Why Does the Qur-aan Mention Only the Middle Eastern Prophets?

QA brother wrote: A question was raised - Will appreciate your research / input on this - Thanks

In Quran which propagates universal religion and for all time , the prophets named or quoted are mostly from Prophet Ibrahim dynasty and from Arab Land only - What about a few names out of over 125,000 prophets sent in different other parts of the world - why there is no single mention ? Please reply in ref to Quran and authentic Hadeeth and if there is any explanation about it ? Can you list out books / ref to get an answer for this ?
Best wishes

ABismillaahi walĥamdulillaahi waŝŝalaatu wassalaamu ‘alaa rasoolillaahi

Islam is the only way and system of life that Allaah has prescribed for all human beings to follow. It is the natural and universal system of life applicable to every member of humanity wherever he or she resides and in whatever era he or she lives. After Adam when the human generations deviated away from Islam and forgot all about it, Allaah SWT sent prophets and messengers to different localities at different times to teach people Islam so that no population in the world was left without guidance. The same Islam was taught by all prophets and messengers regardless of where and when they were sent. As humanity matured and it was possible to unite all people under one Messenger, the last and final Prophet and Messenger Muhammad ŝall-Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam was sent with the final, complete and perfect editions of guidance of Islam in the form of the Noble Qur-aan.

The Qur-aan declares that a prophet or messenger was sent to every nation, but it mentions only 25 prophets in total -- meaning only 24 prophets other than Muhammad have been mentioned. Out of those, only five have been mentioned frequently and in detail (Adam, Nooh, Ibraaheem, Moosa and ‘Eesa) and only the story of Yousuf has been described in detail at one place sequentially and contiguously. A few more have been mentioned by a few verses each, and some have been mentioned only by name without any details about them at all.

The questions that usually arise are: why does the Qur-aan not mention all the prophets and messengers that were sent, and why does it not mention full stories of those prophets that have been mentioned? Allaah SWT being our Master and Sovereign does not explain to us, nor should He, why He does what He does. He only tells us about the things that we need for practical use in our personal lives to live the way he wants us to live. If the information does not have a practical aspect to it, He does not provide that information. He actually does not like us asking any questions that are asked only for the sake of curiosity and that do not have a direct and immediate practical application in our lives. This point is explained in detail in my article “All About Questions”. Hence, this question has not been answered in the Qur-aan itself. Because the Saĥaabah understood this point and avoided asking any questions that were not relevant to their practical life, there is nothing in the Hadeeth about this topic either.

Questions such as these will not arise in our minds either if we have a clear understanding of the objectives for which Allaah sent us the Qur-aan and the approach its takes to guide us.

We must understand that the Qur-aan is NOT a book of human history. Its purpose is not to provide a full record of the prophets that were sent. Nor is it a book of biographies meant to inform people about the lives of previous prophets and messengers. It is the book of guidance. It only mentions some anecdotes from the lives of some of the previous prophets to illustrate the points it makes for the guidance of people. Thus the anecdotes and incidents from the lives and missions of the five prophets mentioned in detail have not been mentioned at all for the sake of reporting their history. Rather they have been quoted as examples from their lives and from their followers’ and rejecters’ behaviour to impart important lessons from a guidance perspective. That is why none of them have been mentioned at one place starting with their birth and ending with their death. Different episodes of their life have been mentioned at different locations to make different points. Only Yousuf’s story has been mentioned all at one place. Even in that story, only those details have been mentioned that were necessary to draw parallels between his life and his encounters with his brothers and the life of the Prophet Sall-Allaahu ‘Alayhi Wa Sallam and his encounters with the Makkans.

Once we understand the purpose of the Book and the role of the biographical anecdotes, the aforementioned questions can easily be answered.

For the purpose of guidance, the examples used must have the following two crucial features:

The original addressees of the message (residents of the Arabian Peninsula) must be familiar with the personalities used as examples and with their life stories. Otherwise the examples will not have guidance benefit.

There must be strong parallels between the anecdotes quoted and the situation at hand being faced by our Prophet and his companions as well as the rejecters of the message and their behaviour.

That is why only some relevant events from the life of the greatest of all the prophets -- Nooĥ, Ibraaheem, Moosa and ‘Eesa – have been mentioned as examples to the situations which the Prophet and Muslims were encountering. From that perspective, Ibraaheem and Ismaa‘eel were perfect examples because Arabs knew about them and felt proud to be from their descendents and followers. Although their knowledge was faulty and their understanding of their religion was lost, their examples were still effective in conveying the guidance to them. They had also known much about Moosa and ‘Eesa and other high ranking messengers from the Jews and Christians. Hence, anecdotes from their lives were also relevant.

Since the purpose was not to record history, many of the prophets from the descendents of Ibraaheem were also not mentioned. It is for the same reason that any other prophets sent to the other parts of the world were not mentioned. The examples of the prophets who were not known in Arabia where the original message of Islam was given would have been useless and irrelevant because no one would have known them and examples from their life would not have served any purpose.

One may wonder why not give some examples from the prophets from some other areas so that when the Qur-aan is presented to those nations, they can relate to the prophets of their own area? Unfortunately it does not work that way. The immediate recipients of the message must be able to benefit from the examples and should be able to see the parallels of the Prophet’s struggles with the struggles of earlier prophets. If they could not, there is no use in quoting the examples. Once the initial recipients get the message and understand its dynamics and its ins and outs, they can easily translate and present it to the people of other areas who join later or are presented the message subsequently.

In addition, the life and times of the prophets mentioned in the Qur-aan have been somewhat preserved, despite the distortions and lies in the Bible. That is not the case for any of the prophets that were sent to other areas of the world. Considering that the original Islamic teachings and biographies of the prophets sent to other parts of the world have been completely lost, the examples from the lives of earlier prophets from other areas of the world would have been useless even for the people coming to Islam from the cities of those unmentioned prophets. Mentioning the examples from their true stories would have actually created more controversy than helped because either the people would not know them at all, or if they knew them, they would have a very distorted picture of their life and message. In the first case, people would argue that they did not have any person like that in their history. In the latter case, where people would know about them, they would have a completely distorted view of their teachings and would argue that what Qur-aan says is not true. They themselves would believe that what they had in their own traditions was the truth. In either case, they would have moved further away from Islam instead of coming closer to it. Thus, instead of relating historical anecdotes of prophets from their own localities, they were approached on a logical basis. Had those prophets been mentioned, all the energy would have gone into arguing about whose version of the story was correct.

Finally, when the purpose is just to explain points with anecdotes of earlier prophets, using the most well-known and famous examples to clarify those points is enough, even if more examples can be brought from another prophet’s life. The intent is not to record everything, but only to clarify points of guidance with some famous examples.

No one can, however, say that these are the only reasons for not mentioning other prophet’s names. There may be more reasons in Allaah’s knowledge that we cannot think of.

Nov 29, 2004


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