The word Khatam means seal or the impression made by its use. In a separate article, we have shown that the dictionaries categorically state that these are the primary meanings of the word Khatam. Many non-Ahmadis on social media questioned this meaning and made several arguments and accused Ahmadis of not applying the correct meaning of the word, Khatam.
In this article, I will discuss some of the usage of this term and how Ahmadi Muslims do not state anything that is extra-ordinary or wrongful in the application of the term in its contexts. First, it must be understood that a seal is meant to authenticate and, in this sense, the Holy Prophet(sa) authenticates the truth of past and future Prophets. It should also be understood that being last in time does not signify anything special about the status of the Holy Prophet(sa). Instead, being last in status signifies that the Holy Prophet(sa) has the highest, noblest station among the Prophets and no other Prophet can reach his station.
The seal of the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa), reads محمد رسول الله (Muhammad rasul Allah), meaning “Muhammad, messenger of God”.
The verse itself refers to the Holy Prophet’s(sa) title in the sense of praise, as follows:
مَا کَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ اَبَاۤ اَحَدٍ مِّنۡ رِّجَالِکُمۡ وَ لٰکِنۡ رَّسُوۡلَ اللّٰہِ وَ خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ ؕ وَ کَانَ اللّٰہُ بِکُلِّ شَیۡءٍ عَلِیۡمًا ﴿٪۴۱﴾
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah has full knowledge of all things. [33:41]
Explaining the phrase, Khatam-an-Nabiyyin, in Tafseer-e-Sagheer, Hazrat Musleh Mau’ud(ra) writes:
“That is, without his authentication and the testimony of his teachings, no person can attain the level of Prophet hood or Walayat (Sainthood). Others have translated this (alternatively) as “last Prophet” instead of “seal of Prophets”, but this (alternative translation) does not negatively impact our (i.e, the Ahmadiyya Muslim) position. If the mi’raj of the Holy Prophet(sa) is kept in mind, the tabular position of the Prophets as stated in (Masnad) Ahmad bin Hanbal(rh) is as follows:
||Hazrat Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah(sa)
||Hazrat Isa(as) and Hazrat Yahyah(as)
|People of Earth
If we look at this table from the perspective of the people of earth, they will first see Hazrat Adam(as), and they will see the Prophet Muhammad(sa) at the very end. In this sense, they will consider the Holy Prophet(sa) to be the last Prophet among all the Prophets. Other than that, when we consider the Hadith which states that even when Adam(as) was not yet born, the Holy Prophet(sa) was the Khatamun Nabiyyin, it means that he holds the highest rank in the list of Prophets. Hence, when the Holy Prophet(sa) went to the very top during mi’raj, the station of Prophet Muhammad(as) was essentially that of the last Prophet. In this sense also, the meanings we have expounded are correct. That is, Khatme Nubuwwat (Fnality of Prophethood) means that the status of the Holy Prophet(sa) is the greatest among all the Prophets” (Tafseer-e-Sagheer, page 551).
Usage of the word Khatam in Ahadith
In light of the dictionary meanings of the word Khatam, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has clearly held the position that the phrase Khatamun Nabiyyin as applied to the Holy Prophet(sa) means that he is the seal of Prophets, and one who authenticates the truth of all Prophets, and that he holds the final or last status among all the Prophets making him the best one among them. These meanings are neither new nor invented. They are exactly in accordance with the Holy Prophet’s(sa) own usage of the term Khatam in his conversations and discussions. The following four Ahadith are presented to prove our case:
Khatam in the meaning of ring:
حَدَّثَنَا ثَابِتٌ، أَنَّهُمْ سَأَلُوا أَنَسًا عَنْ خَاتَمِ، رَسُولِ اللّٰهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ كَأَنِّي أَنْظُرُ إِلَى وَبِيصِ خَاتَمِهِ مِنْ فِضَّةٍ . وَرَفَعَ إِصْبَعَهُ الْيُسْرَى الْخِنْصَرَ .
Hazrat Thabit(ra) narrated that they asked Hazrat Anas(ra) about the ring of the Messenger of Allah(sa) and he said, “It is as if I can see the shining of his silver ring, and he raised his left little finger”. [https://sunnah.com/nasai/48/246]
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّهُ نَهَى عَنْ خَاتَمِ الذَّهَبِ .
Hazrat Abu Hurairah(ra) reported that Allah’s Apostle(sa) forbade the wearing of gold signet ring. [https://sunnah.com/muslim/37/85]
Khatam used to mean a seal of authentication:
عَنْ أَنَسِ بْنِ مَالِكٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ أَنَّ نَبِيَّ اللّٰهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَرَادَ أَنْ يَكْتُبَ إِلَى رَهْطٍ أَوْ أُنَاسٍ مِنَ الأَعَاجِمِ، فَقِيلَ لَهُ إِنَّهُمْ لاَ يَقْبَلُونَ كِتَابًا إِلاَّ عَلَيْهِ خَاتَمٌ، فَاتَّخَذَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم خَاتَمًا مِنْ فِضَّةٍ نَقْشُهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ اللّٰهِ فَكَأَنِّي بِوَبِيصِ أَوْ بِبَصِيصِ الْخَاتَمِ فِي إِصْبَعِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَوْ فِي كَفِّهِ.
Hazrat Anas bin Malik narrated that the Messenger(sa) of Allah wanted to write a letter to a group of people or some non-Arabs. It was said to him, “They do not accept any letter unless it is stamped”. So the Prophet(sa) had a silver ring made for himself, and on it was engraved: ‘Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah’. [The narrator says: It is] as if I am now looking at the glitter of the ring on the finger (or in the palm) of the Prophet(sa). [https://sunnah.com/bukhari/77/89]
Khatam in the sense of praise:
عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللّٰهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ “ فُضِّلْتُ عَلَى الأَنْبِيَاءِ بِسِتٍّ أُعْطِيتُ جَوَامِعَ الْكَلِمِ وَنُصِرْتُ بِالرُّعْبِ وَأُحِلَّتْ لِيَ الْغَنَائِمُ وَجُعِلَتْ لِيَ الأَرْضُ طَهُورًا وَمَسْجِدًا وَأُرْسِلْتُ إِلَى الْخَلْقِ كَافَّةً وَخُتِمَ بِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ ” .
Hazrat Abu Hurairah(ra) reported that the Messenger(sa) of Allah said: I have been given superiority over the other prophets in six respects: I have been given words which are concise but comprehensive in meaning; I have been helped by terror (in the hearts of enemies): spoils have been made lawful to me; the earth has been made clean for me and a place of worship; I have been sent to all mankind and the line of prophets is sealed (or authenticated) by me. [https://sunnah.com/muslim/5/7]
These are only four examples out of many that are sufficient to demonstrate that Khatam can mean seal of authentication and is not limited to the meaning of last. When this meaning of seal is applied to the phrase Khatamun Nabiyyin, it means Seal of the Prophets. This implies that the Holy Prophet(sa) is the seal of authentication for all of the prophets(as), past and future. This is the simple, logical understanding of the position of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on this issue.
Seal of the Prophets or Best of the Prophets?
A question may be asked here: Do Ahmadis believe the Holy Prophet(sa) to be the Seal of the Prophets or the best of the Prophets? If the answer is both, how can two meanings be applied to the same phrase?
The answer to this question is that Ahmadis Muslims translate Khatamun Nabiyyin as Seal of the prophets based on the primary and fundamental meaning of the word Khatam as stated in the dictionaries. We also understand the phrase to mean best of the Prophets based upon the derived connotation and idiomatic usage of the word Khatam. When the word Khatam comes as مضاف (Mudhaaf or Possessed) of a group of people (مضاف الیہ – Mudhaaf Ilaih), then the idiomatic meaning of the phrase is best of the group. This idiomatic application of the word Khatam is actually derived from, and a logical result of, the primary meaning “seal”. The one who is the “Seal of the prophets” is, quite obviously, also the best among them.
The important thing to remember is that language has to be understood from usage and idiom. There are some phrases that cannot be understood in their literal sense in certain contexts, such as when someone says, “I am feeling under the weather” or “he went cold turkey on his habit”, or “this is my neck of the woods”. None of these phrases can be understood in a literal sense though they may retain some connection with the literal meaning as well. A closer comparison of an English idiom with the phrase Khatamun Nabiyyin is “be-all” or “cream of the crop”. For instance, it may be said, “They are the cream of the crop in the NBA”.
Hence, in a similar way, the phrase Khatamun Nabiyyin idiomatically means the Best of the prophets and the Ahmadiyya Muslim understanding is that the Holy Prophet Muhammad(sa) is the seal of authentication as well as the best of the prophets. As a matter of fact, the meaning best of the prophets in every kind of quality and skill, is the logical result and very essence of being titled the Khatam (Seal) of the prophets.