This is the ﬁrst volume of the three volume series by Allamah Al-Majlisi, titled Hayat al-Qulub (Life of the Hearts). This ﬁrst volume is a collection of the details of the life and circumstances of all the Prophets (prior to Prophet Muhammad [s]) that we have access to through either the Qur’an or hadiths.
It is narrated through a reliable chain of narrators that an atheist came to Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq and presented a few queries. One of his questions concerned the logic behind the sending of Prophets.
The Imam said, “When we have agreed that we have a Maker and Creator; who is higher than His creatures and absolutely free from the fact that His creatures can see Him, touch Him or converse with Him; we understand that the maker is wise. He only does that which is beneﬁcial to His creatures. Then it is necessary to send Prophets and Messengers who would communicate His laws to the people. They would guide the people in the affairs that are beneﬁcial and (prevent them from) those that cause everlasting perdition.
Consequently, it is evident that there must be a particular group, which would convey His message to the people. They are the chosen ones of Allah and His Prophets. They are wise and intelligent. The Almighty has bestowed them with wisdom and knowledge and appointed them as His Messengers.
Their circumstances and characteristics were quite different from those of the common people though in their creation and method they are like ordinary human beings. However, they are sent by Allah, the Wise and the Omniscient, with knowledge, wisdom, arguments, proofs, witnesses and miracles so that they may prove the veracity of their claims.
Like raising of the dead and curing of the blind and lepers etc., they accomplished some tasks that were impossible for ordinary people. The same practice continued in every age and the earth has never been devoid of the Divine Proof (hujjah), who is the bearer of knowledge and has a miracle to prove the authenticity of his claims and (he verifies) the message of the preceding Prophet.”
Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq says in a reliable tradition: “The Almighty with His Luminous Essence and Divine attributes was concealed from His creatures; therefore, He sent the Prophets to give glad tidings of salvation and to warn against His punishment so that those who perish in disobedience must perish with the realization of their error and all arguments must be exhausted for them.
Similarly, those who achieve salvation must do so with knowledge, faith and proof. And they may achieve an everlasting life so that people may learn about their Lord what they did not know. They must recognize Allah as their Cherisher and they confess to his Oneness.
Another reliable report mentions that Fadhl ibn Shadhan asked Ja‘far as-Sadiq “When it is obligatory for people to obey the Prophets, why are they also required to recognize them and to confess to their truth?” Imam replied, “This is because the creatures did not have the ability to understand their wisdom fully. Their creator was much higher that He could be perceived by sight. The inability to understand His Divine Essence was apparent. There was no choice except to appoint Prophets as links between people and Allah. This infallible Prophet conveyed the divine commands and prohibitions to the people. He also had to keep the people firm on some affairs whereby they could obtain the beneﬁts and be safe from the perils, because the people cannot decide by their own intellects what is beneficial for them and what is harmful. If the obedience and recognition of Prophets had not been incumbent on people, the sending of Prophets would have been a useless venture. And the wise One, who had created everything with untold benefits, is pure from such vain acts.”
Related through reliable chains of narrators is the report where Abu-Basir asked Ja‘far as-Sadiq the reason why Allah has bestowed miracles on the Prophets and Imams. The Imam replied, “So that the veracity of their claims is established. Because miracles are from Allah, the Almighty, He gives them to His Prophets, Messengers and proofs so that the truth of the truthful ones and the lie of the liars are proved.”
Another hadith mentions that Husayn al-Sahhaf asked the same Imam whether it was possible for Allah that He changes the heart of a believer from faith to disbelief even after the belief of this person has been authenticated. Imam replied: “The Almighty is Just; He sent the Prophet so that they may invite the people towards faith (belief). Allah never calls anyone towards disbelief.”
Then the questioner asked if Allah changes the heart of a conﬁrmed disbeliever from disbelief to belief. The Imam said: “Allah has created everyone with a capacity to believe. They are like a blank tablet neither having faith in any shari‘ah (code of religious law) nor disbelieving in it. Allah sent the Prophets to them so that they may guide them towards Allah. And in this way, argument could be exhausted for the people. Thus some people receive guidance (faith) by Allah’s tawfiq (guidance) and some do not achieve guidance.”
It is narrated in an authentic report that Ibn al-Sikkit asked Imam al-Ridha or Imam ‘Ali al-Naqi why Allah sent Musa (Prophet Moses) with a luminous arm, the Staff and other things to counter magic, ‘Isa (Prophet Jesus) with a miracle resembling medical cure and Muhammad al-Mustafa (the Chosen) with an eloquent speech and learned dialogue. Imam replied: “Magic was the prevailing science during the time of Musa. Musa brought miracles resembling magic but much more powerful. Musa nullified their magic with his miracles and exhausted the arguments on them. During the time of ‘Isa, there were widespread diseases and epidemics. ‘Isa brought the miracle that the doctors of his time could not match and performed feats that astounded his contemporaries like bringing the dead to life and curing lepers.
Through these miracles, ‘Isa completed the proof. The people, in spite of their expertise in medical science, failed to fathom the secret of ‘Isa’s miracles. Muhammad al-Mustafa was sent in an age of literary advancement and eloquent poetry. People of this age prided themselves upon their speech and poetry. The Holy Prophet brought the book of Allah, teachings and the religious law. Through these, he nullified the words of those people. The people were unable to counter the miracle of the Holy Prophet. The argument was exhausted for them in this manner.”
Ibn al-Sikkit says that I had never heard such beneﬁcial words before. Then he asked, “Who is the hujjah (proof) on the creatures during the present time.” Imam told him: “Allah has provided you with intellect and you can distinguish between one who is truthful with regard to Allah and those who ascribe lies to Him.” Ibn al-Sikkit says, “By Allah! this is correct.”
Number of Prophets and their Successors (Awsiya’), Meaning of Nabi (Prophet) and Rasul (Messenger) and Number of Divinely Revealed Books.
Authentic chains of reporters mention from Imam al-Ridha and Imam Zayn al-‘abidin that the Messenger of Allah said: “The Almighty Allah created 124000 Prophets and I am the most honored one before Allah. However, I do not pride myself upon it. And He created 124000 Successors, among whom ‘Ali is the most exalted.”
A reliable tradition of Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq states that Abu-Dharr asked the Holy Prophet the number of Prophets sent by the Almighty. The Holy Prophet said, “One hundred and twenty-four thousand.” And according to some traditions “three hundred and twenty thousand.” Abu-Dharr asked how many of them were Messengers. The Messenger of Allah replied, “Three hundred and thirteen.” “How many books did Allah send?” asked Abu-Dharr, “One hundred and twenty-four and according to another narration, “One hundred and four.” And according to the last tradition fifty scrolls (heavenly books) were revealed on Shith, three on Idris and twenty on Ibrahim (Prophet Abraham). Four books: Torah, Injeel (the Gospel), Zabur (the Psalms) and Qur’an were also revealed.
The Messenger of Allah said, “O Abu-Dharr! Four of the Prophets were Syriac: Adam, Shith, Akhnu‘ and Nuh (Prophet Noah). And Akhnu‘ who is called Idris was the first person to write with a pen. And four of the Prophets were Arabs: Hud, Salih, Shu‘ayb and your Prophet (Muhammad al-Mustafa). And the first Prophet of the Israelites was Musa and the last ‘Isa. Between them were six hundred Prophets.” However, in other traditions the number of the Israelite Prophets is mentioned as 4000, though the former tradition is more reliable.
According to authentic reports, Ja‘far as-Sadiq told Safwan al-Jammal, “Do you know the number of the Prophets sent by Allah?” “No,” he replied. The Imam said, “One hundred and forty-four thousand, and as many successors (awsiya’), those who were truthful, trustworthy and unattached to the earthly life. Allah did not send any Prophet better than Muhammad and neither did he send any successor better than his successor Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali.”
A reliable tradition through Imam Musa al-Kazim and Imam Zayn al-‘abidin says that one who wishes to shake hands with all the 124000 Prophets must visit (i.e. go on Ziyarah — pilgrimage) the grave of Imam al-Husayn on the fifteenth night of the month of Sha‘ban (the eighth month of the Islamic Calendar), because the souls of all the Prophets come to visit the grave of Imam al-Husayn by the permission of Allah. Moreover, five of them are Ulu’l-‘Azm Prophets: Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, ‘Isa and Muhammad. The narrator asked the Imam the definition of ‘Ulu’l-‘Azm’. Imam said, “It denotes the Prophets who were sent for all men and jinn from the east to the west of the Earth.”
A trustworthy tradition from Imam al-Ridha and an authentic report from Ja‘far as-Sadiq mentions that Ulu’l-‘Azm Prophets are named thus because they possessed greatness (‘Azm) and brought a new shari‘ah. For instance, Nuh was sent with a book and a shari‘ah different from that of Adam; and the succeeding Prophets followed his book and shari‘ah. This continued until the advent of Ibrahim who came with a book different from that of Nuh and a new shari‘ah. He did not deny the book and shari‘ah of Nuh but they were abrogated and it was no more valid to act upon them. Prophets contemporary to and succeeding Ibrahim followed his shari‘ah and book until the time of Musa. Musa came with Torah. Torah abrogated the shari‘ah of Ibrahim.
All the contemporary Prophets of Musa and succeeding ones followed the shari‘ah of Musa until the arrival of ‘Isa with Injeel. The shari‘ah of Musa and Torah were abrogated. All the Prophets during the time of ‘Isa and the successors after him followed the shari‘ah of Injeel. This continued until the advent of our Prophet, Muhammad al-Mustafa. Thus, these are the five great Ulu’l-‘Azm Prophets. They are the best of Prophets and messengers and the shari‘ah of Prophet Muhammad shall remain in force until the Resurrection Day. There is to be no Prophet after him. Things permitted by him will remain permissible until Resurrection Day and things prohibited by him shall remain prohibited unti Judgment Day. Any person who claims Prophethood after Prophet Muhammad or brings a book after Qur’an, claiming it to be of divine origin, is a liar. Anyone who comes to know of such claims would be permitted to execute him.
Another reliable tradition from Imam al-Ridha says that Imam as-Sadiq states that Ulu’l-‘Azm Prophets are called thus because of their confession to the greatness of Prophet Muhammad and his successors including Imam al-Mahdi and their oath of accepting the greatness (Azm) of these divine personalities. As Adam had not remember this vow, Almighty Allah says,
‘Ali Ibn Ibrahim explains this ayah (Qur’anic Verse) and says that Ulu’l-‘Azm are those Prophets who had precedence over other Prophets in confessing to the greatness of these five Messengers. They also expressed belief in all Prophets preceding and succeeding them. They were also patient when their people denied their claims.
In an authentic report, a Syrian asked Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali about the five Arab Prophets, Hud, Salih, Shu‘ayb, Isma‘il and Muhammad. Then he asked about the Prophets who were born circumcised. Imam ‘Ali said, “They were Adam, Shu‘ayb, Idris, Nuh, Sam (Shem) ibn Nuh, Ibrahim, Dawud (Prophet David), Sulayman (Prophet Solomon), Lut (Prophet Lot), Musa, ‘Isa and Muhammad.” The Syrian then asked about creatures that were born without a mother. Imam said, “Adam, Hawwa’ (Eve), the ram of Ibrahim, the staff of Musa, the she-camel of Salih and the bat of ‘Isa that flew away by Allah’s command.” “Who are the six Prophets having two names,” asked the Syrian. Imam said, “They are Yusha‘ ibn Nun (Joshua) also known as Dhu’l-kiﬂ, Ya‘qub (Prophet Jacob) also called Israel, al-Khidhr (Elijah) known as Datt, Yunus (Prophet Jonah) is also referred to as Dhu’l-Nun, ‘Isa who is called Maseeh (the Messiah) and Muhammad who is also called Ahmad, peace be upon them all.”
Another narration mentions the king of Rome inquiring from Imam Al-Hasan ibn ‘Ali about the seven creatures who were not delivered from womb. He replied, “They are Adam, Hawaa’, the ram of Ibrahim, the she-camel of Salih, the serpent that invited Satan to misguide Adam in the garden, the two crows that Allah sent to teach the method of burial of Habil (Abel) after he had been murdered by his brother Qabil (Cain) and finally Satan, may Allah curse him.”
A reliable tradition from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir quotes the Messenger of Allah as saying that the first person to be appointed as the successor of Prophet was Hibatullah the son of Adam. Each and every Prophet had a legatee. Altogether, there were one hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets, five of them being Ulu’l-‘Azm Prophets: Nuh, Ibrahim, Musa, ‘Isa and Muhammad. ‘Ali is having the same status with regard to Prophet Muhammad as Hibtullah had with Adam. ‘Ali was the legatee of Prophet Muhammad and the inheritor of all the previous successors. And Muhammad was the inheritor of all the preceding Prophets and Messengers.
An authentic hadith from Zurarah says that he asked Imam Muhammad al-Baqir the difference between Nabi (Prophet) and Rasul (Messenger). Imam said, “Nabi is one who sees the angel of revelation in dream and Rasul is one who sees the angel both in sleep and when awake. He can also hear the angel’s voice.” “What is the position of an Imam?” asked Zurarah. “He is able to hear the angel’s voice but cannot see him.”
It is narrated through authentic chains that Hasan Ibn ‘Abbas asked Imam al-Ridha to distinguish between Nabi, Rasul and Imam. Imam al-Ridha replied, “Archangel Gabriel descends for a Rasul. Rasul can see him and hear him and sometimes he sees Archangel Gabriel in dream like Ibrahim had seen. Rasul is the recipient of divine revelation. Prophets can only hear the angel’s voice. Sometimes they are able to see the angel, but do not hear the revelation at one and the same time. Imam only hears the voice of the angel. He does not see the form of the Angel.”
An authentic tradition from Imam Muhammad al-Baqir states that Prophets are of five types. Some only hear the angel’s voice, like a chain. They receive divine revelation through this method alone. Some Prophets receive the divine revelation in their dreams as in case of Yusuf (Prophet Joseph) and Ibrahim. Some were able to see the Angel. Some of the Prophets receive direct inspiration and could hear the voice but do not see the Angel.
Another authentic tradition mentions that Zurarah asked Imam Muhammad al-Baqir the difference between Rasul, Nabi and Muhaddath (recipient of revelation). Imam said, “Rasul is one upon whom Archangel Gabriel descends. He could see Archangel Gabriel and converse with him. Nabi is one who only sees Archangel Gabriel in dream as in case of Ibrahim, when he saw in dream that he slaughtered his son.
The Messenger of Allah used to see the aims of his Messengership in dream before the descent of revelation upon him. He received Prophethood and Messengership together. Archangel Gabriel used to come to him and converse with him face to face. There were, however, some Prophets who were bestowed with qualifications of Messengership but they received divine revelation in their dreams. They conversed with holy spirits in their dreams but could not see the angel while awake. A Muhaddath is one who converses with angel but does see him neither in sleep nor in the state of awaking.”
In another tradition, Imam says that Prophets are of four classes. Those who are informed about their own selves (that they are Prophets) without any intermediary. Secondly, those who see the angel in dream but do not hear his voice. They do not see the angel in waking and such Prophets are not sent for guidance of others. They have a guide (Imam) whom they obey like Ibrahim was the Imam for Lut. The third kind is those who see and hear the angel in dream. They are sent for a particular group whether small or large. Almighty Allah says regarding Yunus,
“And we sent him to a hundred thousand, rather they exceeded.” (37:147)
Imam elaborates that there were one hundred and thirty thousand people referred to in this verse.
“And when this Lord tried Ibrahim with certain words, he fulfilled them. He said, surely I will make you an Imam of men. Ibrahim said, And of my offspring? My covenant does not include the unjust, said he.” (2:124)
The Holy Imams are quoted in reliable reports that five Prophets were Syriac and they spoke Syriac; Adam, Shith, Idris, Nuh and Ibrahim. Originally Adam spoke Arabic, the language of Paradise. But when he committed Tark al-Awla the Almighty substituted Paradise and its bounties for him with the earth and its crops. Allah also substituted the Arabic language with Syriac. Five of the Prophets were Hebrew but spoke Arabic. They were Ishaq, Ya‘qub, Musa, Dawud and ‘Isa and five were Arab Prophets: Hud, Salih, Shith, Isma‘il and Muhammad. Four Prophets were contemporary to each other, Ibrahim, Ishaq, Ya‘qub and Lut. Ibrahim and Ishaq were sent towards Holy Quds in Jerusalem and Syria. Ya‘qub was appointed in Egypt. Isma‘il was sent to Jurham tribe who inhabited the area surrounding the Holy Ka‘bah after the ‘Amaliq who were called such as they were from the progeny of ‘Imlaq son of Lut, son of Sam son of Nuh. Lut was appointed as a Prophet to four towns: Sodom, Gomorrah, San‘a’ and Maa. Three Prophets were given kingdoms — Yusuf, Dawud and Sulayman. Four Kings were sovereigns over the entire world, two of them were believers — Dhu’l-Qarnayn and Sulayman; and two were infidels — Nimrod the son of Kosh son of Canaan and Nebuchadnezzar.
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir says in an authentic tradition that the Messenger of Allah said, “All the Prophets sent before me propagated in the language of their people. But I am sent for people of every race and I am sent with the Arabic language.” In another authentic tradition, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir says that Allah the Almighty sent every divine book and revelation in Arabic but it was conveyed to the respective Prophet in the language of his people. However, it was revealed to our Holy Prophet in Arabic itself.
Reliable chain of narrators has recorded that an atheist came to Amir al-Mu’minin ‘Ali and asked him the explanation of some Qur’anic verses. Then he accepted Islam. One of his queries was related to the exegesis of the ayah:
“And it is not for any mortal that Allah should speak to Him except by revelation or from behind a veil, or by sending a messenger and revealing by His permission what He pleases; surely He is High, Wise.” (42:51)
Actually that person was under the impression that there was a contradiction between this verse and the verses where Allah is mentioned addressing Musa, Adam and Hawaa’ etc. Imam ‘Ali explained to him that the verse states that Allah has never spoken to any person before nor would He ever do so in the future except by revelations or direct inspiration (Ilham) or in dream or through a voice that he can hear without seeing anything, like one speaking from behind a curtain. Allah also sends an angel and directs revelation for some. Indeed the celestial messengers are a kind of messengers that is the angels of revelation commanded by Allah. Thus, the celestial messengers convey the divine revelation to the terrestrial messengers. Sometimes there is direct conversation between the Almighty and the terrestrial Prophets.
The Holy Prophet asked Archangel Gabriel from where he obtained the divine revelation. “From Israfil,” he replied, “From where does Israfil receive it?” “From a celestial angel who is at a higher position than him.” The Holy Prophet further asked the source of this angel’s revelation. He was told that the Almighty inspired him directly.
Thus, this is the speech of Allah. It is not of a single type. Sometimes Allah has spoken to the Prophets some of whom He inspired directly. The Prophets get revelation in dreams. Another type of Allah’s speech is that revealed by Allah and people recite it. Another kind is that the celestial messengers convey to the terrestrial Prophets. The questioner was pleased to hear the detailed reply and said, “O Amir al-Mu’minin: you have untied the knot of my heart. May Allah increase your reward.”
Imam Muhammad al-Baqir is reported to have said in a reliable tradition that Archangel Gabriel described Israfil to the Holy Prophet that he was the chamberlain of the Almighty and the closest to Him. “And the Divine Tablet (Lawh) which is made of ruby is placed between his two eyes. When the Almighty speaks through revelation, the forehead of Lawh is inscribed with the words. Israfil looks at the Lawh and reads to us whatever is written on it. We convey the message to the heavens and the earth and apply it. He is the closest of all creatures to Allah. There are ninety curtains of light between him and Allah. Their brightness dazzles the eyes and it is impossible to describe their attributes. I am the closest of all the creatures to Israfil. (But) There is a distance of a thousand years’ travel between us.”
Zurarah asked Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq how the Messenger of Allah came to know whatever was revealed to him was from Allah, not Satan. Imam said, “When Allah appoints someone as a Prophet, he bestows on him serenity and dignity. Therefore, whatever is revealed to him is as clear to him as if he were seeing it with his own eyes.”
It is quoted in a reliable tradition that people asked the Messenger of Allah how the Prophets knew that they were Prophets. He replied, “The veils are lifted from their hearts.” That is they are created as the people of perfect faith (belief). They do not harbor any doubts.
Imam al-Ridha says in an authentic tradition that dreams of Prophets are revelations. In the Du‘a’ (Invocation) of Umm-Dawud related from Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq to be recited on the fifteenth of Rajab, there are names of some Prophets. Imam says: “May Allah bless Habil, Shith, Idris, Nuh, Hud, Salih, Ibrahim, Isma‘il, Ishaq, Ya‘qub, Yusuf, al-Asbaat (the chieftains of the Israelites), Lut, Shu‘ayb, Ayyub (Prophet Job), Musa, Harun (Prophet Aaron), Yusha‘, Mitha, al-Khidhr, Dhu’l-Qarnayn, Yunus, Ilyas, al-Yasa‘, Dhu’l-kifl, Talut (Saul), Dawud, Sulayman, Zakariyya (Prophet Zachariah), Shayda, Yahya (Prophet John), Turakh, Matti (Matthews), Meya, Haiqooq (Habakkuk), Denial and Uzair and ‘Isa and Shamoun and Jirjis and hawariyyun (the Disciples) and Atba and Khalid and Hanzalah and Luqman.”
In an authentic hadith, Mufadhdhal asked Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq how he (Imam) was aware of all that happened in every nook and corner of the earth while he remained at home with a curtain across his door. Imam said, “O Mufadhdhal! The Almighty Allah has granted five spirits to the Prophets: