Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last in a chain of Prophets which started with the first human being on earth, Prophet Adam (pbuh). After Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) there'll be no more prophets hence he's given the title of Seal of the Prophets (Khātim an-Nabiyīn) by the Qur'an.
According to Islamic belief every nation were given a prophet who would provide guidance for them. However, those prophets were chosen to guide specific nations for specific times - whereas Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was chosen to guide the whole of mankind, for all time.
Title given by Allah (swt) in Qur'an
The title of 'Seal of the Prophets' was given to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by Allah:
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the prophets. And Allah is Ever All-Aware of everything.
Surah 33 Al-Ahzab (The Confederates), ayat 40
Appointed as Messenger (Rasul) and not just a Prophet (Nabi)
A 'messenger' (rasūl) refers to those who were sent by Allah (swt) with a divine revelation which includes a new doctrinal system, changing or updating earlier religious laws and create a new religious community.
Every nation have been given a messenger.
And every nation had a messenger.
Surah 10 Yunus (Jonas), ayat 47
The message delivered by him is binding on those to whom it is sent and a rejection of him is a rejection of God.
We sent no messenger save that he should be obeyed by Allah's leave. And if, when they had wronged themselves, they had but come unto thee (Muhammad) and asked forgiveness of Allah, and asked forgiveness of the messenger, they would have found Allah Forgiving, Merciful.
Surah 4 An-Nisa (The Women), ayat 64
Nations that rejected the messengers sent to them were destroyed or punished - Surah 26 Ash-Shu'ara (The Poets), ayats 105-191.
Similar statements are not made about 'prophets' (nabī) whose primary role is to explain ethical teachings on the basis of an existing religion (bought by a messenger). Therefore, every messenger is a prophet, but not every prophet is a messenger. It thus appears that God acts through a messenger more decisively than through a mere prophet.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was both a messenger, as he was revealed the Holy Qur'an, and a prophet. The belief that he is the last prophet and messenger of God therefore means that after him there will not arise any person who will be authorized by God to express His Will for others and/or provide a new religious direction and form a new religious community based on that direction.
Any person claiming to have such authority is suffering from self-deception and/or is lying, no matter how smart he may be or how many miraculous deeds he may perform.
Qur'an never mentions any future revelation or prophet post-Muhammad (pbuh)
The Qur'an never looks forward to a future revelation or prophet. Thus in the very beginning of the Qur'an the characteristics of the pious are given which include:
Those who believe in what is sent down to you (O my Prophet) and in what was sent down before you.
Surah 2 Al-Baqarah (The Cow), ayat 4
Bible looks forward to 'another' Prophet
There's no reference in the Qur'an as to what will be sent down after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This is in stark contrast to the other holy scriptures recognised as divine (albeit corrupted) in Islam - the Old and the New Testaments. In both of these scriptures there are frequent references to future revelations.
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [like Moses] from your own people; you shall heed such a prophet
Old Testament, Deut 18:15; see also 18:18
And I [Jesus], will ask the Father and he will send you another Paraclete to be with you forever (John 14:16). I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come
New Testament, John 16:12-13
Whether the other Paraclete is the Holy Spirit or the Prophet Muhammad is of religious debate, the point to be noted is that Jesus (pbuh) looks forward to a future revelation.
Qur'an considers itself the end of line
In contrast to Bibilical prophecies, the Qur'an regards itself as coming in fulfillment of earlier prophecy:
Say: Believe therein or believe not, lo! those who were given knowledge before it, when it is read unto them, fall down prostrate on their faces, adoring.
Saying: Glory to our Lord! Verily the promise of our Lord must be fulfilled.
Surah 17 Al-Israa (The Night Journey), ayat 107-108
Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them. He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear. Then those who believe in him, and honour him, and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him: they are the successful.
Surah 7 Al-A'raf (The Heights), ayat 157
And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is the Praised One. Yet when he hath come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic.
Surah 61 As-Saf (The Ranks), ayat 6
It does not prophesy the coming of another revelation after it, instead, its prophecy is only of its own inevitable final victory.
He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it conqueror of all religion however much idolaters may be averse.
Surah 61 As-Saf (The Ranks), ayat 9
This prevailing of Islam is not understood to be through any human force, but simply the result of the inevitable victory of a truer expression of the same religion over other expressions. Notice that the Qur'an does not say "prevail over all religions" but over all religion (in the singular). Every religion is really trying to express the same truth. Islam is the clearest and most effective expression of that truth and therefore is destined to replace all other expressions.
Son-less prophet legacy protected till end of time
In pre-Islamic Arabian society it was extremely important for a man to have a son. Connected with this type of attitude was the belief that a son would 'carry the family name' and continue their legacy - an attitude still prevalent in many modern cultures. A son-less man was called abtar (one who is cut off). The Prophet (pbuh) was mocked by the non-believers that his lineage would 'end' with him since he only had daughters.
In reply to this the Qur'an reassures Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that his legacy would continue.
Inna aAAtaynakaalkawthar. Fasalli lirabbika wanhar. Inna shani-aka huwa al-abtar.
Surah 108 Al-Kawthar (The Abundance)
"We gave you (O Prophet) the abundance (of blessings); So pray to your Lord and sacrifice; It is surely your insulter who will be cut off (abtar)."
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) may not live on through his male descendants according to conventional thinking, but he will live on forever in a much more important way. Because of its finality, his prophethood will last forever and will be a source of everlasting and abundant blessings. This is reflected in the five daily prayers, performed by all muslims (male AND female), where his name is mentioned in the Adhan (call to prayer), and also in the first and last statement that a Muslim hears or testify - "La illaha illal la, Muhammadur rasullah (There's no god except Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger)".
Hadiths confirming finality
Hadith (a saying or act attributed to Prophet Muhammad) are a great source for establishing the authenticity of a Muslim belief. Thus if a certain belief has some support in the Quran, or at least it is not contradicted by the Quran and it is also supported by some ahadith without being challenged by other ahadith of equal reliability, then such a belief can be confidently viewed as an authentic Islamic belief.
This precisely is the case with the belief that the Prophet Muhammad was the last of the true prophets of God.
The tribe of Israel was guided by prophets. When a prophet passed away, another prophet succeeded him. But no prophet will come after me; only caliphs (literally, successors) will succeed me.
So I came and in me the line of Prophets has ended.
Muslim, Kitab-ul-Fada'il, Bab-ul-Khatimin-Nabiyyin
God has bestowed upon me six favors which the former Prophets did not enjoy:
- I have been endowed with the gift of pithy and perfect speech.
- I was granted victory owing to my awe.
- The spoils of war were made lawful unto me.
- The whole earth has been made the place of worship for me and it has become the means of purification for me also. In other words in my religion, offering of prayers is not confined to certain specified places of worship. Prayers can be offered at any place over the earth. And in case water is not available it is lawful for my people to perform ablutions with earth (Tayammum) and to cleanse themselves with the soil if water for bathing is scarce.
- I have been sent by Allah to carry His Divine message to the whole world.
- The line of prophets has come to its final end in me.
Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah
The chain of Messengers and Prophets has come to an end. There shall be no Messenger nor Prophet after me.
Tirmidhi, Kitab-ur-Rouya Babu Zahab-un- Nubuwwa, Musnad Ahmad, Marwiyat-Anas bin Malik
You are related to me as Aaron was related to Moses [Aaron or Hārūn was the brother of Moses or Musa]. But no Apostle will come after me.
Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to Ali (RA), Bukhari and Muslim, Kitab Fada'il as-Sahaba
A large number of such traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) have been reported by the Sahabah (companions) and a great many compilers have recorded them from authoritative sources. A study of these traditions shows that the Prophet (pbuh) on several occasions, and in various ways and in different words made it explicitly clear that he was the last Prophet of God, that no prophet would follow him and that the line of prophets had ended in him.
The end of prophethood is supported by the history of the world, at least up to the present time.
The first religion to spread across the globe and have a large number of followers was paganism, although it was a diffused tradition without any central founding figure. Then there was Buddhism which swept a large part of Asia and has been followed for centuries. Buddhism was followed five or six centuries later by Christianity. About another six centuries after Christianity there came Islam.
But more than fourteen centuries have passed and no new major religion has appeared in history, whether centered around a founding figure or not. This supports both that there was need for Islam after Buddhism and Christianity and that there is no need for any other religion after Islam. For if there were no need for Islam after Buddhism and Christianity it would not have emerged in history and would not have found such wide acceptance for so long and if there were need for a new religion after Islam it should have emerged by now and found a wide acceptance. For, it may be safely assumed that no new religion gets accepted by a major part of the human population for centuries unless there is a genuine need for it.
Return of Prophet Isa / Jesus (pbuh) as a family man and a follower of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)
According to Islamic belief, Prophet Isa (Jesus, pbuh) was a Muslim who preached about the Oneness of Allah (SWT). He did not die nor was he crucified but was raised up by Allah (SWT) alive into the Higher World. He's the only prophet to be raised up alive, everyone else left this world through death.
And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.
But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise.
Surah 4 An-Nisa (The Women), ayats 157 & 158
Before the end of time Allah (SWT) will send Prophet Isa (Jesus, pbuh) back down to earth in what is popularly termed as the 'second coming'.
And when the son of Mary is quoted as an example, behold! the folk laugh out, And say: Are our gods better, or is he? They raise not the objection save for argument. Nay! but they are a contentious folk.
He is nothing but a slave on whom We bestowed favour, and We made him a pattern for the Children of Israel. And had We willed We could have set among you angels to be viceroys in the earth. And lo! verily there is knowledge of the Hour.
So doubt ye not concerning it, but follow Me. This is the right path. And let not Satan turn you aside. Lo! he is an open enemy for you.
When Jesus came with clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty), he said: I have come unto you with wisdom, and to make plain some of that concerning which ye differ. So keep your duty to Allah, and obey me.
Lo! Allah, He is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him. This is a right path.
But the factions among them differed. Then woe unto those who do wrong from the doom of a painful day. Await they aught save the Hour, that it shall come upon them suddenly, when they know not?
Friends on that day will be foes one to another, save those who kept their duty (to Allah).
Surah 43 Az-Zukhruf (The Ornaments of Gold), ayats 57-67
The reason for his return is that he is the only prophet who's followers have associated divinity to him - that is, they believe that he claimed to be God. It's not a claim that is made by other prophets, such as Adam, Nuh, Musa, or Ibrahim (peace be upon all of them), nor, according to Islam, is it made by Prophet Isa (pbuh). Thus, he'll return to correct his followers.
He'll come as a follower of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and NOT as a prophet, therefore no new revelation will be brought to override the Qur'an or to topple Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the last prophet.
The primary reason for his return is to show people that he was only a prophet of Allah (SWT) and not god, and was a Muslim before he was raised and will die as a Muslim. His second coming will also witness him kill Dajjal, the false messiah, who will precede him in order to deceive the people that he is Prophet Isa (Jesus) himself.
Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts)."
Abu Huraira, Sahih Bukhari, vol 3, book 43, number 656
Al-Masih ad-Dajjal, the false messiah, is an evil figure who appears pretending to be the Messiah (Masih) at a time in the future, before Yawm al-Qiyamah (Judgement Day). His main objective is to lead people astray by performing deceptive miracles.
In Judaism he is referred to as Armilus and in Christianity as Antichrist.
God Almighty hath sent unto the world no apostle who did not warn his people about the appearance of Dajjal (Anti-Christ, but Dajjal did not appear in their time). I am the last in the line of Prophets and ye are the last community of believers. Without doubt,then, Dajjal shall appear from amongst ye.
Ibn Majah, Kitabul-fitan, bab:Dajjal
Those who claim to be prophets and messengers of God after Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) will be impostors and liars. Prophet Muhammd (pbuh) mentioned there'll be 30 such prominent figures who'll come from the time of his death till the end of time.
Muhammad observed: And there will arise Thirty imposters in my Ummah and each one of them will pronounce to the world that he is a prophet, but I am the last in the line of the Prophets of God and no Apostle will come after me.
Abu Dawud, Kitab-ul-Fitan
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Does that mean Allah will stop communicating with me directly?
Another point of clarification to be noted in regard to the belief that prophethood has come to an end with the coming of Muhammad, is that this does not mean that all communication between God and human beings has ceased. God does continue to guide and inspire human beings in various ways as individuals in their particular lives. For the Quran says that God inspires ('alhama) each soul as to what is good and what is bad:
Consider a self (or soul) and what constituted its character and potential; And inspired it about what is wrong for it and what is right for it.
He is indeed successful who causes it to grow.
And he is indeed a failure who stunts it.
What has come to an end with the Prophet Muhammad is prophetic revelation whereby God chooses a person to communicate with a nation or whole humankind. Such a prophetic revelation is binding on those for whom it is meant. It may change the existing religious laws and create a new religious community (ummah).
The Prophet said: Nothing is left of prophethood (after me) except al-mubashshirat. People said: What is meant by al-mubashshirat. He said: good dreams (Bukhari, kitab ar-row'ya, bab, ar-row'ya al-salihah ..., bab al-mubashshirat, see also Muslim, Nasa'i, Abu Dawud, kitab ar-row'ya, Musnad Ahmad, marwiyat Abu Tufayl; the hadith about the forty-six parts of prophethood is also found in Mu'watta, kitab ar-row'ya).
In other words there is no possibility of prophetic revelation in the future. At the most if some one receives an inspiration from God he or she will receive it in the form of "good and true dreams." Incidentally, this and some of the other ahadith quoted earlier are consistent with what we said above, namely, that end of prophethood does not mean that all divine communication with individuals has ceased.
To be the last prophet does not mean to be the only true prophet. Quite to the contrary the concept becomes meaningful only under the assumption that there were other true prophets.
Furthermore, the belief is not meant to glorify the Prophet Muhammad above other prophets. In Qur'an 2:285 the Prophet and the believers with him say: "We do not discriminate between any of his messengers" although "some of them [God] favored more than others" (2:253). Whatever the Prophet's place in the history of revelation, it is described in the Qur'an as a favor from God:
This is a bounty of God which he bestows upon whom he will. And God is full of bounty
In Hadith also we find that on the one hand the Prophet is quoted as saying that he should not be praised above the other prophets (Muslim, kitab al-fada'il, bab min fada'il Musa), and on the other hand there are other ahadith in which the Prophet is obviously described as more favored by God than other prophets. In this way both the Qur'an and Hadith are aiming to do justice to two considerations: 1) the relative position and proper place of the various prophets be brought forward; 2) avoiding any rivalry among the followers of the prophets or pride on their part.