Nor would We visit with Our wrath until We had sent a prophet [to give warning],(17:15)
people who live at a time between prophets will be saved. It has been stated unanimously that they will not be punished for their mistakes in secondary matters. According to Imam Shafi‘i and Imam Ash‘ari, even if they are deniers and do not believe in the fundamentals of belief, they will still be saved. For accountability to God is established with the sending of prophets, and when prophets are sent people become accountable by knowing about their mission. Since heedlessness and the passage of time had obscured the religions of the former prophets, they could not provide the proof for the people of that time. If the people obeyed the former religion, they will receive reward; if they did not, they will not be punished. For since it was hidden, it could not be a proof.
You ask: “Were there any prophets among the forefathers of God’s Noble Messenger (Upon whom be blessings and peace)?”
T h e A n s w e r : There is no certain narration that there were any after Isma‘il (Upon whom be peace). Only two prophets appeared, called Khalid b. Sinan1 and Hanzala,2 who were not his ancestors. But one of his forefathers, Ka‘b b. Lu’ayy, composed the following famous and explicit poem, as though quoting scripture: “The Prophet Muhammad will suddenly appear * Giving tidings most true,”3 which resembles prophetic and miraculous utterance. Relying on both evidence and illumination, Imam-i Rabbani said: “Numerous prophets appeared in India, but some of them had no followers or only a few people, so they did not become well-known or were not called prophets.”4
According to this principle of the Imam, it is possible there were prophets of this kind among the Prophet’s (UWBP) forefathers.
You ask: “Which of the narrations mentioning the faith of the Messenger’s (Upon whom be blessings and peace) parents, and that of his grandfather ‘Abd al-Muttalib, is the most authentic and sound?”
T h e A n s w e r : For ten years the New Said has had no book with him
Ibn Sa’d, al-Tabaqat al-Kubra, i, 296; Ibn Hajar, al-Isaba, i, 466; Ibn Athir, Asd al-Ghaba, ii, 99.
Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, i, 212-3; Zirikli, al-‘Alam, ii, 286.
Abu Nu’aym, Dala’il al-Nubuwwa, i, 90; Ibn Kathir, al-Bidaya, ii, 227.
Imam Rabbani, al-Maktubat, i, 239 (No: 259).