- This is about the title of Muhammad; for the related name of the mole on his shoulderblade, see Seal of Prophethood (Khatam An-Nubuwwah); for his actual signet-ring, see Seal of Muhammad.
In a similar metaphor, other hadiths report Muhammad as comparing his relation to other prophets to that of a building missing a similar brick (or keystone) and his representing that brick.
Quranic use of khātam
The title "Khatam an-Nabiyyin" (Arabic: خاتم النبيين, khātam an-nabīyīn), usually translated as "Seal of the Prophets", is applied to Muhammad in verse 33:40 of the Qur'an. The popular Yusuf Ali translation reads,
- "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."
There is a difference among the schools of Qur'anic recitation regarding the reading of the word خاتم in verse 33:40 – it can be read as either khātim or khātam. Of the ten qirā’āt (readings, methods of recitation) regarded as authentic – seven mutawātir and three mashhūr – all read خاتم in this verse with a kasrah on the tāʼ (خاتِم, khātim) with the exception of 'Asim, who reads with a fatḥah on the tāʼ (خاتَم, khātam). The reading of al-Hasan, a shadhdh (aberrant) recitation, is also khātam.
The recitation that has become prevalent in most of the world today is Hafs 'an 'Asim - that is, the qirā’ah of 'Asim in the riwāyah (transmission) of his student Hafs. The reading of 33:40 according to Hafs 'an 'Asim is as follows:
- مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَـٰكِن رَّسُولَ ٱللَّـهِ وَخَاتَمَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَكَانَ ٱللَّـهُ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمًا [note 1]
- mā kāna muḥammadun abā aḥadin min rijālikum wa lākin rasūla ’llāhi wa khātama ’n-nabīyīna wa kāna ’llāhu bikulli shay’in ‘alīmā
The Arabic noun khātam (خَا تَم), meaning "seal" or "signet ring", is derived from the root خ ت م (khā, tā, mīm), with a general meaning of "ending". Words based on this root occurring in the Quran are:
- five times as the form as a verb khatama (خَتَمَ)
- once as the noun khātam (خَا تَم)
- once as the noun khitām (خِتَٰم)
- once as the passive participle makhtūm (مَّخْتُوم)
"Keystone" ("brick") metaphor
In a well-known hadith reported by Abu Hurayrah, Jabir ibn Abd Allah, Ubayy ibn Ka'b, and Abu Sa'id al-Khudri, and recorded by al-Bukhari, Muslim, at-Tirmidhi, Ahmad, an-Nasa'i, and others, Muhammad compared the relationship between himself and the previous prophets to a building missing a single brick. In Sahih al-Bukhari it is reported by Abu Hurayrah that Muhammad said, "My similitude in comparison with the prophets before me is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: 'Would that this brick be put in its place!' So I am that brick, and I am the seal of the prophets" (fa’anā ’l-labinah, wa anā khātamu ’n-nabīyīn). This hadith is narrated with similar wording in Sahih Muslim, Musnad Ahmad, Sunan al-Kubra of an-Nasa'i, and Sahih Ibn Hibban. In Mu'jam al-Awsat, at-Tabarani narrated a variant wording of the hadith with the last statement being, "So I am that [brick], I am the seal of the prophets, there is no prophet after me" (fa’anā dhālika, anā khātamu ’n-nabīyīn, lā nabīya ba‘dī). Ibn Hibban also has a variant ending with "I was the place of that brick, with me concluded the [line of] messengers" (fakuntu anā mawḍi‘u tilka ’l-labinah, khutima biya ’r-rusul). In Sahih Muslim and Musnad Ahmad the hadith is also reported by Jabir ibn Abd Allah, with the last statement being "So I am the place of that brick, I have come and concluded the [line of] prophets" (fa’anā mawḍi‘u ’l-labinah, ji’tu fakhatamtu ’l-anbiyā’).  Abu Dawud at-Tayalisi in his Musnad has from Jabir, "So I am the place of that brick, with me concluded the [line of] prophets" (fa’anā mawḍi‘u ’l-labinah, khutima biya ’l-anbiyā’).
In another hadith, Muhammad prophesized the appearance of a number of false prophets before the day of judgement, while asserting his status as the seal of the prophets. It is reported by Thawban ibn Bajdad that Muhammad said, "The Hour will not be established until tribes of my ummah (community) unite with the idolaters, and until they worship idols. And in my ummah there will be thirty liars, each of whom will claim to be a prophet, (but) I am the seal of the prophets, there is no prophet after me." (kulluhum yaz‘umu annahu nabī, wa anā khātamu ’n-nabīyīn, lā nabīya ba‘dī). Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman reports that Muhammad said, "In my ummah there will twenty-seven liars and dajjals, among whom are four women, (but) I am the seal of the prophets, there is no prophet after me".
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community while accepting Muhammad as the 'seal of Prophets' and the last prophet to have brought a complete and comprehensive universal law for humanity, believe that prophethood subordinate to Muhammad is still open. Muhammad is believed to have brought prophethood to perfection and was the last law-bearing prophet, the apex of man's spiritual evolution. New prophets can come but they must be subordinate to Muhammad and cannot exceed him in excellence nor alter his teaching or bring any new law or religion. The Ahmadiyya community believes Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be the promised Messiah and Mahdi, who claimed a certain kind of prophethood but never claimed to have brought a new divine law or change the law of Muhammad, but to have been Divinely appointed to revive and universally establish the law/religion of Muhammad. The Ahmadiyya community draws upon various opinions of Islamic scholars throughout the history of Islam to show the possibility of non-law bearing prophethood within Islam.
Carl W. Ernst considers this phrase to mean that Muhammad's "imprint on history is as final as a wax seal on a letter". According to Arabic lexicon and the linguistic usage, khatam means "to affix seal; to close, to come to an end; and to carry something to its ultimate end". Wilferd Madelung states that the meaning of this term is not certain.
Views of other religions
The Bahá'í Faith regards Muhammad as a Manifestation of God and as the seal of the prophets, but does not interpret this term as meaning that no further messengers from God are possible. In particular, Bahá'ís regard the end-times prophecies of Islam (and other faiths) as being symbolic, and see the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh as symbolically fulfilling these prophetic expectations. The latter of these is the founder of the Bahá'í religion, which considers Islamic law to have been superseded by its own. Muhammad is seen as ending the Adamic cycle, also known as the Prophetic cycle, which is stated to have begun approximately 6,000 years ago, and the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh as starting the Bahá'í cycle, or Cycle of Fulfillment, which will last at least five hundred thousand years with numerous Manifestations of God appearing throughout that time. Bahá'u'lláh gave the Title "King of the Messengers" (sultán al-rusul) to the Báb, and the "Sender of the Messengers" (mursil al-rusul) to himself. In the Kitáb-i-Íqán, he uses the Islamic concept of the oneness of the prophets to show that the term "seal of the prophets" does not apply to Muhammad only, but to all the prophets. He also makes a direct link between Qur'an 33:40, about the seal of the prophets, and 33:44, about the promise of the "attainment of the divine Presence" on the day of resurrection, which he interprets as the meeting with the Manifestation of God. The day of resurrection is interpreted as the day of the advent of the Qa'im or Mahdi. These interpretive and legal differences have caused the Bahá'ís to be seen as heretics and apostates by many Muslims, which has led to their persecution in various countries.
The concept of the finality of prophethood of Muhammad has caused controversy in recent times. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, hold Mirza Ghulam Ahmad to be a prophet subordinate to Muhammad. Ahmed claimed to be the "Promised Messiah" and Mahdi in 1889 and founded a movement in Qadian, India. His claims resulted in a violent reaction among many Muslims of the Indian subcontinent.
Salafi and Sunni scholars vehemently opposed him and in subsequent years a movement opposed to Ahmadiyya beliefs was founded. This movement, at times violent, is still very active in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries where Ahmadiyya adherents are present.
- مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَكِن رَّسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَاتَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ ...وَكَانَ اللَّهُ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمًا ﴿٤٠﴾ ... (English Translation: "Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets, for Allah has full knowledge of all things." (The Quran 33:40)
- The Qur'an. 33:40.
- Friedmann, Yohanan (1986). "Finality of Prophethood in Sunni Islam". Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 7: 177–215.
- at-Tabari. Jami' al-Bayan fi Tafsir al-Qur'an (in Arabic). 33:40.
- al-Qurtubi. al-Jami' al-Ahkam al-Qur'an (in Arabic). 33:40.
- "Comparison of Ayat by Riwayat - Surah al-Ahzab v. 30". nQuran.com (in Arabic).
- Noun (33:40:11) wakhātama and Seal مَا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَا أَحَدٍ مِنْ رِجَالِكُمْ وَلَٰكِنْ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَخَا تَمَ النَّبِيِّينَ Noun Khatama 
- Kha ta ma
- as-Suyuti. Durr al-Manthur. 33:40.
- الشواهد (Corroborating narrations for this hadith). Islamweb.com.
- Sahih al-Bukhari. Kitab al-Manaqib. Hadith 44. Sunnah.com
- Muslim, Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Fada'il, Hadith 24, Sunnah.com
- al-Bukhari, Sahih al-Bukhari, #3293; Muslim, Sahih Muslim, #4246; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, #8959; an-Nasa'i, Sunan al-Kubra, #10907; Ibn Hibban, Sahih Ibn Hibban, #6541, Islamweb.net
- at-Tabarani, Mu'jam al-Awsat, #3382, Islamweb.net
- Ibn Hibban, Sahih Ibn Hibban, #6543, Islamweb.net
- Muslim, Sahih Muslim, Kitab al-Fada'il, Hadith 26, Sunnah.com
- Muslim, Sahih Muslim, #4247; Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, #14593, Islamweb.net
- Abu Dawud at-Tayalisi, Musnad Abi Dawud at-Tayalisi, #1884, Islamweb.net
- at-Tirmidhi. Jami' at-Tirmidhi. Kitab al-Fitan. Hadith 62. Sunnah.com
- Abu Dawud as-Sijistani. Sunan Abi Dawud. Kitab al-Fitan wal-Malahim. Hadith 13. Sunnah.com
- at-Tirmidhi, Jami' at-Tirmidhi, #2149; Abu Dawud as-Sijistani, Sunan Abi Dawud, #3712; Ibn Hibban, Sahih Ibn Hibban, #7395, Islamweb.net
- Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, #22747; at-Tabarani, Mu'jam al-Awsat, #5596, Mu'jam al-Kabir, #2957; at-Tahawi, Mushkil al-Athar, #2493, Islamweb.net
- The Question of Finality of Prophethood, The Promised Mehdi and Messiha, by Dr. Aziz Ahmad Chaudhry, Islam International Publications Limited
- Encyclopedia of Islam, Muhammad
- Madelung (2004), p.17
- Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, March 13, 1986. Published in Effendi, Shoghi; The Universal House of Justice (1983). Hornby, Helen (Ed.), ed. Lights of Guidance: A Bahá'í Reference File. Bahá'í Publishing Trust, New Delhi, India. p. 500. ISBN 81-85091-46-3.
- Taherzadeh, Adib (1977). The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Volume 2: Adrianople 1863–68. Oxford, UK: George Ronald. p. 352. ISBN 0-85398-071-3.
- Seena Fazel and Khazeh Fananapazir (1993). "A Bahá'í Approach to the Claim of Finality in Islam". Journal of Bahá'í Studies 5 (3): 17–40.
- Islam and the Bahá'í Faith: Seal of the Prophets[dead link]
- Kamran Hakim: A Personal Interpretation of the Term 'Seal of the Prophets'
- Quran 33:40
- Quran 33:44
- Buck, Christopher (2007). Beyond the ‘Seal of the Prophets’: Baha’ullah’s Book of Certitude (Ketab-e Iqan). Religious Texts in Iranian Languages. Edited by Clause Pedersen & Fereydun Vahman. København (Copenhagen): Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab. Pp. 369–378.
- Buck, Christopher (1995). Symbol & Secret: Qur'án Commentary in Bahá'u'lláh's Kitáb-i-Iqán, pp. 191–198. Los Angeles, USA: Kalimát Press. ISBN 0-933770-80-4.
- Majlise Tahaffuze Khatme Nabuwwat
- Report on the situation of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan – Majlis Tahafuz-e-Khatam-e-Nabuwwat<!- Bot generated title -->
- Persecution of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan: An Analysis Under International Law and International Relations Harvard Human Rights Journal, Vol 16, September 2003
Violent Dhaka Rally against Sect, BBC News
Eight die in Pakistan Sect Attack, BBC News
Sect offices closed in Pakistan, BBC News