The meaning of ‘خاتم النبین’ in the light of Tafseer

Belief in the finality of Prophethood (i.e. that Prophet Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is the last of the Prophets and that no prophet will be sent after him) is a foundational belief of Islam. This is such a crucial belief that the denial of the finality of Prophethood is in fact the denial of the Quran. The denial of the finality of Prophethood is the denial of the consensus of the Companions. The denial of the finality of Prophethood is the denial of the consensus of the scholars, the jurists, and the pious predecessors of the entire Muslim Ummah. Not believing in the finality of Prophethood is tantamount to declaring every single Muslim's belief, from the blessed time of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم to the present day, as a lie.

Allah Almighty says:

مَا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ اَبَاۤ اَحَدٍ مِّنْ رِّجَالِكُمْ وَ لٰكِنْ رَّسُوْلَ اللّٰهِ وَ خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَؕ-وَ كَانَ اللّٰهُ بِكُلِّ شَیْءٍ عَلِیْمًا۠(۴۰)

(The Holy Prophet) Muhammad is not the father of any man amongst you. Yes, he is the Messenger of Allah and the Last of all the Prophets. And Allah knows everything.

[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 22, Surah Al-Ahzaab, Verse 40)

The deniers of the finality of Prophethood make up all kinds of baseless, false and deceptive interpretations in the meaning of the words ‘ خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ contained in this blessed verse, contradicting the Quran, the Hadees, and the edicts and the consensus of the Companions, the scholars of Tafseer, the scholars of Hadees, the researchers, the theologians, and the entire Muslim Ummah.

In the light of the books of Tafseer and the sayings of the scholars of Tafseer, the definitive meaning of ‘ خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ ’ is ‘the Last of the Prophets’. In this regard, the commentator of the Quran, Muhammad Bin Jareer Bin Yazeed Bin Kaseer Bin Ghalib Al-Aamili, Abu Ja’far At-Tabari (died 310 AH), Sayyiduna Abul Hassan Ali Bin Muhammad Al-Baghdadi Al-Mawardi (died: 450 AH), Abul Hassan Ali Bin Ahmad Bin Muhammad Bin Ali Al-Wahidi Al-Nisaburi Al-Shaafi’i (died: 468 AH), Abul Muzaffar Mansur Bin Muhammad Al-Marwazi As-Sam’ani Ash-Shaafi‘i (died: 489 AH), Muhy-us-Sunnah, Abu Muhammad Husayn Bin Mas’ood Al-Baghawi (died: 510AH), Abu Muhammad Abd-ul-Haq Bin Ghalib Andalusi Muhaaribi (died: 542 AH), Sultan-ul-‘Ulama` Abu Muhammad Izz-ud-Deen Abdul Aziz Bin Abd-ul-Salam As-Sulami Ad-Dimashqi (died: 660 AH), Nasir-ud-Deen Abu Sa’eed Abdullah Bin Umar Sheerazi Al-Baydawi (died: 685 AH), Abul Barakaat Abdullah Bin Ahmad Bin Mahmood Hafiz-ul-Deen Al-Nasafi (died: 710 AH), Abul Qasim Muhammad Bin Ahmad Bin Muhammad Al-Kalbi Al-Gharnati (died: 741 AH), Abu Abdullah Muhammad Bin Muhammad Bin 'Arafah Al-Warghami Al-Maliki (died: 803 AH), Jalal-ud-Deen Muhammad Bin Ahmad Mahalli (died: 864 AH) and Abu-ul-Su’ood Al-‘Imadi Muhammad Bin Muhammad Bin Mustafa (died: 982 AH) and many other commentators have emphasised and explicitly declared in the commentary of this verse that the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is the last prophet.

Below are some excerpts from some of the commentaries:

* Imam of the Ahl-us-Sunnah, Abu Mansoor Al-Maaturidi (died: 333 AH) writes in his commentary ‘Ta’wilaat Ahl-us-Sunnah’: ‘Whoever claims to be a prophet after the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم should not be asked for any evidence or argument. Rather, he will be rejected because the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم has said: لاَ نَبِیَّ بَعْدِی i.e. there is no prophet after me. (Ta’wilaat Ahl-us-Sunnah, vol. 8, p. 396, Taht-Al-Ayah 40)

* The writer of Zad-ul-Maseer Abul-Faraj Abd-ur-Rahman Bin Ali Al-Jawzi (died: 597 AH) writes: ‘The meaning of خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ is آخِرُالنّبیین i.e. ‘the Last of the Prophets’. Sayyiduna Ibn Abbas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُما said: What is meant by this is that if Allah Almighty had not ended the chain of Prophethood through Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, then the son of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم would have remained alive and became a prophet after him. (Zad-ul-Maseer, vol. 6, p. 393, Taht-al-Ayah 40)

* Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad Bin Ahmad Qurtubi (died: 671 AH) writes in Al-Jami’-li-Ahkam-e-Quran: ‘The words خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ are completely general (i.e. understood in their apparent meaning) according to all the classical and modern scholars of the Ummah. These words, as a definitive textual stipulation, necessitate that there is no prophet after the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم.’ Refuting those who take other meanings and interpretations of the words خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ which are contrary to the finality of Prophethood, Imam Qurtubi writes, ‘According to me, this is heresy and a vicious act to disturb the belief of Muslims about the finality of Prophethood. So beware and be wary, and Allah alone is the One who guides through His mercy. (Tafseer Qurtubi, juz. 14, vol. 7, p. 144, Taht-al-Ayah 40)

* In Tafseer Lubab-ul-Taweel, Sayyiduna ‘Ala-ud-Deen Ali Bin Muhammad Al-Khaazin (died: 741 AH) writes: خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ means that Allah Almighty ended the chain of Prophethood with him, so there is no Prophethood after him and there is no other prophet after him. Sayyiduna Abdullah Bin Abbas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُما said: Because Allah Almighty knew that there is no prophet after the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, therefore he did not give the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم any male offspring who reached the age of maturity. As for the coming of Sayyiduna Isa عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام, he is one of the prophets who came to this world before the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم and when he comes in the end of times, he will follow the sacred law of Sayyiduna Muhammad صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم and he will offer prayers facing his Qiblah, as though he is from the Ummah of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. (Tafseer Khaazin, vol. 3, p. 503, Taht-al-Ayah 40)

* In the famous Tafseer-ul-Lubab fi ‘Uloom-ul-Kitab, Abu Hafs Siraaj-ud-Deen Umar Bin Ali Hanbali Dimashqi (died: 775 AH) said: Sayyiduna Abdullah Bin Abbas رَضِىَ الـلّٰـهُ عَـنْهُما said: ‘No male offspring of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم reached adulthood.’ After quoting this, he writes: It has been said that the one after whom there is no prophet will be very kind to his Ummah and will deeply wish for them to be guided. It will be as if he is like the Ummah’s father who has no other children (Al-Lubab fi Uloom al-Kitab, vol. 15, p. 558, Taht-al-Ayah 40). According to this commentary, after Allah Almighty, the one who is the most compassionate and merciful to the Ummah is Sayyiduna Muhammad Mustafa صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, for which there is ample proof, including the following Quranic verse:

عَزِیْزٌ عَلَیْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِیْصٌ عَلَیْكُمْ بِالْمُؤْمِنِیْنَ رَءُوْفٌ رَّحِیْمٌ(۱۲۸)

heavy upon him is your suffering, he immensely desires your wellbeing; utmost kind, merciful for the Muslims.

[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 11, Surah Al-Tawbah, Verse 128)

In Tafseer Nazm-ul-Durar, Sayyiduna Ibrahim Bin Umar Al-Biqa’ee (died: 885 AH) writes: Because the Messengership of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is all inclusive of the entire world and his Prophethood is accompanied by the I’jaz (inimitability) of the Quran, there is no need for a new messenger or prophet to be sent, and therefore no prophet will be born after the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. This is what necessitated that no son of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم reached the age of puberty, because if the coming of a prophet after the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم had been decreed in the knowledge of Allah Almighty, then for the honour and dignity of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم, he would have certainly been from the offspring of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم because he صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم is the most exalted and honourable of all the Prophets. But Allah Almighty has decided for the honour and glory of the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم that no prophet will come after him. (Nazm-ul-Durur, vol. 6, p. 112, Taht-al-Ayah 40)

Shaykh ‘Alwaan Ni’matullah Bin Mahmood (d. 920 AH) says in Tafseer Al-Fawatih Al-Ilahiyyah: The Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم was sent by Allah to guide the bondsmen of Allah Almighty. Allah Almighty sent the Messenger of Allah صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم to show the straight path and provide guidance, like He send prophets to the previous nations; but the status of this Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم is that he is the last of the Prophets and the last of the Messengers because, after his arrival, the circle of Prophethood was concluded and the message of Messenger ship was completed. The Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم said: ‘I have been sent to complete good character’, and Allah Almighty has said declaring the virtue of the Holy Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم:

اَلْیَوْمَ اَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِیْنَكُمْ

Today, I have perfected for you your religion

[Kanz-ul-Iman (translation of Quran)] (Part 6, Surah Al-Maa`idah, Verse 3)

(Al-Fawatih Al-Ilahiyyah, vol. 2, pp. 158, Taht-al-Ayah 40)

The writer of Fath-ur-Rahman. Mujeer-ud-Deen Ibn Muhammad Aleemi Maqdisi Hanbali (died: 927 AH) says: خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ means the Last of the prophets, in other words, the door of Prophethood is closed forever after the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم. As far as Sayyiduna Isa عَـلَيْـهِ الـسَّـلَام is concerned, he is one of the prophets who came to this world before the Prophet صَلَّى الـلّٰـهُ عَلَيْهِ وَاٰلِهٖ وَسَلَّم (Fath-ur-Rahman, vol. 5, p. 370, Taht-al-Ayah 40).

May Allah عَزَّوَجَلَّ grant us the Taufeeq to continue protecting the belief in the finality of Prophethood.

اٰمِیْن بِجَاہِ النَّبِیِّ الْاَمِیْن صلَّی اللہ علیہ واٰلہٖ وسلَّم

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