Prophets were raised and sent to the whole of mankind in different lands and at different times. The prophets were the channel of communication between Allah and mankind. It is through them that Allah, in His Infinite Mercy, provided men and women with guidance to follow the right course and so make this world a happy and peaceful place to live in. For those who accept and follow that guidance, the reward in the life after death is much greater and more desirable than the fleeting pleasures of this world.
The prophets and messengers were very special people, but, nonetheless, they were no more than human beings. They were not sons, partners, or incarnations of Allah. The message of every prophet and messenger was one and the same: There is none worthy and deserving of worship except Allah.
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, president of the Fiqh Council ofNorth America , states: Allah sent many prophets and messengers to different people and at different times. There are only a few whose names are mentioned in the Qur’an. Allah says, (We did send messengers before you: of them there are some whose story We have related to you, and some whose story We have not related to you.) (Ghaafir 40: 78, an-Nisaa’ 4: 164). The Messengers whose names are mentioned in the Qur’an were all men. There is no woman prophet or messenger whose name is mentioned in the Qur’an. Three times in the Qur’an Allah, Most High, says, (We did not send before you (i.e. Prophet Muhammad —peace and blessings be upon him) any but men (rijal) whom we did inspire…) (Yusuf 12: 109; an-Nahl 16: 43; al-Anbiyaa’ 21: 7). Apparently this means that only men were chosen by Allah as His messengers and prophets. But the word “rijal” does not mean only men. In most cases in the Qur’an this word is used to mean men only, but there are a few places where it is also used to indicate both men and women. See for example surat al-A`raaf 7: 46, (And on the Heights (al-A`raf) will be men who would know everyone by their marks…) We know that the people of al-A`raaf will be both men and women, so this means that the word “rijal” can be used for both. Similarly in surat at-Tawbah 9: 109, Almighty Allah says, (Surely the Masjid whose foundation was laid down from the first day on piety is more worthy of your standing forth there for prayer. In it are men who love to be purified. And Allah loves those who make themselves pure.) This refers to the Masjid of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) where men and women both used to come for prayers. So it is obvious that the statement “in it are men who love to be purified..” does not mean “men only”. One can also refer to surat an-Nur 24: 37, and al-Jinn 72: 6. In these two verses the word “rijal” is used and it includes men and women both.
Thus the majority of the Muslim scholars hold that the prophets and messengers were only men (i.e. males), but there were some scholars of the Qur’an who said that it was possible that some women were also prophets or messengers of Allah. We can say that most of the time Allah sent men as His prophets and messengers, but there is no conclusive evidence from the Qur’an to prove that only men were sent as prophets or to say that Allah never sent a woman as a prophet.
Why were men often chosen to perform this task? Obviously, the reason is not that women are inferior to men, because Allah has created men and women equal in their spirituality. The main reason seems to me was that the prophets and messengers of Allah were not only to preach Allah’s message, but they were also to establish His rule and authority. They had to struggle and challenge the forces of evil. It would be easier for men to perform this task than women.