Are we allowed to make distinctions among prophets?
When you read the verses that require all believers not to draw distinction between God's messengers, you recognize that they refer to belief and not to the ranks of prophets whom God the Almighty chose as His messengers to mankind. Thus, the verse in the second Surah reads: "The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him by his Lord, and so do the believers. Each one of them believes in God, His angels, His books, and His messengers. We make no distinction between any of His messengers. And they say, ‘We hear and we obey. Grant us forgiveness, Our Lord; to You we shall all return" [2: 285]. The first two sentences of the verse show the attitude of God's messengers while the last sentence quotes all believers who make no distinction between God's messengers, but believe in them all equally as bearers of God's messages to mankind. The following verse is even clearer in its reference to faith: "Those who deny God and His messengers, and want to make a distinction between belief in God and belief in His messengers, and say: 'We believe in some but we deny others,' and want to pursue a path in between - those, in truth, are unbelievers" [4: 150 - 151].
A Muslim cannot speak of a prophet in a discourteous manner if he does not believe in him. Thus, an Arab Muslim cannot refer to Prophet Moses and say: 'Well, he was a messenger to the Jews and I he does not concern me.' Such an attitude can lead a person to disbelief. We must believe in all of God's prophets and messengers and draw no distinction whatsoever between them.
As for rank, some prophets and messengers are certainly given a higher one than the others. God mentions in the Quran that He gave preference to some prophets. He says: "Those are the Messengers! We have exalted some of them above others. To some God spoke directly, and some He raised in rank. We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit" [2: 253].
The verse speaks of some aspects of the honor with which God favored some of His messengers, such as Moses to whom He spoke directly and Jesus whom He supported with the Holy Spirit. Abraham was granted the great honor of having the line of Prophethood in his seed. And needless to say, Muhammad was honored as the seal of prophets and his message remains applicable for the rest of time.
God the Almighty also refers to messengers who were endowed with great resolve. These were Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them and all other prophets and messengers). And because they had greater resolve, they occupy a higher rank.