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Religion

Is Muhammad the Seal of the Prophets?

Dan Gebhardt | Nov 24, 2014

PART 1 IN SERIES Unsealing the Prophets

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Dan Gebhardt | Nov 24, 2014

PART 1 IN SERIES Unsealing the Prophets

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

All sects of Islam maintain that the Prophet Muhammad is the final prophet, the last divine messenger for all time.

That means most Muslims acknowledge the founders of several previous religions, such as Moses, Jesus and even Zoroaster as inspired, but deny there will ever be any new messenger or new, divinely-revealed religion after Muhammad. Since the Baha’i Faith claims to be the next major Faith after Islam, this single point often prompts some Muslims to regard the Baha’i Faith as illegitimate. It has even caused deadly persecution of the Baha’is in predominately Islamic countries like Iran and Egypt.

So let’s start at the beginning–the Baha’i Faith emerged from the background of Islam, much as Christianity emerged from Judaism. Baha’is, along with Muslims, revere the Qur’an as the Word of God. This includes Qur’an 33:40, the verse on which the doctrine of Muhammad’s finality is based:

Muhammad is not the father of any one of your men, but the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets; God has knowledge of everything. (Arberry).

Clearly, Baha’is actually do accept Muhammad as the Seal of the Prophets—but reject the interpretation that Islamic orthodoxy reads into this verse. One reason: the Qur’an itself raises the possibility of future divine messengers after Muhammad.

Qur’an 7:35 (Surat al-A‘raf) contains this solemn warning addressed to all humanity:

Children of Adam! If there should come to you Messengers from among you, relating to you My signs, then whosoever is godfearing and makes amends—no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow. And those that cry lies to Our signs, and wax proud against them—those shall be the inhabitants of the Fire, therein dwelling forever. – Verses 35-36.

This verse first opened my heart, as a convert to Islam earlier in my life, to the possibility of new revelations from God. It calls to mind another verse from the Qur’an, which tells how on Judgment Day, God will say to the world:

Company of jinn and mankind, did not Messengers come to you from among you, relating to you My signs and warning you of the encounter of this your day?’ They shall say, ‘We bear witness against ourselves.’ – Qur’an 6:130ff.

MeccaI did not want to be in that group—bearing witness that I had turned away from God’s verses. So as a Muslim I resolved to investigate the Baha’i claims on their own merits, and not simply dismiss them.

Some people object that Qur’an 7:35 is a conditional statement, and thus does not categorically state that new Messengers will come—only that if they do, we must heed them. But this objection misses the mark, since, if the mainstream Islamic understanding of ‘the Seal of the Prophets’ is correct, a new Messenger after Muhammad is flatly impossible. Why would God warn us that something is possible in one verse, and then say it is impossible in another? For new divine Messengers to even be possible, Muhammad’s title of ‘the Seal of the Prophets’ must mean something other than ‘last divine Messenger, period.’

Others argue that this verse does not address all humanity, but just Adam’s immediate offspring, referring only to the Messengers from Noah to Muhammad. While the beginning of Qur’an chapter seven does tell the story of Adam, it is separated from this verse by a number of others, some of which are clearly addressed to Muhammad’s own audience in 7th century Arabia (for example, 7:27-28). There is no basis to conclude that verse 35, warning of Messengers to come, belongs to the story of Adam and not to the series of exhortations that intervene.

The exclamation “O children of Adam,” like the Qur’an’s oft-recurring “O children of Israel,” covers the entire people descended from the ancestral figure, not just their immediate offspring. We can see this clearly in Qur’an 36:60 or 17:70:

We have honoured the Children of Adam and carried them on land and sea, and provided them with good things, and preferred them greatly over many of those We created.

If we take it at face value, Qur’an 7:35 warns humanity during Muhammad’s time, and us today, to be on the watch for God’s messengers from among us, and to obey them when they appear. The Baha’i writings have a similar warning, specifically about the term “Seal of the Prophets:”

…thou dost witness how the people of the Qur’án, like unto the people of old, have allowed the words “Seal of the Prophets” to veil their eyes. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude, p. 213.

So if new messengers are possible according to the Qur’an, how do we understand Muhammad as ‘the Seal of the Prophets’? Please follow along as we turn to this subject in the next article in this series.

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Comments

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  • Margart Oquendo
    Aug 14, 2020
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    So there are more messengers to come after Prophet Muhammad but no more Prophets.
  • Margart Oquendo
    Aug 14, 2020
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    Muhammad is the final Prophet and he is also a messenger, but not the final messenger, you joined both prophet and messenger as it's one word, Quran: rasoul Allah (messenger of God) wa khatim alnabiyeen(and the seal of prophets ). A messenger delivers a message a prophet has prophet good the ability to over see through things and events such giving Prophecies based on world simulated events meaning we live in a world similar to a computer simulation.
  • Karen Anne Webb
    Sep 29, 2019
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    The series may get to this later, but I've never understood this claim about Muhammad PBUH being the last prophet ever when one of the big, overarching themes of the Qur'an is the continuity of revelation, ie that God never leaves man without guidance. In English, these 7 little words are being used by, for instance, the Iranian and Yemeni governments (meaning the Houthis in the latter case) to abrogate 7 other little words more important to Muslim theology: "Let there be no compulsion in religion." Also, 4 verses later is a reference to the Meeting with God. Is it ...stretching the point to think that the appearance of the Bab and Baha'u'llah represent that meeting and the Judgment itself?
    Read more...
  • Ahmed Jallad
    Mar 4, 2019
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    through many chains of narration where the Prophet Muhammad explicitly calls himself the last prophet (some of them can be read here http://www.iupui.edu/~msaiupui/finalprophet.html. They're a bit further down, but the whole thing is worth reading. They can be found on Google otherwise.) I'm not sure of the normative Baha'i view on hadith, but I imagine they're not totally trusted. Hadith science is incredibly complex and meticulous; for a good overview of hadith transmission and reception in both Muslim and Western spheres, I recommend Jonathan A.C. Brown's "Hadith: Muhammad's Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World". The idea of total rejection ...of hadith is not even accepts by Western scholars using the historical critical method anymore.
    Read more...
  • Ahmed Jallad
    Mar 3, 2019
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    Scholars, but also Orientalists and Wetsern scholars (using Nöldeke's Qur'anic chronology). This means that even if you tried to say that the verse leaves open the possibility for other prophets (which it in no way necessitates or implies), the later verse explicitly closes any possibility. The word 'khatam' (and in another mutawatir reading/qira'a of the Qur'an, 'khatim', which even more explicitly means 'last of') has not been interpreted as finality by all Muslim scholars, both Shi'a and Sunni, due to the failings of orthodoxy, but rather due to an indepth knowledge of the Qur'an and classical Arabic. That is without ...mentioning the multiple authentic, agreed upon hadiths narrated 2/3
    Read more...
  • Ahmed Jallad
    Mar 3, 2019
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    This isnt a very strong argument. Couple of points: First is that a lot of the Qur'an is addressed to non-Muslims, and even to Muslims to remain steadfast. This could quite easily just be said to be a call to mankind not to deny the Prophet (pbuh), and that is clearly what is meant. There's no reason to twist the verse to get anything out of it more than its meaning. When the Qur'an denounces idols like Allat, it's because of the idolatry behind it, not because there is an issue with that specific idol. Second, even if you tried ...to maintain that this verse leaves the possibility of future prophets, you have to consider that Surah al-A'raf was revealed in Mecca, while Surah al Ahzab was revealed in Medina, not only according to Muslim 1/2-3
    Read more...
  • francis bernadone
    Sep 21, 2017
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    the Koran is satan's stealth religion; created by satan (mixing sacredness with evil),
    to trick many who love GOD to do the devil's bidding!
  • francis bernadone
    Sep 21, 2017
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    Islam happens to be the only religion,
    whereas if one becomes devout, he becomes a monster (merciless to the infidel!)
  • francis bernadone
    Sep 21, 2017
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    seal of prophets is a lie!
    Guru Nanak (sikhs) & Bahalllah (Bahai) are prophets post mohammed!
    islam happens to be the devils's stealth religion!
  • Feb 23, 2016
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    this article also exists on the topic of Seal of the Prophets: http://oneglobalfaith.org/for-the-religious/muslims/seal-of-prophets-finality-of-islam/
    • Feb 23, 2016
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      (with explanations from the Writings of Bahaullah and direct quotations from the Quran)
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