Difference between Nabi and Rasool
In Arabic there are no separate words for Messenger and Apostle. The
distinction is between Nabi (Prophet) and Rasool (Messenger or Apostle).
1- Nabi (=Prophet)
2- Rasool (=Messenger=Apostle)
Note that the degree of prophethood is lower than the degree of
1. A Prophet (Nabi) is a person to whom the Divine Law (Shari'ah) descends;
this divine law may be concerned with beliefs (`aqa-id) or with
practical activities (Ibadat, like prayer). This Divine Law either
deals with the Nabi's OWN life or with that of his community; or both.
This is the fundamental definition of prophethood, though the prophet
may also be informed of other things. The descent of the Divine Law
(Shari'ah) may be direct, or through an intermediary like an angel.
2. A Human Messenger/Apostle (Rasool) is a Prophet who receives a Divine
Law that concerns himself and people other than himself.
So every (human) Rasool is Nabi, while the reverse is not true. Also every
Nabi whom Quran has mentioned along with a community (Umma), is
consequently a Rasool.
Thus when Quran states that Mohammad (PBUH&HF) is the last Prophet (33:40),
then by the above definition, he is the last Messenger/Apostle also.
Note that the word "Human" is important in the definition of Rasool because
the Quran uses the term "Rasool" also for angels who issue a command at the
will of Allah (SWT):
"Allah chooses Messengers from ANGELS and from men, for Allah is He
Who hears and sees (all things). [22:75]"
"There came Our Messengers to Abraham with glad tidings. They said,
"Peace!" he answered, "Peace!" and hastened to entertain them with a
roasted calf. [11:69]"
"When Our Messengers came to Lut, he was grieved on their account and
felt himself powerless (to protect) them. He said: This is a
distressful day. [11:77]"
"(The Messengers) said: O Lut! we are Messengers from thy
----Also see: 7:37, 15:57, 15:61, 19:19, 29:31, 29:33.
However, a Nabi is only a human being -- no angel can be called a Nabi. So
every (human) Rasool is a Nabi, while every human Nabi is not necessarily a
The number of Messengers (Rusul) is LESS than the number of Prophets
(Nabiyoon); and EVERY Rasool received a book, while SOME Nabees received a
book. In addition, since he has to convince his people to accept a NEW
religion with new practices, a Rasool's work is much harder than that of a
Nabi. This is on top of the fact that people's needs, minds, and abilities
have changed; and accepting a new religion is not an easy task. This is
while a Nabi's NEW religious instructions are for himself (unless he
is a Rasool). Surely a Nabi invites people toward Allah (SWT); however, he
does not set any new practices for the people. So, in essence, if a
Nabi is NOT a Rasool, the people that he invites to Allah (SWT) would be
ordered to follow the custom and practices of a previous Rasool.
Among Rasools, however, there are five individuals who are higher than the
others. As you might know, the only difference between those five and other
rasools is that they are assigned universally (for the whole mankind at
their time), while the rest of rasools were locally (just for one city or
area). My recollection is that the word 'Alameen and/or Jamee'an has been
used in Quran for Prophet Jesus (AS) supporting this idea.
Once a Bahai claimed that Rasools (who came before Bab!) were only those
five who had book. But the rest were Nabi. This is not correct since Quran
states that Dawood had Zaboor and yet he is not counted among those five
great Messengers. So he is Rasool because he brought a book for people.
Imam means a person who is appointed by God as a leader and as a guide (see
Quran 21:73 and 32:24) to whom obedience is due, and whom people should
follow. Messengers are Warners and Imams are Guides (13:7). Imams are the
Stars of Guidance (6:97).
Imam does not receive divine revelation about Sharia (divine law). He does
not receive any commands concerning new religous paractices, and so on.
However, he may be informed of the events about the past and future.
Another difference between Rasool and Nabi and Muhaddath (i.e., Imam)
is on how they communicate with the angels, and is given in Usul Kafi,
kitabul Hujjah usder verse 22:52:
Rasool sees and hears the angel in awakness and sleep. Nabi hears the angel
and sees him while asleep, but does not see him while awake though hears
the speech. Imam (muhaddith) is the one who hears the angel in awakness
while does not see him in awakness or sleep.
In the previous part we quoted from Quran that Mary (AS) had communication
with angels. If according to Sahih al-Bukhari, Fatimah (AS) was the best of
ladies in this world and in hereafter, then why can't she communicate with
Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith: 4.819
The Messenger of Allah said to Fatimah (who was crying at her father's
deathbed): "Are you not satisfied that you are the chief of all the
ladies of Paradise or the chief of all the believing women?"
Furthermore, Ibn Abbas (RA) narrated:
The Messenger of Allah (PBUH&HF) said: Four women are the mistress of
the worlds: Mary, Asiya (the wife of Pharaoh), Khadija, and Fatimah.
And the most excellent one among them in the world is Fatimah."
Sunni references: Ibn Asakir, as quoted in Tafsir al-Durr al-Manthoor
For those who love Sahih al-Bukhari, I will quote this book once more which
confirms that Lady Fatimah (AS) had, indeed, communication with Gabriel:
Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith: 5.739
When the ailment of the Prophet (PBUH) got aggravated, he became
unconscious whereupon Fatima said, "Oh, how distressed my father is!"
He said, "Your father will have no more distress after today." When he
expired, she said, "O Father! Who has responded to the call of the
Lord Who has invited him! O Father, whose dwelling place is the Garden
of Paradise (i.e. al-Firdaus)! O Father! We convey this news (of your
death) to Gabriel." When he was buried, Fatima said, "O Anas! Do you
feel pleased to throw earth over Allah's Apostle?"
Not only that, but also Sunnis reported that Imam Hasan Ibn Ali has said
that Gabriel used to descend to Ahlul-Bayt. It is reported that Imam al-
Hasan Ibn Ali (AS) said the following in a discourse which he delivered on
the martyrdom of Imam Ali:
"I am from the Ahlul-Bayt that Gabriel used to descend on us and
ascend (back to heavens) from among us."
Sunni reference: al-Mustadrak, by al-Hakim, "Chapter of understanding the
virtues of companions," v3, p172
Now, when Imam Hasan uses the word "us", it means that it was not just
prophet who used to received Gabriel. Surely Gabriel did NOT reveal
anything of Quran to Imam Hasan. But, the above Sunni tradition shows that,
they could communicate with the Gabriel.
Mushaf (book) of Fatimah (AS) was also of this type. Some booklets of
hatred and lie published by anti-Shi'i groups allege that based on Usul
Kafi, Shia believe there is a Quran called "Quran of Fatimah"! This is a
false accusation. There is no tradition in Usul Kafi saying "Quran of
Fatimah". There are however, very few traditions in one chapter of Usul
Kafi which assert that Fatimah (AS) wrote a book (mushaf). The tradition
states "The book of Fatimah". Surely Quran is a book (mushaf), but any book
is NOT Quran. This allegation is as silly as saying "Quran of al-Bukhari"
instead of "book of al-Bukhari"!
Also those few traditions in al-Kafi clearly state that there is NO single
verse of Quran in the Book of Fatimah. This shows that the book of Fatimah
is TOTALLY different than Quran. Of course, it was three time bigger than
Quran in length.
In one tradition it said that Lady Fatimah (AS), after the Prophet
(PBUH&HF) passed away, used to write what she was told that would happen to
her descendants and stories about other rulers to come (up to the day of
resurrection). It was the sayings of Gabriel about what will happen. As I
mentioned and proved by Quran and Hadith, talking to angels is not
exclussive to the prophets and messengers. Fatimah (AS) recorded (or asked
Imam Ali to record) those information, which was kept in her family of
Imams, and was called "The Book (Mushaf) of Fatimah". A tradition which
follows this one clearly states that what is referred to by "The Book of
Fatimah" is not a part of Quran and has NOTHING to do with Allah's
commandments/halals/harams. It does NOT have anything to do with Shari'ah
(divine law) and the religious practices. Let me give you some of those
Abu Abdillah (AS) said: "... We have with us the Book of Fatimah, but
I do not claim that anything of the Quran is in it." (Usul al-Kafi,
Abu Abdillah (AS) also said about the book of Fatimah: "There is
nothing of what is permitted and what is forbidden (al-Halal and al-
Haram) in this; but in it is the knowledge of what will happen." (Usul
Kafi, Tradition #636)
Abdul Malik Ibn Ayan said to Abu Abdillah (AS): "The Zaydiyyah and the
Mu'tazilah have gathered around Muhammad Ibn Abdillah (Ibn al-Hasan,
the second). Will have they any rule?" He (AS) said: "By Allah there
are two books in my possession in which every prophet and every ruler
who rules on this earth (from the beginning of the earth till the day
of Judgment) has been named. No, by Allah, Muhammad Ibn Abdillah is
not one of them." (Usul Kafi, Tradition #641)
"Mushaf" refers to a collection of "Sahifa" which is singular for "page".
The literal meaning of Mushaf is "The manuscript bound between two boards".
In those days they used to write on leather and other materials. They
either rolled the writings -- what is known as scroll in English. Or they
kept the separable sheets and bound them together, in what could be called
as "Mushaf", a book in today's terms. The equivalent to the word book
"Kitab" used to (and still is) refer to either a letter (e.g. of
correspondence) or to an document that was written down or recorded. The
Arabic word for wrote "Kataba" is a derivative of the same word.
Although the Quran is commonly called a "Mushaf" today, perhaps referring
to its "collection" after it was dispersed. Quran is a Mushaf (book), but
any Mushaf (book) is not necessarily the Quran! There is no Quran of
Fatimah! As the above and many other traditions suggest, The book of
Fatimah has absolutely no connection with Quran. This concept is commonly
pulled out of context and published by anti-Shi'i groups due to their
hatred toward the Followers of the Members of the House of Prophet
(PBUH&HF). I have seen it mentioned in a book printed by the government of
What is also very important to recognize and understand is that belief in
Mushaf Fatimah is NOT a requirement of BELIEF to the Shia. It is just very
few traditions which report such a thing. It is nothing crucial for us as
the followers, nor any Shia (except Imam Mahdi) has access to it.
Some Side Comments
A Wahhabi mentioned that the Shia believe:
> * The Imams know when they will die, and they do not die execpt with
> their choice.
Well, this is also granted to the prophets. So consequently I don't see why
Imam should not have it. Here are the two traditions in Sahih al-Bukhari
which confirms such claim for Moses:
Sahih al-Bukhari Hadith: 2.423 and 4.619
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The angel of death was sent to Moses and when he went to him, Moses
slapped him severely, spoiling one of his eyes. The angel went back to
his Lord, and said, "You sent me to a slave who does not want to die."
Allah restored his eye and said, "Go back and tell him (i.e. Moses) to
place his hand over the back of an ox, for he will be allowed to live
for a number of years equal to the number of hairs coming under his
hand." (So the angel came to him and told him the same). Then Moses
asked, "O my Lord! What will be then?" He said, "Death will be then."
He said, "Let it be now." He asked Allah that He bring him near the
Sacred Land at a distance of a stone's throw. Allah's Apostle
(PBUH) said, "Were I there I would show you the grave of Moses by
the way near the red sand hill."
Sahih Al Bukhari
Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan
v2, p236 ( 2.423 reference )
Chapter : Whoever desired to be buried in the Sacred Land .....
Sahih Al Bukhari
Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan
v4, p409 ( 4.619 reference )
Chapter : The death Of Moses and his rememberance after his death.
According to the above tradition in Sahih al-Bukhari, Moses alleged to
resist against death, and then was told by Allah when he would die (the
number of hairs). Again Moses asked God to change that decision to be now.
The mockery tone of the above tradition by al-Bukhari is questionable for
us, but since you call it authentic, then you should agree that prophets
may know their death time. So why not Imam?
Here I should mention that according to Islamic teaching, Allah
didn't/doesn't relinquish His authority to prophets and Imams. The
authority of prophets and Imams is not independent of God. This authority
is GIVEN to them by Allah and is controlled by Allah too. If they disobey
Allah, such authority will be taken away immediately. So if Moses or other
prophets and Imams died in their choice, we should keep in mind that such
sinless people do not desire anything that Allah does not desire. So their
wish about the time of their death is exactly what Allah wished, since they
are absolutely obedient toward Allah. Actually what I just said here is
somehow contradicting the report of Abu Huraira given by al-Bukhari (saying
that Moses resisted). But since you believe in al-Bukhari, then you
actually go further than the claim written in al-Kafi. In other words, the
above tradition of al-Bukhari suggests that a prophet can resist and change
the order of God and even knock out the angel of death. (May Allah protect
us from such evil words).
> * All of the Earth belongs to the Imams. (p.407)
Allah, to whom belong Might and Majesty said:
"The earth is Allah's. He gives it as a heritage to whom He will,
and the good end is for the righteous servants." (Quran 7:128).
إِنَّ الْأَرْضَ لِلَّهِ يورِثُهَا مَنْ يشَاءُ مِنْ عِبَادِهِ وَالْعَاقِبَةُ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ(الأعراف/128)
> May Allah guide those who have such beliefs to the True Islam.
> And make this net and its members a cause to that.
May Allah help all of us to understand the above Quranic verses, and may
Allah let us understand the traditions mentioned above which are from
authentic Sunni books and let us not die in ignorance. AMEN
> Their is no denying that Ali was one of the most knowledgeable of the
> sahaba. Even if we do accept that Ali is the most knowledgeable, what
> then? Would that mean no one else had any knowledge?
No. It means others had much less knowledge. This implies those who
chose other inferior people in knowledge to lead the community for their
own desires, are responsible for the Misfortune of all Muslims throughout
the history. Shiats say that Imam must possess above all such qualities as
knowledge, bravery, justice, wisdom, piety, love of God etc., in order to
assure the prosperity of the Islamic community.
>> Is Quran correct that Imamat is a degree higher than prophethood and
> There are different levels of imamat. The imamat of the Prophets
> is higher than any other imamat. Certainly, an imam of a masjid
> is by no means higher than a Prophet or Messenger.
Certainly you did not answer my question. I was not talking about the
degrees of Imamat. Please read the question again. As for Imam of Masjid,
this shows you did not read the definition that I gave for the Imam in my
original article. I said:
Imam means a person who is appointed by God as a leader and as a guide
to whom obedience is due, and whom people should follow.
Does the above definition fit to Imam of Masjid?! Allah said that Prophet
Muhammad is a warner, and for every community (generation) there exists a
guide (Imam). (Quran 13:7). It is clear that there is no prophet after
Prophet Muhammad. So those guides who are for every generation are not
> because even the best pious person can only be pious if he believes
> in all the Prophets, how then can he become better than one in whom he
> must believe in order to be considered pious?
Prophet Mohammad believed in all prophets before him, but his position is
higher than all of them. Agreed?
End of Part 2 of 2