There is another hadith about Hazrat ‘Umar that the ulema use in their support and that needs our attention. The full hadith is as follows:
The translation of the first part of the hadith which is generally cited is the following:
‘Uqbah bin ‘Amir (may Allah be pleased with him) reports that “The Messenger(sa) of Allah said: ‘If there was to be a Prophet after me, it would certainly have been ‘Umar bin al-Khattab.’”
The second part of the hadith which gives the commentary of Imam Tirmidhi on the above statement is conveniently disregarded. Imam Tirmidhi adds after the above citation:
This hadith falls in the category of the weak ones [da‘if ]. We do not find it anywhere except through Mishrah bin Ha‘an. (Tirmidhi vol. 2, Abwabul-Manaqib Babo Manaqib-e-‘Umar(ra)).
Our opponents argue that according to this hadith since Hazrat ‘Umar(ra) lived after the Holy Prophet(sa) and did not become a Prophet, therefore, prophethood has ended.
It is to be noted that after recording this hadith, Imam Tirmidhi observed that it should fall in the category of ‘hasanun gharibun’—authenticity of this hadith is questionable. It is handed down by one narrator, Mishrah bin Ha‘an. At-Tahdhib At-Tahdhib, an authentic work of research about the narrators, includes a note about Ha‘an in volume 10, page 155:
Ibn Hayyan states: …He (Mishrah bin Ha‘an) was among the weak narrators of hadith. He is not to be relied upon. In particular when he is found to be the lone narrator of a hadith the hadith should be rejected. (At-Tahdhib At-Tahdhib, by Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani)
Hadith-e-Gharib means exactly that; that there is a lone narrator.
Ibn-e-Dawud, agreeing with the above view, further states in even stronger terms:
He [Mishrah bin Ha‘an] was in the gang of al-Hajjaj who had besieged ‘Abdullah bin Zubair and had raided the Ka‘bah and pelted it with stones.
In view of the above, the authenticity of this hadith is totally shattered.
There are, however, sayings of the Holy Prophet(sa) which may help clarify this topic. The Holy Prophet(sa) is reported to have said to Hazrat ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him):
Had I not been raised as a Prophet, O ‘Umar, you would have been raised as one. (Mirqat al-Masabih Sharhu Mishkatil-Masabih, vol. 10, p. 403)
Another saying reads:
Had I not been sent to you, ‘Umar would have been sent to you. (Kunuzul-Haqa’iq by Imam ‘Abdur-Ra’uf al-Manawi, vol. 2, p. 74)
All these traditions point to one fact. That is, Hazrat ‘Umar(ra) was endowed with the potential of prophethood. Had the Holy Prophet(sa) not been born and commissioned, Hazrat ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) would have been. This is the meaning of these sayings. Ba‘di has been used in the sense of ‘ghairi’—other than me.
I will now put forth a hadith which will solve the whole issue of continuity of prophethood. We make no assertion from ourselves. Hazrat Ibn-e-Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) relates that the Holy Prophet(sa) said:
When Ibrahim, son of the Holy Prophet(sa), passed away, the Holy Prophet(sa) led the funeral prayers and then said Ibrahim will have a wet-nurse to feed him in paradise and had he lived, he would have been a true Prophet… (Ibn-e-Majah-Kitabul-Jana’iz, Babu, Ma Ja’a fis-Salati ‘Ala Ibn Rasulillah(saw), wa Dhikri Wafatihi)
The hadith, as noted above, states: ‘Had he lived he would have been a true Prophet…’ Our opponents contend that God in His wisdom caused him to die lest he should become a Prophet. The fact is there is no wisdom in this. It is an attack on the intelligence and eloquence of the Holy Prophet(sa).
Let us consider the background of the hadith. The verse containing Khataman-Nabiyyin was revealed in the year 5 A.H. Hazrat Ibrahim, the son of the Holy Prophet(sa), died in the beginning of the year 9 A.H. If the Holy Prophet(sa) understood Khataman-Nabiyyin to mean that no Prophet of any kind could ever come again, he would not have made a statement like the one mentioned in the hadith above. He could have said that although Ibrahim was a pure soul, even if he had lived for a thousand years, he would not become a Prophet, since the door to prophethood is closed.
That is the most that a Prophet, who has been informed that there would be no Prophet after him, could have said: ‘The boy has a pure soul, but since Allah has informed me that there is no Prophet after me, he would not have become a Prophet’; but he did not say that.
There is another tradition or hadith which settles this question of ba‘di once and for all:
Meaning that, Hazrat ‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) narrates: When Ibrahim, son of the Holy Prophet(sa) passed away, the Holy Prophet(sa) had Ibrahim’s mother Mariya bathe him and wrap him in a shroud. Thereafter, the Holy Prophet(sa) brought the body out. He walked to the cemetery with his companions and buried him. He then put his hand on Ibrahim’s grave and said ‘By God, he is a Prophet and a son of a Prophet.’ (see al-Fatawal-Hadithiyyah by Ibn-e-Hajar, p. 176)
Hazrat ‘Ali was a member of the family, therefore, his narration is fuller and more descriptive.