M Umar Riaz Abbasi
THE seal of “Prophethood” is a title to indicate that Prophethood came to an end with the Last Prophet (PBUH) and that no other prophet is to follow. In Arabic, this phrase means “to complete a task, to put a seal at the end of something and to seal a writing or document”. The term “prophets,” within this phrase, denotes “the conveyance by means of revelation of divine wills and messages to some superior and skilled individuals so that these individuals may communicate these messages to their societies”. In this context, the “Seal of Prophets” signifies that the intermediation between Allah and His worshippers had come to an end.
“The seal of Prophets” in the Qur’an; There is a single verse in the Quran that clearly states that prophethood ended with Prophet Muhammad (Al-Ahzab, 33/40). On the other hand, the number of verses indirectly pointing to the issue of the seal of prophets ranges from forty to one hundred according to differences in the interpretation. While commenting on these related verses, all of the interpreters emphasize that Prophet Muhammad had conveyed the last revelation, and that it was impossible for another revelation to be conveyed after him.
“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets” (Al-Ahzab, 33/40). The mentioned phrase “seal of prophets” hereby clearly addresses the fact that Prophet Muhammad was the last link in the chain. The term “Khatim (Seal)” as found in the original Arabic of the above verse is read in two ways by the scholars of Quranic recitation due to stress differences. In both of the reading forms, it is underlined that “Muhammad is the last prophet who ended and crowned the establishment of prophethood”, which means he possessed a “divine seal” status also approving and confirming all of the previous prophets.
Interpreters also note another point being expressed in this verse. As it is known, the succession of prophets among the Jews, though there are some exceptions, passed down from father to son and continued with lineage. The verse in question constitutes a mental preparation for the reality of the “seal of prophethood.” First, the information as to the Prophet having no son to become his prophetic heir is emphasized with the phrase: “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you.” This prevented people from going after an expectation that contains the idea of prophetic responsibility being passed down from father to son, and the “seal of prophethood” phrase eventually expressed that he was the “last prophet”. As it is pointed out above, besides this particular verse many other verses indirectly refer to the sealing of the prophetic line. As a matter of fact, the Quran with the verse: “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you Islam as a religion” (Quran 5:3) indicates that society in relation to religion reached the zenith of improvement during Muhammad’s time as prophet, that no other prophet is expected to arrive after him and that only the wisdom of Muhammad needed to be followed.
The information as to the Quran being under divine protection (Quran 15:9) is assessed by Muslim scholars as another divine phrase indicative of the ending of prophetic heritage with Prophet Muhammad. These scholars emphasized that the Arabic term “Nabi” (Prophet) was specifically used to reveal the fact that Muhammad was the last prophet. Within the verse (Quran 33:40) containing the phrase “Khatamu’n Nabiyyin” (Seal of the Prophets), it specifies that no other messenger was to be sent, which leads us to naturally conclude that no other prophet shall be sent either. In accordance with this, the establishment of a prophet remains one that inherently involves holy assignment. As the doors of prophetic selection were sealed, it logically and naturally indicated the end of the holy assignment. Seal of Prophethood in Hadith: The sealing of the Prophet’s issue was also addressed by the Prophet himself in that he personally spoke of his being the last link in the chain of the prophets. Some of the hadith sources under the “Seal of Prophethood” topic gather the traditions related to this characteristic of the Prophet. Among these in a figurative comparison style and concise fashion is the distinctive account depicting his rank within the line of the prophets with and explaining the removal of need for a prophet after him:
The situation of mine and the situation of the other prophets sent before me might be likened to a person who after the completion, furnishing and decoration of his house leaves a blank for a brick in one corner of his house. When the visitors go around the completed house, their eyes catch the missing part and they can’t help saying: ‘It is very nice indeed, yet only if had the missing part not been left incomplete!’ Here I am like that cornerstone, the place of which was left unoccupied. Thus, I am the last of the prophets. Some accounts indicate the closure of the prophetic line by utterance of the Prophet’s names such as “Aqib” and “Hashir”. Among the Traditions recorded by Jabir ibn Abdullah Ansari, he records the Prophet as saying, “Among the religions, Islam is like a house which has been built and completed and made beautiful and only one mud brick remains; whoever enters through there or looks through that, says, ‘How beautiful,’ but this has an empty place. I am that last mud brick and all prophets end with me.” (Tafsir Majma’ al-Bayan)
—The writer is well-known author and lecturer at NUML, Islamabad.