Quranic Reflection No. 394. Ayat 34:28 – Universality of the Prophetic Mission

وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَاكَ إِلَّا كَافَّةً لِلنَّاسِ بَشِيرًا وَنَذِيرًا وَلَٰكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ
Wamā arsalnāka illā kāffatan linnāsi bashīran wanadhīran
walākinna aktharan-nāsi lā ya‘lamūn
We did not send you except as a bearer of good news and warner to all mankind,
but most people do not know.

(Sūrat Saba’, No.34, Āyat 28)

This verse declares the universality of the mission of Prophet Muhammad sallāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam. He was sent for all of mankind, to guide them towards their Lord. The message was not just for one group of people but was intended for all human beings.

The word ‘kāffatan’ is from ‘kaff’, the palm of the human being. Because the human being uses the hand to gather things or turn them away, the word is used for that purpose. In the context of this verse, according to Tafsīr Namūne, the word could mean to gather all people towards one goal. The word ‘kāffatan’ in this verse could also mean that the mission of the Prophet was to turn all people away from disobedience to God.

The verse points to the universality of Islamic mission. Many verses of Quran and Hadith support this interpretation. Allah says: Blessed is He who sent down the Criterion to His servant that he may be a warner to all the nations. (Q 25:1) And this Quran has been revealed to me that I may warn thereby you and whomever it may reach (Q 6:19).

The Prophet (s) also mentioned the universality of his mission as one of the outstanding blessings he had been granted. He said:
I have been given five things – and I do not say this out of any sense of superiority:
• I have been sent to all races
• the earth has been made pure for me and a place for prayer
• war booty is halal for me while it was not halal for anyone before me
• I have been helped by the instilling of fear in the hearts of the enemies
• I have been given the power of intercession and I have saved this for my Ummah on the Day of Judgment. (Hadith quoted in Tafsīr Majma’ al-Bayān)

According to Tafsīr Majma al-Bayan, the word ‘kāffatan’ is a description of how the message was sent. Grammatically it is considered to be a circumstantial adverb that gives details about the verb. It indicates that the sending of the message encompassed all of human race and their needs.

The two descriptions of the role of the Prophet as a bearer or good news and a warner show the type of mission he brought. He guided them towards that which would be good for them in both the worlds, giving them good news of a loving and kind Lord and of a blissful Hereafter which awaited them if they obeyed Him. He was also a warner and told them about the consequences of giving in to their desires and disobeying the Creator. Both tactics are necessary to encourage people towards a particular path.

This verse is a reminder of the status of the Prophet (s). As we celebrate his birthday and give thanks for the blessing that was sent to mankind, let us remember his role as described in the Quran. He is the final Prophet, for all times and all people to come.

Sources: Shaykh Tabarsī, Tafsīr Majma’ al-Bayān; Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (Ed.), Tafsīr-e Namūneh.