One out of every five people on Earth is Muslim.

The Baha’i teachings offer great riches to share with all people, including the faithful followers of Muhammad, the last messenger of the prophetic cycle. For example: this powerful statement of Imam Ali, which Baha’u’llah quotes and then explains in the Tablet of Patience:

‘Muhammad the Sealer of what preceded Him and the Initiator of that which was to come.’ In this was uttered the significance of the term of Seal from that unapproachably holy tongue. Thus did God ordain Him to be the Seal of those Prophets that preceded Him and an Initiator of a series of Messengers to come after Him. – Tablet of Patience, provisional translation by Dr. Khazeh Fananapazir.

The Imam Ali described the Prophet Muhammad in these clear terms on more than one occasion, including in the Nahj al-Balagha, a famous compilation of his sermons:

[O Allah]…send the noblest of Thy benedictions and most abundant of Thy blessings on Muhammad Thy servant and Thy messenger who is the last (al-Khatim) of those who preceded him and an opener (al-Fatih, or ‘initiator’) for what is shut… – Sermon 72.

The Sunni Tijani order and other Sufi groups use a similar benediction upon the Prophet, the Ṣalat al-Fatiḥ—so within Islam this blessed statement has an inter-sectarian significance.

Such traditions have special weight because they are ascribed to Imam Ali, who is, according to Shi‘i and Sufi belief, foremost among those “firmly grounded in knowledge” who can interpret the ambiguous verses of the Qur’an. – Qur’an 3:7.

According to this statement of the Imam Ali, the finality of the prophet Muhammad is not absolute, but relative to “what preceded” him. In Baha’i terms, those who preceded him were the messengers of the Prophetic Cycle, all pointing forward to or ‘announcing’ the time of fulfillment, “the Great Announcement,” al-Nabā’ al-‘Aẓīm of chapter 78 of the Qur’an. So the prophet Muhammad’s mission marked a definite turning point in the history of revelation, but not its end.

In absolute terms, as Baha’u’llah explains in the Book of Certitude, all the prophets of God share the same stations, from servitude through prophethood to divinity itself. The Qur’an too indicates this in the verse: “we make no distinction between any of them [the Prophets]” (Qur’an 2:136), and warns “those who…seek to make distinction between Allah and His messengers” (4:150).

Although all of God’s messengers embody the reality of prophethood, Muḥammad was the final  to outwardly act in the role of ‘prophet’—the one ‘foretelling’ or ‘announcing’ (words that go back to one Arabic root) the grand future fulfillment all Faiths await. Thus, in terms of relative, partial human perception, it is true that Muhammad was uniquely the ‘Seal of the Prophets.” It should come as no surprise that God can and does speak in terms of human perception, for we ourselves do so whenever we say that the sun ‘rises’ and ‘sets’!

Baha’is wholeheartedly embrace the belief in the prophet Muhammad’s exalted station and unique pivotal role. In the fewer than two centuries of the Baha’i Faith’s existence the adherents and servants of the Baha’i Cause have spread love and belief in the prophet Muhammad to the remotest corners of the Earth, recalling the inspired words of the earliest Muslims to the Jews and Christians of Arabia:

We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender. – Qur’an 29:46.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

2 Comments

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  • Sharon Davis
    Jun 15, 2016
    Thank you for this clear and straight forward analysis. I've 'heard' that the Arabic word used as 'Seal' here is different from the word that means final. Can you elaborate?
    • Dan Gebhardt
      Jun 19, 2016
      Hi Sharon,
      Thanks! I am glad you found it helpful.
      There are two closely related Arabic words, (1) khātam, meaning properly "a seal" or "signet," and (2) khātim, literally meaning "sealer", "one who seals". This second word is thought to more strongly imply the "last". According to the most widespread recitation, the word the Qur'an uses in 33.40 is the first word, khātam, "seal" and not khātim.
      So far, I have not seen the Writings place any emphasis on this point, and Baha'u'llah's proofs apply whether we read khātam or khātim. However, it's good to know that the Qur'anic ...title "Seal of the Prophets" has a broader meaning than just "Last Prophet".
      Dan
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