The Reality of Miracles

September 24, 2012

By ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar and others

Compiled and Translated by Saad Khan

‘Allamah Muhammad Sarfaraz Khan Safdar (d. 1430 AH) writes that the word mu‘jizah is linguistically derived from ‘ajz(inability), which is an antonym of qudrah (power). He adds that the [round] ‘ta’ at the end is either for intensiveness (exaggeration) or that the word mu‘jizah is an adjective of words like ayah (sign), etc. It is Allah Most High alone who creates‘ajz (inability) in mu‘jizat and in reality He incapacitates the rejecters. A mu‘jizah is from Allah alone, but appears at the hands of a prophet. The prophet has no power over it.

Reality of Mu‘jizah

Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi (d. 1323 AH) has elaborately discussed the issue of mu‘jizat (miracles of the prophets), karamat (miracles of the saints), and extraordinary events (khawariq al-‘adat) in Fatawa Rashidiyyah. He quotes from the Persian book Radd-i-Bawariq[1] of Shaykh Husayn Shah al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him), who is also known as But Shikan, “To provide the power and choice and to entrust the capability of something are different and distinct from manifesting a trait through something unique to it [in the sense that such a trait is not naturally found in the object].

“For example, one can say Zayd writes with a pen and that Zayd has manifested his trait of writing through [the medium] of a pen. However, it cannot be said that Zayd has provided [or entrusted] the capabilities of motion and writing to the pen itself, since the pen cannot become human [or an intelligent sentient being] and therefore can never gain the capability of [self] motion or acquire the ability of writing. So, if an individual says that Zayd has bestowed the power and capability of writing to a pen, it would mean that Zayd has turned a pen into a human [or a sentient being]. On the contrary, if a person says that Zayd wrote with a pen, it would mean that the action of writing is a unique trait of Zayd which he manifested through the medium of a pen, and the pen has no power or freewill in this action of writing whatsoever; therefore there is a huge difference between the two concepts.

“If you have understood the concepts clarified above, try to understand our actual point of view and hopefully it will be understood. Power, authority and discretion are the characteristics of the One who has no partners (i.e., Allah Most High), and might and sovereignty are [also] attributes belonging solely to the One who is Eternal (i.e. Allah). Therefore, to provide a person or an object the power or capability actually means that the matter has been elevated from [the realms of] possibility (mumkin) to the stages of obligation (wajib) because, after all, origin of power, control of affairs, and axis of might and sovereignty are traits of Wajib al-Wujud, i.e. Allah (not of mumkin, i.e., possible).” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, 3:230)

‘Allamah Sarfaraz writes that this passage sufficiently highlights the fact that extraordinary feats (khawariq al-‘adat) are actually beyond the power and capability of humans, and this passage also destroys the self-made and farfetched concepts of personal (dhati) and granted (ata‘i) of the Ahl al-Bid‘ah.

Moreover, Shaykh al-Islam Mawlana Shabbir Ahmad ‘Uthmani (d. 1369 AH) writes in his brief but comprehensive treatiseKhawariq al-‘Adat, “(a) Remember that a miracle is in fact an act of Allah, an action which may be contrary to the usual or normal events but not against the special traits of Allah; since to break the routine and to manifest something extraordinary to achieve specific aims is from the special traits of Allah. (b) Furthermore, a miracle is from Allah, [and therefore] to declare a miracle a prophet’s personal action is a huge mistake. (c) And as we pick up a pen and write, apparently it seems as if the pen is writing, but in reality it has no choice in writing; similar is the case with miracles. It is not that prophets can start streams of water from their fingertips anytime they wish; rather, they can do so only when Allah wills so.”

Mawlana Amin Safdar Okarwi (d. 1421 AH) explains that there are four principles that should be kept in mind regardingmu‘jizat and karamat: (1) There is no ikhtiyar (choice) involved on the part of humans. (2) There is no continuity (dawam). (3) There is no generality (kulliyat), i.e., if an extraordinary event happens at the hands of a certain saint (wali), it is not necessary that it can also happen at the hands of other saints. (4) They are not absolute (qat‘i). However, if a mu‘jizah isqat‘i al-thubut (proven through conclusive evidence), then its qat‘iyyah (decisiveness and certainty) will be established. (See Khutbat-i-Amin, p.155-157)

Qadi Abu Bakr ibn al-Tayyib al-Baqillani al-Maliki (d. 403 AH) writes, “The meaning of our statement that the Qur’an is inimitable (mu’jiz), as per our principles, is that people are not able to produce anything like it. It has been established that it is not correct to include the miracle proving the truthfulness of the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) under the ability of people. Rather, Allah Almighty alone has power over it … and so is the case with the miracles of all the Prophets (i.e., they are beyond human ability).” (I‘jaz al-Qu’ran, from Al-Itqan, 2:186)

Imam al-Ghazali (d. 505H) writes, “The reason a miracle attests to the truthfulness of prophets is that everything which human beings cannot produce [its similitude] must be the work of Allah. Whenever this is linked to a Prophet’s challenge, it is as if Allah Most High has said: ‘You are true.’[2].” (Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din, 1:97)

‘Allamah ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Aqbaras al-Shafi‘i al-Misri (d. 862 AH) writes, “The theologians (mutakallimun) say that miracles are exclusively from the action of Allah Amighty and they are not included under the power (qudrah) of humans.” (Fath al-Safa’ sharh al-Shifa’, from Hidayat al-Murtab, p.20; Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.144)

‘Allamah Ahmad ibn ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Rumi (d. 1041H) writes in his brilliant book Majalis al-Abrar wa Masalik al-Akhyar, “Amu‘jizah is actually from amongst the actions of Allah, out of the norm, which he manifests at the hands of His messenger.” (Majalis al-Abrar, p.43)

He writes in another place, “Whatever appears at their hands as extraordinary is created by Allah Most High and they have no power to invent it; since if they had power to invent it, they would have been able to repel from themselves the lighter matters as well such as disease, hunger, thirst, pain of heat and cold, the harms of the people and so on.” (Majalis al-Abrar, p.103)

Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi (d. 606 AH) writes, “From the many verses that support the veracity of our previous statement is that when He (Exalted is He) related of the disbelievers that they requested overwhelming miracles (al-mu’jizat al-qahirah) from him in His (Exalted is He) statement: ‘They said [to the Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace)]: We shall never believe in you unless you cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth…’ He (Exalted is He) then said: ‘Say [O Muhammad]: I proclaim the Purity of my Lord. I am nothing but human (bashr), a messenger.’ (Qur’an, 17:90-93). In other words, a person being a human with the quality of messengership implies he is perfect in his theoretical and practical faculties, and is able to treat [other human beings] who are deficient in these two faculties; but it is not necessary in acquiring this quality [of messengership] that he has the ability to [bring about] the conditions [‘jizat] which you request from him.” (Matalib ‘Aliyyah, from Al-Kalam, 2:225, Mawlana Shibli Nu‘mani)

‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun (d. 808 AH) states, “One of the signs [of the prophets] is that they work wonders which attest to their truthfulness. ‘Wonders’ are actions, the likes of which are impossible for human beings to achieve. They are, therefore, called ‘miracles’ (mu’jizat). They are not within the ability of men, but beyond their powers. There is a difference of opinion as to how they occur and as to how they prove the truthfulness of the prophets. Speculative theologians (mutakallimun) base themselves on the doctrine of the ‘voluntary agent’ and say that miracles occur through the power of Allah, and not through the action of the prophet. The Mu‘tazilah maintain that human actions proceed from man himself, but still miracles do not belong to the type of actions that human beings perform. According to all schools, the prophet’s place in the performance of miracles is confined to the ‘advance challenge’ (tahaddi) that he offers by divine permission. That is, the prophet uses the miracles before they occur as proof of the truth of his claims. They therefore take the place of an explicit statement from Allah to the effect that a particular prophet is truthful.” (Muqaddimah Ibn Khaldun, p.93)[3]

‘Allamah Sarfaraz explains that it is clear from the statement of ‘Allamah Ibn Khaldun that miracles are not from those acts which humans have been given power over. The Mu‘talizah are of the view that humans are khaliq (creators) of their actions but when it come to miracles, even they believe that miracles are acts of Allah.

Furthermore Shaykh Shah ‘Abd al-Haq Muhaddith Dahlawi (d. 1052 AH) writes, “A mu‘jizah is not an act of a prophet, rather an act of Allah Most High which He manifests at the hands of a prophet. Contrary to other actions, which are created by Allah and the acquisition (kasb) is by the servant; in miracles the acquisition (kasb) too is not from the servant.” (Madarij al-Nubuwwah, 2:116)

And he writes in another place, “Miracles (mu‘jizat) are the actions of Allah Most High that appear at the hands of the slave for verification of his truthfulness and honor. Miracles are not the actions of the slave such that they appear with his intention and choice like his other chosen actions (af‘al ikhtiyariyyah).” (Tarjamah Futuh al-Ghayb, p.27)

‘Allamah Shah Muhammad Isma‘il Shahid (d. 1246 AH) writes on the discussion of khawariq al-‘adat, “It means that Allah Most High, with His absolute power, acts in the universe in an unusual manner in order to endorse any of His beloved servants, not that He creates in him the power of miracle and appoints him to demonstrate it. No, never; freewill in controlling the affairs of the world is from the exclusive attributes of Allah, not from the characteristics of human power.” (Mansab-i-Imamat, p.31)

Mufti Muhammad Shafi‘ (d. 1396 AH) writes, “Miracles and wonders are the direct acts of Allah, but they are manifested through prophets and saints so that people may recognize their spiritual station — prophets and saints themselves have no power to make such things happen… Another verse of the Holy Qur’an reports what a group of prophets said to their people in reply to a similar demand: ‘We cannot give you proof, except by Allah’s will,’ (Qur’an, 14:11). This again was an admission that it was not in their power to produce a miracle, for all power rests in the hands of Allah. In short, it is not at all possible for a prophet or a saint to show a miracle whenever he likes and whatsoever he likes. The disbelievers used to demand specific miracles from the Holy Prophet and from the earlier prophets but Allah manifested only those that He Himself pleased, and not others. The Holy Qur’an presents many such instances.” (Ma‘arif al-Qur’an, 1:102

And ‘Allamah Dr. Khalid Mahmud writes, “A few divine feats are exposed at the hands of the prophets. These feats are technically referred to as mu’jizat. These feats bear testimony to the genuineness of their prophethood because the entire world is incapable of performing such feats. The mu’jizat are divine accomplishments of Allah Most High. They are not subject to the will of the prophets. The prophets are not able to expose these miracles as and when they desire.” (The Concept of Nabuwwah and Rislah, p.7)

The truth that miracles are acts of Allah and that humans have not been given any power over them has also been mentioned by various other luminaries of the Ahl al-Sunnah. Such personalities include:

  • Imam Fadlullah Turipisthi al-Hanafi (d. 661 AH) in Mu‘tamad fi ‘l-Mu‘taqad (ch.2:1);
  • Mulla ‘Ali al-Qari (d. 1014H) in Al-Mirqat (2:530);
  • Shaykh ‘Abd al-Wahhab Sha‘rani (d. 772 AH) from Shaykh Abu Muhammad Tahir ibn Ahmad al-Qazwini (d. 756 AH) and Shaykh Muhyi al-Din ibn al-‘Arabi (d. 638 AH) in Al-Yawaqit wa ‘l-Jawahir (1:158);
  • Muhaqqiq Kamal al-Din ibn al-Humam al-Hanafi (d. 861 AH) in Al-Musayarah (2:89);
  • Shaykh Kamal al-Din ibn Abi Sharif al-Shafi‘i (d. 905 AH) in Al-Musamarah (2:89);
  • Qadi ‘Adud al-Din al-Iyji al-Hanafi (d. 757 AH) in Mawaqif (p.665);
  • ‘Allamah Jalal al-Din Dawani (d. 907 AH) in Sharh al-‘Adudiyyah (p.95);
  • ‘Allamah Sa‘d al-Din Mas‘ud al-Taftazani (d. 792 AH) in Sharh al-‘Aqa’id al-Nasafiyyah, (p.18);
  • Hafiz Ibn Kathir (d. 744 AH) in Tafsir Ibn Kathir (3:144);
  • Qadi Nasir al-Din Baydawi (d. 686 AH) in Anwar al-Tanzil (17:93);
  • ‘Allamah Sun’ Allah ibn Sun’ Allah al-Halabi (d. 1120 AH) in Sayf Allah ‘ala man Kadhiba ‘ala Awliya’ Allah (p.45);
  • Imam Shah ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Dahlawi (d. 1239 AH) in Fatawa ‘Azizi (p.408);
  • ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Hayy Lakhnawi (d. 1304 AH) in Majmu‘ al-Fatawa (3:18);
  • Mawlana Sayyid Awlad Hasan al-Kannauji (d. 1252 AH) from Fatawa Rashidiyyah (3:27);
  • Mawlana Shah Sikhawat ‘Ali Jonpuri (d. 1274 AH) from Fatawa Rashidiyyah (3:26);
  • Mawlana Haydar ‘Ali Tonki (d. 1273 AH) from Fatawa Rashidiyyah (3:25);
  • ‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Haq Haqqani Dahlawi (d. 1336 AH) in ‘Aqa’id al-Islam (p. 154);

This view regarding mu‘jizat and karamat, which has just been presented, is that of Islamic theologians (mutakallimin), jurists (fuqaha) and mystics (sufis). Now, it will be unfair not to present the view of the other factions who regard mu‘jizatand karamat as acts of the prophets and saints.

‘Allamah ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun states, “The philosophers hold that wonders are acts of the prophet, even though they occur in areas where the prophets have no power. This is based upon their doctrine that [there exists] an essential and Necessary [causality] and that events develop out of each other according to conditions and reasons that [always] come up anew and, in the last instance, go back to the Necessary per se that acts per se and not by choice. In their opinion, the prophetical soul has special essential qualities, which produce wonders, with the help of the power of [the Necessary per se] and the obedience of the elements to Him in the universe. The prophet, in their opinion, through those qualities that Allah put into him, is by nature fitted to do discretion (tasarruf) among all created things, whenever he addresses himself to them and concentrates on them. They hold that wonders are brought by the prophet himself, whether it is for ‘challenge’ (tahaddi) or not. They are evidence of the prophet’s truthfulness, in as much as they prove that he performs discretion (tasarruf) among the created things; such activity constituting a special quality of the prophetic soul, not because they take the place of a clear assertion of certainty (tasdiq).” (Muqaddimah Ibn Khaldun, p.94-95)[4]

From the above statement of ‘Allamah Ibn Khaldun, it is clear that according to the philosophers, miracles are acts of prophets, and prophets have been given the ability of discretion (tasarruf) in the cosmos by Allah. This belief is contrary to that of jurists, theologians and mystics.

Tasarruf and Takwin

‘Allamah Sarfaraz explains that tasarruf and takwin are terms used for miracles by the sufis. Sufis do not intend the meaning of discretion in the cosmos. This is where the people of innovation (ahl al-bid‘ah) misapprehend the statements of sufis and believe that tasarruf and takwin are at the disposal of the prophets and saints like the self-determined actions (af‘al ikhtiyariyyah).

For example, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Haq Dahlawi writes in his commentary of Futuh al-Ghayb of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani (d. 561 AH), “Shaykh ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaylani himself mentions that kharq al-‘adat and tasarruf are acts of Allah that happen at the hands of the servant.” (Sharh Futuh al-Ghayb, p.27)

There is a detailed discussion in Fatawa Rashidiyyah regarding tasarruf and takwin. It would be beneficial to produce some excerpts hereunder:

“We should know that there is a vast difference between the exclusive actions of Allah (af‘al khassah) and the self-determined actions of the servants (af‘al ikhtiyariyyah), since the actions produced by the servants through tools and resources are bound with some conditions. For instance, one needs some things before writing a matter — a pen, paper, a knife to smoothen the pen, eyesight, light, mind, thought, intention, and fingers and their movement. However, the creating of Allah — the Lord of the servants — is neither connected to these matters nor with these conditions; rather, He produces whatever He likes with just an intention, without being dependent upon the resources. This creation of His which is based only on intention is called ‘kun fayakun’: ‘His command, when He intends to do something, is no more than He says, “Be”, and it becomes,’ (Qur’an, 36:82). So supporting the first view for the servants that these actions are from Allah is all right, but affirming the second view (i.e., the power of kun fayakun) is open unbelief (kufr) and heinous polytheism. In brief, asking them to fulfill the matters under self-determined actions (af‘al ikhtiyariyyah) is correct, but demanding to carry out the divine actions [under the power of kun fayakun] is out of place; because the former is within their power and the latter is exclusively related to Allah Most High …” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.143)

And it states, “First, some actions of exclusive attributes of Allah sometimes manifest in the holy existence of the angels and the prophets. These holy existences do not have any power to carry out these acts. So, these acts should not be considered like the actions of eating and wearing, which are within the realm of their choice (ikhtiyar) and power. Demanding them to carry out or bring about these acts is just like addressing the pen overlooking the writer to write such and such, rather believing that the pen in any case has to produce such an act and its power and choice is barred and invalid… Second, [regarding] submission, choice and managing (tadbir) which are attributed to some angels, the same resemblance is found with the pen and writer and the same thing is meant when we say that the writer writes. We have already elaborated on it in detail. It does not mean that He has entrusted the power of creating and the creative process (takwin) with the intention of ‘kun fayakun’ (Be! and it becomes); since it can be available to only the one who is Eternal, as we have already mentioned…” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.141)

It further states in Fatawa Rashidiyyah, “So, the changes and revolutions in any part of the world which appear for the human beings all emanate from the divine power of Allah and are not the result of any possible power. It is not that Allah Most High allows them to act freely (tasarruf) in the world and entrusts the affairs of the human beings to them that they with Allah’s permission use their power and bring about various types of changes and interventions in the universe. So, this belief is pure polytheism (shirk) and absolute unbelief (kufr). One who holds such beliefs about these pious people is a polytheist and is rejected. In short, it is one matter that destiny changes its course for someone’s honor, or fate changes due to the du‘a of some pious man, while it is a different matter that changes take place in the universe through discretion (tasarruf) of a pious man, though with Allah’s permission; the first one is exactly Islam while the second is pure unbelief (kufr)…” (Fatawa Rashidiyyah, p.139-140)

Translator: I would like to thank Mawlana Muhammadullah Khalili Qasmi for help with the translation of Persian texts.


Fatawa Rashidiyyah – Imam Rabbani Mawlana Rashid Ahmad Gangohi

Hidayat al-Murtab Ila Tariq al-Sawab fi Tahqiq al-Mu’jizat (Rah-i-Hidayat) – ‘Allamah Sarfaraz Khan Safdar


  1. A refutation of Al-Bawariq by Fadl Rasul Badayuni. []
  2. Allah Most High’s displaying a miracle at the hands of a Prophet who had announced he will display it as proof of his truthfulness, is equivalent to Divine confirmation of his Prophethood []
  3. Translation compared with Franz Rosenthal’s translation of Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah. []
  4. Ibid []


Comparing the Holy Messenger with hunters – Ahmad Yaar al-Barelwi

September 21, 2012

It is apparent from the statements of Barelwi scholars that they believe Holy Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) was a bashar only outwardly but in reality/essence he was a Nur. Since they can’t deny the Bashariyyat of Holy Messenger outright, that is their way to hide behind the self-made differentiation of dhahir and haqiqah.

Here is what Mufti Ahmad Yaar Khan writes in Ja’ al-Haq,

“Also, the kuffar are being addressed in this ayat [‘I am but a Bashar’, (18:110)]. Due to everything having fear and hate for something from different genus to themselves. It was accordingly said, “O Kuffar! Do not fear me [the Prophet]. I am from your genus, I am a Bashar. Hunters imitate the voices of their prey to catch them. The object behind the ayat is to make the Kuffar inclined [towards the Prophet]. If Deobandis also consider themselves to be Kafirs, they may also accept this statement to apply to them.”

The above quote of Mufti Ahmad Yaar is very impolite towards the Holy Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace) as he compares the ayat of the Qur’an, in which Holy Messeneger was called a bashar, with a deception of a hunter when he catches his prey.

He is also clearly implying that the purpose of this ayat is only to attract the Kuffar. In other words, Holy Prophet is in reality a Nur but bashar is only a garb.

The word bashar in the Qur’an is against the status of Holy Prophet – Ahmad Yaar al-Barelwi

September 21, 2012

According to Hakim al-Ummah of Barelwis Mufti Ahmad Yaar Khan Gujrati, the word bashar and certain verses of the Qur’an are apparently against the status of Holy Messenger (Allah bless him and give him peace). He writes in Ja’ al-Haq,

“It implies that the verses like ‘Allah‘s hand is over their hands’ (48:10) and ‘The example of His light is that of a niche’ (24:35), etc. which are seemingly not proper for the Highness of Allah Most High are mutashabihat (ambiguous, whose definite meanings are unknown). Similarly, the verses like ‘I am but a bashar (human being)’ (18:110), etc, which are apparently against the status of the Holy Prophet are mutashabihat; therefore it is wrong to argue on the basis of the apparent meaning of such verses.”

Reply to Husam al-Haramayn’s Misrepresentation of Tahzir al-Nas

September 20, 2012

by Zameelur Rahman

Mawlana Manzur Nu’mani wrote Faisla Kun Munazara (written in: 1373 H/1953 CE) (available here) in reply to Ahmad Rida Khan’s Husam al-Haramayn. The following summarises his reply (from pages 37-63) to the claims made about Mawlana Qasim al-Nanotwi’s Tahzir al-Nas inHusam al-Haramayn.

Ahmad Rida stated in Husam al-Haramayn: “Qasim al-Nanotwi, the author of Tahzir al-Nas, who stated therein: “If it were supposed in his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) time, rather were it to occur after him (Allah bless him and grant him peace), a new prophet, that would not infringe on his sealship; and it is only the laypeople who assume that he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is the Seal of the Prophets in the sense of the last of the prophets, although there is no excellence at all in this according to the people of understanding,” to the end of what he mentioned of irrational talk. It says in al-Tatimmah and al-Ashbah and others: “When one does not recognise that Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is the last of the prophets, he is not a Muslim, for indeed it is from the necessities.””

قاسم النانوتوي صاحب تحذير الناس وهو القائل فيه لو فرض في زمنه صلى الله عليه وسلم بل لو حدث بعده صلى الله عليه وسلم نبي جديد لم يخل ذلك بخاتميته، وإنما يتخيل العوام أنه صلى الله عليه وسلم خاتم النبيين بمعنى آخر النبيين مع أنه لا فضل فيه أصلا عند أهل الفهم إلى آخر ما ذكر من الهذيانات وقد قال فى التتمة والأشباه وغيرهما إذا لم يعرف أن محمدا صلى الله عليه وسلم آخر الأنبياء فليس بمسلم فإنه من الضروريات

Mawlana Nu’mani says this statement of Ahmad Rida Khan is nothing besides deception, and he gives the following reasons:

1. Ahmad Rida constructed the quote from three separate places from Tahzir al-Nas, from pages 3, 14 and 28, and he made it appear that this was one continuous sentence. He also did not arrange it in the order they appear in the book: he first quotes p. 14 (“If it were supposed in his (Allah bless him and grant him peace) time”), then 28 (“rather were it to arise after him (Allah bless him and grant him peace), a new prophet, that would not infringe on his sealship”) then 3 (“and it is only the laypeople who assume that he (Allah bless him and grant him peace) is the Seal of the Prophets in the sense of the last of the prophets, although there is no excellence at all in this according to the people of understanding”). Ahmad Rida tried to make it appear from these sentences that Mawlana Nanotwi denied the finality/lastness of prophethood, but if read in their correct places such a misunderstanding would not arise. Mawlana Nu’mani states that this is an exact illustration of yuharrifun al-kalima ‘an mawadi’ihi – they change the words from their places (Qur’an 5:13). In fact, in the first and second parts of his contrived quotation from Tahzir al-Nas, he created one sentence from parts of two different sentences, not even quoting the intact sentences. Mawlana Nu’mani quotes from a book of Ahmad Rida in which he castigates someone for joining three separate words of the Qur’an to make it into one phrase; but he commits this very offence here. Then, he gives several examples of how changing word orders in Qur’an completely changes the meanings.

2. The sentence from p. 3 of Tahzir al-Nas in the Urdu states: magar ahl fahm pur roshun ho ga keh taqaddum ya ta’akhkhur zamani meh bizzat kuch fazilat nehih (but, it is clear to the people of understanding that coming before or after in time does not in and of itself confer excellence), which Ahmad Rida translated as “مع أنه لا فضل فيه أصلا عند أهل الفهم” (although there is no excellence at all in this [i.e. being the last prophet] according to the people of understanding). However, the sentence in Tahzir al-Nas implies that although in and of itself coming later has no virtue, due to secondary factors (bi l-ard) it does confer excellence; yet, Ahmad Rida translated this to mean it has no virtue at all, which is another example of his dishonesty and deception.

3. Ahmad Rida did not translate or quote the parts of the sentences that appear before and after the quoted sections which would have corrected his misrepresentation (elaborated later).

4. Ahmad Rida’s claim is that Mawlana Nanotwi denied the finality of prophethood, whereas from the beginning of Tahzir al-Nas to its end, he does not deny khatamiyya zamaniyya (chronological sealship) but seeks to establish it along with khatamiyya zatiyya (essential sealship).

With regards to khatamiyya zamaniyya there are clear statements in Tahzir al-Nas on its necessity. Shortly after the last sentence Ahmad Rida quoted (from p. 3), Mawlana Qasim Nanotwi said:

balkah bana’ khatamiyyat aur bat pur hey jis sey ta’akhkhur zamani aur sadd bab mazkur (ya’ni sadd bab mudda’iyan nubuwwat) khod ba khod lazim ata hey aur fazilat nabawi dobala ho jati hey

Translation: “However, there is another explanation for sealship [which he elaborates on in the book] by which coming later in time and closing the aforemention door [i.e. of claimants to prophethood] is necessitated automatically, and the excellence of prophethood is multiplied.”

In this passage, he clearly states that his explanation of khatamiyya/sealship necessitates coming last in time and closing the door of false claimants to prophethood.

Furthermore, after giving his explanation on khatamiyya/sealship (i.e. that the prophethood of the Prophet – peace be upon him – is essential and not derived whereas the prophethood of other prophets is derived from his, so all perfections of prophethood derive from him and culminate in him), he writes:

so agar itlaq aur ‘umum hey tob to subut khatamiyyat zamani, warnah taslim luzum khatamiyyat zamani bidalalat iltizami zurur sabit hey. idhar tasrihat nabawi misl anta minni bimanzilat Haruna min Musa illa annahu la nabiyya ba’di aw kama qal jo bizahir bitarz mazkur esi lafz khatam al-nabiyyin sey ma’khuz hey is bab meh kafi hey kyunkeh yeh mazmun darajah tawatur ko pehnch giya hey. phir is pur ijma bhi mun’aqid ho giya. gur alfaz mazkur bisanad mutawatir manqul neh ho, so yeh adam tawatur alfaz ba wujud tawatur ma’nawi yaha eysa hi hoga jeysa tawatur a’dad rak’at fara’iz wa witr wa ghayruh alfaz ahadis mush’ir ta’dad rak’at mutawatir nehi, jeysa unka munkir kafir hey eysa hi is ka munkir bhi kafir hoga 

Translation: “Therefore, if [the sealship] is absolute and general [i.e. includes all three sealships: chronological, spatial and essential], then the establisment of chronological sealship is obvious. Otherwise [i.e. if only essential sealship is taken as the meaning of “seal”], accepting the necessity of chronological sealship by implicative indication (dalala iltizami) is immediately established [for the reasons why see the explanation here]. Here, the explicit statements of the Prophet, like: ‘You [i.e. Ali] are to me at the level of Harum to Musa but there is no prophet after me,’ or as he said, which apparently is derived from the phrase khatam al-nabiyyin in the aforemention manner, are sufficient in this subject because it reaches the rank of tawatur. Furthermore, consensus (ijma) has convened on this [i.e. khatamiyya zamaniyya – chronological sealship/coming last in time]. Although the aforementioned words were not transmitted by mutawatir chain, despite this lack of tawatur in the words, there is a tawatur in the meaning here, just like the tawatur of the number of rak’at of the obligatory prayers, Witr etc. Although the words of the narrations stating the number of rak’at are not mutawatir, just as the one who denies that is a disbeliever, in the same way, the one who denies this [i.e. khatamiyya zamaniyya] is a disbeliever.”

Mawlana Nu’mani states that in this passage, Mawlana Nanotwi not only says chronological sealship is firmly established from mutawatirhadith, but also that this is derived (ma’khuz) from the phrase khatam al-nabiyyin showing that according to him the finality of prophethood is strongly connected to this phrase in the Qur’an.

From this and previous passages, Mawlana Nanotwi established chronological sealship in five ways:

1. By the complete signification (dalalat mutabiqi) of khatam al-nabiyyin if it includes both types of sealship (chronological – zamani – and essential – zati)

2. Or by the generality of the metaphor (‘umum majaz) [which is a famous principle mentioned in books of Usul, which Mawlana Nanotwi says is a principle which may apply here], khatam includes both types

3. Or its indication is fully to only one of the two, i.e. essential sealship, but the implicative signification of this is chronological sealship. All three of these are based on the direct text of the Qur’an.

4. From hadiths that are mutawatir-in-meaning

5. By the consensus of the ummah

After mentioning these five ways chronological sealship is firmly established, Mawlana Nanotwi says its denier is a disbeliever. Mawlana Nu’mani says: “After such explicit statements from Tahzir al-Nas, to claim that he denied chronological finality, if it is not injustice and deception, what is it?”

Mawlana Nu’mani says such explicit statements are not found only in one or two places in Tahzir al-Nas, but it is difficult to miss it on almost every page. He then quotes other passages from Tahzir al-Nas, and quotes many statements from other books by Mawlana Nanotwi in which he makes very clear statements that chronological sealship is an established article of faith and no one disagrees with it. [Mawlana Sayf al-Rahman Qasim has collected many of Mawlana Nanotwi’s explicit statements on the Prophet’s chornolological finality including in Mawlana Nanotwi’s Arabic marginalia to the last parts of Mawlana Ahmad ‘Ali Saharanpuri’s commentary on Bukhari (the book is available here).]

Before explaining the three passages quoted by Ahmad Rida, Mawlana Nu’mani first gives a brief summary of Mawlana Nanotwi’s thesis, which can be found in a little more detail here. In sum, there are two (or three) types of sealship Mawlana Nanotwi espouses: chronological sealship and essential sealship; the first is that his time is after the time of other prophets and no prophet will be sent after him, and the second is that his prophethood was received directly from Allah whereas the prophethood and the perfections of prophethood in other prophets was derived from him, so he is the “seal” of the perfections of their prophethood as they all culminate in him.

The first passage Ahmad Rida quotes, in full is:

garz ikhtitam agar ba yeh ma’ne tajwiz kiya jae jo me ne ‘arz kiya to ap ka khatam hona anbiya gazashteh ki nisbat khas neh hoga balkah agar bi l-farz ap keh zamaneh meh bhi kohih aur ko’i nabi ho jab bhi ap ka khatam ho na bedustur baqi rehta hey 

Translation: “The objective is that if sealship in the meaning I presented [i.e. essential sealship] is stipulated, then his being the seal will not be specifically in relation to past prophets, for if it were assumed that in his own time any prophet appeared, even then his being the seal will remain sound.”

This was clearly stated with regards to “essential sealship” as is obvious from the part before “if it were assumed…” from where Ahmad Rida began his quote. This is even more clear in the second passage quoted by Ahmad Rida, when cited in full:

ha agar khatamiyyat bi ma’na ttisaf zati biwasf nubuwwat lejye jeysa is hechumdan arz kiya to phir suwae rasulullallah sallallahu alayhiwasallam aur kisi ke afrad maqsudah bi l-khalq meh se mumasil nabawi sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam nehi keh sukte. bulkeh is surat meh faqt anbiya ke afrad khariji hi pur ap ki fazilat sabit neh hogi. afrad muqaddarah pur bhi ap ki fazilat sabit ho jae gi. balkah agar bi l-farz ba’d zamanah nabawi sal’am bhi ko’i nabi peda ho to phir bhi khatamiyyat muhammadi meh kuch farq neh ae ga 

Translation: “Yes, if sealship in the sense of an intrinsic embodiment of the quality of prophethood is taken, as this humble one has submitted, then besides Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) any other individual intended for creation cannot be considered equal to the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Rather, in this way not only is his superiority over external individual prophets established, his superiority over even conceivable (muqaddara) individuals is established. Therefore, even if it were assumed after the time of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that any prophet was born, then even then there would be no difference to the Muhammadan sealship.”

In both of these passages, Mawlana Nanotwi is speaking of essential sealship, that with respect to this sealship, if it were assumed any prophet appeared in his time or after his time, this sealship would be unaffected, as he would remain the one from whom the prophethood of all other prophets is derived. Of course with respect to chronological sealship, which is firmly established in Tahzir al-Nas and is nowhere negated, if it were supposed a prophet came after him, this sealship would not be unaffected. However, the context of the previous two quotes shows he was speaking only in relation to essential sealship, so it would be incorrect based on these two passages to conclude he denied chronological sealship as it was not the point of discussion. In short, essential sealship, which he seeks to establish in the book, is applicable to all real and assumed prophets, whereas chronological sealship, which he confirms and provides evidence for, applies only to the real past prophets.

Regarding the last part of the quote from Husam al-Haramayn which is from the opening section of Tahzir al-Nas, it means the laypeople are incorrect in their understanding that sealship only means last in time, not that they are incorrect in this understanding altogether. Mawlana Nanotwi in his explanation does not deny the meaning he attributes to the laypeople but states sealship in the Qur’an means much more than just being last in time. By this explaination, the accusation by Ahmad Rida in another book, al-Mawt al-Ahmar, in which he said that Mawlana Nanotwi considered the prophets and sahabah “laypeople” as they also believed khatam means last, is refuted, as it is not established that they believed it only meant last. Mawlana Nu’mani quotes another book of Mawlana Nanotwi in which he clarified that prophets and scholars are not included in “laypeople.”

Mawlana Nu’mani then quotes from Ahmad Rida’s al-Dawlat al-Makkiyya where he explained that the people of understanding realise multiple non-contradictory meanings from verses of the Qur’an, and this is precisely what Mawlana Nonotwi did in the explanation of this verse. Furthermore, Ahmad Rida said in his book Jaza Allah ‘Aduwwah that all spiritual perfections originate in the prophet and everything else in creation receives it from him, which is precisely what Mawlana Nanotwi says is the meaning of “essential sealship.”


The following is a translated quote from Hakim al-Tirmidhi’s (d. 320) Kitab Khatm al-Awliya in which he offers a similar deeper significance to “Khatam al-Nabiyyin” and denounces the opinion that it only entails chronological finality in much the same way as Mawlana Nanotwi. The book can be downloaded here and the passage in question is found on pages 338-42.

A speaker said to him [al-Hakim al-Tirmidhi]: What is the Seal of Prophethood?He replied: The proof of Allah over His creation, in realisation of His (Exalted is He) statement: “and give good news to those who believe that they have a ‘foot of truth’ [which al-Tirmdihi interprets as the Prophet (peace be upon him) who was a true servant of Allah] with their Lord.” (10:2) So Allah certified for him [i.e. the Prophet (peace be upon him)] true servitude. So when the Recompenser appears in His majesty and greatness, on that plane [of judgement], and He says: “O My bondsmen! I created you only for [My] servitude! So give [Me] the servitude!” There will be no sense or movement left for anyone due to the terror of that position, except Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace). For by that foot [of truth] that he has, he proceeds ahead of all the ranks of prophets and messengers, because he was given true servitude to Allah (Exalted is He). So Allah will accept it [i.e. servitude] from him and elevate him to the Praised Platform (al-maqam al-mahmud) near the Stool (kursi). Thereupon, the veil over that seal will be removed, and light will encompass him, and the rays of that seal will shine over him; and from his heart to his tongue will spring praise that none from His creation heard; until all the prophets will know that Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) was the most knowledgeable of them about Allah (Glorified and Majestic is He). Thus, he is the first converser and the first intercessor, so he will be given the Standard of Praise and Keys of Generosity. The Standard of Praise is for the bulk of the believers while the Keys of Generosity for the prophets. The Seal of Prophethood has a profound condition and station, more profound than you can bear, so I hope that this much is sufficient for you of its knowledge.

So Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) became an intercessor for prophets and saints and those besides them. Do you not see his (upon him peace) speech regarding the station of the Praised Platform: “Until Ibrahim the Friend of the Merciful will need me on that day”? That was narrated to me by Jarud from al-Nadr ibn Shumayl from Hisham al-Dastawa’i from Hammad who traced it to Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace). Do you not see that Allah (Blessed and Exalted is He) mentioned good news [to the believers] in many verses but did not mention it except with a condition: “and give good news to those who believe and do righteous works” (2:25) and he mentioned it here without a condition [i.e. without the condition of “righteous works”]: “and give good news to those who believe that they have a foot of truth with their Lord,” informing them that the salvation of all on that day is through this true foot [i.e. the Prophet (peace be upon him)]?

As for the proof, it is as though He says to the prophets (upon them peace): “O assembly of prophets! This is Muhammad. He came at the end of time, weak in body, weak in might, weak in livelihood, short in life. He produced what you have seen of true servitude and copious knowledge. And you in your speech and your lives and your bodies did not produce what he produced.” Thereupon, the veil over the seal will be removed, and all talk will end, and it will become a proof over all creation; because the thing that is sealed is guarded. And thus is Allah’s (Exalted is He) administration over us in this world: that when a thing is found with its seal, doubt is removed and argumentation ends amongst people.

So Allah gathered the particles of prophethood for Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace) and He perfected them for him and He sealed them with his seal. So neither his self (nafs) nor his enemy find a path to enter the place of [his] prophethood due to that seal. Do you not see the hadith of al-Hasan al-Basri (Allah have mercy on him) from Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) in the hadith of intercession from Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that he said: “When they come to Adam they will ask him to intercede for them to their Lord, Adam will say to them: ‘What is your opinion, if one of yours goods were collected in his absence and then they were sealed [i.e. tied away], will the goods only be approached but from the route of the seal? So go to Muhammad for he is the Seal of the Prophets.’” Its meaning according to us is that prophethood in its entirety has culminated in Muhammad (Allah bless him and grant him peace); so his heart was made a vessel for the perfection of prophethood and then it was sealed. This tells you that the sealed book and the sealed vessel, there is no path to it for anyone, to decrease from it or to add to it of that which is not from it; and indeed all the remainder of the prophets (upon them peace), He did not seal for them their hearts, so they are not safe from the self finding a path to it [i.e. their prophethood].

Allah did not leave the proof concealed in the inside of his heart for He made it manifest; so between his shoulders was that seal manifest like the egg of a pigeon. And this is for him a great station the story of which is long.

Indeed the one who is blind to this information, he thinks that the interpretation of “the seal of prophets” is [only] that he is the last of them in being sent. But what virtue is there in this? And what [perfection in] knowledge is there in this? This is the interpretation of ignorant people.

Most recite khatam with a fath on the ta’; as for those from the Salaf who recited with a kasr on the ta’, its interpretation is that he a khatim (sealer) in the meaning of a doer; i.e. that he sealed prophethood by that seal which he was given. From that which affirms this is what was narrated in the hadith of the Ascension (mi‘raj) from the hadith of Abu Ja‘far al-Razi from al-Rabi‘ ibn Abi al-‘Aliyah from what he mentioned regarding the meeting of the prophets in the Aqsa mosque: “So every prophet mentioned the favour of Allah upon him, and it was from the speech of Allah’s Messenger (Allah bless him and grant him peace) that he said: ‘He made me the sealer and the opener.’ So Ibrahim (upon him peace) said: ‘By this, Muhammad is superior to [all of] you.’”

قال له قائل: وما خاتم النبوة؟قال : حجة الله على خلقه، بحقيقة قوله تعالى: “وبشر الذين آمنوا أن لهم قدم صدق عند ربهم” سورة يونس الآية 2، فشهد الله له بصدق العبودية.

فإذا برز الديان في جلاله وعظمته، في ذلك الموقف، وقال: يا عبيدي، إنما خلقتكم للعبودة، فهاتوا العبودة، فلم يبق لأحد حس ولا حركة، من هول ذلك المقام، إلا –سيدنا- محمدا صلى الله عليه وسلم. فبذلك القدم (الصدق) الذي له، يتقدم على جميع صفوف الأنبياء والمرسلين، لأنه قد أتى بصدق العبودية لله تعالى ، فيقبله الله منه، ويبعثه إلى المقام المحمود ، عند الكرسي فيكشف الغطاء عن ذلك الختم، فيحيطه النور وشعاع ذلك الختم يبين عليه. وينبع من قلبه على لسانه من الثناء ما لم يسمع به أحد من خلقه .
حتى يعلم الأنبياء كلهم أن –سيدنا- محمدا صلى الله عليه وسلم كان أعلمهم بالله عز وجل فهو أول خطيب، وأول شفيع فيعطي لواء الحمد، ومفاتيح الكرم.
فلواء الحمد لعامة المؤمنين، ومفاتيح الكرم للأنبياء ، ولخاتم النبوة بد وشأن عميق، أعمق من أن تحتمله. فقد رجوت أنه كفاك هذا القدر من علمه.

فصار-سيدنا- محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم شفيعا للأنبياء والأولياء، ومن دونهم ألا ترى إلى قوله عليه الصلاة والسلام، فيما يصف من شأن المقام المحمود؟: “حتى أن ابراهيم خليل الرحمن يحتاج إلي في ذلك اليوم” . حدثنا بذلك الجارود عن النضر بن شميل، عن هشام الدستوانى عم حماد رفعه إلى رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم.

ألا ترى أن الله، تبارك وتعالى ذكر البشرى في غير آية؟ فلم يذكرها إلا مع الشرط “وبشر الذين آمنوا وعملوا الصالحات” وذكرها هنا ولم يشترط: ” وبشر الذين أمنوا أن لهم قدم صدق عند ربهم” يعلمهم أن نجاة الجميع ، في ذلك اليوم بهذا القدم الصدق.
وأما الحجة. فكأنه يقول: للأنبياء عليهم السلام: معاشر الأنبياء، هذا محمد جاء في آخر الزمان،ضعيف البدن، ضعيف القوة، ضعيف المعاش، قليل العمر. أتى بما قد ترون : من صدق العبودة ، وغزارة المعرفة والعلم، وأنتم في قواكم وأعماركم وأبدانكم، لم تأتوا بما أتى. ويكتشف له الغطاء عن الختم، فينقطع الكلام، وتصير الحجة على جميع خلقه.
لأن الشيء المختوم محروس . وكذلك تدبير الله تعالى لنا في هذه الدنيا: إنه إذا وجد الشيء بختمه زال الشك وانقطع الخصام فيما بين الآدميين.
فجمع الله تعالى أجزاء النبوة لسيدنا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم وتتمها له وختم عليها بختمة فلم تجد نفسه ولا عدوه سبيلا إلى ولوج موضع النبوة، من أجل ذلك الختم. ألا ترى إلى حديث الحسن البصري، رحمه الله.
عن أنس بن مالك رضي الله عنه، في حديث الشفاعة، عن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: فإذا أتوا آدم ، يسألونه أن يشفع لهم إلى ربه، قال لهم آدم : أرأيتم لو أن أحدكم جمع متاعه في غيبته ثم ختم عليها، فهل كان يؤتى المتاع إلا من قبل الختم؟ فأتوا فهو خاتم النبيين. ومعناه عندنا: إن النبوة تمت بأجمعها لسيدنا محمد صلى الله عليه وسلم فجعل قلبه، لكمال النبوة، وعاء عليها، ثم ختم.

ينبؤك هذا، أن الكتاب المحترم والوعاء المختوم، ليس لأحد عليه سبيل، في الانتقاص منه، و لا بالإزدياد فيه مما ليس منه. وإن سائر الأنبياء عليهم السلام لم يختم لهم على قلوبهم، فهم غير آمنين أن تجد النفس سبيلا إلى ما فيها.
ولم يدع الله الحجة مكتومة في باطن قلبه حتى أظهرها: فكان بين كتفيه ذلك الختم، ظاهرا كبيضة حمامة وهذا له شأن عظيم تطول قصته.
فإن الذي عمى عن خبر هذا، يظن أن “خاتم النبيين” تأويله أنه آخرهم مبعًا فأي منقبة في هذا؟ وأي علم في هذا ؟ تأويل البله، الجهلة.
وقرأ (الخاتم)، بفتح التاء وأما من قرأ من السلف بكسر التاء، فإنما تأويله (خاتِم) على معنى فاعِل، أي: أنه ختم النبوة، بالذي أعطى من الختم.
ومما يحقق ذلك ما روي في حديث المعراج من حديث أبي جعفر الرازي، عن الربيع بن أبي العالية فيما يذكر من مجتمع الأنبياء في المسجد الأقصى: “فيذكر كل نبي منة الله عليه. فكان من قول رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أنه قال: ” وجعلني خاتما وفاتحا ” فقال سيدنا إبراهيم عليه السلام: بهذا فضلكم محمد” –صلى الله عليه

Keeping names like Abd al-Nabi is not permissible – Ibn Abidin

September 16, 2012

Translated by Zameelur Rahman

‘Allamah Ibn ‘Abidin al-Shami wrote in his Radd al-Muhtar:

أقول: ويؤخذ من قوله ولا عبد فلان منع التسمية بعبد النبي ونقل المناوي عن الدميري أنه قيل بالجواز بقصد التشريف بالنسبة والأكثر على المنع خشية اعتقاد العبودية كما لا يجوز عبد الدار

“I say: From his statement ‘nor [is a child to be named:] ‘Abd So-and-So’ is derived the prohibition of naming [a child] ‘Abd al-Nabi. Al-Munawi transmitted from al-Damiri that it was said it is permissible with the intention of exaltation by affiliation. And the majority are upon prohibition for fear of the belief in servitude [to the Prophet] just as ‘Abd al-Dar is not permissible.”

(Radd al-Muhtar, Dar ‘Alam al-Kutub, 7:599)