[Quran 2:213] The people used to be one community when God sent the prophets as bearers of good news, as well as warners. He sent down with them the Scripture, bearing the truth, to judge among the people in their disputes”.
The term ‘Scripture’ is consistently associated with ‘prophets’ in the Quran. If we count the number of prophets named in the Quran, we find a total of 20 prophets mentioned by their names. Each one of these 20 is specifically called a prophet in the Quran.
If we read verses 83-86 of Sura 6 we read 18 names, starting with Abraham and ending with Lot. The verse 89 confirms that all these 18 were prophets of God: “These are the ones to whom we have given the scripture, wisdom and prophethood.” These prophets are:
- Abraham (also in 19:41 and 33:7)
- Isaac (also in 19:49 and 37:112)
- Jacob (also in 19:49)
- Noah (also in 33:7)
- David (also in 17:55)
- Moses (also in 19:51 and 33:7)
- Aaron (also in 19:53)
- John (also in 3:39)
- Jesus (also in 19:30 and 33:7)
- Ismail (also in 19:54)
If we add the names of 2 prophets:
19. Idris (named a prophet in 19:56)
20. Muhammad (His name is not only confirmed as a prophet but also what has been given to him is a messenger of God and a seal of the prophets being the final edition of God’s scripture in 33:40).
Therefore, we find that the total number of those who are named as prophets in the Quran is 20.
However, we are told that the 2 prophets Moses and Aaron received the same Scripture. The Statute book was given to both Moses and Aaron (37:117 and 21:48), therefore, the total number of scripture given to the 20 prophets is 19. This means that the Quran, besides being the last scripture, is also the 19th scripture delivered through the 20th prophet mentioned in the Quran.
It is noted that there are others spoken of in the Quran, but not as prophets, nor as deliverers of scripture, they are:
Adam (described as one of the chosen in 3:33 but not associated with the word messenger or prophet). Hud, Saleh, and Shu’aib (named as messengers in 26:123-125, 26:141-143, 26:176-178 respectively). Zal-Kifl (described as steadfast, patient and righteous in 21:85 and 38:48). Luqman (described as one endowed with wisdom in 31:12). Nowhere in the Quran is any of these messengers associated with the term ‘Scripture’. None of them delivered a Scripture. Thus according to the definition of 2:213 they are not prophets. Three of the six are called messengers (Hud, Saleh, and Shu’aib) while the other three (Adam, Zal-Kifl and Luqman) are only spoken of as receiving God’s blessings.
It is also noted that the Quran informs us that God has sent other messengers in the past that we are not told about in the Quran:
[40:78] And certainly, we have sent messengers before yours, some of them we have mentioned to you, and some of them we did not mention to you. And it is not for any messenger that he comes with a sign except God’s permission. So when God’s command has come, it has been decided with the truth while the falsifiers will then lose.
[4:164] And messengers we have surely mentioned them to you from before, and messengers we did not mention them to you; and God spoke to Moses directly.
However, it is indeed of interest to note that the only two verses that assert that fact (40:78 and 4:164), both speak of messengers and not of prophets. This confirms that God Almighty has sent to mankind 19 scripture. The Quran is the 19th and the final scripture, more specifically the final edition of God’s scripture.
But among the traditional Muslim circle both the concept and number of prophets are quite different. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal in his Musnad (Hadith no. 21257) has mentioned that Allah sent 124, 000 Prophets (Anbiyah), and among them there were 315 the Messengers who brought books with them.
Although there were many more in different times and places but there are 25 prophets mentioned by name in the Qur’an: (source: http://www.qul.org.au/library/our-messengers/1-25-prophets-of-islam):
- Idris (Enoch)
- Nuh (Noah)
- Hud (Heber)
- Saleh ((Methusaleh)
- Ibrahim (Abraham)
- Isma’il (Ishmael)
- Is’haq (Isaac)
- Lut (Lot)
- Ya’qub (Jacob)
- Yousef (Joseph)
- Shu’aib (Jethro)
- Ayyub (Job)
- Musa (Moses)
- Harun (Aaron)
- Dhu’l-kifl (Ezekiel)
- Dawud (David)
- Sulaiman (Solomon)
- Ilias (Elias)
- Al-Yasa (Elisha)
- Yunus (Jonah)
- Zakariyya (Zechariah)
- Yahya (John)
- ‘Isa (Jesus)
In conclusion, as Muslims we must believe in God and His final scripture, and should accept the truth supported by the final scripture including the definition of prophet.