Allah sent five prophets to the world who were the best of the best. These five prophets had certain characteristics that distinguished them from the other prophets of Allah. These prophets are known as the Ul al-‘Azm prophets, meaning prophets who possessed strong resolves. The distinctive feature of these prophets was that they were universal, meaning they were sent to the whole world, not just their own people. Second, they had a sharia and a holy scripture. Of course, they were sent in different periods of history. If you want to know more about these prophets and who they are, keep reading this article.
The First Great Prophet: Noah (a)
We will mention the Ul al-‘Azm prophets chronologically. The first great prophet of Allah was Noah (a). Most probably everyone has heard his name and knows a few things about him. He was an extremely patient and righteous prophet. Noah had a very long life. Some historians say that he lived up to 2800 years. The Quran states that he invited his people to the worship of one God for 950 years:
وَلَقَدْ أَرْسَلْنَا نُوحًا إِلَىٰ قَوْمِهِۦ فَلَبِثَ فِيهِمْ أَلْفَ سَنَةٍ إِلَّا خَمْسِينَ عَامًا فَأَخَذَهُمُ ٱلطُّوفَانُ وَهُمْ ظَٰلِمُونَ ﴿١٤﴾
Certainly We sent Noah to his people, and he remained with them for a thousand-less-fifty years. Then the flood overtook them while they were wrongdoers. (29:14)
A people whose prophet propagates the religion of God and invites them to monotheism for 950 years, yet they do not believe are truly stubborn. These people, according to the Quran, not only did not accept the invitation of Noah but also bothered and harassed Noah, to the point where he asked Allah to help him. After these long years of preaching to his people to no avail, Noah curses his people and asks Allah to punish them:
وَقَالَ نُوحٌ رَّبِّ لَا تَذَرْ عَلَى ٱلْأَرْضِ مِنَ ٱلْكَٰفِرِينَ دَيَّارًا ﴿٢٦﴾
And Noah said, ‘My Lord! ‘Do not leave on the earth any inhabitant from among the faithless. (71:26)
However, there is a reason he says such a prayer. In the next verses Noah is quoted as saying:
إِنَّكَ إِن تَذَرْهُمْ يُضِلُّوا۟ عِبَادَكَ وَلَا يَلِدُوٓا۟ إِلَّا فَاجِرًا كَفَّارًا ﴿٢٧﴾
If You leave them, they will lead astray Your servants, and will beget none except vicious ingrates. (71:27)
The disbelievers were growing in number while the believers were very few. The world was being filled with faithless individuals and this meant that those few believers could also be led astray. Therefore, Noah had no choice but to say such a prayer to protect the faith of Allah from being fallen into oblivion.
After Noah asked Allah to help him and his followers, Allah commanded him to build an ark. After the ark was built and Noah, his followers, and a pair of every animal boarded the ark, a great flood struck the world. All of the disbelievers drowned and only the believers survived. Even one of Noah’s sons who did not believe in him drowned.
The Second Great Prophet: Ibrahim
Prophet Ibrahim (a) was the second Ul al-‘Azm prophet. He was a descendant of Noah and was a monotheist just like him. His father was Tarukh (Terach) who we believe was a monotheist, unlike others who say he was an idolater. After Prophet Muhammad, Prophet Ibrahim is the highest-ranking prophet. He had two sons who were also prophets: Ismail and Isaac. Prophet Ibrahim lived at a time when his people worshipped idols. He warned them against such an irrational practice and invited them to worship one God. They did not accept and so Prophet Ibrahim swore that he would break their idols. Therefore, when they were away, Prophet Ibrahim went to their temple and broke all the idols except the biggest one and put the axe in its hand.
The people returned and saw all the idols broken. They had heard that a person named Ibrahim wanted to break their idols. So first they accused him. However, Ibrahim said that the biggest one has broken them, ask him if he can speak. That is when they came to their senses. However, they said, “You know that they cannot speak.” They decided to throw Ibrahim into a fire. When they threw him into the fire, the fire became cool by Allah’s leave and Ibrahim was not harmed.
The Birth of Ismail
Ibrahim’s wife Sarah was barren. Thus, she offered her handmaiden Hajar to marry Ibrahim so that he could have children with her. Prophet Ibrahim married Hajar and Ismail was born from her. Ismail would grow to become a prophet just like his father. However, Sarah became jealous of Hajar and asked Ibrahim to take them somewhere else. Prophet Ibrahim took Ismail and Hajar to Mecca, the sacred land of Allah. Sarah had taken a promise from Ibrahim not to unmount his horse. Therefore, Prophet Ibrahim left them there and returned. Hajar was left in the heat of the sun in a land that had no crops whatsoever. She and Ismail were thirsty. She kept seeing a mirage and would run to see if she could find water. She did this seven times until water started to gush out from beneath Ismail’s feet. This spring became known as Zamzam.
The nomads and Bedouins of that region came and saw that spring and decided to stay and live close to that spring. Slowly, a whole tribe inhabited that place. Ismail grew among that tribe and learned their language. Prophet Muhammad is the descendant of Prophet Ismail.
The Sacrifice of Ismail
What prophets see in their dreams are messages that Allah reveals to them. Prophet Ibrahim had dreams of sacrificing his son Ismail. So he went to Ismail and said to him:
إِنِّىٓ أَرَىٰ فِى ٱلْمَنَامِ أَنِّىٓ أَذْبَحُكَ فَٱنظُرْ مَاذَا تَرَىٰ
‘I see in dreams that I am sacrificing you. See what you think.’ (37:102)
يَٰٓأَبَتِ ٱفْعَلْ مَا تُؤْمَرُ ۖ سَتَجِدُنِىٓ إِن شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ مِنَ ٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ ﴿١٠٢﴾
‘Father! Do whatever you have been commanded. If Allah wishes, you will find me to be patient.’ (37:102)
When Ibrahim was about to sacrifice Ismail, his knife would not cut his throat no matter how many times he tried. Then Allah revealed to him:
يَٰٓإِبْرَٰهِيمُ ﴿١٠٤﴾ قَدْ صَدَّقْتَ ٱلرُّءْيَآ ۚ إِنَّا كَذَٰلِكَ نَجْزِى ٱلْمُحْسِنِينَ ﴿١٠٥﴾ إِنَّ هَٰذَا لَهُوَ ٱلْبَلَٰٓؤُا۟ ٱلْمُبِينُ ﴿١٠٦﴾
‘O Abraham! (104) You have indeed fulfilled your vision! Thus indeed do We reward the virtuous! (105) This was indeed a manifest test.’
Allah sent down a ram to be sacrificed instead of Ismail. This act of sacrificing a sheep became a ritual of hajj.
The Birth of Isaac
Isaac who was also a prophet and the ancestor of many of the Israelite prophets was born when Ibrahim was old. Allah revealed to him saying that He gives the good news of a birth of a son to him, Isaac. His birth was a miracle because Ibrahim was very old and his wife Sarah was barren. Isaac grew and had a son named Jacob who was also a prophet of Allah.
The Third Great Prophet: Moses
Moses was one of the great prophets of Allah. His holy scripture was the Torah. His name and story in the Quran are mentioned the most among all other prophets. He was a descendant of Jacob. He was sent to the Israelites at a time when they were being persecuted by Pharaoh. Pharaoh had heard from his soothsayers that a son would be born from the Israelites who would topple his government. Therefore, Pharaoh did his best to stop such a child from being born. He would slit the bellies of pregnant women from the Israelites and kill their sons. However, Allah had willed that Moses be born in secret. When his mother was pregnant, there was no sign of pregnancy in her. This was one of the miracles of Allah. When Moses was born, Allah revealed to her to cast the baby into the river.
In this way, the wife of Pharaoh found the baby and loved him. She told Pharaoh not to kill him so that they could adopt him. All along, Moses’ sister followed him. Moses’ would not drink milk from anyone. In fact, as the Quran says, Allah had made it forbidden for him to drink anyone’s milk but his mother’s. Thus, Moses’ sister said to them that she knows a person who could nurse him. Consequently, Moses was returned to his mother where she would nurse him.
وَأَوْحَيْنَآ إِلَىٰٓ أُمِّ مُوسَىٰٓ أَنْ أَرْضِعِيهِ ۖ فَإِذَا خِفْتِ عَلَيْهِ فَأَلْقِيهِ فِى ٱلْيَمِّ وَلَا تَخَافِى وَلَا تَحْزَنِىٓ ۖ إِنَّا رَآدُّوهُ إِلَيْكِ وَجَاعِلُوهُ مِنَ ٱلْمُرْسَلِينَ ﴿٧﴾
We revealed to Moses’ mother, [saying], ‘Nurse him; then, when you fear for him, cast him into the river, and do not fear or grieve, for We will restore him to you and make him one of the apostles.’ (28:7)
The Story of Moses and Pharaoh
Moses grew into a fine young man. He was very knowledgeable and wise. One day, he was in the city when he saw one of his fellow Israelites fighting an Egyptian. He rushed to help his friend and struck a blow to the Egyptian’s face and he fell and died. A day passed and once again Moses saw his follower fighting with an Egyptian. As he was about to help his follower, the man shouted, “Do you want to kill me like you killed another person yesterday?” Eventually, Moses left the city and entered a land called Midian. There he saw two women who were sitting aside while the other people were watering their flocks. He helped them water their flocks. The two women went to their father and informed him of a young man who helped them water their flocks. They said to him to hire him as he is strong and trustworthy. That man, whom some say was Shuaib, hired him to work for him for several years.
After Moses’ term was finished, he went to return to the city. On the way back, he felt the heat of a fire. As he got closer, he saw a tree that was on fire. Then a voice spoke to him. “Indeed I am your Lord. Take off your sandals as you are in the blessed valley of Tuwa.” It was Allah speaking to Moses. Then Allah said how He has chosen him as His prophet. He then showed him two miracles. His staff would turn into a serpent, and when he would put his right hand under his armpit, his hand would turn white without fault. Then Allah commanded Moses to go to Pharaoh and invite him to monotheism and warn him of Allah’s punishment. For more information about Moses and his encounter with Pharaoh, please refer to the article Moses in the Quran.
The Fourth Great Prophet: Jesus
Everyone is more or less familiar with Jesus Christ. His birth was one of the greatest miracles of Allah. He was born to a pure and chaste mother, Mary, without having a father. Jesus was also a prophet sent by Allah to the Israelites. He invited them to monotheism, righteousness, and piety. Jesus performed many miracles during his prophethood. Perhaps his greatest miracle was reviving the dead. He also cured the blind and leper. Jesus’ holy scripture was the Gospel. Jesus informed his disciples of the arrival of a prophet after him whose name would be “Ahmad,” the Admirable One:
وَإِذْ قَالَ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ يَٰبَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ إِنِّى رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ إِلَيْكُم مُّصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَىَّ مِنَ ٱلتَّوْرَىٰةِ وَمُبَشِّرَۢا بِرَسُولٍ يَأْتِى مِنۢ بَعْدِى ٱسْمُهُۥٓ أَحْمَدُ ۖ
And when Jesus son of Mary said, ‘O Children of Israel! Indeed I am the apostle of Allah to you, to confirm what is before me of the Torah, and to give the good news of an apostle who will come after me, whose name is Ahmad.’ (61:6)
Ahmad is another name for Prophet Muhammad.
Ultimately, his enemies plotted to kill him. However, they were unable to do so. Allah raised him to the heavens, and the person who revealed Jesus’ hideout, Judas Iscariot, was crucified in his stead.
In the end times, Jesus will descend from the heavens and will support the twelfth Imam, Imam al-Mahdi (a), and will even pray behind him. Then, he will become the ruler of the West.
The Fifth and Last Great Prophet: Muhammad
Prophet Muhammad is the seal of the prophets. He is the final prophet and apostle of Allah whose religion is worldwide. His holy scripture is the Quran, the everlasting miracle of the Prophet. Prophet Muhammad was an Umiyy, meaning he was untaught. Allah revealed the Quran to such an individual to show His power so that it would be proof of the Prophet’s truthfulness. Prophet Muhammad is the best of Allah’s creation. He possessed the best character among all people from the first to the last. He was a mercy to the world. Prophet Muhammad brought the perfect religion that would thrive for centuries to come. Prophet Muhammad is the highest-ranking prophet among the Ul al-‘Azm prophets. For more information about Prophet Muhammad, please read the article Prophet Muhammad and the Quran.
There are five great prophets who are the best prophets of Allah. They are:
What sets these prophets apart from the other ones other than the fact that they were very pious, patient, forbearing, virtuous, and righteous, is that they had their own sharia and holy scripture. Moreover, their religion was universal. That is, all of the people living during their era must have believed in their religion. Given that Prophet Muhammad is the seal of the prophets and the final apostle, his religion is the current universal religion that everyone must believe in.