Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Seal of the Prophets: examining the import of the Muhammadan light

"Muhammad is not the father of any of your males, however, he is the messenger of Allah, and the seal of the Prophets. And Allah is knowledgeable of all things." [Qur'an 33:40]

To my knowledge, there is no other text or message in any faith like that of the above mentioned ayah. While other faiths undoubtedly assign exclusive claims to salvation and use texts to support that belief [ft.#1], the Qur'an is the only scripture that uses the expression Khatm an Nabiyyeen, seal of the Prophets.

Muhammad is not the father of any of your males

This line is a bit deeper than expressing the Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم only had daughters. It shows us that his message will never die out, nor is it bound by a specific group, sect or personality. Almighty Allah reminds the Prophet "Surely We [Allah] have given you [O Muhammad] 'Al-Kauthar'. So, pray to your Lord and sacrifice. Surely, the one who is hateful to you [O Muhammad] will have no legacy" [Qur'an 108:1-3].
He is a prophet or a messenger for the entire world, a sufficient guide, a mercy to all nations, so his reach is far and wide. In today's world, we see that, even though the Prophet, upon whom be peace, was an Arab, his followers are mostly Non Arab, Arabs themselves are a minority in the Muslim world.

So, if he is not a father of any males, if he is not bound by ethnic or time constraints, who is he? what is he?  "However, he is the messenger of Allah, the seal of the prophets".

He delivers the message and is himself the embodiment of that message. 

Umm al Mu'mineen 'A'ishaa Radee Allahu 'anhaa, when asked about the Prophet's character, replied "His character was the Qur'an" [Muslim]

""It is he who has sent among the Ummiyyeen [ The Arabs]  a messenger [ Muhammad] , relating to them his [Allah's ] signs, purifying them, teaching them the scripture and wisdom. And before that, they had been in a clear state of loss. And to others who have not yet joined them [this messenger and this Qur'an has come to likewise benefit them] .And he is the exalted, the wise. This is Allah's bounty, he gives to whom he wills. And Allah is the possessor of bounty, the magnificent." [Qur'an 62:2-4]

What does that message consist of?

[1] Ultimate unity of humanity  [Q 30:22, 49:13] [ft.3]

[2] Freedom of religion or conscious actually granted by God [Q 2:256,  18:29]

[3] Collective decision making [as opposed to dictatorship and oppression] a necessary element in running a society. [  Q 42:38-39]

[4] A method of solving marital problems [  Q 4:35]

[5] A just economic system, which includes the total abolition of Usury [  Q 2:275-281, 3:130, among other verses]

Islam finds its completion in the coming of the Prophet Muhammad - upon whom be peace and blessings-and in the scripture sent forth to him, the Glorious Qur'an. There is no need for a Rasool or a Nabi after him [Ft.4]. This format of completion was the Divine will and in accord with the Divine wisdom, which is precisely why the verse  ends "And Allah is knowledgeable of all things." The wisdom of Allah is often hard to see, especially right away, and especially when a spiritual diet of deep prayer and contemplation has been absent [ft.5]. But when we look at the message he came with- in detail and with open eyes- we find answers to all our issues, even if we don't like the answers. That message presents a vision of what God's earth should look like, it gives us general principles that can work anywhere, a source of blessing that benefits all humanity. May we benefit from that blessing, as truly none but the foolish reject blessings!


[1] An example of an exclusive claim to salvation is the Biblical statement " None  come to the father, except through me [Jesus].." [ John 14:6]

[2]  Arabs constitute only 20% of Muslims worldwide. See

[3] These Quranic verses show us that God intentionally made different skin colors, languages and cultures, so that humans can benefit from each other. 

[4] Muhammad is given the title of Rasulullaah [messenger of Allah] and Khatm an Nabiyyeen [seal of the Prophets]. The Risaalah [message] given to him is mainly preserved within the Qur'an itself, as this article cited. There is no need for any more. With that said, there has been attempts to explain these plain Quranic statements in a different way, in order to open the door for more claims, but these efforts have been quite unsuccessful. Elijah Muhammad [1897-1975] saw himself as "the messenger of Allah" to Black America [and even called one of his main books The message to the Blackman in America], teaching a doctrine of racial separation and a number of odd assertions, seemingly a mixture of ideas gleamed from the Bible, Islam, and freemasonry. Yet, upon the death of Elijah Muhammad, his son W.Deen Mohammed [known as Imam Warith Deen Mohammed] attained the leadership of his father's Nation of Islam and through a deliberate process led the organization to Orthodox Islam. The latter argued that this was the plan all along, even from the time of his father's teacher W.D. Fard [Fard Muhammad]- to have this process that would allow for the eventual acceptance by African Americans of Islam. So, while the followers of Imam W.D. Mohammed [who passed away in 2008] still have respect for his father, he is not seen as Allah's messenger.

 In recent years, in the Malay countryside, a man named Abdul Kahar Ahmad proclaimed himself a Prophet for the Malaysians [Rasul Melayu]. This only accomplished him being on the run for a number of years, eventually, he announced he was "retiring" from the job! 

Rashad Khalifa [ 1935-1990] claimed to be a messenger, he preferred to use the Farsi term [even though he was an Egyptian] Rasool-e- Khuda. He argued that he discovered a mathematical code within the Qur'an, his teachings developed to an eventual rejection of the Prophet's Sunnah in its entirety, that there was two "false insertions" in the Quranic text, among other things. Despite the great attention he received, and- after his death- the revival of grandiose claims by his followers on the internet, they don't have even a single physical place wherein they meet. 

Ghulam Ahmad  [1835-1908] is a most interesting figure. A prolific writer and poet in many languages, he emerged in India as a figure eventually claiming to be the second coming of Jesus and Mahdi in one person, eventually claiming a prophethood, albeit an inferior one [Zill-e- Nabi, in the shadow of Muhammad], still a follower of Muhammad.  His followers have interpreted "seal of the Prophets" to mean not the last, but the seal of approval for the prophet to come, meaning himself [Ghulam Ahmad]. [ see the Ahmadi translation The Holy Qur'an, 2003, edited by Malik Ghulam Farid, Islam international publications Ltd, London, page 911]. These claims have separated the Ahmadis from the wider Muslim world, and in Pakistan there is limited social relations between Ahmadis and Non Ahmadis. 

There is reason to believe that Ahmad was using metaphorical, sufi language that has been misunderstood, this is the argument used by some of Ahmad's early disciples such as Maulana Muhammad Ali, himself a prolific writer and translator of the Qur'an in English and Urdu. As a result, the Ahmadiyya sect divided into two camps, the latter one being founded by Maulana Muhammad Ali [the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha-at-e-Islami Lahore or Lahoris for short], still believing that Muhammad was indeed the final Prophet, and the Ahmadiyya movement in Islam, known  widely as the Qadianis, whose headquarters are now in London.  So it can be seen that these claims have done nothing but create confusion and fitnah whereever they emerge.

[5] Deep contemplation is an item needed to make correct decisions, especially in the spiritual realm. There are many Quranic verses and sayings of the Prophet that highlight this, one hadeeth has it that the Prophet said "Contemplating for a single hour is more useful than a year's worth of ritual worship" [Arabic: Tafakkuru Saa'atan Khayrun min 'Ibaadati Sanah.] [  Ibn 'Abbas, Bayhaqi].

A Christian theologian observes, about the Prophet " Muhammad is an example of a man who really made history when the time was ripe. In Arnold Toynbee's terminology, a 'challenge' was given; it was matched in the person of Muhammad by the 'response'" [ Hans Kung, Islam, past present and future, page 124, 2007 Oneworld publications, London.]