What is the reality of the hadith “I was Khatam an-Nabiyyin when Adam was being kneaded in his clay”?


Someone sent an interpretation of the Holy Prophet’ssa saying, “I was Khatam al-Nabiyyin even when Adamas was still in the very early stages of his creation,” to Hazrat Amirul Momineen, Khalifatul Masih Vaa. He then sought guidance on this issue and also requested Huzooraa for references to two ahadith relating to this topic. 

In a letter dated 10 March 2021, Huzooraa replied as follows: 

“You have inferred a point from the following two sayings of the Holy Prophetsa regarding his extraordinary and exalted status as Khatam al-Nabiyyin:

إِنِّيْ‭ ‬عِنْدَ‭ ‬اللّٰهِ‭ ‬مَكْتُوْبٌ‭ ‬خَاتَمُ‭ ‬النَّبِيِّينَ‭ ‬وَإِنَّ‭ ‬آدَمَ‭ ‬لَمُنْجَدِلٌ‭ ‬فِي‭ ‬طِينَتِهِ

“‘Verily, I was [already] ordained as Khatam al-Nabiyyin in the sight of Allah when Adam[as] was still kneaded in his clay.’ (Mishkat al-Masabih, Kitab al-Fadail, Bab Fadail Sayyidi l-Mursalin)

لَوْ‭ ‬لَاكَ‭ ‬لَمَا‭ ‬خَلَقْتُ‭ ‬الْاَفْلَاكَ

“This one is a qudsi hadith and it translates as follows: ‘Were it not for thee (O Muhammadsa), I would not have created the heavens.’ (Ruh-ul-Ma‘ani, by ‘Allamah Alusi, Part I, Tafsir of Surah al-Fatihah, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-‘Arabi, Beirut, 1999, p. 70)

“You are right in deducing from these ahadith that 124,000 messengers came after the Holy Prophetsa had been exalted to the station of Khatam al-Nabiyyin and it was after this that Allah the Exalted created the heavens and the earth. This has been mentioned by scholars of the classical period and is also documented in the Community’s literature. 

“Hazrat Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi, the founder of Deoband, wrote:

“‘Firstly, one should know the meaning of Khatam al-Nabiyyin so that there is no difficulty in understanding the answer. Hence, according to lay people, the Holy Prophet’ssa being khatam means that his era came after the era of the past prophets and that he is the last prophet. However, it is apparent to those endowed with insight that coming in a particular chronological order holds no honour in itself. How then can the verse:

 وَلٰكِنْ‭ ‬رَسُوْلَ‭ ‬اللّٰهِ‭ ‬وَخَاتَمَ‭ ‬النَّبِيِّينَ‭ ‬

[Surah al-Ahzab, Ch.33:V.41] be interpreted to convey a compliment to the Holy Prophetsa? If one does not consider Khatam al-Nabiyyin to be a praiseworthy trait or a rank of honour, only then can khatamiyyat be interpreted as ‘the last’ in terms of chronological order. However, I know that this would be intolerable to every Muslim […] Even if a prophet was born after the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, it would not affect the Holy Prophet’ssa khatamiyyat.’ [Tahzir-un-Nas Min Inkari Athari Ibn ‘Abbasra, Muhammad Qasim Nanautavi, Karachi: Dar-ul-Isha‘at, pp. 3, 25]

“Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IVrh further explained the matter with reference to the above-mentioned excerpt and said:

“‘That is our belief too. The Holy Prophetsa was khatam even when only a blueprint of man existed. Man was still in the formative stages of his creation. Creation was coming into existence. The Holy Prophetsa says ‘I was Khatam al-Nabiyyin while Adam[as] was still kneaded in the clay with which he was formed.’ What a magnificent concept! Khatamiyyat is beyond any specific period of time; it is not subject to it. It is impossible for any prophet before him or after him to match the prophethood of the one who is khatam. Moreover, a prerequisite of [a prophet] who comes after him is that he shall either be obedient to him or else not appear at all. His devotee can come but one who is not subservient to him cannot come. Moreover, all of the preceding prophets are such that they have his stamp of attestation. People do not try to understand this issue. It is an immensely significant topic. Muslims consider the Holy Prophetsa to be khatam. They say that this is a great and unique status that no other prophet has attained. [This is indeed the case but] when they are asked what the evidence for this claim is [they have none.] Even if you ask the scholars, they would not have any evidence in their hands. How do we know this and how can one prove it to the world? Here in the Western world, people ask me in meetings, ‘What evidence do you have?’ I answer by saying, ‘Let me show you the evidence but first resolve the following issue for me: Of all the prophets who have come in the world, not a single one has attested to the truth of other prophets of the world besides those of his own dispensation. Take a torch and go and find one, then, show him to me! You will absolutely not find a single one. ‘I believe in Allah, His books and His messengers.’ In this phrase, believing in all the prophets and messengers has been declared obligatory. There is only one, that is, our Master, the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, the Chosen One [who proclaimed this]. Thus, who is the bearer of the seal of attestation? Show us if there is any such prophet except the Holy Prophetsa! This is khatamiyyat. Without even coming close to the high and lofty subject of this khatamiyyat, you are focusing solely on [the Holy Prophet’ssa] being last in chronological order and you do not know what you are talking about. Being last in chronological order is not a praiseworthy trait. However, the khatam that the Holy Quran is describing denotes such praise that no example of it can be found in the world. You can give it a try. I am telling the whole world. Go on and challenge the religions of the world that if your prophet or any prophet was the bearer of the khatam [seal], then show us how he attested to the truth of other prophets! There is no one other than Muhammadsa, the Messenger of Allah, who is Khatam al-Nabiyyin and who attested to the truthfulness of all the prophets. Thus, even if someone was to come in the future, he cannot come without his attestation. That is why the truth is that when we say ‘ummati prophet’ we mean that Imam Mahdi and the Promised Messiahas about whom there was a prophecy. That is all what we mean: He has the approval from that stamp of attestation. When have we ever referred to anyone other than the Imam Mahdi as an [ummati] prophet? Thus, he is the Imam Mahdi and it is him that we refer to as an ummati prophet.’ (In the programme Mulaqat, 31 January 1994)

“As far as the references to the narrations are concerned, that you have asked for, the hadith recorded in Mishakat and its reference is as follows: 

عَنِ‭ ‬الْعِرْبَاضِ‭ ‬بْنِ‭ ‬سَارِيَةَ‭ ‬عَنْ‭ ‬رَسُوْلِ‭ ‬اللّٰهِ‭ ‬صَلَّى‭ ‬اللّٰهُ‭ ‬عَلَيْهِ‭ ‬وَسَلَّمَ‭ ‬أنَّهُ‭ ‬قَالَ‭ ‬إِنِّيْ‭ ‬عِنْدَ‭ ‬اللّٰهِ‭ ‬مَكْتُوْبٌ‭  ‬خَاتَمُ‭ ‬النَّبِيِّيْنَ‭ ‬وَإِنَّ‭ ‬آدَمَ‭ ‬لَمُنْجَدِلٌ‭ ‬فِي‭ ‬طِيْنَتِهِ‭ ‬وسَاُخْبِرُكُمْ‭ ‬بِأَوَّلِ‭ ‬أَمْرِيْ‭ ‬دَعْوَةُ‭ ‬إِبْرَاهِيْمَ‭ ‬وَبِشَارَةُ‭ ‬عِيْسَى‭ ‬وَرُؤْيَا‭ ‬أُمِّيْ‭ ‬الَّتِيْ‭ ‬رَأَتْ‭ ‬حِيْنَ‭ ‬وَضَعَتْنِيْ‭ ‬وَقَدْ‭ ‬خَرَجَ‭ ‬لَهَا‭ ‬نُورٌ‭ ‬أَضَاءَ‭ ‬لَهَا‭ ‬مِنْهُ‭ ‬قُصُوْرُ‭ ‬الشَّامِ”

“‘It is narrated by Hazrat al-Irbad Ibn Sariyahra that Allah’s Messengersa said: “Verily, I was [already] ordained as Khatam al-Nabiyyin in the sight of Allah when Adam[as] was still kneaded in his clay. Moreover, I wish to inform you that my matter (i.e. the inception of the matter of my birth) is the [result of the] prayer of Abrahamas, the glad tiding of Jesusas and the dream of my mother which she saw at the time of my birth that light appeared in front of her which illuminated for her the palaces of the Levent.’ (Mishkat al-Masabih, Kitab al-Fadail, Bab Fadail Sayyidi l-Musralin)

“The qudsi hadith:

‭ ‬لَوْ‭ ‬لَاكَ‭ ‬لَمَا‭ ‬خَلَقْتُ‭ ‬الْاَفْلَاكَ‭ ‬

has been quoted by Allama Alusi and Allama Ismail Haqqi in their commentaries, whereas Allah the Exalted revealed it to the Promised Messiahas in the following words:

‭ ‬اِنِّيْ‭ ‬مَعَ‭ ‬الْاِكْرَامِ۔‭ ‬لَوْ‭ ‬لَاكَ‭ ‬لَمَا‭ ‬خَلَقْتُ‭ ‬الْاَفْلَاكَ‭ ‬

[‘Verily I am with the noble ones. Were it not for you, I would not have created the heavens.’ (Tadhkirah [English], p. 1906)]. Huzooraa has also mentioned it in his writings. The references to those writings and to the books of tafsir are as follows:

1. “Ruh-ul-Ma‘ani, by Allama Alusi, Part 29, Tafsir of verse 38 of Surah an-Naba, Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, Beirut, 1999, p. 306

2. Ruh-ul-Bayan, by Allama Haqqi Bursevi, Volume VI, tafsir of verse 36 of Surah an-Nur, Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiyyah, Beirut, 2004, p. 24

3. Tadhkirah, Fourth edition, […], p. 225

4. Haqiqatul-Wahi [Urdu], Ruhani Khazain Vol. 22, p. 102”

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