The Unlettered Prophet (47)

The Unlettered Prophet (47)


Khalid Masud End of Prophet hood The news given by Jesus (sws) of the Kingdom of Heaven and of its signs has been explained in detail in the beginning of this book. One of the characteristics stated by Jesus regarding the prophet who would come after him was that "God would bestow upon you your helper who would remain with you until the Hereafter," (Jonah 14:16). The Qur'an has even explained that Jesus (sws) had given his name to be Ahmad, although the Gospels that exist today do not mention this name. A requirement of the above trait is that this prophet would be the last one, after whom no other prophet or messenger would come and he would establish the teaching of his religion on such foundations that no one would be able to destroy them. The second requirement is that the book of guidance given to this prophet would not be vulnerable to any changes, additions or modifications over time. Both these requirements came to be true in the case of the Prophet (sws). At the end of his prophethood, the announcement of end of future prophets was made and God took upon Himself the responsibility to protect the Qur'an. End of Prophethood When the Prophet (sws) married Zaynab bint Jahash (rta), the hypocrites raised a storm of propaganda. This has been explained earlier. The Prophet (sws) was advised to remain steadfast. In this respect, the Qur'an also said: Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things. (33:40) Being a messenger of God, the Prophet (sws) was required to preach to his audience so well that they received his message comprehensively and to the last degree of arguments. The seal of prophets means being the last prophet. One who is the last of his nation is called the seal. The seal of prophets means he was the last of the group of prophets. After his coming, the edifice of prophethood is so complete that there is no crevice to fill for which another prophet is required. Being the seal of prophets is one characteristic that no other prophet shares with Muhammad (sws). Possession of this status necessitated that he perform all those actions that were essential for completion of the religion and shari'ah. To fulfill this obligation, he clarified the instructions given in the Qur'an, and by acting upon them himself, he lit up the way, which, if adopted by other humans, can provide religious guidance. These religious explanations, deeds and actions of the Prophet (sws) are called his Sunnah, which have come to us in continuity from his companions and have been absorbed within the actions of the ummah. In the past, with the passage of time, some part of religious guidance was lost. At times, an unfortunate nation was guilty of distorting or modifying the teaching of its prophet. Then it became necessary for God to send another messenger or prophet, in accordance with His promise to Adam (awa), to clarify His guidance once again. The guidance revealed to the Prophet (sws) was completed and the announcement was made: This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. (5:3) To protect it from becoming extinct, God took upon Himself the responsibility to preserve it so that it may be retained by humans until the end of the world. Such an arrangement was necessary and history is witness to the fact that this promise was fulfilled. Each and every word of the Qur'an is preserved in the same way in which it was delivered to the Muslim nation by the Prophet (sws). Since a person receives prophethood for the purpose of communicating guidance, and the guidance brought by the Prophet (sws) has been preserved for the benefit of the nations of the world, prophethood ended with him and he is the seal of prophets, after whom no prophet would ever come. If religion was something which was never ending, no doubt it would have been necessary to continue with prophethood. But, once God had completed religion, it can be deduced that the process of prophethood or messengership has also ended. The Prophet (sws) himself did not hide any of the aspects of his status, but highlighted these clearly though his actions and words. For instance, he explained his status of being the seal of prophethood through a simile. He said that other prophets and he can be compared with a very beautiful and grand building built by a man who kept one corner free of a brick. People would walk around the building and praise it, but when they came to the empty slot, they would say that had the man put in the final brick, the building would have been complete. The Prophet (sws) said that "I am that brick and I am the last prophet".[1] This means that when the edifice of prophethood was being created, every prophet played a part in its building, beauty and grandeur. Before the prophethood of the Prophet (sws), although this building had been constructed, one brick was still left to be placed in it. The Prophet (sws) put in this brick and filled up the gap. Now, there is no space for any further gaps. Therefore, the process of prophet hood has been stopped. Another Hadith says: It is narrated from Anas ibn Malik (rta) that the Prophet (sws) said: "After me, the process of prophethood and messengership has ended. Now, there will be no prophet and no messenger." Anas (rta) said that people were saddened by this. Then the Prophet (sws) said that mubashsharat shall remain. People asked him what these were. He said that these were the dreams of a pious Muslim and this was one of the elements of prophethood.[2] This Hadith clarifies a few points: Revelation has ended after the Prophet (sws). Only dreams of pious people, as one of the elements of prophethood remain. Obviously these are not equivalent to revelation. Similarly, if anyone claims to possess the ability to make predictions or reveal secrets, it will not be accepted. · Anyone who sees good dreams will not occupy the status of a prophet. · Whoever claims to be either a prophet or a messenger will be considered to be false. A question arises here. Who shall fulfill the responsibilities of a prophet then? Firstly, heavenly guidance shall remain until the Day of Judgement because of the Qur'an's preservation. Secondly, the ills created in beliefs and actions shall be corrected collectively by the Muslim ummah. The Prophet (sws) made it clear that such scholars and reformers who would set right the problems created by evil doers would continue to be born in Muslim society, although their numbers could be low. Objections on the concept of end of Prophethood Some people criticize this idea by saying that 1400 years have passed since the Prophet's prophethood. Humans have made dramatic progress during this time. Unprecedented changes have occurred in civilizations and cultures. In such a situation, the concept of end of prophethood is akin to depriving humankind of the guidance of prophets. The reality is that the institution of prophethood has been set up by God for guidance to humans and its principles and regulations are determined by Him. According to these principles and regulations, the messenger from God is sent when His Word has been destroyed and it is no longer available for guidance. The Messenger presents it again and clarifies it. After the Prophet (sws), the Book of God has been preserved and so have the Prophet's clarifications. A well intentioned person can obtain guidance from these even today. As far as provision of guidance is concerned, this is a matter of God's will. Even when a messenger is present, it is God who bestows guidance to his servants and, in his absence it is again God who gives them guidance. Therefore, due to the preservation of the Qur'an and Sunnah, it is no longer necessary for another prophet to come. As far as the development of new issues is concerned, the Prophet (sws) has trained his nation to develop solutions in the light of instructions from the Qur'an and Sunnah and careful deliberation and use of rationality by conducting ijtihad. In this manner, Islam can confront problems of any period of time. Considering the progress of humans, this has not been made within the moral and spiritual contexts with which prophets have been concerned. Progress has been made in the physical fields, with which faith comes in contact only when they contradict moral principles. The system of morality and ethics presented by the Qur'an is still present today and it is so complete and lofty that humans, despite their dazzling inventions cannot reach its basics. Had man adopted the system of morality presented by the Prophet (sws) and its concepts of good and evil and, his desire for even higher standards not being satisfied, would have sought a better system and the Qur'an had not met his needs, it would have been legitimate for him to criticize the concept of the end of prophet hood. The situation, however, is that man is falling deeper and deeper into immorality. The Qur'an exists for his guidance but he keeps his eyes shut and away from it. In matters of collective significance, the format of teaching adopted by the Qur'an covers the basic demands of faith that are essential to be kept in mind. What is left is their detailed structure, the building of which has been left to humans so that they may give it whatever shape they wish according to the requirements of their age, keeping the basic principles in consideration. If humans adopt this method, they will neither be deprived of sacred guidance, nor will the progress made during their times present any barrier. Another objection raised at the idea of the end of prophethood is that many people have claimed to be prophets after the Prophet (sws) and have also managed to influence others by their message. Therefore, this concept is not a proven one by historical facts. The chains of prophethood are linked together. The faith of all prophets was the same in its essence. Their call was based on acceptance of a single God, understanding of His characteristics, recognition of good and evil, spreading goodness and removing ills of society and developing belief in the Day of Judgement. They received guidance toward these through revelations. The prophets were, in their very personalities, such examples of high moral character that they stood out among all their contemporaries. While calling people to faith, they faced many trials and tribulations, as per the laws of God. Only then their mission was completed. The people who claimed prophethood after the Prophet (sws) did not possess any teaching coming to them from revelation that people might have recognized and said that their teaching had sprung from the same source through which guidance from the Torah, Bible and Qur'an had come. The ingredients that were evident in the preaching of prophets are not visible in the communication of such people. Instead, those who claimed to be prophets attempted to destroy the system of purity and piety that had been set up by the prophets. They opened the doors to beliefs against taboos set by religion and were hailed mainly by people who were free from any moral considerations. They had no status of morality, character, sincerity or closeness to God which was so evident in real prophets. Except for a few, most of their contemporaries did not accept their claims. Hence, their calls did not survive. They created a momentary commotion and, after gathering a small group around themselves, vanished from the scene. The religion of most of these false claimants died along with their own demise. As long as they were alive, they did not go through the stages which prophets had to face according to God's laws. These claimants of prophet hood, therefore, appear different from real prophets. Their situation is as if someone painted himself white in an attempt to join a flock of swans. The Prophet (sws) was totally unique by way of his behaviour, character, his heavenly message, good deeds of his followers, the results of his struggles and the spread of his faith. No prophet comparable to him came before him or will come after him. (Translated by Nikhat Sattar) __________ [1]. Muslim, Al-Jami' al-sahih, vol. 2, 314. [2]. Tirmidhi, Sunan, (Abwab al-ru'ya), ch. 2. ______________