Peygambers as Shepherds for their Flock

Syed Sharfuddin

Allah Subhanuhu wa Taala sent peygambers (prophets) to different communities of people in different epochs so that no community could say on the day of Judgement they did not receive divine Guidance to be accountable for their deeds. This stopped with the coming of prophet Muhammad, may Allah preserve him and protect him, who was sent as a blessing to all mankind and all worlds.

In terms of response, the different communities who were sent peygambers with Allah’s message can be divided into two groups. The first group comprised people who repeatedly rejected the divine Guidance and openly challenged the peygambers to bring Allah’s wrath against them. Some even killed the peygambers or exiled them from their cities. These people invited a punishment on them from Allah in this world.

The second group comprised people who accepted the Guidance and became faithful followers of Allah and His peygambers. This was not a constant feature as in every generation descendants of believers were misled by Shaitan and returned to idol worship. They also became morally decrepit, requiring a divine reminder for return to the right path. That’s why the thousands of peygambers of Allah who came in different times with their own cannon brought the same one divine message of oneness of God and the need for the people to live in peace and harmony, balancing the rights and obligations of human beings working in accordance with the laws of nature and universal truths. This is also why a Muslim is required to believe in all peygambers and all divine scriptures.

In the first category of nations which were destroyed because of their evil deeds, the Quran mentions the people of Nooh, Lut, A’ad (their peygamber was Hud), Thamud (their peygamber was Swaleh), Pharaoh (their peygambers were Moosa and Haroon) and Madyan (their peygamber was Shoaib). In addition, there were other people who also perished because of their evil deeds. In the Quran those people who are mentioned without the names of the peygambers are: people of Qaryah, Ras, Saba, Al-Akhdood and Tubba. The people of Bani Israel were sent many peygambers. Some of those who received admonishment for their transgressions are mentioned in the Quran such as the people of Sabt and Feel.

Those who accepted the divine message and followed Allah and His peygambers became part of the large family of believers. Their peygambers were like shepherds looking after their flock, guiding them and teaching them the moral codes and their set of laws to govern their relationship to Allah, as well as to other human beings. Their peygambers worried that they might be held accountable to Allah for their people’s breach of the covenant. The peygambers were also concerned that their nations should not abandon the right path after accepting the divine message. For this reason the peygambers tried very hard to keep their people away from idol worship (the highest form of sin) and social crime (each prophet’s gospel had a cannon which prescribed a social and moral code for the people to live in peace and harmony with nature).

This concern is most evident in the life of prophet Muhammad, may Allah preserve him and protect him. He was always concerned for his followers and prayed for their salvation. Allah made it clear to His prophets, including prophet Muhammad, that their commission was to only take the divine message to their people and not to enforce it on them. It is only Allah’s Guidance which makes one accept faith. Without guidance no one can become a Muslim even though the message of Allah has reached everyone in every time with clear signs.

There is also evidence in the holy Quran how the previous peygambers cared for the salvation of their people, even when they disobeyed them.

Ibrahim (AS)
Prophet Ibrahim who was tried and ‘punished’ by the powerful king of his time Nimrud, prayed for forgiveness of Allah both for the believers and those who disobeyed: “My lord, indeed they have led astray many among the people. So whoever follows me – then he is of me; and whoever disobeys me – indeed, You are [yet] forgiving and merciful. (14:36]. Prophet Ibrahim also prayed: “Our lord, and make us Muslims [in submission] to you and (take out) from our descendants a Muslim nation [in submission] to You. And show us our rites and accept our repentance. Indeed, You accept repentance, the merciful. (2:128).

Moosa (AS)
In Surah Al-Araaf (Chapter 7) verse 155 we learn about Prophet Moses interceding with God to seek pardon for the 70 elders of Hebrews who had been chosen to receive punishment for their community who started to worship of the golden calf when Moses had gone to Mt Sinai to receive the ten commandments from God. The verse reads: “And Moses chose seventy of his people for Our place of meeting. When they were seized with a violent earthquake, Moses prayed: “O my Lord. If it had been Your Will, You could have destroyed, long before, both them and me: Would You destroy us for the deeds of the foolish among us? This is no more than your trial; by it You cause whom You want to stray, and You lead whom You will into the right path. You are our protector, so forgive us and give us Your mercy, for You are the best of those who judge.” [7:155]. Prophet Moses had a way with words and knew the art of conversation. He managed to get God’s pardon not only for these seventy people but also for those who went astray and worshipped the calf of Sameri, who made it by melting their gold jewellery.

Isa (AS)
In surah Al-Maidah (chapter 5) we get a glimpse of a short dialogue between Allah and prophet Jesus on the day of judgement when all the prophets will be gathered before Allah to answer for their nations. Allah will ask prophet Jesus: “O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to the people worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?” Jesus will reply: “glory to you Lord. I could never say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, you would indeed have known it. You know what is in my heart; I do not know what is in yours, for you know in full all that is hidden. Then prophet Jesus will go on to say: “I never said to them anything except what you commanded me to say. (I asked them to) “worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord”. I was a witness over them while I dwelt among them but when you took me up, you were the watcher over them, and you are a witness to all things.

Then prophet Jesus will seek pardon for his people. He will say: “if you punish them, they are your servants (but) if forgive them, you are the exalted in power, the wise.” Allah will say: “this is a day on which the truthful will profit from their truth: theirs are gardens, with rivers flowing beneath, their eternal home: Allah is pleased with them and they are pleased with Allah. That is the great salvation”. [5:115-119].

However, as we know from the holy Quran, the act of Shirk is unpardonable. The supplication of the peygambers will be good for those followers who accepted the divine message and did not change it to bring in their own interpretations of faith, especially in attaching partners unto God and legalising the forbidden or altering the permissible to forbid it.