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Seal of the Prophets (Arabic: خاتم اﻟﻨﺒﻴﻴﻦKhātim an-Nabiyīn) is a title given to Muhammad by a verse in the Qur'an. [Qur'an 33:40]Muslims traditionally interpret this verse as meaning that Muhammad was the last prophet.


Sunnis claims to quote the Hadith of Umar and prophecy as proof of Muhammad being the last prophet, while both Shī‘ī and Sunni Muslims quote the Hadith of position.

Classical Lexicons and Dictionaries

All classical lexicons say that the word خاتم, which roughly translates to Seal, is a synonym for آخر, which unambiguously means Last. Classical lexicons presenting this are Lisān al-‘Arab, Tāj al-‘Arūs, Al-Mufridāt li-Gharīb al-Qur’ān, Aqrab al-Mawārid, Lane’s English-Arabic Lexicon, Al-Muĥīt, Muĥīt Al-Muĥīt, Al-Ghanī, Al-Wasīt and Al-Qāmūs Al-Muĥīt.[1]

Distinction between "messenger" and "prophet"

Most Islamic commentators agree that "messenger" (rasūl) refers to those who bring a divine revelation which includes a new doctrinal system, while a "prophet" (nabī) is one who explains ethical teachings on the basis of an existing religion. Every messenger is a prophet, but not every prophet is a messenger.[2]

Academic view

According to A.C. Welch, Muslim interpretation of khatim an-nabiyyin as the "last and greatest of the prophets" is most likely based on a later interpretation.[3] Carl Ernst considers this phrase to mean that Muhammad's “imprint on history is as final as a wax seal on a letter”. Wilferd Madelung states that the meaning of this term is not certain.[4]

Views of various Islamic sects

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Classic Interpretations

A majority of Salafi and Sunni scholars have adhered to the view that khatam means last.[5] Ibn Kathir in his commentary states.[6]

Hence this verse is a clear proof of the fact that no prophet will come after Muhammad and when it is said that no prophet will come after him it is a foregone conclusion that no messenger will succeed him either.

The twelfth century Islamic philosopher, Imam Raghib has, however, argued in favour of the possibility of non-law bearing prophethood,[7] he states:

“ Prophethood is of two kinds, general and special. The special prophethood, viz: the law-bearing prophethood is now unattainable; but the general prophethood continues to be attainable.” (Bahr al Muheet, vol. 3, p. 28)

Muhammad Qasim Nanotvi, the founder of Deoband seminary seems to conform to the Sufi idea of Seal i.e. honour and not last.[8] He writes,

According to the layman, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings on him, being Khatam is supposed to have appeared after all the other prophets. But men of understanding and the wise know it very well that being the first or the last, chronologically, does not carry any weight. How could, therefore, the words of the Holy Qur'an “'But he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of Prophets” (33.40) mean to glorify him? But I know very well that none from among the Muslims would be prepared to agree with the common men.

Maulana Qasim Nanotwi further writes,

“In short, if the meaning of the word Finality is accepted as explained, then his Finality of Prophethood will not be exclusively attached to the past Prophet. But even if for instance another Prophet appeared during the era of the Prophet then too, him being the Final Prophet remains intact as normal.”[9]

He goes even further and says,

“If for instance even after the era of the Prophet any Prophet is born, then too it will not make any difference to the Finality of Prophethood of the Prophet.”[10]

Despite the more non-conformist stance taken by Nanutuwi, most Deoband scholars have take a more simplitic view of this concept.

The Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam has, however, criticised the Deoband school of denying the finality of prophethood on the basis of the writings of their leader.[11]

Ahmadiyya view

In recent history, the interpretation of the term “seal of the prophets” has been a cause of much contention between traditional Islam and the Ahmadiyya movement. The differences arose due to differences in the definition and usage of the terms “seal” and “prophet”.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community while accepting Muhammad as the 'seal of Prophets' and the last prophet to have brought a complete and comprehensive universal law for humanity, believe that prophethood subordinate to Muhammad is still open. Muhammad is believed to have brought prophethood to perfection and was the last law-bearing prophet, the apex of man's spiritual evolution. New prophets can come but they must be subordinate to Muhammad and cannot exceed him in excellence nor alter his teaching or bring any new law or religion.[12] The Ahmadiyya community believes Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the promised Messiah and Mahdi, who claimed a certain kind of prophethood but never claimed to have brought a new divine law or change the law of Muhammad, but to have been Divinely appointed to revive and universally establish the law/religion of Muhammad.[12] The Ahmadiyya community draws upon various opinions of Islamic scholars throughout the history of Islam to show the possibility of non-law bearing prophethood within Islam.

Many orthodox Muslims argue that the Ahmadi position is essentially a misrepresentation of otherwise simple expressions which prove that the Prophet Muhammad was the final prophet.[13] However these orthodox also fail to explain why some learned and respected scholars like Ibn Arabi, Imam Raghib and the deobandi Maulana Qasim Nanutwi agree with the Ahmadiyya point of view and take the word Khatam to mean superior instead of last. There seems to be confusion among the orthodox regarding the real meaning of word khatm. But still it should be noted that there are many other well known Islamic scholars who take the meaning of the word khatam as last. Besides a certain Arabic word can have many different meanings. An example is the word 'Alaq' in surah Alaq of the Qur'an. The word Alaq has different meanings like "that which clings","clot of blood" and so on.

Bahá'í view

The Bahá'í Faith regards Muhammad as the seal of the prophets, but does not interpret this term as meaning that no further messengers from God are possible. In particular, Bahá'ís regard the end-times prophecies of Islam (and other faiths) as being symbolic, and see the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh as symbolically fulfilling these prophetic expectations. The latter of these is the founder of the Bahá'í religion, which considers Islamic law to have been superseded by its own. Muhammad is seen as ending the Adamic cycle, also known as the Prophetic cycle, which is stated to have begun approximately 6,000 years ago,[14][15] and the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh as starting the Bahá'í cycle, or Cycle of Fulfillment, which will last at least five hundred thousand years with numerous Manifestations of God appearing throughout that time.[16][17][18] Bahá'u'lláh gave the Title “King of the Messengers” (sultán al-rusul) to the Báb, and the “Sender of the Messengers” (mursil al-rusul) to himself. In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, he uses the Islamic concept of the oneness of the prophets to show that the term “seal of the prophets” does not apply to Muhammad only, but to all the prophets. He also makes a direct link between Qur'an 33:40, about the seal of the prophets, and 33:44, about the promise of the "attainment of the divine Presence" on the day of resurrection, which he interprets as the meeting with the Manifestation of God. The day of resurrection is interpreted as the day of the advent of the Qa'im[19][20] These interpretive and legal differences have caused the Bahá'ís to be seen as heretics and apostates by many Muslims.

Sufi Views

The end-times prophecies of Islam point to a mahdi and those of Christianity to a messiah. Muslims also believe that Jesus is the Christ and the Messiah (a spiritual leader, prophet, and messenger who was the intended redeemer of the Hebrews who was created from the spoken word of God, but not God or His son, nor is he divine despite his virgin birth) and will return to lead them and kill the anti-Christ (Dajjal) during the Last Days. That Muhammad calls himself the Seal of the prophets deals with the fact that any true prophet who arose would know of Muhammad's mission and bring out his true status and identity. The case of Uwais al-Qarni who was given Muhammed's mantle after his death in 632 was because this was given to him as his successor. It is because Elijah is the Seal of the prophets that Muhammad called himself the “last prophet” and other things to illustrate that he wore the Mantle of Prophecy: he was carrying out God's will as one having been “instructed” by Gabriel who also instructed Zacharias and Mary. Distinct from these, Muhammad's mission dealt with the fact that the Qur'an is at the same time the Curse of God upon Israel, and the Blessing of God upon Ishmael as Bani-Israel (or the “New Israel”). The arrival of the Messiah at the end can be better understood if one realizes that the Messiah will have his messenger who is “much more than a prophet”, as Jesus Christ called him. This was John the Baptist's status as the 'friend of the Bridegroom'. He was the Messenger of Jehovah of hosts, as is written about in Malachi 2:7: “For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts.” In the Sufic philosophy it is as Muhammad once said in comparing external and internal struggle; to wit, “The ink of the Learned is holier than the blood of the martyr”.

Most commonly held view about the phrase Seal of Prophets is that “seal” means finality and end.[21][22]

A small minority of scholars have translated and interpreted the word Seal in terms of honour and superiority. The vast majority of scholars from all sects of Islam accept that the only correct interpretation of the word 'khatam' is its literal meaning of 'final, last, seal', however those who disagree with this interpretation have not traditionally been considered outside the pale of Islam instead most of them are highly revered and are considered scholars of Islam.

Mawlana Rumi in his famous Mathnawi writes,[23]

He has been raised to the station of Khatam by the grace of God. There can never be his like before him or after. When a master excels all others in his art, don’t you use the word ‘khatam’ to convey the idea that he has excelled all others in his domain?


“Make such plans to perform righteousness in the way of God that you attain prophethood within the Ummat (religious community)”

(Mathnavi Maulana Room, Daftar I, pg. 53)

Ibn Arabi also followed the same line of reasoning in his futoohat.[24] He has even argued that possibility of a subordinate prophet is open according to the verse 33:40. He has stated:

“That prophethood which ended with the advent of the Prophet, is only law-bearing prophethood and not the status of prophethood. Thus now there will be no law that cancels the law of the Prophet or that adds to its commandments.”

(Fatoohaat al-Makkiyyah, Vol. 2, p. 3)


“From the study and contemplation of the Darud we have arrived at the definite conclusion that there shall, from among the Muslims, certainly be persons whose status, in the matter of prophethood, shall advance to the level of prophets, if Allah pleases. But they shall not be given any book of law.”

Fatuhati Makiyyah: Vol 1. pg 545

Hazrat Imam Abu Ja'far Sadiq, the sixth Shia Imam, while discussing the Quranic verse: “For verily We granted the Book to the children of Abraham. …”, said that:

“God vouchsafed to the children of Abraham, Messengers, Prophets and Imams. But what is ironical is that people believe in what God blessed the children of Abraham with and yet they deny this blessing for the progeny of Muhammad.”

Al-Saafi Sharah Asool Al-Kaafi, Part 3, Pg. 119

Hazrat Shah Wali Ullah Muhaddith of Dehli subscribed to the opinion:

“The meaning of the Holy Prophet being the Khataman Nabiyeen is that there shall not now appear a person whom God may appoint with a new Law for mankind, that is to say, there shall be no prophet who shall come with a new Law.”

(Tafheemati Ilahiyyah pg. 53)


“There cannot be an independent prophet after the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who is not his follower and his adherent.”

(Al Khairul Katheer: pg 111)

Hazrat Maulana Faranghi Mahal, an eminent scholar of the Ahle Sunnat also discussed the significance of the expression Khatamae Nubuwwat and on behalf of the Sunni Scholars, he declared:

“The divines of the Sunni sects believe in and expound the fact that in the course of the Ministry of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, there cannot appear a law bearing prophet and his prophethood extends to the end of days. A prophet who appears during his ministry shall necessarily be the follower of the Law of Muhammad.”'

(Majmu'ah Fatawa: Vol. 1, pg 144)

See also

External links


  1. [1] With Love to the Ahmadis of the World, page 58
  2. Muhammad Asad, The Message of The Qur'an, 22:52, note 65
  3. Encyclopedia of Islam, Muhammad
  4. Madelung (2004), p.17
  5. The Consensus of all the Ulema of the Ummah
  6. Tafsir Ibne Kathir, Vol. 3, pp. 493-494
  7. On Finality of Prophethood – Opinions of Islamic Scholars
  8. Tahzeer-ul-Naas by Qasim Nanutwi, pg 3
  9. Tahzeer-ul-Naas by Qasim Nanutwi, pg 14
  10. Tahzeer-ul-Naas by Qasim Nanutwi, pg 34
  11. White and Black, Facts of Deobandi-ism. A rejoinder to a series of booklets entitled “Johannesburg to Brailley” by Allamah Kaukab Noorani Okarvi, Translated by S.G. Khawajah. Published by Maulana Okarvi Academy Al A'lami, First edition 1991 – South Africa
  12. 12.0 12.1 The Question of Finality of Prophethood, The Promised Mehdi and Messiha, by Dr. Aziz Ahmad Chaudhry, Islam International Publications Limited
  13. With Love to the Ahmadis of the World.
  14. Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 13, 1986. Published in Effendi, Shoghi; The Universal House of Justice (1983). Hornby, Helen (Ed.). ed. Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. pp. 500. ISBN 81-85091-46-3. 
  15. Taherzadeh, Adib (1977). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 2: Adrianople 1863-68. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. pp. 352. ISBN 0-85398-071-3. 
  16. Seena Fazel and Khazeh Fananapazir (1993). "A Bahá'í Approach to the Claim of Finality in Islam". Journal of Bahá'í Studies 5 (3): 17–40. 
  17. Islam and the Bahá'í Faith: Seal of the Prophets
  18. Kamran Hakim: A Personal Interpretation of the Term 'Seal of the Prophets'
  19. Christopher Buck, “Beyond the ‘Seal of the Prophets’: Baha’ullah’s Book of Certitude (Ketab-e Iqan).” Religious Texts in Iranian Languages. Edited by Clause Pedersen & Fereydun Vahman. København (Copenhagen): Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 2007. Pp. 369–378.
  20. Buck, Christopher (1995). Symbol & Secret: Qur'án Commentary in Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Iqán, p. 191-198. Los Angeles, USA: Kalimát Press. ISBN 0933770804.,M1. 
  21. The Finality of Prophethood
  22. The Finality of Prophethood
  23. Mathnawi, Vol. VI, p.8, 1917 ed.
  24. Futuhat-e-Makkiyyah vol. 2, p. 3

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