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What Does Khatamu´l Anbiya “the Seal of the Prophets” Mean? What are the distinctive characteristics of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)?

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A Brief Description of the Question: 
What Does Khatamu´l Anbiya “the Seal of the Prophets” Mean? What are the distinctive characteristics of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)?
The Answer: 

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of God, and the Seal of the Prophets: and God has full knowledge of all things.”(the Surah Confederates (Al-Ahzab), 40)

In the Arabic scripture of that verse, the phrase ‘Khatamu’l-Anbiya,’ is preferred to ‘Khatamu’l-Mursalin’. because the concept “Nabi” has a more general meaning than the concept “Rasul” and it contains the meaning of “Resul” too.

The word “Resul”, in the literal sense, is derived from “Risalah”. It means prophet; its plural forms are rusul and mursalun. On the other hand, the word “Nabi” is derived from the base Naba. It means messenger and its plural forms are Nabiyyun and Anbiya. In the Quran, the words “Rasul” and “Mursalun” mentioned in the verses “We (first) sent to them two messengers”(The Surah Ya-Seen,13-14) and “the messenger came to him (Joseph)” (The Surah Joseph (Yusuf), 50)are also used in the meaning of messenger (in the Arabic scripture). Additionally, in the Quran, the word Messenger is used for indicating the angel of Divine inspiration, the angel of death, the angels recording our deeds and jinn in the same meaning.

We can see the expressions conveying the mentioned meanings above in the following verses:

So verily I call to witness the Planets - that recede, Go straight, or hide; And the Night as it dissipates; And the Dawn as it breathes away the darkness;- Verily this is the word of a most honorable Messenger, Endued with Power, held in honor by the Lord of the Throne, With authority there, (and) faithful to his trust.” (The Folding Up (At-Takwír), 15-21)

“…When death approaches one of you, Our angels (Our Messengers) take his soul.” (The Cattle (Al-Anàam), 61)

Or do they think that We hear not their secrets and their private counsels? Indeed (We do), and Our messengers are by them, to record.” (Gold Adornments (Az-Zukhruf), 80)

“O you assembly of Jinn and men! Came there not unto you messengers from amongst you, setting forth unto you My Signs, and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours? ”(Al-Anàam), 130)

In Islam, the concepts of both Rasul and Nabi are used in the meaning of prophet as terms. However, as we can see in the following verse, there is a difference between them.

“Never did We send a messenger or a prophet before you, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but Allah will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and God will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for God is full of Knowledge and Wisdom” (The Pilgrimage (Al-Hajj), 52)

Referring to what the scholars of Islam inform us, the difference between them is as follows: The word Rasul is used to indicate a prophet sent with a new book and religion; as for Nabi, it is a term used for the entire prophets whether they introduced a new book and religion or not. Nabi differs from Rasul in that sense. (Razi Tafsir, 23/45)

Accordingly, -as terms used for prophets- every Rasul is a Nabi, but every Nabi is not a Rasul. That is to say, the term Nabi is more common than the term Rasul. That style is a glimmer of the Miraculousness of the Quran; it expresses profound and comprehensive meanings by means of a concise phrase. Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) is both a Nabi and a Resul.

Distinctive Characteristics of of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH)

He is the last Prophet: the institution of prophethood was completed by his prophethood. Hazrat Abu Hurayra (May God be pleased with him) narrates: Hazrat Prophet (PBUH) said:

“Verily, the situation of other prophets and mine resemble this example: A man built a palace, and completed it perfectly through adorning it, but the place of a brick is empty. Everyone comes to this palace and is fascinated then say:” If this empty brick place did not exist, this palace would be excellent and perfect!” Lo, I am this brick completing that palace.”(Tirmizî, Amthal, 2)

His Prophethood is universal: “We have not sent you but as a (Messenger) to all mankind, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin), but most men know not.” (The City of Sabá (Sabá), 28). Hazrat Abu Hurayra (May God be pleased with him) narrates: Hazrat Prophet (PBUH) commanded:” I was made superior to other prophets by means of six things: The ability of telling many things by few words has been bestowed upon me. By putting fear into the hearts my enemies, I am secured to be victorious over them. The booty acquired from wars became lawful for me. The entire face of the earth has been made a clean place and a mosque for me. I have been sent as a prophet to all mankind. The chain of prophets has been completed by me.” (Muslim, Masajid, 5).

He possesses the greatest miracle: The prophethood documents of the other prophets were visible miracles. Therefore, since those miracles were material, their effects were temporary; they lost importance in the course of time. For example, nobody living in this age has the chance of witnessing Hazrat Musa’s (Moses) stick, which was a dragon once; and people do not have the chance of believing him by means of that supernatural occasion. On the other hand, the greatest miracle of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the Holy Quran, is both an immaterial and a rational miracle. On account of this characteristic, it has a superior importance. As a matter of fact, as time grows older, the Qur’an grows younger; its Miraculous aspect becomes brighter.

Hazrat Prophet (PBUH) explained this aspect of Quran as follows: “Each prophet sent by Allah was bestowed on a miracle which people believed in him by witnessing it. However, the miracle bestowed upon me is different from theirs; it is what Allah inspired me. Therefore, on the Day of Judgement, I hope I will be the one possessing more followers than all of the other prophets.” (Bukhari, I’tisam, 1)

His community is the best of the communities: The following verse mentions that fact: “You are the best of peoples, evolved for mankind, enjoining what is right, forbidding what is wrong, and believing in God. If only the People of the Book had faith, it was best for them: among them are some who have faith, but most of them are perverted transgressors.” (The Family of Imran (Aal-e-Imran), 110)

He (PBUH) is the Master of Adam’s (UWP) descendants: “I am the master of Adam’s (UWP) descendants on the Day of Judgment. I am the one who will be resurrected first. I am the one who will intercede and whose intercession will be accepted first.” (Muslim, Fadail, 3)

He possesses “Maqam al-Mahmud” (the Station of Praise and Glory): This station is the greatest intercession way for him as well as for his community. The only candidate of this enviable station is Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). This verse points out this station, which Allah promised: “And as for the night keep awake a part of it as an additional prayer for you: soon will your Lord raise you to a Station of Praise and Glory!” (The Night Journey (Al-Isra), 79)

He is the owner of “Liwau’l-hamd” (Flag of Praise and Glory): Liwau’l-hamd is a flag which is a proof of the spiritual prophethood and which justifies the immaterial authority of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) who praised and glorified God most and that’s why acquired the name Ahmad, also as the verse “Verily you are on a straight path” states he is the one who deserved most the praise of God and on account of it, acquired the name Muhammad.

This glorious Hadith states that issue: “I am the master of Adam’s (UWP) descendants on the Day of Judgment. The Liwau’l-hamd flag is in my hands. However, conceit never exists in my heart. Adam and the other prophets (UWP) are under my flag. I am the one who will be resurrected first. However, no conceit exists.” (Ahmad, III/2)

He is a lamp spreading light (siraj munir): The verse that contains the concept is as follows: “O Prophet! Truly We have sent you as a Witness, a Bearer of Glad Tidings, and Warner. And as one who invites to God’s (Grace) by His leave, and as a Lamp spreading Light.” (The Confederates (Al-Ahzab), 45-46)

By means of this verse the Prophet is likened to both the moon and the sun. That is to say: — as M. Said Ramazan al-Buti mentioned- in Arabic the word muzi is used to indicate things that are the sources of light and the word munir is used to indicate things that receive light. For instance, if we want to say a bright room we say: ghurfatun muiîratun but not ghurfatun muziatun because the light of the room comes from outside. however, we say qabasun muzi instead of qabasun munir for fire cinder. It is because the fire possesses the light in itself. That is why, in the Holy Quran, the words Nur-munir (divine light- illuminated) are used for the moon and the words ziya- siraj (=light-lamp) are used for sun in order to point out this subtle difference. (Al-Butî, Rawayi', 115-16)

In the verse in question, the phrase sirajan munira (=A lamp spreading light) is used although it is contrary to Arabic grammar rules and different from the style of Quran, In this case, it indicates that the Prophet is likened both to the moon and the sun. We can show the signs indicating the presence of this comparison in the verse as follows:

• Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH) is like a moon in terms of prophethood. He receives the light of Divine inspiration from the Pre-Eternal Sun or the sun of the Quran. He is like the sun in terms of messengerhood. Just as the sun spreads its light everywhere, so does the Prophet spread his light of guidance “as being a living and speaking Quran” to the entire mankind. (In the Arabic scripture) The phrase Siraj Munir (Lamp spreading light) illuminates these two aspects.

• Hazrat Prophet is called a Nabi (prophet) because of receiving Divine inspiration from Allah and is called a Rasul, (messenger) because of transmitting the message that he received from Allah to people. In the verse, in the Arabic scripture, the phrase “ya ayyuha'n-Nabiyy= O prophet!” points his prophethood, and the statement “we sent you as the last messenger” signals his messengerhood. The prayer for the prophet in the meaning: “Oh Allah! Grant blessings and peace to the Sun of the Sky of Messengerhood, the Moon of the Constellation of Prophethood.” mentions this truth.

• The phrase Siraj Munir (Lamp spreading light) –as it is explained above- contains two opposite features: The word Siraj conveys the meaning of a lamp having light in itself and is used in the meaning of Sun/lamp in the Quran. The following verse is an example for it: “We placed (therein) a blazing lamp.” (The (Great) News (An-Nabaa), 13)

As for the word Munir, it conveys the meaning of the thing receiving its light from outside and is used in the meaning of the moon in the Quran. This verse is as an example: “Blessed is He Who made constellations in the skies, and placed therein a Lamp and a Moon giving light.” (The Criterion (Al-Furqán), 61)

Blessings and peace as many as the atoms of the universe be upon the Sun of the Sky of Messengerhood, the Moon of the Constellation of Prophethood, and to his Family and Companions. Amen!

Niyazi Beki (Yrd.Doç.Dr.)

22-10-2010 10:36:48