Occupation of Prophets


Assalamu’alaykum wr. wb.

I am sorry for my stupid and inappropriate question.

What is the occupation of the Prophets in order they have to fulfill their own needs and for their family living? Why in their biography are not mentioned about that?

Thank you


Wa `alaykum as-Salam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

Traditional knowledge does indeed specify the vocations of the prophets – peace be upon them – though it is perhaps necessary to look to sources concerned with this subject rather than biographical stories. These sources are the books of futuwwah or chivalry, containing the traditions of the myriad artisanal guilds of Islamic civilization. Although the treasure-house that is his Seyahatname does not really belong to this genre, the traveler Evliya Celebi nevertheless includes in his account of Ottoman civilization an unrivalled description of the guilds of Constantinople. The following list (translated by Hammer-Purgstall) prefaces his description of the procession of the guilds that was included as an appendix to The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry:

…Adam was taught by the mediation of Gabriel to sow the earth with corn during his life-time, and all the prophets similar arts necessary for sustaining life…Adam was, as we are told, a peasant; Seth, a weaver; Edris (Enoch), a tailor; Noah, a joiner; Hud, a merchant; Saleh, a camel-driver; Abraham, a dairyman at Aleppo, and afterwards, when he built the Ka`bah, a mason; Ismail, a hunter; Ishak, before he grew blind, a shephard; Jacob, a speculative man; Joseph, in the prison, a watchmaker, and then a king; Job, a patient beggar; Shoaib (Jethro), a devotee; Moses, a shepherd; Aaron, vezir; Zilkefel, a baker; Jerjish (George), a sheikh; Loth, a chronographer; Kaffah, a gardener; Azir (Esdras) an ass-driver; Samuel, the companion of the seventy-two translators, an interpreter; Elias, a weaver; David, an armourer; Solomon, a basket-maker of the leaves of palm-trees; Zacharias, an eremite; John, a sheikh; Jeremias, a surgeon; Daniel, a fortuneteller by the art reml; Lokman, a philosopher; Jonas, a fisherman; Jesus, a traveller; and six hundred years after him, Mohammed, the last of the prophets, a merchant, and soldier in God’s ways…All these prophets having been taught their above-mentioned arts by Gabriel, communicated them to mankind, and became the Sheikhs and protectors of those arts.

It has also been related that the Holy Prophet – peace and blessings be upon him – affirmed: “Every prophet has his vocation, and mine is the knightly struggle.” Here surely is an explanation why it is chivalry that encompasses all the other arts, in accordance with the function of the Seal of Prophets.

Your question is neither stupid nor inappropriate. Modern people have tragically lost the honor of following the examples of the prophets. This was the function of futuwwah in traditional Islam, to provide an operative link between worldly action and the spiritual hierarchy, and so justice would appear. Recently, Mawlana Sultan ul-awliya Shaykh Nazim al-Haqqani – may Allah sanctify his secret – asked his followers: “Is there anyone here who knows handicraft? There are so many Pakistanis, Afghanis, Turks, Iranians, and Arabs who come here and they know handicrafts. I would like for them to arrange a small place for teaching those who do not know anything…They should teach them handicrafts, such as carpentry or shoe-making. There are several kinds of handicrafts, and perhaps you have people who know how to do something. Teach them carpentry; it will be like a golden chain for people.”

This last phrase provides a remarkable indication of the relationship between futuwwah and Sufism. “Golden chain” is a distinction belonging to Sufism, and therefore to the “greater mysteries” of spirituality; and while the crafts are concerned rather with the “lesser mysteries,” there is nevertheless a correspondence and “likeness” between the two domains of initiation. Often these forms of initiation converged; after all, futuwwah naturally belongs to Sufism, since the lesser depends upon the greater. Many of the seminal figures of Islamic esoterism supported the institutions of futuwwah, like the founder of the Suhrawardi order and the step-son of the Shaykh al-Akbar, may Allah sanctify their secrets. Lines of transmission within the Sufi orders include many whose names indicate an artisinal affiliation. Curiously, a futuwwah book of the weavers’ guild identifies Shah Naqshband – may Allah sanctify his secret – as having a principal role in preserving knowledge of the craft.

Just as futuwwah has been neglected, so has injustice become widespread. Knightly struggle is the vocation of the Last Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, yet as the Sultan al-Awliya has declared, “There can be no jihad until Imam Mehdi comes.” It should not be surprising, then, that the Seal of Futuwwah is none other than the one who is expected to fill the earth with justice as it has been filled with injustice.

Mahmoud Shelton

About Ustadh Mahmoud Shelton

Mahmoud Shelton studied at the University of Edinburgh before taking a degree in Medieval Studies at Stanford University. Shelton is the author of Alchemy in Middle Earth: The Significance of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Balance of George Lucas' Star Wars, and numerous articles. He is also a contributor to The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry and The Sufi Science of Self-Realization. Contributions by Mahmoud Shelton * Chivalry of the Night and Day * Alchemy in Middle Earth * contributor, The Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry
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