What is the number of prophets (anbiya’) and apostles (mursalun) sent by Allah SWT? I once read that the number of the prophets is 124,000. While, the apostles are 313 in numbers. Is this number accurate?
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the prophet Muhammad PBUH, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
We believe that Allah SWT sent His messengers upon every nation. It is stated in the Quran:
وَإِن مِّنْ أُمَّةٍ إِلَّا خَلَا فِيهَا نَذِيرٌ
“And there was no nation but that there had passed within it a warner”
Surah Fatir (24)
وَلَقَدْ بَعَثْنَا فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ رَّسُولًا أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّـهَ وَاجْتَنِبُوا الطَّاغُوتَ
“And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger, [saying], "Worship Allah and avoid Taghut."
Surah Al-Nahl (36)
وَرُسُلًا قَدْ قَصَصْنَاهُمْ عَلَيْكَ مِن قَبْلُ وَرُسُلًا لَّمْ نَقْصُصْهُمْ عَلَيْكَ
“And [We sent] messengers about whom We have related [their stories] to you before and messengers about whom We have not related to you.”
Surah Al-Nisaa’ (64)
What is the true number of the Prophets (Anbiya’) and Apostles (Mursalun)?
There are indeed some narrations of hadith which state the number of the Prophets and the Apostles. However, the scholars of hadith have different opinions on stating the status of these hadiths. Some of them stated these hadiths as dhaif (weak), while some of them state these hadiths as hassan (good).
Among the hadith that state the number of anbiya’ and mursalun is a hadith narrated by Abu Dzar al-Ghifari R.A:
قلت: يا رسول الله ، كم الأنبياء ؟ قال: مائة ألف وأربعة وعشرون ألفًاً ، قلت: يا رسول الله ، كم الرسل منهم؟ قال: ثلاثمائة وثلاثة عشر جَمّ غَفِير
I asked the Prophet PBUH: “What is the number of the anbiya’?”, he answered: “124, 000 numbers of people”. I then asked, “How much of them is the Rasul?”, then he answered, “313, and that is already more than a few”.
Sahih Ibn Hibban (361)
The status of hadith: The muhaqqiq of Sahih Ibn Hibban; Syaikh Syu’aib al-Arna’ut stated that this hadith is very weak (dhaif jiddan). (Refer to Tahqiq Sahih Ibn Hibban, 2/79). This hadith is also said as dhaif by Imam al-Suyuti (Refer to al-Durr al-Manthur, 5/132). According to Imam Ibn Kathir - one of the narrators of this hadith -, Ibrahim bin Hisyam is criticized by most of the scholars of hadith like Imam Ibn al-Jauzi. Hence, he grouped this hadith among his compilation of fabricated hadith, al-Maudhu’at. (Refer to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 2/740).
There is also another hadith narrated by Anas bin Malik RA, where the Prophet PBUH said:
بعث الله ثمانية آلاف نبي ، أربعة آلاف إلى بني إسرائيل ، وأربعة آلاف إلى سائر الناس
“Allah SWT sent 8,000 prophets. 4,000 towards the Bani Israel and the other 4,000 towards all human being,”
Narrated by Abu Ya’la (7/160)
According to Imam Ibn Hajar al-Haitsami, one of the narrators is ‘Ubaidah al-Rabzi, and he is a very weak narrator. (Refer to Majma’ al-Zawaid, 8/210)
There is also another narration:
أنَّ الأنبياءَ مائةُ ألفٍ وأربعةٌ وعشرونَ ألفًا ، وأنَّ الكُتبَ المنزَّلَةَ مائةٌ وأربعةُ كُتُبٍ
“Verily, the number of the anbiya’ sent is 124,000, and the books sent are 104 books.”
According to Imam al-Syaukani, the chain of narrators (sanad) of this hadith is hassan (baik). (Refer to Al-Fath al-Rabbani, 1/484)
While, Imam Ibn ‘Atiyyah state that the narrations which state the number of anbiya’ and mursalun are not sahih, and only Allah SWT the All-Knowing of the true number of them. (Refer to Al-Muharrar al-Wajiz fi Tafsir al-Kitab al-‘Aziz, 2/137).
As a conclusion, we state here that this matter is one of the ijtihadi matters and are disagreed by the scholars. There are indeed hadith which state the number of anbiya’ and mursalun sent, but the status of the hadith is questionable by some scholars, and are accepted by some.
Our view is, every Muslim have the right to choose any opinion of the scholars pertaining to this matter, as it is the branch issue in Aqidah.
It is wajib (obligatory) for us to believe tafsili (in detail) with the prophets and apostles mentioned in the Quran as well as the hadiths which are sahih. While, for those who are not mentioned in both of them, it is enough for us to believe in them ijmali (in general).