A Logical outcome of the Shia concept of Imamah is the end of the belief in Khatm al Nubuwwah (the Finality of Prophethood), which is rendered meaningless after it. Prophethood and its Finality are not empty words but carry a precise meaning and significance about which no one can be in doubt. When the Prophet of Islam is described as the Seal of the Prophets or Final Messenger it denotes that Prophethood or Apostleship and all associated traits ended with him.
Every divine Prophet and Messenger is appointed by Allah and he serves as his ultimate proof or final argument for His bondsmen. To believe in him and in his higher knowledge (ma’arifat) is an essential condition to salvation. He receives the commands of Allah through wahi (divine revelation). He is faultless, sinless, and unerring, and obedience to him is obligatory. He and his teachings are the fountainhead of guidance. This is the significance and place of Prophethood. The termination of Prophethood meant and still means that no one after the Last Prophet of Allah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam will attain any of these traits.
The Prophet salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam is the ultimate proof of Allah for man and only one appointed by the Almighty for that purpose. To believe in him and to obey him is a pre-requisite of salvation. The coming down of commands and guidance from Allah through revelation ended with him. From the day of his demise till the Day of Resurrection only the Book of Allah revealed to him and his sayings and actions, which constitute what is known as the Sunnah; are the fountainhead, well-spring, and source of guidance.
After him, there will be no one who, like the Prophets and Messengers, will be the ultimate proof of Allah for his servants and who will be compulsory to obey. This was and still is the meaning of the termination of Prophethood and its reality.
But according to the Shia belief of Imamah:
The obvious and inescapable conclusion from the above will thus be that belief in the Finality of Prophethood no longer holds good, and is redundant. The Shia concept of Imamah cast the impression that the chain of an inferior type of Prophethood terminated and was replaced, in the name of Imamah, by a superior and more advanced type of Prophethood which will endure till the end of time. The Seal of this chain is now Imam Mahdi who will show such miracles and do such strange things as had not been shown or done by even by the Last of the Prophets salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
The statements of some of the most senior Shia scholars echo this sentiment quite clearly. Sheikh Muhammad al Mufid, one of the most senior scholars of the fourth century, writes in his Awa’il al Maqalat (pg. 45):
It is only the Religious law that has prohibited us from claiming Prophethood for our A’immah, although the intellect does not prohibit this because the A’immah have acquired the qualities that we have mentioned for the prophets.
Muhammad Baqir al Majlisi, chief Shia scholar of Safawid Iran, writes in his Bihar al Anwar (v. 26 p. 82), one of the eight canonical works of the Shia:
To our knowledge there is no reason not to describe the Imams as Prophets, except consideration to the Final Prophet. Our intellect too cannot perceive a distinction between Nubuwwah and Imamah.
He did however make one distinction, which he writes in his book Hayat al Qulub (Vol. 3 p. 10):
Imamah is superior to Prophethood.
Acceptance of the belief of Imamah, thus, simply means that Prophethood has not ended but is continuing with added strength and splendour in the name of Imamah. A belief in total contradiction with the pristine teachings of Islam.
Adapted from Khomeini, Iranian Revolution and the Shi’ite faith by Molana Muhammad Manzur No’mani.Back to top