Muhammad and the Seal of Prophethood

A Sign or A Physical Deformity?

Sam Shamoun

The Quran says that Muhammad is the seal of the prophets:

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Apostle of God, and the Seal of the Prophets: and God has full knowledge of all things. S. 33:40 Y. Ali

Now at first glance this text seems to imply nothing more than that Muhammad was the culmination of prophethood, that he was the last in a series of spokespersons that Allah had sent. Reading the hadith literature, however, it is obvious that according to Muslim sources this seal was more than a statement regarding Muhammad’s status in relation to the previous prophets. All bold and underline emphasis will be ours.

Sahih al-Bukhari

Narrated As Saib bin Yazid
My aunt took me to the Prophet and said, "O Allah’s Apostle! This son of my sister has got a disease in his legs." So he passed his hands on my head and prayed for Allah's blessings for me; then he performed ablution and I drank from the remaining water. I stood behind him and saw the seal of Prophethood between his shoulders, and it was like the "Zir-al-Hijla" (means the button of a small tent, but some said 'egg of a partridge.' etc.) (Volume 1, Book 4, Number 189)

Narrated As Saib
My aunt took me to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! My nephew is ill." The Prophet touched my head with his hand and invoked Allah to bless me. He then performed ablution and I drank of the remaining water of his ablution and then stood behind his back and saw "Khatam An-Nubuwwa" (The Seal of Prophethood) between his shoulders like a button of a tent. (Volume 7, Book 70, Number 574)

Sahih Muslim


Jabir b. Samura reported: I saw the seal on his back as if it were a pigeon's egg. (Book 030, Number 5790)

Abdullah b. Sarjis reported: I saw Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and ate with him bread and meat, or he said Tharid (bread soaked in soup). I said to him: Did Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) seek forgiveness for you? He said: Yes, and for you, and he then recited this verse: "Ask forgiveness for thy sin and for the believing men and believing women" (xlvii. 19). I then went after him and saw the Seal of Prophethood between his shoulders on the left side of his shoulder having spots on it like moles. (Book 030, Number 5793)

Sunan of Abu Dawud

Narrated Qurrah ibn Iyas al-Muzani:
I came to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) with a company of Muzaynah and we swore allegiance to him. The buttons of his shirt were open. I swore allegiance to him and I put my hand inside the collar of his shirt and felt the seal… (Book 32, Number 4071)

Jami (Sunan) of at-Tirmidhi

Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib
When Ali described the Prophet (peace be upon him) he said: He was neither very tall nor excessively short, but was a man of medium size. He had neither very curly nor flowing hair but a mixture of both. He was not obese, he did not have a very round face, but it was so to some extent. He was reddish-white, he had wide black eyes and long eyelashes. He had protruding joints and shoulder-blades, he was not hairy but had some hair on his chest, and the palms of his hands and his feet were calloused. When he walked he raised his feet as though he were walking on a slope; when he turned round he turned completely. Between his shoulders was the seal of prophecy and he was the seal of the prophets. He had a finer chest than anyone else, was truer in utterance than anyone else, had the gentlest nature and the noblest tribe. Those who saw him suddenly stood in awe of him and those who shared his acquaintanceship loved him. Those who described him said they had never seen anyone like him before or since.
Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Hadith 1524; ALIM CD-Rom Version)

Narrated AbuMusa
AbuTalib went to ash-Sham (Syria) accompanied by the Prophet (may Allah bless him) along with some shaykhs of Quraysh. When they came near where the monk was they alighted and loosened their baggage, and the monk came out to them although when they had passed that way previously he had not done so. While they were loosening their baggage the monk began to go about among them till he came and, taking Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) by the hand, said, "This is the chief of the universe; this is the messenger of the Lord of the universe whom Allah is commissioning as a mercy to the universe." Some shaykhs of Quraysh asked him how he knew, and he replied, "When you came over the hill not a tree or a stone failed to bow in prostration, and they prostrate themselves only before a prophet. I recognize him by the seal of prophecy, like an apple, below the end of his shoulder-blade." He then went and prepared food for them, and when he brought it to them the Prophet (peace be upon him) was looking after the camels, so he told them to send for him. He came with a cloud above him shading him and when he approached the people he found they had gone before him into the shade of a tree. Then when he sat down the shade of the tree inclined over him, and the monk said, "Look how the shade of the tree has inclined over him. I adjure you by Allah to tell me which of you is his guardian." On being told that it was AbuTalib he kept adjuring him to send him back until he did so. AbuBakr sent Bilal along with him and the monk gave him provisions of a bread and olive-oil. (Hadith 1534; ALIM CD-Rom Version)

Tarikh (History of) al-Tabari

… When Bahira saw this, he descended from his cell and sent the caravan a message inviting them all… Finally he looked at Muhammad’s back, and saw the seal of prophethood between his shoulders… He replied, … "I also recognize him by the seal of prophethood which is below the cartilage of his shoulders and which is like an apple." … (The History of al-Tabari: Muhammad at Mecca, translated and annotated by W. Montgomery Watt and M. V. McDonald [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1988], Volume VI, pp. 45, 46)

Al-Harith – Muhammad b. Sa‘d – Muhammad b. ‘Umar – ‘Ali b. ‘Isa al-Hakami – his father – ‘Amir b. Rabi‘ah: I heard Zayd b. ‘Amr b. Nufayl saying … "He is a man who is neither short nor tall, whose hair is neither abundant nor sparse, whose eyes are always red, and who has the seal of prophethood between his shoulders. His name is Ahmad…" (p. 64)

Ahmad b. Sinan al-Qattan al-Wasiti – Abu Mu‘awiyah – A‘mash – Abu Zibyan – Ibn ‘Abbas: A man of the Banu ‘Amir came to the Prophet and said, "Show me the seal which is between your shoulders, and if you lie under any enchantment I will cure you, for I am the best enchanter of the Arabs." "Do you wish me to show you a sign?" asked the Prophet. "Yes," said the man, "summon that cluster of dates." So the Prophet looked at a cluster of dates hanging from a date palm and summoned it, and began to snap his finger until it stood before him. Then the man said, "Tell it to go back," and it went back. The Amiri said, "O Banu Amir, I have never seen a greater magician than I have seen today." (Pp. 66-67)

"Then one said to the other, ‘Open his breast.’ He opened my heart, and took out from it the pollution of Satan and the clot of blood, and threw them away. Then one said to the other, ‘Wash his breast as you would a receptacle– or, wash his heart as you would a covering.’ Then he summoned the sakinah, which looked like the face of a white cat, and it was placed in my heart. Then one of them said to the other, ‘Sew up his breast.’ So they sewed up my breast and placed the seal between my shoulders…" (p. 75)

It turns out that Muhammad’s seal of prophethood was a physical deformity, a mole with spots, which conflicting reports say was shaped either like an apple, the button of a small tent or like the egg of a partridge! It is simply beyond us how this is supposed to be one of the proofs that convince people of Muhammad’s prophethood!

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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