Sunday, 7 October 2018

Parable of the Brick


The khatamiyya or finality of Prophet Muhammad’s prophethood is subject to controversy regarding its true meaning and reality. Although this is generally seen as a controversy vis-a-vis the relatively modern sect of Ahmadiyya/Qadiyanis, the truth is that Sufism is the original movement or tendency within Islam through which expression was given to a more nuanced and enlightened understanding of khatm an-Nubuwwa. Not only is Prophet Muhammad chronologically the last and final prophet in a series of literally thousands of prophets appointed by Allahumma Exalted is He, but additionally, he is the one through whom the edifice of prophethood is beautified. In one of his sermons, Qari Kalim Ullah Khan s/o Allama Ahmad Sa’id Multani gave the parable of a masbaha (rosary) to illustrate this point. An Islamic rosary generally has 99 beads strung together, and smaller ones usually have 33 beads. Now every rosary has an end piece to keep the beads in place and also to beautify the rosary. In the rosary of prophethood, there are not 100 but some 124 thousand beads representing each of the prophets. The large, ornate end piece represents the Prophet Muhammad , through whom the rosary of prophethood is not only sealed and completed, but also beautified. I believe it is in this light that the Prophet Muhammad’s own parable regarding him being the “Seal of the Prophets” is to be understood:

إِنَّ مَثَلِي وَمَثَلَ الأَنْبِيَاءِ مِنْ قَبْلِي كَمَثَلِ رَجُلٍ بَنَى بَيْتًا فَأَحْسَنَهُ وَأَجْمَلَهُ، إِلاَّ مَوْضِعَ لَبِنَةٍ مِنْ زَاوِيَةٍ، فَجَعَلَ النَّاسُ يَطُوفُونَ بِهِ وَيَعْجَبُونَ لَهُ، وَيَقُولُونَ هَلاَّ وُضِعَتْ هَذِهِ اللَّبِنَةُ قَالَ فَأَنَا اللَّبِنَةُ، وَأَنَا خَاتِمُ النَّبِيِّينَ

“Verily, my parable and the parable of the prophets before me is like that of a man who built a house. He beautified it except for the place of a brick in the corner. People circle it in wonder, but say: ‘Would that this brick be placed.’ I am that brick, and I am the Seal of the Prophets.”

(Bukhari & Muslim)

This parable clearly illustrates that the purpose of the final brick is to complete the perfection and beauty of the house, without which the latter has an obvious flaw despite its general attraction at which people stare at it in appreciation and wonder.

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