What authority does God give to His Messengers?

As mentioned in the earlier sections, the messengers of God are sent to deliver His
messages and scripture to mankind. In order for them to fulfill their duties and deliver the
message within the role they are assigned to play, it is important for all believers to
acknowledge the nature of their role and the authority they are given. It is of equal
importance to be aware of what is not within their authority to do.

It must be said that the majority of the cases of idol worship stems from the fact that the
followers of any one messenger invariably give him more authority than what God has decreed.

To present and study this matter, the presentation has been divided into two sections:

What a Messenger is, and what a Messenger is not.

Each of these sections will display the relevant Quranic reference for what a messenger is
authorised to do and equally what he is not authorised to do.

 

What a Messenger is

1- Deliverer of God’s message

A message from God could be a complete scripture or pieces of information and messages.
Messengers are also sent to reveal hidden issues inside the scripture or to confirm existing
scripture.

Delivering God’s message is the focal point and duty of any messenger. God sees to it that
His messengers accomplish this duty to its completion.

“O you messenger, deliver what is revealed to you from your Lord – until you do, you have
not delivered His message” 
5:67

2- Warner, deliverer of good news, teacher and purifier

When God sends a messenger to a people, this messenger does not deliver the message and
leaves in the way a postman delivers a letter, but the messenger spends his whole life as a
preacher to his people. The Quranic verses that speak of messengers as warners, deliverers
of good news, teachers and purifiers are numerous. We have many examples in the Quran of
messengers who spent many years attempting to guide their people and purify them from
their sins. The despairing words of Noah to God in Sura 71 provide such example:

“We sent Noah to his people: “You shall warn your people before a painful retribution
afflicts them”. He said, “O my people, I am a manifest warner to you t
o alert you that you
shall worship God, reverence Him, and obey me. 
He will then forgive you your sins and

respite you for a predetermined period. Most assuredly, God’s appointment can never
be delayed, once it is due, if you only knew” He said, “My Lord, I have invited my people
day and night
But my invitation only increased their aversion. Whenever I invited them to
be forgiven by You, they placed their fingers in their ears, covered themselves with their
clothes, insisted, and turned arrogant. 
Then I invited them publiclyThen I proclaimed to
them loudly, and I spoke to them privately
  71:1-9

Messengers are sent to their people as teachers and purifyers (by inviting them to the
straight path of God):

“(Blessings) such as the sending of a messenger from among you to recite our revelations to
you, purify you, teach you the scripture and wisdom, and to teach you what you never
knew”
  2:151

Messengers are also sent (as mentioned) as Warners and Deliverers of good news:

“We have sent you (O Messenger) with the truth as a bearer of good news, as well as a
warner
  2:119

3- Witness on Judgement Day

“We have sent to you a messenger to serve as a witness against you, just as we sent to
Pharaoh a messenger”
  73:15

“Everyone among the people of the scripture was required to believe in him before his
death. On the Day of Resurrection, he (Jesus) will be a witness against them
  
4:159

“Thus, when the day (of judgment) comes, we will call upon a witness from each
community, and you (the messenger) will serve as a witness among these people
  
4:41

 

What a Messenger is not

As seen, the Quran is clear and precise in establishing what authority is given to God’s
Messengers. Equally, God makes it clear in the Quran what authority is not given to His
messengers.

1- Warner but not Enforcer

We read a clear message in the Quran related to the role of the messenger as a deliverer of
God’s message without being an enforcer of the message. The following are some of the
Quranic verses that confirm this truth:

“You shall remind, for your mission is to deliver this reminder. You have no power over
them
  88:21-22

“Follow what is revealed to you from your Lord, there is no god except He, and disregard
the idol worshipers. Had God willed, they would not have worshiped idols. We did not
appoint you as a guardian, nor are you their advocate
  
6:106-107

The command here to the messenger is very clear. God asserts that the messenger is only to
deliver the message and warn. The prophet is not appointed as a guardian nor an enforcer.

“O people, the truth has come to you herein from your Lord. Whoever is guided is guided
for his own good. And whoever goes astray, goes astray to his own detriment. I am not a
guardian over you
  10:108

“You shall proclaim to those who received the scripture, as well as those who did not,
“Would you submit?” If they submit, then they have been guided, but if they turn away,
your sole mission is to deliver the message
. God is Seer of all people.” 
3:20

“Proclaim: “This is the truth from your Lord,” then whoever wills let him believe, and
whoever wills let him disbelieve
” 
18:29

Once again, the emphasis on the fact that the messenger has no power to inforce the
message on anyone is clear.

2- Deliverers of God’s Law but not Law Maker

In the case of a prophet, he delivers the scripture that contains God’s law. In the case of the
messenger, he is sent to confirm the existing scripture and warn all those who have strayed
away from God’s law.

However, we are told in all the scripture that the role of the Law-Maker is one exclusively
retained by God Almighty.

When God gave Moses a complete and detailed law (7:145), God commanded Moses and
the people of Israel to adhere closely to the Law of God and never to follow any other Law
(see Leviticus 18:1-5).

Similarly, when God revealed the Quran to Muhammad, God commanded Muhammad and
all his followers to follow the Law of God in the Quran and no other source:

“Shall I seek other than God as a source of law, when He has revealed to you this book fully
detailed?”
  6:114

It is made very clear in the Quran that no human being (messengers included) has the right
to authorize any laws not specifically authorised in the Quran. It is also asserted that
whoever follows such laws falls automatically into the trap of idol worship:

“They follow idols who decree for them religious laws never authorized by God. If it were
not for the predetermined decision, they would have been judged immediately. Indeed, the
transgressors have incurred a painful retribution.”
  42:21

God in His infinite wisdom knows very well that in spite of all these firm assurances, there
will still be those who argue in favor of assigning the right of law making to the messengers
they follow. For that, God chose to include a very significant incident in the Quran as a
reminder for all believers. This is found in the following verse:

“O you prophet, why do you prohibit what God has made lawful for you, just to please your
wives? God is Forgiver, Merciful.”
  66:1

This glorious verse tells us a number of issues:

1- It is clear here that the prophet had prohibited something that was made lawful by God.
Many accounts of this incident have been narrated, perhaps the most common is the one of
the prophet when he prohibited honey on himself following a domestic dispute with
some of his wives. But the nature of the item that he prohibited or the details of the
dispute are irrelevant. All what matters is that the prophet made the mistake of prohibiting
something which was made lawful by God. This could have been honey, figs or peanuts.


In other words, the prophet played the role of the Law-maker, when his sole role was to deliver
God’s message.

2- We then read the very significant words at the end of the verse God is Forgiver,
Merciful
.

In other words, God is telling the prophet that he has made a mistake but that God would
forgive him because God is the Most Merciful.

3- It is also evident that God does not include these words in the Quran because He is keen
on belittling the prophet in the sight of the reader of the Quran. Not at all, we read
throughout the Quran that God’s messengers are spoken of highly and are well praised.
Then why does God include this incident in the Quran?

The obvious answer is that God sets this as a reminder for all believers across time thatno one
not even God’s prophets, have the right to make laws or authorise laws not authorised
by God Himself.

3- Honourable but also accountable

The verses that describe God’s messengers as honourable and of excellent character are
numerous, such as:

“You (O Messenger) are blessed with a great moral character  68:4

The messenger of God has set a fine example for those among you who seek God and the
Last Day, and constantly think about God.”
  33:21

“We have tested before them the people of Pharaoh; an honorable messenger went to them”  44:17

“O John, you shall uphold the scripture, strongly.” We endowed him with wisdom, even in his
youth. And (we endowed him with) kindness from us and purify, for he was righteous.
He honored his parents, and was never a disobedient tyrant” 
19:12-14

“Indeed, Abraham was clement, extremely kind and obedient 11:75

“Mention in the scripture Abraham; he was a saint, a prophet” 19:41

“He said, “I am the messenger of your Lord, to grant you a pure son (Jesus)” 19:19

“Mention in the scripture Moses. he was devoted, and he was a messenger prophet” 19:51

“And mention in the scripture Ismail. He was truthful when he made a promise, and he was
a messenger prophet”
 19:54

These are some of the numerous verses that describe God’s messengers as men of fine
character and honour.

However, the Quran also stresses the fact that all will stand infront of the Almighty and be
accountable. This applies to all humans including saints, messengers and prophets.

It must be remembered that all the human race (including messengers) have refused to
submit to God’s absolute authority in the pre-life and also refused the gracious offer that
God presented them with (see 33:72). For this reason, all the human race is brought into
this world as their second chance to redeem themselves. For this reason also, all the human
race (including saints, messengers and prophets) will be accountable on Judgement Day.

For more info on the pre-life please check the file (The Reason We Are here).

 

The Quran confirms that all the messengers will be held accountable like the rest
of the human race:

“We will certainly question those who received the message, and We will also question the
messengers
  7:6

“The sky is opened up. The mountains are blown up. The messengers are summoned.
That is the appointed day”
  77:9-12

“Every single one in the heavens and the earth cometh unto the Most Gracious
as a 
servant
  19:93

4- Blessed with wisdom but not infallible

In order to enable the messengers to accomplish their asigned mission, God blesses His
messengers with wisdom and the knowledge of the scripture:

“(Blessings) such as the sending of a messenger from among you to recite our revelations to
you, purify you, teach you the scripture and wisdom, and to teach you what you never
knew”
  2:151

“Our Lord, and raise among them a messenger to recite to them Your revelations, teach
them the scripture and wisdom
, and purify them. You are the Almighty, Most Wise”
  
2:129

“When Jesus went with the proofs, he said, “I bring to you wisdom, and to clarify some of
the matters in which you dispute. You shall reverence God and obey me
  43:63

Other verses speak of the same truth, how God endows His messengers with wisdom
(Joseph 12:22), (Lot 21:74), (Moses 28:14), (David 38:20), and so on.

However, the Quran also emphasises that His messengers are not infallible. They are apt to
make mistakes just like anyone else. Many examples are given in the Quran for specific
mistakes committed by various messengers and prophets. We note that Muhammad is
reprimanded in the Quran six times for mistakes he committed. Mistakes for other
messengers include Moses killing an innocent man, Jonah abandoning God’s mission half
way through its completion, Solomon forgetting his prayer, Joseph (when he was in prison)
putting his trust and fate in the ruler’s hand when he should have remembered that God is
the Only One to decide his fate.

Perhaps, the principal reason we are told of these mistakes in the Quran is to establish the
fact that God’s messengers are human beings like all of us and that they should not be
idolised.

“Say (O Muhammad), “I am no more than a human like you, being inspired that your god is
one god. Those who hope to meet their Lord shall work righteousness, and never worship
any other god beside his Lord”
  18:110

_____________________________

The above were some of the Quranic verses that assert beyond any shadow of doubt what
messengers are and what they are not.

Sadly, and after all these clear Quranic assurances, the majority of Muslims regard
Muhammad as an infallible human being, that he has the authority to make laws and that
without him no Muslim could escape Hell !!!

The selection of a Messenger

God selects His messengers according to His infinite Wisdom. God knows who among his
servants is best qualified to deliver the message entrusted to him:

“When a powerful proof comes to them, they say, “We will not believe, unless we are given
what is given to God’s messengers!” God knows exactly who is qualified to deliver His
message
  Quran 6:124

From the information we have about the life of many previous messengers, we know that
such issues as education, wealth, or social status were never factors in the equation when it
comes to God’s selection of messengers.

According to all historical accounts, we know that such messengers as Moses, Abraham,
Jesus, Muhammad and others were men of slender means. They had no notable claim to
social status and had no material aspirations.

However, we do know that these prophets have all been men highly honored and regarded
for their integrity and the purity of their lives even by those who later, on the
announcement of their claims, became their enemies.

Moreover, almost all of God’s prophets, were not known to be learned men or scholars in
the arts and culture of their times, yet, God chose each of them to deliver His revelations.

Sadly, the human being is not always able to comprehend the wisdom and purpose of the
divine plan. We read in the Quran how every messenger sent by God was ridiculed by his
people:

“Every time a messenger went to them, they ridiculed him”  Quran 15:11

“When they saw you, they always ridiculed you: “Is this the one chosen by God to be a
messenger?”
  Quran 25:41

We read in Sura 43 how the community of Muhammad ridiculed him during the early days
of the revelation because he did not match their idea of a messenger as being one of the
prominent elite of Mecca or Yathrib (Medina):

“They said, “If only this Quran was sent down through another man from the two
communities (Mecca or Yathrib) who is prominent!”
 
Quran 43:31

Yes, it is true that Muhammad had no notable claim to social status or power and had no
material aspirations, yet little did his enemies know that as a result of the revelation he
delivered from God, he would become a key factor in bringing about everlasting changes
in the history and civilization of the world. The same argument applies to other prophets of
God.

The difference between “Prophet” and “Messenger”

(according to the Quran)

One of the issues that always comes up when discussing the Quran is the definition of the
Prophet (Nabi) and the definition of the Messenger (Rasoul).

No one can define these words better than God, after all it was God who sent all prophets
and messengers. The definition of the words prophet and messenger is very clear in the
Quran. However, most of the scholars and their followers do not accept the definition given
by God and instead accept the definition they devised themselves or the one which they
have inherited from their predecessors. 
Choosing the teachings of the scholars above the
words of God reflects a disbelief in God and His word (Quran).

Against this is a clear warning in the Quran:

“They have set up their religious leaders and scholars as lords; instead of God…..
Quran 9:31

 

God’s Definition of Prophet and Messenger

 

(Nabi and Rasoul)

 

In 3:81 God defined the exact duty of the Prophet (Nabi) and also the duty of
the Messenger (Rasoul):

God took a covenant from the prophets, saying, “I will give you the scripture and wisdom.
Afterwards, a messenger will come to confirm all existing scriptures. You shall believe in
him and support him.”
He said, “Do you agree with this, and pledge to fulfil this
covenant?”
They said,
“We agree.” He said, “You have thus borne witness, and I bear
witness along with you.”
  Quran 
3:81

Verse 3:81, among many other verses, provides the definitions of “Nabi” (Prophet) and
Rasoul” (Messenger). “Nabi” is a messenger of God who delivers a new scripture, while
Rasoul” is a messenger commissioned by God to confirm existing scripture.

Some messengers deliver a new scripture and in that case they are also prophets, but many
other messengers do not deliver a new scripture. As a result, every “Nabi” is a “Rasoul,”
but not every “Rasoul” is a “Nabi“.

The Quranic definition of Prophet, and how all the prophets were given Scripture
to deliver, is also confirmed in the following verse:

“The people used to be one community when God sent the prophets as bearers of good
news, as well as warners. He sent down with them the scripture, bearing the truth, to judge
among the people in their disputes”
  Quran 2:213

Those who are not sufficiently familiar with the Quran tend to think that Aaron was a
Nabi” who did not receive a scripture. They claim that the Torah was given to Moses and
not to Aaron! This claim can only be made by those who do not believe the Quran, since
God ascertains that the Torah was given to both Moses and Aaron (21:48, 37:117).


More Proofs from the Quran

Prophethood and scripture:

 

Whenever God mentions prophethood in the Quran, He mentions scripture.

The following are some examples:

“Never would a human being whom God blessed with the scripture and prophethood say
to the people, “Idolise me beside God.” Instead, (he would say), “Devote yourselves
absolutely to your Lord alone,” according to the scripture you preach and the teachings
you learn.”
  Quran 3:79

“Those were the ones to whom we have given the scripture, wisdom, and prophethood.
If these people disbelieve, we will substitute others in their place, and the new people
will not be disbelievers.”
  Quran 6:89

“We granted him Isaac and Jacob, we assigned to his descendants prophethood and the
scriptures, we endowed him with his due recompense in this life, and in the Hereafter he
will surely be with the righteous.”
  Quran 29:27

“We have given the Children of Israel the scripture, wisdom, and prophethood, and
provided them with good provisions; we bestowed upon them more blessings than
any other people.”
  Quran 45:16

“We sent Noah and Abraham, and we granted their descendants prophethood and the
scripture. Some of them were guided, while many were wicked.”
  Quran 57:26

 

Messenger prophet and not, prophet messenger:

 

In 7:157 God described the Prophet Muhammed as, “the messenger prophet” and not as
‘the prophet messenger‘. This is not a coincidence, God does not do coincidences!

The reason is that not every messenger is a prophet and therefore the word ‘prophet‘ is
used to further define and clarify the description of that messenger.


Moses, the messenger prophet:

In 19:51, Moses was described by God as a “messenger prophet” (Rasoulan Nabyya),
and not as a prophet messenger (Nabyyan Rasoula).

 

Ismail, the messenger prophet:

 

In 19:54, Ismail is described with the same words, “Rasoulan Nabyyan“.

The reason is that, not every Rasoul (Messenger) is a Nabi (Prophet), but every Prophet
(Nabi) is a Messenger (Rasoul), so God defined the word Rasoul by adding to it “Nabyya“.
In other words, Ismail was a messenger and also a prophet. God does not make mistakes
and He does not place His words in a haphazard sequence, it is meant to be in this order.

The question is: if every messenger is also a prophet, why would God need to describe
Muhammad, Moses or Ismail as “messenger prophets“?

Other examples are found in the Quran to clarify this description:

 

Human being messenger:

 

“Am I more than a human messenger (Basharan Rasoula)”  Quran 17:93

Notice the words ” a human messenger” and not ‘a messenger human‘.

The reason is that not every human is a messenger while every messenger from among us
is a human (unless stated otherwise by God, such as an angel messenger).

17:94, has the same expression again, human messenger, and not not messenger human.

 

Messenger nor a prophet:

 

Perhaps one of the strongest indications in the Quran that the words prophet and messenger
do not have the same meaning, is found in the following verse:

“We did not send before you any messenger nor a prophet, without having the devil
interfere in his wishes. God records what the devil has done then God perfects His
revelations. God is Omniscient, Most Wise.”
  Quran 22:52

If the words prophet and messenger had the same meaning God would not be saying
messenger nor a prophet, would He? Had the two words had exactly the same meaning,
then mentioning one of them would have been sufficient.

 

Significance of 57:25

 
“We have sent Our messengers with clear proofs and we brought down with them
the
 scripture and the balance so that people may uphold justice”  Quran 57:25
 
Some scholars refer to 57:25 to claim that all messengers are sent with the scripture therefore they add that there is no difference between a messenger and a prophet.
 
Indeed God says in 57:25 that He sends His messengers with the scripture. The question which needs investigating is whether 57:25 speaks of all messengers, or
only the messengers who were also prophets? In other words, are there messengers
who were sent without a scripture?
 
To confirm the truth of this issue, or the truth of any Quranic issue, we must consider
all the relevant verses and not one verse in isolation. To separate one verse, such as 57:25, and attempt to deduce a conclusion from that verse alone will often lead to falseresults

1- 
First, it can be established that the definition of a messenger is someone who
delivers a message from God. As a result, all prophets are also messengers since they
deliver a message from God. There is no dispute among all scholars about this truth
so there is no need to elaborate.
 

2- 
The next step is to establish whether God makes any difference between prophets
and messengers, or are they all the same?
According to all the verses presented above and in particular 22:52 where God uses
the word “messenger NOR a prophet” we have clear proof that the two words (messenger and prophet) do not have identical meanings.
If these two words were identical in meaning there would be no need for God to say
messenger NOR a prophet”.
 

3- 
Now we look at 33:40 where God tells us that Muhammad is a messenger of God
and the final prophet.
 
“Muhammad was not the father of any man among you. He was a messenger of God
and the final prophet. God is fully aware of all things.”  Quran 33:40
 
This verse confirms that there will be no prophets after Muhammad.
 

4- 
Now we look at 10:47 where we are told:
 
“For every community there is a messenger. After their messenger comes, they are
judged equitably, without the least injustice.” Quran 10:47
 
Since every community will receive a messenger, and since the communities will
continue till the end of the world, it becomes clear that there will be future messengers
to come. If we add to that the Muhammad is described as the final prophet (33:40)
thus it becomes clear that all future messengers (after Muhammad) are not prophets.
Once again a Quranic fact which cannot be denied.

The above shows that the claim that all messengers are also prophets shows lack of
understanding the Quran.

 

5-
 Now that we have established that some messengers are not prophets, we can
inquire as to what exactly is the difference between the two. As we have seen (above),
we are told in 3:81 that after all the prophets have come and also all the scripture sent,
a messenger will come to confirm the scripture. Since Muhammad was one of the
prophets who took this covenant (33:7), then he cannot be the messenger who will
come after all the scripture and prophets. Muhammad would not be required to take a
covenant to believe in himself and support himself! We also note from 3:81 that the
messenger who will come after Muhammad (who is the last prophet) will not deliver a
scripture since the Quran is the last scripture, but he will confirm the scripture.
 

6- 
When we have put all the above verses together we can read 57:25 in a better light,
the messengers spoken of in 57:25 are the ones who delivered a scripture and not all
messengers. God continues in 57:26 and 57:27 by speaking of some of the prophets
who were sent with the scripture (Noah, Abraham and Jesus) to once again confirm
that the messengers spoken of in 57:25 were the ones who delievered scripture and not
all messengers.
 
 

To conclude
:
 
1- All prophets are also messengers, they deliver a message from God.
2- There will be messengers after Muhammad and till the end of the world (10:47)
3- Muhammad was the final prophet, no prophets after Muhammad (33:40)
4- Therefore all messengers who come after Muhammad are not prophets.

 

—————————————

 

The Quran is clear that every prophet (nabi) is a messenger (rasoul) but not every
messenger is a prophet.

Now that we have the definition of Prophet (Nabi) and Messenger (Rasoul) from God
Almighty Himself, the Teacher of the Quran, no scholar’s opinion can change that fact.
However, we are all free to side with God or side with the scholars. Generations before us
made the wrong choice and were described by God in the Quran as follows:

“They have set up their religious leaders and scholars as lords, instead of God . . . ”
Quran 9:31

This act of placing the scholars as idols besides God can lead to one place,
and it is not Heaven.