In my article “ Patterns of Spiritual Elevations”, we have seen that various spiritual levels mentioned in Quran can be broadly divided into five levels i.e. saleh, shaheed, siddique, Nabi, and rasool; the first three are cultivable (based on person’s efforts) and the last two are divine (based on Allah’s will) but granted to ones standing on the top at first three levels. All these levels are vertical. All these levels are associated with degrees of accomplishments attained in respect of various virtues mentioned in Quran and sunnah; some virtues are relating to apparent deeds e.g. virtues pertaining to Aabid, Zahid, Aalim, Zakir, munfiq, muttaqi, khasheh; some virtues are relating to hidden deeds e.g. virtues pertaining to mumin, sabir, mutahhir, muhsin, mutawakkil.
The first level of spiritual elevation is pertaining to ‘saleheen’. When a person has attained a certain degree of apparent and hidden virtues, as contained in Quran and sunnah, he is graced with first level of spiritual elevation i.e. level of saleheen. Saleheen are those people who do their deeds for Allah’s sake (following Nabi (saw).
The second level of spiritual elevation is relating to ‘shaheed’. A shaheed is always a ‘saleh’ as well, and has attained apparent and hidden virtues which are qualification for a saleh. But a shaheed is different from saleh in the sense that a shaheed always does the job of ‘ amr bilmaroof wa nahi anel munkar’- he always commands for good things and forbids from bad things. When a ‘saleh’ attains a certain degree in the job of commanding for the good and forbidding from the bad, he is graced with the level of ‘shahadat’.
The third level of spiritual elevation is associated with ‘siddique’. A ‘siddique’ is always a saleh and shaheed as well and has attained apparent and hidden virtues which are qualifications for a saleh or shaheed. A siddique is different from ‘saleh’ and ‘shaheed’ in the sense that a ‘siddique’ testifies intellectually what is mentioned in the revealed knowledge (Quran and Sunnah). When a shaheed obtains a certain degree in the job of testifying the revealed knowledge intellectually, he is bestowed with level of ‘siddiqiat’.
As for as titles of ‘nabuwwat’ and ‘resalat’ are concerned, these titles are not attainable on the basis of good deeds; these are divine in their nature. But, of course, 'Nabis' and 'rasool' are only the best persons occupying the top most positions at all first three levels. In other words, every Nabi and every Rasool is also a saleh, a shaheed and a siddique.
The basic difference between a ‘Nabi’ and ‘Rasool’ is that a ‘Rasool’ receives revelation in the form of ‘Allah’s Words’ (kitaab); but a ‘Nabi’ receives revelation in the form of Allah’s Ideas translated into words by ‘Nabi’ himself or by Hazrat Gabriel. The second most important difference is that a ‘Rasool’ gets through revelation a complete Book in the form of Allah’s Words; but ‘Nabi’ gets through revelation an incomplete Book in the form of Allah’s Ideas translated into words by ‘Nabi’ himself or by Hazrat Gabriel. A prophet may be a ‘Nabi’ and ‘Rasool’ combined; such a prophet gets through revelation not only complete Book in the form of Allah’s Words (e.g. Quran) but also Allah’s Ideas translated into words by Hazrat Gabriel (e.g. Hadith-e-qudsi) or by the prophet himself [e.g. Hadith-e-Rasool (saw)]. The third most important difference is that a ‘Rasool’ always constitutes an ummah consisting of people he is sent to; in other words, ‘Rasool’ has always one ummah, and one ummah has only one ‘Rasool’. ‘Rasool’ is sent to one ummah but a ‘Nabi’ is sent to one nation; one ummah may have more than one nations and more than one ‘Nabis’ ( in case of the Ummahs passing before our Nabi's (s.a.w.w) Ummah; after our Nabi (s.a.w.w) no nabi can come. for details plz see my article ‘Universality of Resalat, Ummah and Qadyaniat’).
As mentioned earlier, ‘nabuwwat’ and ‘resalat’ are not cultivable titles; these titles cannot be claimed by anyone on the basis of his good deeds. These are divine titles and Allah bestows these titles to whom HE likes. Now the question arises if grant of these titles is totally Allah’s Sweet Will, why holders of these titles are superiors to others who have attained levels of ‘saleheen’, ‘shaheed’, and ‘siddiqueen’ on the basis of good deeds. In fact Nabuwwat and Resalat can be called more appropriately as titles. The spiritual level of every ‘Nabi’ and ‘Rasool’ is determined by his levels attained as a saleh, shaheed and siddique; the higher levels as a saleh, shaheed and siddique he attains, the greater spiritual level he possesses as a Nabi or Rasool. In fact, Allah appoints only such person as a ‘Nabi’ or a ‘Rasool’ who occupies top most positions among his nation or ummah in respect of virtues pertaining to saleheen, shuhuda and siddiqueen. Because Allah knows through His knowledge which soul will attain such top most positions after coming into world, He appoints such soul a Nabi or Rasool even before his coming into this world.
In Quran, hazrat Ibrahim (as) and hazrat Idrees (as) have been called ‘siddique’; whereas hazrat Isa, Noah, Ishaque, yaqoob, Ismaeel, Alyas, Zulkifal, Zakria, Yahya, Loot (as) all have been called Saleheen. Hazrat Ibrahim and Hazrat Idrees (as) have also been called saleheen.
A saying of our Nabi (saw) also substantiates this fact that the spiritual level of Nabi and Rasool is determined by his levels attained as saleh, shaheed and siddique. Our Nabi (saw) states that “ ulemas of his ummah will be equal to ‘Israeeli Nabis’ in spiritual levels. If spiritual level of a Nabi or rasool is to be determined by his nabuwwat or resalat, no non-prophet can be equal to a prophet in spiritual level. In fact this saying of our Nabi (saw) endorses the viewpoint that spiritual level of a 'Nabi' or 'Rasool' is determined by his levels attained as saleh, shaheed, and siddique. 'Nabuwwat' or 'Resalat' is just titles; though this title is also a spiritual level in itself, but that spiritual level is the same in case of all prophets, as has been mentioned in Quran (al-baqra-136). The real difference among the spiritual levels of prophets is determined by the spiritual levels attained by them as 'saleh', 'shaheed' and 'siddique', as has been mentioned in Quran (al-baqra-253).