Question: What does Islam teach about Prophets and Biblical Figures?
Muslims believe that God has sent numerous Prophets and Messengers to guide people and to help them live their lives in the best way possible. God created humanity and gave us free will to choose what we want to do and how we want to live our life. It is a test for us to see if we will live a good and honourable life, or if we will go astray. But God did not leave us without guidance. In order to help us succeed in this test, God selected certain human beings to act as Messengers, and to receive guidance from Him through angels and convey this guidance to the rest of humanity.
If God had so wished, He could have guided everyone directly or shown us direct miracles to prove His existence. He could have even created us without the free will to disbelieve. However, God wanted to test us to select those who would be the best among humankind, and to reward them with paradise and eternal life. On the other hand, those who abused this free will that God granted us to harm others and to be the worst of humankind, they will be punished, each according to the evils they have committed.
Therefore, God gave humans the free will to do whatever they want, whether it is good or evil. At the same time, God sent us Messengers to guide us to the right path. A number of these Messengers are mentioned in the following verse of the Holy Qur'an (the holy book of Islam):
Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Ibrahim (Abraham), Isma`il (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Ya`qub (Jacob), and to Al-Asbat (the offspring of the twelve sons of Ya`qub), and that which has been given to Musa (Moses) and `Isa (Jesus), and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted (in Islam). (Al-Baqarah, 136)
Therefore, Muslims believe in many of the same Prophets as Christians and Jews. We are taught to beleive in all of them and not to make a distinction between them. They are all to be respected and held in high regard.
The holy Qur'an mentions that the followers of Jesus referred to themselves as Muslims.
Then when `Isa (Jesus) came to know of their disbelief, he said: "Who will be my helpers in Allah's cause? Al-Hawariyyun said: "We are the helpers of Allah; we believe in Allah, and bear witness that we are Muslims. Our Lord! We believe in what You have sent down, and we follow the Messenger (Jesus); so write us down among those who bear witness. (Al-Imran, 52 - 53)
This is because they had submitted themselves to the will of God. This submission is the meaning of the word "Muslim". Further, this means that all Prophets and Messengers and all of their followers were Muslims because they had submitted to the will of God and had agreed to follow the guidance of God and implement His teachings in every aspect of their lives.
Accordingly, the holy Qur'an also declares that Prophet Abraham was a Muslim:
Ibrahim was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim and he was not of those who associate false dieties with God (Al-Imran, 67)
Muslims also believe in Prophet Noah and the flood:
(So it was) till when Our command came and the oven gushed forth (water like fountains from the earth). We said: "Embark therein, of each kind two (male and female), and your family -- except him against whom the Word has already gone forth -- and those who believe. And none believed with him, except a few. And he said: "Embark therein: in the Name of Allah will be its (moving) course and its (resting) anchorage. Surely, my Lord is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful". So it (the ship) sailed with them amidst waves like mountains, and Nuh called out to his son, who had separated himself (apart): "O my son! Embark with us and be not with the disbelievers". The son replied: "I will seek refuge at a mountain, it will save me from the water". Nuh said: "This day there is no savior from the decree of Allah except him on whom He has mercy". And waves came in between them, so he (the son) was among the drowned. And it was said: "O earth! Swallow up your water, and O sky! Withhold (your rain)". And the water was made to subside and the decree was fulfilled. And it rested on (Mount) Judi, and it was said: "Away with the people who are wrongdoing!" (Hud, 40 - 44)
Muslims believe that the central message that was carried by all Prophets and Messengers was that of monothiesm. Each Prophet called his people to believe in God and not to ascribe partners to God. To believe that God created the universe and everything within it, and to direct all forms of worship to God alone. Beyond this central message, each Prophet carried specific legistlation and teachings to their people to guide them to live life in the best possible way.