Who are Messenger, Prophet & Imam


Hadith 1:

This hadeeth is Majhool (Unknown). Here is the hadeeth in Al-Kaafi.

جُعِلْتُ فِدَاكَ أَخْبِرْنِي مَا الْفَرْقُ بَيْنَ الرَّسُولِ وَ النَّبِيِّ وَ الْإِمَامِ قَالَ فَكَتَبَ أَوْ قَالَ الْفَرْقُ بَيْنَ الرَّسُولِ وَ النَّبِيِّ وَ الْإِمَامِ أَنَّ الرَّسُولَ الَّذِي يُنْزَلُ عَلَيْهِ جَبْرَئِيلُ فَيَرَاهُ وَ يَسْمَعُ كَلَامَهُ وَ يُنْزَلُ عَلَيْهِ الْوَحْيُ وَ رُبَّمَا رَأَى فِي مَنَامِهِ نَحْوَ رُؤْيَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ ع وَ النَّبِيُّ رُبَّمَا سَمِعَ الْكَلَامَ وَ رُبَّمَا رَأَى الشَّخْصَ وَ لَمْ يَسْمَعْ وَ الْإِمَامُ هُوَ الَّذِي يَسْمَعُ الْكَلَامَ وَ لَا يَرَى الشَّخْصَ

“Once al-Hassan ibn al-‘Abbass al-Ma‘rufi wrote to Imam al-Rida, recipient of divine supreme covenant, ‘May Allah keep my soul in service for your cause, explain to me the difference between the messengers, the prophets and the Imam.’ The Imam said or wrote, ‘The difference between the messengers, the prophets and the Imam is that a messenger is one to whom Jibril (Gabriel) comes. He sees Jibril and hears his speech and Jibril (the angel) brings him (Divine) revelation and sometimes he may see in his dream something like the dream of Abraham (peace be upon him). A prophet is one who may hear the speech (of the angel) and may see (his) person and may not hear (him). The Imam is the one who hears the speech but does not see the person (of the angel).’”

Source: Al-Kulaynee, Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, pg. 176, hadeeth # 2

  • Al-Majlisi said this hadeeth is Majhool (Unknown) in Mir’aat Al-‘Uqool, vol. 2, pg. 288
  • Bahboodee said this hadeeth is Da’eef (Weak) in Sahih Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, pg. 25

Hadith 2:

Here is a shia Sahih hadeeth regarding the differences between Messenger, Prophet, and Imaam.

مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ يَحْيَى عَنْ أَحْمَدَ بْنِ مُحَمَّدٍ عَنِ الْحَسَنِ بْنِ مَحْبُوبٍ عَنِ الْأَحْوَلِ قَالَ سَأَلْتُ أَبَا جَعْفَرٍ ع عَنِ الرَّسُولِ وَ النَّبِيِّ وَ الْمُحَدَّثِ قَالَ الرَّسُولُ الَّذِي يَأْتِيهِ جَبْرَئِيلُ قُبُلًا فَيَرَاهُ وَ يُكَلِّمُهُ فَهَذَا الرَّسُولُ وَ أَمَّا النَّبِيُّ فَهُوَ الَّذِي يَرَى فِي مَنَامِهِ نَحْوَ رُؤْيَا إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَ نَحْوَ مَا كَانَ رَأَى رَسُولُ اللَّهِ ص مِنْ أَسْبَابِ النُّبُوَّةِ قَبْلَ الْوَحْيِ حَتَّى أَتَاهُ جَبْرَئِيلُ ع مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ بِالرِّسَالَةِ وَ كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ ص حِينَ جُمِعَ لَهُ النُّبُوَّةُ وَ جَاءَتْهُ الرِّسَالَةُ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ يَجِيئُهُ بِهَا جَبْرَئِيلُ وَ يُكَلِّمُهُ بِهَا قُبُلًا وَ مِنَ الْأَنْبِيَاءِ مَنْ جُمِعَ لَهُ النُّبُوَّةُ وَ يَرَى فِي مَنَامِهِ وَ يَأْتِيهِ الرُّوحُ وَ يُكَلِّمُهُ وَ يُحَدِّثُهُ مِنْ غَيْرِ أَنْ يَكُونَ يَرَى فِي الْيَقَظَةِ وَ أَمَّا الْمُحَدَّثُ فَهُوَ الَّذِي يُحَدَّثُ فَيَسْمَعُ وَ لَا يُعَايِنُ وَ لَا يَرَى فِي مَنَامِهِ

“I asked abu Ja’far, recipient of divine supreme covenant, about the messenger, the prophet and al-Muhaddath (one to whom Divine guidance is reported). The Imam, recipient of divine supreme covenant, said, ‘A messenger is one to whom Jibril (Gabriel) comes openly. He sees him (the angel) and speaks to him. Such person is a messenger. A prophet is one who sees in his dream something like the dream of Abraham (peace be upon him). (Of such dreams) is the dream of the Messenger of Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, about reasons and signs of prophecy before the coming of revelation. (He would experience such dreams) until Jibril came from Allah to inform him that he was to be a messenger. In the case of Prophet Muhammad, recipient of divine supreme covenant, when prophecy was established in him then Jibril brought him the message that he was to be a messenger. Jibril would come and speak to him openly. Certain prophets, in whom prophecy had been established, saw in their dreams, the spirit who would come to them, speak and report to them but they would not see the spirit when awake. “Al-Muhaddath (imam) is one to whom matters of Divine guidance are reported and he hears the reporting but does not see (the angel) openly or in his dream.'”

Source: Al-Kulaynee, Al-Kaafi, vol. 1, pg. 176, hadeeth # 3

  • Al-Majlisi said this hadeeth is Sahih (Authentic) in Mir’aat Al-‘Uqool, vol. 2, pg. 289
  • Bahboodee said this hadeeth is Sahih (Authentic) in Sahih Al-Kaafee, vol. 1, pg. 25

So the first hadith is considered as good when compared with second hadith. & it seems, the second hadith give a little more differentiation between the level of a Prophet and the level of an Imam.

Note: In other words they attribute revelation to their A’immah. As if the differentiating by “seeing an Angel whether in dream or awake” makes a difference with respect to receiving revelation. It seems they deny that revelation have been cut off since the passing away of the Prophet (صلى الله تعالى عليه واله وسلم).

And note the wording, this is absolutely not about merely receiving “inspiration” like it was the case with Mother of Mûsa (عليهما السلام). This is purely going about “reports” with respect to “Divine guidance”.

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