Are All Prophets Infallible?

17 September, 2016
Q As-salamu `alaykum. Recently during our sisters study circle, we came across the question that all prophets are sinless and commit no error (ma`sum). Some sisters firmly accept this, but some sisters don't agree with examples of Prophet Musa (peace be on him) killed a man, Prophet Adam (peace be on him) ate the forbidden apple; etc. Kindly clarify for us in this issue. Jazakallahu Khayran

Answer

Wa `alaykum as-salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

Dear sister, thank you for your question that shows your interest to enrich your knowledge about Islam.

As for the character of any Prophet or Messenger of Allah, it should be known that each of them has two aspects: the human side, and the prophetic one. For the human side, a Prophet or a Messenger, like all people, is a normal human in all his deeds, emotions, passion, etc. Regarding the prophetic side of Prophets’ characters, they have full infallibility (`Ismah).

In his response to your question, Dr. El-Sayed Amin, a lecturer of Islamic Studies in English, School of Languages and Translation, Al-Azhar University, Cairo,

First of all, I really appreciate holding sisters’ circles in all countries especially in China. This is a part of knowing about Islam and enriching our knowledge about it. So, more power to your elbows!

Prophets, Allah’s Messengers, are flesh and blood human beings like us who were liable to commit mistakes and human errors. They used to eat, drink, and so on. Allah Almighty says in the Qur’an, “And they say: What sort of a messenger is this, who eats food, and walks through the streets? Why has not an angel been sent down to him to give admonition with him? Or (Why) has not a treasure been bestowed on him, or why has he (not) a garden for enjoyment? The wicked say: You follow none other than a man bewitched. See what kinds of comparisons they make for thee! But they have gone astray, and never a way will they be able to find!” (Al-Furqan: 7-9) He also says, “Say: I am but a man like yourselves, (but) the inspiration has come to me.” (Al-Kahf: 110)

This, however, does not shun the fact that they deserve full trust in all what is revealed to them from Allah the Almighty.

It should also be stressed here that their `ismah (infallibility) is a basic creedal article in our faith. Regarding faults committed by Prophets and Messengers, Muslim scholars differentiate between minor mundane faults and major ones.

To the best of my understanding, they can commit minor, but not major mundane faults. Minor mundane faults such as getting angry, not paying attention to perfect certain dunya-related orders such as the case of Prophet Moses, whose normal, yet powerful, touch of the man led to his death. Remember that Prophet Moses was really very powerful.

Having stated this, it must be emphasized here that Prophets and Messengers are protected by Allah against committing any faults related to their divine messages and revelations, and this is the real meaning of their `ismah (infallibility).

If you intensively ponder over the Qur’an, you will see that almost all the pitfalls committed by the Prophets and Messengers were related to the mundane matters referred to above.

I hope this answers your question, and I advise you to invite local Muslim scholars to talk to you about this and other similar issues.

Allah Almighty knows best.