The Muslim’s belief that Muhammad is the Last Prophet of God has been misunderstood
by many people and, hence, needs an explanation. This belief does not,
in any way, mean that God has closed His door of mercy or has retired.
It does not impose any restriction on the rise of great religious personalities,
or bar the emerging of great spiritual leaders, or obstruct the evolution
of great pious men. Nor does it mean that God has done the Arabs, from
whom Muhammad was chosen, His Last Favor to the exclusion of everybody
else. God is not partial to any race or age or generation, and His door
of mercy is ever open and always accessible to those who seek Him. He speaks
to man in either of three ways:
(1) by inspiration which occurs in the form of suggestions or ideas put by God into the hearts or minds of pious men;
(2) from behind a veil which occurs in the form of sights or visions when the qualified recipient is asleep or in a state of trance; and
(3) through the Heavenly Messenger Gabriel who is sent down with concrete Divine words to convey to the chosen human messenger (Qur’an, 42:51). This last from is the highest and is the one in which the Qur’an came down to Muhammad. It is confined only to the Prophets of whom Muhammad was the Last and the Seal.
But, again this does deny the existence or continuance of inspiration in the two other forms to whomever God wills. By choosing Muhammad to be the Seal of the Prophets, God has not lost contact with or interest in man, and man has not been barred from seeking God or obstructed in his aspiration to God. On the contrary, by choosing Muhammad to be the culmination of Prophethood and the Qur’an to be the completion of Revelation, God has established a permanent medium of communication between Himself and man and has erected an ever-radiating beacon of guidance and light. Besides these general observations, there are other specific points which show why Muhammad is the Last Prophet of God. From among these, a few may be mentioned:
1. The Qur’an states in unequivocal words that Muhammad is sent to all men as the Apostle of God to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and earth (7:158). It also states that Muhammad was sent only as a Mercy from God to all creatures, human and non-human alike (21:107), and that he is the Messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets (33:40). The Qur’an is the word of God, and whatever it says is the truth of God by which every Muslim abides and on which every man should reflect. The Message of Muhammad was not simply a national revival or a racial monopoly or a temporary deliverance from bondage and oppression. Nor was it an abrupt change or reversion in the trends of history. The Message of Muhammad was, and, of course, still is, a universal revival, a common blessing, a supranational heritage and an ever-lasting spiritual deliverance. It is an evolutionary continuance of the previous messages and a well-balanced incorporation of all the former revelations. It transcends all boundaries of race, age, color, and regional features. It is addressed to man of all times and it is precisely what man needs. Thus, a Muslim believes that Muhammad is the Last Prophet because the Qur’an bears true witness to that, and because Muhammad’s message has the highest qualities of a truly universal and conclusive faith.
2. Muhammad himself stated that he was the Last Prophet of God. A Muslim, or anyone else for that matter, cannot question the truth of this statement. Throughout his life, Muhammad was known to be most truthful, honest and modest. His integrity and truthfulness were beyond doubt not only in the sights of Muslims but also in the minds of his most staunch opponents. His character, his spiritual accomplishments, and his mundane reforms are unparalleled in the entire history of mankind. And it remains yet to be seen if history could produce any equal to Muhammad. He said that he was the Last Prophet because it was the truth of God, and not because he wanted any personal glory or sought any personal gains. Victory did not spoil him, triumph did not weaken his excellent virtues, and power did not corrupt his character. He was incorruptible, consistent, and inaccessible to any notion of personal gain or glory. His words display dazzling light of wisdom and truth.
3. Muhammad was the only Prophet who fulfilled his mission and completed his work in his lifetime. Before he died, the Qur’an stated that the religion of God has been perfected, the favor of God on the believers has been completed, and the truth of revelation has been guarded and will be safely preserved (Qur’an 5:3 and 10:9). When he died, the religion of Islam was completed, and the community of Muslim believers was well-established. The Qur’an was recorded in his lifetime and preserved in its total and original version. All this means that the religion of God has been completed by Muhammad in concept as well as in the application, and that the Kingdom of God has been established here on earth. Muhammad’s mission, his example and his accomplishments have proved the point that the Kingdom of God is not an unattainable ideal or something of the Hereafter only, but it is something of this world too, something that did exist and flourish in the age of Muhammad and can exist and flourish in any age whenever there are sincere believers and men of faith. Thus, if any man was destined to be the culmination of Prophethood, who could it be other than Muhammad? And if any book was designed to be the completion of Revelation, what could it be other than the Qur’an? The actual fulfillment of Muhammad’s mission on earth and the authentic recording of the entire Qur’an in his lifetime should leave no trace of doubt in any mind as to the belief that he was the Last Prophet.
4. The decree of God that Muhammad is the Last Prophet is based on the original and pure authenticity of Qur’an, on the conclusive and unique accomplishments of Muhammad, on the universality of Islam, and on the applicability of the Qur’anic teachings to every situation, every age, and every man, This is the religion which transcends all borders and penetrates far beyond all barriers of race, color, age and status of wealth or prestige. It is the religion which assures men, all men, of equality and brotherhood, freedom and dignity, peace and honor, guidance and salvation. This is the pure essence of God’s religion and the kind of aid He has always extended to man from the beginning of history. With Muhammad and the Qur’an has come the culmination of religious evolution. This, however, does not mean the end of history or the termination of man’s need for Divine guidance. It is only the beginning of a new approach, the inauguration of a new era, wherein man has been sufficiently provided with all the Divine guidance and the practical examples he needs. This Divine guidance is contained in the Qur’an, the most authentic and incorruptible Revelation of God, and these practical examples are found in the personality of Muhammad. If there were to come a new prophet or a new revealed book, what could this add to the quality of prophethood or to the truth of the Qur’an ? If it is to preserve the word of God or guard the truth of Revelation, this has been done through the Qur’an. And if it is to show that the Law of God can be implemented in history or that the Kingdom of God can be established on earth, all this has been shown by Muhammad. And if it is to guide man to God and the Right Way of life, this has been well-established by the Qur’an and Muhammad. Man does not need new revelations or new prophets. What he needs most is to wake up, to open his mind and to quicken his heart. What he needs now is to make use of the already available Revelations, to utilize his existing resources and to draw from the inexhaustible treasures of Islam which has incorporated, preserved and perfected the purity of the previous Revelations.
decreed that Muhammad would be the Last Prophet and so he was. No prophet
before Muhammad had done or accomplished or bequeathed so much as he did.
And no one after him, of those who have claimed prophethood, has done anything
comparable to what he did. However, this Divine decree was in anticipation
of the great historical events which have followed. It heralded good news
for man that he would enter a new stage of intellectual maturity and spiritual
heights, and that he would have, from then on, to do without new prophets
or new revelations, to be on his own, aided by the rich legacies of prophethood
and revelations as found in Muhammad and his predecessors. It was in anticipation
of the fact that the cultures, races and regions of the world would become
closer and closer to each other, and that mankind could do well with one
universal religion in which God occupies His rightful position and man
realizes himself. It was a solemn witness to the great role which advanced
knowledge and serious intellectual undertaking would play in terms of bringing
man to God. And it is true that if man can combine his advanced knowledge
and his sound intellectual potential with the spiritual and moral teachings
of the Qur’an he cannot fail to recognize the existence of God and adapt
himself to God’s Law.
The historical stage of prophethood has ended with Muhammad to give man the evidence that he can mature on his own initiative, to give science an opportunity to function properly and explore the vast dominion of God, and to give the mind a chance to reflect and penetrate. The nature of Islam is such that it has a great deal of flexibility and practicability and can cope with any arising situation. The nature of the Qur’an is such that it is universal and ever-revealing, and in it guidance is sure, without doubt. The nature of Muhammad’s message is such that it is addressed to all men and directed to all generations. Muhammad was not merely a racial leader or a national liberator. He was, and still is, a man of history and the best model of him who seeks God. In him every man can find something to learn, and excellent examples of goodness and piety to follow. And in him every generation can find its lost hope.
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