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CHAPTER V:

MUHAMMAD: THE SEAL OF THE PROPHETS

Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Apostle of God, and the seal of the prophets: and God knoweth all things.
(Surih XXXIII, "The Confederates", v. 40) [33:40]

According to the Qur'an, and as reaffirmed in the Writings of Baha'u'llah, Muhammad was both a Prophet and an Apostle of God, and designated as the "Seal of the Prophets". It is the interpretation of this last title which often constitutes a barrier to an appreciation or acceptance of the Baha'i Faith on the part of Muslims, for it is understood as denying the possibility of the appearance of any further Manifestation of God after Muhammad Himself. By considering the distinction that must be made between "Prophet" and "Apostle" of God, a different interpretation of the title "Seal of the Prophets" becomes apparent. The origin of the word "prophet" in Arabic is "nab)" which means "foreteller" and corresponds to the Hebrew word for "foreseer". In the Old and New Testaments, the manner of foreseeing the future is in the form of visions and dreams. Joseph had a vision, Daniel prophesied and St. John had revelations. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl explains this theme very clearly in The Baha'i Proofs.1 The term "Prophet" thus became the name given to One Who is inspired by God and consequently became applicable to all the Manifestations of God.


  1. Mirza Abu'l-Fadl's discussion of prophecies is found on pp. 198-214 of The Baha'i Proofs.



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And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses ...
(Deuteronomy 34:10)

They say unto the blind man again, what sayeth thou of him, that he hath opened shine eyes? He said, He is a prophet.
(St. John 9:17)

For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honor in his own country.
(St. John 4:44)

The Qur'an, however, attributes more distinct and precise stations and roles to a Prophet and to an Apostle of God. In the Bible, Moses and Jesus are called Prophets, but in the Qur'an, Moses and Jesus are also referred to as Apostles of God, while Aaron is designated a Prophet:
And commemorate Moses in "the Book;" for he was a man of purity: moreover he was an Apostle, a Prophet:

From the right side of the mountain we called to him, and caused him to draw nigh to us for secret converse:

And we bestowed on him in our mercy his brother Aaron, a Prophet.
(Surih XIX "Mary", vv. 52-54) [19:52-54]

And when I revealed unto the Apostles, "Believe on me and on my Sent One, " they said, "We believe; and bear thou witness that we are Muslims. "
(Surih V: "The Table", v. 111) [5:111]

Moses, therefore, was identified by God to be an Apostle and a Prophet simultaneously: an Apostle because the Torah was revealed to Him and because a new law was established; and a Prophet because He Himself followed, promoted and protected that very law during His lifetime. As for Aaron, He was a Prophet with the main task of following the law and protecting the Faith established by Moses.


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This is the distinction made between an Apostle of God and a Prophet of God, as found in the Qur'an. The argument that because Muhammad was the "Seal of the Prophets" and as all Apostles were also Prophets, there shall therefore be no Manifestations of God after Muhammad, is one that has no basis in either the Qur'an or the traditions.

In order to leave no room for doubt concerning this matter, Muhammad explained very clearly in one of His traditions, recorded in the Qastallani Comments of the Bukhari:
The children of Israel were governed by Prophets. Whenever a Prophet passed away, another succeeded Him. But there shall be no Prophets to succeed Me; rather there will be Caliphs (or Imams).

In another tradition, the Prophet further explains the station of the Caliphs or Imams Who will follow Him, designating them as "'ulama" or "learned", thus:
Verily the 'Ulama of My people are more exalted than the Prophets of the children of Israel.

In this connection, the reverence with which Baha'u'llah made mention of the Imam Husayn should be recalled.2


  1. Baha'u'llah has revealed a Tablet of Visitation in honor of Imam Husayn, in which He praises him in glowing language, and in the Kitab-i-Iqan, the Imam's spiritual sovereignty is lauded. His virtues are also extolled in the Suriy-i-Muluk. Described in the Baha'i writings as the "most eminent among the lawful successors of the Prophet of Islam", referred to as the "Chief of Martyrs" and "Prince of Martyrs", as well as the "brightest 'star' shining in the 'crown' mentioned in the Revelation of St. John", the Imam Husayn's position is considered unique, as Baha'u'llah has identified Himself as his return to the Shi'ih Muslims.



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The difference between "Apostle" and "Prophet" is further maintained in Islamic jurisprudence Imam Shaf'i stated:
We should believe in the Prophets and the Apostles of God, each and all. The distinction characterizing the two categories lies in this: that the Apostle of God is He Who brings the law, while the Prophets are reared under the law brought by the Apostles of God. Hence each Apostle is simultaneously a Prophet, whereas a Prophet is not endued with the same characteristics of the Apostle.

In his commentary on verse 51 of the Surih of the Pilgrimage (XXII) [22], Al Nasafi records an interesting tradition, as well as an interesting explanation on the subject of Apostleship and Prophethood. The verse reads as follows:
We have not sent any apostle or prophet before thee, among whose desires Satan injected not some wrong desire, but God shall bring to nought that which Satan had suggested Thus shall God affirm His revelations for God is Knowing, Wise! (Surih XXII, "The Pilgrimage" v. 51) [22:51]

And Al Nasafi comments:
And this is evident proof of the established difference between an Apostle and a Prophet contrary to what they say that they are the same. When the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him, was asked as to how many Prophets were there, He answered: "Hundred and twenty four thousand." They again asked as to how many of them were Apostles; and He answered: "Three hundred and thirteen, plenty!" The difference between them is that the Apostle is One Who brings a Book in addition to the miracle with which He is supported. As to the Prophet, He does not bring Book, but rather follows and promotes the then existing Law. It is also said that an Apostle is the Founder of the Law, whereas the Prophet is the Promulgator and Guardian of that Law.


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From the above quotations, it becomes evident that the "sealing" of Prophethood was intended primarily to announce a change in the administrative structure of the future Muslim community, as compared to the system that was in practice within the Jewish community during the period between the ministry of His Holiness Moses and the appearance of Jesus Christ.3 Nowhere in the Qur'an or in the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad is there mention of the "sealing" of Apostleship, precluding further Divine Revelation. Muhammad had no male children, and He adopted a young slave of Christian origin named Zayd Ibn Al-Harithih as His son, after freeing him from slavery and receiving his voluntary request to remain in the household of the Prophet. The Jews at the time, being highly opposed to the new Revelation, saw an unprecedented opportunity in Muhammad's adoption of a son as a means of sowing seeds of doubt concerning His Prophethood. They claimed, among other things, that because Muhammad knew the history of the children of Israel who were governed by


  1. In numerous passages of His Writings, Baha'u'llah refers to Muhammad as the "Seal of the Prophets". It is in the Kitab-i- Iqan, however, He unfolds the meaning of the title, which had hitherto obscured the understanding that the Prophetic Cycle would end with Muhammad's Dispensation and that the Era of Fulfilment would follow it. Baha'u'llah reveals that there is nothing more explicit in the Qur'an than Muhammad's promise, in clear verses, of "attainment unto the divine Presence" in the Person of His Manifestation and of the "Resurrection" which signified His rise. In keeping with this, He revealed in Epistle to the Son of the Wolf that "... on this day the blessed words 'Put He is the Apostle of God, and the Seal of the Prophets' have found their consummation in the verse 'The day when mankind shall stand before the Lord of the worlds'...". For further study see Kitab-i-Iqan pp. 166-7, 169-70 and 179; Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 114.



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Prophets after the ascension of Moses, he intended to adopt and copy the same system. They concentrated their efforts on the event not only to defame Muhammad, but also to arouse the tribes, stir others against Him and uproot His Movement.

To refute their machinations, the verse "Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Apostle of God" was revealed, followed by what was an affirmation that there would not be Prophet heirs in the Islamic Dispensation, i. e. that He was "the Seal of the Prophets". In this manner, God refuted the assumptions of the enemies of is Faith, causing their ill will to be turned against them.

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