“The messenger”, from etymological point of view, means ‘a person who is delegated to convey something’. Terminologically, the word means ‘every human being who is being revealed of the divine news, about certain shari’a, and he is ordered to convey it.’ (Taken from: “Sharh Ushul Iman”, page 32)
The first messenger delegated to his people was Prophet Noah peace be upon him- , and the last one was Prophet Muhammad -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him-.
Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “(O Muhammad), we have revealed to you as We revealed to Noah and the Prophets after him, and We revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the offspring of Jacob, and Jesus and Job, and Jonah, and Aaron and Solomon, and We gave to David Psalms.” (An-Nisa/The Women: 163)
From the authority of Anas Ibn Malik -may Allah be pleased with him- , that the Prophet -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said: “Later (on the field of mahsyar) people will come to Adam to ask for intercession, but Adam ask them for forgiven.
He will say, `Go to Nuh (Noah), for he was the first Messenger Allâh sent to the inhabitants of the earth.” (Narrated by Al Bukhari, no. 3162)
Whereas the indication about the status of Prophet Muhammad -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- as the last of the prophets is the decree of Allah the Exalted, which can be translated as: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the seal of the Prophets. Allah has full knowledge of everything.” (Al-Ahzab/The Combined Forces: 40)
Every nation was never void from a prophet of Allah the Exalted. They brought certain laws for their nation or they taught them the renewed version of the previous nation’s law. Allah decreed, which can be translated as’ “We raised a Messenger in every community (to tell them): “Serve Allah and shun the Evil One.” (An-Nahl/The Bee: 36)
Allah also declared, which can be translated as, “We have sent you with the Truth to proclaim good news and to warn. Never has there been a nation but a warner came to it.” (Fatir/Originator: 24)
And His verse, “Surely We revealed the Torah, wherein there is Guidance and Light. Thereby did Prophets – who had submitted themselves (to Allah) – judge for the Judaized folk; and so did the scholars and jurists.” (Al-Ma’ida/The Table Spread: 44)
The number of the prophets and messengers of Allah
Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “Never has there been a nation but a warner came to it.” (Fatir/Originator: 24)
He also decreed, which can be translated as, “We raised a Messenger in every community (to tell them): “Serve Allah and shun the Evil One.” (An-Nahl/The Bee: 36)
From Abu Dharr Al Ghifari -may Allah be pleased with him- , he asked the Prophet – may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- , “O messenger of Allah, what is the number of the messengers (of Allah)?” He replied, “Three hundred dozens, they are plenty.” In another narration, Abu Dharr asked, “O messenger of Allah, what is the exact number of the prophets?” He answered, “A hundred and twenty-four thousands (124.000) and the number of messengers among them is three hundred and fifteen (315), a great number.” (Narrated by Ahmad, in hadith no. 21586, classed sahih by Shuhaib Al Arnauth)
From that vast amount of prophets and messengers, some were revealed by Allah, and some were not. Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “We revealed to the Messengers We have already told you of, and to the Messengers We have not told you of; and to Moses Allah spoke directly.” (An-Nisa/The Women: 164)
Prophets and Messengers were only human
The messengers were merely human being, the creature of Allah who did not possess any exceptional ability in rububiyya and uluhiyya. Thus they weren’t, as well as aren’t, rightful to be worshipped. Allah – may He be Exalted and Glorified- decreed describing the condition of Prophet Muhammad -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him-, as the leader of messengers and the highest in position in the side of Allah.
Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “Tell them (O Muhammad): I have no power to benefit or harm myself except as Allah may please. And had I knowledge of the Unseen, I should have amassed all kinds of good, and no evil would have ever touched me. I am merely a warner and the herald of glad tidings to those who have faith.” (Al-A’raf/The Height: 188)
He also revealed, which can be translated as, “Say: “Surely neither it is in my power to hurt you nor to bring you to the Right Way. Say: “None can protect me from Allah, nor can I find a refuge apart from Him.” (Jinn/The Genie: 21-22)
The messengers, on the other hand, also owned the characteristics of human being, such as: afflicted by sickness, death, in the need of foods and drinks, etc. Allah the Exalted decreed about Abraham (Ibrahim) who explained the attributes of his Lord, which can be translated as, “Who gives me food and drink, and Who, when I am ill, heals me; Who will cause me to die and then will again restore me to life;” (Ash-Shuara/The Poets: 79-81)
Prophet Muhammad – may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said, “but I am a human being like you and liable to forget like you. So if I forget remind me.” (Narrated by Al Bukhari, in hadith no. 392)
The difference between Prophet and Messenger
Some people think that the difference between prophet and messenger of Allah is that the prophets were ones who received the divine decree but weren’t ordered to convey it to their nation, while messengers also get the divine decree, but they were commanded to pass on it to mankind.
If we look at this assumption closely, we can see that it is a false assumption, due to several reasons below:
– Prophets and messengers were both the envoys of Allah, and they wouldn’t be sent but to call people to embrace Islam.
– If they didn’t convey the divine decree revealed to them, it means that they hid the decree, and Allah did not send down His divine decree to a man only, to be solely possessed, and no one knew, then to be lost along with the receiver’s death.
– The saying of the Prophet- may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- , “The nations were displayed to me. I saw a prophet who brought several followers with him, a prophet who brought one or two followers…” (Narrated by Al Bukhari, in hadith no. 5378 and Muslim, hadith no. 374)
This hadith shows that those prophets were ordered to call people to the righteous path, since the messenger of Allah -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- told about the different responses of their nations to their calling,
The more appropriate stance about the difference between the prophet and messenger is that the messengers were those who were sent together with a new set of laws (shari’a). While prophets were those who were sent to call people to, and to spread, the shari’a of the previous messenger before him. (Taken from the book titled, “Ar Rusul wa Ar Risalat”, page 14)
The compliment of Allah upon the prophets and messengers
Allah the Exalted mentioned about the messengers by attributing to them, the highest devotion in worship to Him, and praised them. Allah the Exalted decreed about prophet Noah – peace be upon him-, which can be translated as, “He (Noah) was truly a thankful servant.” (Al-Isra/The Night journey: 3)
Allah the Exalted also revealed about prophet Muhammad – peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- , which can be translated as, “Most blessed is He Who sent down this Criterion on His servant, to be a warner to all mankind;” (Al-Furqan/The Criterion: 1)
As well as prophet Abraham,Isaac, and Jacob -peace be upon them- which can be translated as, “And remember Our servants – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – they were endowed with great strength and vision. Verily We exalted them in consideration of a sterling quality: their remembrance of the Abode of the Hereafter. In Our sight they are among the chosen and excellent ones.” (Saad/The Letter ‘Saad’: 45-47)
Allah also explained about prophet Jesus, son of Mary, -peace be upon him- , which can be translated as, “He (Jesus, -translator) was no more than a servant (of Ours), one upon whom We bestowed Our favors and whom We made an example (of Our infinite power) for the Children of Israel.” (Az-Zukhruf/The Ornaments of Gold: 59)
The elements of faith in the messengers of Allah
Faith in the messengers of Allah contains 4 elements, which are:
1. To believe that their treatise truly came from Allah -the Exalted and Glorified-. Whoever denies their treatise, even just one of them, according to all scholars, being ruled as an infidel. Allah the Exalted decreed, which can be translated as, “The people of Noah gave the lie to the Messengers.” (Ash-Shuara/ The Poets:105). Allah mentioned them as “gave the lie to the Messengers”, although they only gave lie to a messenger, which was Noah. That is why the Christians who gave lie and refused to follow the treatise of prophet Muhammad -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- were considered to gave lie to Jesus either, because Jesus himself had delivered the glad tiding about the coming of prophet Muhammad- may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- among this nation. Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “And call to mind when Jesus, son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel, I am Allah’s Messenger to you, I verify the Torah which has come before me, and I give you the glad tiding of a Messenger who shall come after me, his name being Ahmad.” Yet when he came to them with Clear Signs they said: “This is sheer trickery.” (As-Saff/The Ranks: 6)
2. To believe in the prophets and messengers whom are already known to us, such as Muhammad, Moses, Jesus, Abraham, and Noah, -peace and blessings of Allah be upon them-. They are the ones titled as, “Ulul Azmi” (Strong willed ones). Allah the Exalted has mentioned them in two places in the Quran; in the chapter of Combined Forces (Al Ahzab) and The consultation (Ash Shuura).
Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “And call to mind, (O Prophet), when We took the covenant from all Prophets; and also from you and Noah and Abraham, Moses, and Jesus the son of Mary.” (Al-Ahzab/The Combined Forces: 7)
Allah also decreed, which can be translated as, “He has prescribed for you the religion which He enjoined upon Noah and which We revealed to you (O Muhammad), and which We enjoined upon Abraham and Moses and Jesus, commanding: “Establish this religion and do not split up regarding it.” What you are calling to is very hard upon those who associate others with Allah in His Divinity. Allah chooses for Himself whomsoever He pleases and guides to Himself whoever penitently turns to Him.” (Ash-Shura/The Consultation: 13)
Whereas for the unknown messengers, we are obliged to believe in them globally, since we believe that the number of the messengers is more then 25 persons.
Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “Indeed We sent many Messengers before you: of them there are some whose account We have narrated to you and there are others whose account We have not narrated to you.” (Al-Mu’minun/The Believer: 78)
3. To justify all informations they’ve brought.
4. To perform the shari’a of the messenger who was sent to us. He is the last of the prophets, Muhammad -may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- to be sent to all mankind.
Allah decreed, which can be translated as, “But no, by your Lord, they cannot become true believers until they seek your arbitration in all matters on which they disagree among themselves, and then do not find the least vexation in their hearts over your judgement, and accept it in willing submission.” (An-Nisa/The Women: 65)
The result of having faith in the messengers of Allah
– To know the vast amount of graces and concern of Allah upon His slaves. He is the One who sent the messengers to guide them to the path of Allah, and explain to them how to worship Allah the Exalted and Glorified. Because human mind will never be able to figure out those matters.
– To be grateful of Allah’s bounty.
– To love the messengers, glorify them, and praise them, because they are the messengers of Allah the Exalted, and because they worshipped Allah only, delivered His treatise, and spread goodness among mankind.
The deviants of truth had given lie to the messengers, by assuming that they are not human being. Allah clarified such wrong assumption through His decree, which can be translated as, “Whenever Guidance came to people, nothing prevented them from believing except that they said: “Has Allah sent a human being as a Messenger?” (Al-Isra/The Night Journey: 94)
In that verse, Allah -the Exalted and Glorified- breaks their erroneous assumption. All messengers are human being, because they were sent to the inhabitants of the earth; human being as themselves. If only the earth dwellers were angels, Allah would have sent them angels from the sky as His messengers.
In chapter Abraham, Allah revealed to is about the condition of those who gave lie to the messengers, which can be translated as, “Their Messengers said: “Can there be any doubt about Allah, the Creator of the heavens and the earth? He invites you that He may forgive you your sins and grant you respite till an appointed term.” They replied: “You are only a human being like ourselves. You seek to prevent us from serving those whom our forefathers have been serving all along. If that is so, produce a clear authority for it.”Their Messengers told them: “Indeed we are only human beings like yourselves, but Allah bestows His favour on those of His servants whom He wills. It does not lie in our power to produce any authority except by the leave of Allah. It is in Allah that the believers should put their trust.” (Ibrahim/Abraham: 10-11)
“Sharh Ushul Iman”, by Muhammad Ibn Shalih Al Uthaymeen, published by Dar Al Qasim, Saudi Arabia, 1419 H
“Al Jami’ Ash Shahih Al Mukhtashar”, by Muhammad Ibn Ismail Al Bukhari, published by Dar Ibn Katsir, Beirut, 1407 H
“Shahih Muslim”, by Muslim Ibn Hajjaj An Naisaburi, published by Dar Ihya’ at Turats, Beirut.
“‘Musnad Imam Ahmad”, by Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, published by Muassasah Qurthubah, Cairo
“Ar Rusul wa Ar Risalat”, by Dr. Umar Sulaiman Al Ashqar, published by Dar An Nafais. Jordan, 1415 H
Article of whatisquran.com