least they make a claim to that effect). Huldah, a Prophetess according to the Jewish