According to Islam, Allah created man for a noble purpose: to worship Him and lead a virtuous life based on His teachings and guidance. How would man know his role and the purpose of his existence unless he received clear and practical instructions of what Allah wants him to do? Here comes the need for prophethood. Thus, Allah has chosen from every nation at least one Prophet to convey His Message to people.
One might ask, how were the Prophets chosen and who were entitled to this great honor?
Prophethood is Allah's blessing and favor that He may bestow on whom He wills. However, from surveying the various messengers throughout history, three features of a Prophet may be recognized:
1. He is the best in his community morally and intellectually. This is necessary because a Prophet's life serves as a role model for his followers. His personality should attract people to accept his message rather than drive them away by his imperfect character. After receiving the message, he is infallible. That is, he would not commit any sin. This is not to mean that Prophets did any, as they were of the highest conduct among the people and thus were prepared to receive the message. A Prophet might make some minor mistakes- not out of desire or for personal goals; rather, out of keenness on achieving some benefits in the favor of the message he came to convey. Such minor mistakes were usually corrected by revelation.
2. He is supported by miracles to prove that he is not an imposter. Those miracles are granted by the power and permission of Allah and are usually in the field in which his people excel and are recognized as superiors.
3. Every Prophet states clearly that what he receives is not from his own, but from Allah for the well-being of mankind. He also confirms what was revealed before him and what may be revealed after him. A Prophet does this to show that he is simply conveying the message that is entrusted to him by The One True God of all people in all ages. So the message is one in essence and for the same purpose. Therefore, it should not deviate from what was revealed before him or what might come after him.
Prophets are necessary for conveying Allah's instructions and guidance to mankind. We have no way of knowing why we were created. What will happen to us after death? Is there any life after death? Are we accountable for our actions? These and so many other questions about Allah, angels, paradise, hell, and more, cannot be answered without direct revelation from the Creator and Knower of the unseen. Those answers must be authentic and must be brought by individuals whom we trust and respect. That is why messengers are the elite of their societies in terms of moral conduct and intellectual ability.
Hence, the slanderous Biblical stories about some of the great Prophets are not accepted by Muslims. For example, Prophet Lut is reported to have committed incestuous fornication while drunk. Prophet Dawood (David) is alleged to have sent one of his leaders to his death in order to marry his wife. Prophets, to Muslims, are greater than what these stories indicate. These stories cannot be true from the Islamic point of view.
The Prophets are also miraculously supported by Allah and instructed by Him to affirm the continuity of the message. The content of the Prophets' message to mankind can be summarized as follows:
a) Clear concept of Allah: His attributes, His creation, what should and should not be ascribed to Him.
b) Clear idea about the unseen world, the angels, jinn, Paradise and Hell.
c) Why Allah has created us, what He wants from us and what rewards and punishments are for obedience and disobedience.
d) How to run our societies according to His will. That is, clear instructions and laws that, when applied correctly and honestly, will result in a smoothly functioning, harmonious society.
Now one might ask: who are the Prophets according to the Islamic Faith? The answer is, many of the same Prophets found in the Old Testament, New Testament, and some Prophets which are mentioned in the Quran that you may not be familiar with.
According to Islam, some Prophets were given the message to deliver to their people (e.g. Prophets Adam, Nooh, Lut and others, may Allah exalt their mention, and others were given books (e.g. Prophets Ibraheem, Moosa, 'Eesa, Muhammad and others, may Allah exalt their mention.
Prophets in Islam are revered, respected individuals who were chosen by Allah to bring His Divine Message to their people.
In the case of Prophet Muhammad he was chosen to give his Message to all mankind. Every Prophet came to relay the same message to their people, which was to worship Allah alone, associating no partners with Him.
Islam is the final message for mankind, complete in every way, as Allah Says (what means): "This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion." [Quran 5:3]
When Muslims mention the name of any Prophet, out of respect, they supplicate for them asking that Allah exalt their mention and bestow His Peace and Blessings upon them. Another way in which Muslims show respect for the Prophets and Messengers of Allah is that they neither draw pictures of them nor approve of actors portraying Prophets in movies. Muslims believe that it is disrespectful to any Prophet of Allah for an actor to portray them.
The Prophets, may Allah exalt their mention, who were mentioned in the Quran are (arranged chronologically):
2- Idrees (Enoch)
3- Nooh (Noah)
5- Salih (Saleh)
6- Ibraheem (Abraham)
7- Lut (Lot)
8- Isma'eel (Ishmael)
9- Ishaq (Isaac)
10- Ya'qoob (Jacob)
11- Yoosuf (Joseph)
12- Ayyoob (Job)
13- Thul-Kifl (Ezekiel)
14- Yoous (Jonah)
16- Moosa (Moses)
17- Haroon (Aaron)
18- Dawood (David)
19- Sulayman (Solomon)
20- Ilyas (Elias)
21- Al-Yasa' (Elisha)
22- Zakariyya (Zachariah)
23- Yahya (John)
24- 'Eesa (Jesus)