Jumuah khutbah delivered by Brother Bashier Rahim at the Ahlul Bait (a.s) Islamic Center, Ottery, Cape Town on 11 December 2015
The 28th of Safar marks the anniversary of the passing away of our Beloved Prophet Muhammad (sawa) from this material world into the everlasting realm of the next life. It is often an occasion that is overlooked and does not receive the attention it deserves as many Muslims believe that the Prophet (sawa) passed away on the same day that he was born, and thus annually the commemorations tend to focus on his birth, with little or no focus on his passing away.
We already had a commemoration for the passing away of the Prophet (sawa) last night, wherein we focused on certain key events surrounding the death of the Prophet (sawa) which included the following:
1. There were false claims to Prophethood by different individuals, the most well-known being Musaylima, whom the Prophet (sawa) called a liar. However it should be noted that the claims of these individuals served as an open challenge to the Prophethood of Muhammad (sawa)
2. There was an open challenge to the authority embedded in the Prophethood of Muhammad (sawa) when various individuals openly objected and practically refused to join the army of Usama ibn Zaid whom the Prophet (sawa) commanded to undertake a mission against the Romans. People had an issue with a young 18 year old being placed in a sensitive leadership position over companions who were from the early Muslims. It should be noted that while the open, false challenge of Musaylima to the Prophethood of Muhammad (sawa) died down quickly and did not bother the Prophet (sawa) too much due to its ridiculousness, the challenge to the authority of the Prophet (sawa) did not die down and manifested again soon afterwards.
3. The third significant incident which is widely reported by authentic books is the one termed by ibn Abbas as the “Tragedy or Calamity of Thursday” when the Prophet (sawa) was lying on his death bed and asked for a pen and paper to record for the ummah in writing an important advise that was already previously verbally announced at numerous occasions and that related to the guidance that needed to be followed to ensure that the ummah “will never go astray”. This pen and paper was never provided under the claim that the “Quran is sufficient for us.”
Closer scrutiny of this approach to refusing the recording of an advise which would ensure that the ummah “will never go astray” actually amounts to a challenge to the establishment of the Finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (sawa) and the events subsequent to the death of the Prophet (sawa) proved that this challenge did not die down either and actually manifested in various ways from the time of the demise of the Prophet (sawa) to this very day.
In light of these preliminary remarks, in today’s khutbah I would like to discuss the issue of the Finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad (sawa).
On a very basic literal level, even with the appearance of various false prophets over the ages, nobody denies the fact the Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is the very Final of all Prophets and Messengers from Almighty Allah. That is because the Quran very clearly says in Surah Ahzab Verse 40:
مَا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ مِن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيّـِينَ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيماً
“Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets”
As “khatam”, Prophethood ended with him. There’s no disagreement on this.
And various authentic ahadith further make this clear, like the hadith of manzila which means “position” wherein Prophet (sawa) clarifies the position of Imam Ali (a.s), by saying:
“Your position to me is like the position of Harun to Musa, except that there will be no Prophet after me.”
Or there are other ahadith like the one where the Prophet (sawa) says that he is “the last brick in the building of Prophethood.”
Thus on the literal level, there’s no disagreement regarding the fact that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) is the Final Prophet.
But when we ask the question “why is Prophet Muhammad (sawa) the Final Prophet?”, then we may have differing views. And in answering this question, we need to go back to basics and ask the question “why were Prophets sent to the world in the first place?”
From among the most important reasons are the following three:
1. Although we are intellectually able to recognize the existence of God and the need to worship Him, our knowledge on how to achieve this is extremely limited. Mankind is thus in continuous need of being connected to the world of the unseen and Almighty Allah for direction in this regard. Thus the first human being who was placed in this earth i.e. Prophet Adam (a.s) served to be that connection between mankind and the unseen world. Thus human beings are in need of connection to the unseen world so that the primary goal of the salvation of mankind is met. And there are very beautiful ahadith in Al-Kafi and other books which explain this.
2. Over time, the message was revealed in a step by step process to be in line with the intellectual development of mankind. By the time Prophet Muhammad (sawa) came to this world, the intellectual capacity of mankind was sufficiently developed to receive the final complete version of the message and thus no further message was going to be sent from then until the Day of Judgement.
3. Prophets and Messengers who appeared at different points in history also came to correct the corruption that occurred to the message of previous Prophets. This corruption occurred after the passing away of previous Prophets and was often even instigated during the very life times of those Prophets.
Thus the continuous sending of Prophets satisfied 3 major needs, one – mankind’s need of connection to the world of the unseen, two – revelation of updated and eventually the complete message, three – correction of corruption of the message of previous Prophets.
From the analysis of the above mentioned reasons for the sending of Prophets in conjunction with the Prophethood of Muhammad (sawa) we realise that:
1. Prophet Muhammad (sawa) corrected the corruption that occurred in the message of previous Prophets.
2. Prophet Muhammad (sawa) brought the Final Message that would be valid until the Day of Judgement.
3. The need to protect the literal words of the Quran from being corrupted together with protecting its meanings from being corrupted remained a need of mankind even after the passing away of the Prophet (sawa).
4. The need to be connected to the world of the unseen and Almighty Allah remained a need of mankind even after the passing away of the Prophet (sawa).
Prophethood can only be final if Prophet Muhammad (sawa) ensured that in addition to correcting the message of previous Prophets and delivering the Final Message, that the protection of the message from being corrupted in any way together with ensuring the continuous connection of mankind to the world of the unseen was secured. If this was achieved, then certainly Prophethood was finalised, otherwise the need for a potential future Prophet remained.
And indeed, these needs of mankind were secured by the Prophet (sawa) and those who challenged his instructions in this regard were actually posing a challenge with regard to the Finality of his Prophethood without perhaps realizing it as such.
So how were the literal words of the Quran protected?
Firstly Almighty Allah takes that responsibility upon Himself to ensure its protection when He says in Surah Hijr Verse 9:
إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
“Surely We have revealed the Reminder and We will most surely be its guardian.”
This protection occurred and continues to occur in various ways.
Firstly the Prophet (sawa) personally supervised the writing of the whole Quran on writing materials which was wood and skins and parchments, etc. in those days. It is often alleged that the first writing of the Quran occurred during the time of the third khalif but this is not true. The first writing of the Quran occurred in the presence of the Prophet (sawa) under his direct supervision, who did not only ensure that the words are accurately recorded, but even ensured that the best Arabic font was used to write it. The study of how the Quran was recorded in writing is worthy of a separate lecture, but this is the basic point that I want to share with you.
Secondly, the literal words of the Quran was protected from day one to this very day through the system of memorization of the Quran wherein today there are literally millions of huffaath of the Quran in the world. This system of memorization of Quran was established and promoted by the Prophet (sawa) himself and the study of how this occurred is also worthy of a separate lecture but the basic point is that it serves to protect the literal words of the Quran.
And it’s scientifically proven that the words of the Quran have been protected and have not been corrupted or changed. You recently saw how President Putin of Russia gave one of the oldest copies of the Quran to Ayatullah Khamenei as a gift, which is the exact same Quran like we read each day today.
Or here in Cape Town a few years ago a copy of a very old Quran was unearthed which is also exactly the same Quran we read today.
Or even the Quran very recently found in the Birmingham University in the UK which was there since the 1700’s is carbon dated to be over 1370 years old which is also the exact same Quran we read today.
So there’s no doubt that the literal words of the Quran are protected and will be protected in the future.
But the Quran also needed to be protected in terms of its meanings. And it’s on this level that Prophet Muhammad (sawa) established a system of Imamate or Leadership which was announced at various stages during his Prophethood in various ways and it is this system that ensured that it would also firstly protect the literal words of the Quran, but most importantly the meanings of the Quran.
While the entire ummah are united in the belief in the same Quran in terms of its literal words, the ummah was never united in terms of its meanings. Thus Allamah Tabatabai says in Al-Mizan that hardly 200 years of Islam had passed when it was already divided into numerous groupings and the only thing that people were united upon was the basic kalimah of “There is no god except Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger”, otherwise they had differing views on virtually everything else.
The hadith which indicates that the Quran and Ahlul Bait (a.s) are the two weighty things that we should hold onto which will never separate until the Day Judgement that will ensure that we will never be misguided, this hadith serves these remaining needs of mankind which made the Finality of the Prophethood of Muhammmad (sawa) possible.
The Imams protect the literal words of the Quran and they protect its meanings in its most perfect sense.
And as an extension of the system of Imamate we find that religious scholars in the ummah have a specific role to augment this responsibility. Thus in Surah Tauba Verse 122 we read:
فَلَوْلا نَفَرَ مِن كُلِّ فِرْقَةٍ مِنْهُمْ طَآئِفَةٌ لِيَتَفَقَّهُوا فِي الدِّينِ وَلِيُنذِرُوا قَوْمَهُمْ إِذَا رَجَعُوا إِلَيْهِمْ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَحْذَرُونَ
“Why should not then a company from every party from among them go forth that they may apply themselves to obtain a deep understanding in religion and that they may warn their people when they come back to them that they may beware?”
Here it’s the job of scholars from every community to go out and achieve that deep understanding of the meanings of Quran to protect it.
And thus you see that in the life of the Prophet (sawa) and the Imams (a.s), that in addition to the Infallibles, scholars were trained who were close to them to be the ones who protect the meanings of the Quran.
So this system of Imamate serves the remaining need of protecting the meanings of the Quran until the Day of Judgement.
Thus we read in Dua Nudbah which is recommended for a Friday morning:
“O Ali! If it were not for you, the believers after me would not have been recognised!”
But the system of Imamate also serves to ensure that the final need of mankind to be continuously connected to the world of the unseen and Almighty Allah is satisfied, as the Imam is the Wali of the time who is the link between this world and unseen and remains the source of guidance until the Day of Judgement. Thus Surah Sajda Verse 24 says “
وَجَعَلْنَا مِنْهُمْ أَئِمَّةً يَهْدُونَ بِأَمْرِنَا لَمَّا صَبَرُوا وَكَانُوا بِاَيَاتِنَا يُوقِنُونَ
“And We made of them Imams to guide by Our command.”
The guidance of the Imam to us is there all the time and serves as the connection between mankind and the unseen world and Allah.
And that is why the great celebrated Philosopher and Scholar, Mulla Sadra says in Mafatih al-Ghayb (as quoted by Syed Rizvi in his book “Islam – Faith, Practise and History”) that:
“Revelation, that is to say the descent of the angel to the delegated and Prophetic eyes, has been forever cut off (after the Prophet of Islam), BUT the door of inspiration and illumination has not and will never be closed and it is not possible for it to be interrupted.”
The finality of the Prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (sawa) who passed away on 28th Safar was made possible through the system of Imamate after him.
The 28th Safar also marks the martyrdom of 2 Imams of the Ahlul Bait (a.s) i.e. Imam Hassan al-Mujtaba (a.s) and Imam Ali ibn Musa Al-Rida (a.s).
Both these Imams served as the connection between mankind and Allah, and the protectors of the Finality of Prophethood.
And in the life of these two Imams we see differing approaches being exercised when it comes to dealing in political matters of the time, whereby Imam Hassan (a.s) struck a compromise with Muawiyya in the greater interest of protecting the lives of Muslims from being lost unnecessarily and in the case of Imam Rida (a.s) he became a crown prince and served in the government of the Abbasids to secure the safety of his followers.
Neither of these Imams allowed the supporting of an oppressive ruler, but by exception allowed for people to be involved in the state if they would use their position to alleviate the suffering of the oppressed.
We live in a time where strategic alliances by exception are a necessity. And thus you see the alignment of the world powers and Islamic Republic in this manner.
And a final comment on the impact of leadership is our sudden shock this week with the changes in the Minister of Finance position in South Africa where someone relatively unknown was appointed to one of the most sensitive positions in government. With the value of our currency at the shocking all time low level, there’s a serious need for South Africans to become more politically and socially active as under the current economic environment our future is looking gloomy.