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In religious terminology, Rasūl (Arabic: رسول) means God's messenger or someone who delivers God's message to people. Rasul is said to differ from Nabi (Arabic: نبي) in some respects. For example, Nabi propagates a religion that was brought by Rasuls and every Rasul is a Nabi, but not all Nabis are Rasuls.

Meaning of Rasul

"Rasul" comes from the Arabic root, "r-s-l", which originally means to rise in a ponderous and reflective way.[1]

In religious terminology, "Rasul" means a divine messenger or a person who is sent to conscious and rational creatures in order to help them correct their imperfections and cure diseases of their souls and teach them the good in this world and the afterlife, which cannot be comprehended by their own intellects.[2]

Rasul and Nabi

Being a Rasul (or Risala) and being a Nabi (or Nubuwwa) are very similar. It is said that Rasul and Nabi are both endowed with the position of wilaya (guardianship) over other people. The question about differences between Rasul and Nabi has arisen because, in the Qur'an, some prophets are referred to as Nabi and some other prophets are referred to as Rasul, and some of them, such as the Prophet Muhammad (s), are referred to in both ways.[3]

Different accounts of the relationship between the two notions have been offered by Muslim scholars:

  • Some of them believe that Rasul and Nabi are equivalent both in concept and instances.[4] Thus, they are simply two ways of referring to the same thing.
  • However, the majority of scholars believe that the two terms refer to two different notions. They believe that, in terms of their instances, the two terms have an absolute general-specific relation; that is, every Rasul is also a Nabi, while it is not the case that all Nabis are Rasuls. Being a Nabi might prepare someone to become a Rasul.[5]
  • The conceptual difference between Rasul and Nabi is said to be as follows: Rasul is a prophet who brings a new religion that abolishes the Shari'a rulings of its preceding religions;[6] And Nabi is a prophet who is sent by God to propagate the rulings and teachings of a religion brought by a Rasul.[7]
  • It is also said that Rasul is a prophet to whom messages are revealed in both waking and sleeping states, and he can see the angel of revelation in both states. However, Nabi is a prophet to whom messages are revealed only in dreams, and thus, he can see the angel of revelation only in dreams.[8] Or alternatively, a Rasul receives revelations only through Gabriel, while a Nabi receives revelations through other angels, or as inspirations to his heart, or in true dreams.[9]

Quranic Uses

The singular form of the word, Rasul, appears 235 times in the Qur'an and its irregular plural form (rusul) appears ninety six times. "Rasul" and its cognates are used in the Qur'an in two meanings: prophet and angel. "Rasul" in the former meaning is sometimes used in genitive phrases in which "Rasul" usually modifies "Allah" (: "Rasul Allah", i.e. the messenger of God) or "rabb" (: "Rasul Rabb al-alamin", i.e. the messenge