Question: Is it possible that Socrates or Buddha, or any wise men of the past, were prophets?
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh,
Thank you for your important question.
Allah Most High has said, ‘And We have already sent messengers before you. Among them are those [whose stories] We have related to you, and among them are those [whose stories] We have not related to you’ (Qur’an, 40: 78).
This verse tells us that we know a lot about many prophets of the past, but at the same time, there were many prophets that Allah has not told us about.
Many wise men and good people in the past may have actually been prophets whose true message has been lost. It is possible that Luqman was a prophet, and it is in principle possible that a character like Buddha was a prophet, or that Socrates’ words were indirectly inspired. Allah hasn’t told us anything specific about them.
Examples to be followed
What does this mean? This means that we are only obliged to specifically believe in those prophets that Allah has told us about and that the guidance that has been set for us as an example should only be taken from them.
To take someone like Buddha or Socrates as an absolute divine example merely on the hope that he was a prophet and merely with the possibility that his original message is still preserved is not a very reasonable line of thought.
Delving in alternative divine scriptures
It is narrated that Sayyidna Umar (Allah be well pleased with him) came and read some of the Bible to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), and he got very angry. ‘O Umar, are you still in doubt about it all?! By Him in Whose hand is my soul, I have brought you something perfectly clear. Don’t go and ask them about the matter lest they tell you something that is true and you deny it, or they tell you something false and you accept it! By Him in Whose hand is my soul, were Moses alive today, he would have no choice but to follow me’ (Ahmad; Fath al Bari, Ibn Hajar).
The same can be said about Buddha and Socrates or anyone else like them. Even if they were prophets, their guidance wouldn’t add anything to the pure, clear, and authentic message that we have from the final and ultimate messenger from Allah.
I pray this helps.
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Farid Dingle has completed extensive years of study in the sciences of the Arabic language and the various Islamic Sciences. During his studies, he also earned a CIFE Certificate in Islamic Finance. Over the years he has developed a masterful ability to craft lessons that help non-Arabic speakers gain a deep understanding of the language. He currently teaches courses in the Arabic Language