Raziullah Noman, Canada
In this article, I will be responding to some arguments brought forward by a respected scholar of the Deobandi Sunni movement He recently shared an article in which he presented 11 points that he believes prove the finality of prophethood to mean that no prophet can manifest after the Holy Prophet (sa), even if he be in complete subservience and under the shadow of the Holy Prophet (sa). These are age-old misconceptions regarding the finality of prophethood, which are commonly found amongst the general Muslim population.
One: The Qur’an Declares The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) as the Final Prophet
In the Holy Qur’an, Allah the Almighty states:
مَا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِنْ رِجَالِكُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ رَسُولَ اللهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا
‘Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah has full knowledge of all things.’ 
Under this verse, the scholar brought forward the commentary of Ibn Kathir, in which he says that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) is the final Prophet. Ahmadi Muslims have never denied the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) being the Seal of Prophets and the final Prophet. He is the final law bearing Prophet and the greatest of all the Prophets. However, the Muslims must realize that they too await a Prophet. They await Hazrat Isa (as) of Bani Israel to come as a Prophet after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) till today. The difference is not on prophethood, rather on the identity of the latter-day Messiah.
It is quite sad to see that this scholar has not shared the true meaning of this verse, as explained by Maulana Qasim Nanotwi (rh). Maulana Qasim Nanotwi (rh) writes:
عوام کے خیال میں تو رسول اللہؐ کا خاتم ہونا بایں معنی ہے کہ آپ کا زمانہ انبیاء سابق کے زمانہ کے بعد اور آپ سب میں آخر نبی ہیں مگر اہل فہم پر روشن ہوگا کہ تقدّم یا تاخّر زمانی میں بالذات کچھ فضیلت نہیں پھر مقام مدح میں وَلَـٰكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّـهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ فرمانا اِس صورت میں کیونکر صحیح ہو سکتا ہے۔ ہاں اگر اس وصف کو اوصافِ مدح میں سے نہ کہیے اور اس مقام کو مقام ِ مدح قرار نہ دیجیے تو البتہ خاتمیت باعتبار تاخر زمانی صحیح ہو سکتی ہے مگر میں جانتا ہوں کہ اہل اسلام میں سے کسی کو یہ بات گوارا نہ ہوگی
‘According to the layman, the Messenger of Allah, (sa) being the Khatam (seal), means he is supposed to have appeared after all the previous prophets. But those who possess understanding are well-aware that being the first or the last, chronologically bears no intrinsic superiority. How then, could the words of the Holy Qur’an: ‘But he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets’ be considered to glorify him? This would be possible only if this attribute was not considered to glorify him, and this status was not considered as one of glory; then this could be considered correct from the standpoint of being chronologically last. But I know very well that none from among the Muslims would be prepared to agree with this’. 
He then states:
اگر بالفرض بعد زمانہ نبوی ﷺ بھی کوئی نبی پیدا ہو تو پھر بھی خاتمیت محمدیؐ میں کچھ فرق نہ آئے گا
‘If a prophet were to manifest after the Holy Prophet (sa), it will not impact that finality of Muhammad’s (sa) finality of prophethood’. 
Maulana Qasim Nanotwi (rh) explains that the true meaning of Seal of Prophets refers to the great status of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) and not that he was last. He says that even if a Prophet were to come, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) would still be the Seal of Prophets since that Prophet would be his follower. Qasim Nanotwi (rh) believed the Messiah would come and be a Prophet after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). Once again, Ahmadi Muslims and other Muslims do not differ on the meaning of Seal of Prophethood. We differ on the identity of the latter-day Messiah. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) stated:
‘It should also be understood that the allegation which is levelled against my community and I, that we do not believe in the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, as being the Seal of the Prophets, is a grave calumny against us. Our critics do not believe in the Holy Prophet (sa) as being the Seal of the Prophets even one part out of a hundred thousand, as compared to the strength, certainty, divine understanding and insight with which we believe it, nor do they have it within themselves to do so. They do not grasp the underlying essence and secret in the Seal of Prophethood and the Seal of the Prophets, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. They have merely heard this term from their forefathers, but they are ignorant of its true essence and do not know what the Seal of Prophethood means and what it means to believe in this concept. However, Allah the Exalted knows well that we believe with perfect insight that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is the Seal of the Prophets. Moreover, God Almighty has disclosed to us the true essence of the Seal of Prophethood in such a way that the intense pleasure which we derive from the sherbet of divine insight that we have been given to drink cannot be understood by anyone other than those who have been satiated by this fountain.
A worldly metaphor that we can give in the context of the Seal of Prophethood could be that the moon begins in the form of a crescent, and on the fourteenth night it becomes complete, at which point it is referred to as the full moon. In the same manner, the excellences of prophethood reached their end or completion in the person of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Those who hold the belief that prophethood has forcefully come to an end and that the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, should not even be given superiority over Jonah the son of Matthew, have not understood the underlying reality at all and have no knowledge whatsoever of the merits and excellences of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
Despite their own weak understanding and lack of knowledge, they assert that we deny the concept of the Seal of Prophethood. What shall I say to such ailing people, and how shall I express pity for them? If they had not taken on such a state and if they had not become so utterly distanced from Islam, what need was there for my advent? The faith of these people has become extremely frail, and they are unaware of the true meaning and purpose of Islam. If this were not the case, there would be no reason for them to harbour such animosity against the men of God, which leads one to disbelief.’ 
Two: The Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) Own Words Prove His Finality
Next the scholar quotes a hadith (saying of the Holy Prophet (sa)) from Sahih Muslim. However, he does not present the entire hadith which is quite dishonest.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) words show us what he meant by the statement, ‘The Prophets have been sealed by me’. The entire hadith is as follows:
فُضِّلْتُ عَلَى الأَنْبِيَاءِ بِسِتٍّ أُعْطِيتُ جَوَامِعَ الْكَلِمِ وَنُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ وَأُحِلَّتْ لِيَ الْغَنَائِمُ وَجُعِلَتْ لِيَ الأَرْضُ طَهُورًا وَمَسْجِدًا وَأُرْسِلْتُ إِلَى الْخَلْقِ كَافَّةً وَخُتِمَ بِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ
‘Abu Huraira reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: ‘I have been given superiority over the other prophets in six respects: I have been given words which are concise but comprehensive in meaning; I have been helped by terror (in the hearts of enemies): spoils have been made lawful to me: the earth has been made for me clean and a place of worship; I have been sent to all mankind and the Prophets have been sealed by me”. 
Firstly, the interpretation given by the scholar contradicts the interpretation by his spiritual father, Maulana Qasim Nanotwi (rh) who spent so much time explaining that the meaning of Seal of Prophets is not last.
Secondly, the hadith begins with the words فُضِّلْتُ عَلَى الأَنْبِيَاءِ بِسِتٍّ, meaning ‘I have been given superiority over the other prophets in six respects.’ Here the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) is speaking of his superiority and there is no superiority in being last. Maulana Qasim Nanotwi (rh) beautifully stated:
‘But those who possess understanding are well-aware that being the first or the last, chronologically bears no intrinsic superiority. How then, could the words of the Holy Qur’an: ‘But he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets’ be considered to glorify him?’ 
The scholar should really ponder upon these words. Qasim Nanotwi (rh) went to the extent of saying that the interpretation which the scholar is mentioning is the view of the laymen and the ignorant. The men of understanding know that there is no meaning of last here.
Another great scholar whom this scholar follows, named Shah Waliullah Muhadith Dehlvi (rh) beautifully interpreted this hadith. He writes:
وخُتم به النبييون.. أي لا يوجد من يأمره الله سبحانه بالتشريع على الناس
Meaning that Allah would not appoint a Prophet with a new Shari`ah (law) for the people. 
The Deobandis believe they are continuing the legacy of Shah Waliullah Dehlvi, and despite this, the scholar is not giving his interpretation any weight.
Three: Final Brick in the Palace of Prophethood
The next hadith quoted by the scholar is as follows:
إِنَّ مَثَلِي وَمَثَلَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ مِنْ قَبْلِي كَمَثَلِ رَجُلٍ بَنَى بَيْتًا فَأَحْسَنَهُ وَأَجْمَلَهُ، إِلاَّ مَوْضِعَ لَبِنَةٍ مِنْ زَاوِيَةٍ، فَجَعَلَ النَّاسُ يَطُوفُونَ بِهِ وَيَعْجَبُونَ لَهُ، وَيَقُولُونَ هَلاَّ وُضِعَتْ هَذِهِ اللَّبِنَةُ قَالَ فَأَنَا اللَّبِنَةُ، وَأَنَا خَاتِمُ النَّبِيِّينَ
‘My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: ‘Would that this brick be put in its place!’ So I am that brick, and I am the Seal of the Prophets.‘ 
We have already explained what the true meaning of Seal of Prophets is according to the scholar’s leader, Qasim Nanotwi (rh). He should also understand this hadith from that angle and he will then realize the true meaning of these beautiful words of the Prophet Muhammad (sa).
This hadith is narrated in many different ways and Hazrat Ibn Hajr al Asqalani (rh) , who is known as the writer of the greatest commentary of Sahih al Bukhari, has beautifully explained this by saying:
فَالْمُرَادُ هُنَا النَّظَرُ إِلَى الْأَكْمَلِ بِالنِّسْبَةِ إِلَى الشَّرِيعَةِ الْمُحَمَّدِيَّةِ مَعَ مَا مَضَى مِنَ الشَّرَائِعِ الْكَامِلَةِ
‘In this hadith, the purpose is to allude to the perfection of the law of Muhammad (sa) in comparison to the laws of the past.’ 
Allama Ibn e Khaldun states:
فيفسرون خاتم النبيين باللبنة التي أكملت البنيان. و معناه النبي الذي حصلت له النبوة الكاملة
‘People interpret the meaning of Khatamun Nabiyyin [Seal of Prophets] with reference to the brick that completed the mansion. However, it really means the Prophet with whose advent Prophethood was perfected.’ 
Four: The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) Born With a Seal on His Back
The scholar then presents a hadith which mentions that the Holy Prophet (sa) had a seal on his back. Ahmadi Muslims have never denied this, nor does it support the view of the scholar.
The Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated:
إِنَّ لِي أَسْمَاءً أَنَا مُحَمَّدٌ وَأَنَا أَحْمَدُ وَأَنَا الْمَاحِي الَّذِي يَمْحُو اللهُ بِيَ الْكُفْرَ وَأَنَا الْحَاشِرُ الَّذِي يُحْشَرُ النَّاسُ عَلَى قَدَمِي وَأَنَا الْعَاقِبُ الَّذِي لَيْسَ بَعْدِي نَبِيٌّ
‘I have some names: I am Muhammad, I am Ahmad, I am Al-Mahi, the one by whom Allah wipes out disbelief, I am Al-Hashir, the one whom the people are gathered at his feet, and I am Al-‘Aqib, the one after whom there is no Prophet.’ 
Once again, the scholar is trying to interpret this hadith in a way other than Qasim Nanotwi, who made it explicitly clear that being chronologically last holds no superiority in itself. In this hadith, the words, ‘after whom there is no prophet’ are not the words of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) himself.
Firstly, when we look at the other authentic ahadith [sayings of the Holy Prophet (sa)] which mention this very same word, and the translations of the non-Ahmadi Muslims themselves, they have translated al-Aqib differently. The words of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) himself are as follows:
أَنَا مُحَمَّدٌ وَأَنَا أَحْمَدُ وَأَنَا الْمَاحِي الَّذِي يُمْحَى بِيَ الْكُفْرُ وَأَنَا الْحَاشِرُ الَّذِي يُحْشَرُ النَّاسُ عَلَى عَقِبِي وَأَنَا الْعَاقِبُ
‘I am Muhammad and I am Ahmad, and I am al-Mahi (the obliterator) by whom unbelief would be obliterated and I am Hashir (the gatherer) at whose feet mankind will be gathered, and I am Aqib’. 
The official Sunni website for ahadith called sunnah.com has translated ‘al-aqib’ under Sahih al-Bukhari #4896 as, ‘Who succeeds the other prophets in bringing about good’. 
In Sahih Muslim, it is narrated:
وَأَنَا الْعَاقِبُ الَّذِي لَيْسَ بَعْدَهُ أَحَدٌ
‘I am al-Aqib after whom there would be no one’. 
This further shows that al-Aqib refers to being one who succeeds all others in doing good. It has nothing to do with being the last in time.
Hazrat Mullah Ali Qari (rh), a great scholar of Islam stated:
الظَّاهِرُ أَنَّ هَذَا تَفْسِيرٌ لِلصَّحَابِيِّ أَوْ مَنْ بَعْدَهُ، وَفِي شَرْحِ مُسْلِمٍ قَالَ ابْنُ الْأَعْرَابِيِّ: الْعَاقِبُ الَّذِي يَخْلُفُ فِي الْخَيْرِ مَنْ كَانَ قَبْلَهُ، وَمِنْهُ يُقَالُ: عَقِبُ الرَّجُلِ لِوَلَدِهِ (مُتَّفَقٌ عَلَيْهِ) .
‘It is obvious that the words, ‘and Al-Aqib is he after whom there is no prophet’ have been added as a commentary by a companion or someone afterwards. Ibn al-Arabi states that Al-Aqib refers to someone who succeeds another person in something good. And it is also said that a man is succeeded by his son’. 
The truth of the matter is that the words, ‘there is no Prophet after him’ for al-Aqib is a statement of al-Zuhri. It is narrated in Sahih Muslim:
وَفِي حَدِيثِ عُقَيْلٍ قَالَ قُلْتُ لِلزُّهْرِيِّ وَمَا الْعَاقِبُ قَالَ الَّذِي لَيْسَ بَعْدَهُ نَبِيٌّ
‘And in the hadith Uqail said that I said to Zuhri what is the meaning of al-Aqib. He said after whom there is no Prophet’. 
The narration which the scholar quoted was from Jami al-Tirmidhi and al-Zuhri is a narrator there as well, which show that these are his words.
In the book Tanweer al-Hawalik which is the Sharh (commentary) of Muwatta by Imam Malik, Imam Suyuti (rh) writes:
و أنا العاقب : زاد مسلم و غيره من طريق ابن عينه و العاقب الذي ليس بعده نبي و هو مدرج من تفسير الزهري
‘And I am Al-Aqib: It is added by Musim and others from Ibn Ayna and the words al-Aqib meaning there is no prophet after him and that is from among the interpretations of Zuhri’. 
The Muslim scholars are well aware of how dangerous the disconnected reports from al-Zuhri are. It is written:
و أوهى من ذلك: مراسيل الزهري
‘The worst of the disconnected reports are of al-Zuhri’. 
Yahya Ibn Sa’id (rh) stated:
مرسل الزهري شر من مرسل غيره
‘The disconnected reports of Zuhri are worst than the disconnected reports of others’. 
Imam Shafi (rh) and Ibn Mu’in said:
إرسال الزهري عندنا ليس بشيء
‘The disconnected reports of al-Zuhri are not acceptable’. 
This statement is repeated by the greatest scholars of ahadith including Imam Baihaqi, Imam al-Suyuti, and Imam al-Dhahabi.
Despite all of these points, Ahmadi Muslims believe the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) to be the ‘akhir’ (last) but in the same sense which the Holy Prophet (sa) himself explained, and that is the last law bearing Prophet.
Six: The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) is the Only Prophet Sent to All Mankind
The Qur’an makes it clear that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) was sent to all of mankind. However, this does not prove that he is the last in time. The other Muslims agree that the latter-day Messiah would also come for all of mankind. We only differ on the identity of the Messiah.
Seven: There is Mainstream Scholarly Consensus on His Finality
The scholar claims to be a scholar of Islam, something we are not doubting. However, as a scholar he has to be sincere in his claims. There is no consensus on the interpretation he gives of finality of Prophethood. In fact, the Deobandis are declared as disbelievers because of their view on the finality of prophethood. Many of the saints of Islam who are accepted by the Deobandis believed that the Seal of Prophethood only means that no law bearing Prophet can now come. The only consensus regarding Prophethood is that the Prophet Muhammad (sa) is the last law bearing Prophet. Apart from this, the majority of the Muslims await a Prophet. Furthermore, the Salafi Muslims disagree with the Deobandi interpretation of Prophethood as well, as they suggest that all forms of revelation have now ended. As for the Deobandis, they believe in the saints and agree that revelation without law continues.
Eight: Hadith Warning of False Prophets
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) did warn of false prophets, but this does not mean a truthful prophet would not come. The Christians also present biblical verses in which it is said that Jesus (as) warned the people of false prophets. Would it be wise for a Christian to use that argument to reject the truthful prophet, Hazrat Muhammad (sa)?
The Fourth Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) states:
‘Irrespective of the fact whether we have thirty or thirty million dajjals or impostors, the fact remains that the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) has called the Messiah of the latter days as a prophet of God. No one can change that.’ 
Nine: The Return of Jesus (as)
We wish that the scholar had put this point first as he would not have needed ten other points. This point itself shows that according to the scholar, Prophethood is open for a prophet from the ummah (Muslim people). His belief is the same as Ahmadi Muslims on prophethood. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) is the last law bearing prophet and a Prophet would appear in the ummah for the revival of Islam, who would follow the Shari`ah (law) of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). The truth is that according to the Qur’an and ahadith, Jesus (as) has already died and will never return. The latter-day Messiah was to be from among the Muslims as stated in the authentic ahadith. The Prophet Muhammad (sa) stated:
كَيْفَ أَنْتُمْ إِذَا نَزَلَ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ فِيكُمْ وَإِمَامُكُمْ مِنْكُمْ
‘How will you be when the son of Mary descends amongst you and is an imam from among you’. 
Ten: The Final Religion
Ahmadi Muslims also accept that Islam is the final religion for mankind and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) is the last law bearing prophet.
The Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) writes:
‘If somebody so thinks, he is highly misled and devoid of faith. Let it be clear that prophethood and the Shariah have found their total and absolute expression in the person of the Holy Prophet (sa). There can be no new divine law. The Holy Qur’an is the last and perfect book, it does not admit of any change, not even of a dot or a mark. Nevertheless, it is also true that the blessings and bounties of the Holy Prophet (sa) and the rewards of the Holy Qur’an’s teaching and guidance are unending. They are to be seen in every age, ever fresh in their pristine purity. It is for the demonstration of these rewards and blessings that God Almighty has appointed me.’ 
He also writes:
‘I tell you truly that anyone who disregards even a small injunction of the seven hundred commandments of the Quran, shuts upon himself the door of salvation.’ 
Eleven : The Qur’an is the Only Timeless Miracle Given to Any Prophet
The Ahmadi Muslims do not disagree with the Qur’an being the greatest miracle given to any prophet. We do not disagree that this miracle is timeless and is the greatest book sent for mankind.
Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) writes:
دل میں یہی ہے ہر دم تیرا صحیفہ چوموں قرآں کے گرد گھوموں کعبہ مرا یہی ہے
‘My heart yearns every moment to kiss Thy book; And to perform circuits around the qur’an, for this is my Ka’bah’. 
However, the mere existence of a perfect law cannot prevent the moral degeneration of humanity. It is for this reason that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) prophesied divine reformers and the latter-day Messiah, who is none other than Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian.
 Chapter 33, Verse 41
 Tahzir ul-Nas, Pages 4-5
 Tahzir ul Nas, Page 34
 Malfuzat, Volume 2, p. 58-59
 Sahih Muslim 523a
 Tahzir ul-Nas, Pages 4-5
 Al Tafheemat-e-Ilhamiyyah
 Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith #3535
 Fathul Bari, Volume 6, Page 370
 Al Muqaddimah ibn-e-Khaldun, Page 300
 Jami’ at-Tirmidhi, Hadith #3075
 Sahih Muslim, 2354a
 Sahih Muslim, Book of Virtues, Chapter: His Names, Hadith #2354b
 Mirqat Sharh Mishkat, Volume 5, Page 376
 Sahih Muslim, 2354c
 Tanweer al-Hawalik, vol. 3, p. 163
 Al-Muqidhah fi ilm Mustalah al-Hadith, p. 39
 Ibn Rajab, Ilal at-Tirmidhi, vol. 1, p. 535
 Sharh Illal at-Tirmidhi, vol. 1, p. 535
 True meaning of Khatme Nabuwat Page 21
 Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith #3449
 Lecture Ludhiana, Page 44
 Noah’s Ark, Page 42
 Qadian ke Arya Aur Hum, Ruhani Khazain, vol. 20, p. 457