What authority does God give to His Messengers?


As mentioned in the earlier sections, the messengers of God are sent to deliver His
messages and scripture to mankind. In order for them to fulfill their duties and deliver the
message within the role they are assigned to play, it is important for all believers to
acknowledge the nature of their role and the authority they are given. It is of equal
importance to be aware of what is not within their authority to do.

It must be said that the majority of the cases of idol worship stems from the fact that the
followers of any one messenger invariably give him more authority than what God has decreed.

To present and study this matter, the presentation has been divided into two sections:

What a Messenger is, and what a Messenger is not.

Each of these sections will display the relevant Quranic reference for what a messenger is
authorised to do and equally what he is not authorised to do.

 

What a Messenger is

1- Deliverer of God’s message

A message from God could be a complete scripture or pieces of information and messages.
Messengers are also sent to reveal hidden issues inside the scripture or to confirm existing
scripture.

Delivering God’s message is the focal point and duty of any messenger. God sees to it that
His messengers accomplish this duty to its completion.

“O you messenger, deliver what is revealed to you from your Lord – until you do, you have
not delivered His message” 
5:67

2- Warner, deliverer of good news, teacher and purifier

When God sends a messenger to a people, this messenger does not deliver the message and
leaves in the way a postman delivers a letter, but the messenger spends his whole life as a
preacher to his people. The Quranic verses that speak of messengers as warners, deliverers
of good news, teachers and purifiers are numerous. We have many examples in the Quran of
messengers who spent many years attempting to guide their people and purify them from
their sins. The despairing words of Noah to God in Sura 71 provide such example:

“We sent Noah to his people: “You shall warn your people before a painful retribution
afflicts them”. He said, “O my people, I am a manifest warner to you t
o alert you that you
shall worship God, reverence Him, and obey me. 
He will then forgive you your sins and

respite you for a predetermined period. Most assuredly, God’s appointment can never
be delayed, once it is due, if you only knew” He said, “My Lord, I have invited my people
day and night
But my invitation only increased their aversion. Whenever I invited them to
be forgiven by You, they placed their fingers in their ears, covered themselves with their
clothes, insisted, and turned arrogant. 
Then I invited them publiclyThen I proclaimed to
them loudly, and I spoke to them privately
  71:1-9

Messengers are sent to their people as teachers and purifyers (by inviting them to the
straight path of God):

“(Blessings) such as the sending of a messenger from among you to recite our revelations to
you, purify you, teach you the scripture and wisdom, and to teach you what you never
knew”
  2:151

Messengers are also sent (as mentioned) as Warners and Deliverers of good news:

“We have sent you (O Messenger) with the truth as a bearer of good news, as well as a
warner
  2:119

3- Witness on Judgement Day

“We have sent to you a messenger to serve as a witness against you, just as we sent to
Pharaoh a messenger”
  73:15

“Everyone among the people of the scripture was required to believe in him before his
death. On the Day of Resurrection, he (Jesus) will be a witness against them
  
4:159

“Thus, when the day (of judgment) comes, we will call upon a witness from each
community, and you (the messenger) will serve as a witness among these people
  
4:41

 

What a Messenger is not

As seen, the Quran is clear and precise in establishing what authority is given to God’s
Messengers. Equally, God makes it clear in the Quran what authority is not given to His
messengers.

1- Warner but not Enforcer

We read a clear message in the Quran related to the role of the messenger as a deliverer of
God’s message without being an enforcer of the message. The following are some of the
Quranic verses that confirm this truth:

“You shall remind, for your mission is to deliver this reminder. You have no power over
them
  88:21-22

“Follow what is revealed to you from your Lord, there is no god except He, and disregard
the idol worshipers. Had God willed, they would not have worshiped idols. We did not
appoint you as a guardian, nor are you their advocate
  
6:106-107

The command here to the messenger is very clear. God asserts that the messenger is only to
deliver the message and warn. The prophet is not appointed as a guardian nor an enforcer.

“O people, the truth has come to you herein from your Lord. Whoever is guided is guided
for his own good. And whoever goes astray, goes astray to his own detriment. I am not a
guardian over you
  10:108

“You shall proclaim to those who received the scripture, as well as those who did not,
“Would you submit?” If they submit, then they have been guided, but if they turn away,
your sole mission is to deliver the message
. God is Seer of all people.” 
3:20

“Proclaim: “This is the truth from your Lord,” then whoever wills let him believe, and
whoever wills let him disbelieve
” 
18:29

Once again, the emphasis on the fact that the messenger has no power to inforce the
message on anyone is clear.

2- Deliverers of God’s Law but not Law Maker

In the case of a prophet, he delivers the scripture that contains God’s law. In the case of the
messenger, he is sent to confirm the existing scripture and warn all those who have strayed
away from God’s law.

However, we are told in all the scripture that the role of the Law-Maker is one exclusively
retained by God Almighty.

When God gave Moses a complete and detailed law (7:145), God commanded Moses and
the people of Israel to adhere closely to the Law of God and never to follow any other Law
(see Leviticus 18:1-5).

Similarly, when God revealed the Quran to Muhammad, God commanded Muhammad and
all his followers to follow the Law of God in the Quran and no other source:

“Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully
detailed?”
  6:114

It is made very clear in the Quran that no human being (messengers included) has the right
to authorize any laws not specifically authorised in the Quran. It is also asserted that
whoever follows such laws falls automatically into the trap of idol worship:

“They follow idols who decree for them religious laws never authorized by God. If it were
not for the predetermined decision, they would have been judged immediately. Indeed, the
transgressors have incurred a painful retribution.”
  42:21

God in His infinite wisdom knows very well that in spite of all these firm assurances, there
will still be those who argue in favor of assigning the right of law making to the messengers
they follow. For that, God chose to include a very significant incident in the Quran as a
reminder for all believers. This is found in the following verse:

“O you prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, just to please your
wives? God is Forgiver, Merciful.”
  66:1

This glorious verse tells us a number of issues:

1- It is clear here that the prophet had prohibited something that was made lawful by God.
Many accounts of this incident have been narrated, perhaps the most common is the one of
the prophet when he prohibited honey on himself following a domestic dispute with
some of his wives. But the nature of the item that he prohibited or the details of the
dispute are irrelevant. All what matters is that the prophet made the mistake of prohibiting
something which was made lawful by God. This could have been honey, figs or peanuts.


In other words, the prophet played the role of the Law-maker, when his sole role was to deliver
God’s message.

2- We then read the very significant words at the end of the verse God is Forgiver,
Merciful
.

In other words, God is telling the prophet that he has made a mistake but that God would
forgive him because God is the Most Merciful.

3- It is also evident that God does not include these words in the Quran because He is keen
on belittling the prophet in the sight of the reader of the Quran. Not at all, we read
throughout the Quran that God’s messengers are spoken of highly and are well praised.
Then why does God include this incident in the Quran?

The obvious answer is that God sets this as a reminder for all believers across time thatno one
not even God’s prophets, have the right to make laws or authorise laws not authorised
by God Himself.

3- Honourable but also accountable

The verses that describe God’s messengers as honourable and of excellent character are
numerous, such as:

“You (O Messenger) are blessed with a great moral character  68:4

The messenger of God has set a fine example for those among you who seek God and the
Last Day, and constantly think about God.”
  33:21

“We have tested before them the people of Pharaoh; an honorable messenger went to them”  44:17

“O John, you shall uphold the scripture, strongly.” We endowed him with wisdom, even in his
youth. And (we endowed him with) kindness from us and purify, for he was righteous.
He honored his parents, and was never a disobedient tyrant” 
19:12-14

“Indeed, Abraham was clement, extremely kind and obedient 11:75

“Mention in the scripture Abraham; he was a saint, a prophet” 19:41

“He said, “I am the messenger of your Lord, to grant you a pure son (Jesus)” 19:19

“Mention in the scripture Moses. he was devoted, and he was a messenger prophet” 19:51

“And mention in the scripture Ismail. He was truthful when he made a promise, and he was
a messenger prophet”
 19:54

These are some of the numerous verses that describe God’s messengers as men of fine
character and honour.

However, the Quran also stresses the fact that all will stand infront of the Almighty and be
accountable. This applies to all humans including saints, messengers and prophets.

It must be remembered that all the human race (including messengers) have refused to
submit to God’s absolute authority in the pre-life and also refused the gracious offer that
God presented them with (see 33:72). For this reason, all the human race is brought into
this world as their second chance to redeem themselves. For this reason also, all the human
race (including saints, messengers and prophets) will be accountable on Judgement Day.

For more info on the pre-life please check the file (The Reason We Are here).

 

The Quran confirms that all the messengers will be held accountable like the rest
of the human race:

“We will certainly question those who received the message, and We will also question the
messengers
  7:6

“The sky is opened up. The mountains are blown up. The messengers are summoned.
That is the appointed day”
  77:9-12

“Every single one in the heavens and the earth cometh unto the Most Gracious
as a 
servant
  19:93

4- Blessed with wisdom but not infallible

In order to enable the messengers to accomplish their asigned mission, God blesses His
messengers with wisdom and the knowledge of the scripture:

“(Blessings) such as the sending of a messenger from among you to recite our revelations to
you, purify you, teach you the scripture and wisdom, and to teach you what you never
knew”
  2:151

“Our Lord, and raise among them a messenger to recite to them Your revelations, teach
them the scripture and wisdom
, and purify them. You are the Almighty, Most Wise”
  
2:129

“When Jesus went with the proofs, he said, “I bring to you wisdom, and to clarify some of
the matters in which you dispute. You shall reverence God and obey me
  43:63

Other verses speak of the same truth, how God endows His messengers with wisdom
(Joseph 12:22), (Lot 21:74), (Moses 28:14), (David 38:20), and so on.

However, the Quran also emphasises that His messengers are not infallible. They are apt to
make mistakes just like anyone else. Many examples are given in the Quran for specific
mistakes committed by various messengers and prophets. We note that Muhammad is
reprimanded in the Quran six times for mistakes he committed. Mistakes for other
messengers include Moses killing an innocent man, Jonah abandoning God’s mission half
way through its completion, Solomon forgetting his prayer, Joseph (when he was in prison)
putting his trust and fate in the ruler’s hand when he should have remembered that God is
the Only One to decide his fate.

Perhaps, the principal reason we are told of these mistakes in the Quran is to establish the
fact that God’s messengers are human beings like all of us and that they should not be
idolised.

“Say (O Muhammad), “I am no more than a human like you, being inspired that your god is
one god. Those who hope to meet their Lord shall work righteousness, and never worship
any other god beside his Lord”
  18:110

_____________________________

The above were some of the Quranic verses that assert beyond any shadow of doubt what
messengers are and what they are not.

Sadly, and after all these clear Quranic assurances, the majority of Muslims regard
Muhammad as an infallible human being, that he has the authority to make laws and that
without him no Muslim could escape Hell !!!

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