If we see any variation in the procedures and programs followed by the various Prophets, it is to be explained in terms of the swift changes that take place in human development and the passage of the human being from one stage to the next. For all the Prophets were without distinction, true guides of humanity to the goals set by God; they preached a single doctrine deriving from a single source, advancing it in accordance with the dictates and circumstances of their time. The Quran says: “We make no distinction among any of the Prophets.” (2:135). The sending of the Prophets formed part of the plan of creation from the very beginning, and the chain of the Messengers represented the gradual unfolding of Divine guidance. Just as the human being advanced in the general conduct of his life, so too, the mission of the Prophets moved forward in harmony with the progress of the human being, and the Prophets accordingly foretold the appearance of the Prophets who would succeed them.
The Prophet of Islam confirmed the messengerhood of previous Prophets and the heavenly books they had brought, just as they had confirmed the Prophets who had preceded them. Those earlier Prophets had also proclaimed that others would follow them, so that the very leaders of religion clearly proclaimed the interconnectedness of all true religion. Although the fact that the appearance of a Prophet has been foretold cannot serve in itself as proof for the veracity of a person’s claim to prophethood, it does serve to indicate what might be the nature of a true Prophet and what qualities might be observed in him.
Were a name to be specified when predicting the emergence of a Prophet, this would of course, be open to misuse since naming is a conventional matter and anyone could adopt the name in question. Similarly, to specify the exact moment when the Prophet was to appear would have facilitate the task of false claimants by giving them the opportunity to prepare themselves for making their fateful and monstrous claim. Furthermore, this might have led to a profusion of claims, which would then have induced confusion in the minds of people. It may not be difficult for people with the ability to examine matters carefully and realistically to tell the difference between a true Messenger of God and false and erroneous claimants. But at the same time, it should not be forgotten that recognizing the truth, particularly in circumstances where it is mixed with falsehood, is not easy for those many people whose level of thought and awareness is not especially high. Many are those who fall into traps laid by the ambitions of the wicket. It is for these reasons that the characteristics of a future Prophet are spelled out, these being the distinctive signs by which he may be recognized. Then those scholars on whom others depend for guidance in this matter can measure the claimant to prophethood against the characteristics that have been mentioned, devoting themselves to the task in utter purity and sincerity.
Christianity never advanced the claim that the religion of Jesus would be permanent and eternal or that Jesus was the Seal of the Prophets and a guarantor of the textual integrity of the Gospels. Other religions also did not make analogous claims for themselves. Islam does however; speak of being the last and most perfect of all religions and of its Messenger being the Seal of the Prophets. It therefore follows that the heavenly book of Islam must always be protected from corruption and distortion. The fundamental difference between the sacred books of Christianity and Islam is that Christianity lacks a revealed text that was fixed at the very time of its origins, whereas Islam possesses one. The Gospel which we now have at our disposal have been extensively criticized by scholars and researchers who have examined different copies of the Gospels and have reached the conclusion that the New Testament has undergone many changes. There are many indications that the text of the Gospels has been codified to a considerable extent, to conform to personal beliefs and opinions.
John Nass, a historian of religions, writes as follows: “The history of Christianity is the story of a religion that arose from a belief in Divine incarnation having taken place in the person of its founder. All the teachings of Christianity revolve around the conviction that the person of Jesus represents the clearest manifestation of the Divine essence. But this religion that started out with a belief in Divine incarnation was transformed through a series of developments and took on a human dimension so that all the weaknesses and imperfections of human condition began to appear in it.
“The story of religion is extremely long, including many ups and downs and moments of both glory and shame; it is these contrasts that give it meaning and significance. In none of the world’s religions have such exalted spiritual aims been manifest as in Christianity; but equally in none of them has the failure to reach those aims been so marked.” Despite the textual corruption to which the Gospels have been subject, there are indications that the expressions “Spirit of Truth,” “Holy Ghost” and “Comforter” which they contain may refer to the Prophet of Islam. The Gospels record that Jesus addressed his disciples as follows: “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father. He shall testify of me.” “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he comes, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness because I go to my Father, and you see me nor more; of judgment because the prince of this world is judged.
I have yet many things to say unto you but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me, for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you.” “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”If we say that the Comforter is identical with the Holy Ghost, we know that the Holy Ghost constantly accompanied Jesus and it would therefore not have been correct for him to say: “He will not come to you until I go.” When the Prophet Jesus says, “The prince of the world cometh” and that he will guide mankind, he is in effect accepting the religion to be brought by that person as the most perfect of all religions. Can the description of him given by Jesus fit anyone other than Muhammad, upon whom be peace and blessings?
To be continued