Khatim an-Nabuwwah (Arabic: ختم النبوه), or finality of Prophethood, is an Islamic belief that prophethood came to an end after Muhammad. Many Muslims believe that the line of prophets sent by God ended with the advent of Muhammad, who they believe received the final revelation in the form of the Qur'an.
The term Khatam an-nabuwwah is derived from the Quranic phrase Khatamun Nabiyyīn “seal of the prophets”. [Qur'an33:40]
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah, and the seal of the Prophets and God has full knowledge of all things.
All classical lexicons say that the word خاتم, which roughly translates to Seal, is a synonym for آخر, which unambiguously means Last. Classical lexicons presenting this are Lisān al-‘Arab, Tāj al-‘Arūs, Al-Mufridāt li-Gharīb al-Qur’ān, Aqrab al-Mawārid, Lane’s English-Arabic Lexicon, Al-Muĥīt, Muĥīt Al-Muĥīt, Al-Ghanī, Al-Wasīt and Al-Qāmūs Al-Muĥīt.
The most commonly held view about the phrase “Seal of the Prophets” is that “seal” means finality and end.
Some scholars have translated and interpreted the word “seal” in terms of honour and superiority, instead of the finality of the prophethood. But the consensus of the Muslim community regards the denial or doubt on finality of prophethood as apostasy.
He has been raised to the station of Khatam by the grace of God. There can never be his like before him or after.
When a master excels all others in his art, don’t you use the word “khatam” to convey the idea that he has excelled all others in his domain?
Make such plans to perform righteousness in the way of God that you attain prophethood within the Ummat [religious community].
Ibn Arabi also followed the same line of reasoning in his Futuhat. He has argued that the possibility of a subordinate prophet is open according to the verse 33:40. However Ibn Arabi also stated in the Futuhat:
The Messenger has informed (us) that dreams are one of the parts of Prophethood. Of Prophethood there shall remain for the people only this part, and nothing more than that. In spite of this, the term ‘Prophethood’ shall not be applicable to anything, nor the term ‘Prophet’ be applicable to anyone other than the one endued with a Shari’ah. Thus ‘Prophethood’ has been banned on account of this particular characteristic.
From the study and contemplation of the Darud we have arrived at the definite conclusion that there shall, from among the Muslims, certainly be persons whose status, in the matter of prophethood, shall advance to the level of prophets, if God pleases. But they shall not be given any book of law.
The Shī‘ī Imām Ja'far al-Sadiq while discussing the Quranic verse, “For verily We granted the Book to the children of Abraham”, said that:
God vouchsafed to the children of Abraham, Messengers, Prophets and Imams. But what is ironical is that people believe in what God blessed the children of Abraham with and yet they deny this blessing for the progeny of Muhammad.
The meaning of the Holy Prophet being the Khataman Nabiyeen is that there shall not now appear a person whom God may appoint with a new Law for mankind, that is to say, there shall be no prophet who shall come with a new Law.
There cannot be an independent prophet after the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, who is not his follower and his adherent.
Faranghi Mahal, an eminent scholar of the Ahl-e Sunnat also discussed the significance of the expression Khatam an-nubuwwah and on behalf of the Sunni Scholars, he declared:
The divines of the Sunni sects believe in and expound the fact that in the course of the Ministry of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of God be upon him, there cannot appear a law bearing prophet and his prophethood extends to the end of days. A prophet who appears during his ministry shall necessarily be the follower of the Law of Muhammad.
A majority of Sunni scholars have adhered to the view that khatam means last.
If the right of denying the authority of consensus be admitted, it will give rise to many absurdities. For example, if someone says that it is possible for a person to attain the office of Prophethood after our Apostle Muhammad, we shall not hesitate to pronounce him as an infidel, but in the course of a controversy the man who wishes to prove that any reluctance in pronouncing such a person as an apostate is a sin shall have to seek the aid of consensus in support of his arguments, because reason is no arbiter against the possibility of the existence of a `new prophet.' As regards the followers of the `new prophets' they will not be utterly incapable of making various interpretations of La Nabiya Ba`di, "There will be no Prophet after me" and Khatam-ul-Nabiyyin, `Last of the Prophets.' A follower of the `new prophets' might say that Khatam-ul-Naibiyyin, `Last of the Prophets' bears the meaning "last of the prominent Messengers." If you argue that "prophets" is a common word, he would very easily give this term a particular significance with regard to his own `prophethood.' In respect of `No Prophet will come after him', such a man would contend that this expression does not say that `No Messengers will follow him.' There is a difference between a Prophet and a Messenger. The status of a Prophet is higher than that of the Messenger. The fact is that such absurdities can be indulged in ad infinitum. It is not difficult, in our view, to make different interpretations of a word. Besides, there is no ample scope for people to commit blunders ever and beyond these points in the exposition of these clear words. We cannot even say that those who make such interpretations are guilty of the denial of clear injunctions. But to refute those who have but their faith in the false expositions we shall say that the entire Ummah by a consensus of opinion recognizes that the words `No Prophet shall come after him' and the context of the traditions suggests that the Holy Prophet meant that `No Prophet, nor Messenger shall follow him.' Furthermore, the Ummah is agreed on the point that above words of the Holy Prophet leave no scope for a different interpretation than given to it by the consensus of the Ummah and he who would not join the consensus is no more than a dissident. (Al-Iqtisad Fil Aiteqad, p.114, Egypt)
Hence this verse is a clear proof of the fact that no prophet will come after Muhammad and when it is said that no prophet will come after him it is a foregone conclusion that no messenger will succeed him either.
The twelfth century Islamic philosopher, Raghib Isfahani, has argued in favour of the possibility of non-law bearing prophethood, he states:
Prophethood is of two kinds, general and special. The special prophethood, viz: the law-bearing prophethood is now unattainable; but the general prophethood continues to be attainable.
According to the layman, the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings on him, being Khatam is supposed to have appeared after all the other prophets. But men of understanding and the wise know it very well that being the first or the last, chronologically, does not carry any weight. How could, therefore, the words of the Holy Quran “But he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of Prophets” (33.40) mean to glorify him? But I know very well that none from among the Muslims would be prepared to agree with the common men.
In short, if the meaning of the word Finality is accepted as explained, then his Finality of Prophethood will not be exclusively attached to the past Prophet. But even if for instance another Prophet appeared during the era of the Prophet then too, him being the Final Prophet remains intact as normal.
If for instance even after the era of the Prophet any Prophet is born, then too it will not make any difference to the Finality of Prophethood of the Prophet.
Most other Deobandi scholars have take a more simplistic view of this concept, however they do not consider Qasim Nanutwi outside the pale of Islam for denying the finality of prophethood. The Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam has criticised the Deobandi school of denying the finality of Prophethood on the basis of the writings of their leader.
The concept of the finality of prophethood of Muhammad has caused controversy in recent times. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, hold Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a prophet subordinate to Muhammad. Ahmed claimed to be the Promised Messiah and Mahdi in 1889 and founded a movement in Qadian, India. His claims resulted in a violent reaction among many Muslims of the India subcontinent. The Salafi and Sunni scholars vehemently opposed him and in subsequent years a movement for the “protection of Khatme Nabuwwat” was founded. This movement, at times violent, is still very active in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries where Ahmadiyya adherents are present.