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Books Section > The Last Prophet (Akhri Nabi) by Maulana Muhammad Ali > The Question of Prophethood and Mirza Mahmud Ahmad / Meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin, i.e., 'Last of the Prophets'

The Question of Prophethood and Mirza Mahmud Ahmad ---
Meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin, i.e., 'Last of the Prophets':

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The Question of Prophethood and Mirza Mahmud Ahmad:

For a long time, I wished Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad [Referred to later as Mian Sahib. (Translator)] should himself take up his pen on the basic question of prophethood. I kept on writing to him to do so, but he never paid me heed. In this connection, after writing the first volume of Haqiqat an-Nubuwwat (March, 1915) he promised to write its second volume, but he never fulfilled this promise. He has broken his silence now by submitting a statement in a court at Gurdaspur. I am extremely happy at this gesture, because the whole dispute, in principle, can now easily be settled. If according to the Holy Quran and the Hadith, the Holy Prophet Muhammad is the Last Prophet, and no prophet can appear after him, except that someone should use this term by way of metaphor or simile; or, if there is no definite proof of the closure of the door of prophethood, after the Holy Prophet being the Last Prophet, then undoubtedly a person can become a prophet.

The Point of Dispute:

The issue which needs to be solved, is brief and simple. Both of us, that is to say, Mian Sahib and I believe that the words Khatam an-Nabiyyin have been used in the Holy Quran about the Holy Prophet. The whole discussion, now is only about the true nature of their meanings. According to Mian Sahib, the meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin is a person by following whom, prophets will be made in future. According to me, it means the ‘Last of the Prophets’. Mian Sahib has asserted that the meanings he has offered have been mentioned in the Arabic lexicons exactly in the same manner as stated by him; that is, he has not given any interpretation of his own at all, and that these words do not mean ‘Last of the Prophets’ in the lexicons. Thus the words of his statement (in the Court) published in his paper Al-Fazl are as follows:

"The meaning of this term has always been rendered thus. We do not give any interpretation of it; on the other hand, these are the meanings given to it in the lexicons. Some people also render Khatam an-Nabiyyin as the ‘Last of the Prophets’ but in the dictionary ‘last prophet’ is not the meaning of this term." (Al-Fazl , June 26-29, 1922)*

* The greatest error in which Mian Sahib has tried to lead his community is, that as the meaning of khatam in the lexicons is "seal", therefore it would automatically render Khatam an-Nabiyyin as such a prophet by following whom others will be made prophets in future. We do not challenge the meaning of the word khatam. What we demand is that he should show from the lexicons that the term Khatam an-Nabiyyin means such a prophet by following whom other persons would become prophets.

The Meaning According to Arab Usage:

For the sake of argument, I accept that, according to Mian Sahib’s new interpretation, the lexicons reflect Arab usage. He has, however, agreed to show, without any additional interpretation of his own, that his meanings are clearly supported by Arab usage. As against this, I also claim that I would positively show the clear meaning of these words in the Arabic idiom. That the meaning of the term Khatam an-Nabiyyin is the ‘Last of the Prophets’ will be discussed by me in three sections.

Firstly, that this meaning is mentioned in the Arabic lexicons or in Arab usage. Secondly, Arabs have an expression of Khatam al-Qaum (similar to Khatam an-Nabiyyin) which is only used in the sense of akhir al-qaum, the last of the people. The expression Khatam an-Nabiyyin should also be understood in the same light. Thirdly, the word khatam was used among the Arabs in the sense of being "last".

Mian Sahib has also admitted that:

"A lot of knowledge of the Arabic usage has been received by us from the books of lexicons."

The Sources of Arabic Usage:

Apart form this, whatever little knowledge is obtained, which he has put forth as evidence in his support, is derived from the commentaries of Kashshaf and Abu Hayyan, or the commentary entitled Fath al-Bayan in which a saying of Abu Ubaidah is mentioned, and his sayings are generally recorded by the author of Lisan al-Arab. Thus, according to Mian Sahib, this little bit of knowledge is also obtained by either the authors of lexicons or from the commentators. Besides that, Mian Sahib has not put forward any other authority, such as from the poetry of the pre-Islamic days. Therefore, in our present controversy, we have to finally depend on books of lexicons and commentaries of the Holy Quran and I will quote them verbatim without adding my own explanation. Let me reiterate my position. I will not say that the lexicons give a certain meaning which actually means so and so. I will only quote the actual words of the lexicons. And Mian Sahib has already made a tall claim that the meanings given by him have always been found in the Arabic dictionaries, without any explanation of his attached to them. I hope he would not say that the lexicons give a certain meaning, which actually means so and so.

The Meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin in Lexicons:

First I would deal with the lexicons and later with commentaries. The meaning of the words Khatam an-Nabiyyin in lexicons is given as follows:

1. Taj al-Arus [Imam Muhib al-Din Abu-i-Fiaz Murtaza]: Khatam an-Nabiyyin means the last of them (prophets).

2. Lisan al-Arab [Allama Abu-i-Fazl Jamal-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Mukarram]:Khatam an-Nabiyyin means last of them (prophets) and Khatam has also been recited in place of Khatim.

3. Al-Mufradat fi-Gharib al-Quran [Sheikh Abu-i-Qasim al-Hussain al-Raghib al-Isfahani.]:Khatam an-Nabiyyin for the reason that he brought prophethood to an end, i.e., completed it by his appearance.

4. Majma Bihar al-Anwar [Dictionary of Hadith by Al-Sheikh Muhammad Tahir.]: Khatam an-Nabiyyin with fatha (i.e., Khatam) is a noun and means the ‘Last of the Prophets’.

But Mian Sahib would not care about these testimonies. He writes:

"And the question is from where have these meanings been derived by the authors who have explained these words thus? The reply to this question is that, at first they rendered Khatam an-Nabiyyin as the ‘Last of the Prophets’ according to their belief, and then they put their belief in writings in their books."

But Mian Sahib did not unravel the knot by his strange logic, that when in the Arabic idiom the word khatam did not mean last at all, how this belief could come to be generally accepted; that is, who invented the creed that Khatam an-Nabiyyin meant the ‘Last of the Prophets’, or was this creed introduced by the Companions of the Holy Prophet after his death? Were they ignorant of the Arabic idiom? As has been asserted by Mian Sahib, there was only one meaning of this term; that is, he, by following whom prophets will be made in future. Then, who introduced the belief of the Holy Prophet being the ‘Last of the Prophets’? I hope Mian Sahib’s sharp wit would certainly solve this problem, that the meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin as the ‘Last of the Prophets’ was so common before the lexicologists compiled their lexicons that they also accepted this meaning without giving much thought to it. Mian Sahib’s exaggerated imagination does not stop here. He goes on to state: "This, too, is not inconceivable, that after hearing the verse meant the Last Prophet, some people started using these words in that sense."

If we let our imagination run loose like that, we may also say that the Holy Prophet did not exist in the world at all, but some people introduced this belief first and gave it publicity through the Holy Quran and later the historians also recorded in their books all those events relating to the life of the Holy Prophet! I do not really know where Mian Sahib’s fantasies will ultimately lead him. But as conclusive proof against him, I quote, in addition, a reference from a lexicon compiled by a Christian, apart from four most authentic lexicons aforementioned, to prove that Christian lexicologists have also rendered Khatam an-Nabiyyin as the ‘Last of the Prophets’.

If Muslims, according to their particular creed had accepted a wrong meaning, on what basis did a Christian accept this meaning?

Lane’s Arabic-English Lexicon [Edward William Lane.], which comprises eight volumes, says: "Both Khatam an-Nabiyyin and Khatim an-Nabiyyin in the Holy Quran mean the ‘Last of the Prophets’ (33:40)."

What Mian Sahib says is that if the lexicologists have given the meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin as the ‘Last of the Prophets’, then they have only expressed their own views about it, as the term did not exist before at all. Thus how could there exist a meaning of this term? He writes:

"Now you ponder over the words Khatam an-Nabiyyin, whether they are a technical expression (istilah) or an idiom, (muhawarah). If you accept them as an idiom, it has to be admitted that, before the Holy Prophet, all unbelievers used the words Khatam an-Nabiyyin and it was their idiom that when the word khatam was joined with the word nabi, they (the unbelievers), would necessarily render it as the Last Prophet and this is obviously wrong. And if this idiom even became accepted by Muslims after the revelation of the Holy Quran, it could not have any effect on the meaning of the Holy Quran because care should be taken in explaining the meanings of someone’s speech that it should be rendered according to the idiom prior to that particular period."

The Expression Khatam al-Qaum:

It seems Mian Sahib’s opinion on every subject is an authority! His opinion should also be considered an authority on the principles of lexicology. But he never paid any attention whatsoever to the fact that I had already quoted an Arabic idiom on the basis of which the meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin has been rendered as the ‘Last of the Prophets’. I draw his attention again to the point.

The evidence of these two authentic lexicons show that the idiom khatam al-qaum already existed among the Arabs and they rendered it as the last (person) of the people which was also the meaning of khatim al-qaum. Most probably Mian Sahib would not dare to say that lexicologists invented this idiom on their own in support of their previously held belief.

If some thought is given, what else could khatam al-qaum denote except the last of the people? By any stretch of the imagination it could not mean that the people had made a seal and had kept it somewhere. If khatam al-qaum means the last of the people and not the seal of the people, then this expression is clear evidence about the meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin as the ‘Last of the Prophets’. Now there is only one point left. Does the word khatam on its own mean the last in the lexicons or not? Mian Sahib writes:

"If you look at the meaning of khatam in an unbiased manner and that of nabiyyin separately in the lexicons then you will realise that there is no lexicon at all which does not mention seal as the meaning of khatam."

Khatam Means Last:

Mian Sahib perhaps does not remember now that his claim was not that khatam also means a seal. What he claimed was that Khatam an-Nabiyyin did not mean the ‘Last of the Prophets’. So when he advised to look at the meaning of khatam and nabiyyin separately, he should have said "there is no dictionary at all which gives ‘last’ as the meaning of khatam." Further, his claim was that Khatam an-Nabiyyin did not mean the ‘Last of the Prophets’, and therefore, according to him, no book of lexicon could render Khatam as Last. On the CONTRARY, I ASSERT THAT there is no great lexicon which has not stated the meaning of khatam as the last. Firstly, I mention the names of dictionaries compiled by Muslims, although Mian Sahib gives preference to the ones written by Christians.

1. Taj al-Arus: wal khatamnu min kulli shayin aqibatuhu wa akhiratuhu ka-khatima-tihi wal khatamu akhiril qawm; and khatam is the end of everything and its last portion as its end, and khatam is the last person of the people as khatim.

In the same book khatam, khatim, khataam, khaitam, khitam, khatm, khatiyam have been considered synonymous.

2. Lisan al-Arab: Two statements have been mentioned above. Besides those, the meaning of khitam has been given as the last and thereafter it has been mentioned: al-khatimu wal khitamu mutaqaribani fil ma’-na il-laa innal khatamul ismi wal-khitami al-masdiru, that is the meanings of khatam, khatim and khitam are similar and there is no difference except that khatam is a noun and khitam is an infinitive noun.

3. Qamus of al-Firozabadi: After listing that khatam, khatim, khataam, etc., are similar in meaning, it has been explained at the end, wa min kulli shayin aqibatihi was akhratihi ka khatimattihi wa akhirul qawmi kal-khatim, that is, the end or the last portion of everything is its khatimah (end) and also the last of the people as khatim.

4. Mukhtar al-Sihah: wal khatamu bil-fat-hit ta-i wa kasriha wal-khitam wal-khatamu kulluhu that is al-khatam with fatha and kasrah on ta and khaitam and khatam all mean the same.

5. Muntaha al-Arab: While explaining khatim, it is said: Khatmu bil fat-hi mithlihi, that is, khatim means the end of everything and its termination; and the last of the people and khatam (ta with fatha) also means the same.

6. Sihah al-Jauhari: al-khatamu wal-khatimu bi-kasrit ta wal khaitam wal khatam kullihi, that is, khatm, khatim, khitam and khaitam all mean the same thing.

Muslim lexicologists may have been influenced by their creed, but what about the Christian lexicologists. They also express the same view, as follows:

7. Aqrab al-Muwarid: al-khatimu, wal-khatamu, wal khatam akhirul qawm wa ma yuda-u a-lat tinatihi wa aqibatihi kulli shayin, that is al-khatim and al-khatam mean a finger-ring, the last person of the people, and also the seal and the end of everything.

8. Arabic – English Dictionary by Salmon: khatam and khatim mean the same.

9. Arabic English Lexicon by Edward Lane: Khatam: the end or last part of a thing.

Evidence by Mian Sahib:

In spite of all this weighty evidence from the lexicons, Mian Sahib submits a statement in the court that the meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin is not the ‘Last of the Prophets’ and later instead of apologising for his mistake, he writes an article (in Al-Fazl) that in Arab usage khatam does not mean "last". And what proof does have in his favour. Three statements appearing in some commentaries, the commentaries which were considered untrustworthy by him to the extent that by accepting their authority even the lexicologists themselves had become unreliable. Is this the path of righteousness? On the one hand, the evidence of the lexicologists is rejected because they quote references from the commentaries, and on the other, the evidence of those very commentaries is put forth against the lexicologists in support of his views!

As a matter of fact, the evidence from the commentaries does not even support Mian Sahib. The author of Kashshaf has, no doubt, stated that khatam means a seal, but he has not denied the other meaning. However, if he has not mentioned it, how could this be construed as his denial of the other meanings? The most that can be said is that it is one person’s knowledge of it and that he did not know the other meaning of that particular word. And if this is to be the standard of research that if a particular meaning of a word is not given in a dictionary the meanings found in other dictionaries of the same word are not acceptable, then the Arabic lexicologists should feel proud of the profound scholarship of Mian Sahib! His reasoning is different from the rest of the world! According to him, if khatam was used in the sense of last in the Arabic language, Zamakhshari [Abu-i-Qasim Mahmud ibn Umar al-Zamakhshari] and Abu Ubaidah must have known about it; and because Zamakhshari did not know of it, therefore this word did not mean last. How did Zamakhshari attain this status, when Mian Sahib has not given a single reference from Asas, the dictionary compiled by Zamakhshari? Why have Taj al-Arus and Lisan al-Arab been rejected? Only because khatam there means "last"!

Commentaries on Khatam an-Nabiyyin:

See also Madarak al-Tanzil where after stating the meaning of khatam as a seal it has been mentioned clearly – akhiru-hum la yanba’u aha-dum ba’duhu, that is, the last prophet after whom there would be no prophet. Thus in Kashshaf by Zamakhshari, although khatam means a seal, nevertheless, Khatam an-Nabiyyin according to him decidedly means the ‘Last of the Prophets’ as has been mentioned at the same place: fa-in qultakaifa kana akhirul anbiya-o; that is, if he had said so, then how is he the ‘Last of the Prophets’?

The saying of Muhammad ibn Hayyan on the subject has been given even less consideration by Mian Sahib. Like the author of the commentary Kashshaf, he also accepts the reading of khatam (with fatha on ta) and states distinctly: inna-hum bihi khutimu nabiyyin-fa –huwa kal khatimi wat-tabi-i ‘la-hum, that is, prophets have come to an end with him (the Holy Prophet), thus he is like a seal and signet for them. Because when a seal is set on something it means that nothing can enter therein. Whatever meaning is given to the Hadith about the Holy Prophet being the last brick of the palace of prophethood is applicable to the word seal.

Then he writes wa man zahaba ila anna al-nubuwwata mukhtasabatun la yanqatiu’…. fa huwa zindiqun yajibu qatalahu, that is, and he who holds the belief that prophethood could be acquired and has not been terminated is a heretic and deserves death.

Thus Muhammad ibn Hayyan also renders Khatam an-Nabiyyin as the ‘Last of the Prophets’ and nothing else. It is however, Mian Sahib’s fanciful thinking that, after accepting the meaning of khatam as a seal, the meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin becomes somewhat different. It is true that Abu Ubaidah, from among the three persons, is singular in his approach on the point, because he does not accept the reading of khatam (ta with kasrah), but he does not say that the reading khatam makes any difference in the meaning of the word. Even his views do not help Mian Sahib in any way, and at the same place in Fath al-Bayan, a saying of Hassan is recorded:

"Khatam is that by which something is terminated. Thus the meaning is, that God has terminated prophethood with him and so there is no prophet after him."

Again, Ibn Jarir, one of the great lexicologists, writes:

"The meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin (ta with fatha) is that he (the Holy Prophet) is the ‘Last of the Prophets’."

Similarly it is reported in the Commentary of al-Baidawi:

Akhiru-hum al-lazikhutima-bihim au khatamnu-bihi ‘ala qir-tibil-fathi, that is, the last of them who brought them (prophets) to an end or in the reading of Asim with fatha means with whom prophets were brought to an end."

Thus whether we accept khatam as meaning the last or a seal, in both cases the lexicologists agree that it means the ‘Last of the Prophets’ and in his court statement Mian Sahib deals with the term Khatam an-Nabiyyin and not with the word khatam.

Meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin by Mian Sahib:

As compared with this vast number of testimonies from lexicons and commentaries, it is a great audacity for a person to say that Khatam an-Nabiyyin does not mean the ‘Last of the Prophets’ in the Arabic language and that all people, at first, accepted something as a matter of their belief and later introduced the same meaning to these words. If this is the case, then it should also be explained when these meanings were invented and when and how this creed spread in the East and the West, and on what basis the first person who explained Khatam an-Nabiyyin as the ‘Last of the Prophets’ rendered these words in this manner? For, since Mian Sahib says that this was not the Arabic idiom, then, someone, as intelligent as he is must have been born and he invented "last" as the meaning of khatam and the other popular view, known throughout the world, that it meant one who makes prophets in the future, went into complete oblivion so that no sign and trace of it is found in the Arabic usage and the lexicons at all. Mian Sahib has made the religion a child’s play, a precedent which is difficult to find. It bewilders me at times, how could it come to one’s mind that Khatam an-Nabiyyin never meant the ‘Last of the Prophets’, and that such meaning could never be adopted in accordance with Arabic usage. Perhaps Mian Sahib’s predecessor had such a powerful influence over the people in bygone ages that the true meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin, very clear according to the Arabic idiom, without the need of any interpretation, that is, the maker of other prophets – was blotted out from the hearts of people in such a way that if it was not brought to life again by Mian Sahib, nobody would have ever known about it!

Listen, O servants of God! If you really fear God, and I know you do, then why do you not ponder for a moment, after divorcing yourself from this peer-parasti [Worshipping one’s spiritual leader. (Translator)], as to which Arabic dictionaries have given these alleged meanings of Mian Sahib’s without any interpretation on his part? Or have they been mentioned in Kashshaf by Zamakhshari, who is now considered to be a great lexicologist by Mian Sahib, or has Abu Ubaidah given these meanings, or are they found anywhere in the commentary of Abu Hayyan? These were the testimonies which Mian Sahib produced from the lexicons. But none of them has supported his views. If any one of them has, let a reference be quoted from his works.

The Significance of the ‘Seal of the Prophets’:

No doubt the expression has been rendered as the "Seal of the Prophets", but Muslim theologians and the great scholars of lexicology have taken the ‘Seal of the Prophets’ to mean only the ‘Last of the Prophets’. Which dictionary gives the meaning of the ‘Seal of the Prophets’ as that by following whom future prophets will be made? Mian Sahib in his statement said that he would not give any other explanation to these words but, as a matter of fact, he has outwitted all the interpreters of the world. If this is not an interpretation, but a clear statement, how strange it is that such a clear statement remained hidden from the eyes of Muslim lexicologists during the last thirteen centuries. And if someone had noticed it, his name should be pinpointed, from among the lexicologists, who had understood these words in this sense – and if this cannot be done, what is the use of telling such a blatant falsehood that the meanings rendered by him are found in lexicons without any additional interpretation? If these alleged meanings of Khatam an-Nabiyyin cannot be shown (from any lexicon), let him then show the same from Arabic usage, that is the meaning of khatam al-qaum is: a nation by following whom another nation is made. Remember, Mian Sahib’s assertion is that these meanings are found in the lexicons. If he can show them even from one lexicon or somewhere in the Arabic idiom, I will withdraw all the references produced from nine lexicons and so many other commentaries in support of the view that Khatam an-Nabiyyin means the ‘Last of the Prophets’.


Books Section > The Last Prophet (Akhri Nabi) by Maulana Muhammad Ali > The Question of Prophethood and Mirza Mahmud Ahmad / Meaning of Khatam an-Nabiyyin, i.e., 'Last of the Prophets'


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