The Arabic word “Rusul” is the plural of “Rasool” which means a messenger sent to convey a message. In religious Islamic terminology a Rasool is the man who receives a divine code of law and is commanded by Allah to proclaim and convey it to the people.
The first of the Messengers was Nooh (Noah) and the last one was Muhammad may Allah praise them and keep them all safe from all evil.
Allah the Most Exalted said:
Verily We have inspired you (O Muhammad) as We inspired Nooh and the Prophets after him. [Surah an-Nisaa’ (4):163].
Imam al-Bukhari reports the narration about Shafa‘ah (intercession) on the authority of Anas ibn Malik () that the Prophet () said:
Mankind will come to Adam to intercede on their behalf but he will decline saying: “Go to Nooh the First Messenger that Allah sent..”
And Allah the Most Exalted said about Muhammad():
Muhammad is not the father of any man among you but the Messenger of Allah and the Last of the Prophets. [Surah al-Ahzaab (33):40]
There has not been any nation except that Allah sent a Messenger with an independent law for them to rule by or a prophet (nabi) to revive the message of a previous Messenger (Rasool). Allah the Most Exalted said:
And verily We have sent among every community a Messenger (proclaiming): “Worship Allah and avoid Taghoot (Satan idols tyrants).” [Surah an-Nahl (16):36]
And Allah the Most Exalted said:
And there never was a nation but a Warner had passed among them. [Surah Faatir (35):24]
And Allah the Most Exalted said:
Verily We did send down the Torah (to Musaa) therein was guidance and light by which the Prophets who submitted themselves to Allah’s Will judged the Jews… [Surah al-Maa‘idah (5):44]
The Messengers are merely humans and they do not possess any attributes of divinity or lordship.
Allah mentioned that His Prophet Muhammad is the most noble of the Messengers and the highest among them in honor and rank before Allah:
Allah the Most Exalted said:
Say (O Muhammad) “I do not possess power to benefit or hurt myself except as Allah Wills. If I had knowledge of the Unseen I would have secured for myself an abundance of wealth and evil would never have touched me. I am only a Warner and bringer of glad tidings to those who believe.” [Surah al-A’raaf (7):188]
The Messengers are fully human with all the human traits weaknesses and needs: they succumb to illness and death and have the natural necessity for food drink etc. like all other humans. The Prophet Ibraheem describes Allah His Lord with the following words:
And it is He Who feeds me and gives me to drink and when I am ill it is He Who cures me; And it is He Who will cause me to die and then He will bring me to life again. [Surah ash-Shu’araa’ (26): 79-81]
And in an authentic hadeeth reported by al-Bukhari Muslim and others the Prophet said
I am only human just like you I forget as you forget. Therefore when I forget remind me.
The highest rank and most noble degree for which Allah praises the Messengers is the description of Ubudiyyah (slavery servitude and devout worship) [They are all Ibadullah (the slaves of Allah).]
Allah the Most Exalted said about Nooh ():
Verily he was a grateful slave. [Surah al-Israa’ 17:3]
And He said about Muhammad ():
Blessed be He Who sent down the Criterion (of right and wrong) to His slave (Muhammad) that he may be a Warner to the Worlds. [Surah al-Furqaan (25):1]
And He said about Ibraheem Ishaaq and Ya’qoob:
And remember Our slaves Ibraheem Isaac and Jacob all possessed strength and religious understanding. Verily did We choose them by granting them the Remembrance of the home (in the Hereafter). And they are indeed in Our Sight of the Chosen and the Best. [Surah Saad 38:45-47]
And He said about ‘Eesaa
He was not more than a slave. We granted Our favor to him and We made him an example to the Children of Israel. [Surah az-Zukhruf (43):59].
Faith and belief in the Messengers and Prophets comprises four aspects:
- To believe that the message of these Messengers is in truth from Allah. Whoever disbelieves in any one of the Messengers disbelieves in all of them as Allah the Most Exalted said:
The people of Nooh rejected (disbelieved and belied) the Messengers. [Surah ash-Shu’araa’ (26):105]
Allah considered the people of Nooh disbelievers in all Messengers even though they apparently only disbelieved in the one Messenger that was sent to them. Therefore and upon this principle the Christians who disbelieve in Muhammad () and refuse to follow him are also disbelievers in ‘Eesaa () the Son of Maryam especially considering the fact that ‘Eesaa gave them the glad tidings of the coming of Muhammad. It makes no sense that he is their Messenger from whom they have received glad tidings of Muhammad’s () coming to save them by Allah’s grace from misguidance and then they refuse to follow the guidance to the Straight Path.
- To believe in those Messengers and Prophets
whose names we know specifically such as Muhammad (Ibraheem) Musaa
‘Eesaa Nooh and to give them all the salutations of salaah and salaam 1.
The above mentioned five Messengers are called Ulul-’Azm (of strong
determination and steadfastness) who are mentioned by Allah together in
two places in the Qur’an: in Surah al-Ahzaab:
And (remember) when we took from the prophets their covenant and from you (O Muhammad) and from Nooh Ibraheem Musaa and ‘Eesaa son of Mary. [Surah al-Ahzaab (33):7]
and Surah ash-Shu‘araa:
He (Allah) has ordained for you from the same religion (Islam) which He ordained for Nooh and that which We have Inspired in you (O Muhammad) and that which We ordained for Ibraheem Musaa and ‘Eesaa saying you should establish the religion and make no divisions in it. [Surah ash- Shu‘araa (42):13]
As for those whom we don’t know by name we are obligated to believe in them generally as Allah the Most Exalted said:
And indeed We have sent Messengers before you (O Muhammad): some of them We have related to you their story and some We have not related their story to you. [Surah Ghaafir (40):78]
- To believe in all the information that the Messengers have conveyed to us which has come to us with a reliable authentic and sound chain of narrators.
- To perform the acts of obedience in accordance with the law (Sharee’ah) of the Messenger
that Allah sent to us. He is the Last and Final Messenger Muhammad ()
who was sent to all mankind as Allah the Most Exalted said:
But no by your Lord they can have no Faith until they make you (O Muhammad) their judge in all disputes between them and find in themselves no resistance against your decisions and accept them with full submission. [Surah an-Nisaa’ (4):65]
- Knowledge of the great beneficence and mercy of Allah since He has direct interest in the affairs of His creatures and has therefore sent His Messengers to guide them to the Straight Path and inform them how to worship Him correctly. This is necessary since the minds of men cannot arrive to this beneficial knowledge independently.
- Giving praise and thankfulness to Allah for this great blessing.
- Love of the Messengers
and Prophets and respect and praise for them appropriate to their ranks
and dignity since He Most Exalted chose and sent them on this noble
mission and they worshipped Allah and conveyed the message to man with
full sincerity and in the best of manners.
The obstinate arrogant and rebellious people rejected the Messengers of Allah by the claim that such messengers should not be humans. Allah the Most Exalted refuted this claim saying:
And nothing prevented men from believing when the Guidance came to them except that they said: “Has Allah sent a man as (His) Messenger?” Say: “If there were on the earth angels walking about in peace and serenity We should certainly have sent down for them from the heaven an angel as a Messenger.” [Surah al-Israa’ (17):94- 95]
[The disbelievers would say] “You are just human beings like us! You only want to turn us away from what our fathers used to worship. Bring us a clear authority.” Their Messengers replied to them: “We are indeed just human beings like you but Allah bestows His Grace to whom He Wills of His Slaves. It is not for us to come to you with an authority (proof) except by the permission of Allah.” [Surah Ibraheem (14):10-11]
By the Late Eminent Scholar Sheikh Muhammad ibn Salih Al-Uthaymeen Translation by Abu Salman Diya ud-Deen Eberle