in category Prior Messengers

What were the classical scholars views on the fallibility of prophets and messengers?

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In a Nutshell
The various schools of thought differ on this. In general Hanbalis, Atharis and Asharites accept major and minor sins can occur before prophethood but they are protected afterwards. Maturidis only accept minor mistakes can ever occur, before or after prophethood.


Rationally speaking, Prophets can commit major and minor sins before prophethood (Amidi Vol. 4, p. 143).

However, after prophethood texts suggest they are protected from deliberate lying and major sins, along with minor sins affecting their reputation.

Non-deliberate major sins remain possible for them to commit.

Some examples of their proofs include:

  • It is possible that a prophet can commit kufr by mistake, not only rationally but textually, confirmed by both Qur'an and Sunnah with regards to the Prophet Muhammad (saw) citing a kufr statement made by mistake when God stated he pronounced the satanic verses.
  • The textual possibility of the prophets lying by mistake citing Ibrahim (as) lied when he said he was ill when he was not, and claimed that "the biggest idol killed the minor ones". Ibrahim (as) however intentionally lied here.
  • The Prophet Noah (as) lied by mistake when he said his son was destroyed by the flood.

Several textual proofs are cited to support the possibility of prophets committing minor sins:

  • The opinion of Ibn Abbas and Mujahid is cited claiming the wife of Aziz and Prophet Yusuf (as) took off their clothes and lay down together in an immoral fashion.
  • The Prophet Dawud (as) once saw the naked wife of a solder taking a shower and wanted her as his wife. Dawud (as) allegedly with intent sent her husband to his death in battle so he could take her as his wife.

They rely heavily on authentic ahadith, regardless of the issues with content.


Abu Bakr Baqillani stated it is rationally possible for the prophets to commit sins, both minor and major, before prophethood (Taftazani Vol. 5, p. 50; Amidi Vol. 4, p. 142).

Ash'aris claim prophets are textually protected from sins that could negatively impact their reputation, but not rationally however prophets can commit minor sins though some Ash'ari scholars differ (Juwayni p. 280).


Prophets are free from major and minor sins, however, they may be subject to minor errors (Bazdawi p. 172).

Two verses are commonly cited:

Indeed, We have given you, [O Muhammad], a clear conquest, that Allah may forgive for you what preceded of your sin and what will follow and complete His favour upon you and guide you to a straight path... (Qur'an 48:1-2)

There is a disagreement as to what Allah is referring to when he said "before and after":

  • Before and after the conquest of Mecca.
  • Before and after prophethood according to Ash'ari and Hanbali Schools. Maturidis assume he Was a prophet before his physical birth.

However, Maturidis in "Tafseer Maturidi" argue the verse could mean:

  • It is referring to the Prophet Muhammad's sin, which for us could be a mubah matter, and it indicates it is forgiven.
  • God has protected Muhammad (saw) from committing a sin, a legitimate linguistic point.
  • It is referring to the sin of his nation; God forgives the sins of his nation [(Vol. 4, p. 518).

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