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Books Section > The Last Prophet (Akhri Nabi) by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Foreword


Foreword:


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The Last Prophet (Akhri Nabi) by the late Maulana Muhammad Ali, is a historical document which shows how the present-day controversy about the cessation, or continuance of prophethood after the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) had grown. Although the late Maulana had written an exhaustive treatise on the subject, namely, An-Nubuwwat fi’l Islam*, in 1915, (seven years before the publication of Akhri Nabi) some important issues were left undiscussed, as the basic arguments of the upholders of the continuity of prophethood after the Holy Prophet, were still taking shape in their minds.

* It has been translated by me under the name Prophethood in Islam. Its first three chapters were published by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha’at-i-Islam, Lahore (Pakistan) in 1968. An abridged edition of the first few chapters was also published by the Woking Muslim Mission & Literary Trust, Woking, Surrey, England, under the name The Finality of Prophethood. The complete translation has been published by Maulana Tufail Literary Memorial Trust, U.K.

A simple issue was gradually turning into a complicated one, and at times arguments for the sake of argument were advanced. Even hypothetical references were forced into the service of someone’s own avowed preferences and theories. The most unfortunate part of the story was that passages were quoted, out of context and incomplete, to lend support to one’s views. New meanings were introduced into various terms, setting aside the common usage and the testimony of the lexicons of the Arabic language. Weak and inauthentic traditions were given prominence and preference over authentic ones, while the latter were misinterpreted to lend support to the former, thus violating all the principles of the interpretation of Tradition.

Akhiri Nabi by the late Maulana Muhammad Ali is not very well known, as only one edition of the book was published in 1922, and it appears from the contents that he wrote the book in a rather short time. Detailed references of books and articles mentioned therein were not cited. It was taken for granted that names of many scholars and their works were already known to the reader. This may have been true at that particular period of time, but when this work is translated into another language, many of the points need elaboration. Full references of the text quoted are indispensable for those who would like to make a deeper study of the subject. I have tried to fill in the gap by providing necessary references and explanations in the footnotes. On certain points, I have dealt with the subject in a separate supplement, added at the end of each chapter.

My original plan was to make a comprehensive analysis of arguments and counter-arguments on the subject, but the state of my health did not permit me to do so. I have to complete and revise some of the manuscripts which remained unpublished so far and these also need my full attention. I have, however, contented myself at this stage dealing with some of the most important aspects of the issue.

Without unnecessarily overburdening the discussion, the whole question of prophethood is simple to understand. The Holy Prophet Muhammad is Khatam an-Nabiyyin, Seal of the Prophets (The Holy Quran, 33:40). The word khatam means a seal, or the end part or portion of a thing. This word also indicates a deeper signification than the word khatim. It expresses finality combined with perfection of prophethood in the Holy Prophet, along with a continuance, forever, of certain blessings or excellences of prophethood for the righteous followers of the Holy Prophet.

One of the blessings of prophethood was that God spoke to His people (men and women) though they were not prophets. According to the Holy Quran, Prophet Moses’ mother, the disciples of Jesus, and Mary and Joseph, who were not prophets, were spoken to by God. The Holy Quran and the Hadith talk of believers becoming the recipients of good news (mubashshirat). According to a reliable hadith, Hazrat Umar was spoken to by God, although he was obviously not a prophet (full discussion and references will be found in the text of the book.).

When we look at the writings and sayings of some of the saintly figures in Islamic history, we find a long chain of persons who believed in, or were bestowed with, the blessings or excellences of prophethood.

A few names are given below:

  • Imam Ahmad Hanbal
  • Imam Raghib al-Asfahani
  • Imam Ghazali
  • Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani
  • Imam Qurtabi
  • Muhiyyuddin Ibn al-Arabi
  • Maulana Jalal-ud-Din Rumi
  • Imam Hajar Asqalini
  • Imam Abdul Wahab Sha’rani
  • Mujaddid Ahmad Alf Thani of Sirhind
  • Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chisti
  • Qazi Nasir-ud-Din al-Baidawi
  • Imam Fakhr-ud-Din Razi
  • Shah Waliullah Muhaddath of Delhi
  • Sayyid Muhammad Isma’il Shaheed

Members of the Qadian section believe that the blessing of God (referred to in the Hadith as a part of prophethood) should also be styled as real prophethood. This, is obviously not correct.

That is the main issue of contention between the two sections of the Ahmadiyya Movement. The view of the Qadian section of the Ahmadiyya community is that prophets are of three kinds:

1. Those who bring a new Divine Law, such as Moses or the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

2. Prophets who bear no new Law, but follow some of the existing laws. However, their prophethood is an independent grace which they attain directly and not through following another prophet. Examples of such are David, Solomon Zacharias, Yahya and Jesus.

3. ‘A prophet, who is neither a Law-giver, nor has been graced directly with prophethood, independent of allegiance to the former prophet. His prophetic attribute is a reflection of this preceptor-prophet and is a gift bestowed on him through his grace and is a glimmer of his light.’1

1 Truth about Khatm-i-Nubuwwat, Mirza Bashir Ahmad, pp. 7-8, 11.

The leader of the Qadian section asserts that this is the true meaning of the term Khatam an-Nabiyyin, i.e., that by following the Holy Prophet, prophets will be made in future.

Thus, according to the fore-going statements, the door of the first two categories of prophethood is closed, but that of the third category is open.2 A detailed discussion of all these points has been made by Maulana Muhammad Ali in his book An-Nubuwwat fi’l Islam. In the Last Prophet, he has taken particular note of the so-called ‘prophethood of the third category’. This is not a prophethood in reality, but a part of prophethood, (part cannot be the whole); it is the receiving of good news, or acquiring the excellences of prophethood, by following the Holy Prophet; it is a blessing of being spoken to by God; it is prophethood in the metaphorical or literal sense or a reflection or shadow of prophethood. In whatever way one wants to look at it, it is not prophethood in the real sense of the Holy Quran and Islamic terminology. This is where lies the basic difference between the two sections of the Ahmadiyya Movement.

2 If the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement was a prophet of the third category, or for that matter of any category, how is it that after his death, Maulana Nur-ud-Din, his foremost and beloved disciple and his first successor, accepted by both sections of the community, approved with the full knowledge of the members of the Anjuman and elders of the community, the following words to be inscribed on the headstone of the Founder’s grave: Mujaddid of the 14th Century? [Read the details]

When an army officer dies, his last rank is mentioned in his epitaph. If he is a colonel, he is described as a colonel, and not as a captain or an officer of a lower rank.

It is also worth mentioning that 30 years after, this headstone was replaced by another one, the words, ‘Mujaddid of the 14th Century’ are, of course, not there anymore.

Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, leader of the Qadian section, rightly or wrongly, thought that the weight of evidence from the Holy Quran, Hadith and sayings of the Imams lays on his side, but a close study of his arguments reveals the astounding fact that he had nothing substantial in his hand. The Quranic verses were misinterpreted; weak or inauthentic Traditions were quoted; passages from the writings of the Muslim Imams were taken out of their contexts and interpreted at will. An edifice grew which was very shaky in its foundation.

Seeing this tragedy happening before his eyes, the late Maulana Muhammad Ali tried to rectify the situation and he concluded his arguments thus:

"In short, all these reports clearly indicate that only one meaning of the expression, Khatam an-Nabiyyin, was known to the Holy Prophet and his Companions – that there would be no prophet after him. And Mian Sahib’s3 contention is that these meanings are wrong and the true meanings are those, the trace of which, strangely enough, is not found during the last thirteen hundred years – either in any Tradition of the Holy Prophet, or in any utterance of any other Companion or Imam" (Chapter IV)

3 Mirza Mahmud Ahmad, leader of Qadian Section.

And he further stated:

"The true and real basis of our faith is the Holy Quran and the Tradition (Hadith), but I have cited all those other testimonies as conclusive proof against him. And my final demand from him is that he should bring out even a solitary authority from the hadith, lexicons and sayings of the Imams in support of his meaning about the term Khatam an-Nabiyyyin." (Chapter V)

It need not be mentioned here that this demand remains unfulfilled up to the present time.

Whatever interpretations, dubious, fallacious or hypothetical, that Mian Sahib gave, his disciples kept on the same track, repeating parrot-like whatever he had said to justify his stand by trifling and puerile arguments. The subject became the source of an unending controversy.

The late Maulana Muhammad Ali kept on warning Mian Sahib and his Jama’at, sometimes gently, sometimes harshly, that the dispute and the discord were in their initial stages and the schism could be breached, as it had not yet reached an irreversible point, but his appeals went unheeded.

A new belief about the concept of prophethood, which has sent deep shock-waves throughout the Muslim world, during the last sixty years or so, has taken firm root in the hearts of the members of the Qadian section. In spite of all the outward vindication of the newly-founded belief, the hard fact remains that they have strayed far away from the teachings of the Holy Quran, the Hadith, other Imams and even from the clear exposition of the Founder of the Movement [Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian]. A great damage was done to the cause of the Ahmadiyya Movement, which itself had arisen as a Movement for the onward, progressive march for a rational and united Islam. Only God knows how long it will take to get this damage repaired.

The late Maulana Muhammad Ali’s contribution in this respect is of vital importance. He is the only person in the history of Islam who has dealt with this issue in a clear and lucid manner.

In rendering this work into English, I have tried to be as faithful as possible to the original text. Literal translation at places would not have made sense, so I have given the main substance of the argument. The subject matter is controversial, and in case of doubt or dispute, the original text should therefore be consulted. As for any mistake or ambiguity, the translator should be held responsible and not the author. As it is not easily possible that the readers would have ready access to the works referred to in the book, several passages have been quoted in their original.

I hope this humble effort on my part may clarify many disputed points on the subject and make us truly believe in the Last and Perfect Prophet, Muhammad, whose blessings will continue among his true followers till eternity.

S.M. Tufail
Maybury, Woking,
Surrey, England.

6th November, 1982

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Books Section > The Last Prophet (Akhri Nabi) by Maulana Muhammad Ali > Foreword

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