Prophets ... What if They Were Angels?

God's Prophets:
Prophets must be humans to be able to convey the message to their people.

Why did God choose human beings as His messengers?

Wouldn't it be more appropriate if God sent angels to guide people and to show them the straight path?

Wouldn't people be more eager to believe an angel than merely another human like themselves?

How fair would it be for human beings to have angels as their prophets?

A messenger is assigned to convey the law of God and to inform people about the divine message, so he must be one of them — speaking their language and knowing their habits — to be able to convey the message. People must have known him before his mission; his honesty, truthfulness, and noble manners should be unquestionable.

Not only would the prophet convey the divine law, but he would also teach people how to apply it. The law is theoretical and must be practically applied; people need to see their messenger offering prayers, performing Hajj, and applying the divine law he brought to them. Therefore, the humanity of the prophet is imperative.

For this reason, God chose honorable humans to be His Prophets, a choice that the disbelievers would oppose till the Day of Judgment. Every prophet was a human and was attacked by his people for being one.

{Is it a wonder for humankind that We have inspired a man among them, saying: Warn humankind and bring unto those who believe the good tidings that they have a sure footing with their Lord? The disbelievers say, "Lo! This is a mere wizard."} (10:2)

Questioning the prophets' humanity is not limited to a single Prophet, but it was the norm among all prophets starting from Noah, the first messenger sent after Adam (peace and blessings be upon both of them), and this was shown in the Quran:  

{But the chiefs of those who disbelieved from among his people said, "We do not consider you but a mortal like ourselves, and we do not see any have followed you but those who are the meanest of us at first thought, and we do not see in you any excellence over us; nay, we deem you liars."} (11:27)

the humanity of Muhammad (peace be upon him) was taken as a basis for raising doubts about his message

The same attitude was repeated in nation after nation. The Quran narrates the stories of the peoples of `Aad and Thamud and those after them. They rejected the Prophets' message under the pretext that the prophets were no more than human beings like them.

When Allah sent Shu`aib (peace be upon him) to his people to tell them that they should give full measure and weigh with the true and straight balance, they accused him of lying.

Also, Pharaoh and his people accused Moses and his brother Aaron (peace and blessings be upon both of them) of lying, when they told them:

{Shall we believe in two men like ourselves, and their people are servile unto us?} (23:47)

Similarly, the humanity of Muhammad (peace be upon him) was taken as a basis for raising doubts about his message:

{Their hearts trifling; and those who are unjust counsel together in secret: He is nothing but a mortal like yourselves; what! will you then yield to enchantment while you see?} (21:3)

Moreover, if God had sent down angels as prophets, people would have not recognized them, being that angels do not live on earth. Even if we assume that He had made the angel prophets known to people, they would say:

"Such angelic prophets could not be examples to us because they are created from light and we are created from clay. They are infallible by nature and they carry out the commands they receive from Allah. Unlike them, we humans are liable to err."

Angels, therefore, could not be prophets to humans because angelic powers and nature differ from those of humans. Allah willed that His prophets be as human as the peoples to whom they were sent, so that none would dare argue on the Day of Judgment: "O Lord, You have burdened us beyond our power and enjoined on us what we could not do."

The answer would simply be that your prophet was a human like you, yet he was able to faithfully apply the divine law without feeling burdened beyond the capacity of humans.

Excerpted with some modifications from the author's book: "Muhammad".
First Published: August 2007
Related Links:
The Best Teacher Ever: Teaching and Purifying
Forgiveness: A Prophetic Example
Come to a Word That Is Just (Part 2)
Lucky to Have Been Shown the Light
Coexistence is Strength
* Sheikh Muhammad Mitwalli Ash-Sha`rawi (1911–1998) was a prominent Muslim scholar and one of the most famous Arabic-speaking preachers. He was known particularly for his TV program in which he interpreted the Qur'an in a way easily understood by common people. He lectured in Saudi Arabia and served as the Egyptian minister of religious endowments from 1976 to 1978.  Sheikh Ash-Sha`rawai authored many books.  

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