Refutation: Reply to an Argument Regarding the Interpretation of ‘Seal of the Prophets.’

© Rehan Qayoom

Muhammad is not the father of any of you men but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah has full knowledge of all things.

    (The Holy Quran.  Al Ahzab [The Coalition].  41).

In his book With Love to the Ahmadis of the WorldFarhan Khan has referred to a passage in the book Finality of Prophethood by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad.  In the chapter about the statements of Shaykh Muhiyudeen ibn al-‘Arabi, Mr. Khan states that Ahmadi Muslims interpret an ‘isolated quote’ of the Great Shaykh to suit their own understanding of the term Seal of Prophets.  First of all, it seems that either the references given (to ibn al-‘Arabi) in this book have not been understood by Mr. Khan or he has deliberately chosen one small section of the quoted text so as to deceive his readers.
  
There is an Hadith [Tradition] of Prophet Muhammad  narrated in Sahih Bukhari that is mentioned by Shaykh ibn al-‘Arabi in the course of this discussion in his magnum opus Futûhât al-Makkiya [The Meccan Revelations] that the Prophet of Allah said that ‘When this Caesar will die, there will be no Caesar after him. When this Khusroe will die, there will be no Khusroe after him.  By Him in Whose Hand is Muhammad’s soul, surely you will spend their treasures in Allah’s Cause.’  Hadhrat Khalifatul Masih IV says:

That is to say, their glory, their pomp and show will be destroyed by the Muslims. In this Hadith, the Holy Prophet ﷺ in his unique wisdom has clearly explained the meaning of word la [no] by saying  Fala Kaisera Ba’ada Hoo [‘There will be no Caesar after him’] and Fala Kisra Ba’ada Hoo [‘There will be no Khusroe after him’], there would be no Caesar after him (after this Caesar) and there would be no Khusroe after him (after this Khusroe). He [ibn ‘Arabi in Futûhât al-Makkiya] makes it clear that La[no] used in this context does not signify the exclusion of an entire genus. Rather, it is used to emphasize that there would be no one who would attain their majesty and their magnificence.
Accordingly, we had Caesar succeeding a Caesar and a Khusroe succeeding a Khusroe for a thousand years after the Holy Prophet ﷺ but they never attained the glory and grandeur of the Caesar and Khusroe of the times of the Holy Prophet ﷺ.

Let us now look at the passages by quoted Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad in full and then let every sane person decide themselves whether the Ahmadiyya interpretations regarding the Finality of Prophethood in the writings of ibn al’Arabi stand up to scrutiny or that of Mr Khan:
We know this with certainty that in the Muslim Ummah there will be individuals whose status, according to Allah, will be of prophets but such prophethood will be without any new law or
Shariah.
              Prophethood will continue in mankind till the Day of Resurrection although prophethood bearing a new Shariah or law has come to an end. It must be realized, however, that bringing a new law is one of the many duties of prophethood.
         The prophethood which came to an end with the advent of the Holy Prophet ﷺ was Law-bearing Prophethood – a prophet with a new book and new law. There is no room for such prophethood after The Holy Quran. This is the correct meaning of the Tradition, which contains the Holy Prophet’s saying that there is to be no prophet after him. The Tradition only conveys that after the Holy Prophet, there can be no prophet who will replace his Sharia with another one.  Henceforth, whenever any prophet comes, he will be subordinate to him and his Shariah.
                   When the Imam Mahdi makes his appearance, none other than the Orthodox Ulema and theologians would be his most ardent and open enemies. (Futûhât al-Makkiya [The Meccan Revelations].  Chapter 73). 
Commenting upon the Quranic verse:                 
And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in it before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection he [Jesus] shall be a witness against them – (The Holy Quran.  Al Nisa [The Women].  160).
Shaykh Muhiyudeen ibn al-‘Arabi writes in the same book:        
Jesus (peace be on him) shall descend amongst the Muslim Ummah as an arbritator without a new law. Most surely, he will be a prophet. There is no doubt about it.  He is bound to descend in the Latter Days in a new physical form.
Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad points out:
Here you would note Hadhrat ibn-‘Arabi states emphatically that the Messiah would be a new Messiah and that he will be a prophet. Despite all this evidence, our opponents would continue to insist that there will be no new prophet.
For further readings into Ahmadiyya understanding about the idea of the Finality of Prophethood see my work I am the Master of the Bezels: Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad on ibn ‘Arabi.’ 
(The above blog entry was kindly sent to me by its author ”Rehan Qayoom.”  I have posted below in the comments the conversation that subsequently took place between Rehan Qayoom and Farhan Khan. This is the second post on this blog which has been written by an external blogger and there are a several others that have been sent to me. May Almighty Allah bless those individuals who have kindly helped out. May I take this opportunity to once again call upon anyone, be they Ahmadi or non-Ahmadi, to send me any posts they have prepared – once again, Jazak Allah)
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8 thoughts on “Refutation: Reply to an Argument Regarding the Interpretation of ‘Seal of the Prophets.’

  1. Farhan’s essential mistake was already answered by the Promised Messiah(as) in one of his earliest books called “Taudih e Maram” or “Elucidation of Objectives” :
    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/elucidation/Elucidation-of-Objectives.pdf

    The term “nabi” does not simply mean to have news of the unseen related to you in the fashion that ordinary people sometimes see a true dream which is in itself confused with their own thoughts and often they know not whether the dream proceeds from God or from Satan. This is not the meaning of the words of the Qur’an in which prophethood is defined as :

    “He is the Knower of the unseen; and He reveals not His secrets to any one, Except to him whom He chooses, namely a Messenger of His. And then He causes an escort of guarding angels to go before him and behind him…” ((72:27, 28)

    This verse refers to the prophets being provided with an abundance of revelation which is altogether free from the influence of either their own thoughts or that of satanic influence. This is wholly distinct from the true dreams of the population of Muslims-which is what Farhan was referring to. Therefore a prophet is one who is granted such an abundance of the unseen in a manner that he is like the sun as compared to other normal Muslims who receive revelation equal to that of a glow-worm. Can a glow-worm ever compare to the light of the sun? In addition, the revelations of such prophets are always fulfilled and they contain not even a hint of their own thinking or that of satanic interference.

    For Farhan therefore to first wrongly construe prophethood and then say that such a thing is the only thing which Hazrat Ibn’Arabi (ra) was speaking of was entirely wrong. Even a passing acquaintance with the work of Hazrat Ibn’Arabi(as) would demonstrate that he too understood that there is a division between the revelation granted to the ordinary Muslims in the form of true dreams and that granted to the prophets. Indeed, though he did not claim prophethood for himself, in his outstanding work “The Seals of Prophethood” he mentions that were he to write all the things which God had revealed to him, there would not be enough space to write them all down. Does Farhan find not enough space for the revelations vouchsafed to him? Yet Hazrat Ibn’Arabi(as) did not even claim prophethood for himself. It is evident therefore that the degree or revelation and the scope of revelation vouchsafed to a prophet is not to be confused with that vouchsafed to an ordinary Muslim.

    Here is an extract of “Elucidation of Objectives” from the work of the Promised Messiah(as) in which this question is exactly answered:

    Here, I would like to dispel the doubts and misconceptions of those who may like to know what after all is unique about the revelations and visions of Prophets and saints as against those of ordinary people. If the affairs of the unknown are disclosed to Prophets and saints, at times they are also disclosed to others. Even rogues and rascals are wont to relate their dreams and visions which later on turn out to be true. If Prophets, saints, rank sinners and notorious scoundrels all happen to share the same kind of spiritual experience, why should Prophets and saints be singled out and accorded
    preference? In answer to this, I would like to point out that this question underlines one basic fact and to that extent it is valid and correct. The fact is that out of the forty-six parts of the angelic light of Gabriel, only one part covers and is distributed over the entire world. No sinner or evildoer even of the first order is outside its purview. I even believe, and experience testifies to it, that on occasion even a woman of loose morals who belongs to the class of prostitutes and whose youth has
    been spent in illicit sex, may sometimes have a true dream. It is even more surprising that such a woman soaked in drink and in bed with her lover, can even during such a night have a dream which turns out to be true. But remember, it happens exactly as it should; for the angelic light of Gabriel is quite like the Sun. From his headquarters, he is exerting his influence over the entire universe consistent with the potentialities of the recipients. Hence, not a single human being in the world is totally left out in the dark. Even the lowest of the low retains a minuscule particle of this love for his true homeland and the true Beloved. Under the circumstances, it was necessary that parts of Gabriel’s influence should have been extended to all humans including majanin65; which as a matter of fact is the case. Majanin65, who are commonly termed as majdhub by the laity because of a kind of withdrawal from reality on their part, sometimes happen to fall under the rays of Gabriel’s light. As a result, some of the rays of this light are reflected on their inner sight because of which it comes to have an inkling of the secret workings of Providence. But such dreams or visions pose no threat to the status of a Prophet or a saint and in no way do they detract from their exalted station, nor for that matter, can any confusion arise between the two. Between them there is such a marked and clear difference as can be easily understood by a rational human being, because the dreams and visions of the spiritual elite and those of the commoners can in no way be equated directly or indirectly, qualitatively or quantitatively. The elite of God partake of Divine bounties to an extraordinary degree. The rest of the world shares this grace the way a poor beggar who happens to have a penny could be considered to share the coffers of a reigning monarch. It is evident that this minuscule participation in ownership does not in any way detract from the royal splendour, nor for that matter does it elevate the beggar’s position. A little reflection will show that the glow-worm also known as Pat Bijna and Jugnu, too, has a kind of infinitesimal resemblance with the Sun, but can it ever claim any share of the Sun’s glory because of this resemblance? Let it be understood that all excellences require a high degree of perfection in quality as well as quantity. A novice by learning to identify letters in alphabetical order does not become a scholar of repute; nor can one who chances to compose a poetic line be considered equal to the great poets. No part of wisdom or authority is without this microscopic commonality. If a ruler rules over the world, so does a labourer in his cottage rule over his wife and children. As to why God allowed this commonality of experience between the good and the bad, and why at all did He favour the indifferent with this heavenly bounty as a specimen, the answer is that He did so as a countermeasure and clincher of an argument, so that because of this genetic affinity every sceptic should be able to testify to the noble condition of the elect of God. When a person, even in the context of his limited scope, witnesses these phenomena for himself and then also happens to hear such people speak of it, it becomes impossible for him, because of this glimpse, however momentary, to deny in all fairness the possibility of such spiritual experiences. Hence after personally bearing witness to even a minor example of spiritual truth, he ipso facto becomes answerable to God, and can only deny the truth on pain of being apprehended. For instance, the Arya today believe that after revealing the four Vedas God suddenly applied closure to revelation forever. But Divine Law gives the lie to their belief for they themselves know that the institution of revelation continues to operate even to this day. At times, even the sinners among them happen to see true dreams. It is quite clear that God who did not deprive even the sinful and the worldly of His spiritual grace and despite their lack of total affinity does on occasion shower His blessings even upon them, mutatis mutandis, what will He not confer upon those of His righteous servants who implicitly follow His Will and whose submission to Him is total. The moral of this genetic participation is that every person however sinful and evil, even a bloodthirsty infidel, should realize by reflecting upon this resemblance that God did not create him to go to waste. Instead, He has invested him with a built-in capacity for development and given him the basic form quite like a seed. It is for him to move forward. No one is by birth denied access to the bounteous table of God except the one who suffers deprivation by purposely digressing from the right path and letting the light that is planted inside him lie unused. It will be his own doing, the consequences of which he will have to face, if he deliberately chooses not to follow the natural paths to salvation.

  2. Having quoted that the comments of Mr.Farhan ” Ahmadis do not double-check what the Murabbis teach them”.

    Here is my point of view as an ordinary ahmadi muslim and decide yourself.

    If we all have well read, we found definitely that Ibn Arabi(ra) claimed himself as Seal of the Saints which is ‘Khatamul auliya’. ( I read in a book that even Ibn Arabi(ra) described that title was given to him by the Prophet Muhammad (sa). )

    Here is the quote of Mr.Farhan regarding Futuhat – ‘Rather, the highest degree of kindness that Allah shows to His Awliya’ is that He allowed a part of Nubuwwah to remain with them’.

    Ibn Arabi(ra) declared himself as Khatamul auliya, seal of the saints, at one side and he himself stated that there will also be the Saints (Auliya) after him at the other side.

    So, it is now very clear that how can we accuse that Ibn Arabi(ra) who understood the term ‘Kha-ta-ma Nabiyeen’ as last of the prophets.

    That’s it for an ordinary ahmadi.

    Let me quote from Futuhat so that we might not forget about Mahdi.

    ” the Mahdi is God’s Argument for the people of his time, and that (i.e., his function as hujja) is part of the rank of the prophets and participates in that rank.” (pg 10 – Chapter 366: Concerning Inner Knowledge of the Stage of the Helpers of the Mahdi (Who is to) Appear at the End of Time, Translated by James W. Morris.)

    And again –

    ” And this is why God’s Messenger said, in describing the Mahdi, that “He follows in the trace of my footsteps, and he makes no mistake.” Through this he informed us that (the Mahdi) is a follower (of the Prophet), not one who is followed (i.e., not a Messenger with a new revealed Law), and that he is (divinely) protected from error (ma’sum)”. (ibid pg 26-27)

    Here is the link => ( http://www.ibnarabisociety.org/articlespdf/sp_mahdi.pdf )

    May Allah guide non-ahmadis to the right path, Ahmadiyyat or the True Islam.

    Nasir Ahamd (a) Tin Maung Htwe

  3. Rehan Qayoom said…
    Farhan, firstly let me apologise for the delay in replying to you.

    Let’s leave Imam Abu Hanifa for a while and stick to ibn al-‘Arabi. You should understand that not everybody who receives revelation can be termed a prophet. In this there is no divide between the Ahmadiyya concept and the traditional idea of revelation in Islam. The Shaykh writes:

    It is essential to know that as there is no end to the Ipseity of God or to His qualification, consequently the Universes have no end or number, because the Universes are the places of manifestation for the Names and Qualities. As that which manifests is endless, so the places of manifestation must be endless. Consequently, the Quranic sentence: “He is at every moment in a different configuration,” means equally that there is no end to the revelation of God.

    (Lubbul Lubb [Kernal of the Kernal]. Beshara Publications, 1981. 9).

    Allah Almighty states in The Holy Quran:

    O children of Adam! When Messengers come to you from among yourselves rehearsing My Signs unto you, then whoso acts rightesouly and is mindful of their duty, shouldst entertain no fear nor shall they grieve.

    (The Holy Quran. Al Araf [The Heights]. 36).

    The Shaykh ibn al-‘Arabi has explained exactly what kind of prophethood he is speaking of when he speaks of anbiya’ Tashri’ and anbiya’ la tashri’a lahum in Futûhât al-Makkiya:

    Prophethood is continuous and open in this world till the Day of Judgement. Although the commanding of a new Shariah has closed. And Shariah is one of the many parts of prophethood.

    In Fusûs al-Hikam he discusses this in some detail in relation to sainthood and concludes:

    With the severance of the function of prophet and messenger, no name remains for the slave to possess to the exclusion of the Real. However, God is gentle with His slaves, and left for them the general prophethood that is not law-giving, and also left for them the ability to give law through individual juridical reasoning – which establishes regulation of legal rulings – leaving for them the inheritance of law-giving.

    (Fusûs al-Hikam [The Ringstones of Wisdom]. Ringstone 25).

  4. Farhan said…
    Thanks for your comments. But, that does not address what I said in my reply. It seems like a re-state of core Ahmadi teachings. Correct me if I am mistaken.

    We do not disagree that Ibn ‘Arabi said “Non-Law-Bearing Nabi” and “Law-Bearing Nabi”. We are in agreement there. What we differ on is what Ibn ‘Arabi meant by those terms. By the passage I cited earlier, and the much longer context I provided in my booklet, you can see what Ibn ‘Arabi was referring to by these terms.

    Perhaps the most explicit comment is what I quoted by Ibn ‘Arabi, where he said Allah cut off prophethood (cited above). Later in my book, I cited this quote by Ibn ‘Arabi:

    “Rather, the highest degree of kindness that Allah shows to His Awliya’ is that He allowed a part of Nubuwwah to remain with them, such as receiving inspiration through true visions, so that they can at least be comforted with the scent of revelation (wahī).”
    Chapter 14, you can see the fuller context in my book if you want to.

    This passage by Ibn ‘Arabi above is based on the following two statements of the Prophet SAAWS:

    Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “The (good) dream of a faithful believer is a part of the forty-six parts of prophetism.” (Book #87, Hadith #117)

    and

    Narrated ‘Ubada bin As-Samit: The Prophet said, “The (good) dreams of a faithful believer is a part of the forty-six parts of prophetism:’ (Book #87, Hadith #116)

    So as you can see, Ibn ‘Arabi agreed with traditional Islam. That’s why no one for hundreds of years interpreted Ibn ‘Arabi as the Ahmadis reinterpreted him nowadays.

    btw, I used “Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Ahmadi Religious Thoughts & Its Medieval Background” in my research. See what he cited Imam Abu Hanifah on the topic of the End of the Prophets 🙂 I don’t recall if I put any citation of it in my book though…

  5. Rehan Qayoom said…
    Thank You, Farhan. ibn ‘Arabi’s understanding of ‘Seal of Prophets’ is infused with the idea of the non-essential elements of prophethood, that is to say: legislative prophethood and non-legislative prophethood (anbiya’ Tashri’ and anbiya’ la tashri’a lahum in Futûhât al-Makkiya), in the light of the Second Coming of Jesus who would undoubtedly be a prophet but would descend again in the Latter Days without bearing a new law. As such ibn ‘Arabi believes that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was the last of those legislative prophets (bearing the last and perfect religion of Islam).

    This has also been discussed at length in Prophecy Continuous: Aspects of Ahmadi Religious Thoughts & Its Medieval Background by Johanan Friedmann. (Oxford University Press, 2003). See particularly chapter 6 on ‘Prophetology & Claim to Prophethood.’ Also pages 70-75, 89, 90, 106, 110, 182. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad states:

    So remember well that the fruits of total subordination can never go to waste. This is a mystical precept of Sufism. If there were no such status the saints of the Ummah would have died. It was this very reflective distinction of complete immersion and of the reappearance as a reflection or a shadow whereby Bayazid was decreed Muhammad and was thus declared an infidel for it no less than 70 times in an edict and subsequently banished from the township.

    (24 September 1905. Malfoozat iv [Discourses]. 406).

  6. Farhan said…
    I am the author of the text cited above. Lets discuss.

    Ibn ‘Arabi explicitly said “Allah has crushed the backs of the Awliya’ by cutting off prophethood”. So, why did he then say there can be non-law-bearing prophets? Isn’t that a contradiction?

    Ibn ‘Arabi used the linguistic definition of Nabi, which means ‘one who brings forth news of the unseen’. People continue to receive a type of Ilham (inspiration), this is an established fact. But, does their inspiration qualify them as prophets? Linguistically yes, they are receiving news from the unseen.

    But if they are Nabis in the traditional sense of the term, then 99% of the Sahaba were Nabis, so were millions of people after them. My personal friends are prophets too! Linguistically, they qualify as Nabis.

    Here’s the kicker. The Qur’an explicitly says that there are no more laws- both Muslims and Ahmadis agree on this point. So, whatever inspiration people receive, we know 100% that it cannot be Islamic law. Thus, Ibn Arabi used the term non-law-bearing Nabis to differentiate between them and ACTUAL prophets.

    If you continue to read the rest of the section on Ibn Arabi, I said the following:

    It is established that the Messenger of Allah has said “Risala and Nubuwwa have ended, so there is no Rasul after me, nor nabī”. This hadīth is among the most bitter of truths that the Awliya’ had to swallow, because it is a barrier that comes between the human and his attainment of complete and ultimate servanthood (‘ubudiyyah).”
    Chapter 38 of Futuhat Al-Makiyyah

    So, conclusion: Yes, Ibn ‘Arabi says nabis vs non-law-bearing nabis, but this is understood in the context of what Ibn ‘Arabi is talking about: non-law-bearing nabi = one who receives inspiration, like a regular righteous person. Regular Nabi = what we traditionally think of as a prophet. When you read the context (which I provided in my booklet) any honest Ahmadi would see what Mirza Tahir was doing. But, most Ahmadis do not double-check what the Murabbis teach them…

    May Allah continue to guide Ahmadis to Islam.

    PS, call me Farhan, not Mr. Khan.

  7. Rehan Qayoom said…
    The concept of the Mahdi is not an exclusive to Shiaism, though it has probably been given more credibility within Shiaism in recent times. The eschatological concept of the Mahdi was prevalent even way before the twelfth Shia Imam. So it became an accepted element of Ahmadiyya doctrine primarily from the Sunni tradition. Ahmadis do not accept that the 12th Imam was the Promised Mahdi mentioned in the Quran and Hadith. Ahmadiyya practice is predominantly (similar to) Sunni practice although it also incorporates many elements of Shia Islam such as the importance given to the Imamate which in Ahmadiyya is manifested through the system of Caliphate. The Shia Imams are also accepted and held in high regard within Ahmadiyya Islam on account of their piety and righteousness. However, it is important to note that Ahmadiyya Islam differs from both contemporary Sunni and Shia belief in that it holds the Mahdi and the Promised Messiah (Second Coming of Jesus son of Mary) to be one and the same person. According to Ahmadis that person was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (peace be upon him) in whose person these prophecies were fulfilled.

    The Hadith may seem straightforward, but the contention between Ahmadis and other Muslims arises with the meaning of the word Seal. The Promised Messiah (peace be upon him) was asked ‘What is the meaning of ‘Seal of the Prophets’? In the course of his reply, he said:

    ‘This means that after the Holy Prophet ﷺ no prophet bearing a new Shariah will come and it means that no prophet can come after him who does not bear the seal of his prophethood.

    The chief of the Sufis Hadhrat ibn e ‘Arabi says that the cessation of prophethood and the death of Islam are the same thing. If God still hears as He heard in the past ages and sees as He did in the past then what is the reason that along with hearing and seeing he used to possess the attribute of conversing as well but that [it] has now become defunct? If this is the case then is there not a danger that at some time Almighty God will also lose his attributes of hearing and seeing. One pities such absurd thinking. Almighty God still speaks as He spoke and conversed before with all the prophets. Thus we are ourselves present as a proof for it. God certainly speaks just as he sees and hears. Islam is left with no life and can never be [considered] respectfully outside of believing that Almighty God speaks and converses continually and it leaves Islam a damned, disfavoured and a dead religion just like the other religions.’

    (1 May 1908. Lahore – India. Malfoozat v [Discourses]. 565).
    14 November 2010 15:05

  8. Mark said…
    Rehan, isn’t the Mahdi more a Shia belief in the 12th Imam who disappeared somewhat miraculously and, it is anticipated, will reappear to establish righteousness on the earth? How has this become an accepted element of Ahmadi belief? Does Ahmadi tradition follow Shia tradition more than Sunni?

    As I understand the seal of the prophets thing, Muhammad ﷺ in the Qur’an states that he is the seal of the prophets (33:40). In a well known Hadith, he states his uniqueness thus: “I have been given victory through the inspiring of awe at the distance of a month’s journey; I have been given permission to intercede; I have been sent to all mankind; and the prophets have been sealed with me.” (Annemarie Schimmel “The Prophet Muhammed as a Centre of Muslim Life and Thought” in Schimmel & Falaturi, p. 62).

    That seems fairly straight forward to me?

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