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
They said,
“We agree.” He said, “You have thus borne witness, and I bear
witness along with you.”

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
 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

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.

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”.

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.

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.


 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.

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.

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