The seal of the prophets and the finality of prophecy: On the interpretation of the Qur'anic Surat al-Ahzab (33)

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Abstract

This article begins by reconsidering Q 33:40 which opens with the declaration that Muhammad "is not the father of any of your men". It will be argued that this does not mean that Muhammad is sonless, as is usually assumed by modern scholars, but rather that he is free to marry the divorced wife of Zayd b. Haritha, his adopted son. The assertion that Muhammad is "the seal of the prophets", which appears in the second half of the same verse, is designed to demonstrate that Muhammad brings the successive chain of prophetic revelations to its final manifestation. This notion implies that Muhammad enjoys God's protection like any other prophet before him, especially Moses whose contemporaries criticized him for having married a black woman. They were punished for their criticism, and so will be those who doubted the lawfulness of Muhammad's own marriage with Zayd's divorcee. As for the specific significance of the qur'anic seal metaphor, this article goes on to show that it denotes confirmation as well as finality of prophecy. This means that the finality of prophecy is a qur'anic idea, not a post-qur'anic one, as maintained by some modern scholars. A reconsideration of the texts on which these scholars rely (including biblical and post-biblical ones) will show that these texts do not bear out their opinion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-96
Number of pages32
JournalZeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesellschaft
Volume164
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014

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