Six meanings associated with the terms"Seal of the Prophets" & "Seal of the Messengers"
"Muhammad is... the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets..."-Qur'an 33:40 "Universally, the Prophets are of two kinds. One are the independent Prophets Who are followed; the other kind are not independent and are themselves followers. The independent Prophets are the lawgivers and the founders of a new cycle. Through Their appearance the world puts on a new garment, the foundations of religion are established, and a new book is revealed. Without an intermediary They receive bounty from the Reality of the Divinity, and Their illumination is an essential illumination. They are like the sun which is luminous in itself: the light is its essential necessity; it does not receive light from any other star. These Dawning-places of the morn of Unity are the sources of bounty and the mirrors of the Essence of Reality. The other Prophets are followers and promoters, for they are branches and not independent; they receive the bounty of the independent Prophets, and they profit by the light of the Guidance of the universal Prophets. They are like the moon, which is not luminous and radiant in itself, but receives its light from the sun. The Manifestations of universal Prophethood Who appeared independently are, for example, Abraham, Moses, Christ, Muhammad, the Bab and Baha'u'llah. But the others who are followers and promoters are like Solomon, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. For the independent Prophets are founders; They establish a new religion and make new creatures of men; They change the general morals, promote new customs and rules, renew the cycle and the Law. Their appearance is like the season of spring, which arrays all earthly beings in a new garment, and gives them a new life. With regard to the second sort of Prophets who are followers, these also promote the Law of God, make known the Religion of God, and proclaim His word. Of themselves they have no power and might, except what they receive from the independent Prophets."-from: "Some Answered Questions" by Abdu'l-Baha, pages 164-165
The term "Nabi" or "Prophet" has been used in the past Scriptures including the Qur'an in two ways. The understanding of this term is crucial in discussing this topic. Likewise the term "Rasool" or "Messenger" also has two meanings: 1- The independent or law-giving Messengers like Moses, Jesus, Abraham, Muhammad and 2- dependent, or promulgator Messengers like the twelve Apostles of Christ, or Apostle Peter and Apostle Paul. Once again, the understanding of this issue is crucial in recognizing the meaning of "Seal of the Prophets" and Seal of the Apostles. In light of what has been discussed above, there are several implications associated with the terms Khatam'un Nabi-een, and Khatam'ur Rosol-een which I will summarize: 1- The question of "seal of prophethood" deals with the IMMEDIATE successorship of Prophet Muhammad. That is to say, the Messengers inspired by God, according to the Semitic tradition, from Adam to Jesus, were followed by prophets who promulgated and reinforced the message of the religion within which they had appeared. A close examination of the purpose behind the mission of the prophets of Israel (i.e. Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc....) who appeared after Moses, suggests that the function of these highly esteemed individuals was to strengthen the faith of the children of Israel in the Mosaic Covenant. None of them claimed to a new, or unique revelations from God. They did not change or abrogate, even to the smallest extent, any of the laws established by Moses. They just, promulgated the teachings of Moses, and further elaborated on the application of those laws in the life of the Jews. This continued until the robe of Revelation was granted to Jesus, during Whose period (until the revelation of Muhammad) many individuals also became the exponents of His law and Revelation. Through Muhammad's revelation the...
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