Personal Interpretation of the term 'Seal of the Prophets'
by Kamran Hakim1997
Six Meanings Associated with the Terms Seal of Prophets and Messengers
The term `Nabi'/`Prophet' has been used in the past Scriptures including the Qur'an in two ways. The understanding of this is crucial in discussing this topic.
Universally, the Prophets are of two kinds. One are the independent Prophets Who are followed; the other kind are not independent and are themselves followers.
The independent Prophets are the lawgivers and the founders of a new cycle. Through Their appearance the world puts on a new garment, the foundations of religion are established, and a new book is revealed. Without an intermediary They receive bounty from the Reality of the Divinity, and their illumination is an essential illumination. They are like the sun which is luminous in itself: the light is its essential necessity; it does not receive light from any other star. These Dawning-places of the morn of Unity are the sources of bounty and the mirrors of the Essence of Reality.
The other Prophets are followers and promoters, for they are branches and not independent; they receive the bounty of the independent Prophets, and they profit by the light of Guidance of the universal Prophets. They are like the moon, which is not luminous and radiant in itself, but receives its light from the sun.
The Manifestations of Universal Prophethood Who appeared independently are, for example, Abraham, Moses. Christ, Muhammad, The Bab and Bahá'u'lláh. But the others who are followers and promoters are like Solomon, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. For the independent Prophets are founders; They establish a new religion and make new creatures of men; They change the general morals, promote new customs and rules, renew the cycle and the Law. Their appearance is like the season of spring, which arrays all earthly beings in a new garment, and give them a new life.
With regard to the second sort of Prophets who are followers, these also promote the Law of God, make known the Religion of God, and proclaim His word. Of themselves they have no power and might, except what they receive from the independent Prophets. (`Abdu'l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp. 164-165)
Likewise the term `Rasool' or `Messenger' also have two meanings: The independent or law-giver Messengers like Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Muhammad and dependent, or promulgator Messengers of Christianity like the twelve Apostles of Christ, or Apostle Paul and Apostle Barnabas. Once again understanding of this issue is crucial in recognizing the meaning of the "Seal of the Prophets" and Seal of the Apostles.
In light of what has been discussed above there are several implications associated with the terms Khatam'un Nabi-een, and Khatam'ur Rosol-een which I will summarize a few below:
Shi'ah scholars views on Seal of the Prophets
Let us now examine the opinions of various Muslim theologians, from both Shi'ah and Sunni backgrounds, on the meaning of the term Khatam'u-Nabieen. I will first focus on this, from a Shi'ah perspective since, the individual who raised this question is a Shi'ah Muslim, then I will discuss the Sunni view as well as some other views:
Mulla Fatth-i-Kashani, who is one of the highly respected Shi'ah scholars, in his commentary on Manhaj-ul-Sadegheen, addresses the concept of Khatam'u-Nabieen as follows:
Muhammad's fear became a reality, after He married Zei'nab. After marriage, the idolaters, and His enemies started criticizing Him, and accusing Him of hypocrisy. They'd say, Muhammad teaches His followers that it is unlawful for a father to marry his son's divorced wife, while He has married Zayd's wife. [Zayd was purchased by Muhammad and freed to live as a free man, and Muhammad had adopted him as His son. Arabs of the time of Jahliah, considered one's adopted son as the real son. This is why they started to accuse Muhammad of hypocrisy.] As a result of this criticism, God revealed to Muhammad, Peace be upon Him!, as reflected in the Su'rih of the Confederates, that, Muhammad is not the father of any man (i.e. any male offsprings) among you (since, no surviving male offsprings remained after He passed away). As a result, the law of not marrying the divorced wife of a son would not apply to Muhammad. Furthermore, God calls Muhammad an Apostle of God, in that same verse, (suggesting that He was the spiritual father of all Arabs, and Zayd was simply an Arab with no blood relationship to Him). Moreover, the verse identifies Muhammad as the seal of the prophets, that is to say, since He did not have any surviving male offsprings to inherit prophethood from Him, thus, prophethood was sealed with Him. That is to say, no prophets shall appear after Him... All of Muhammad's male offsprings died in early childhood, prior to Muhammad's own passing, thus, this verse of the Qur'an came into fulfillment.
In the same book [i.e. his commentary on Manhaj-ul-Sadegheen], Mulla Fatth-i- Kashani, offers a tradition attributed to Muhammad, where He says:
I am Muhammad, and I am Ahmad and I am that gatherer, through Whom God shall gether His people. And I am the last, after Me there shall be no other prophet.
Also, he offers another tradition, in the same book, where, Muhammad the Messenger of God tells Ali, Peace be upon Him!:
If it was allowed that after me there be another prophet, that would have been you, and no one but you.
Allamih Jallal-u-Din Suyutti in Jami-ul-Saghir quotes Ayeshih (one of the wives of Prophet Muhammad), who had quoted Muhammad saying:
Clearly, the concept of no Nabi, or prophet, appearing after Muhammad must have been associated with His immediate successorship, and had nothing to do with coming of future Messengers from God. Otherwise, why would Muhammad want to discuss Omar's -the second Khalif's- name in this tradition.
Many of the Shi'ah commentators believe in a literal meaning of the term Khatam-u-Nabieen (Seal of the Prophets, after Whom no other Messengers of God shall come), however, there are other commentators who believe differently:
Ibn-i Babuyih known as Sheikh Sadoogh, another highly respected Shi'ah scholar/theologian argues in his book, Ekmaal-ud-Din vol I:
All the Messengers of God who appeared prior to Muhammad, were succeeded by a Nabi (i.e. a prophet). Adam was a Rasool (Messenger of God), and His successor was Shais the Nabi (Seth the prophet). Noah was a Messenger of God and His successor was Saam the Nabi (Shem the prophet). Abraham, Moses, Jesus and David (peace be upon Them!), were also God's Messengers, Whose successors were Isaac, Jashua, Simon (St. Peter) and Solomon Who were all prophets. However, the successors of Muhammad, Rasool-Allah (the Messenger of God), were not called Nabis (prophets). They were referred to as Imams. Therefore, Ali was not a Nabi, Hasan was not a Nabi, Hossein was not a Nabi, etc...., since, with the Manifestation of Muhammad, the usage of the term Nabi was abandoned (i.e. He was Khatam-u-Nabieen), and ended. As Muhammad was greater than the previous Messengers, so were His appointed successors (i.e. Imams) were greater than Nabis (prophets).
This commentary of Sheikh Sadoogh appears to clearly reason out the inner significance of traditions such as: `Seal of the prophets', `There will be no prophets after me....'.
Among other Shi'ah sources there is a Hadith (tradition) recorded by Ibn-i-Shahr Ashoob in his book, `Managhib'. The very same Hadith can also be found in vol IX of Bihar'ul-Anvar of Allamih Majlesi. This Hadith is from Imam Ali, (Peace be upon Him!), where He discusses the meaning of the term Khatam-u-Nabieen. After describing the ascendancy of His own station, Ali says:
...Anyone who disagrees with me, has disagreed with God, and in arrogance has surpassed all others. No prophet has achieved the station of prophethood except through the Khatam of Nabovvat (i.e. literally meaning prophethood) he received from Muhammad. And Khatam is a ring. Only after receiving the Khatam (ring) of Nabovvat, one can be called a prophet. This is why Muhammad has been called Khatam'u-Nabieen in the Qur'an....." Then He says: "Muhammad is the Seyyed (master) of the Nabieen (prophets), and I am the Seyyed and master of the Vaseein (guardians and successors).
Clearly Ali's explanation of `Khatam'u-Nabeein' is drastically different than the meaning the literalist Muslims have given to it. There does not appear to be any implications whatsoever about cessation of revelation after Prophet Muhammad.
Sunni scholars' views on Seal of the Prophets
Allamih Majlesi in Bihar'ul-Anvar Vol 13, p.323 mentions one of the discourses of Imam Ali. In that discourse Ali says:
I am the Commander of the faithful. I am the King among the pious..... I am the Khatam'u-Vasieen [which can be either taken as `The Seal of the guardians and successors', or, as `The Ornament of the Guardians and successors'.] and the heir of the prophets and the representative of the God of the worlds.
This Hadith is referd to as the Hadith Nuraniah as is reported by several people such as Ibn Babyih (Sheikh Sadooq) in `Uyoon'ul-Akhbar Ar-Rida'.
This tradition of Imam Ali is a very interesting. One must be fair in one's judgment. If we are to take, in this tradition, the term `Khatam' as `the Seal', `the ender', `one who completes', then one is obliged to accept that Ali was "the seal of the guardians, and successors", after Muhammad, Who is the Seal of the prophets. Yet, Shi'ahs believe that after Muhammad there was supposed to be twelve Imams, only the first of Whom was Ali. So, assuming that the term Khatam in Khatam'u-Vasieen must have a similar meaning to the term Khatam in Khatam'u- Nabieen, then one is to question why were there more Imams after Ali. How are we to reconcile the existence of the other Imams, Who came after Ali, based on this interpretation? Let this be food for thought for the possessors of pure heart and open mind.
NOTE: I hope Shi'ah friends contemplate on the meaning of this quotation and its theological implication.
Let us now examine the meaning of the term Khatam'u-Nabieen from the perspective of Sunni scholars and theologians, so that the seekers of truth obtain a wider spectrum of views for their judgment:
In the commentary of Fat'hol-Ghadeer by Hafiz Mohhades-i-Shokani we find:
All the Ghoraba use KhatEm, while Athim use KhatAm. KhatEm in Khatem'un-Nabeein means the Ender of Prophets, or the Seal of Prophets, while, KhatAm in Khatam'un-Nabeein means ring and ornament. In essence Muhammad, the Messenger of God, was the Ring or Ornament of (i.e. among) the Prophets, due to His exalted station compared to other Prophets.
The same book quotes from Dorr'ul-Mansoor of Allamih Jallal'u-Din Suyutti, who quotes Ayeshih, the wife of Muhammad, who said: `Say KhatAm-un-Nabeein (i.e. The Ring or Ornament of the Prophets), and never say no prophets shall come after Him (i.e. Muhammad)'.
One can find the same references in the commentary of Kashaaf, by Zamakhshari, who says: `Muhammad, the Messenger of God, was called Khatam'u-Nabieen, since, He did not have any male offsprings to inherit prophethood from Him.' He goes on and presents a Hadith from Prophet Muhammad who says about His deceased son Abraham (from Marieh, the Egyptian wife of Muhammad): `If my son Abraham was alive, he would have been a Nabi (i.e. He would have become a Nabi after Me.)'. However, all of Muhammad's male offsprings die in early childhood, thus, the verse of the Qur'an: `Muhammad is not the father of any man among you....' comes into fulfillment, and Muhammad become Khatam'u-Nabieen, according to the same verse.
Abo'l-Bagha, another trusted Sunni source discusses this issue in his book, `Mofeed', from the same angle, which I will not quote here in order to prevent excessive repetition of the same idea.
It is apparent from what has been mentioned at length, that both Shi'ah and Sunni sources agree that:
1- There is a more profound meaning associated with the title Khatam'u-Nabieen;
2- Finality of Muhammad's revelation is not implied by this term, mentioned in the Qur'an, the Confederates: 39.
Let me close this note with the view of Abol-Fadail-i Golpayegani, a prominent Bahá'í scholar, from a Muslim background, who, in his book Fara'id addresses the question of Khatam'u-Nabieen as follows:
No wonder if the learned of Islam too, argue against the renewal of revelation from God [i.e. like their predecessors, Jews and Christians, who are firmly convinced that their respective religions are the final revelation from God.], based on such references as: Khatam'u-Nabeein, or such traditions as: `There shall be no prophet after me....', and by doing so become subjected to a test of faith; and join their predecessors [i.e. Jews and Christians]. Not realizing that the purpose of Muhammad in using the term Khatam'u-Nabeein was to suggest the progress of the Islamic nation, and unveil the ascendancy of the station of the Imams in comparison to the prophets of Israel. It is clear to those who are familiar with the Scriptures of the past, who are aware of the events which are associated with the histories of the nations of antiquity that the prophets of Israel, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, etc... one and all prophesied about the future events according to dreams and visions. And they interpreted their vision or dream as a revelation from God. As a result, the book of these prophets became known as the vision of Isaiah, vision of Daniel, vision of Jeremiah, and vision of Ezekiel. By the same token, if we are to examine this issue from a Christian perspective, the Revelation of St. John is in essence the Dream of John. As a result the term Nabi (i.e. prophet) was given to the ones who prophesied based on visions, or dreams. This usage was solidified during the Jewish and Christians dispensations. However, after the appearance of Prophet Muhammad (Khatam'ul-Anbia), the ender of the prophetic cycle, the era of revelation from God `through the medium of dreams and visions' was ended and a new era of `revelation through direct inspiration' was started. Thus, the fulfillment of the tradition; `There will be no prophets after me...' came about. (Fara'id, p. 311)
Portions of Parts 2 and 3 have either been cited or paraphrased, after my own inadequate English translation, from `Ghamoos-i-Iqan' (The Encyclopedia to the Book of Certitude), by A. Eshragh-Khavari, Bahá'í Publishing Trust of Iran.
Islam is not the last religion according to Qur'an and Hadith
To every people is a term appointed: when their term is reached not an hour can they cause delay nor (an hour) can they advance." (Qur'an 7:34)
O children of Adam, verily apostles from among you shall come unto you, who shall expound my signs unto you: whosoever therefore shall fear God and amend, there shall come no fear on them, neither shall they be grieved. (Qur'an 7:35)
The first section of the verse 35 reads in Arabic as follows:
Ya Bani Aadam imaa Ya'tianakum rosolo minkum....."
Conclusions from 7:34-35;
1) Please note that every ummah (religious community or nation) has has an end or consummation.
2) Appearance of future Apostles of God is explicitly mentioned here.
3) These Apostles (more that one Apostle -i.e. Mahdi and Isaa bin Maryam) must come from among the Muslim ummah.
4) These Apostles shall come in the future.
This verse cannot possibly be a reference to Prophet Muhammad since when Qur'an refers to Muhammad the reference is made in the past tense and not future tense.
There is a wonderful Hadith reported by Allamih Sahl ibn-i `Abdu'llah Shooshtary from `Akramih who reports that Ibn-i `Abbas asked Prophet Muhammad: `What shall be the source of our salvation in the future?' Prophet Muhammad replied: `Follow the Qur'an because in it God has informed you of the nations which came before you as well as those nations which will come after you. Also because Qur'an contains the laws of your religion which you are responsible to follow and by the aid of which judge among yourselves.'
Please note how clearly this Hadith is addressing the gist of the Muslim concern about future revelations. Moreover, this Hadith is in total conformity with Qur'an 7:34-35 as its Mossadiq (i.e. Confirmer) and its Muhaymin (i.e. guardian).
NOTE: It is perhaps important to clarify an issue about Qur'an 7:35. Some Muslims believe that the verse of the Qur'an mentioned above is as one Muslim friend put it: `the commands of Allah to Prophet Adam (AS) who was the first Prophet. Allah is saying O' sons of Prophet Adam, shall come many prophets after Prophet Adam (a total of 123999 after Prophet Adam).'
This is extremely questionable. Let us examine this issue in the context of Hadith and see who does the term `ya bani Adam', meaning `O children of Adam' is referring to:
Narrated by Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "I have been sent (as an Apostle) in the best of all the generations of Adam's offspring since their creation." (Sahih Bukhari 4:757)
The people among whom Prophet Muhammad appeared are identified as `Adam's offsprings'. The generation among whom Muhammad appeared is identified as `the best of all the generations of Adam's offspring'. Let us look at yet another one:
We set out with the Prophet for Hajj [i.e. Pilgrimage. KH] and when we reached Sarif I got my menses. When the Prophet came to me, I was weeping. He asked, `Why are you weeping?' I said, `I wish if I had not performed Hajj this year.' He asked, `May be that you got your menses?' I replied, `Yes.' He then said, `This is the thing which Allah has ordained for all the daughters of Adam. So do what all the pilgrims do except that you do not perform the Tawaf [i.e. Circumambulation. KH] round the Ka'ba till you are clean." (Sahih Bukhari 1:302)
Please note that women are categorically identified as `daughters of Adam'. Menses was ordained for both Muslim women and women living prior to Islam, yet the ruling of this Hadith applies to `daughters of Adam', namely Muslim women.
Since I was aware that the Shi'ah friends might not be fond of the Ahadith I've quoted above in particular the one narrated by 'Aisha, the umm'ul Momenin, and moreover, since Muslim friends are very much interested in contextual relevance of what I quote I feel obliged to also demonstrate this issue in the context of the verses of the Qur'an. Hopefully the following example will demonstrate this issue:
ya bani adama khozoo zinatakom enda kolle masjiden Qur'an 7:31
Which translates to:
O Children of Adam! Look to your adornment in every Masjid.
Please note that along with the term `ya bani adam' (i.e. O Children of Adam) the term Masjid (i.e. place of worship) which I feel is particular to Muslims appear in this verse of the Qur'an. As a result the term "ya bani adam" is a reference to the Muslim ummah.
I know! Some might disagree with the fact that the term `masjid' as a place of worship is particular to the Muslim ummah. However, it is important to point out that neither Jews, nor Christians identify their places of worship as Masjid. Let us consider some other verses:
wa man azlama min man mana'a masajida llahe an yazkara fihaa asmoho wa sa'aa fi kharabehaa" (Qur'an 2:114)
Which translates to:
And who is more unjust than he who forbids that in masajid (i.e. masjids) Allah's name should be celebrated and to destroy them.
I hope it is clear that the above mentioned verse is addressed to the ummah of Islam since neither Jews tried to destroy their own synagogues, nor Christians attempted to destroy their own churches.
innamaa ya'amoro masajida llahe man aamana billahe wal yawmil aakhire (Qur'an 9:18)
Which translates to:
He only shall attend to the masajid of Allah who believes in Allah and the Last Day.
None but Muslims are intended by this verse to attend MASJID. Since it is a Muslim who believes in Allah and the Last Day. The theme is repeated throughout the Qur'an.
Now the question is how valid is the above assumption (i.e. masjid being the place in which only Muslims worship Allah.). The following verse of the Qur'an clearly demonstrates this issue:
wa law-laa dafa-o llahe an-naasa ba'azahum bi-ba'azin lahoddemat sawamion wa biya wa salawaat wa masajid yozkaro fihaa ismo- llahe kasiran." (Qur'an 22:40)
Which Yusuf Ali translates as:
Did not Allah check one set of people by the means of another there would surely have been pulled down monasteries churches synagogues and mosques in which the name of Allah is commemorated in Abundant measure.
Please note that the places of worship belonging to Jews, Christian and Muslims have clearly been distinguished by their particular designation (i.e. churches, synagogues and mosques". If the term masjid was used as a universal term to identify the place of worship for the followers of all religions then there would have been no reason for the verse of the Qur'an to mention the Jewish and Christian places of worship separately. So, when the Holy Qur'an reveals:
ya bani adama khozoo zinatakom enda kolle masjiden Qur'an 7:31
The term `ya bani adam' or `O children of Adam' along with the term `masjid' the latter clarrifies who is intended by `ya bani adam' (i.e. Muslims). Verse 7:31 of the Qur'an is of particular importance in this case because it appears prior to Qur'an 7:35 where it says:
O children of Adam, verily apostles from among you shall come unto you who shall expound my signs unto you...
As a result the term `ya bani adam' or `O children of Adam' in this verse applies to Muslims both contextually and logically. These apostles must appear from among the ummah of Islam.
The argument presented by the Muslim friends about `children of Adam' (mentioned in Qur'an 7:35) referring only to the descendants of Prophet Adam who lived prior to Prophet Muhammad (therefore it does not apply to Muhammad and the time after Him) is a feeble attempt to undermine the message of the Holy Qur'an.
I hope this writing offers a fresh perspective for consideration and contemplation.
Let us go back to the original theme.
According to the Qur'anic prescription God has always sent His Messengers for the education of the peoples of the world, and will continue to do do so. No nation (ummah) will be deprived of God's mercy. The Holy Qur'an refers to this theme on many different occasions. The following references (Surih Fatir:22, Nahl:38, Yunis:47, and Hadj:67) clearly convey this idea. For example consider Yunis:47:
And every nation [i.e. ummah] had an apostle; so when their apostle came, the matter was decided between them with justice and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.
Furthermore, Yunis:49 suggests that every nation (ummah) has an end (ajal), and a final consummation.
...Every nation [i.e. ummah] has a term [i.e. ajal]; when their term [i.e. ajal] comes, they shall not then remain behind, nor shall they go before (their time) [i.e. They cannot delay or accelerate that time.]
Both Sunni and Shi'ah sources have reported Ahadith in reference to this theme. For example: In the book of Najm'us-Saghib, Haji Mirza Husayn-i Noori the well-known Shi'ah scholar and commentator writes in reference to interpretation of this verse of the Qur'an:
At the time of the revelation of this verse (`le-kolle ummaten ajal') which suggests that for every nation a term has been established, they asked the Messenger of God what is the term for the ummah of Islam, and He replies: `If my people [i.e. Muslims] were truthful they remain for one day. If they degrade, half a day will they last.'[Bihar'ul Anvar, Vol 13]" (Najm'us-Saghib p. 87)
Muslims as an `ummah' have an `ajal' too, as clearly demonstrated above, and when this `ajal' comes they will be unable to change it even for an hour. When their `ajal' comes a new Messenger of God will appear, per A'araf: 34 and Yunis: 47, to form a new `ummah'.
The meaning of one day discussed in the above Hadith is given in the Qur'an as follows:
He regulates the affair from the heaven to the earth; then shall it ascend to Him in a day the measure of which is a Thousand years of what you count. (Al-Sujdah: 5)
The same concept, of a day=1000 years, is also repeated in Al-Hadj:44.
So, according to the Hadith from Prophet Muhammad, `ajal', end, or the term for the "ummah" of Islam is anywhere between 500 to 1000 years, depending on Muslim accomplishments and status.
The following Hadith clearly draws an inescapable parallel between the ummah of Islam and the Jewish ummah and the Christian ummah in regards to the fact that it too has an end. Narrated by `Abdu'llah bin `Umar:
I heard Allah's Apostle while he was standing on the pulpit, saying: `The remaining period of your stay in comparison to the nations [umam, plural of ummah. KH] before you [i.e. Jewish ummah and Christian ummah, etc... KH], is like the period between the 'Asr prayer and sunset. The people of the Torah were given the Torah and they acted upon it till midday, and then they were worn out and were given for their labor, one Qirat each. The the people of the Gospel were given the Gospel and they acted upon it till the time of the `Asr prayer, and then they were worn out and were given (for their labor), one Qirat each. Then you people were given the Qur'an and you acted upon it till sunset and so you were given two Qirat each.'.... (Bukhari 9:559)
Please note how beautifully Prophet Muhammad is portraying the fact that three communities (i.e. umam) namely Jewish Faith, Christianity and Islam have fixed terms similar to the obligatory prayers. As the five Muslim daily Obligatory Prayers have to begin and end in particular time frames, each religion and its ummah must also begin and end in a particular time frame:
1) Jewish ---> till midday
2) Christian ---> till afternoon
3) Muslim ---> till sunset
The implication of this Hadith is no less than two other obligatory prayers must follow the three mentioned above by the Prophet in order to complete the five. The other two obligatory prayers are the ummah or communities of Mahdi and Isaa bin Maryam. Since I am cognizant of the fact that you want every Hadith to be in conformance with the verses of the Qur'an, I'd like to present the following verse of the Qur'an for your consideration:
Aqim as-salaat ledluk ash-shams illa ghasq al-layl va Qur'an al-fajr inna Qur'an al-fajr kaana mash-hoodan. (Qur'an 7:78)
Yusof Ali translates this to:
Establish regular prayers at the sun's decline till the darkness of the night and the morning prayer and reading: for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony.
This verse of the Qur'an commands the believers to pray, in accordance with the above mentioned Hadith at sun's decline till darkness. That is to say the commandment of prayer which is one of the main pillars of Islam remains valid until `ghasq al-layl' or darkness of the night. According to the terminology of `Jafr' the term `ghasq al-layl' equals to 1261. (gh=1000, s=60, q=100, a=1, l=30, l=30, y=10 and l=30 according to the abjad notation which equals to 1261). That is to say: O Muslims conduct the ordinance of the obligatory prayer from the decline of the the sun of Muhammad's revelation until the year 1261. and then the verse goes on to say: `for the prayer and reading in the morning carry their testimony.' That is to say, when the next Messengers appear after that time (i.e. 1261 years) they will re-establish the ordinance of obligatory prayer once again.
Per testimony of this verse of the Qur'an, The Bab proclaimed His Mission in 1260 years after the revelation of Prophet Muhammad as the Awaited Mahdi of the House of the Prophet and changed the ordinance of the Obligatory Prayer.
The year 1260, or 1000 years from the revelation of Prophet Muhammad (i.e. 1844 AD) is a theme which repeatedly appears in the Qur'an and the Hadith and the Bible (both the Old and the New Testaments) in regards to the appearance of Mahdi (per Sunni/Shi'ah expectation), or Qa'im (per Shi'ah expectation) or Return of John the Baptist or Return of Elijah (per Christian and Jewish expectations). I am not going to discuss this any more here for the sake of brevity.
Let us examine this issue further. Another Hadith from Prophet Muhammad which is accepted by both Shi'ahs and Sunnis is mentioned by Ibn-i Babuyih known as Sheikh Sadoogh in Kamal-ud-Din. This Hadith is from Said-ibn-i Jabir who reports it from Ibn-i Abbas, who heard it from Prophet Muhammad Who said:
My successors after Me are God's proofs for the people of the earth. They are twelve. First one of them my brother and last of them will be my child. They asked: O Apostle of God who is your brother? He said Ali-ibn Abu Talib. They asked who is your child? He said: He is Mahdi who will fill the earth with justice, even if it is full of injustice and wretchedness. I swear to God Who made Me His Messenger even if one day is left from the age of the world, God will lenghten that day to the extent that My child Mahdi will become manifest. Then Issa, the Spirit of God descends from heaven and pray behind Him.
Furthermore, Prophet Muhammad is recorded to have said:
Vas-samaa-eh Zat-el Boruj" [Al-Boruj:1] meaning: `I swear by heaven which has towers.' Asbagh Ibn-i Nabatah mentions a Hadith reported by Ibn-i Abbas who reports the Prophet to have said: By the term `heaven', in this verse, I am meant, and `towers' are the Imams of My House, the first of Whom is Ali and the last of Them is Mahdi and they are twelve. (Bihar'ul Anvar, ch 6:63, p. 273)
There are several other Ahadith which offer similar concept about the status of the Imams, however, I will not mention here for the sake of brevity. The point of interest in these Ahadith is the confirmation of the truth of Imamat after passing of Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad identifies the 12 Imams, the last of Whom is Mahdi with such titles as `God's proof among mankind', and the `towers of heaven', when heaven is no less that Muhammad the Apostle of God.
So, humanity had, after the passing of Prophet Muhammad a source of guidance (i.e. Imamat) until the 11th Imam (Imam Hasan-i Asgari) passed away on the year 260 A.H. Therefore, the timeline for the term, or "ajal" of the ummah of Islam must be one day (i.e. 1000 years) from the death of Imam Hasan-i Asgari, who was the last source of divine guidance among the ummah of Islam, or 1260 A.H. which, according to the directive of the Qur'an is the date of the appearance of Mahdi. Let us examine the Hadith and see what they say in this regards:
According to a Shi'ah Tradition; Mufaddal asked Imam Sa'diq saying: `What of the signs of His manifestation, [i.e. Mahdi's] O my master?' He replied: 'In the year sixty [which is a metaphorical presentation of 1260 A.H.], His Cause [i.e. religion] shall be made manifest, and His name shall be proclaimed.'.
I swear by the stars of retrograde motions which move swiftly and hide themselves away." [Al-Takvir:15-16] Sheikh Sadoogh in Kaml-ud-Din reports a Hadith from Imam Muhammad Baqir (Peace be upon him) who answers Umm- Hanni about this verse of the Qur'an saying: This verse refers to the Imam who will enter occultation in the year 260 (A.H.), then He will re- appear like a shining star. If you see Him your eyes will gain light. (Bihar'ul Anvar, ch 5:24, p. 258)
Now that another perspective has been offered about the limitation of Islam, let us examine the concept of finality of Shriat/Qur'an.
In the Holy Qur'an we find:
Va Kol-lo Yao-men Howa fi Sha`nen" [Al-Rahman: 29]
Which means: Every day has its own circumstances and requirements.
Also, the Qur'an teaches:
Va le-kol-le Ajal-en Kitab [Al-Ra'd: 38]
For every term (i.e. ajal, or end) there is a Book.
Therefore, when the ajal, or the term of an `ummah' (nation or community) is reached, God will reveal a new Book, and a new code of laws (i.e. Shariah) , to best suit the circumstance of that age. So, when the term of Islam is reached and the Mahdi appears, He must of necessity reveal a new Book. Perhaps the following Ahadith from the Imams of the Faith, who are referred to as Proofs of God among mankind according to Prophet Muhammad, capture the gist of this concept.
Prophet Muhammad, is recorded to have said:
There will be no Book after my Book [the Holy Qur'an. KH], and, there will be no religion after my religion [Islam. KH] until the day of resurrection.
Moreover, He is recorded to have said in another Hadith:
Whatever was made lawful by Me [i.e. Muhammad. KH] shall remain lawful until the day of resurrection, and whatever was made unlawful by Me shall remain unlawful until the day of resurrection.
Therefore, the Day of Resurrection is the `term', `ajal', or the `end' of Islam as an `ummah' (i.e. a nation). Imam Muhammad Sadiq clarifies the meaning of the Day of resurrection in a Hadith as follows:
When the Qa'im [i.e. Mahdi] riseth, that day is the Day of Resurrection.
Furthermore, in the Arba'in which is a compilation of Shi'ah Tradition it is recorded:
Out of Bani-Hashim there shall come forth a Youth Who shall reveal new laws. He shall summon the people unto Him, but none will heed His call. Most of His enemies will be the divines [i.e. religious leaders]. His bidding they will not obey, but will protest saying: 'This is contrary to that which hath been handed down unto us by the Imams of the Faith.
Imam Sadiq is also recorded to have said:
There shall appear a Youth from Bani-Hashim, Who will bid the people plight fealty unto Him. His Book will be a new Book, unto which He shall summon the people to pledge their faith. Stern is His Revelation unto the Arab. If ye hear it about Him, hasten unto Him.
There are several other Hadith which I will not mention here for the sake of brevity.
Islam is by no means the last Shariah. On the contrary, both the Qur'an and the Hadith suggest otherwise:
And thus have we made you a middle nation that you may be the bearers of witness to the people. (Qur'an 2:143)
Islam is a transitory religion, and its Shariah is also transitory. Perhaps the following Hadith clarifies this issue further. Ibn-i Majah recounts from Ali ibn-Abu Talib:
Ali, the Commander of the Faithful says: I asked the Messenger of God: O Apostle of God! Does Mahdi belong to our household or is He from another? The Messenger of God said; He is from us. God will end religion through Him, the same way He opend it through Me.... (Bihar'ul Anvar ch 6, p. 314)
I hope that what I have mentioned offers you a reasonable criteria for the consideration of another religion after Islam.
Implications of the term `Day of Resurrection'
Prophet Muhammad said:
Halaal-o Muhammad-en halaal-o ilaa yaoum-el ghyaamate va haraamahoo haram ilaa yaoum-el ghyaamate.
Which translates to:
Whatever was made lawful by Me [i.e. Muhammad. KH] shall remain lawful until the day of resurrection, and whatever was made unlawful by Me shall remain unlawful until the day of resurrection.
Moreover, He is recorded to have said in another occasion:
Laa kitaaba b'ada kitabi va laa shari'ata b'ada shar'ati ilaa yaoum-el ghyaamate.
Which translates to:
There will be no Book after my Book [i.e. the Holy Qur'an. KH], and, there will be no religion after my religion until the day of resurrection.
Let us discuss the implications of the meaning of the Day of Resurrection in some detail:
The meaning usually given to the `Day of Resurrection' by the people of the Book (Jews, Christians and Muslims) is a day in which all the dead shall literally rise and leave their sepulchers, become alive in order to be judged by God. Each religion appears to paint somewhat a different picture about the details of this event, and how it will come about. Nevertheless, they all agree that physically dead shall become alive on that day.
I will not attempt to recount the beliefs of various people about the Day of Resurrection, however, I would like to say that such belief is based on a very literalistic approach to Scripture, which is against the teachings of the Messengers of God, and the Imams of religion, beside being an absurd thought among mindful believers. Allow me to discuss alternative ways of understanding the meaning of the `Day of Resurrection'. The Bab addresses the meaning of the `Day of Resurrection' in the Persian Bayan as follows:
The substance of this chapter is this that what was intended by the Day of Resurrection is the Day of the appearance of the Tree of divine Reality, but it is not seen that any one of the followers of Shi'ih Islam hath understood the meaning of the Day of Resurrection; rather they have fanatically imagined a thing which with God hath no reality. In the estimation of God and according to the usage of such as are initiated into the divine mysteries, what is meant by the Day of Resurrection is this, that from the time of the appearance of Him Who is the Tree of divine Reality, at whatever period and under whatever name, until the moment of His disappearance, is the Day of Resurrection.
For example, from the inception of the mission of Jesus -may peace be upon Him- till the day of His ascension was the Resurrection of Moses. For during that period the Revelation of God shone forth through the appearance of that divine Reality [i.e. Jesus. KH], Who rewarded by His Word everyone who believed in Moses, [i.e. was a true believer within the Mosaic law. KH], and punished by His Word everyone who did not believe [i.e. was not a true believer -was a believer by name only-. KH]; inasmuch as God's Testimony for that Day was that which He had solemnly affirmed in the Gospel. And from the inception of the Revelation of the Apostle of God -may the blessings of God be upon Him- till the day of His ascension was the Resurrection of Jesus [i.e. Day of Resurrection for the followers of Jesus. KH] -peace be upon Him- wherein the Tree of divine Reality appeared in the person of Muhammad, rewarding by His Word everyone who was a believer in Jesus, and punishing by His Word everyone who was not a believer in Him. And from the moment when the Tree of Baya'n [i.e. The Bab is referring to Himself. KH] appeared until it disappeareth is the Resurrection of the Apostle of God, as is divinely foretold in the Qur'an.....The stage of perfection of everything is reached when its resurrection occureth. The perfection of the religion of Islam was consummated at the beginning of this Revelation until its setting, the fruits of the Tree of Islam, whatever they are, will become apparent. The Resurrection of the Baya'n [i.e. the Holy Book revealed by The Bab, Mahdi or Qa'im of the House of the Prophet. KH] will occur at the time of the appearance of Him Whom God shall make manifest [i.e. Isaa bin Maryam, The Return of Christ, the Glory of God, Bahá'u'lláh. KH]. For today the Bayan is in the stage of seed; at the beginning of the manifestation of Him Whom God shall make manifest its ultimate perfection will become apparent. He [Him Whom God shall make manifest. KH] is made manifest in order to gather the fruits of the trees He [i.e. The Bab. KH] hath planted; even as the Revelation of the Qa'im [He Who ariseth. The Shi'ah name for Mahdi. KH] -an allusion to Himself-, a descendant of Muhammad -may the blessings of God rest upon Him- is exactly like unto the Revelation of the Apostle of God Himself [Muhammad. KH]. He appeareth not, save for the purpose of gathering the fruits of Islam from the Qur'anic verses which He [Muhammad. KH] hath sown in the hearts of men. The fruits of Islam cannot be gathered except through allegiance unto Him [the Qa'im or Mahdi. KH], and by believing in Him...yet unjustly have they consigned Him to the Mountain of Maku. (The Persian Bayan 2:7)
And Bahá'u'lláh elaborates further on this explanation as follows:
These Prophets and chosen Ones of God are the recipients and revealers of all the unchangeable attributes and names of God. They are the mirrors that truly and faithfully reflect the light of God. Whatsoever is applicable to them is in reality applicable to God, Himself, Who is both the Visible and the Invisible. The knowledge of Him Who is the Origin of of all things (i.e God) and attainment unto Him, are impossible save through knowledge of, and attainment unto, these luminous Beings who proceed from the Sun of Truth. By attaining, therefore, to the presence of these holy Luminaries, the "Presence of God" Himself is attained. From their knowledge, the knowledge of God is revealed, and from the light of their countenance, the splendour of the Face of God is made manifest. Through the manifold attributes of these Essences of Detachment, Who are both the first and the last, the seen and the hidden, it is made evident that He Who is the Sun of Truth is "the First and the Last, the Seen, and the Hidden. [Qur'an 57:3]." Likewise the other lofty names and exalted attributes of God. Therefore, whosoever, and in whatever Dispensation, hath recognized and attained unto the presence of these glorious, these resplendent and most excellent Luminaries, hath verily attained unto the "Presence of God" Himself, and entered the city of eternal and immortal life. Attainment unto such presence is possible only in the Day of Resurrection, which is the Day of the rise of God Himself through His all-embracing Revelation.
This is the meaning of the `Day of Resurrection', spoken of in all the scriptures, and announced unto all people. Reflect, can a more precious, a mightier, and more glorious day than this be conceived, so that man should willingly forego its grace, and deprive himself of its bounties, which like unto vernal showers are raining from the heaven of mercy upon all mankind? ...Have they not heard the well-known tradition: `When the Qa'im riseth, that day is the Day of Resurrection?' [Hadith from Imam Sadiq. KH] In like manner, the Imams, those unquenchable lights of divine guidance, have interpreted the verse: `What can such expect but that God should come down to them overshadowed with clouds,' [Qur'an 2:210]- a sign which they have unquestionably regarded as one of the features of the Day of Resurrection- as referring to Qa'im and His manifestation.
Strive therefore, O my brother, to grasp the meaning of `Resurrection,' and cleanse thine ears from the idle sayings of these rejected people. Shouldst thou step into the realm of complete detachment, thou wilt readily testify that no day is mightier than this Day, and that no resurrection more awful than this Resurrection can ever be conceived. (Bahá'u'lláh, Ketab-i-Iqan p. 142-144)
The Bab repeats the same theme again in the Book of Bayan:
On that great day the Tree of Truth [i.e. the Manifestation of God. KH], whose speech is continually 'There is no God but Me' shall be manifest and all those who are veiled therefrom imagine him to be a soul like themselevs... Therefore it is that the Day of Resurrection is called the Greatest Day, else it is but a day like all other days except that therein is the Manifestation of God manifest. (Persian Bayan 8:9)