Do We Make a Distinction Between Prophets?

Question: At the end of Surat Al Baqarah, we are informed that all prophets are equal, yet, at the same time we know about the five Ulul-Azmi. Can you please clarify this topic regarding loving and respecting all prophets?

Answer: Assalamu alaykum, thank you for your question brother.

The ayah that you are referring to is the following:

The Messenger firmly believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and so do the believers. They all believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, and His messengers. They proclaim, “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and obey. We seek Your forgiveness, our Lord! And to you alone˺is the final return” [Qur`an, 2:285].

The verse that you refer to about the prophets of firm resolve is the following:

Be steadfast [Muhammad], like those messengers of firm resolve. Do not seek to hasten the punishment for the disbelievers: on the Day they see what they had been warned about, it will seem to them that they lingered no more than a single hour of a single day [in this life]. This is a warning. Shall any be destroyed except the defiant? [Qur`an, 46:35].

The relevant tafsirs (exegesis) say:

“We make no distinction between any of His messengers”, the distinction here means believing in some and disbelieving in others in the manner of the Jews and the Christians (Tafseer al-Jalalayn).

“We make no distinction between any of His messengers” here means in all of His Messengers without exception and discrimination against any (Mawlana Maududi).

“The believers also believe in all Allah’s Prophets and Messengers, in the Books that were revealed from heaven to the Messengers and Prophets, who are indeed the servants of Allah. Further, the believers do not differentiate between any of the Prophets, such as, believing in some of them and rejecting others. Rather, all of Allah’s Prophets and Messengers are, to the believers, truthful, righteous, and they were each guided to the path of righteousness, even when some of them bring what abrogates the Law of some others by Allah’s leave” (Ibn Katheer).

In summary, the meaning of the verse about not distinguishing between the prophets is not related to their degree of merit, rather, it means that we don’t reject their prophethood or deny anyone of them. Believing in all twenty-five of them, as prophets, is part of our `aqidah (tenets of faith).

There is a difference of opinion about the messengers of firm resolve. Some exegetes say there are twelve prophets who showed tremendous patience during unimaginable trials, while the majority say there were five. These five are our Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace, Ibrahim, Musa, `Isa, and Nuh, may Allah bless them all.

Every prophet has a special degree with Allah. Ibrahim is Allah’s khalil (friend), while Musa is His kalim (one with whom Allah conversed). As we all well know, our Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace, is His habib (beloved).

We love and respect all the prophets, but, as Muslims, we give special attention to our Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and give him peace, whom we mention in our prayers five times daily. Every ummah will stand with their prophet and we will stand with ours, it is by this mere fact that we mention him and bless him more often. Regardless, all prophets and messengers are loved and respected by all Muslims as their degrees with Allah are far beyond anything we could ever comprehend.

[Ustadha] Shazia Ahmad

Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadha Shazia Ahmad lived in Damascus, Syria for two years where she studied aqidah, fiqh, tajweed, tafseer, and Arabic. She then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed her Masters in Arabic. Afterward, she moved to Amman, Jordan where she studied fiqh, Arabic, and other sciences. She recently moved back to Mississauga, Canada, where she lives with her family.