Khatamun Nabiyyeen – What does the word ‘Khatam’ mean?
In the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and in Arabic dictionaries, the word Khatam primarily means a signet ring, a seal, a stamp, an impression or an imprint. It also signifies the one who verifies, an embellishment or ornament, the best and the most perfect.
As a secondary meaning it means to reach the end of, covered and protected by a means of a seal. Whereas, the word Khatimcould primarily mean ‘last’. But the Holy Quran uses a fatah not a kasra, therefore the best translation would be ‘the Seal of Prophets’ or ‘the Best of Prophets’.
In the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, the word Khatam was used extensively to emphasis that such a person was the best of whatever they are doing. It was never used to say that such a person was the last to do such a thing. The Holy Prophet is recorded to have said:
I am Khatamul Anmbiya (Best of Prophets) and O Ali you are Khatamul Auliya (Best of Saints) Tafseer e Safi (Shi’ite Tafseer of the Holy Quran)
Again the Holy Prophet is recorded to have said to his Uncle Hazrat Abbas:
O my Uncle! Verily you are Khatamul Muhajireen (Best of those who emigrated) just like I am Khatamun Nabiyyeen
Kanzul Ummal Vol 6 p178
Additionally, Hazrat Imam Shaf’iee was called Khatamul Auliya (Best of Saints) in Al Tuhfat us Sunniah, and Abu Tayyib was called Khatamu Shu‘ara (Best of poets) in Divan al Mutanabbi.
What does it mean? These titles never meant that no more saints, emigrants and poets would come, instead it is just a title to emphasis that they were best of their category and contemporaries. It was a common title used in those days. Again we see:
Verily, I am the last of the Prophets and my Mosque is the last of the Mosques
Here a different word is used for last – Akhir, but the sense is the same. If the Holy Prophet meant that no prophet would come after him, then he also means that no Mosque would be built after his Mosque. Yet we see thousands of Mosques have been built after this mosque. Therefore, this can only mean that as there will be no more new religions after Islam, and so there will be no other new places of worship after the Mosque.