Updated: Nov 23, 2019
In the name of Allah, Most Gracious Ever Merciful.
The 'finality of Prophethood' has become the shibboleth of so-called muslim orthodoxy, especially in our time, but what is the truth behind it? There is a significant relevant verse on this issue which non-Ahmadis tend to dismiss or ignore ,if they ever consider it in the context of the belief on finality of prophethood. It is as follows: The Coming of Future Messengers: یٰبَنِیۡۤ اٰدَمَ اِمَّا یَاۡتِیَنَّکُمۡ رُسُلٌ مِّنۡکُمۡ یَقُصُّوۡنَ عَلَیۡکُمۡ اٰیٰتِیۡ ۙ فَمَنِ اتَّقٰی وَ اَصۡلَحَ فَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا ہُمۡ یَحۡزَنُوۡنَ
i.e. O children of Adam! if Messengers come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing My Signs unto you, then whoso shall fear God and do good deeds, on them (shall come) no fear nor shall they grieve. There is no way to understand this verse other than what is evident and apparent from it, which is that Messengers will indeed come in the future, from the time it was revealed in the 7th century CE. The english translations of the verse by Muslims as well as non-Muslim demonstrate this fact, as can be seen here:
https://islamawakened.com/quran/7/35/ Those who ignore this abundantly clear verse, do so in violation of other verses, such as: اَفَلَا یَتَدَبَّرُوۡنَ الۡقُرۡاٰنَ اَمۡ عَلٰی قُلُوۡبٍ اَقۡفَالُہَا [47:24] i.e. Will they not, then, ponder over the Qur’an, or is it that on the hearts are their locks?
کِتٰبٌ اَنۡزَلۡنٰہُ اِلَیۡکَ مُبٰرَکٌ لِّیَدَّبَّرُوۡۤا اٰیٰتِہٖ وَ لِیَتَذَکَّرَ اُولُوا الۡاَلۡبَابِ
[38:29] i.e. This is a Book which We have revealed to thee, full of blessings, that they may
reflect over its verses, and that those gifted with understanding may take heed. The verse [7:35] cannot be understood in any way other than being about the coming of Messengers in the future, the grammar and context of the Arabic verse not permitting any attempt to relegate it to Messengers before the Prophet Muhammad s.a., or even Prophet Muhammad s.a. himself. Therefore, it will become highly questionable to interpret or understand any other verse/s in such a way as to conflict with this verse.
It is possible that other verses (revealed after this verse) may qualify the clear statement made in this verse, such as by specifying what type of Messengers may come in the future, e.g. restricting it to the followers of the Prophet Muhammad s.a., with the Holy Qur'an being the final Book of religious law.
For those who try to interpret the verse to apply to the past or to the Prophet Muhammad s.a., they would have a problem with the fact that it mentions more than one Messenger, and they would have to explain why other verses with a similar grammatical construction [imma + imperfect verb + nun thaqeela + fa] apply to the future, for example: ... فَاِمَّا تَرَیِنَّ مِنَ الۡبَشَرِ اَحَدًا ۙ فَقُوۡلِیۡۤ اِنِّیۡ نَذَرۡتُ لِلرَّحۡمٰنِ صَوۡمًا فَلَنۡ اُکَلِّمَ الۡیَوۡمَ اِنۡسِیًّا [19:27] ... And if thou seest any man, say, ‘I have vowed a fast to the Gracious God; I will therefore not speak this day to any human being.’” فَاِمَّا نَذۡہَبَنَّ بِکَ فَاِنَّا مِنۡہُمۡ مُّنۡتَقِمُوۡنَ [43:41] And if We take thee away, We shall surely exact retribution from them. If anyone still keeps insisting that no Messengers can come at all despite the verse [7:35] being shown and explained to him/her, this would become a type of kufr or disbelief, as it rejects the clear and categorical, and thus decisive statement in verse [7:35] about the coming of Messengers in the future. One cannot ignore this verse in preference to any other verse either, for the Qur'an states:
اَفَتُؤۡمِنُوۡنَ بِبَعۡضِ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ تَکۡفُرُوۡنَ بِبَعۡضٍ ۚ فَمَا جَزَآءُ مَنۡ یَّفۡعَلُ ذٰلِکَ مِنۡکُمۡ اِلَّا خِزۡیٌ فِی الۡحَیٰوۃِ الدُّنۡیَا ۚ وَ یَوۡمَ الۡقِیٰمَۃِ یُرَدُّوۡنَ اِلٰۤی اَشَدِّ الۡعَذَابِ ؕ وَ مَا اللّٰہُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ
[2:85] i.e. ... Do you, then, believe in part of the Book and disbelieve in part? There is, therefore, no reward for such among you as do this, except disgrace in the present life; and on the Day of Judgment they shall be driven to a most severe chastisement; and surely, Allah is not unmindful of what you do. Another verse teaches us to believe in the entire Book, and not interpretating any verse in such a way as to conflict with another verse: وَ الرّٰسِخُوۡنَ فِی الۡعِلۡمِ یَقُوۡلُوۡنَ اٰمَنَّا بِہٖ ۙ کُلٌّ مِّنۡ عِنۡدِ رَبِّنَا ۚ وَ مَا یَذَّکَّرُ اِلَّاۤ اُولُوا الۡاَلۡبَابِ
[3:7] i.e. ... and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding
The Seal Verse مَا کَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ اَبَاۤ اَحَدٍ مِّنۡ رِّجَالِکُمۡ وَ لٰکِنۡ رَّسُوۡلَ اللّٰہِ وَ خَاتَمَ النَّبِیّٖنَ ؕ وَ کَانَ اللّٰہُ بِکُلِّ شَیۡءٍ عَلِیۡمًا i.e. Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah has full knowledge of all things. The majority of english translators have used the word 'seal' as a translation of the Arabic word 'khaatam', but as we can see in the link below, a few have used the word 'last', as shown in the link below:
https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/33/40/default.htm This deviation appears to be due to bias resulting from a not entirely correct doctrine/aqeedah. Whilst the word 'khaatam' has many meanings according to Classical Arabic lexicons, primary, secondary and metaphorical ones, the word 'aakhir' simply means last or end. Why would Allah use the word 'khaatam' instead of 'aakhir' if all He wished to tell us was that prophethood had ended entirely? Food for thought for those given to reflection. Allah has urged us to ponder over the Noble Qur'an.
The meaning of 'khaatam' is actually a 'stamp', which is rendered into english as 'seal'. It is true that 'seal' does convey a meaning of closure; this however is not the primary or even a secondary meaning of it. It is actually a metaphorical meaning, and is only so because a stamp is often placed on an envelope after it has been closed. The primary meaning of the word 'khaatam' remains that of producing an impress, i.e. a transfer of the features of the seal onto the recipient. A secondary meaning of attestation or authentication is also possible due to the use of a stamp for this purpose. The meanings of 'khatmun' are given in Lane's Classical Arabic Lexicon as follows:
خَتْمٌ (Ṣ, Mgh, Mṣb, Ḳ) and خِتَامٌ, (Lḥ, Ḳ, TA,) with kesr, (TA,) [in the CK, erroneously, خَتَام,] i. q. طَبَعَهُ [He sealed, stamped, imprinted, or impressed, it]: (Mṣb, Ḳ:) or he put the خَاتَم [or signet] upon it: (Mgh:) namely, a thing, (Ṣ, Mgh,) or a writing or book and the like: and خَتَمَ عَلَيْهِ signifies the same [or he put a seal,or the impression of a signet, upon it]
Accord. to Er-Rághib, خَتْمٌ and طَبْعٌ signify The impressing a thing with the engraving of the signet and stamp: and the former [as is indicated, but not plainly expressed, as distinguished from the latter,] is tropically used, sometimes, as meaning the securing oneself from a thing, and protecting[oneself] from it; in consideration of protection by means of sealing upon writings and doors: and sometimes as meaning the producing an impression, or effect, upon a thing from another thing; in consideration of the impress produced [by the signet]: and sometimes it is used as relating to the reaching the end [of a thing]: (TA:) or the primary signification of خَتْمٌ is the act of covering over [a thing]: (Az, TA:) accord. to Zj, the proper meaning of خَتْمٌ and طَبْعٌ is the covering over a thing, and securing oneself from a thing's entering it: some say that the former signifies the concealing a notification of a thing, [as]by putting one's fingers over it, by way of guarding oneself thereby. (TA.)
The tropical or metaphorical meaning of reaching the end is highlighted by muslims due to their mistaken doctrine of absolute finality, which is actually contradicted by their own somewhat erroneous and in fact mythical belief in the physical descent of Jesus a.s. from the sky in the latter days.
The primary meaning of creating an impression by a transfer of the features of the stamp onto a recipient is what is actually meant in the verse, which is talking of a transfer of features in one form or another:
 the transfer of physical features through the genes transmitted from a physical father to his physical son.
 The transfer of the message delivered by a Messenger to his followers.
 The transfer of prophetic attributes from the Prophet Muhammad s.a. to followers of his who may become prophets within his religion, following the Qur'an, and not bringing a new Book to replace the Qur'an.
The grammatical construction of the verse renders absurd the meaning of 'seal of prophethood' as the absolute final prophet. The word 'but' in the sentence means that whatever has been admitted in the first part of the sentence before the 'but' is somehow compensated by the words which follow it, viz.
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, BUT he is the Messenger of Allah AND the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah has full knowledge of all things.
It essentially means that though Muhammad s.a. has not transferred his physical genes to any men among you to carry on his message after he passes away, being a Messenger of Allah, what is important and relevant for the continuation of his message, is that he have followers who carry his message within themselves. And beyond this, the transfer of his Prophetic features onto his sincere followers will ensure the survival of his real message for centuries after him even after many of his followers will have gone astray, for Allah may appoint a few/some true followers of his as Prophets if and when the need arises for reform, and He so wills it.
It is possible to use the metaphorical meaning of 'ending' as well, in the sense that Muhammad s.a. is the last law-bearing Prophet, and no one can now arise who would do away with his message of Islam, and his scripture, the Holy Qur'an. However, this meaning is consistent with and does not cancel the primary meaning of the word 'stamp', which is that of a transfer of prophetic features in the context of the verse, and thus, a continuation of prophethood within the spiritual line of Muhammad s.a.
Whilst this continuation of prophets was previously through the genetic line of Jacob a.s. among the Israelites (and Jesus a.s. is also clearly and categorically reported to have stated that he was "sent only for the lost sheep of the house of Israel" [Matthew 15:24]), it became restricted to the spiritual line of Muhammad s.a. in the verse [33:40]. This was because the message of Prophet Muhammad s.a. was/is for the entire mankind, not just for one people or race/tribe, such as the Israelites.
Hence, whilst the Ahmadiyya understanding of the verse [33:40] is in keeping with [7:35] which firmly affirms that the coming of future Messengers is a definite reality, the non-Ahmadi view is not only grammatically flawed, it also vehemently contradicts [7:35], which is wholly unacceptable for a true believer in Islam. However, the ahlul-hadith don't really care, as they insist on their (criminal) 'false labelling' of entire hadith books as 'sahih', and hasten to declare anyone as kafir who questions the false labelled ahadith that they erroneously uphold as authentic, or quetions their misinterpretations of Qur'an and/or ahadith. The fact is that the only 'sahih' Book is the Holy Qur'an, the 'go-to Book' for Muslims for about 3 centuries, and still the 'go-to Book' for those Ahmadis who wish to keep their religion pure and free from corruptions.
In addition, if one considers the word وَ لٰکِنۡ or 'but' in English, one would realise that it does not make grammatical sense to so that Muhammad s.a. is at the end of a genetic line (no sons), but he is at the end of the line of prophets. There should simply be a وَ i.e. and, in such a grammatical construction. Rather, it means that though he is not the father of any of your males, BUT being a Messenger of Allah, he has numerous followers, AND will also have follower prophets who will carry on his spiritual line.
Can Prophets still come? The standard response to this question from the Ahmadiyya Muslim perspective was given by Hadhrat Chaudhry Muhammad Zafrullah Khan Sahib r.a. in 1950 as follows (his speech starts after 5 mins into the video, and ends at 8:35 mins; his belief about future Subbordinate prophets starting at 6 mins 30 seconds):
He said: "I believe that Subbordinate prophets will continue to arise in Islam when mankind strays from the path of righteousness and needs Divine revelation. ..."
Hadhrat Khalifatul-Masih II r.a. states:
“Likewise they say that however much a person may advance in virtue and goodness, … but God will never make him a prophet, never raise him to that dignity. Their thinking thus is due to not assigning to Allah the attributes due to Him; otherwise, to say nothing of one prophet, I say there shall be thousands of prophets … They question the prophethood of the Promised Messiah a.s., but I say, even now there can be a prophet.” (Anwar-i-Khilafat, p. 62; p. 124, online edition)
“I ask, Is Prophethood a mercy or a curse? If it is a mercy, then why has it come to an end after the Holy Prophet Muhammad s.a.? It should have increased all the more after him. He was a Prophet of a very great status. Therefore a prophet who comes after him must also be of a great status, not that no one could at all become a prophet.” (Anwar-i-Khilafat, p. 64; p. 126, online edition)
“Even if someone placed a sword on my neck and told me to say that no prophet can come after the Holy Prophet s.a., I would say to him: you are a liar, a great liar, prophets can come after the Holy Prophet s.a., most certainly they can.” (Anwar-i-Khilafat, p. 65; p. 127, online edition)
Suggestions for further reading:
(The above book is somewhat harsh in the beginning towards the young sunni muslim man to whom the response is being made, but it becomes scholarly afterwards, so it is still worth reading).
https://www.alislam.org/library/book/khataman-nabiyyeen-interpretations-eminent-learned-scholars-islam/ Here is a useful website which is helpful in further research: http://ahmadianswers.com/prophethood/
(This article is under development) [19:76] Allah increases in guidance those who follow the guidance. [20:47] Peace be upon those who follow the guidance.