This is a short note on a common narration relied upon by Aḥmadī and non-Aḥmadī Muslims within their ‘’Finality of Prophethood’’ discourses. ‘Ā’ishah (radī Allāhu ‘anhā), the ‘’Mother of the Faithful,’’ is reported to have said: “Say of the Messenger of Allāh [that he is] the Seal of the Prophets and do not say [that there will be] no Prophet after him’’ (qūlu li-rasūl Allāh, Sall Allāh ‘alayhī wa sallam, khātam al-anbiyā’ wa la taqūlu lā nabī ba‘dah).’’ (i) This is an early report which is found in Ibn Qutayba’s (d. 885) book ”ta’wīl mukhtalif al-ḥadith” wherein it is used by the author to reconcile the conflicting Islamic principles that the Prophet (ṣall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was khātim al-nabīyīn (i.e., last Prophet) and that Jesus (‘alayhi al-salām) would return as the Messiah after the passing of the Prophet (ṣall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam). (ii) A similar version of the narration is found the earlier ‘’Muṣnaf’’ of Ibn Abī Shaybah (d.849). (iii)
Imām al-Ṣuyūtī (d. 1505) also includes the above narration in his much later Commentary of the Qur’ān ‘’Durr al-manthūr’’ and adds the following narration:
‘A man once said in the presence of al-Mughīra b. Shu’ba: God bless Muḥammad the Seal of the Prophets; after him there will be no Prophet. Mughīrah replied: Be content with saying Seal of the Prophets, for we have been told that Jesus will appear and should he appear he would have been before him and after him (i.e. the Prophet) (fa-in huwa khārij fa kāna qablahu wa ba‘dahu).’ (iv)
The issues which usually arise are twofold, namely:
1) Non-Aḥmadīs often argue that the Ḥaḍrat ‘Ā’ishah (radī Allāhu ‘anhā) narration is only found in the works of Imām al-Ṣuyūṭī; and
2) Even if one is to accept this narration, it cannot be understood as a proof of the permissibility of ‘’ẓillī’’ / ‘’burūzī nabuwwah.
As you will have already observed, the narration is not singularly found in the works of Imām al-Ṣuyūṭī, as is often argued, but is also present in the much earlier works of Ibn Abī Shaybah and Ibn Qutaybah.
Regarding the second point, non-Aḥmadīs will often argue that the report is only intended to reconcile the fact that Ḥaḍrat Jesus (‘alayhi al-salām) would again return after the Prophet (ṣall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) with his Prophethood intact. It is unfortunate, yet so often the case, that this view is held to the exclusion of the Aḥmadī interpretation. I believe that Ḥaḍrat Mirza Ghulām Aḥmad (‘alayhi al-salām) claimed to be a ‘’ẓillī’’ / ‘’burūzī’’ Nabī and the Promised Messiah / second manifestation of Ḥaḍrat Jesus (‘alayhi al-salām). The above mentioned ‘Ā’ishah (radī Allāhu ‘anhā) narration, coupled with the Ḥaḍrat Mughīrah (raḍī Allahu ‘anhu) narration that usually accompanies it, are completely in line with the above claims of Ḥaḍrat Mirza Ghulām Aḥmad (‘alayhi al-salām). Feel free to hold that these narrations only refer to the second coming of Ḥaḍrat Jesus (‘alayhi al-salam), but do not rubbish the alternative interpretation which is quite reasonable and in context. To do so would be rather dishonest.
On a final note, it is also often said that Aḥmadīs are deceptive as they quote the Imām al-Ṣuyūṭī narration and fail to quote the Ḥaḍrat al-Mughīrah narration that follows it. This is completely untrue and with little foundation. The primary contemporary Āḥmadī text which quotes this narration, from ‘’Durr al-Manthūr,’’ is the book ‘’Beacon’s of Truth” (see here). You will notice that the original Arabic containing all of the narrations is scanned in for the wholw world to see (hardly hidden or indicative of a deception).
(1) Ibn Qutaybah, Ta’wīl mukhtalif al-ḥadīth, 271-271. In his commentary of 33:40, al-Qurtubī includes the following narration attributed to the Prophet: ‘’[there is] no Prophethood after me unless Allah so wills it (lā nabuwwah ba’di illa mā shā’ Allāh).’’ Qurtubi, al-Jām’i aḥkām al-Qur’ān, pg.166.
(2) The Prophet is narrated as having referred to the Promised Messiah as a Prophet (nabī Allah) four times in a single narration. Al-Naysābūrī, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, 4:2254.
(3) Ibn Abī Shaybah, Muṣnaf, (kitāb al-adab, man karah an yaqūl la nabī ba’d al-nabī ṣall Allahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) 13:566.
(4)Jalāl al-Dīn al-Ṣuyūtī, Durr al-Manthūr, 5:368; the wording of the narration in Dur al-Manthūr is slightly different: ‘’qulū khātam al-nabīyyīn wa lā taqūlu lā nabī ba’di.’’ These are the same words reported by Ibn Abī Shaybah who also mentions the statement of Mughīrah.