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Why is the station of Imamate [imāmah] higher than that of prophethood [nubuwwah

Why is the station of Imamate [imāmah] higher than that of prophethood [nubuwwah]?

 

           

                                               

Reply: First, we will examine the precise meaning of three of the words we find in the Qur’an and the hadīth and these are: prophethood [nubuwwah], messengership [risālah] and Imamate [imāmah] so as to clarify why the station of imāmah is higher than each of the other two mentioned positions.

1. The station of nubuwwah

The word nabī [prophet] is derived from the word naba’ which means an important piece of news. Therefore, the literal meaning of nabī is “bearer of very important news” or “announcer of very important news”.[1] The word nabī which is equivalent to the English word “prophet” is used by the Qur’an to mean a person who receives divine revelation from God, the Exalted, through various means, and conveys to people the news revealed to him without the intervention of other human beings. Scholars define this word as follows:

.البشر من وساطة بلا الله من مؤدّ إنّه

“A prophet is a person who conveys the divine revelation to the people without the intervention of other human biengs.”[2]

On this basis, the nature of the duties of a nabī is confined to receiving revelation and conveying to the people what is revealed to him. The Glorious Qur’an says in this regard:

فَبَعَثَ اللّهُ النَّبِيِّينَ مُبَشِّرينَ وَ مُنْذِرينَ ﴿

“Then Allah sent the prophets as bearers of good news and as warners.”[3]



[1] If the literal root of the word nabī is intransitive, then it carries the first meaning, and if it is transitive, then it carries the second meaning.

[2] Shaykh a-ūsī, Rasā’il al-‘Ashar, p. 111.

[3] Sūrah al-Baqarah 2:213.

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