[2:213] The people had been one community as God has raised up the prophets as bearers of good news and warners, and has sent down with them the scripture with the truth to judge between the people in what they have differed in it. And has not differed in it except those who have been given it after what has come to them the clear proofs due to jealousy between themselves. Then God has guided those who have believed that which they have differed in it of the truth with His permission. And God guides whomever He wills to a straight path.
[3:81] And when God has taken a covenant of the prophets: “Surely, what I have given you from scripture and wisdom, then has come to you a messenger confirming that which is with yourselves. You must believe in him and must support him.” He (God) said: “Have you affirmed and taken My covenant on that?” They said: “We have affirmed.” He (God) said: “So, you shall bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.”
[22:52] And we have not sent before yourself (Muhammad) any messenger nor a prophet, except that when he has recited the devil has cast in his recitation, while God nullifies what the devil casts. Then God establishes His revelations, and God is Knower, Wise.
However, 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)
and if we add the names of 2 prophets found in the following verses:
19. Idris (named a prophet in 19:56)
20. Muhammad (His name is not confirmed directly as a prophet but what has been given to him is a messenger of God and a seal of the prophets referring to the final edition of scripture in 33:40):
[33:40] Muhammad has not been a father of anyone of your men, but has had a messenger of God and a seal of the prophets, and God has done being Knower of everything.
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 has been given to both Moses and Aaron (21:48 and 37:117):
[21:48] And certainly, we have given Moses and Aaron the statue book, and a light, and a reminder for the righteous.
[37:117] And we have given both of them the scripture is the clear one.
Therefore, the total number of scripture given to 20 prophets is 19. This also provides a clue to spell out that the scripture given to each prophet is an edition of God’s scripture as reflected in 3:81 God has taken a covenant of the prophets, and the Quran is the final edition as reflected in 33:40 being a seal of the prophets given to Muhammad.
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 any of these messengers has been associated with the term ‘Scripture’. None of them has delivered a Scripture. Thus, according to the definition of prophets given in 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 yourself (Muhammad), and of them are whom we have mentioned to you, and of them are whom we do not mention to you. And it has not been for any messenger that he brings with a sign except God’s permission. So, when God’s command has come, it has been decided with the truth, and has lost then the falsifiers.
[4:164] And messengers we have certainly, mentioned them to you (Muhammad) from before, and messengers we do not mention them to you (Muhammad); and God has spoken direct conversation to Moses.
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 while 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 and messenger given by Him in it.