Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is revered as "the Seal of the Prophets" - the last and greatest of the messengers of God. He is not divine in any way, for the strict monotheism that characterizes Islam does not allow for such an interpretation. Other prophets (nabi in Arabic) are important in Islam as well, all of which are shared with the Jews or the Christians.
Traditionally, five prophets are recognized by Islam as having been sent by Allah (known as ulul azmi, "the Resolute"):
- - Noah (Nuh)
- Abraham (Ibrahim)
- Moses (Musa)
- Jesus (Isa)
Prophets of Islam
There are a number of other historical figures recognized in the Quran as prophets, and still others that are not mentioned.
"And certainly We sent messengers before you: there are some of them that We have mentioned to you and there are others whom We have not mentioned to you..." (Qur'an 40:78) Muslims trace their heritage to the Hebrew people and prophets. The term "Semite" derives from Shem, the son of Noah, and both Jews and Arabs consider themselves Semitic people. In particular, they trace their ancestry to Ishmael, the firstborn son of Abraham.
Abraham in Islam
In the Hebrew Scriptures, Abraham and Sarah, approaching old age, had difficulty bearing a child. This problem was made even more serious by the fact that God had promised Abraham that he would become the father of many nations.
So, with Sarah seemingly barren, Abraham took Hagar as a second wife. Hagar bore Abraham a son, named Ishmael. Shortly thereafter, however, Sarah also bore Abraham a son, named Isaac. Having fulfilled her marital duty and God's promise, Sarah demanded that Abraham reject Hagar and Ishmael.
Abraham did so, and from this point, the Qur'an departs from the biblical story to follow the story of Ishmael. According to the Qur'an, Ishmael went to the place that would later be known as Mecca. His descendents would be the Muslims, while Isaac's descendents became the Jews.