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Meaning of Khatam

The following information has been compiled from the book Akhari Nabi, written by Maulana Muhammad Ali in 1922 and published by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam, Lahore. Its English translation has also been published under the title "The Last Prophet".

Meaning of Khatam an-nabiyyin

All the classical lexicons of Arabic and the Quran give the meaning of Khatam an-nabiyyin as "Last of the Prophets". For example,
  1. Taj -al-`arus,
  2. Lisan al-`arab,
  3. Raghib's famous Mufradat of the Quran,
  4. Majma bihar al-anwar (a dictionary of Hadith),
all say that Khatam an-nabiyyin means the Last of the Prophets.

Edward William Lane's Arabic-English Lexicon, based on the classical Arabic lexicons such as those above, says:

"Khatam an-nabiyyin and khatim an-nabiyyin both in the Quran mean the last of the prophets (33:40)."
The above lexicons also record that the usage khatam al-qaum existed among the pre-Islamic Arabs and meant akhiru-hum or the "last of the people".

Meanings of khatim, khatam, etc.

While "seal" is a meaning of khatam, it is also mentioned in every major lexicon that "last" is also its meaning. The lexicons record that khatam is similar in meaning to several of its variants (such as khatim) and that it means the "last part" of something.

Taj al-`arus

The Taj al-`arus says:
"wal-khatamu min kulli shai-in `aqibatu-hu wa akhiratu-hu ka-khatimati-hi wal-khatamu akhir-il qaum."
The khatam of anything is its end (`aqib) and its last part (akhir), as its khatim is, and the last of a people is its khatam.
Taj al-`arus also says:
"khatama ash-shai means 'he reached the end of a thing'. From this is derived khatamtu-l-Qurana which means 'I reached the end of the Quran'. The khatam of a people (qaum) is the last (akhir) of them, just as the khatim is. And it is in the word of Allah: khatam an-nabiyyin, that is, the Last (akhir) of them."
Similar meanings are given in:
  1. Lisan al-`arab
  2. the Qamus
  3. Mukhtar as-sihah
  4. Muntaha al-`arab
  5. Sihah al-Jauhari

Lisan al-`arab

In the Lisan al-`arab, it says:
"Wa bil-kasri khatimu-hum, wa bil-fathi khatamu-hum akhiru-hum."
"With kasra (vowel stroke under a letter) it is khatimu-hum, and with fath (vowel stroke above a letter) it is khatamu-hum, and it means the last of them."
It goes on to say:
"Khatim and khatam are among the names of the Prophet Muhammad, and in the Quran it says: Muhammad is not the father of any man from among you but he is the messenger of Allah and the khatam of the prophets, that is to say, the Last of them (akhiru-hum)."
Further on it says:
"Among his (Prophet Muhammad's) names is al-`aqib also, and its meaning is the Last of the prophets (akhirul-anbiya)."

Mufradat of Raghib

This famous dictionary of the Holy Quran, under the root kh-t-m,discusses the various occurrences of words based on this root in the Quran. It then says:
"Khatam an-nabiyyin li-anna-hu khatama an-nubuwwata ayi tammama-ha bi-maji'i-hi."
"He is the Khatam an-nabiyyin because he ended prophethood, that is, he made it complete by his appearance."

Classical commentaries (tafasir) of the Quran.

The classical commentators also explain khatam an-nabiyyin as meaning the Last of the prophets.
  1. Abu Hayyan says:
    inna-hum ("they" - the prophets)
    bi-hi ("with him", i.e. Prophet Muhammad)
    khutimu ("have come to an end")
    nabiyy-un ("prophets")

    Here the passive voice khutimu is used, meaning "have come to an end".

  2. In Fath al-Bayan, it is recorded:
    "Khatam is that by which something is terminated. Thus the meaning is that God has terminated prophethood with him, and so there is no prophet after him."
  3. Ibn Jarir (the famous at-Tabari) writes:
    "The meaning of khatam an-nabiyyin, 'ta' with 'fath', is that he is the Last of the prophets."
  4. In the commentary of al-Baidawi it is written:
    "Akhiru-hum al-ladhi khutima bi-him au khatamu bi-hi"
    "The last (akhir) of them with whom they (the prophets) came to an end, or they came to an end with him."

Hadith reports on Prophet Muhammad being the last prophet.

We propose to deal with these in a subsequent article. Here we just note that there are at least forty different hadith reports in which the Prophet Muhammad has explained that he is the Last Prophet. If the different channels of reporting are counted, these amount to 89 (eighty-nine) reports. These are all quoted in the book Khatam an-Nabiyyin by Sayyid Muhammad Ahsan of Amroha (India), published in 1922 by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore. (Incidentally, the author S. M. Ahsan was recognised in the Ahmadiyya movement as the second most learned follower of Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the first being Maulana Nur-ud-Din.)

As regards the high standard of reliability of those reports, the classical commentator Ibn Kathir writes:

"This verse of Khatam an-nabiyyin is a clear proof that no prophet would come after him ... and there have been continuous (mutawattir) reports on the subject, recorded by an entire group (jama`at) of the Companions of the Prophet."
These hadith reports are to be found in the most reliable of the Hadith collections, i.e. Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi, Nisa'i, Ibn Maja etc.

It may be noted that in these hadith reports the Prophet Muhammad has used several different ways to explain that he is the Last Prophet.

  • In many reports he uses the words: La nabiyya ba`di, meaning "There is no prophet after me".

  • In some reports he uses the passive voice of khatam (kutima, "have come to an end"), rather than the active participle, to say that "prophets have come to an end with me".

  • In some reports he has used the first person as follows: I have (khatamtu) brought the prophets to an end.

  • In some, he refers to himself by the title al-`aqib (the one who follows at the end), adding that he bears this title because no prophet will come after him.
As against this, nowhere and absolutely nowhere is the Holy Prophet Muhammad reported as saying that prophets would come after him, nor is there any statement from any of the Companions that "prophets will appear after the Prophet Muhammad".
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