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Six Meanings Associated with the Terms Seal of Prophets and Messengers

The term `Nabi'/`Prophet' has been used in the past Scriptures including the Qur'an in two ways. The understanding of this is crucial in discussing this topic

Likewise the term `Rasool' or `Messenger' also have two meanings: The independent or law-giver Messengers like Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Muhammad and dependent, or promulgator Messengers of Christianity like the twelve Apostles of Christ, or Apostle Paul and Apostle Barnabas. Once again understanding of this issue is crucial in recognizing the meaning of the "Seal of the Prophets" and Seal of the Apostles.

In light of what has been discussed above there are several implications associated with the terms Khatam'un Nabi-een, and Khatam'ur Rosol-een which I will summarize a few below:


Shi'ah scholars views on Seal of the Prophets

Let us now examine the opinions of various Muslim theologians, from both Shi'ah and Sunni backgrounds, on the meaning of the term Khatam'u-Nabieen. I will first focus on this, from a Shi'ah perspective since, the individual who raised this question is a Shi'ah Muslim, then I will discuss the Sunni view as well as some other views:

Mulla Fatth-i-Kashani, who is one of the highly respected Shi'ah scholars, in his commentary on Manhaj-ul-Sadegheen, addresses the concept of Khatam'u-Nabieen as follows:

In the same book [i.e. his commentary on Manhaj-ul-Sadegheen], Mulla Fatth-i- Kashani, offers a tradition attributed to Muhammad, where He says:

Also, he offers another tradition, in the same book, where, Muhammad the Messenger of God tells Ali, Peace be upon Him!:

Allamih Jallal-u-Din Suyutti in Jami-ul-Saghir quotes Ayeshih (one of the wives of Prophet Muhammad), who had quoted Muhammad saying:

Clearly, the concept of no Nabi, or prophet, appearing after Muhammad must have been associated with His immediate successorship, and had nothing to do with coming of future Messengers from God. Otherwise, why would Muhammad want to discuss Omar's -the second Khalif's- name in this tradition.

Many of the Shi'ah commentators believe in a literal meaning of the term Khatam-u-Nabieen (Seal of the Prophets, after Whom no other Messengers of God shall come), however, there are other commentators who believe differently:

Ibn-i Babuyih known as Sheikh Sadoogh, another highly respected Shi'ah scholar/theologian argues in his book, Ekmaal-ud-Din vol I:

This commentary of Sheikh Sadoogh appears to clearly reason out the inner significance of traditions such as: `Seal of the prophets', `There will be no prophets after me....'.

Among other Shi'ah sources there is a Hadith (tradition) recorded by Ibn-i-Shahr Ashoob in his book, `Managhib'. The very same Hadith can also be found in vol IX of Bihar'ul-Anvar of Allamih Majlesi. This Hadith is from Imam Ali, (Peace be upon Him!), where He discusses the meaning of the term Khatam-u-Nabieen. After describing the ascendancy of His own station, Ali says:

Clearly Ali's explanation of `Khatam'u-Nabeein' is drastically different than the meaning the literalist Muslims have given to it. There does not appear to be any implications whatsoever about cessation of revelation after Prophet Muhammad.

Sunni scholars' views on Seal of the Prophets

Allamih Majlesi in Bihar'ul-Anvar Vol 13, p.323 mentions one of the discourses of Imam Ali. In that discourse Ali says:

This Hadith is referd to as the Hadith Nuraniah as is reported by several people such as Ibn Babyih (Sheikh Sadooq) in `Uyoon'ul-Akhbar Ar-Rida'.

This tradition of Imam Ali is a very interesting. One must be fair in one's judgment. If we are to take, in this tradition, the term `Khatam' as `the Seal', `the ender', `one who completes', then one is obliged to accept that Ali was "the seal of the guardians, and successors", after Muhammad, Who is the Seal of the prophets. Yet, Shi'ahs believe that after Muhammad there was supposed to be twelve Imams, only the first of Whom was Ali. So, assuming that the term Khatam in Khatam'u-Vasieen must have a similar meaning to the term Khatam in Khatam'u- Nabieen, then one is to question why were there more Imams after Ali. How are we to reconcile the existence of the other Imams, Who came after Ali, based on this interpretation? Let this be food for thought for the possessors of pure heart and open mind.

NOTE: I hope Shi'ah friends contemplate on the meaning of this quotation and its theological implication.

Let us now examine the meaning of the term Khatam'u-Nabieen from the perspective of Sunni scholars and theologians, so that the seekers of truth obtain a wider spectrum of views for their judgment:

In the commentary of Fat'hol-Ghadeer by Hafiz Mohhades-i-Shokani we find:

The same book quotes from Dorr'ul-Mansoor of Allamih Jallal'u-Din Suyutti, who quotes Ayeshih, the wife of Muhammad, who said: `Say KhatAm-un-Nabeein (i.e. The Ring or Ornament of the Prophets), and never say no prophets shall come after Him (i.e. Muhammad)'.

One can find the same references in the commentary of Kashaaf, by Zamakhshari, who says: `Muhammad, the Messenger of God, was called Khatam'u-Nabieen, since, He did not have any male offsprings to inherit prophethood from Him.' He goes on and presents a Hadith from Prophet Muhammad who says about His deceased son Abraham (from Marieh, the Egyptian wife of Muhammad): `If my son Abraham was alive, he would have been a Nabi (i.e. He would have become a Nabi after Me.)'. However, all of Muhammad's male offsprings die in early childhood, thus, the verse of the Qur'an: `Muhammad is not the father of any man among you....' comes into fulfillment, and Muhammad become Khatam'u-Nabieen, according to the same verse.

Abo'l-Bagha, another trusted Sunni source discusses this issue in his book, `Mofeed', from the same angle, which I will not quote here in order to prevent excessive repetition of the same idea.

It is apparent from what has been mentioned at length, that both Shi'ah and Sunni sources agree that:

1- There is a more profound meaning associated with the title Khatam'u-Nabieen;

2- Finality of Muhammad's revelation is not implied by this term, mentioned in the Qur'an, the Confederates: 39.

Let me close this note with the view of Abol-Fadail-i Golpayegani, a prominent Bahá'í scholar, from a Muslim background, who, in his book Fara'id addresses the question of Khatam'u-Nabieen as follows:

Portions of Parts 2 and 3 have either been cited or paraphrased, after my own inadequate English translation, from `Ghamoos-i-Iqan' (The Encyclopedia to the Book of Certitude), by A. Eshragh-Khavari, Bahá'í Publishing Trust of Iran.

Islam is not the last religion according to Qur'an and Hadith

The first section of the verse 35 reads in Arabic as follows:

Conclusions from 7:34-35;

1) Please note that every ummah (religious community or nation) has has an end or consummation.

2) Appearance of future Apostles of God is explicitly mentioned here.

3) These Apostles (more that one Apostle -i.e. Mahdi and Isaa bin Maryam) must come from among the Muslim ummah.

4) These Apostles shall come in the future.

This verse cannot possibly be a reference to Prophet Muhammad since when Qur'an refers to Muhammad the reference is made in the past tense and not future tense.

There is a wonderful Hadith reported by Allamih Sahl ibn-i `Abdu'llah Shooshtary from `Akramih who reports that Ibn-i `Abbas asked Prophet Muhammad: `What shall be the source of our salvation in the future?' Prophet Muhammad replied: `Follow the Qur'an because in it God has informed you of the nations which came before you as well as those nations which will come after you. Also because Qur'an contains the laws of your religion which you are responsible to follow and by the aid of which judge among yourselves.'

Please note how clearly this Hadith is addressing the gist of the Muslim concern about future revelations. Moreover, this Hadith is in total conformity with Qur'an 7:34-35 as its Mossadiq (i.e. Confirmer) and its Muhaymin (i.e. guardian).

NOTE: It is perhaps important to clarify an issue about Qur'an 7:35. Some Muslims believe that the verse of the Qur'an mentioned above is as one Muslim friend put it: `the commands of Allah to Prophet Adam (AS) who was the first Prophet. Allah is saying O' sons of Prophet Adam, shall come many prophets after Prophet Adam (a total of 123999 after Prophet Adam).'

This is extremely questionable. Let us examine this issue in the context of Hadith and see who does the term `ya bani Adam', meaning `O children of Adam' is referring to:

Narrated by Abu Huraira:

The people among whom Prophet Muhammad appeared are identified as `Adam's offsprings'. The generation among whom Muhammad appeared is identified as `the best of all the generations of Adam's offspring'. Let us look at yet another one:

Narrated `Aisha:

Please note that women are categorically identified as `daughters of Adam'. Menses was ordained for both Muslim women and women living prior to Islam, yet the ruling of this Hadith applies to `daughters of Adam', namely Muslim women.

Since I was aware that the Shi'ah friends might not be fond of the Ahadith I've quoted above in particular the one narrated by 'Aisha, the umm'ul Momenin, and moreover, since Muslim friends are very much interested in contextual relevance of what I quote I feel obliged to also demonstrate this issue in the context of the verses of the Qur'an. Hopefully the following example will demonstrate this issue:

Which translates to:

Please note that along with the term `ya bani adam' (i.e. O Children of Adam) the term Masjid (i.e. place of worship) which I feel is particular to Muslims appear in this verse of the Qur'an. As a result the term "ya bani adam" is a reference to the Muslim ummah.

I know! Some might disagree with the fact that the term `masjid' as a place of worship is particular to the Muslim ummah. However, it is important to point out that neither Jews, nor Christians identify their places of worship as Masjid. Let us consider some other verses:

Which translates to:

I hope it is clear that the above mentioned verse is addressed to the ummah of Islam since neither Jews tried to destroy their own synagogues, nor Christians attempted to destroy their own churches.

Also:

Which translates to:

None but Muslims are intended by this verse to attend MASJID. Since it is a Muslim who believes in Allah and the Last Day. The theme is repeated throughout the Qur'an.

Now the question is how valid is the above assumption (i.e. masjid being the place in which only Muslims worship Allah.). The following verse of the Qur'an clearly demonstrates this issue:

Which Yusuf Ali translates as:

Please note that the places of worship belonging to Jews, Christian and Muslims have clearly been distinguished by their particular designation (i.e. churches, synagogues and mosques". If the term masjid was used as a universal term to identify the place of worship for the followers of all religions then there would have been no reason for the verse of the Qur'an to mention the Jewish and Christian places of worship separately. So, when the Holy Qur'an reveals:

The term `ya bani adam' or `O children of Adam' along with the term `masjid' the latter clarrifies who is intended by `ya bani adam' (i.e. Muslims). Verse 7:31 of the Qur'an is of particular importance in this case because it appears prior to Qur'an 7:35 where it says:

As a result the term `ya bani adam' or `O children of Adam' in this verse applies to Muslims both contextually and logically. These apostles must appear from among the ummah of Islam.

The argument presented by the Muslim friends about `children of Adam' (mentioned in Qur'an 7:35) referring only to the descendants of Prophet Adam who lived prior to Prophet Muhammad (therefore it does not apply to Muhammad and the time after Him) is a feeble attempt to undermine the message of the Holy Qur'an.

I hope this writing offers a fresh perspective for consideration and contemplation.

Let us go back to the original theme.

According to the Qur'anic prescription God has always sent His Messengers for the education of the peoples of the world, and will continue to do do so. No nation (ummah) will be deprived of God's mercy. The Holy Qur'an refers to this theme on many different occasions. The following references (Surih Fatir:22, Nahl:38, Yunis:47, and Hadj:67) clearly convey this idea. For example consider Yunis:47:

Furthermore, Yunis:49 suggests that every nation (ummah) has an end (ajal), and a final consummation.

Both Sunni and Shi'ah sources have reported Ahadith in reference to this theme. For example: In the book of Najm'us-Saghib, Haji Mirza Husayn-i Noori the well-known Shi'ah scholar and commentator writes in reference to interpretation of this verse of the Qur'an:

Muslims as an `ummah' have an `ajal' too, as clearly demonstrated above, and when this `ajal' comes they will be unable to change it even for an hour. When their `ajal' comes a new Messenger of God will appear, per A'araf: 34 and Yunis: 47, to form a new `ummah'.

The meaning of one day discussed in the above Hadith is given in the Qur'an as follows:

The same concept, of a day=1000 years, is also repeated in Al-Hadj:44.

So, according to the Hadith from Prophet Muhammad, `ajal', end, or the term for the "ummah" of Islam is anywhere between 500 to 1000 years, depending on Muslim accomplishments and status.

The following Hadith clearly draws an inescapable parallel between the ummah of Islam and the Jewish ummah and the Christian ummah in regards to the fact that it too has an end. Narrated by `Abdu'llah bin `Umar:

Please note how beautifully Prophet Muhammad is portraying the fact that three communities (i.e. umam) namely Jewish Faith, Christianity and Islam have fixed terms similar to the obligatory prayers. As the five Muslim daily Obligatory Prayers have to begin and end in particular time frames, each religion and its ummah must also begin and end in a particular time frame:

1) Jewish ---> till midday

2) Christian ---> till afternoon

3) Muslim ---> till sunset

The implication of this Hadith is no less than two other obligatory prayers must follow the three mentioned above by the Prophet in order to complete the five. The other two obligatory prayers are the ummah or communities of Mahdi and Isaa bin Maryam. Since I am cognizant of the fact that you want every Hadith to be in conformance with the verses of the Qur'an, I'd like to present the following verse of the Qur'an for your consideration:

Yusof Ali translates this to:

This verse of the Qur'an commands the believers to pray, in accordance with the above mentioned Hadith at sun's decline till darkness. That is to say the commandment of prayer which is one of the main pillars of Islam remains valid until `ghasq al-layl' or darkness of the night. According to the terminology of `Jafr' the term `ghasq al-layl' equals to 1261. (gh=1000, s=60, q=100, a=1, l=30, l=30, y=10 and l=30 according to the abjad notation which equals to 1261). That is to say: O Muslims conduct the ordinance of the obligatory prayer from the decline of the the sun of Muhammad's revelation until the year 1261. and then the verse goes on to say: `for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony.' That is to say, when the next Messengers appear after that time (i.e. 1261 years) they will re-establish the ordinance of obligatory prayer once again.

Per testimony of this verse of the Qur'an, The Bab proclaimed His Mission in 1260 years after the revelation of Prophet Muhammad as the Awaited Mahdi of the House of the Prophet and changed the ordinance of the Obligatory Prayer.

The year 1260, or 1000 years from the revelation of Prophet Muhammad (i.e. 1844 AD) is a theme which repeatedly appears in the Qur'an and the Hadith and the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments) in regards to the appearance of Mahdi (per Sunni/Shi'ah expectation), or Qa'im (per Shi'ah expectation) or Return of John the Baptist or Return of Elijah (per Christian and Jewish expectations). I am not going to discuss this any more here for the sake of brevity.

Let us examine this issue further. Another Hadith from Prophet Muhammad which is accepted by both Shi'ahs and Sunnis is mentioned by Ibn-i Babuyih known as Sheikh Sadoogh in Kamal-ud-Din. This Hadith is from Said-ibn-i Jabir who reports it from Ibn-i Abbas, who heard it from Prophet Muhammad Who said:

Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad is recorded to have said:

There are several other Ahadith which offer similar concept about the status of the Imams, however, I will not mention here for the sake of brevity. The point of interest in these Ahadith is the confirmation of the truth of Imamat after passing of Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad identifies the 12 Imams, the last of Whom is Mahdi with such titles as `God's proof among mankind', and the `towers of heaven', when heaven is no less that Muhammad the Apostle of God.

So, humanity had, after the passing of Prophet Muhammad a source of guidance (i.e. Imamat) until the 11th Imam (Imam Hasan-i Asgari) passed away on the year 260 A.H. Therefore, the timeline for the term, or "ajal" of the ummah of Islam must be one day (i.e. 1000 years) from the death of Imam Hasan-i Asgari, who was the last source of divine guidance among the ummah of Islam, or 1260 A.H. which, according to the directive of the Qur'an is the date of the appearance of Mahdi. Let us examine the Hadith and see what they say in this regards:

According to a Shi'ah Tradition; Mufaddal asked Imam Sa'diq saying: `What of the signs of His manifestation, [i.e. Mahdi's] O my master?' He replied: 'In the year sixty [which is a metaphorical presentation of 1260 A.H.], His Cause [i.e. religion] shall be made manifest, and His name shall be proclaimed.'.

Furthermore;

Now that another perspective has been offered about the limitation of Islam, let us examine the concept of finality of Shriat/Qur'an.

In the Holy Qur'an we find:

Which means: Every day has its own circumstances and requirements.

Also, the Qur'an teaches:

Which means:

Therefore, when the ajal, or the term of an `ummah' (nation or community) is reached, God will reveal a new Book, and a new code of laws (i.e. Shariah) , to best suit the circumstance of that age. So, when the term of Islam is reached and the Mahdi appears, He must of necessity reveal a new Book. Perhaps the following Ahadith from the Imams of the Faith, who are referred to as Proofs of God among mankind according to Prophet Muhammad, capture the gist of this concept.

Prophet Muhammad, is recorded to have said:

Moreover, He is recorded to have said in another Hadith:

Therefore, the Day of Resurrection is the `term', `ajal', or the `end' of Islam as an `ummah' (i.e. a nation). Imam Muhammad Sadiq clarifies the meaning of the Day of resurrection in a Hadith as follows:

Furthermore, in the Arba'in which is a compilation of Shi'ah Tradition it is recorded:

Imam Sadiq is also recorded to have said:

There are several other Hadith which I will not mention here for the sake of brevity.

Islam is by no means the last Shariah. On the contrary, both the Qur'an and the Hadith suggest otherwise:

Islam is a transitory religion, and its Shariah is also transitory. Perhaps the following Hadith clarifies this issue further. Ibn-i Majah recounts from Ali ibn-Abu Talib:

I hope that what I have mentioned offers you a reasonable criteria for the consideration of another religion after Islam.

Implications of the term `Day of Resurrection'

Prophet Muhammad said:

Which translates to:

Moreover, He is recorded to have said in another occasion:

Which translates to:

Let us discuss the implications of the meaning of the Day of Resurrection in some detail:

The meaning usually given to the `Day of Resurrection' by the people of the Book (Jews, Christians and Muslims) is a day in which all the dead shall literally rise and leave their sepulchers, become alive in order to be judged by God. Each religion appears to paint somewhat a different picture about the details of this event, and how it will come about. Nevertheless, they all agree that physically dead shall become alive on that day.

I will not attempt to recount the beliefs of various people about the Day of Resurrection, however, I would like to say that such belief is based on a very literalistic approach to Scripture, which is against the teachings of the Messengers of God, and the Imams of religion, beside being an absurd thought among mindful believers. Allow me to discuss alternative ways of understanding the meaning of the `Day of Resurrection'. The Bab addresses the meaning of the `Day of Resurrection' in the Persian Bayan as follows:

And Bahá'u'lláh elaborates further on this explanation as follows:

The Bab repeats the same theme again in the Book of Bayan:

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