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Allah calligraphy

Muslims regard as prophets of Islam () those non-divine humans chosen by Allah as prophets. Each prophet brought the same basic ideas of Islam, including belief in one God and avoidance of idolatry and sin. Each came to preach Islam and told of the coming of the final law-bearing prophet and messenger of God: Muhammad. Each prophet directed a message to a different group and each prophet taught minor variations in Sharia (or the practice of religion) to a different target-audience. These variations constitute applications of Islam: mainstream Muslims do not consider them discrete versions of Islam.

Islamic tradition holds that God sent messengers to every nation. In Islam, only Muhammad was sent to convey God's message to the whole world, whereas other messengers (rasuls) were sent to convey their messages to a specific group of people or nation.

Unlike Judaism and Christianity, Islam distinguishes between a direct messenger of God (rasul) and a prophet (nabi). Both function as divinely inspired recipients of God's revelation. However, in addition, rasuls receive a divine message or revelation for a community in book form. While every rasul is a nabi, not every nabi is a rasul.

Muslims regard Adam as the first prophet and Muhammad as the last prophet; hence Muhammad's title Seal of the Prophets. Islam regards Jesus as a rasul (and sometimes as a nabi) because he received wahi (revelation) from God, through which God revealed the Injil (Gospel) to him. Muslims believe that God has sent over 124,000 messengers all over the world as mentioned in the Sahih Hadith. Five (sometimes known as Ulul Azmi or the Imams — i.e. leaders — of the Rasuls) are accorded the highest reverence for their perseverance and unusually strong commitment to God in the face of great suffering. These five are Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), Isa (Jesus), and Muhammad.

Etymology

In both Arabic and Hebrew, the term nabī (plural forms: nabiyyūn and anbiyāʾ) means "prophet". These terms occur 75 times in the Qur'an. The term nubuwwa (meaning "prophethood") occurs five times in the Qur'an. The terms rasūl (plural: rusul) and mursal (plural: mursalūn) denote “messenger” or "apostle" and occur more than 300 times. The term for a prophetic “message”, risāla (plural: risālāt) appears in the Qur'an in ten instances.

The Syriac form of rasūl Allāh (literally: "messenger of God"), s̲h̲eliḥeh d-allāhā, occurs frequently in the apocryphal Acts of St. Thomas. The corresponding verb for s̲h̲eliḥehs̲h̲alaḥ, occurs in connection with the prophets in the Old Testament (Exodus, iii, 13-14, iv, 13; Isaiah, vi, 8; Jeremiah, i, 7).

Prophets and messengers in the Bible

The words "prophet" (Arabic: nabi, نبی) and "messenger" (Arabic: rasul, رسول) appear several times in the Old and New Testaments. The following table shows these words in different religious languages:

Prophet and Messenger in Bible

Arabic English Greek pronunciation Hebrew pronunciation
نبی Prophet προφήτης prophētēs נביא nâbîy'
رسول Messenger, Apostle ἄγγελος aggelos מלאך malak

In the Old Testament the word "prophet" (Hebrew: nabi) occurs more commonly, and the word "messenger" (Hebrew: malak) refers to Angels, But the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, speaks of a messenger that most commentators interpret as a reference to John the Baptist. In the New Testament, however, the word "messenger" becomes more frequent, sometimes in association with the concept of a prophet. "Messenger" can refer to Jesus, to his Apostles and to John the Baptist

It seems that in the New Testament messengers have a higher rank than prophets; Jesus Christ said about John the Baptist:

But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

Prophets and messengers in the Qur'an

The table below charts the Qur'anic verses which explicitly reference a prophet (nabi), a messenger (rasul) or a leader (imam). It also includes explicit references to prophets' book(s) / people / divine law (sharia).

Prophets, Messengers, and Imams of Allah

Name Nabi (Prophet) Rasul

(Messenger)

Imam (Leader) Book People Sharia

(Divine Law)

Adam Prophet
Idris Prophet
Nuh Prophet Messenger People of Noah Shari'a
Hud Messenger A'ad
Saleh Messenger Thamud
Ibrahim Prophet Messenger Imam Books of Abraham People of Abraham and the people of Lut Shari'a
Isma’il Prophet Messenger Imam
Yaqub Prophet Midian
Musa Prophet Messenger Pharaoh Shari'a
Daud Prophet (Psalms)
Sulayman Prophet People of Elijah
Al-Yasa Prophet People of Jonah
Dhul-Kifl Prophet
Zakariya Prophet
Isa Prophet Messenger Injil (Gospel) Children of Israel Shari'a
Prophets and Messengers
Prophets & Messengers Prophets and Messengers of Islam | Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) | Prophet Nuh | Prophet Ibrahim | Prophet Isa | Prophet Musa | Prophet Isma'il
Prophets Prophet Yaqub | Prophet Idris | Prophet Daud | Prophet Sulayman | Prophet Al-Yasa | Prophet Zakariya
Messengers Hud | Saleh
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