• And (remember) when Allah took the Covenant of the Prophets, saying: "Take whatever I gave you from the Book and Hikmah (understanding of the Laws of Allah, etc.), and afterwards there will come to you a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) confirming what is with you; you must, then, believe in him and help him." Allah said: "Do you agree (to it) and will you take up My Covenant (which I conclude with you)?" They said: "We agree." He said: "Then bear witness; and I am with you among the witnesses (for this)." 3:81 - Translation by Muhsin Khan.

how come Rasul (Muhammad(S)) went to each Prophet in past and did confirmation and how Prophets of past helped Muhammad(S) as mentioned in ayat?

My understanding so far: If Allah says one Messenger went and did confirmation of The Book and Wisdom with all Prophets then we can't say 'any' one of the messenger went from 300+ messengers (there is no proof in Quran about 300+ messengers). Allah only talked about 19 Prophets and few messengers in Quran. Prophet are normally Humans in Quran. Messenger is either a human or Prophet or Angel. It may be possible that Muhammad(S) went as an Angel or Spirit (Allah knows best). Quran doesn't say Muhammad(S) was last, but Khatam-un-Nabiyeen (Seal/Confirm of Prophets).He is confirming what Prophets got. In Surah Isra/1 Allah took his servant in night from A to B we don't know how but Allah took him. We can assume i think. If we assume Muhammad(S) as last then we would be confused how the Last one went to each Prophet? Khatum means not last it means Seal/Stamp. 2:7 Allah has set a seal upon their hearts (Khatum word is used). If we say he was seal/stamp/confirmation, then we can say in 3/81 Muhammad(S) was the one that did confirmation with Prophets.

Allah knows best. I would love to hear the answer from someone that is correct understanding of this ayat according to Quranic ayats.

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Let's analyse the verse step by step:

  • وَإِذْ أَخَذَ اللَّهُ مِيثَـقَ النَّبِيِّيْنَ لَمَآ ءَاتَيْتُكُم مِّن كِتَـبٍ وَحِكْمَةٍ ثُمَّ جَآءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مُّصَدِّقٌ لِّمَا مَعَكُمْ لَتُؤْمِنُنَّ بِهِ وَلَتَنصُرُنَّهُ قَالَ ءَأَقْرَرْتُمْ وَأَخَذْتُمْ عَلَى ذلِكُمْ إِصْرِى قَالُواْ أَقْرَرْنَا قَالَ فَاشْهَدُواْ وَأَنَاْ مَعَكُمْ مِّنَ الشَّـهِدِينَ

  • And [recall, O People of the Scripture], when Allah took the covenant of the prophets, [saying], "Whatever I give you of the Scripture and wisdom and then there comes to you a messenger confirming what is with you, you [must] believe in him and support him." [ Allah ] said, "Have you acknowledged and taken upon that My commitment?" They said, "We have acknowledged it." He said, "Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses."
    (3:81 -SAHIH INTERNATIONAL Translation)

  • And (remember) when Allah took the Covenant of the Prophets, saying: "Take whatever I gave you from the Book and Hikmah (understanding of the Laws of Allah, etc.), and afterwards there will come to you a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) confirming what is with you; you must, then, believe in him and help him." Allah said: "Do you agree (to it) and will you take up My Covenant (which I conclude with you)?" They said: "We agree." He said: "Then bear witness; and I am with you among the witnesses (for this)." (3:81 -MUHSIN KHAN Translation)

This verse says Allah has taken a covenant of the prophets ()!

Prophets unlike Messengers actually don't have the duty to spread Allah's message, even if they may get revelation (wahy), their duty is to live according to the message at hands and apply it in their daily life and (only) teach it when asked -so they don't need to be actively preaching!
Messengers in contrast must preach the message that's their mission and some of them have been given a (new) scripture (else why would we talk about Zabur (Psalms?), sohof -papers- Ibrahim and Musa, the Torah and Injeel beside the Qur'an and why would the Qur'an quote some of them in the same verse).

What is the covenant Allah took? Let's read and make some conclusion from the above text:

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation says:
"Whatever I give you of the Scripture
MUHSIN KHAN translation says:
"Take whatever I gave you from the Book"

  • A prophet () has been given "a scripture" (parts of it) not "the scripture" (the whole), so he has knowledge of parts of the message of Allah for example tawheed! But not all of it.
  • Note that that both translations here may lead to a somewhat inaccurate meaning as scripture or book are meant generally not a specific book so saying the book or the scripture actually doesn't go along with the Arabic original (see my explanation on Arabic terms later)!

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation says:
and wisdom and
MUHSIN KHAN translation says:
and Hikmah (understanding of the Laws of Allah, etc.), and

  • Beside knowledge of the scripture prophets have been given wisdom (or Arabic hikmah which comes from hukm: how to decide, give a verdict etc.): this might mean how to apply the scripture, and generally about rulings and how to apply them, about manners -as a part of the message- etc.

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation says:
then there comes to you a messenger confirming what is with you, MUHSIN KHAN translation says:
afterwards there will come to you a Messenger (Muhammad SAW) confirming what is with you

  • now if a prophet or many prophets was/were alive and a messenger came (according to SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation which is more close to the truth as it doesn't exclude other messengers, while MUHSIN KHAN say it is only Muhammad () which certainly applies, but is too restricted). And if this messenger was confirming the message they have got, or in what they have from the scripture or wisdom.
    Note here are many "if"'s all these are conditions or criteria that must be fulfilled simultaneously.

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation says:
you [must] believe in him and support him."
MUHSIN KHAN translation says:
you must, then, believe in him and help him."

  • this actually is an essential part of covenant if all the above conditions apply the prophets () are asked to follow (believe) and help (support) the messenger.
  • Note that Arabic here uses strong words of to emphasize the necessity to follow and support by adding an invocation to each verb meaning they must support and must follow no matter what.
  • Now let's assume their came a false "Messenger" with a false message (going against the scripture or at least not confirming it at all, for example allowing zina) would the prophets need to follow him? No as this men is preaching something which goes against what the prophet had in his scripture.
  • Or let's assume prophet x lived 60 years and died without meeting or hearing from any new messenger who came with a new revelation or a message confirming his message and preaching Allahs message would this prophet have fulfilled the covenant? Yes, even if he didn't need to as during his life no new messenger was sent with a message.
  • The MUHSIN KHAN translation practically applies to all prophets as none of them met Muhammad () as far as we have been told and taught. While the SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation has some examples in the qur'an for example the prophet Yahya () was alive when 'Isa has brought a "new message" (the injeel) and he supported 'Isa.
    'Isa in the Qur'an when addressing bani Isara'il says:

    And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey me. (3:50)

    so 'Isa is an example of a messenger who came after a whole lot of messengers and prophets and who confirms their teaching, but brought some ease -in the religion- with him (by making lawful what was forbidden before his "new message"). The same may apply to Ibrahim () and Lut () and Ya'qub and Yousuf etc.

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation says:
[ Allah ] said, "Have you acknowledged and taken upon that My commitment?"
MUHSIN KHAN translation says:
Allah said: "Do you agree (to it) and will you take up My Covenant (which I conclude with you)?"

  • This verse is the part that covers the acknowledgement and confirmation of the covenant. Allah who inspired his prophets () by revelation also asked them to confirm that they would support a messenger that actually fulfils the given criteria or conditions. And in the next part of the verse the Qur'an shows their agreement or affirmation:

    SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation says:
    They said, "We have acknowledged it."
    MUHSIN KHAN translation says:
    They said: "We agree."

Before quoting the final and important words that Allah is witness of this covenant which means He expects from each prophet () to fulfil his duty if the conditions are met:

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL translation says:
He said, "Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses."
MUHSIN KHAN translation says:
He said: "Then bear witness; and I am with you among the witnesses (for this)."

As seen nowhere the verse says that Muhammad or any Messenger had to meet the prophets () or did take the covenant or even need to travel between time and space or whatever. It says that Allah asked every prophet () to stand by side by side with any messenger that they might meet while they are alive if and only if this messenger first confirms what they have in hand of the scripture and wisdom and secondly has been given the order to spread the message. This doesn't need any Angels, as humans can do this task easily.

Also note that the Qur'an uses the words:

  • كِتَـبٍ "Kitabin" a book or a scripture or a message (in generally not exclusively) instead of الكتاب "al-Kitab" meaning the book, the message or the scripture (exclusively).
  • حِكْمَةٍ "Hikamatin" a wisdom (also as a plural and in general without exclusion) instead of الحِكْمَة "al-Hikmah" the wisdom (exclusively).
  • رَسُولٌ "Rassulun" referring to a messenger (generally not exclusively) not الرَسُولُ "Ar-Rassulu" referring to one special messenger (exclusively)

Note that this verse on the whole is addressing the people of the scripture: those people who have heard or have been reached by some of the precedent messages. So they also know about this covenant according to the Qur'an and that's what many scholars say: Not only the prophets have to follow a messenger also his followers should follow and support him if the conditions or criteria are met.

See also What is the meaning of Meethaaq taken from the prophets (Anbiaa)? (Meetaq is Arabic for covenant)

Finally the Qur'an quotes a couple of messengers -mostly by name- (note that all messengers were prophets, as, as explained being a messenger means being a prophet with an extra duty) they might not be more than 30 some ahadith quoted amounts of prophets and amounts of messengers some are more others less reliable. But what is certain is that the amount of messengers is lower than that of prophets. And Allah knows best!

  • thanks - nice breakdown :) just a lil comment "then there comes to you a messenger confirming what is with you" - here Allah talks about messenger so it must be Messenger that is meeting Prophet. Prophets are humans and Messengers are either Prophet/Humans/Jinn/Angels (ref: 22/75, 6/130) There is no human or Prophet can go and meet each Prophet. It would be either Angel messenger or Jinn Messenger. We don't know their life span they might be living for hundreds/thousands of years. Shaitan can live thousands of years why can't any other pious Jinn/Angel/Messenger that can meet all Prophets! – ikram0459 Sep 14 at 11:33
  • @ikram0459 you seem to insist on a physical meeting while Allah can just inform them via wahy that a Messneger has been sent or they may hear of him. The Messenger doesn't need to go and gather each prophet of his time it works the other way! – Medi1Saif Sep 14 at 11:44
  • Communication is mentioned in ayat. They said, Allah said, He said.... how you will explain last part: He said: "Then bear witness; and I am with you among the witnesses (for this)." who is that HE in this? communication looks like physical meeting, isn't it? – ikram0459 Sep 14 at 11:52
  • one more point 3/41-44 - here Marium(AS) got news from Angels about Isa(AS) 19/16-18 - here Mariums(AS) met angel that looks like human and gave good news. If Allah can send any Angel that can give news that looks like human, so it may be possible that Allah sent a angel messenger that looks like human that can take covenant / confirmation of scripture and can communicate with Prophet(AS) / Person like Marium(AS). what you think? – ikram0459 Sep 14 at 12:04

The covenant from the Prophets is essentially also a covenant from their ummah's, and it applies to whoever of them found the Messenger. This is apparent from the next verse:

فمن تولى بعد ذلك فأولئك هم الفاسقون

And whoever turned away after that - they were the defiantly disobedient.

As it is impossible for Prophets themselves to be disobedient as they are infallible.

  • I understood your comment and next ayat, but the question is how come Rasul (Muhammad(S)) went to past prophets and did confirmation and how come all those prophets helped Muhammad(S) ? in arabic text, Nabiyun and Rasul word is mentioned! – ikram0459 Sep 10 at 15:47

Question : How come Rasul (Muhammad(S)) went to each Prophet in past and did confirmation and how Prophets of past helped Muhammad(S) as mentioned in ayat?

Answer : As an Arabic Speaker I assure you , no where in the original text was the prophet mentioned as being present , this Ayah is Allah describing the covenant that the past prophets took upon themselves and their nations to help and follow prophet Mohammed (PBUH) when he is given the resalah eventually . So to answer the first part of your question , no where in the Ayah is it mentioned that the prophet is there .
For the second part , here "helping" is a translation of an Arabic word تنصرنه which translates to aiding him against his enemies / to be there for him / to believe in him . And as Uma just clarified in his answer , this covenant was not for the prophets only but for their nations as well , so the promises of helping the prophet and believing in him were to be fulfilled by their nations whom were very much present when prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was given the resalah . (ie Jews,Christians,Abrahimics ,..etc)

  • Thanks for your nice reply. – ikram0459 Sep 10 at 21:38
  • Just like to add my understanding of this ayat: quran.com/7/172 - ....."Am I not your Lord?" They said: "Yes! We testify," lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: "Verily, we have been unaware of this." we all say that this took place in heavan / etc that we don't know but it happend. That was covenant with us from Allah and that ayat i mentioned 3/81 in Question is covenant of Prophets with Allah. (my comment continues...) – ikram0459 Sep 10 at 21:46
  • In 3/81 covenant of Prophets is mentioned not covenant of Messengers (Rasul) and to all Prophets a single Rosul is testifying that they got the Book and wisdom & what is with them (as mentioned in ayat). Idrees(AS) is Prophet how come he got covenant with that Rosul and his people know who to help after 2000 years (1000 years Nuh(AS) lived people say and Idress (AS) lifetime as well) so how come their people know who to help. (my comment continues...) – ikram0459 Sep 10 at 21:48
  • This covenant of Prophets include all prophets, normally a community is with Rosuls in Quran. Rosul is appointed to go to certain community or Clan. Normally Prophet is human in Quran while a Rosul can be human, Rasul can be a Prophet and a Rosul can be angel according to Quranic ayats. Maybe that Rosul was Angel that took covenant with Prophets or maybe that Rosult was Muhammad(S) and we don't know how come he went there (Musadiqalima ma'aa kum) like we don't know how Allah took human's covenant, same way humans don't know how Muhammad(S) went there (my comment continues...) – ikram0459 Sep 10 at 21:52
  • Here quran.com/6/83-89 - 18 Prophets name are mentioned and at the end it is said "Those are the ones to whom We gave the alkitab and authority and prophethood". Muhammad(S) name is not mentioned there. I think this 3/81 ayat and 6/83-89 is indirectly proving Muhammad(S) as the Seal of the Prophets. As Allah says in quran.com/33/40 - " KhatamunNabiyeen" - not khatamurRasuls ... I think Muhammad(S) went to all Prophets (not Rosuls) - normally Rosul is a Prophet but not all Prophets are Rosult). I can b wrong in understanding but that's just my view,plz correct me if i'm wrong. – ikram0459 Sep 10 at 21:57

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