Nubuwwah is derived from the 'Arabic word naba' which means "news". Allaah (T) says (what means): "Inform (nabbi) My servants that I am indeed the Oft-Forgiving, the Most Merciful…" (15:49)
And Allaah (T) said (what means): "…Then when he told her (nabbhaa) about it, she said, 'Who told (anba'ka) you this?' He said, 'He told me (nabba'anee) who is the knower, the Aware.'' (66:3)
Lisaan ul-'Arab state, Naba' is 'news', and 'nabee' is the one who provides information about Allaah."
Some of the scholars are of the opinion that nabiyy (prophet) is derived from nabwah and nabaawah which refers to a high ground, meaning that the prophets are honored over all other creatures.
But, linguistically, this is the weaker of the two opinions, even though the word nabiyy has no hamzah in it, and naba (news) does. The reason for it being dropped is that hamzah takes more effort to pronounce, and some words which are frequently used loose the hamzah for easier pronunciation.
Ibn Taymiyyah said: "The word nabiyy comes from naba which originally had a hamzah and was recited like that in the Qur'aan by some reciters like Naafi. Since its usage increased over time, the hamzah was lightened similar to the word thurriyyah (from thuree'ah) and bariyyah (from baree'ah). It is also said to be derived from nabwah which means elevation a nabiyy, in this case, would mean a noble person with high rank. In reality, this meaning is implied by the first meaning because whoever is given information by Allaah and is allowed to communicate it to others has to be of high rank and status. Whereas height and nobility does not necessarily indicate the status of prophethood, since it may be used for one who is not a prophet. In fact, non-prophets may even be described with the highest degree of elevation; for example, Allaah (T) said (what means): "So lose not heart. Nor fall into despair: for you must be the uppermost if you are true in faith." (3:139)
Rasool in 'Arabic is taken from irsaal which means "to send" or "to direct toward"; or it is taken from rasal which means "to follow consecutively." Rasal is used to describe the milk of cows when it keeps on flowing. This would then mean that a rasool experiences divine inspiration descending upon him consecutively.
Lisaan ul-'Arab states, "… A rasool is one who is sent. He follows up the news of the one who sent him. This is taken from the phrase "the camels came raslan, (i.e. consecutively) one after another"… and the rasool is so named because he has a risaalah (message).
Meanings in Sharee'ah
As for the meaning of nabiyy and rasool in the Sharee'ah, the scholars have presented varying opinions. Most scholars agree that there is a difference in meaning between nabiyy and rasool (even if they disagree about the details of that difference). Also, most of them agree that nubuwwah is more general than risaalah; thus every rasool is a nabiyy, but not every nabiy is a rasool.
The opinion toward which we incline (Allaah knows best) is that a nabiyy is one whom Allaah has informed about a previous Divine law, sending him to warn the people to whom it applies. He may also be commanded to inform about specific matters, testaments, or exhortations. An example is that of the prophets sent to the Israelites who were all follower of the Torah's Law; and none of them came with a new law to abolish the Torah. In this case, a prophet is responsible for the restoration of the teachings of former Messengers.
As for a rasool, he is one whom Allaah sent with a new law or Sharee'ah, commanding him to convey it to people. This is regardless of whether that law is new in itself or to the people to whom he is sent. He may also come to abolish some legislations of the previous Sharia.
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