Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is the most widely known prophet in Islam; he was the final of 25 Qur’anic messengers Allah (SWT) selected to spread the word of Islam to humankind. There is sometimes confusion on how many prophets in Islam there are and the role each of them played. If you want to learn more about the religion of Islam and its prophets, keep reading as we go into detail about the subject.
What is a Prophet?
Allah (SWT) selected prophets to inform people of His teachings. The role of prophets was to show humankind how to act and to spread the word of the one true God, Allah (SWT).
How Many Islamic Prophets are There?
There are 25 prophets selected by Allah (SWT) to be His messengers.
Timeline of the Islamic Prophets
Adam (AS), who is the first prophet in Islam, was the first human being on Earth. Allah (SWT) created Adam (AS) and Hawwa (Eve) from clay, and He allowed them full freedom in Paradise with one exception: they must not eat the fruits bore from one specific tree. Despite having everything they could ever want or need in Paradise, the temptation of the forbidden fruit proved too much and Adam (AS) and Eve went against Allah’s (SWT) wishes. They ate from the tree and were subsequently ousted from Paradise and sent to Earth. Whilst on Earth, they had to learn how to work for survival as Allah (SWT) did not give them the amenities they had previously enjoyed in Paradise.
The pair had several children, although Cain, Abel and Seth are the most widely known. Allah (SWT) commanded Cain and Abel to present Him with a sacrifice, but Cain failed to produce a suitable offering, resulting in Allah (SWT) rejecting it and accepting Abel’s instead. Cain grew jealous of his brother and threw a rock at him. Abel was killed, making Cain the first murderer on Earth.
Following Abel dying and Cain becoming a killer, when Adam (AS) had to choose a successive prophet, he selected his third son, Seth (AS), who became the second Prophet in the timeline. Seth (AS) is not mentioned by name in the Qur’an, but Islamic scholars believe it was he who received the first scriptures. Some believe that when Seth (AS) buried his father, Adam (AS), he buried the scriptures with him in the Cave of Treasures.
The third Islamic prophet is Idris (AS). He is sometimes called Enoch as he shares parallels with the Biblical Enoch. Allah (SWT) bestowed prophecy upon Idris (AS) when he was around the age of 40. At the time, Idris (AS) lived in Babylon, where he was born. He began receiving revelations and, under the guidance of Allah (SWT), sought to inform the people of Babylon of the one true God. Idris (AS) told them that they were living in sin, but only a number of people took heed. After much backlash, Idris (AS) and his followers made their way to the River Nile in Egypt, where Allah (SWT) provided for them.
Idris (AS) is believed to have received 30 scriptures, but also to be the first person to write and observe scientific units of measure, and to study the movement of the stars. He is considered to have been a patient, clever and trustworthy man.
Following Idris is Noah (or Nuh), who became the fourth prophet. Allah (SWT) selected Nuh (AS) to inform the people of the land of Him and His teachings and to relay the message that He is the only God. Allah (SWT) told Nuh (AS) to warn the people that failure to recognise Him as the only deity would result in the onset of a huge natural disaster. Nuh (AS) obeyed Allah (SWT), but the people refused to listen to him. Nuh (AS) knew a big disaster was coming, so he built an ark on which he placed two of every animal and made room for the few people who did listen to him.
As Allah (SWT) had warned, there was a Great Flood, but Nuh (AS) and the believers were safe on the ark.
The city of ʿĀd was home to Hud (AS), whom Allah (SWT) selected as His fifth prophet and messenger. Hud (AS) had been receiving revelations from Allah (SWT) and he was committed in his obedience to Him, but no matter how hard he tried, Hud (AS) could not persuade the people of ʿĀd to accept Allah (SWT). Hud (AS) was relentlessly mocked, as was Allah (SWT), and after enduring the mocking for a period of time, Allah (SWT) destroyed the city of ʿĀd in a raging storm.
Saleh (AS) is the sixth prophet and lived amongst the Thamud tribe in Ancient Arabia. He was highly regarded in society, but when he started sharing the teachings of Allah (SWT) following his bestowed prophethood, many people disregarded what he said. Saleh (AS) spoke out against the wealthy people who were self-righteous, and he vehemently opposed polytheism (which was extremely common in Thamud society).
The people of Thamud disregarded what Saleh (AS) said and instead demanded he performs a miracle. Allah (SWT) blessed the people with a she-camel, and Saleh (AS) told them that they were not to harm the she-camel or else they would be severely punished, but they did not listen. They cut the she-camel’s hamstrings. Saleh (AS) said those responsible and the disbelievers had only three days to live. Some repented, but it wasn’t enough and they were killed in an earthquake, with only Saleh (AS) and his followers surviving.
The story of Prophet Ibrahim (AS) is widely known as it is his actions that are honoured during Qurbani. Allah (SWT) tested Ibrahim (AS) greatly throughout his prophecy, but He tested him most when He commanded Ibrahim (AS) to sacrifice what was dearest to him: his son. Ibrahim (AS) relayed Allah’s (SWT) command to Ismail (AS), his son. Ismail (AS) recognised the importance of obeying Allah (SWT) and so agreed to the sacrifice, but only if Ibrahim (AS) bound him up to avoid a struggle and wore a blindfold so he did not have to witness what was happening.
At the time of the sacrifice, Ibrahim (AS) observed Ismail’s (AS) requests and carried out the sacrifice as commanded by Allah (SWT). When Ibrahim (AS) removed his blindfold, he was taken aback because it was not his son who lay lifeless before him but a ram. As a reward for Ibrahim’s (AS) obedience, Allah (SWT) swapped Ismail (AS) with a ram at the last moment, leaving Ismail (AS) unharmed.
Prophet Ibrahim (AS) is also believed to have built the Kaaba in Mecca.
The eighth prophet is Ismail (AS). Like his father, Prophet Ibrahim (AS), Ismail (AS) was entirely devoted to Allah (SWT) and, following the events that are now honoured by Qurbani, he continued his father’s work as a messenger of Allah (SWT). Ismail (AS) is considered to have been extremely righteous, dedicated and good.
Prophet Ishaq (AS) is a descendent of Ibrahim (AS). Like his father and his half-brother, Ismail (AS), Ishaq (AS) was a committed subject of Allah (SWT) and dedicated his life to teaching people of Allah (SWT) and His wisdom.
The 10th prophet, Yaqub (AS), is mentioned 16 times in the Qur’an. Yaqub (AS) is known as the Father of the 12 Tribes and is the son of Ishaq, furthering the line of prophecy from Ibrahim (AS). Yaqub (AS) had 12 sons who each went on to found the 12 Tribes of Israel. He favoured Yusuf (AS) and this caused tension between his other sons. It is widely believed that Yaqub (AS) is one of the most exalted men.
The 11th prophet is Yusuf (AS) who, as mentioned, was the favoured son of Yaqub (AS). For this, Yusuf (AS) was tormented and bullied by his brothers to the point they threw him in a well. He was enslaved by passing travellers for many years, and he was wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he was not responsible for. During all his misfortune, Yusuf (AS) did not doubt his belief in Allah (SWT) and is a testament to never losing faith.
Like prophet Yusuf (AS), Ayyub (AS) was greatly tested by Allah (SWT) during his prophecy, but he never doubted Allah’s (SWT) plan for him. Ayyub (AS) was one of the most obedient and observant messengers of the Islamic faith, and for this, Allah (SWT) rewarded him in Paradise.
The prophetic mission of Shu-ayyb runs parallel to those of Saleh (AS), Hud (AS), Nuh (AS) and – later on – Lot (AS). Allah (SWT) sent Shu-ayyb (AS) to the Midianite community where he told the people that their polytheistic faith was wrong, and that the one true God, Allah (SWT), would surely punish them for their dishonest daily activities. Shu-ayyb (AS) was an eloquent speaker with a gift for language, and he came from a respected family which afforded him protection from the unbelieving Midianite people.
Shu-ayyb (AS) told the people that they would be wiped out in a huge disaster if they did not change their ways. Some conformed, but most did not. Allah (SWT) bestowed a huge earthquake upon the community, with only Shu-ayyb (AS) and his followers spared.
The 14th prophet is Musa (AS) who is the most mentioned person in the Qur’an. He was born in Egypt to an Israelite family at a time when the Pharoah ordered all newborn boys to be killed in alternating years. Musa (AS) was born on a year that boys were to be killed. To protect him, Musa’s (AS) mother secretly cared for him, but when the threat of danger came near, she cast him adrift on the Nile and told her daughter to follow him. The Pharoah’s wife found Musa (AS) on the riverbank and adopted him. Musa (AS) refused to suckle from all the wet nurses until his sister appeared and said she knew someone he would suckle from and presented his mother.
Growing up, Musa (AS) faced many struggles, namely from the Pharoah who saw him as a threat and tried to have him killed several times. In one instance, Musa (AS) and the Israelites came to the Nile, and God (SWT) told Musa (AS) to strike the water, which he did. The water parted and the Israelites safely passed through, but the Pharoah and his army could not and they died.
Sometime later, the Torah was revealed to Musa (AS). It is also said that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) saw Musa (AS) during the Mi’raj.
Whilst Musa (AS) was born during a year when Israelite males were to be killed, Harun (AS), his brother, was not. Harun (AS) assisted Musa (AS) in warning the people about the Pharoah. He often spoke for Musa (AS) because Musa (AS) had a speech impediment.
Harun (AS) is said to have been the first high priest of the Israelites and it is said that Prophet Muhammad (AS) saw him during the Mi’raj.
Dhu’l-Kifl (AS) is the 16th Islamic prophet. There are not many historical texts that detail the life of Dhu’l-Kifl (AS), but he is said to have been the messenger of Allah (SWT) in Iraq. The Qur’an says he is “company of the good”, and therefore it is believed his obedience to Allah (SWT) and his consistent preaching paved the way for him to be exalted to a high point in Paradise.
Prophet Dawud (AS) is held in extremely high regard by Muslims, as he was not only selected by Allah (SWT) to be a messenger, but he was also the king of Israel. Dawud (AS) is known to have been a man of sound judgement and knowledge, but he is perhaps most notably known as the slayer of Goliath, a giant.
Allah (SWT) chose four prophets to whom he revealed significant holy texts to: Musa (AS) - Torah, Dawud (AS) - Psalms, Isa (AS) – Gospels, and Muhammad (AS) - Qur’an. The Psalms, although considered to have been corrupted over time, are held in high regards and are considered a divine revelation.
Prophet Sulaiman (AS) was the son of Prophet Dawud (AS). He took over from his father as the king of Israel, and he is considered to have been the greatest leader of all time. No ruler has ever or will ever rival Prophet Sulaiman (AS). He is regarded as one of the most important prophets and many believe he has been exalted to closeness with Allah (SWT).
Sulaiman was granted many gifts by Allah (SWT), including the ability to talk to animals which allowed him to show compassion and build one of the best armies in the world. Despite all the gifts he received, Sulaiman (AS) considered prayer to be the most important thing and was an obedient servant of God (SWT).
When Sulaiman (AS) died, the kingdom of Israel split into two and many people in Israel begun to disregard Allah (SWT) and pray to Baal. Allah (SWT) sent Ilyas (AS) to restore the Islamic faith, but the people rejected Ilyas (AS) and he left. Allah (SWT) punished the people by depriving them of rain. This caused crops to fail and animals to die. They quickly realised they needed Ilyas (AS), so they begged him to return, which he did. They accepted Ilyas’ (AS) teachings for a period of time, but they began to reject them again soon after. Ilyas (AS) asked Allah (SWT) if he may leave because the people were not listening to him, and Allah (SWT) granted this wish.
Following Ilyas’ (AS) passing, Al-Yasa (AS) became the 20th prophet. There were a growing number of unbelievers in Israel, and Al-Yasa (AS) was sent by Allah (SWT) to show them the right way. There is not much that is known about Al-Yasa (AS), but he is said to have been extremely compassionate, kind and patient. No matter how many times he was set back, he did not give up regaling the teachings of Allah (SWT).
Like many prophets before him, Yunus (AS) was sent by Allah (SWT) to show non-believers the right path to Allah (SWT), and like so many other prophets, he was met with severe resistance. Following the rejection, Yunus (AS) left the city of Nineveh in Iraq, but this was against the will of Allah (SWT). In response, Allah (SWT) bestowed a storm upon Nineveh. The nonbelievers repented and begged Allah (SWT) for mercy for their ignorance. They were granted mercy.
At the time of the storm, Yunus (AS) had boarded a boat. As the storm arrived, the men on the boat knew they had to sacrifice one man to calm the waters. Yunus (AS) volunteered himself as he knew it was his punishment from Allah (SWT). When he dived in, he was swallowed by a whale. He furiously repented for his sins and was spat out, unharmed. He then returned to Nineveh and lived the rest of his life as an obedient messenger for Allah (SWT).
Israel was still a troubled state and many people did as they pleased, but Zakkariyya (AS) followed the teachings of Musa (AS). He lived a humble life, working as a carpenter and praying profusely to Allah (SWT). Zakkariyya (AS) was selected to be the guardian of Maryam and he raised her to be a respectable and righteous woman, but he longed for a child of his own to continue his efforts of piety. He sincerely prayed to Allah (SWT) and his wishes were granted by way of him being an upstanding man.
Zakkariyya’s (AS) prayers were answered by way of Yahya (AS), who also went on to be a prophet. Like his father, Yahya (AS) was an upstanding man and was dedicated wholly to Allah (SWT). The significance of Yahya (AS) is that as well as never sinning in his life, he heralded the arrival of the next prophet, Isa (AS), who was to be born to Maryam, the girl Zakkariyya (AS) had been a guardian to.
Many people wonder is Jesus a prophet in Islam, and yes, he is, but he is called Isa (AS) in the Qur’an. Isa (AS) is mentioned 93 times in the Qur’an, and it is said that the Gospel was revealed to Isa (AS) by Allah (SWT) as a divine holy text. Isa (AS) in Islam differs from Jesus in the Bible because, in Islam, Isa (AS) was a messenger of God (SWT) and not the son of God. In addition, Isa (AS) was not crucified in the Qur’an. Instead, he did as previous prophets and set out to guide the people of Israel on the right path.
Most people will know who is the last prophet in Islam because it is Muhammad (PBUH). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is widely regarded as the father of Islam because Allah (SWT) revealed the Qur’an to him, and many customs such as observing Ramadan and Hajj are done in the way Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did them. Allah (SWT) revealed his teachings to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over 23 years through the Angel Jibril, during which time he faced much persecution and violence in his home city of Mecca which forced him to flee to Medina.
After many years, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his followers returned to Mecca and were allowed the freedom to pray to Allah (SWT) in peace. The Hadith – the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) – is held in high regard, second only to the Qur’an.
There are no named female prophets in Islam, but women are highly respected because they birthed the prophets and raised them to their high status as righteous people and followers of Allah (SWT).
Further Prophecy Guidance
For more information about the prophets and their lives, please speak to your local imam.