Friday Sermon: Rafa: Exaltation

July 10th, 2009

Today Huzur gave a discourse on the subject of the word Rafa (exaltation) as used in the Holy Qur’an for Prophets in addition to its usage for Jesus (on whom be peace). Huzur elucidated whether the word could be used to connote bodily ascending to heavens for them as it is – erroneously – for Jesus (on whom be peace).

The Qur’an states in Surah Maryam: And relate the story of Idris as mentioned in the Book. He was a truthful man and a Prophet. And We exalted him to a lofty station’. (19:57-58). These verses cite a higher station bestowed upon Hadhrat Idris (on whom be peace) than that granted to Jesus (on whom be peace) for whom only the word ‘…will exalt thee to Myself’ (3:56) are used in the Qur’an. Muslims need to pay attention to this fact especially now, after the Imam of the age has completely unfolded the matter regarding ascending to the heavens bodily. He has explained that all prophets of God are raised/exalted in a spiritual sense. The mention of Jesus (on whom been peace) in the Holy Qur’an being exalted/raised is to exonerate him from the accusation levied on him by the Jews of the time. That he did not die on the Cross, which would have been, God forbid, an accursed death in the eyes of the Jews. The Christians did not have any proof of this and in any case many changes were introduced in Christianity and the concept of trinity was developed. Death on the Cross was given the significance of penance and it was stated that Jesus (on whom be peace) had bodily ascended to the heavens. That he would return in the latter-days and anyone not believing in the trinity would be chastised. This is the current Christian belief whereby they attribute divinity to Jesus (on whom be peace).

Muslims too hold a concept of Jesus bodily ascending to heavens and a bloody Mahdi returning to the earth to make the world Muslim. Huzur said last Friday he had referred to the view held by the Iranian president on this subject. Huzur said his reference was taken from an Urdu newspaper and was inaccurate. When the original English text was consulted it mentioned Jesus (on whom be peace) returning to the earth for reformation. The Urdu newspaper had translated it inaccurately. We, Ahmadis are fortunate to have accepted the Imam of the age and are thus protected from being a part of the dreadful concept of a bloody revolution. 

Citing the Bible Huzur explained that aside from stating the ascending to heaven of Jesus (on whom be peace) in Luke 24:51, it also speaks of Hadhrat Idris (on whom be peace) in similar vein: Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.’ (Genesis 5:24). If being raised to the heavens is a standard of divinity then Hadhrat Idris also fulfils this criterion. If not, then the divinity of Jesus is also not proven. Huzur said Muslims should seek guidance from the aforementioned Quranic verses regarding Hadhrat Idris (on whom be peace). The verses prove that Jesus (on whom be peace) did not hold a superior station, that exaltation of another Prophet, in the same vein, is cited in the Qur’an. The teaching of the Holy Qur’an can never be distorted. After the advent of the Imam of the age there should be no excuse for this misinterpretation.  The Jewish writings have detailed mention of ‘Enoch’ that he was sent to the world for reformation, but when it filled with sin God raised him to the heavens.

When God commissions His prophets He exalts them in this world. This signifies their spiritual exaltation so that they may reform the world. When they pass away from this world, they are also exalted in the Hereafter.  Reading from the noble writings of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) Huzur explained that verse 19:58 expounds that there are many stations after death and this Prophet of God was raised to a lofty status after death. Here, the exaltation is in the spiritual sense. With reference to the Quranic verse (3:56) citing exaltation of Jesus (on whom be peace) the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said it is regrettable that people do not note that in the said verse, the word connoting natural death precedes being exalted or raised. Most definitely Jesus (on whom be peace) did not bodily ascend to the heavens but did so after his natural death. The Prophets John, Adam, Idris, Ibrahim and Yusuf (peace be on them all) were all raised/exalted to the heavens after passing away and this is why the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) saw them during his spiritual ascension. Why then is the word Rafa connoted in a difference sense for Jesus (on whom be peace)? The word tawaffi [as in the verse 3:56] confirms natural death and is used for them. All said and done they were raised and then alone did they reach the heavens. Huzur said this is not mere intellectual reasoning but the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has expounded this in light of Quranic perception and insight.

Huzur said there is a person who professes to be a scholar of religion of whom Huzur has spoken of before with reference to MTA. He is not willing to accept that the word Rafa has spiritual connotations. When an Ahmadi young man went to interview him he maintained that he was more learned than our scholars, that he had also read the books of ‘Mirza sahib’ and was not convinced. Huzur said it is for God to guide people. In early Islam people like Abu Jahal and others could not perceive the spiritual luminosity of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and dubbed the Holy Qur’an – God forbid – a work of poetry. It was their lack of insight and great misfortune; it made no difference to the glory of the Qur’an. Now that his ardent devotee is being treated in the same way is no surprise.

The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has categorically stated that the word Rafa only signifies spiritual exaltation. The verse 19:58 thus refers to the spiritual raising of Hadhrat Idris (on whom be peace). Although it is a Jewish belief to connote physical exaltation about Hadhrat Idris (on whom be peace) some Muslims erroneously, led by the ill-informed religious leaders, also believe it.  Verse 26 of Surah Al A’raf clearly and categorically states about this world: ‘…Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die…’. In summary if the exaltation of Hadhrat Idris (on whom be peace) is considered physical, why then, is his return to the earth not part of the creed?

It is astonishing that Muslims derive the wrong meanings of the Quranic phrase Khataman Nabbiyeen (Seal of all the Prophets) (33:41) and do not accept that a prophet can come from the Ummah. This despite the clear Quranic verse of: ‘And among others from among them who have not yet joined them…’ (62:4) and the Hadith of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) that clearly states your Imam will be from among you. In their ignorance they think that the claim of prophethood by Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani (on whom be peace) is, God forbid, an affront to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Although it is the greatness of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) that from his Ummah God sent a prophet in his subservience. Unlike earlier prophets who were bestowed prophethood solely for their connection with God, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) was also accorded this status because of his absolute and complete devotion to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him).

Some of them maintain that ‘Mirza sahib’ said that in the death of Jesus (on whom peace) lies the life of Islam but in reality he simply wanted to keep his claim alive.  Indeed, we Ahmadis believe that the most exalted station is that of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). If it was possible within the laws of nature for anyone to physically ascend to the heavens, it would have been the blessed person of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). During his spiritual ascension he saw all the earlier prophets. He saw Jesus on the second heaven and Hadhrat Idris on the fourth heaven while he himself traversed the absolute pinnacle. He reached above the sixth heaven where he met Moses (on whom be peace) and Moses said to God that he did not know there was to be a prophet who would be exalted more than him.  As it is explained in verse 254 of Surah Al Baqarah each Prophet is raised in accordance to his station.

Huzur said the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has elucidated the term Khataman Nabbiyeen most accurately and in a way that reflects his its true glory. If God was to send Jesus (on whom be peace) in this world for a second time it would be in negation of his first prophethood. If one was to believe that Jesus (on whom be peace) is to return to this world one would be rejecting the essence of Khataman Nabbiyeen. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) foretold the coming of the Messiah in very lucid words and it can never be assumed from them that an Israelite Prophet was meant to return to the earth. It is indeed most offensive to say that Jesus (on whom be peace) would return having suspended his earlier prophethood.  

Huzur said it should be absolute clear that the Messiah was to come from the Muslim Ummah and this high status was granted to him by God. This status was thus granted because of his sincere and complete devotion to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and it was for this reason alone that he called a Prophet and a Messenger. Huzur said some Ahmadis, perhaps due to their deficient knowledge, or partial contact with the Community or due to being a new arrival are not very sure about the prophethood status of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace), or they say they accept him as a Prophet but not as a Messenger. This is against the claim of the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace). Huzur said it should be absolute clear to everyone that the Mahdi whose advent was prophesised, is granted the status of a Prophet and  a Messenger in subservience of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and that it is the same thing to be a Prophet and a Messenger. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) said that a person who is the direct recipient of Divine revelation is called a Prophet and a Messenger. He said that wherever in the earlier scriptures his coming was cited, he was mentioned as a Prophet.

Huzur said the station of Rafa is not conditional to prophethood. True believers are also exalted. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has explained that when a believer deems God foremost over everything then he/she is granted Rafa. He/she becomes beyond the grasp of Satan and is granted a special power and spiritual light to overcome satanic temptations. A believer should constantly pray to God to grant him/her such strength that would annihilate Satan. A believer should not give up, eventually he/she will succeed. Those who endeavour are given success by God. Man’s high status is in destroying the Satan within. May God enable us to comprehend the true meanings of Rafa so that we do not simply engage in an intellectual discussion over it. Rather, may we turn towards reformation of our deeds and enhancement of our connection with God so that we are always included among those who destroy the Satan within.