I recently came across a website that was propagating the movement of Mr. Ghulam Ahmed – the Ahmadis. There was a particular argument of their’s, which I had hoped to get some more counter arguments for. This was the particular statements concerning the finality of the prophet. What is the evidence from the Quran and Hadith about the finality of the Prophet? Does “seal” really have to mean “final” or can it mean just “great”? I know there is a verse in which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is said to be the “seal” of the prophets.
The referred statement of the Qur’an can be seen in Al-Ahzaab 33: 40. As shall be clear that the word used by the Qur’an in this verse is “Khaatam al-Nabiyyeen”, not “Khaatim al-Nabiyyeen”. There is a difference in the meanings of the two words “Khaatam” and “Khaatim”. The word “Khaatim” is used idiomatically in the Arabic, as well as the Urdu language to mean “the best”, although its (“Khaatim”) literal meaning is still “the one that ends” or “the last one”1. For instance, if we say “Khaatim al-shu`araa” (lit: “the last of the poets”) it would normally be construed to mean: “the best poet”. However, this is not the case of the implication of the word “Khaatam”, which has been used by the Qur’an in the referred verse. “Khaatam” means “seal”, or even more precisely, the tool used to seal something is known as “Khaatam” in the Arabic language. The word “seal” is not used in the Arabic language to imply “the best”2.
In view of the above explanation, it should be clear that the words used by the Qur’an cannot be construed to imply “the best”. On the contrary, these words clearly imply the meaning: “the seal of prophethood”. Seal, as we know is used for two purposes. a) As an instrument to bind or close (as in “sealing a letter”); and b) As an instrument of authorization (as in “the official seal”).
Keeping the above explanation in perspective, the phrase “seal of prophethood” imply mean either of the following:
Mohammad (pbuh) is the prophet that has finally sealed (closed or ended) the system of prophethood, which was initiated by God through Adam (pbuh); or
Mohammad (pbuh) is that prophet of God that holds the seal of prophethood, i.e., no one can be called the prophet of God unless Mohammad (pbuh) has put his seal of prophethood on that person. Thus, Moses, Jesus, Abraham and all others that we know as prophets of God, hold this position because Mohammad (pbuh) has called them the prophets of God and thereby put his seal of prophethood on them. In the same manner, if some prophet is to come after Mohammad (pbuh) he shall only be considered for such prophethood, if Mohammad (pbuh) has put his seal of prophethood on him (obviously, there is no such person).
In my opinion, the meaning more coherent with the context of the referred verse is the first one. Therefore, in my opinion, the word used by the Qur’an in this verse is quite clear in implying that Mohammad is the last prophet (not just “the best”).
13th January 1999