By Abu Amina Elias for FaithinAllah.org
Muslims believe in all of the Prophets of Allah, peace be upon them, without making any distinction between them. As Allah Almighty said:
قُولُوا آمَنَّا بِاللَّهِ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَىٰ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَاقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالْأَسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَىٰ وَعِيسَىٰ وَمَا أُوتِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ
Say: We have believed in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims in submission to Him.
[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:136]
This means the Muslims believe in all of them and accept their messages without saying one Prophet is better than another. As Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:
لَا يَنْبَغِي لِعَبْدٍ أَنْ يَقُولَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِنْ يُونُسَ بْنِ مَتَّى
No servant should say that I am better than Jonah son of Mata.
[Sahih Bukhari, Book 5, Number 627]
In this narration, the Prophet has forbidden us from claiming that he is superior to the Prophet Jonah (Yunus), upon him be peace. We should not get into arguments about which Prophet is the best, saying this one is better than that one. Rather, we should believe in their exalted status in general.
However, it is true that Allah has honored some Prophets with gifts that were not given to other Prophets. Allah Almighty said:
تِلْكَ الرُّسُلُ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ
Some of the Messengers we favored over others.
[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:253]
For example, Abraham, upon him be peace, will be the first to be clothed on the Day of Resurrection. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:
وَأَوَّلُ مَنْ يُكْسَى يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ إِبْرَاهِيمُ
The first to be clothed on the Day of Resurrection will be Abraham.
[Sahih Bukhari, Book 55, Number 568]
Solomon, upon him be peace, was given an earthly kingdom unlike any Prophet or ruler who came after him, as Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:
وَسَأَلَ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ مُلْكًا لَا يَنْبَغِي لِأَحَدٍ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ فَأُوتِيَهُ
He asked Allah the Exalted for a kingdom that none after him would have, and he was given.
[Sunan An-Nasa’i, Book of Mosques, Number 693]
Moses, upon him be peace, was given the honor of speaking with Allah directly, as Allah Almighty said:
وَكَلَّمَ اللَّهُ مُوسَىٰ تَكْلِيمًا
Allah spoke to Moses directly.
[Surah An-Nisa 4:164]
Jesus and his mother Mary, peace be upon them both, were honored with being protected from Satan at the time of birth, although all other people were touched by Satan. As Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said:
كُلُّ بَنِي آدَمَ يَمَسُّهُ الشَّيْطَانُ يَوْمَ وَلَدَتْهُ أُمُّهُ إِلَّا مَرْيَمَ وَابْنَهَا
Satan touches every son of Adam on the day his mother gives birth to him, except for Mary and her son.
[Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Number 5838]
There are other examples of different Prophets receiving honors unlike other Prophets. Despite these honors, however, it is not permissible for Muslims to argue with the People of the Book concerning whose Prophet is better. Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, reported: Two people, one Jewish and the other Muslim, fell into dispute and began to abuse one another. The Muslim said, “By Him Who chose Muhammad in the worlds.” And the Jew said, “By Him Who chose Moses in the worlds.” Then the Muslim slapped the face of the Jew. The Jew went to the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and told him about the incident, so he said:
لَا تُخَيِّرُونِي عَلَى مُوسَى فَإِنَّ النَّاسَ يَصْعَقُونَ فَأَكُونُ أَوَّلَ مَنْ يُفِيقُ فَإِذَا مُوسَى بَاطِشٌ بِجَانِبِ الْعَرْشِ فَلَا أَدْرِي أَكَانَ فِيمَنْ صَعِقَ فَأَفَاقَ قَبْلِي أَمْ كَانَ مِمَّنْ اسْتَثْنَى اللَّهُ
Do not say I am better than Moses for mankind will faint on the Day of Judgment and I will be the first to recover, and Moses at that time will be holding the side of the Throne. I do not know if he would faint and recover before me, or if Allah will make an exception for him.
[Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Number 5854]
In this example, a Muslim and a Jew were arguing about who was better, Muhammad or Moses, but the Prophet, peace be upon him, ordered them not to say he was better than Moses and he pointed to the fact that Moses will have a special honor on the Day of Resurrection, being protected from swooning while the rest of humanity, including Muhammad, have fainted.
Despite the humility of our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, some Muslims have given him the title “best of creation” (khayr al-barriyah). The cite as evidence such unique honors bestowed upon our Prophet, such as his leadership on the Day of Resurrection and his intercession. As the Prophet, peace be upon him, said:
أَنَا سَيِّدُ وَلَدِ آدَمَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ وَأَوَّلُ مَنْ يَنْشَقُّ عَنْهُ الْقَبْرُ وَأَوَّلُ شَافِعٍ وَأَوَّلُ مُشَفَّعٍ
I will be the leader of the children of Adam on the Day of Resurrection, and I will be the first intercessor and the first whose intercession will be accepted.
[Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Number 5655]
No doubt, this is a great honor for our Prophet Muhammad, but this can only mean that the Prophet is the best of creation in the sense that all of the Prophets are the best of creation. As Allah Almighty said about another family of Prophets:
إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفَىٰ آدَمَ وَنُوحًا وَآلَ إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَآلَ عِمْرَانَ عَلَى الْعَالَمِينَ
Verily, Allah chose Adam and Noah and the family of Abraham and the family of Imran over the worlds.
[Surah Ali Imran 3:33]
In fact, Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, rejected the title “best of creation” for himself; instead, giving this title to his father Abraham, upon him be peace. Anas ibn Malik reported: A person came to the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, and said, “O best of creation!” So he said:
ذَاكَ إِبْرَاهِيمُ عَلَيْهِ السَّلَام
That is Abraham, upon him be peace.
[Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Number 5841]
By giving this special title to Abraham and denying it for himself, it shows the great humility of our Prophet Muhammad and his love for his father Abraham. It also, perhaps, was meant to prevent bickering among the Muslims and the People of the Book, since all monotheistic religions including Judaism and Christianity have the utmost respect for Abraham.
In general, Muslims make no distinctions between the Prophets, peace be upon them all. We believe in all of them without favoring one over the other. Although Allah has granted special favors to some Prophets over others, this does not give the Muslims permission to argue about which Prophet is the best. Rather, Prophet Muhammad specifically forbade saying that he was better than other Prophets like Jonah, Moses, and Abraham, and he rejected the title “best of creation” for himself. Following this example, we should only speak about the exalted status of the Prophets in general instead of arguing that one Prophet is better than another.
(www.faithinallah.org / 08.09.2012)