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"The religion of Jesus is a threat, that of Muhammad is a promise." -- Napoleon Bonaparte (O'Meara, Napoleon in Exile)
It is now an accepted fact among educated Muslims that some Muslim beliefs and practices have also become covered by the dust of the centuries. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) was a prominent figure of Muslim India for his attempts to cleanse such Muslim beliefs as had suffered in the process of history. On March 26, 1891 Mirza Ghulam Ahmad issued a leaflet in which he clarified the errors in the beliefs that Muslims held about Jesus. This was followed by two books, Fath Islam and Taudhih-i Maram, in which he discussed his reasons for discarding those Muslim dogmas. These publications caused widespread indignation amongst Muslims, as all important reforms do, and the Mirza lost the popularity that he had previously enjoyed.
An English translation of the second book, that is, Taudhih-i Maram, appears in the following pages. My purpose in making available to the English reading public a controversial book of the Mirza is not to extend a disputed issue into another language, but to stress the need for an examination of Christian and Muslim beliefs, particularly those related to the person of Jesus. Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was neither a fanatic nor was he prone to violence. He spoke, wrote and discussed problems with the calm dignity and authority of a scholar and a man of insight. Even if he raised controversial issues, it is only right that they should be considered, because he was deeply concerned with the religious needs of the modern age. A sifting of the real from the unreal, on the lines of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, will, it is hoped, lead to renewed vigour and understanding within and between these two major world religions, believers in which admire, respect and believe in Jesus.
I have tried to keep the translation as literal as possible, and in many instances, when I have thought that a word for word translation may not be intelligible, I have taken the liberty of conveying the thought of the Mirza in idiomatic English.
For the completion of this work I owe may gratitude to the late Shaikh Ghulam Qadir of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat-i-Islam, Lahore, West Pakistan, for proposing and encouraging me to undertake this translation and to my brother, Nasir Ahmad, whose invaluable help I cannot sufficiently acknowledge in words.
1 August, 1966
A Glossary Of
Muslim Theological Terms:
Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
Qadian, where he was born and where he spent most of his life, is now a small town which lies roughly a hundred miles north-east of Lahore (West Pakistan) and over three hundred miles north-west of Delhi (India). From what was then an insignificant village, he not only created a stir among religious people throughout the world but also established a movement which, despite severe opposition from co-religionists and others, still commands their respect. However, these are the least of his achievements compared with the one hundred and thirty publications that bear his name, of which sixty are books of a high scholastic standard. Some of these works consist of more than one volume and are to be found in three languages -- Urdu, Arabic and Persian. He wrote both prose and verse and managed to publish all this as well as numerous letters, speeches and discourses, many of which remain unpublished. Even by modern standards this is no small achievement and appears more remarkable when it is realised that he never set foot in a place of higher learning and remained accustomed to the simple village life of Qadian.
Today, he has a following of at least a hundred thousand, spread in many countries of the world but mainly concentrated in Pakistan. For them, even more than fifty years after his death [Note by the Webmaster: Now nearing a hundred years since he passed away], he is a source of inspiration and guidance. History will judge him not by the numbers that follow him but by the contribution he made to world religious thought. A study of his works leaves one with the following important impressions:
1. The main obstacle to religious growth and development is the hope that exists in some religions of a 'Saviour'. He went to endless trouble to analyse and clarify such dogmas.
Due to the amount of work he managed to accomplish in his life, and as many of his views involved substantial reformation, it was inevitable that there should have been considerable misunderstanding of his life and work. I have, therefore, considered it necessary to include this short biography as a prelude to a translation of one of his controversial writings. Those interested in a detailed biography of the Mirza will benefit considerably from Mujaddid-i Azam (in three volumes in Urdu) by Dr. Basharat Ahmad, who enlists the view of the British (Christian) editor of Pioneer (Allahabad, India) who, on the death of the Mirza, wrote:
"Those people who create a stir in the field of religion in the world, are more akin to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad than the Archbishop of Canterbury in England" (Lahore 1940 CE, p. 1235, vol. II).
I hope this will help to remove some of the misunderstandings about this religious figure. Prejudice darkens the brightest horizon. -- Translator
The Second Advent
of the Messiah: A Discussion of some
Still clinging to their own ideas, they will try to prove that they are right, and will oppose me in the capacity of accusers. This will eventually prove a stumbling block to their understanding. Thus, it will then be difficult or impossible for them to get out of the situation and retract their declared views. It is common observation that when a maulawi declares publicly that his views are based on established facts (which in fact they are not) and pronounces them to be his final verdict on the matter, then he finds it worse than death to give up those views. I have, therefore, decided, through the mercy of God, that before my opponents contradict me and get involved in the curses of obstinacy and stubbornness, everything should be explained to them reasonably and plainly, and in a manner that should satisfy a person who is wise, just, and a seeker-after-truth. If I am compelled to write any further on this subject, then it will probably have to be for people who are extremely simple and dim; who are not only ignorant of, but do not have even an inkling of idioms, metaphors and the finer exposition of Divine messages, and who fall in the category of those who have no understanding of such matters at all.
First, for the sake of elucidation, I wish to submit that according to the Bible, the Hadith [Sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)] and works of history, there are two prophets who are believed to have ascended to heaven in their physical form. One of them is John the Baptist who is also called Elias and Enoch; the second is the Messiah, son of Mary, who is also known as 'Isa and Jesus. Both the Old and New Testaments record that these prophets ascended to heaven and will descend to earth at a later date, and that they will be seen descending from heaven. A somewhat similar account is contained in the Hadith of the Prophet. About Enoch, who has also been called John the son of Zacharias, and Elias, in the Bible, the Gospels declare that with the birth of Yahya bin Zakariyyah [Yahya son of Zacharias], the prophecy of his descent has been fulfilled. For that reason, the Messiah unequivocally said that whether or not people were prepared to accept the fact, Yahya bin Zakariyyah was the John who was supposed to come according to the prophecy. Thus in this instance where a prophet was supposed to have ascended to heaven and was believed to appear at a later date, a definite judgement was given; and the truth and circumstances of the second advent were thereby disclosed. Therefore, the unanimous belief of all Christians, in accordance with the Gospels, should be that John the Baptist, whose descent from heaven was awaited, took place at the time of the Messiah, through the birth of Yahya (John) in the family of Zakariyyah (Zacharias); whose nature and characteristics were similar to those of John. The Jews, of course, still await his descent and believe that he will in fact descend from heaven. First, he will descend on the minarets of the sacred temple of Jerusalem. The Jews will then gather there and arrange for his descent to earth with the aid of a ladder. When the Jews are confronted with the interpretation given by the Messiah (peace be upon him) to the descent of John the Baptist, they are quickly angered and utter unbecoming things about the Messiah and Elijah and believe that the utterances of the Prophet Jesus are heretic. However, the meaning of the term 'descent from heaven' is made clear by the aforementioned saying of the Messiah. The saying settles the question of John the Baptist's descent from heaven and reveals how his descent took place. Even to this day it is enthusiastically mentioned that the Messiah will descend robed in regal and expensive clothes [Footnote: These clothes will be like pashmiynah (a woollen cloth), abraysham (silk), churiya (silk), zari (gold brocade), or cotton fabrics like nayn sukh, tan zaib, aing, chikan, gulshan, malmal (muslin), jaliy (lace) khasa dor or char khana. Has there ever been anyone who has woven or sewn such clothes in heaven? No Muslim or Christian has ever thrown light on this matter.] and will be accompanied by angels. But the two communities (Jews and Christians) do not agree on the place of his descent, whether it will take place in the sacred city of Makkah, some cathedral in London or at one of the sovereign churches of Moscow. If the established beliefs of Christianity were not an obstacle, the Christians would then find it possible to understand the Muslim view that the advent of the Messiah should be in accordance with the interpretation offered by the Messiah himself, for it is inconceivable that two contradictory interpretations should be given for two instances of the same event. For the wise it is worth their consideration that if the interpretation which the Messiah gave to the descent of John the Baptist was in fact correct, then should not that very interpretation be applied to the question of the descent of the Messiah, which is an event similar to that of John the Baptist? In this manner a prophet has unfolded the reality of a subtle matter, which also corresponds with and is supported by natural laws. How can such a striking and straightforward concept be abandoned and replaced by one that is self-created, tangled and subject to doubt? Can the conscience of knowledgeable and honest people, in view of the aforementioned saying of the Messiah, accept anything besides it? Ten years ago some Christians published in English journals their belief that the advent of the Messiah was to take place in three years. Now that God has revealed the person who was to come, it is incumbent on Christians, that they should be the first to accept him, so that they are not condemned by their own prophecy.
The Christians also believe that the Messiah entered paradise after the crucifixion. In the Gospel of St. Luke, the Messiah says to a thief:
"Today shalt thou be with me in a paradise" (Luke, 23:43).
It is the belief of all Christians that anyone who once enters paradise is not turned out of it, however humble that person might be. Muslims also have this belief Almighty God says in the Quran:
Those who are admitted to paradise will thereafter not be turned out of it (5:48).
Although the entry of the Messiah into paradise is not expressly mentioned in the Quran, on three occasions it mentions his death:
(i) I spake unto them only that which Thou commandest me, (saying): Worship God, my Lord and your Lord. I was a witness of them while I dwelt among them, and when Thou didst cause me to die, Thou wast the Watcher over them. Thou art Witness over all things (5:117).
The death of pious servants of God and their entry into paradise are always mentioned together in the verses of the Quran. And according to the following verses of the Quran there should be no doubt that pious servants of God do enter paradise.
It was said: Enter the Garden (36:26)
It is, therefore, essential that both Christians and Muslims should seriously consider this matter, for how can it be possible that such a loved servant of God should first be admitted to paradise and then turned out of it? Is this not a breach of God's promise that the entrants to paradise will not be turned out of it? This is a pledge which is repeated in all the revealed books of God. Does not the breach of such an important guarantee given in no uncertain terms cast doubt on the other assurances given by God? Undoubtedly the holders of such a belief not only cast adverse reflection on the Messiah but, by such absurd utterances, they also degrade the position of God and gravely insult Him. Much careful thought should be given to this matter. Correct interpretation can eradicate this apparent contradiction between a minor (erroneous) belief and important religious truths. In fact, it is such a pernicious belief that, woven among threads of confusion, it provides a matter for ridicule by hostile elements.
I have said once before that the unbelievers of Makkah asked the Prophet to perform the miracle of ascending to and descending from heaven before their very eyes. The answer to this was given in the words of the Quran:
Say: Glory to my Lord! am I aught but a mortal messenger? (17:93).
In His infinite wisdom, God does not allow such clear manifestations to take place in this world of tribulations and thus make ineffective the principle of belief in the unseen.
Now I conclude that if a certain matter is not worthy of the Prophet Muhammad who was the best of all the prophets and the matter does not form part of a divine law, then how can it be worthy of the Messiah? It will be a gross insult to the Prophet if we believe that a certain supernatural phenomenon is inappropriate for him, but on the basis of a mere conjecture we should consider it possible for the Messiah. Can any honest Muslim really be so insolent and audacious? Never! Not on any account.
It is also worth mentioning that the aforementioned idea, which has been current among Muslims for some time, cannot be genuinely traced in our books. It is an erroneous assumption created by a misunderstanding of some of the Sayings of the Prophet. Fabrications have been introduced into these Sayings; they have been augmented with unfounded details and all such matters were ignored which have pointed to the truth of this issue. The hadith which clarifies this question most thoroughly is the one which is recorded by Imam Muhammad Ismail Bukhari (peace of God be upon him), which is recorded in his Sahih on the authority of Abu Hurairah (may God be pleased with him) and it states: Kayfa antum idha anzala ibn Maryam fikum wa imamukum minkum (What will be your condition on the day when the son of Mary will descend in your midst? Who will he be? He will be your spiritual leader (Imam) and will be from among you). Thus according to this hadith the Prophet has made it plain that it will be wrong to conclude that by the term 'son of Mary', is meant Jesus the son of Mary. In fact this title has been used metaphorically and states that the person referred to will be from among you, will be from your Muslim community and will be born with the qualities of the son of Mary. At this point, followers of the old class of thought interpret this hadith to mean that when the Messiah will descend from heaven, he will come after being relieved of his prophethood, will not be concerned with the Gospels, will join the Muslim community and act upon the Quran, will offer his five daily prayers, like other Muslims, and will in fact call himself a Muslim! But it is never explained why and for what reason he will be reduced to such a position. However, our Muslim brothers do concede this much, that on that day Jesus the son of Mary will be a Muslim, who will declare himself as one of the followers of Muhammad and will not even mention the prophethood which was granted to him before. As a matter of fact, this is a serious obstacle which our brothers are confronted with and which has been caused by imputing reality to a matter which is essentially a metaphor; and this has compelled them to suggest that a prophet (that is, Jesus) will be deprived of his ministry.
If they were to accept the plain and simple meanings contained in the revered words of the Prophet, which are in accordance with what was said by the Messiah about the prophet, John the Baptist, then they could free themselves from their self-inflicted difficulties. There would, thus, be no need to believe in the expulsion of the soul of the Messiah from Paradise, or to suggest that an honoured prophet discard the mantle of his prophethood, or be guilty of hypocritical praise of the Prophet, or to accept an abrogation of some of the commandments of the Quran.
Perhaps the last stand of our brothers would be that some words contained in the authentic ahadith, which describe the indications of the advent of the Messiah, would otherwise be difficult to reconcile or explain. For example, it is mentioned in the ahadith that when the Messiah comes he will destroy the Cross, abolish the Jizyah (security tax), slay pigs and come at a time when the bad characteristics of Jews and Christians have spread among Muslims. I maintain that by the destruction of the Cross is meant not a physical war against Christianity but a cleansing of the religion of the Cross by spiritual means and by pointing out the falsity of its beliefs. It points to the fact that at that time hearts will be drawn towards truth and reality; there will be no need for religious wars; the trend will develop to enter the fold of Islam in multitudes and large numbers. When people will be attracted to Islam and a host of people will accept this faith, then on whom will it be possible to levy jizyah? All this will not happen suddenly. The foundations for such conditions are being laid now. By 'pigs' is meant people with swine-like characteristic. At that time such people will be won through reason and intelligent persuasion and not by a righteous prophet wandering through forests hunting for pigs. It will be the sword of manifest truths that will slay them.
The Essential Role
of Figurative Speech in Languages:
I will now like to state that our guide, leader and master (the last of all prophets) in order to establish a distinction between the first Messiah and the second, has not only said that the second Messiah will be a Muslim, that he will follow the Quranic shariah [religious law], will follow the commandments of the Quran regarding prayers and fasting, will be born among Muslims, will be their guide, will not introduce a new shariah and will not claim an independent prophethood, but he has even disclosed that there will be an apparent difference in the physical features of the two Messiahs. Thus the description of the first Messiah, as the Prophet saw him on the night of his spiritual ascension [Miraj] is that he was of medium height, of ruddy complexion with curly ginger hair and broad shoulders (Sahih al-Bukhari, p. 489.) In the same collection of ahadith, the Prophet has described him as a man of wheatish complexion with straight hair hanging down to his ears. If we reflect on these distinguishing features of the first and the second Messiah which have been mentioned by the Prophet (may the peace of God be upon him), are they not sufficient to assure us that the act of referring to both the first and the second Messiah in the words 'son of Mary' is in fact a subtle metaphorical expression, used because of their identical nature and spiritual qualities? It is obvious that two pious people, because of their innate characteristics, can be called by the same name. In the same way two bad characters, because of their equal share in an evil matter, for purposes of speech can both be referred to by either one name or the other. When Muslims name their children Ahmad, Moses, Jesus, Solomon, David and so on, they do this in the hope that they will receive some of the blessings which are associated with these names. The intention of these parents in so doing is to expect in good faith that children bearing such names will grow up to develop spiritual characteristics similar to those of the patriarchs whose names they acquire, and with such perfect similarity and likeness as to be exactly like them.
If it is contended that the first Messiah was a prophet and therefore the second Messiah must also be a prophet, then the first argument to this point is that our guide and master (the Prophet) has not laid down the condition that the coming Messiah would also be a prophet. It is explicitly said that he will be a Muslim and like any other Muslim will abide by the Quranic shariah; he will claim nothing besides being a Muslim and a spiritual leader (imam) of the Muslims. Moreover, it is undoubtedly true that my humble self has been appointed by God, the Most High as a muhaddath (transmitter of Divine communications) for this ummah. In some respects a muhaddath is also a prophet, but a prophethood of this kind is incomplete and limited. A muhaddath enjoys a fraction of the prophethood in so far as he enjoys the privilege of being in communion with Almighty God; hidden secrets are revealed to him; the revelations he receives are protected from satanic influences, like the protection that is granted to revelations received by fully authorised Prophets and Messengers; the essence of shariah is disclosed to him and he is commissioned exactly like prophets. As with prophets, it is his duty to openly proclaim himself. Those who reject him are to a certain extent liable to chastisement. Except for what has been mentioned above, nothing else is meant by such prophethood.
Various Forms of
May you be well-guided by the Almighty God. Be aware of the fact that in certain respects a nabi (prophet) is a muhaddath and a muhaddath is a nabi by virtue of the fact that the muhaddath receives one of the many forms of nubuwwah (prophethood). The Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) has said:
"Nothing remains of nubuwwah except mubashshirat [prophecies and propitious signs revealed to people of certain spiritual ability]."
This means that there no longer remain any of the various forms of nubuwwah, except one and, that is mubashshirat, which consists of true visions and genuine experiences of illuminating revelations. Wahy is that which is communicated to chosen auliya (plural of wali: those near to God or saints close to God. In popular expression it means the 'friends of God'), and it is that form of illumination which brightens the souls of such people who are compassionate. O thou critic! Possessor of insight and intelligence! You should understand from this whether every door to nubuwwah has been closed. Although the hadith suggest that nubuwwah at-tamma (complete and perfect prophethood) in which the recipient experiences wahy al-shariah (Divine revelation conveying religious laws and decrees) has certainly come to an end, yet a kind of nubuwwah which does not include anything except mubashshirat will continue till the day of Resurrection and will never cease. You know very well, and you must have read in the books of hadith, that visions of a pure nature are a forty-sixth part of nubuwwah, that is, nubuwwah at-tamma. Thus when visions alone enjoy that degree of importance, how then should those Divine communications be considered, which are revealed to the hearts of muhaddiths? Thus God knows best and may He be with you. Briefly, what I want to say is this, that the means to achieve this partial, (minor) prophethood shall always remain accessible. There is nothing in this kind of prophethood except mubashshirat or mundhirat (premonitions) about the knowledge of matters that are hidden, the understanding of the finer meanings in the Quran and that of Divine knowledge. I believe that the nubuwwah which is complete and perfect, and consists of all the excellence of wahy was discontinued the day it was revealed in the Quran:
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the messenger of God and the Seal of the Prophets (33:40).
The question may be asked, what is the nature of that particular quality and spiritual gift which is identical in the Messiah, son of Mary, and my humble self? The answer to that would be that there is a common trait which has been specially placed in our spiritual abilities. It has a tree-like form which extends vertically in both directions. The base of this tree is the high quality of sympathy and tenderness for God's creatures which firmly links and establishes a strong bond between him who invites people to follow the path of God and his ardent disciples. It thereby causes the resplendent spiritual power reposed in the pure soul of the summoner to God to spread up to all his flowering branches. The top part of this tree represents that fine degree of love which, when associated with staunch faith, in the first instance takes root in the human heart through Divine Will, and then grows to a state where it attracts the love of the Most Powerful Creator. The function of these two loves is, in fact, very similar to that of the male and the female. They combine and form a strong union and a firm bond between the Creator and His creation. Like a blazing fire, God's love consumes the love of His creature as if it were fuel and a third substance is thereby created, called the 'holy spirit'. The spiritual birth of a man of such a rank takes place the moment Almighty God, by means of His special grace, places within that man that particular kind of love.
For such sublime love at such a stage, it will not be incorrect to say that, metaphorically, a spirit containing Divine Love enters the human spirit which, according to Divine Intention has been saturated with love, and gives it a new birth. Therefore, a human spirit full of that love is entwined with the Divine Spirit which is the real source of love. And because the 'holy spirit' is born of the union of these two loves in the human heart, therefore it can be said that this 'holy spirit' is like a son in relation to the two loves. This is the 'holy trinity' which forms a necessary part of the phenomenon of such love. Impure minds have accepted this process polytheistically and have placed a matter of remote possibility, an element destructive to the soul and devoid of reality, on an equal footing to the Self-Existent and Most High God.
At this point, the question may be raised that if such a stature is accepted for the Messiah and my humble self, then what position is left for our leader, our master, leader of all leaders, the most excellent of messengers, the seal of Prophets, Muhammad, the chosen one, on whom be the peace and blessings of God? So may it be known that the Prophet's status is such an elevated and superior one that it was only given to that person of perfect qualities; it is not possible for anyone else to reach that condition and status.
Who can (truly) understand the importance of Ahmad (One of the names by which the Prophet was known) except the Merciful God.
He was as free from egotism as if m were dropped from his name (If m is dropped from 'Ahmad', the remaining word is ahad, which in Arabic means "the one God''. This symbolically expresses the Prophet's nearness to God.)
He was so drawn to his Beloved,
The Stages of
The second form of Divine love is the one which we have mentioned above but, when both the loves (Divine and human) meet, the fire of Divine love warms the human soul to such an extent that it acquires a fire-like glow. In such an illumination there is no blaze or fury; it simply has a brilliance which is usually called the 'holy spirit.'
In the third state of spiritual love, a well-ignited flame of Divine love falls on human love, as if it were a ready fuse, and ignites it; it influences every particle, vein and fibre of the human soul and changes it into a perfect and complete manifestation of itself (Divine love). In this condition, Divine love not only gives a glow to the human soul, but, simultaneously with its brilliance, the whole being is set alight; its conflagration and flames brighten everything around it as if it were daylight and no darkness remains. In all perfection and with every thoroughness, the whole being completely changes into a mass of fire. This condition which is caused by the union of these two loves (Divine and human) and results in a conflagrant fire is called the 'guardian spirit' because it provides safety from every darkness and is free from sloth. It is also called 'most powerful' because it is the most excellent form of revelation, and no better kind of revelation can be imagined. It is called du al-ufag al-'ala (possessor of most extensive horizons) because it is the most excellent manifestation of Divine revelation. It is also called 'that which is beyond comprehension' because it is impossible for any of God's creatures to imagine or comprehend that state. To one person only in this world has that vision and comprehension been granted to him who is the most perfect man, to him in whom revelation reached its height, to him in whom human faculties achieved perfection. Imagine the whole of God's creation as a vertical straight line; Muhammad (may the peace of God be upon him) forms the topmost point of that line. The hands of Divine Wisdom first shaped the lesser and humble creatures, then so developed them by the processes of evolution that the glorious person of Muhammad emerged as the most perfect creation. The name Muhammad means 'one who is most praised' or one in whom the most perfect qualities are exhibited. Thus, just as in the process of evolution Muhammad held the most elevated and sublime position, outwardly he received the best and the most excellent form of wahy, and also the most sublime and refined form of Divine love. The position of Muhammad is so exalted that neither the Messiah nor I can reach that height, which is known as the 'position of union' and the 'state of perfect unity with God'. The indications and signs given by previous prophets regarding the advent of the Prophet Muhammad all point towards that very status and position. Just as the position held by the Messiah and myself can allegorically be called one of sonship, the position of Muhammad is so exalted that previous prophets have metaphorically said that the person who reaches that summit is a manifestation of God Himself and his advent has been considered as the appearance of Almighty God. The Messiah has expressed this in a parable in which he said that to gather the fruit from the vineyard, the owner of the garden (God) first sent His servants, that is, those who are in the first stage of nearness to Him, which includes all those saints who lived at the time of the Messiah or those who lived in that century but a little before the time of the Messiah. When the gardeners refused to hand over the fruit, the owner of the garden then sent his son as a means of confirmation, so the gardeners would listen to the son and hand over the fruit to him. In this context, the term 'son' refers to the Messiah who was in the second stage of nearness to God's love, but the vineyard-keepers even refused to give the fruit to the son, and in their pride they even killed him. The Messiah says that after this the owner of the vineyard will come himself, that is, God Himself will appear so that after killing the gardeners, He can give the orchard to such people as will hand over the fruit on time. In this parable the appearance of Almighty God in fact means the advent of Muhammad, the chosen one (may the peace of God be upon him) who was in the third stage of nearness to God. Jesus Christ is not the only prophet who stated that the advent of our revered leader, master and the last of the prophets is in fact the manifestation of God. Such statements are also to be found in the prophecies of other prophets regarding the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him). The advent of the Prophet has metaphorically been referred to as the manifestation of God. At times the Prophet, being a perfect manifestation of God, has metaphorically been called 'God'. Thus we find in the Psalms of David:
"You are the fairest of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever (i.e., has made you the seal of Prophets). Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one, in your glory and majesty! In your majesty ride forth victoriously for the cause of the truth and to defend the right; let your right hand teach you terrible things! Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies; the peoples fall under you. Your divine throne endures forever and ever. Your royal sceptre is a sceptre of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore, God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows" (45:2-7).
One should bear in mind that the words of the Psalms: "Your divine throne endures forever and ever. Your royal sceptre is a sceptre of equity," are metaphorical expressions and their purpose is to describe the spiritual grandeur of the Prophet. Similar passages are to be found in the Book of Isaiah:
"Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law'' (42:1- 4)
One may note that the words: "The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man" metaphorically foretell the astounding advent of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him). Many other prophets have used this simile in their prophecies regarding Prophet Muhammad's majesty. As writing down of all such references would require much space, I therefore content myself with the few I have already quoted. I have mentioned the three stages in the path of spiritual love and have placed the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him) in the third and highest stage. This is not just my personal view, but has been disclosed to me through Divine inspiration.
All these stages are levels of spiritual attainment which have been referred to in simile according to each individual position; they do not signify real sonship or actual divinity.
The Concept of
Angels in Islam:
And there is none of us but has been assigned a place, and verily we are ranged in ranks (37:164-165).
Thus the core of the matter is that, just as the sun remains within its orbit, its light and warmth spreading to the earth and, according to its own particular properties, benefiting everything on this earth, in the same manner in the spiritual spheres, whether according to Greek mythology they are called heavenly beings or, in accordance with the terms of the Zend Avesta (the scripture and prayer book of the Parsees, who simply call it Avesta. Zend means 'interpretation', a term used for the translation and interpretation of most of the Avesta which exists in Pahlavi. The older form of Avesta is Avistak and its origins and meanings are uncertain It is believed that the present Avesta is only a fragment of the old religious literature of the Zoroastrians and according to tradition the original Avesta consisted of twenty-one books called masks or nosk. Zend Avesta, which the Magi believe to be a revealed book, claims to have been revealed so long ago that the age of the Vedas does not form even a fraction of a ten millionth part of that period; on a mere estimate the Vedas are about 19.6 million years old, but the Zend Avesta claims its time of appearance as a little more than thirty million years ago. I have used the words 'a little more' with great hesitation because in fact that book claims its age to be more than a billion years, as three more noughts are added to this figure. This book deals with the spiritual powers of the stars and the planets, declaring that these are to be regarded not only as angels, but beings worthy of worship) and the Vedas (the sacred book of the Brahmanical system of Hinduism. It consists of a collection of writings believed to be based on Divine revelation (sruti literally meaning 'hearing'). It originally consisted of three parts and the fourth is a later addition: (i) Rig-Veda, love or praise (hymns); (ii) Sama-Veda, love of tunes (chants); (iii) Yajur Veda, love or prayers (sacrificial formulae); (iv) Athar-veda, love of the Atharvans), they are named as spirits of the stars, or in simple theistic terms they are styled as the angels of God, these mysterious creatures of God remain attached to their respective appointed places.
These spiritual beings devotedly carry out their services in seeing that every worthy object in this world grows to its highest form of perfection in accordance with the Most Perfect Wisdom of God. These angels perform duties which are manifest and service which is not manifest. Just as the sun, the moon and other planets affect our outward bodies, so all the angels, according to our individual abilities, are influencing our hearts, our minds, and all our spiritual powers. This influence can be illustrated in the following way: there may exist a particle of matter clothed in earth, a speck entering an oyster shell, a drop entering a womb. Through the work carried out by God's angels these may become a ruby, a diamond, a garnet or a sapphire, a large and beautiful pearl, a man with excellent qualities.
Similarly the Vedas do not consider these spiritual beings only as agencies that serve as intermediaries but they even revere and worship them. The Vedas also teach people to pray to these spiritual beings for favours. It is possible that such heretical teachings have become part of these books through interpolation and alterations. There are many such incomprehensible teachings in the Vedas. For example, there is the teaching that there is no creator of this universe, that everything according to its origin and source of life stretches back to time immemorial, is self-existent and is its own god; they teach that no being can ever get out of the cursed web of transmigration of souls; they allow women to sleep with any man for the sake of conceiving sons if they cannot bear a male child through their husbands; they contain the doctrine that no one, including the most pious sages, even those to whom all the four Vedas have been revealed, will ever gain complete salvation, and do not necessarily deserve to be remembered with reverence and respect; it is also possible that these sages may get enmeshed in the transmigration and become like other living creatures or they might already have changed. According to their teachings, even if a person holds a position higher than that of a divine incarnate or a position superior to that of the Vedic sages, it is not only possible but necessary for him, according to the law of nature, that he should at some time become a worthless insect or be born as some abominable or disgusting creature. Such teachings are erroneous and are the product of debased human minds. Those who hold such shameful and dishonourable beliefs, to the degradation of their fellow human beings and contrary to the teachings of their elders and religious leaders, also believe it to be quite in order to seek favours of the stars and to worship these so-called spirits in a manner due only to Almighty God. Contrary to this, the Quran, which leads the way to monotheism and refinement in thought and manner, does not even tolerate the idea that anything should be worshipped besides Him, or that His attribute as a Nourisher should be considered defective or lacking in any respect, or that He is not the source and origin of everything, or that dishonourable practices should be introduced into human social life.
I return to the subject of angels and maintain that the Quran has given the most simple and explicit description of angels; there is no alternative for any person but to accept this description. After deep study and reflection on what is said in the Quran it appears that, not only for man, but for the growth and development of the whole universe, certain media are essential. And from certain verses of the Quran it is apparent that pure beings, known as angels, have distinctive functions in the running of this universe. Some because of their particular qualities are responsible for the blowing of the winds; some for the falling of the rain; some for causing other effects on this earth. Thus there is no doubt that, because of their luminous qualities, these pure beings must in certain ways be related to the bright and luminous stars which shine in heaven. But it will be wrong to assume that this relationship between the angels and the stars is the same as that which binds living creatures with life. Moreover, because of their spiritual brightness and splendour, these pure beings (angels) are linked with these luminous stars in some, so far, unknown way; the association between them is so strong that a weakness would occur in the powers of these angels if one were to presume that these pure beings (angels) were a separate entity from that of the stars; it is the unseen forces of these angels that enable the stars to carry out their respective functions. Just as the Almighty God forms the very essence and life of the universe, in the same way (but the comparison is only a partial one) those beings of splendour (angels) constitute the life and essence of those stars and constellations and if they were to be separated then complete disarray in their being would certainly and surely take place. So far, no one has disputed the fact that all the stars and constellations in the heavens are constantly working towards the full growth and nourishment of all that exists in this world. Thus it is the most well-considered view and well-founded truth that all plants, minerals and animal life are constantly being influenced by these bodies in space. Even the most ignorant of cultivators believes in this much, that moonlight is essential for the growth of fruits, sunlight is necessary for ripening and sweetening them, and some winds are essentially effective in increasing the crop.
So when all these factors are influencing the outward form of existence in diverse ways, how can it be doubted that the veiled and mystical forms of existence are being influenced by those beings of splendour (angels) who in accordance with the Will of God, have such a close relation with the heavenly bodies as life has with the human body?
It should now be appreciated that although it apparently seems to be a discourtesy that, for the sake of Divine communication, there should be a medium between Almighty God and His pious prophets, yet after a little reflection it will be easy to understand that there is nothing disrespectful in this; on the other hand, this is perfectly in accordance with Almighty God's laws of nature, which can be seen and felt manifestly in everything that is in this world. Besides, we observe that the prophets (may peace be upon them), are dependent on such sources for their external and bodily powers. However bright and gifted the vision of a prophet may be, still, as with ordinary people, he can not see anything without the help of sunlight or something equivalent to it; without the medium of air, he cannot hear anything; therefore it must be accepted that the beings of splendour (angels) of these planets also influence the spiritual powers of the prophet. Further, they should influence the spiritual powers of the prophet greatly, because the more pure and perfect the faculties of the prophet, the more refined and definite would be the influence.
It is apparent from the Quran that these planets and constellations have a soul or a spirit according to their own particular form or mould, which can be termed as the souls of the planets. Like the stars and the planets that have different characteristics in relation to their respective shapes and forms, and are influencing the things on this earth according to their given powers, in the same way there is a variety in the qualities of their resplendent souls, which in fulfilment of the will of the Most Wise are influencing the inner lives of all that exists in this world. These very luminous souls appear to men who have reached perfection in bodily form and in human appearance. It should be pointed out that all this explanation is not mere verbosity, but it is truth of a kind which any seeker of truth and wisdom is compelled to accept, because we acknowledge the fact that the sustenance of all that exists in this world is being provided by the bodies in space. Whatever researches we carry out to find out about earthly life, we find indubitable evidence of this sustenance in every form of existence whether, it be vegetation, mineral or animal. On the basis of this manifest evidence, we have no alternative but to accept that these beings of splendour (angels) also influence the growth of spiritual perfection and visions of heart and mind to their maximum limit of development. On the basis of this influence, the splendid Shariah [religion] has metaphorically stated that it is necessary that there should be a medium of angels between God and His prophets, and considers belief in angels as one of the fundamentals of faith.
Those who have failed to understand this divine wisdom because of their gross ignorance, like the Arya Samajists (member of the Arya Samaj movement, founded in 1875 by Swami Dayanand Saraswati (1824-83). It started in Bombay as an active group devoted to various reforms in Hindu practices, such as opposition to idolatry, caste-system based on birth and interpolations to the Vedas. Members of the movement are strict monotheists and believe the Vedas to be Divinely revealed) or the Brahamo Samajists (member of the Brahmo Samaj movement in Hinduism. Brahmo Samaj means "Association for the Worship of God" and was founded by Ram Mohan Roy in 1828 in Calcutta, India. Like the Arya Samaj, it denounces polytheism, idolatry and the caste-system, but unlike the Arya Samaj, rejects the Vedas, belief in karma and Hindu rituals), on account of their malice and avarice, find fault with the Quran because it maintains that the medium of angels is necessary between God and His prophets. Such people ignore the fact that God's general law for the growth and sustenance of this world is based upon this very rule. Were the rishis (sages) of Hinduism, who claim that all the four Vedas were revealed to them, not dependent on the influences of the planets for the proper functioning of their bodies? Were they able to see with only the faculties of their eyes and with no help from daylight? Were they able to hear any sound without the medium of air? The answer to these questions will certainly be in the negative and it will have to be admitted that for their existence and growth they were dependent on the bodies in space. Where have the Vedas of Hinduism denied the existence of angels? Moreover, these books make exaggerated claims regarding the existence and worthiness of these media to such an extent that they have given the angels a status equal to that of Almighty God. If one were to consider the Rig Veda alone one would find numerous commandments to worship bodies in space and elements of nature; many pages have been devoted to the praise and exaltation of these things; and supplications to these phenomena of nature which have been denied are recorded in its pages. But the Revealed Law (the Quran) says nothing like that; on the contrary, those beings of splendour (angels) who are associated with the stars and planets in space, the elements of nature and smoke in such a way as life is attached to the body, they have only been called angels or jinns by the Quran. Moreover, those lustrous angels who are attached to the shining stars and planets have not been declared as media between the Holy Being and His prophets and they should not be believed to possess authority and independence.
In fact the relation between God and the angels has been expressed to be like that of a lifeless thing which is the hands of a living being, and the living being is able to do what he likes with this lifeless thing. For this very reason, at certain places the Quran has used the term 'angels' even for the minutest particles of bodies, because all those particles listen to the voice of their Lord and carry out whatever they are commanded to do. For example, whatever changes take place in the human body whether in health or illness, are in accordance with the wishes of the Almighty God.
It is worthwhile considering with an open mind whether, by believing in such media as are mentioned in the Quran, any act of Shirk (attributing an associate to God) is committed, and if by such a belief the Majesty of Almighty God's power suffers any disrespect. In fact, these are matters of deep knowledge and subtle wisdom which are latent in every phenomenon of nature. Without accepting this sort of arrangement, it would be difficult to prove God's omnipotence and it would also be difficult to understand the exercise of His Divine Authority. Unless every atom of this universe serves Him in an angelic way according to His wishes, how can the intricate working of the universe be carried out? Can anyone explain how it could be done otherwise? And if the acceptance of the part played by the heavenly angels in the domain of the spirit causes a blot on the splendour of God's Omnipotence, why then is it that the acceptance of the function of these very angels in earthly matters, which are similar and resemble the spiritual states of existence, does not cause Almighty God to suffer any disgrace? The truth of the matter is that our opponents like the Arya Samajists have raised numerous objections against this conception out of sheer and excessive blindness; moreover what they object to is also present with many additions in their own school of thought. Without justification and out of lack of insight they see in the form of falsehood something which is wonderful truth:
Woe to the eye that seeks evil, Every good thing appears vile to it.
Man is the Best of
He (God) has made subservient to you the sun and the moon (14:33)
To illustrate this, consider a messenger who delivers a dispatch from the ruling monarch to the Governor General; is the messenger, who acts as a medium between the monarch and his Governor General, superior in position to the Governor General himself? Thus it should be carefully understood that a similar position is held by those media who are engaged in carrying out the will of the Almighty and communicate His wishes to this realm of both spirit and matter. Many times in the Quran Almighty God explicitly says that whatever is in the heavens and the earth, has all been created for the servitude of man, and man enjoys a higher and more sublime position in comparison with the rest of creation over whom man is the lord and which exists to serve him. Accordingly the Quran says:
And He has made subservient to you the sun and the moon, pursuing their courses; and He has made subservient to you the night and the day. And He gives you of all you ask of Him. And if you count God's favours, you will not be able to number them (14:33-34).
The Quran says that the sun and the moon are always in orbit and have been made subservient to man. In other words, these two bodies in space keep on changing their state and characteristics; the condition of the sun during the spring months is never the same as during the autumn months. Thus the sun and the moon keep on rotating in this manner, and their rotation sometimes brings spring and sometimes autumn, at certain times they show characteristics of one particular kind, during another period they show quite the reverse characteristics. Further, the Quran says that God has made the night and the day for the benefit of man and that He has given all that was asked of Him by man. This means that God has given man everything that he could ever need and if one wished to count the bounties of God, one could not do so. Man is further reminded that it is God Who has created everything in this earth for the benefit of man. In another verse Almighty God states:
Certainly We created man in the best make (95:4)
This verse suggests that God has created in man the best form of equilibrium and symmetry, and that man is the best specimen of proportion and uniformity in the whole of creation. Again the Quran states:
Surely We offered the trust to the heavens and the mountains, but they refused to be unfaithful to it and feared from it, and man has turned unfaithful to it. Surely he is ever unjust-ignorant (33:72).
The sense of this verse is that love for God and obedience to Him, even in affliction, were the trust that God offered to all the angels in heaven and the creatures of earth and of the mountains, and, though they were apparently gigantic and powerful, they refused to accept the heavy burden of responsibility. But man was able to accept it because he possesses two virtues. First he can endure suffering for the sake of God and secondly, in his love for God he can reach such a height that he can make everything appear insignificant besides God. In another chapter the Quran states:
So when I have made him complete and breathed into him My spirit: so fall down submitting to him. And the angels submitted, all of them, but not Iblis. (38:72-74)
The verses remind man, who is the most perfect manifestation of God, that God told the angels that He was about to create man from dust and that the angels were to fall down in prostration to man after God had breathed His spirit into him and shaped him as the most perfect specimen of harmony and proportion.
By 'prostration' God meant the angels to devote themselves to the service of man and humble themselves in their obligations to man to such an extent that it would almost amount to submission in prostration. Thus all the angels knelt in humility before this 'perfect man', but Satan declined this honour. It should be borne in mind that the command to angels to prostrate themselves before man does not relate to the specific instance when Adam was created, but it is an order instructing all angels that whenever a man reaches heights of greatness, acquires moderation in his ways and allows the spirit of God to find an abode in him, then they should prostrate themselves before him. In other words, the angels should descend on him with heavenly splendour and give their blessings to him when he reaches such a state. Therefore this refers to that ancient law of God which has always been applied to the chosen men of God; whenever a person in any age achieves this spiritual harmony and the spirit of God finds a place in his heart, that is, his self suffers death and he reaches the stage of everlasting life in God, then he is graced with a special form of angelic blessing. Even in the early stages of man's development angels are engaged in serving him, but the engagement of angels at a sublime stage is so complete and perfect that it is almost a prostration before man. By using the word 'prostration', God has made it clear that angels are not superior to 'perfect men'. In fact, like servants of the crown, they bow respectfully in their service to man, Almighty God has, therefore, in extremely delicate and subtle allusions and metaphors stated in chapter 91 of the Quran, Ash-Shams (The Sun), that man's state is the highest among all the creations of heaven and earth. The verses run as follows:
By the sun and his brightness! And the moon when she borrows light from him! And the day when it exposes it to view! And the night when it draws a veil over it! And the heaven and its make! And the earth and its extension! And the soul and its perfection! So He reveals to it its way of evil and its way of good; he is indeed successful who causes it to grow, and he indeed fails who buries it. Thamud rejected (the truth) in their inordinacy, when the basest of them broke forth with mischief - so God's messenger said to them: Leave alone God's she-camel and give her to drink. But they called him a liar and slaughtered her. So their Lord destroyed them for their sin and levelled them with the ground. And He fears not its consequences (91:1-15).
The Concept of
"Perfect Man" in Islam:
Trainers sew the eyelids of a falcon
It is customary to sew the eyelids of a falcon during its training. So such people, if they indulge in bodily comforts and needs after undergoing anxiety and mental fatigue, it helps their feeble bodies to be refreshed and become fit and gain enough strength and energy to accompany the spirit on its course once again. After this somewhat baser indulgence, man is able to cover many stages of spiritual progress. Besides this, the human soul has many other finer qualities resembling the night, which have been discovered through the researches carried out in the fields of astronomy and astrology. Similarly, the soul of the 'perfect man' bears resemblance to outer space. Just as the boundaries of space are so extensive and limitless that nothing can fill it, in the same way the reasoning powers of these noble souls have extensive capacities within them, and, despite the fact that they acquire a vast amount of knowledge and truth, they still cry out ma 'arafnaka (I do not know). Just as the canopy of space is dotted with bright stars, so the soul of the 'perfect man' has such luminous powers that they can be detected like the stars in the dark sky. The soul of the 'perfect man' also, bears a strong resemblance to the earth. The best kind of soil has the characteristic that, when it is ploughed, sown and irrigated and all the care and attention that it needs has been given to it, then it yields far more than any other plot of land and the fruit produced from such a land, is finer and sweeter and more delicious than other crop of fruit; in its quantity and quality it cannot be excelled. A similar thing happens to the soul of the 'perfect man'; when Divine commandments are sown into the heart of such a person, they prosper wonderfully, and good deeds, like plants, emerge from those seeds. The fruit of these 'plants' is so wonderful and delicious that anyone who looks at it is reminded of the Divine power of God and has to say:
"All praise is due to God! All praise is due to God!"
The verse in the Quran, And the soul and its perfection (91:7), clearly indicates that 'perfect man' in his inner self and nature is a universe, and all the manifestations, characteristics, and qualities of the great universe are all found in him on a smaller scale. In the verses mentioned earlier, Almighty God started with the characteristics of the sun and ended with a reference to the earth which is our place of abode and briefly referred to the characteristics of everything that falls within these two regions; these were referred to by way of oaths. After that the verses mentioned the soul of the 'perfect man' so that it should be understood that the soul of the 'perfect man' combines in itself all the various splendours which are present individually in all the things that have been mentioned by way of oath.
It may be asked: Why has God sworn by the names of those things which are His creation and which compared to His Being are insignificant and unimportant? The answer to this is that throughout the Quran it is the practice and rule of God that for the proof and authenticity of a theoretical matter, He refers to such things which have manifest and clear proof of their qualities. No one can doubt that the sun exists and that it is radiant; that the moon exists and it obtains light from the sun; everyone knows what is daylight and what is darkness of the night. The extensive canopy of space is apparent to everyone and the earth is everyone's place of abode. All these things possess their own apparent identity and their own visible particular characteristics, but the soul of man is such a hidden thing and a matter subject to so much conjecture that there are many contending views about its very nature. There are many groups who disbelieve that there is any permanent thing which exists by itself and can be called the soul or the spirit of man, and which after the end of its companionship with the body can exist till eternity. And not all of those who believe in the identity, the existence and the manifestation of the soul value the hidden abilities of the soul in a way which it deserves. Some have limited their understanding so much that they think the only purpose in being born in this world is to gorge ourselves like animals and to spend our whole lives in pursuit of bodily pleasures. Such people are not even aware of the fact that the human soul possesses gifts and qualities of the most excellent form, and if they were to devote themselves to the acquisition of these qualities then in a short period they would encompass all the merits and virtues of the various things in the whole universe. Thus in the verses of the celebrated chapter mentioned earlier, Almighty God has proved the existence of the human soul and described its excellent virtues and qualities, and, in order to direct attention, the verses first mention the characteristics of the sun, the moon and other things and then lead on to the soul of man which, they state, combines within itself all those qualities. When the soul of man has the potentialities of the excellent qualities and characteristics which are individually present in the earth and the bodies in space, it would be an act of gross ignorance to suspect that the human soul, which combines within itself all these wonderful attributes, is just nothing and does not exist after the death of the body. All the objects mentioned above can be observed and sensed; their existence cannot be denied because even a blind man can believe in the presence of the sun through the warmth he feels through sunlight. How can there be any doubt about the permanent and independent existence of the soul when it holds within itself all the characteristics of those objects? Is it possible that a non-existent thing should be able to combine the characteristics of all those things that are known to exist?
The Significance of
Oaths in the Quran:
It may be asked at this stage of the discussion what are those attributes of the human soul which are similar to the apparent characteristics of the objects quoted in testimony for the real existence of the human soul, and what proof is available in support of any such similarity. In order to remove any doubt Almighty God says:
So He reveals to it (human soul) its way of evil and its way of good. He is indeed successful who causes it (human soul) to grow. And he indeed fails who buries it (91:8-10).
After creating the human soul, Almighty God has given the choice of two ways: the choice of darkness or light, the choice of desolation or prosperity. A person who chooses the path of darkness and evil or wrongdoings can progress in that field to an extent that his achievements will bear a resemblance to the pitch darkness of night and his enjoyment will consist entirely of thoughts which are injurious, sinful and degrading. Such a person will seek companions with similar tendencies and only practices which stimulate such thoughts will please him. He will receive evil inspiration in accordance to his evil efforts. In other words, he will always be thinking of immoral and depraved thoughts and his mind will not suggest anything leading towards goodness. On the other hand, if a person chooses the path of light and righteousness, then he receives inspiration which helps him in the way leading to lustre. There is already Divine light in the human soul in a seed-like form. Almighty God, through His special inspiration, encourages this seed to grow and blossom to perfection. Divine inspiration helps the human soul to manifest itself with lustre and beauty. Such a man, when he sees the brightness of the light of his inner self, and becomes aware of its quality of enlightening and being enlightened after experiencing it, comes to believe that a light similar to the brightness of the sun and the moon is present in him. Within him he feels he has the qualities of generosity, high-purpose and the powers of vision, of both heart and mind, which are comparable to the vastness of space and the height and brightness of the stars in space. A man who has reached that state needs no external evidence for such a fact. A spring of perfect evidence is bubbling within him all the time, and it continuously supplies his constantly thirsting soul. If it is asked how behaviour of such qualities of the soul can be detected, then in reply Almighty God states:
He is indeed successful who causes it (human soul) to grow, and he indeed fails who buries it (91:9-10).
According to these verses, whoever purifies his heart and entirely abandons shameful and reprehensible acts and completely surrenders himself to the will of God, such a person will achieve his goal and his soul will appear to him as a miniature universe and a collection of diverse qualities. But a person who does not cleanse his soul and buries it in frivolous desires, will fail to achieve the real purpose of the human soul.
The aim of this discussion is to point out that the human soul definitely holds within itself all those diverse attributes which are present in the universe. The easiest way to gain belief in this fact is by purifying the soul in accordance with the dictates of the Divine law because in the process of purification of the soul, the truth of those hidden qualities are unfolded, not only through blind faith, but through a 'faith of conviction'. After discussing these verses Almighty God mentions the people of Thamud who, because of their inherent rebelliousness, rejected the prophet of their age and, in the denial of this prophet, one unfortunate person from among them made himself prominent. The prophet of that time advised those people not to deny God's she-camel from her drinking place, but the Thamuds did not heed this advice and cut the legs off the she-camel. As a consequence of this crime God cursed them with death and reduced them to dust, and God overlooked the possible effects this curse would have on the helpless widows, orphaned children and dependants of the deceased. It is an extremely subtle simile which God has mentioned in His comparison of the human soul to the 'she-camel of God'. The implied meaning is that the purpose of creating the human soul is that it would serve as the 'she-camel' of God, and when the human soul reaches the stage of fana fi'llah where it becomes completely submerged in the divine stream, Almighty God in a manifestation of the spiritual glory derives the human soul, as a rider would of a she-camel. In this there is a warning and a threat to those who turn away from truth and follow their selfish desires. They act like the people of Thamud and are preventing the she-camel (the human soul) from reaching its drinking place (the fountain of Divine understanding and the remembrance of God) to sustain its life, and are even contemplating cutting of its legs so that it (the human soul) may not be able to pursue the path of God. Thus such people, if they want goodwill for themselves, should not cause a stoppage of life-sustaining water to the human soul and should not cut the legs of the she-camel (human soul) with the sharp instruments of debased desires. If this warning is ignored, then the she-camel which has been given to man, and is capable of Divine privilege, will be wounded and will die, and the possessor of such a soul will be regarded as worthless dry wood, and be thrown into the fire. The dependants of such a person will not only be deprived of Divine love, but they will even suffer from the consequences of his sin and disobedience. Such a person will not only suffer death as a result of his misdeeds, but will also cause destruction to his descendants.
The verses unmistakably express the fact that Almighty God has made man the best and finest of all creation. And just because the angels, the stars, and the various phenomena of nature act as intermediaries between God and man, it does not mean that they (the intermediaries) are superior to man; their status as intermediaries does not add to the dignity of man, but they gain the honour of being employed in the service of such worthy creation. Thus all these agents are servants, not masters. Hazrat Sadi of Shiraz (may the blessings of God be upon him) has expressed this most beautifully in the following verses:
Clouds, winds, moon, sun and the heavens are influencing the earth,
The Purpose of
Angels in the Universe:
As I have already mentioned, it should be borne in mind that every angel has a double effect on the human soul. The first is like the influence that different species of embryo receive by the will of God when they are still in the womb. The second effect is like the influences which work upon a fully grown embryo and help it to develop its faculties to their possible form. The second effect, when it concerns a Prophet or perfect wali (saint), is called wahy (revelation). It takes place in this way: a striving soul, by virtue of its enlightened faith and love, seeks an association with the Source of all Goodness, and Almighty God casts His life-giving love over the love of the human soul. Up till that moment and until that stage of progress is reached, all the powers and abilities possessed by the human soul are a result of the latent influences which Almighty God wrought through His angels when the soul was still in the embryonic state. When the soul, with the help of the first stage of angelic intervention, reaches the position where it becomes a recipient of Divine love, then the same angel once again casts his sublime influence, but this time it does not act voluntarily but functions as an intermediary and can be likened to a pipe-line which takes in water at one end and delivers it at the other end. The angel carries the water of Divine favours and when the human soul reaches the stage when both the Divine and human loves combine and the human soul places itself at the receiving end of the pipe-line in which the Holy Spirit flows, then the angel which acts as a pipeline, allows Divine favours to flow into the human soul. Another description of this process can be that when the striving soul reaches such a stage, Gabriel casts his luminous influence and imprints an angelic impression on the soul. Thus because the angel who is present in the heavens is called Gabriel, therefore this impression is also called Gabriel. If the angel is the Holy Spirit then the impression will also be called the Holy Spirit.
It does not necessarily follow that the angel itself enters the human soul, but what is meant is that the image of the angel appears on the human soul which acts as mirror, just as if one were to stand in front of a well-polished mirror; instantly it would be possible to see one's reflection in it, according to the size of the mirror. It never happens that parts of the body that are reflected in the mirror break off and enter the mirror; they remain where they should be and are only reflected in the mirror. The size of the reflection is never the same in every mirror. Thus the reflection (of the angel) depends on the capacity of the human soul. For example, if one were to look at oneself in a small mirror which has been fixed in a ring on a finger, every part of the face will be reflected in it, but the parts reflected will be reduced in proportion and appear very small. On the other hand if one were to look at oneself in a large mirror which could give a reasonable reflection of the face, then one's features and various parts of one's face will be reflected in their proper sizes. This is exactly what happens when Gabriel exercises his influence. Gabriel bears the same inspirational influence on every person whether it be a modest saint or the seal of the prophets, the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him). The difference between the effects of these inspirations or revelations is like the difference between a glass fixed in a ring (on a finger) and a mirror. In both these instances Gabriel is a constant factor, but the subjects in both these cases have varying abilities of absorption and clarity. I have deliberately used the word 'clarity' to underline the fact that the extent of Gabriel's influence does not depend only on the capacity of the soul but on the condition of the soul as well. A clean soul is an essential pre-requisite to divine revelation; but not all recipients of revelation possess the same standard of cleanliness, just as all mirrors do not have the same standard of polishing. Some mirrors are so well-polished that their surfaces shine and fully reflect the face of anyone who happens to look into them. Others are misty, have muddy appearances, are dirty and covered with soot and are unable to reflect anything properly. Some give such distorted reflection that if the lips are visible in them, then the nose is not discernible. This illustration is applicable to the condition of the soul; a soul which is thoroughly cleansed will reflect a vivid image of the Divine Spirit, but one that has smudges will reflect a corresponding image. The best and most perfectly purified soul was that of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings of God be upon him). No other soul has ever reached that state of purity.
It is important to mention here that Almighty God, the Cause of all causes, on Whose Being all other beings depend, when He acts or makes a decision in the creation of anything, in an all-powerful and forceful manner, and if the Will is a complete and comprehensive one, then it is essential for all existing beings to move in accordance with His will. If on other hand, the will of God is not comprehensive, but partial, then only the affected parts of the universe will be brought into action on account of that Will. The truth of the matter is that God's relationship with His creation and the entire universe is like the relationship the human body has with the mind. All the parts of the body are subject to the will of the mind and follow the directions of the mind. A similar relationship exists between God and His creation. Like Muhi-ud-Din al-'Arabi, I do not say about the Omnipresent God that He created things in His own image. But I am prepared to say that He created things bearing His stamp. This universe is like a castle studded with glasswork, with the water of the Mighty Power flowing underneath and it works as it likes. Due to their short-sightedness some think that the sun, the moon and the stars casts their influence by themselves. The only Being Who casts influences on this universe, is God.
The Most Wise has disclosed this otherwise hidden secret to me: The whole universe, consisting of its various elements, is engaged in the service and in the carrying out of the will of the Cause of all causes, and perform its functions as if it actually were part of His body. These components of the universe are not self-dependent but are constantly being fed with strength from the Great Soul, just like the powers of the human body which derive their strength from life. Some of the things in this universe, which are like components of that Great Being, appear as if they were reflections of His countenance; both manifestly and invisibly they act as light-bearers in accordance with His will. Some of the things in the universe function as if they were His hands, and some as if they were His fist and some as if they were His breath. In short, the whole universe collectively functions as a body for Almighty God. The entire lustre, grandeur and life of this body are dependent on the Great Soul which sustains it. Whatever movement takes place in the will of that Ever-Living Being, reverberations of it are carried through every part of the body; the effects of His will are as He designs them to be.
To illustrate the above description still further, the Ever-living Force of this universe can be imagined as a Great Being with many hands and feet; these limbs stretch to eternity and, like a spider's web, this Great Being stretches to all the limits of existence and forms the nucleus of the entire creation. The parts of the Great Being are those things which we know as parts of the universe. When the ever-Living Being makes a small or big movement, then it is necessary that there should be a corresponding movement in the functional parts of the Being as well. He expresses all His intentions through these parts, and not in any other way. This is the simplest way of describing that Spiritual Truth according to which every part of the creation is subject to God's will and expresses His invisible purpose in their servant-like appearances and are engaged in carrying out His will with incomparable servitude. This obedience is not like one which is observed because of the authority and threat of government; it is as if everything in this universe feels inclined towards Him. Most surely, the real truth is that just as parts of a body are naturally inclined towards it, in the same manner this whole universe functions as a body of that Great Being and that is why He is called the Sustainer of the Universe, because just as life is the sustaining force of the body, in the same way He is the Sustainer of the whole of creation. Had it not been so, the entire organisation of the universe would have disintegrated.
Every will of this Eternal Being, whether it be manifest or hidden, spiritual or mundane, is expressed through the medium of His creation. No will of His is expressed in this world except through these media. This is the rule in the universe since time immemorial. I am astonished at the lack of understanding of those people who, on the one hand, believe that water vapours are necessary for the formation of clouds that bring rain and that it is impossible to rain without the presence of clouds, but on the other hand, through ignorance they mock at the idea that according to the Divine code of life, the medium of angels which are like clouds is essential for the rain of revelation to take place. They also ask: Can God not reveal without the agency of angels? Such people are convinced of the fact that it is contrary to the laws of nature for sound to be carried without the medium of air, but they are unaware of the air that carries the voice of God to the recipients of revelation. They accept the fact that the light of the sun is necessary for the sight of the human eye, but for spiritual vision they do not think that there is any need for Divine light.
The Functions of
It should also the remembered that for gaining the power of the 'holy spirit', which is born as a result of the union between Divine and mortal loves and by an exposure of the human soul to the angelic lustre of Gabriel, it is not necessary that man should constantly meditate on Divine words or should always be experiencing visions. These actions or experiences are only the immediate means for acquiring Divine light. Their function is like the spiritual light which enables the spiritual eye to see and, like the spiritual breeze which enables the spiritual ear to hear, they are factors which exist as a Divine gift. An eye cannot see anything by mere light unless an object is present, and unless someone speaks, mere air cannot carry a voice or a sound. Thus this spiritual light or breeze is only an aid to spiritual experiences, just as the light of the sun and air are means for the function of the eye and the ear. When Almighty God wishes to communicate His word to a recipient then the angelic light of Gabriel gains the power of inspiration which acts in the form of light-waves, air-currents or heat waves that activate the power of speech of the recipient. Through the transmission of those waves or warmth, Divine words instantly appear in written form before the sight of the recipient, or the recipient hears those words or his tongue recites those Words. The mortal is graced with the gifts of spiritual senses and spiritual light before he becomes a recipient of Divine revelation. This is to ensure that the mortal is capable of receiving Divine communication before he actually experiences it. If Divine revelation were to be granted to man in a condition when his spiritual senses were not functioning or the light of the 'holy spirit' was not able to illuminate the vision of his soul, then in such a state man could not possibly spiritually comprehend Divine revelation. It is to fulfil this need that inspired people are blessed with these two faculties before they become recipients of Divine revelation. Through the ascertained facts mentioned above, readers should be able to realise that Gabriel has three functions to perform.
First, when God determines that a certain person should be inspired, by exercising His attribute as a Beneficiary an attribute in which human action has no place, He causes the angelic light of Gabriel to cast itself when that man is still in an embryonic state in the womb. Such a man, through the blessing of God, is blessed with spiritual senses and the ability to receive Divine communications.
Secondly, when the human love becomes subject to the influence of Divine love, God's action, being the dominant of the two, sets the angelic light and directs its rays on to the soul of the true lover of the Divine; when Gabriel's lustre falls upon the human soul then an image of Gabriel is formed in the mortal soul and functions for the human soul in the same way as light, air and warmth aid the senses of the physical human being. This angelic light remains within the soul of the human being as a faculty to receive Divine communications. This faculty extends from Gabriel on one hand and leads to the human soul on the other, and this faculty can either be called the image of Gabriel or the 'holy spirit'.
Thirdly, when God determines to reveal His word then Gabriel acts like the sound waves and carries God's words to the ears of the human soul; or he acts like light and illuminates the Divine words so that they can be seen by the human soul; or he acts like warmth which facilitates speech and enables the person to utter Divine words.
Revelation is a