O Prophet! Surely We have sent you as a witness, and as a bearer of good news and as a warner, and as one inviting to Allah by His permission, and as a light-giving torch.
In this verse Allah describes five qualities of the Prophet (s).
1) A Witness (Shahid) – The Holy Prophet (s) is a witness in different ways:
a) Of the truth of His mission. His noble qualities and impeccable behaviour are a witness of the greatness of the Almighty, and of the reality of the message he brought.
b) Over the actions of his Ummah. He sees them and will bear witness on the Day of Judgment. After the Holy Prophet (s) the Imams are also witnesses over their Shiahs. Allah says in the Quran ; Work; so Allah will see your work and (so will) His Messenger and the believers (9:105) A hadith of Imam as-Sadiq (a) says: The actions of the servants[of Allah] are shown to the Prophet each morning, virtuous ones and evil ones. A man came to Imam Ali ar-Ridha (a) and asked him to pray for him as he was in trouble. The Imam told him; do you think I don’t pray for you? Surely I am shown your actions every morning and night. When the man was surprised, the Imam said; Have you not read the verse [above]? Surely the believers referred to in this verse are Ali bin Abi Talib [and the Imams from his progeny].
c) Over the other Prophets. Every Prophet on the Day of Judgment will bear witness over his nation. The Holy Prophet (s) will also bear witness over the Muslims.According to verse 4:41 the Holy Prophet (s) will also bear witness over the other Prophets; How will it be, then, when We bring from every people a witness and bring you as a witness against these? Since he has been created before any other Prophet he will be brought forward as a witness over all of them.
2) A bearer of good news (Mubashhir) – he has been sent to give good news to those who are virtuous and pious, who take heed and remember Allah and the last day. He tells them of the success they will gain, of the pleasure of the Lord, of the indescribable rewards that await them. Human beings are desirous of good for themselves. They want the best for themselves. They are thus attracted to the idea of rewards.
3) A warner (Nadhir ) – The Holy Prophet Muhammad(s) has been sent to warn those who disbelieve and reject faith, those who are apathetic and indifferent, heedless of the life to come. He warns them of the loss they will suffer as life passes by in vain, of the displeasure of Allah, and the painful punishment that awaits them. Human beings have an instinctive desire to ward off evil from themselves. This makes them responsive to a message that heralds harm.
4) One who invites towards Allah (Daa’i ila Allah) – once the warning and good news have been given, the grounds have been set. The human being is now receptive to what the Prophet has to say. The next task is to invite them to the worship and obedience of God, to show them the path they should tread, and to teach them how to interact in a society. This is the role of showing human beings the path towards Allah.
5) A light giving torch (Siraj al-Munir) – the Prophet illuminates the way for others through his own example, and the teachings he preached. As Imam Ali (a) says: He is a lamp whose flame is burning, a meteor whose light is shining and a flame whose spark is bright (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 94). Those who are spiritually blind will not see the light, just as the physically blind cannot benefit from the rays of the sun. Light gives warmth and comfort to the human being, it spurs growth and fosters movement and activity. Similarly the Prophet provides comfort for the believers, his teachings and life creates spiritual growth, and his mission promotes movement and activity on the right path. Without him there is darkness of ignorance and greed.
Points to Ponder
1) The Holy Prophet (s) fulfilled a mighty task, and had different roles to play. Each role was important in attracting the people towards Islam and contributed towards the success of the Prophet (s). These verses give us a glimpse of the variety of strategies he used to affect the people.
2) Note how the good news is given before the warning. It is important to stress the positive and motivate people towards good actions. That is often more effective than beginning with threats and negativity.
3) To be an effective preacher, the person must be a good example himself. It is useless to tell others when you don’t practice it yourself. The Holy Prophet (s) was a leader par excellence because he himself was a great example.
Ayatullah Nasir Makarim Shirazi (ed.), Tafsire Namune
Agha Muhsin Qara’ati Kashani, Tafsire Noor