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The Definition of a Prophet

In order to define prophethood, the scholars have come to a general consensus on three different meanings of the term ‘al-Nabī’.

Definition of al-Nabī النبي in the Language and Its Usage

The essence of the definitions from the scholars of the language for the term ‘al-Nabī’ can be summed up in three different sayings:

  1. The meaning of it is: the one who brings information about Allāh and conveys His legislation, either being urged to do so (by Allāh) or without being urged. And this definition is the preference of most of the scholars of the language.1
  2. That it is derived from the word: “النبو (Al-Nubū)” to be far off, distant. And it is الارتفاع (Al-Irtafāʿ) (elevation). And an-Nabī with this definition means: The one who is favoured over the rest of the people with the raising of his rank. So he is elevated above the creation and his status is raised among them. And upon this definition, some of the people of knowledge are united.2
  3. Its meaning is: الطريق al-Ṭarīq (path or way) and he is called al-Nabī because he is the way to guidance.

These three definitions are (all correct). For verily, the Prophets are chosen (by Allāh) with Waḥi (revelation) from Allāh to convey His legislation and to follow it.

1. “Lisān al-ʿArab” 1/162, “Mukhtār al-Ṣiḥāḥ” page 642, “Muʿjam Muqāyīs al-Lughah” 5/385, “Al-Nihāyah” 5/3-4
2. “Lisān al-ʿArab” 15/302, “Muʿjam Muqāyīs al-Lughah” 5/385, “Ishtiqaaq-ul-Asmāʾ” by al-Zujājī, page 294

Published: March 6, 2017
Edited: April 13, 2023


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