Finality of Prophethood

Priority: a, Quality: b
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Khātamiyya (Arabic: الخاتمية, Finality) is a theological term and one of the Qur'anic teachings that all Muslims believe in. It means that Prophet Muhammad (s) is the last prophet and Islam is the last divine religion, and there will be no religion after it, and its teachings and rules are valid forever. Khatamiyya was always an apparent and accepted belief among Muslims. As it was dealt as a certain belief among them, it was not discussed as an independent issue in theology and Islamic theologians have proved it through narrative arguments.

In the last decades of the 20th and early 21 century, new discussions have been started about this issue, as Baha'i's objections provoked theologians to defend this belief. In addition, the new approach of explaining revelation and prophethood, the issue of religious experience and revelation elevated the issue of Khatamiyya to one of the most important topics in theology.


Lexical Meaning

Khatamiyya in Arabic is a derivative from "Khatm," which means the end. Khatam and Khatim both mean what ends something or what comes at the end or is the last. Some believe that Khatim means what ends and Khatam means a ring with engravings, which is used as a seal.[1]

Technical Meaning

From the very beginning, the understanding of all Islamic sects from the concept of Khatamiyya was that Islam is the last divine religion, which must be the basis of human's faith and actions. Its laws, which are unchangeable, are valid to the Day of Resurrection.[2]

History of the Discussion

Khatamiyya is an Islamic teaching presented in the Qur'an and hadiths; thus it has a very long history in Islamic tradition. Although this issue is one of the most important theological issues and one can find implications about that in the works of many Islamic theologians, philosophers and mystics, it was not dealt with as an independent issue in early times. In the late 20th century, two factors led to independent works about this topic:

  1. Emergence of sects such as Babism and Baha'i, who claimed to have a new prophet and a new religion.
  2. Emergence of a different approach from a traditional one to religion, and questions raised by modernism which led to new special analysis about prophethood, revelation and Khatamiyya.

This new approach toward this issue, which was mostly influenced by the theory of "Religious Experience" began by Iqbal Lahuri. The efforts of contemporaneous theologians for studying the opinions of Iqbal Lahuri led to the formation of a separate chapter in Islamic theology books and even independent works about this topic. Scholars such as Morteza Motahhari and 'Ali Shari'ati were among the first who talked about Lahuri's idea.

Proofs of Khatamiyya

In Islamic theology, Khatamiyya is considered an intra-religious issue, and no independent, meta-religious argument has been provided for it. The following intra-religious arguments have been offered for proving Khatamiyya:

Qur'anic Proofs

The term "Khatamiyya" is adopted from Quranic verses. The Qur'an 33:40 explicitly used the sobriquet "the final of prophets" (Khatam al-Nabiyyin) to address the Prophet Muhammad (s). In addition to the above-mentioned verse, there are a set of verses that imply this notion, such as the verses that say Muhammad (s) is a prophet for all times and places, which consequently indicate that he is the last prophet.[3] The following verses were quoted as the proofs for the generality of Prophet Muhammad's (s) mission:

  • "This Qur'an has been revealed to me that I may warn thereby you and whomever it may reach."[4]
  • "We did not send you except as a bearer of good news and warner to all mankind." 34:28
  • "Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion to His servant that he may be a warner to all the worlds."[5]
  • "Say, 'O mankind! I am the Apostle of Allah to you all."[6]
  • "We did not send you but as a mercy to all the worlds."[7]
  • "It is He who has sent His Apostle with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may make it prevail over all religions."[8]
  • "falsehood cannot approach it [the Qur'an], from before it nor from behind it."[9]
  • "Indeed We have sent down the Reminder, and indeed We will preserve it."[10]

From these verses, the theologians concluded that Islam is the most complete and universal religion. Islam and the Qur'an will not be abrogated or voided. Therefore, Islam is the last divine religion and Prophet Muhammad (s) is the final prophet.

Narrative Proofs

Many hadiths have been narrated about Khatamiyya in both Shi'a and Sunni hadith sources.[11]

  • Hadith al-Manzila: It is a mass-transmitted (Mutawatir) hadith in which the Prophet (s) explicitly says that there will be no prophet after him.
  • Hadiths in which the Prophet (s) introduces himself as "the final of the prophets" or "the last of 1000 prophets" or more, and Ali (a) as "the final of guardians" (Khatam al-Awliya') or "the last of the executors" (Khatam al-Awsiya') of "the last of 1000 executors."
  • A hadith in which the Prophet Muhammad (s) introduces himself as the guide of all people from all races and explicitly says that the chain of the prophets ends by him.[12]
  • Another hadith by Prophet Muhammad (s) which says: "There is no prophet after me, no tradition (Sunna) after my tradition and no nation (Umma) after your nation. And whoever claims prophethood after me is a liar."[13]

Moreover, in various parts of Nahj al-Balagha, Imam Ali (a) has pointed out that Prophet Muhammad (s) was the last prophet. In the first sermon Imam Ali (a) says, "Allah sent Muhammad for fulfilling His promise and for ending the chain of prophets …"[14]

Furthermore, another group of hadiths, which indicate that Islamic laws will not be abrogated and will last until the Day of Resurrection, confirm the notion of Khatamiyya. Imam al-Sadiq (a) is quoted, "Halal of Muhammad is Halal until the Day of Resurrection and Haram of Muhammad is Haram until the Day of Resurrection."[15]

Khatamiyya in Islamic Philosophy and Mysticism

Islamic philosophers have often discussed the topic of prophethood independently and provided rational arguments proving the necessity of sending prophets by God. Within these discussions, they implicitly or explicitly mentioned the subject of Khatamiyya as well.[16]

Among Islamic philosophers Sadr al-Din al-Shirazi, with a Shi'a approach, interpreted Khatamiyya as the end of legislative revelations and the end of descent of the archangel of revelation. He believed that Khatamiyya does not mean the end of divine arguments as the infallible Imams (a) are introduced by Prophet Muhammad (s) as authentic divine arguments.[17]

By differentiating between legislative prophethood and propagative prophethood, Sabzawari believed that ending the prophethood is about the legislative one. From his point of view, the Khatamiyya of Prophet Muhammad (s) has two aspects:

  1. By the emergence of Prophet Muhammad (s) all possible human virtues have reached their climax and no room was left for the emergence of another prophet.
  2. As Prophet Muhammad (s) is the best and the most important of all creatures and is the purpose of all creation after his existence the purpose of the creation was fulfilled.[18]

Islamic mystics also believe in the Khatamiyya of Prophet Muhammad (s). Their interpretation of Khatamiyya is similar to those of Islamic philosophers; i.e. the legislative prophethood has ended by Prophet Muhammad (s).[19]

Philosophy of Khatamiyya

One of the most important discussions about Khatamiyya is answering the question of why the chain of the prophets must end at a certain time and why Prophet Muhammad (s) must be the last of them. According to some contemporary scholars, the question is best answered by suggesting that given His far-reaching wisdom and omniscience, God knows where He places His message[20] and where he ceases to send messages. However, Muslim scholars, and in particular contemporary intellectuals, have provided different answers to the question. Here is some wisdom for the finality of prophethood:

The Protection of the Qur'an from Distortions

The messages of prophets (a) before Prophet Muhammad (s) were distorted after a while. Thus, the divine wisdom required that another prophet be sent to people after the distortion of the previous prophet, so that the new prophet could call people to the right and clarify the distortions, putting the divine message back on the right track. However, since God has guaranteed the protection of the Qur'an against distortions, there is no need to send another prophet after Muhammad (s): "Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur'an and indeed, We will be its guardian" (Qur'an 15:9).

Comprehensiveness and Perfection of Islam

Divine religions were moving towards more perfection, with any new religion being more perfect than the previous ones, because of the constant perfection of the human understanding, knowledge, and disposition to receive more precise messages. The perfection process continued until the emergence of Islam. 'Allama Tabataba'i says, religion comes to its final stage when it includes all aspects of human needs, in which case it will not be followed by any other religion.[21] The Qur'an refers to the perfectness of Islam: "This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion" (Qur'an 5:3).

This perfectness cannot be proved in rational terms; it can only be proved through an examination of a religion's principles of beliefs and ethics. In such terms, one can examine different divine religions with respect to monotheism, resurrection, ethical system, and social principles. In all these respects, Islam has offered the most perfect and the most comprehensive plans and instructions, in such a way that human material and spiritual needs and are both met.[22]

No More Needs to Missionary Prophets

One reason for new prophets being sent by God was the need for stating and propagating the details of divine rulings and the continuity of the relationship between God and people. In Islam, the need is met by the prophet (s) himself and the Infallible Imams (a), and during the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam (a), the elaboration of the religion, especially with respect to practical issues, is assigned to qualified scholars and mujtahids.[23]

Rational Perfection and Maturity of People

Another factor contributing to the religion of the Prophet (s) being the final plan for human happiness was that the rational capacities of people had remarkably evolved during the period of the Prophet (s) in comparison with previous periods. Before this period, people were not sufficiently prepared to receive and understand a comprehensive plan. Thus, if such a comprehensive plan were sent to people from the beginning, it would be easily distorted or ignored, but this is in conflict with the wisdom behind the missions of prophets. Thus, a sufficiently long time had to pass from the beginning of the creation and less comprehensive plans had to be offered to people until they prepared for the reception of the final religion.[24]

The Qur'an also refers to the rational development and disposition as well as knowledge of people at the time of the Prophet (s) in comparison with people at the time of previous prophets. It also points to their qualification to undertake certain religious responsibilities, such as enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. It also refers to Muslims at the time of the Prophet (s) as the best people.[25]

Questions about Khatamiyya

In recent decades, in the wake of intellectual and social developments and events, the issue of Khatamiyya was discussed from other perspectives. Addressing the claims of new emerging sects, such as Ahmadiyya, Qadiyaniyya, Babism and Baha'i, about Khatamiyya Muslim scholars have explained and elaborated Khatamiyya more deeply.

Iqbal Lahuri was the first Muslim intellectual who discussed the issue with a new approach.[26] It can be said that the following scholars were mostly influenced by his opinions. He believed that Prophet Muhammad (s) elevated people to a level of intellect and knowledge that they can reach supernatural and divine guidance to attain salvation and happiness without a prophet's help; so there was no need for another prophet after Prophet Muhammad (s). Influenced by the theory of the religious experience of Schleiermacher and William James, Iqbal believed that revelation is a kind of experience, and influenced by Bergson's philosophy of life, he introduced it as a matter of instinct.

Accepting Auguste Conte's theory about stages of history, he believed that humankind after Prophet Muhammad (s) have reached the era of intellect and by the help of intuition they need not another prophet.[27]

Afterward, some writers and scholars, such as Murtada Mutahhari, Ali Shari'ati and 'Abd al-Karim Surush criticized his opinions and explained their own opinions in this regard.

Baha'i Questions

Baha'i believe that the word "Khatam" in the 40th verse of Qur'an 33 means "ring" and the verse only means that Prophet Muhammad (s) was an adornment of the prophets not the last of them.

In answer to the question, it is said that in Arabic "Khatam" means what ends something and ring was called khatam in Arabic as Arabs used it to end their letters with their rings as a seal; so the giving interpretation is against the denotation of the verse and hence is invalid.[28]

Another question raised by Baha'i is that the same verse says Prophet Muhammad (s) is "Khatam al-Nabiyyin" (the last of the prophets) and not "Khatam al-Mursalin" (the last of the apostle), so there might be another apostle after Prophet Muhammad (s).

This question is also answered by the fact that every apostle (Rasul) is a prophet (Nabi) and there was no prophet who was not an apostle of God. Therefore, the last of the prophets means the last of the apostles as well.[29]

Denial of Universality of Prophet Muhammad's Mission

Providing evidence from the Qur'an, some have claimed that Prophet Muhammad (s) was sent to a particular region,[30] i.e. "Umm al-Qura" (another name for Mecca),[31] and to particular people not to all the world. They tried to deny the generality of his mission as it is the other aspect of Khatamiyya.

In answer to this question it must be said that according to different verses of the Qur'an, the mission of Prophet Muhammad (s) had various stages. First, he was ordered to call his family to Islam, then the people of his town, then the people of Hijaz and so on. Therefore, one can not argue that according to a verse of the Qur'an he was only sent to particular people and not all the world.[32]

Possibility of More Prophets

Some of those who denied Khatamiyya argued that the 35th verse of Qur'an 7 implies the possibility of sending another prophet by God in the future.[33]

In answer, it is said that the verse means God has sent prophets and religions for guiding people. Moreover, the present tense in Arabic (Muduri') is not always used for future meaning. And above all, the verse expresses a conditional situation which does not mean it will happen. Here is the verse: "O Children of Adam! If there come to you apostles from among ourselves, recounting to you My signs, then those who are Godwary and righteous will have no fear, nor will they grieve".[34]

Return of Jesus and Khidr at the End of the Time

Another question about Khatamiyya is how Prophet Muhammad (s) is the last prophet while Prophet Jesus (a) and Khidr (a) will return to the world at the End of the Time. However, the answer seems clear as Khatamiyya means there will be no new prophet with a new religion that abrogates Islam. It is reported in hadiths about this incident that they return as Muslims and practice according to Islam.

Khatamiyya and Imamate

According to Islamic texts, Imamate does not contradict the notion of Khatamiyya, in fact, Imamate is the continuation of prophethood. From the beginning of Islam until now, there was no disagreement that there is no contradiction between them. The main disagreement was refusing the Infallible Imams (a) as the successors of Prophet Muhammad (s). As no one has claimed that Shi'a interpretation of Imamate is not compatible with Khatamiyya, no independent study was done about this subject. However, in recent years and after the emergence of a new approach towards Khatamiyya, some Shi'a and Sunni scholars have claimed that Shi'a viewpoint about Imamate contradicts Khatamiyya.


  1. Ibn Fāris, Muʿjam maqāyīs al-lugha, p. 245.
  2. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shiʿa, vol. 27, p. 169.
  3. Abū l-Futūḥ al-Rāzī, Rawḍ al-jinān, vol. 15, p. 432 ;Ālūsī, Rawḥ al-maʿānī, vol. 21, p. 34.
  4. Qurʾān, 6:19.
  5. Qurʾān, 25:1.
  6. Qurʾān, 7:158.
  7. Qurʾān, 21:107.
  8. Qurʾān, 9:33; 48:28; 61:9.
  9. Qurʾān, 41:42.
  10. Qurʾān, 15:9.
  11. Ibn Ṭāwūs, Iqbāl al-aʿmāl, vol. 1, p. 84, 116; vol. 2, p. 64, 303; Ṭūsī, Miṣbāḥ al-mutahajjid, p. 719, 778, 803.
  12. Ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad, vol. 1, p. 301; Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 1, p. 192; Muslim, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, vol. 2, p. 64.
  13. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shiʿa, vol. 28, p. 337-338; Mufīd, al-Amālī, p. 53; Ṣadūq, Man lā yaḥḍuruh al-faqīh, vol. 4, p. 163;
  14. Nahj al-balāgha, Sermon 1.
  15. Ḥurr al-ʿĀmilī, Wasāʾil al-Shiʿa, vol. 1, p. 643; Ṣaffār, Baṣāʾir al-darajāt, p. 168.
  16. See: Mullā Ṣadrā, al-Shawāhid al-rabawīyya, p. 337-379.
  17. Mullā Ṣadrā, al-Shawāhid al-rabawīyya, p. 376-377.
  18. Mullā Ṣadrā, al-Shawāhid al-rabawīyya, p. 547-548.
  19. See: Makkī, Quwwat al-qulūb, vol. 2, p. 166; Ibn ʿArabī, Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, vol. 1, p. 134-135.
  20. Qur'an 6:124
  21. Ṭabāṭabāyī al-, Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān, vol.2 p.130
  22. Rabbānī Gulpāyigānī, Kalām-i taṭbīqī, pp.115-121
  23. Motahhari, Majmūʿa-yi āthār, vol.2 pp.184-186; vol.3 pp.156-157, 195-196; Subḥānī, Khātimīyyat, pp.47-49
  24. Motahhari, Islam wa nīyāzhāy-i zamān, vol.1. pp.226-227
  25. Qur'an 3:110
  26. Motahhari, Majmūʿa-yi āthār, vol. 2, p.186-194.
  27. Iqbāl Lāhūrī, Iḥyāʾ-i fikr-i dīnī, p. 145.
  28. Miṣbāḥ, Maʿārif-i Qurʾān, p. 181-182; Subḥānī, Khātimīyyat, 96-109.
  29. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 1, p. 420.
  30. Qurʾān, 19:97; 28:46; 32:3; 36:6.
  31. Qurʾān, 5:92; 42:7.
  32. Subḥānī, al-Ilāhīyāt, vol. 3, p. 477-478.
  33. Qurʾān, 7: 35.
  34. Miṣbāḥ, Maʿārif-i Qurʾān, p. 181-182.


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