It is alleged that 124,000 prophets were sent to mankind, and of these, 313 or 315 were messengers as well. In the Quran, 25 of them are mentioned by names, and of these, five are single out as the leading prophets, known in Arabic as Ulul Azmi, or the Most Resolute Ones.
They are, in chronological order: Noah (Prophet Nuh), Abraham (Prophet Ibrahim), Moses (Prophet Musa), Jesus (Prophet Isa) and Muhammad, peace be upon them all. As to why these five are the chosen ones, this we have covered in our earlier instalment, Ulul Azmi: The Greater Among Equals.
In this instalment, we shall make some comparative analysis among them. A cursory look at them would reveal some interesting data.
First, in terms of timeline, Prophet Noah belongs to prehistoric. We don’t know the period he lived, because history was not yet written during his time. Everything we know about him comes from Biblical or Quranic traditions. Any attempt to put a date on him would be superfluous, as we have observed in the Timeline of Leading Prophets.
Abraham, meanwhile, had lived during ancient times. He is said to flourish about 4,000 years ago. Moses, a direct descendant of Abraham, separated by six or seven generations, lived around 3,400 years ago, during the Middle Period, as per the Timeline above. While history is already recorded during their eras, most of what we know about them comes from Bible or Quran as well.
The last two lived in Modern Era. They are the most recent prophets, although Jesus had already left us around 2,000 years ago and Muhammad had left us exactly 1,380 years, since he died in 632 CE.
Second, in terms of lifespan, these five prophets make a curious observation. One of them lived the longest and another one the shortest. We have Prophet Noah who had lived for 950 years, while Jesus is said to flourish only for 33 years.
But here we are facing with a very interesting phenomenon. The Prophet who had lived the shortest is actually having the longest lifespan of all. According to Islamic Tradition, Jesus did not die on the Cross. He was raised to Heaven and would be coming back to live on earth for his second coming.
Now, when Jesus was raised to Heaven, he is by definition still alive, is he not? If yes, then he is already more than 2,000 years old. If he is still alive, in what condition is he living? Is he alone or among his companions? If alone, what kind of life would that be? If among his companions, they are already dead. Could one who is still living mingle with the dead?
I don’t have answers to those questions. They are not important questions to ask anyway, for these are beyond our knowledge. But if you have interesting theory concerning those questions, I would be interested to know.
Some people with Swoon Theory, as we have briefly narrated in the Good Friday and the Need for Crucifixion, believe that Jesus had died. These people believe that Jesus was crucified, but he did not die on the Cross. He only fainted. He then woke up from his grave, met his disciples and travelled to India. He died in India, somewhere in Kashmir, so they allege.
I personally believe that these people with Swoon Theory talk more about themselves than about Jesus. You see, when one is fainting, he would be unconscious and would not know what is going on. These people are “swooning.” They don’t know what they are talking about. All they have is conjecture.
For our purpose, suffice to say that Jesus had lived a normal life for about 33 years. Since he only lived for 33 years, that would make him the Prophet with the shortest lifespan. Thus we have in the Ulul Azmi the longest living Prophet in Noah, and the shortest living Prophet in Jesus.
As for the other three, their lifespan is quite normal for their times. In the case of Abraham and Moses, they had lived for 175 and 120 years, respectively. As for Muhammad, we know that he died when he was 63 years old, which is common lifespan for modern people.
Third, in terms of commencing the “official office” as prophets, we only have the knowledge about the last three prophets. Of these three, only Prophet Muhammad we know for sure. He began his work as a prophet when he was forty years old, according to Lunar Calendar, or 39 years according to Solar Calendar.
Jesus officially assumed his role as a prophet when he was about 30 years old, considering that he “disappeared” when he was 33, and his ministry had lasted for about three years. Moses assumed the role as a prophet when he was in Madyan (Midian), just before he returned to Egypt to face Pharaoh.
While it is difficult to determine the exact age when Moses was given the first revelation, it is generally assumed that his life is divided into three phases. For the first 40 years, he lived with Pharaoh as the latter’s adopted son. Having fled Egypt when he accidentally killed an Egyptian, he went to live as a refugee in Madyan for the next 40 years or so, where he was married to Zipporah (Safura), the daughter of Jethro (Prophet Shuaib).
Towards the end of his stay in Madyan, he saw the burning bush without smoke up in the mountain, and went there to check what is going on. It was in that mountain that he was given the first revelation, and was instructed to go to Egypt to face Pharaoh. He was probably around 80 years old at that time, plus minus.
As for Abraham and Noah, we do not know for sure when they first received revelation. But in the case of Abraham, we know for sure that he started preaching tawheed, or Oneness of God, when he was quite young.
Fourth, in terms of working miracles, two of them are prominent, the other two resort to these occasionally, and the last one we have no knowledge whatsoever. In the first category, they are Jesus and Moses, the second, Muhammad and Abraham, and the last one is Noah.
Jesus was the miracle worker. He could revive the dead, cure the lepers and the blinds, walk on water, and feed the multitude of people with a few loaves of bread. Moses was given the miraculous stick that can do many wonders, including turning itself into a huge serpent, turning the river Nile into blood, and splitting the ocean.
As for Abraham, he was not given any miracle per se, but when he was thrown into the inferno, the fire did not harm him whatsoever. In another occasion, he had asked God to show him the power of God reviving the dead with his own eyes. God instructed him to take the living bird, cut it into four pieces, and put each of these in four directions. This bird which had been cut into four pieces came together and flew again.
Like Abraham, Muhammad was given only a few miracles. The most outstanding one was splitting the moon. His greatest miracle is actually the Quran itself, which always have a mesmerizing effect to its listeners, be they his companions or his enemies. And that miracle continues until this very day, until the end of time.
As for Noah, we know nothing about his miracles, or whether he was given any, if at all. Perhaps the only miracle associated with him is the building of huge ship and his ability to keep the animals in the ship without causing much mayhem. But the Biblical Tradition says that he took 100 years to build the ark. If that is true, then it is due to hard work, not miracle.
Fifth and finally, in terms of achievements, these prophets display varying success.
Measured by the number of adherents, Noah and Abraham do not appear to strike much success. After preaching for hundreds of years, Noah managed to have only a handful of followers, numbered around 80 according to Islamic sources. The Bible says that it was only his family on the ark. Given that he was already 600 years old when the Great Flood occurred, perhaps it is proper to say that those in the Ark were mostly his family members, comprising his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
As for Abraham, we do not know much about the number of his followers. In any case, they are no more than a few hundred at most, but Allah knows best. His greatest achievement is not in the number of followers he secured, but in being the Patriarch for the three main Divinely inspired religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Moses had many followers. According to Biblical account, the Israelites who fled Egypt with him during the Exodus were 700,000 men, women and children. Ibnu Khaldun, however, believes that such cannot be the case. Since Israelites are the descendants of Jacob, and what separates Jacob and Moses is only four generations, it is therefore unlikely for that number to be that huge. In any case, the number is substantial. Perhaps in the tens of thousands.
Jesus spent his time as a prophet for only three years. In that short time, he became immensely popular and followed by the multitude, if the Gospel is to be believed. He organized his movement around 12 core disciples and 70 secondary disciples. His popularity had attracted the attention of the Jewish religious elites as well as the Roman power, which subsequently led to his “arrest” and the subsequent persecution of his followers.
As for Muhammad, we have already touched this matter under the Number Game and the Overview On Supremacy. We need not repeat it here.