What is the difference between Nabi and Rasul
The word nabi derives from the word naba’. When it is used as an active noun, it means, “ the person who informs people that he is a prophet or who informs people about the judgments and decrees that Allah informed him.”39 When it is used as a passive noun, it means, “the person who is informed by Allah that he is a prophet or who is informed about some divine judgments and decrees”. The word rasul means the person who is sent by Allah in order to convey people the divine judgments and decrees (mursal).40
Some scholars regard the words nabi and rasul to be synonymous. Some scholars say, “their meanings are different but they are used to express the same thing”. In fact, there is a general and a special difference between them. It is narrated that there are 313 (or 315 according to another narration) rasuls and more than 124 000 nabis.41
In some verses of the Quran, the words rasul and nabi were mentioned separately and were attributed to each other. The attribution necessitates that they are different concepts.42 However, those two words are used in the same sense in some verses of the Quran.
Those who say that these two words are different concepts put forward that the difference between them is that a rasul has a new sharia. Each rasul is either sent with a new sharia or changes some decrees of the previous sharia. As for nabis, they convey and apply the previous sharia. They do not convey new decrees and they do not abrogate the previous sharia. 43
39 H. Jisri, ibid, 524
40 ibid, 524
41 ibid, 525
42 See: al-Hajj, 52
43 H. Jisri, ibid, 526
- Why was the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) referred as “the last of Nabis” (Nabi is an Arabic word for “Prophet”) instead of “the last of Rasuls” (Rasul is an Arabic word for a prophet who was given a Book.)?
- What does rasul (apostle, messenger) and nabi (prophet) mean?
- What does belief in books express?
- When did Muhammad (pbuh) become a nabi (prophet) and when a rasul (messenger)?
- The sources of the Religious Judgments and Decrees in Islam