Literally, Risalat derived from the word Rasal which means to send. In Islamic terms, it means to convey the message of God to his worshippers. The word paighamber which is of Persian language has almost the same meaning i.e. "One who has a message." From the point of view of religious as well as Islamic terminology, there is some difference between a prophet and a messenger. Nabee (Prophet) is a general word but the word Rasool (messenger) is a term exclusively used for a few members of people. Every messenger is prophet but every prophet is not messenger. A messenger is descended with a new book but the scriptures revealed on a prophet are the ones which confirm the teachings of a particular book. Often it so happened that a Rasool was considered the founder of a new religion later on by his followers. But this was not the case with prophets.
Since all-the prophets were sent by God and conveyed the same message, they were the members of the same Ummah. And as all the prophets preached Islamic principles, they were Muslims.
At this point, the word Islam and Ummah need some explanation. Islam means the universal laws of nature which every prophet tried to teach but after him his followers revised them according to their own needs and desires. Namely, the principles of Islam were common to all religion in the beginning due to this commonality; all these prophets belonged to the same Ummah, i.e. Islamic Ummah. The word Ummah does not; mean nation but a community which has no boundaries of countries and continents but it has its members in every nook and comer of the world. With this clear-cut concept of prophethood, Islam teaches its followers to have faith in all prophets. Adam was the first prophet of God and Muhammad may peace and mercy of God be on him was the last of this series. According to one of the sayings of the Holy Prophet, there were sent one hundred and twenty-four thousand prophets in the world. Fifteen of them were messengers out of whom; five were that of those who have been called the most determined of all.
Need and Significance of Risalat
Man is the vice-gerent of God on the earth. Like a slave who is always at the beck and call of his master, man is also bound to act in accordance with the will of God. This is the only way for him to prove himself a true trustee of his Lord. Now the question is where he should go to seek the true and clear guidance and - direction, following which he could live in compliance of the orders of God. This is the first reason for God to send His prophets in the world.
The duty of the prophets is to guide the people to the right path (The path of God). They convey to them the direction of God and the fact as what he likes and dislikes.
Secondly, other means of seeking the will of God are always limited and are not free from pitfalls and doubts. E.g., one way is man's five senses. But their range is too limited that they can give the knowledge to the man which is within their range. These five senses can also be deceived. Another source of getting the knowledge of Godly orders is though meditation; but it is always not true as one cannot always make difference between Godly and satanic ideas which arise in the mind of a man interested in meditation. The third way to get knowledge of the will of God is collective use of thought. It is also an inappropriate way as the wisdom of God is prevalent over all the universe and man's limited wisdom can not be parallel to it.
In this situation, where all these sources cannot work, God who is the most merciful and beneficent to his creature himself solved this problem. He selected some of his worshippers for the office of prophethood and revealed his orders on them. So it can be said that revelation is the only truest and the most reliable source of the knowledge of the will and orders of God which he conveys to the people by descending it through his prophets selected by his oumself. If He does...