Finality of Prophethood


بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا

Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything.” 33:40

The verse 33:40 gives us three solid proofs of finality of Prophethood and shows from three different dimensions, the cessation of prophets after Muhammad (p.b.u.h)

(1) End of prophethood by virtue of lineage

The Quran shows that in some instances Prophecy continued in the family. A prophet’s son was also a prophet and prophecy continued among male descendants. E.g. Ibraheem (p.b.u.h) was a Prophet, his sons Ismail (p.b.u.h), Ishaq (p.b.u.h) and Yaqoob (p.b.u.h) were also Prophets. Yusuf (p.b.u.h) was also a Prophet like his father Yaqub (p.b.u.h) and grandfather Ibraheem (p.b.u.h). Zakaria (p.b.u.h) was a Prophet and his son Yahya (p.b.u.h) was also a prophet of Allah. Thus we can see the trend in the Quran for prophet hood continuing among male descendants of a prophet. However after the advent of Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) this was not to be the case. The phrase:

مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ

“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men..”

Makes it crystal clear that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) did not have any male offspring, thus continuation of the prophetic office by virtue of lineage has ended. No new prophet as a male descendant of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) can arise after him as he “is not the father of any one of your men..”.

Here it is also important to clarify an important point. Some cults in their Taweel (interpretation) of the verse 33:40 claim that since Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was not an “Abba” i.e. father or forefather therefore he did not exist historically as a person but keeps reincarnating in the person of various individuals such as their cult’s founder. This Taweel of theirs is flawed on many counts. Firstly the expression does not stop at “Muhammad is not an Abba” but continues to “of any of your men..”. Secondly the verse is not a negation of the historical existence of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) but simply a negation of his male lineage. It should be understood that if “A” is not the father or forefather of any man then this does not mean “A” did not exist as a physical human being at a certain point in time. All it means is that “A” does not have sons.

As Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is not the father of any man, therefore the verse makes it clear that the continuation of prophets from father to son has ended.

(2) End of Prophethood by virtue of limited period of commission of a Prophet

The Quran shows that previous prophets were sent for specific time periods, and to specific communities. After one prophet was gone another was sent after him. However in the case of Muhammad (p.b.u.h), he is not sent for a specific era or community only. His era is from the day of his advent to the end of times and he is the Messenger of God to all mankind till the day of judgement. This is apparent in the following expression:

وَلَٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ

“..and but he is the Messenger of God..”

This expression will be read in the present tense till the day of judgement, thus Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is the Messenger of God till end of times. Logically, if he “is” and not “was” the Messenger, then no other Messenger or Prophet replaces him or comes after him.

Thus no new prophet or Messenger will arise by virtue of end of period of a Prophet’s era. “..He is the Messenger of God..” shows Muhammad’s era is from the day of his advent till the end of times.

(3) End of Prophethood through the seal of prophets

وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ 

and the seal of the prophets..”

Through Muhammad (p.b.u.h) prophethood has been sealed forever as the seal cannot be broken. The phrase ” Seal of the Prophets ” makes it clear that no new Prophet will come after Muhammad (p.b.u.h). He is the seal of finality of Prophets. “Khaatam” is seal of closure and finality in Quran, and not a stamp of approval for any existing or future Prophet as is wrongly claimed by some cults. The Quran itself explains what is the meaning of “Khatam” or seal.

خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِمْ ۖ وَعَلَىٰ أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ

God has set a seal (Arabic: Khatama) on their hearts and on their hearing, and on their eyes is a covering, and there awaits them a mighty chastisement.” 2:7

..a seal on their hearts and on their hearing..” is not a stamp of approval or attestation, but a seal of closure, i.e. one which terminates or ends the (spiritual) function of one’s heart and hearing. Another verse makes the meaning clearer:

الْيَوْمَ نَخْتِمُ عَلَىٰ أَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَتُكَلِّمُنَا أَيْدِيهِمْ وَتَشْهَدُ أَرْجُلُهُم بِمَا كَانُوا يَكْسِبُونَ

“That Day, We will seal (Arabic: NAKHTIMU) over their mouths, and their hands will speak to Us, and their feet will testify about what they used to earn.” 36:65

“.. We will seal over their mouths..” shows that when God will “seal” the mouths of disbelievers their hands will speak, thus the meaning of “Khatam” is made clearer. When the mouth has a seal then it is stopped from its function of speaking and the hands take over this function. Thus it is abundantly clear that when an object has a seal then the function of the seal is to end the object. “..We will seal over their mouths..” (2:7) and “God has set a seal on their hearts and on their hearing..” (36:65) explain the function of “..seal of the prophets..” (33:40) to end, to stop, to terminate, to cease, the coming of further prophets. The text of the Qur’an in no way warrants “Khatam” to be “a stamp of approval” for any existing or future prophets.

Muhammad (p.b.u.h) is thus the seal of finality of all prophets who were before him and as the seal cannot be broken, no new Prophet is to arise after him.

End Notes

1. Translations are from “The Koran Interpreted: A Translation by A. J. Arberry, Oxford”

2. p.b.u.h is an abbreviation of “peace be upon him”, a mark of respect by Muslims for all Islamic prophets whenever their names are mentioned.

Author: Kashif Shahzada

Muslim, Author, Speaker, Consultant. Lives in Karachi, Pakistan.